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As Long as We Remember...

August 14, 2002

Maybe We Should Recognize Them Before They Speak

David 'Kip' Koontz

One has to wonder, in light of the recent "Code of Conduct" passed by Herzonner with a little help from her friends, if, when it is time for public comments (which have proved to be pointless, but hey, we get to pretend we make a difference) we must present ourselves at the podium and stand, head bowed slightly, waiting - hoping we are deemed worthy to be recognized by the chair so that we may speak our mind (in three minutes or less)?

Not that organizations shouldn't run by some sort of code of conduct.

Not that The House of Delegates, the U.S. Congress and other bodies don't dictate that a speaker be recognized by the chair before speaking.

Difference is, Frederick City has six, count 'em, six elected officials.

Not 147 or 435.

One would think that if an atmosphere of understanding had been cultivated amongst these six, we wouldn't need to implement a policy that gives the chair the power to recognize who speaks and when, thus dictating the flow of the conversation - possibly to portray the chair's position in the best possible light.

True, Alderman Bill Hall sometimes gets a bit vociferous in his response to Herzonner's determination to rule with an iron fist and gets a bit cranky, nasty and carried away.

But one has to wonder with the animosity between Herzonner and Alderman Mr. Hall, if he will ever get recognized? Herzonner doesn't much like what he has to say.

Doesn't matter that they said that this code will allow Alderman Mr. Hall to have the chance to recognize the speakers when he fills in in his role as Mayor Pro Tem, because Herzonner saw to it that the first Mayor and Board meeting where that would occur, August 15, has been canceled.

Wonder if there can still be a Mayor and Board meeting if there are enough alderman who show up to make a quorum?

David Lenhart, of course, may have misspoken when he went public with a statement saying that Frederick was willing to fight the ACLU without having the express written consent of Herzonner and the Dynamic trio.

But, did Herzonner need to publicly assault him and reprimand him at a press conference without having spoken with him privately before hand? Some code of conduct that is.

And then, at the Mayor and Board meeting where this plan was implemented, the little show put on by Alderman Wafflin' Joe Baldi and Alderman Marcia Hall was embarrassing and silly.

You see they broke in to Alderman Lenhart's questioning of the need for such a code, bantering back and forth comments like "oh, now I am speaking" and "no now, it's my time" and finished with something like, "see, that's what will happen without this code."

It looked like antics by children in elementary school.

Here is a role-play of what may happen at a Mayor and Board meeting during the discussion of building a "Widget Manufacturing Company" along Carroll Creek.

Mind you, this hypothetical plant will have retail space on the first floor and office space on the next two, but the most modern "Widget Manufacturing Company" in the world will occupy the top four floors.

The surprising thing about this hypothetical project is that the newly developed Office of Economic Development (i.e. the GFDC) actually managed to present a project to the city that supplies a mixed use complex and supplies jobs to city residents (oops, this is just a hypothetical case) though it would be a first.

Herzonner introduces the proposed plan, and Richard Griffin and some of the designers and builders explain the site plan, building plan and so on.

Herzonner decrees she thinks it looks like a good plan and asks the aldermen if they had anything to say, or if they have questions.

Five hands shoot up as Herzonner scans the bench looking for whom she will recognize first.

She selects Alderman Donna Ramsburg first.

Ms. Ramsburg: "Well, I question whether we may need a deeper set- back line from the creek side, but if Madame Mayor and Mr. Griffin think it is a good plan, I will tend to go along with it if we can possibly revisit that set-back."

Herzonner scans and wonders whom she should recognize next, and picks Alderman Lenhart.

Mr. Lenhart: "Well, I have some concerns about a manufacturing plant in downtown as it is not zoned for industrial use.."

Herzonner: "Excuse me. I see Alderman Ms. Hall has her hand up. Please Ms. Hall, I recognize you."

Ms. Hall: "Well, I think we need to do some more research.but if it is a pretty historic looking plant and has some nice stores and Madame Mayor and Mr. Griffin says it is okay, well, then I am inclined to support it though research is good and we may need more of it on this matter."

Herzonner, then seeing a growing look of frustration on Alderman Mr. Hall's face, recognizes him.

Mr. Hall: "Well, I too share concerns about the methodology in which this seems to have been fast tracked for approval. Are there environmental concerns?"

Herzonner: "Mr. Hall, we have spoken about these things in workshop and you know the answers."

Mr. Hall: "I think it important for the citizens who were not at workshop to hear."

Herzonner: "Mr. Hall, you were not recognized. As I was saying, these things have been discussed and you should know what the ins and outs of this plan are."

Mr. Hall: "I don't care what you think I should know, I know what I know and I know that the people need this better explained."

Herzonner: "Again, Mr. Hall, speaking out of turn may force me to censure you, please do not do it again. I now recognize Alderman Baldi."

Mr. Baldi: "Well, I am not sure, I may need to recuse myself from the vote, or maybe not, because my wife's second cousin has an office next door to the architect of this plan's office and they have spoken before, and I am not sure if I like widgets, but maybe I do, and well it looks like a good plan on paper and it will bring something to Carroll Creek, but maybe the environmental concerns are important or maybe there are no environmental concerns, I guess I will simply wait and see what the majority vote appears to be and maybe I will side with that or maybe not."

With those comments made Herzonner ends the Q & A portion on that matter.

While this may appear exaggerated, is it not entirely possible for this kind of funneled discussion to occur?

After all, it was City Attorney Heather Price-Smith who told Alderman Lenhart at the last mayor and aldermen meeting something along the lines of - "I don't need to answer questions at the public meeting as they were answered at workshop" (which are scheduled so the masses can not attend and if we do we most likely won't be given a chance to speak).

Seems there is a belief by some that public meetings are only for show to make us believe we have a role in government.

Herzonner defended herself against criticism that the public meetings are still a farce when it comes to public discourse by saying "people tell her their positions all the time at the grocery, church and other places."

One has to wonder if it is really just a few of her loyalists telling her want she wants to hear over a couple pints at her restaurant?

Anywho, some might suggest that from now on the whole lot of them should simply sit quietly and wait for the public to call on them to speak.

After all, whether they like it or not, they are still responsible to us.

Not that you'd know.

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