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August 18, 2006

For The Sake of Being Disagreeable

John W. Ashbury

Is it any wonder that there are a lot of people in Frederick County who oppose the re-election of John L. "Lennie" Thompson, Jr., as a county commissioner? A visit to his election website demonstrates that he is opposed to just about everything on the planet and is disagreeable in so doing.

Most disturbing all are his comments - prominently displayed on the site's Home Page - relative to those who oppose his positions on numerous issues, including the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, The Alliance for Frederick County, Inc., The Frederick County Association of Realtors and the Frederick County Builders Association.

He chastises these groups as "pro-developer, pro-corporate welfare;" "a field office for developers;" and "cheerleaders for developers." He wonders why the builders don't endorse candidates, and complains about real estate agents "raking in tens of thousand of dollars in commissions on each sale at the inflated home prices."

He fails to mention that the very policies he advocates - anything that will make the developer pay - are largely responsible for the lack of affordable housing in the county and partially responsible for the "inflated prices" that make more money for real estate agents.

That is okay. This is not a diatribe against what Mr. Thompson advocates, rather it is a rejection of the way he goes about it.

Mr. Thompson saves his most critical comments on his website for "Defenders of Citizens Rights, Inc.," which opposed his re-election four years ago. Be it known that "Defenders" is now being reconstituted as a political action group to support senior citizens who are struggling to make ends meet in a county where advancing property assessments, and thereby taxation, are driving them from the place they have called home for generations.

Mr. Thompson calls members of this organization "a bunch of radical, militant, extremist, reactionary, militia-type, camouflage-in-the-woods, pro-developer, anti-government anarchists. They believe that landowners have the absolute right to do whatever they want with their land, regardless of the detrimental effects on neighboring landowners and the surrounding community. The Defenders' mantra of absolute property rights lies outside the mainstream, is at odds with the Social Contract upon which our society is based and is a concept unknown in a thousand years of Anglo-American jurisprudence."

In the context of his statement, it would appear that he is accusing "Defenders" of being terrorists just because they oppose his narrow view of what is best for Frederick County.

Has he forgotten The Constitution of The United States? The right of free speech is sacrosanct in our society - except in limited cases. It is alright for Mr. Thompson to shout his mantra - "if the developers win, you lose" - but how dare anyone advocate an opposing point of view. That is an outrage in his view.

He has the right to think that way, as are the "Defenders" so entitled to theirs.

Mr. Thompson has his constituency, mostly people who have been here a relatively short time. He is preaching to this choir. Unfortunately, the sound is grating, rather than harmonious, to those who espouse an opposing view.

Earlier this month there was an email exchange between Mr. Thompson and a resident of the Villages of Urbana concerning a zoning matter before the commissioners. The resident chastised, in polite terms, Mr. Thompson for his "arrogance and impudence" in stating that county residents do not have the ability to understand the implications of the APFO and the long-term effects on our schools.

The Urbana gentleman went on to say: "Believe it of not, we are capable of reading, learning, and understanding long-term decisions and the possible implications." He also pointed out that Mr. Thompson stated "as fact" that the "numerous emails, mailings and attendee's at this hearing" do not "represent the Villages of Urbana. You have no basis to make such a determination."

The commissioner's first response was to ask if he was being paid "to cheer for the developers."

Now the citizen from Urbana got a little testy in his emails. That would be expected from someone who is trying to learn, but meets only with a mantra against developers.

Candidates on the campaign trail have reported that the question they most often hear in the commissioners' race about Mr. Thompson is "what does he stand for. We know what he is against, but what is he for?"

During the last four years Mr. Thompson has been on the losing end of most of the motions made. And far as can be recalled here, he has voted against every budget that has been adopted since he became a commissioner eight years ago.

He has made frequent proposals to amend the ethics ordinances of the county, but only to fit neatly into his own personal view of what is ethical rather than what is reasonable and dictated by common sense. On at least one occasion his own ethics have been called into question.

Is it really the business of government officials to demand to know how much a lawyer is being paid to represent a client in matters before the county? Such knowledge could skewer the decision and make doing business with the county far more difficult. As far as I could determine, no lawyer in Frederick County has ever been charged with corrupting - or attempting to corrupt - a public official or the process

Besides, when a lawyer appears before a public body we must remember that he, or she, is espousing the position of his client and not necessarily his or her own.

A former president of the county commissioners made a remark a few years ago that was intended to be taken in a humorous vein, but he was chastised in the local press for his "unseemly" comment. Yet, time and again, Mr. Thompson has made similar remarks, though not offered in jest - or even the semblance of it - and not a peep from the media.

Mr. Thompson's narrow view of our society and how it works is detrimental to the success of our county government. He refuses to compromise on almost everything - to the point that he wants the whole cake, even when it is possible to get a big slice. But his conduct and treatment of those who oppose his positions is far more injurious to personal relationships and citizens view of our government.

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