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Advertise on the Tentacle

March 14, 2006

Political Ping-Pong!

Roy Meachum

With any sort of luck, Mayor Jeff Holtzinger will get signed this week a document grandiosely named: The Potomac River Water Supply Agreement. It basically insures taps will never come up empty. Well, hardly ever.

At least it should reduce the possibility of summer afternoons when homeowners watch their green grass turning brown, burning up. For farmers, the $85 billion project is equally good news; in time of drought their ground water will not have to go to feed the voracious appetite of towns and cities, like Frederick.

While little detail was known of the jousting back and forth between City Hall officials and their Winchester Hall counterparts, the community was mildly shocked when the commissioners unilaterally last summer declared a moratorium on the talks until after November's elections.

The mayor at the time insisted the county board was playing politics and she was almost certainly right. Unless forced by city voters, the county board wanted nothing more to do with providing a stage for Her Honor to perform.

As a former city engineer, specifically charged with ensuring an adequate water supply, Mayor Jeff Holtzinger brought to the table knowledge of both the problems and the necessity of working out the agreement.

With Mr. Holtzinger's good will replacing the sometimes vicious and petty anger of his predecessor, it still took slightly over two months to reach the compromise necessary for getting the project under way.

Much of the noise came over the provisions that have to do with the city paying its bills, Alderman Paul Smith fretted over language that permitted the county to cut-off the city's supply.

Mr. Smith's reservations were more than matched by Commissioners' President John "Lennie" Thompson."

In The Frederick News-Post story, he was quoted:

"Since we don't have the ability to put a lien on the city, there's no practical way to collect if there's a dispute. There's no enforcement mechanism other than suing the city and that's not going to happen."

Commissioner Mike Cady assured his colleagues: "The people in the City of Frederick will take care of that issue, and we'll get our money."

Commissioner John Lovell aptly summed up the situation: "We're getting mired down in the minutia of everything. The city's going to pay their bill."

When all was said and done, the last aria belonged to Mr. Thompson. Of course, it was the same old tune, with absolutely nothing changed.

"The clink you hear in the background is the developers' champagne toast."

Mr. Thompson owns the consistency turf. On the aspects and needs to make life comfortable here, he stands "agin." Schools, roads, water he holds we should do with what we have and no improvements. Please! He has yet to discover any public works he could support.

All too frequently, he stands alone, as in the Water Supply Agreement. And that demonstrates what may be his secret strategy. Frequently, it seems he counts noses before casting his vote; he is generally sure a proposed measure will sail by his colleagues before assuming his demagogue's stance.

At that point, John "Lennie" Thompson struts and puffs, plays to his personal claque and all but washes his hands of the county board. Dismisses them all unworthy to accommodate his Olympian view of himself.

With the commissioners' president and Frederick's former mayor in the same room, it can be wondered how their city and county colleagues fared during their political ping-pong match.

That's all that was and continues to be with Mr. Thompson.

By the way, Jeff Holtzinger poured profuse praise on the aldermen, giving them full credit for bringing the agreement home.

Bravo for them and the commissioners too. The mayor deserves warm credit himself.

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