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May 7, 2009

Rumpelstilskin and Hagenís Hypocrisy

Joan Marie Aquilino

I will be the first to admit that I could be wrong, but I think I see a method to the madness of Commissioner Charles Jenkins’s recent actions on waste-to-energy (WTE). When final votes were cast, I was less than happy. A decision needed to be made and it wasn’t. Mr. Jenkins threw us a curve.


My email to him after the meeting was the political correct and polite version of the potty mouth comment Commissioner Kai Hagen made during the meeting.


Prior to this, I’ve witnessed Commissioner Jenkins getting things done in days that others couldn’t do in a year. He tackled and solved issues for citizens that he could have easily ignored but didn’t. Items the public at large will never be aware of – nor care about, but which the person he helped won’t forget. Also, in his sights are the Board of Education, illegal immigration and traffic.


[Mr. Jenkins jockeyed himself into the chairmanship of The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB). Frederick is known to be the redheaded stepchild of the Metro area, and Mr. Jenkins is giving us a face and voice. He’s also appointed a very outspoken resident, Farrell Keough, in a place of authority as chairman on The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to the Transportation Planning Board.]


In spite of his good points I was still discouraged the next morning, and while listening to Bob Miller (WFMD 930AM radio) interview Commissioner Jenkins, I got a glimmer of a smoldering ember or two in the WTE saga. Maybe it was nothing more than wishful thinking, or not enough coffee, but, if this vote helps to assure no stone unturned and minimizes the lawsuits, promised and threatened, then a two-month wait will be worth the angst.


Commissioner Jenkins stated that he is still a proponent of WTE and doesn’t see the ArrowBio process as being a stand alone solution to our trash problem. His practical observation was that we don’t have a way to dispose of 80 tons of compost, much less the 25 percent of the waste that can’t be processed with ArrowBio on a daily basis, without more landfill space.


Here’s what I’m thinking could happen. Two nearby WTE plants (Bresco, owned by Wheelabrator in downtown Baltimore; and York WTE, owned by Covanta) have recently announced they are looking to expand their facilities. Covanta was the losing bidder to Wheelabrator for the Frederick County WTE plant – obvious competitors.


Part of the motion made was to inquire about an equity (ownership) interest in the expanded capacity of one of the two plants. Covanta is looking to add an additional 1,000 tons of capacity. Would they be willing to sell some of that capacity to Frederick County if they thought it would take business away from one of their competitors? Would Wheelabrator be willing to sell some of the expanded Baltimore plant capacity in order to insure at least some business from Frederick County?


It seems that with an open procurement, staff was not able to make inquiries about either plants desire to sell an equity interest in their expansion. If the answer is “no” from both companies, I predict we’ll see the suspended procurement reopened and another vote taken.


I’m going out on a limb here and say this wasn’t solely a political maneuver but hopefully a clever strategy by Commissioner Jenkins. He’s a self-employed businessman with a family to support and knows that ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away.


Given the very loud and often contentious public process that WTE has gone through, I think Commissioner Jenkins wants to make sure no stone is left unturned before rendering a final decision. I personally think that was already done, but I’ll reserve final judgment a bit longer in hopes that a logical, reasonable, responsible solution for our waste will still happen. From what I know of Mr. Jenkins, I spy a strategy to solve our trash issue with WTE and not have this contentiousness continue in our own county. As he stated, we need results, not lawsuits.


We don’t need yet another politician that only votes according to the direction the wind is blowing and not able to make a stand from strength and conviction.


Something good comes from everything and, as disappointed as I was that a solution was not presented other than by Commissioners David Gray and John ‘Lennie’ Thompson, something else did get solved.


Commissioner Hagen went down in the flames of hypocrisy. Mr. Thompson does – and says – some outlandish things, but this was too easy, even for him. Mr. Hagen lost his cool as he so often does while playing the role of victim and reverted to his potty mouth behavior many have witnessed.


Mr. Hagen voted to use WTE to solve Frederick’s waste problems. The man that just moments before said he didn’t want it anywhere on the planet voted for it outside the borders of Frederick County as a possibility. Just another NIBMY-activist-elected official, showing his true colors.


He could care less where it goes as long as it saves his votes. His groupies have been trying to spin his vote, by saying he was forced. How blind are they not to see what happen? Unlike Rumpelstilskin, who spun straw into gold for the miller’s daughter, Mr. Hagen and his buds will never be able to spin this into anything but what it is: he voted for WTE.


The facts are: We will always have trash; we have no more space; so where do we put the trash? Give us a solution. You spoke before those at the Tea Party and said you heard us. Show us they weren’t empty words.


I want elected officials I can respect whether I agree with them or not. Show, knowledge, the ability to find answers, present the facts without spin, make decisions based on all of that without the self-serving ulterior motives used to garner votes. Show me honor and integrity.


’til next time . . .


. . . in the mean time send me your thoughts: or


Commissioner David Gray:

Commissioner John Lennie Thompson:

Commissioner Charles Jenkins:


The Transportation Planning Board – Chairman, Charles Jenkins


TPB Citizen Advisory Committee – Farrell Keough


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The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
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