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Advertise on the Tentacle

July 11, 2006

Campaign issues

Roy Meachum

Even this early, candidates for county commissioner have taken exceptional care to stake out their position on the growth issue. Does anything else matter? Apparently not.

With Jennifer Dougherty no longer throttling negotiations on access to the Potomac River, new Mayor Jeff Holtzinger was able to reach accord within weeks after taking office. Mother Nature's helped.

This summer, with the rivers and creeks threatening floods frequently, may be no time to voice worries about water supply; but they're always there. If the building of new houses ceases immediately, population growth still needs the clear elixir for drinking, washing, growing food and sanitation needs.

Those politicians who have decried the community seeking more reliable supplies, on the ground more water encourages further development, must have convenient memories. There is simply no explanation for how they contend everything done to increase public facilities, including water, benefits only developers. I can remember burning gardens and browned out grass. There were severe restrictions, enforced by fines, a few years back.

While Ms. Dougherty has been subject to harsh criticism from various quarters, including this corner, it cannot be imagined her business-owner side would unduly alarm the community. That's what happened when she declared a moratorium because of the intense scarcity of water.

The situation on classrooms has for a long time been a case of who's talking. One statistic allows as how Frederick County schools, as standing, are at 94 percent, with new facilities in the works. That argument holds that the real problem lies with parents and students who refuse to be distributed to where the desks are.

A good friend fought intensely when she was required to switch from Urbana High, where "all" her friends were, to the new Tuscarora. Her blue eyes flashed sparks when nothing could be done. That was several years back. By the time she graduated this spring, she seemed content. But that may have been only a front; inside she could have been still seething. I don't think so.

While the aging resist change, in any shape or form, the young are not much better. Nobody likes restructuring life to accommodate bureaucrats especially when the bureaucrats are right. If the board of education had succeeded in putting the kids where the space is, there would be a better chance that no one would have to attend classes in trailers.

Similarly, expanding and building roads would obviate much of the sense of congestion felt by long time residents along with new comers. Granted that the state controls major access arteries, Winchester Hall simply has not held up its end on making life more comfortable for drivers. Under the last board of county commissioners, the majority dedicated itself to the proposition that new roads encouraged families thinking about moving in.

Well, folks they're already here.

While the current board has been decried as "pro-growth," in fact new houses have been built at the same speed as in the past. The average has held constant at about 2000 units. Demagogues wave over their head, to get attention, the thousands of single-family and apartment houses sanctioned by the current board. In the same breath, perversely they seek to block development of public facilities, including roads and intersections. That does not make a whole lot of sense from where I sit.

As much as anything else, the hypocrisy among the no-growth crowd caused me to desert their ranks. A few years back I was their darling, a columnist who agreed Frederick was being made to resemble the metro area from which I had fled. I, too, resisted development. But that was naive on my part.

The houses going up today were approved years ago, possibly under the last board, which worked at building a no-growth reputation. Electing David Gray to rejoin Jan Gardner and Lennie Thompson will change nothing, either in the long run or the short. Voters have been consistent only in switching courses every four years. At some point the present-day demagogues will be replaced by people who are accused of being in developers' pockets. Count on it.

It's more amusing than tragic to me that the no-growth crowd praises to the skies the man whose tenure as commissioners' president was marked by continuing crises and noisy dissent. Mr. Gray might make it back on the board, but this time around he will not be president. Nor, I suspect, can Mr. Thompson repeat. Among the trio, Ms. Gardner looks likely to win the most votes. Her image is less hard-core.

The chances seem better than slim that Election Day could send Mr. Gray back into retirement. Depending on what kind of campaigns the horde of his fellow Republicans wage, we could possibly see new faces at Winchester Hall.

With the deciding primary elections exactly two months from tomorrow, somebody must get a move on. As the poet said, "Time's winged chariot" will not wait.

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