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June 1, 2007

Once-Mayor Still Creates Rhubarbs

Roy Meachum

Frederick residents were wrong: Their 2005 votes against then-current mayor Jennifer Dougherty did not end her talent for creating rhubarbs. She's still at it. Jeff Holtzinger's veto of the Board of Aldermen's version of the budget simply proves the point.

The city's present mayor "advertised" in advance his opposition to adding six police officers to the local force; he questions the three-cent tax reduction, which sounds like an election ploy to me by its proponents.

In the first place, the department falls now 18 below its officially approved 141 slots. It seems logical to me that Frederick must recruit warm bodies, train them and put them on the street; then City Hall can worry about whether new officers are needed.

As it is, Mr. Holtzinger is willing to go along for an additional two cops. He and the board are a penny apart on the tax rate for next year, but the mayor believes the difference is crucial for keeping the budget in balance. He has the responsibility. They do not.

Given even the upswing in real estate values, I cannot imagine the added penny will bankrupt anyone. Converting the aldermen's requested high position in the planning department to a lower level, which costs less, does not seem to provide the flashpoint as the other issues.

In the middle of the budget debate, I was informed Ms. Dougherty continues to telephone Marcia Hall and Donna Kuzemchak-Ramsburg, her tight allies before the last elections threw her out. Not incidentally, both did what they could to keep her in office.

Someone suggested tin cans linked by strings should be the way they communicate; employing official telephones for Ms. Dougherty's almost daily "advice" seems like a waste of taxpayers' money. But waste was a problem when she occupied City Hall's top office.

From here, I cannot imagine why Aldermen Hall and Kuzemchak-Ramsburg take their former colleague's arguments seriously. She was the first mayor, at least in modern days, to get bounced in the primary; that's by her own party - let me emphasize.

If there are real differences in the separate budgets proposed by the aldermanic majority and Mr. Holtzinger, I can't see them. He said, for example, his willingness to compromise by including in his budget two new police officers restores the ratio between the department and the population.

Completely unlike his predecessor, the present mayor rarely deals in emotion; I can't recall when he did. As a former city engineer who acquired a law degree after his resignation, Mr. Holtzinger tends to view situations in black and white, bad and acceptable. He operates on logic not intuition.

My great surprise in the present confrontation comes from reading quotes by David Koontz; before his election he was less than sympathetic to machinations in City Hall.

Try as I might, I cannot understand Mr. Koontz's position in this mess. And it cannot be explained in party registrations. The two alderwomen are Democrats and so is he. The gentleman is much too independent to simply "go along."

In any event, the charter does not allow the board to veto Jeff Holtzinger's proposal. If no agreement is reached in the next four weeks, by June 28, the mayor's budget goes into effect.

Donna Kuzemchak-Ramsburg's published threat to expand the controversy simply makes no sense, unless others have her convinced she would make a handy-dandy mayor.

Dangling the prospect of winning the office might raise false prospects. David Koontz is more electable.

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