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As Long as We Remember...

November 2, 2009

Voting My Conscience

Steven R. Berryman

The City of Frederick elections are now upon us, so it’s time to get your voting strategy together. Those stuck at simply “voting the party line,” will be at a distinct disadvantage in our municipal election tomorrow.


My Dad taught me that principal as a boy, when he took me along with him to inspect a polling station as one of his volunteer duties.


As a dedicated Republican, those who know me well will tell you that I am not a “Kool-Aid-drinker.” I vote for the best person for a particular slot in government, and also pay attention to the “mix” that must work together in ensemble form as in our new Board of Alderman.


I voted for Bill Clinton once, not twice. Voted for George Bush junior once, not twice.


This has been driven home to me greatly over the past year during my work with the group We Surround Them – Frederick, born out of frustration with our two-party system generally.


Both Democrats and Republicans are dedicated to becoming elected first and foremost, and that’s regardless of actually following their respective party platforms once in office.


Campaign promises be damned!


Most of the time my personal selections are of the individual candidate per se; they just tend to be conservative Republicans when you tally them up. But that’s just me.


The mayoral race has been very unusual this year. Randy McClement was my clear choice immediately after our current Mayor Jeff Holtzinger declined a fairly certain second term. This position did not waver for me even while Ron Tobin ran briefly.


Delightfully, Randy is a loyal Republican. With him, what you see is what you get; no hidden agendas or false quality. The “nice guy” image that some dislike is disarming, and is used to his advantage. The persuasive Randy is at once a strong manager, and uses this permanent feature of “niceness” in consensus building and communicating his message – turning none off in the process!


Randy was always there at city and volunteer functions, without the braggadocio or swagger, driven by purpose rather than prestige.


A meeting to review the City Charter, The Tourism Council, setting up “Frederick in the Streets,” or just supporting WFMD’s Christmas Cash for Kids at the radio station, Randy was there.


The man seemed to be everywhere, and always with a sincere smile, a helping hand, and a bag of bagels from his restaurant. Yes, a business owner would know the city best.


During the most recent Forum-Debate at Frederick Community College, I was astonished to hear worthy Democratic opponent Jason Judd say that “Being the Mayor was NOT about getting into the minutia of the city.” What??


Maybe Mr. Judd was not saying what he meant on that one, but I know that quite clearly it was said that being a Democrat would be to his advantage as mayor for extracting favorable treatment and funding from our also Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley. Is that how it works?


Also telling during the FCC Forum was:


Both candidates agreed that job creation was most important. To accomplish this, Randy supports the ground- up approach of actually making the business climate easier on small businesses in Frederick. Specifically he would streamline the permitting processes in getting started, which happens to be currently a major drag on our system and an impediment.


This, the approach with most immediacy!


Same question to Jason, – and four times over the course of the evening – the audience heard his answer: hub-zone-incubator. This “fuzz-word” concept must be difficult to implement because it seems to defy even simple explanation. When repeatedly asked to explain it, all that was heard was “for information, go to my web-site.”


Is that like missing your teleprompter? Who else has that problem?


But my favorite question and answer salvo occurred when the moderator asked the classic “What was the last book you read.”


Jason hemmed and hawed a bit and came up with a line about having read “Morning Glories,” a children’s book with one of his kids.


Randy had spent his time reading the City of Frederick Charter over an eight-month period, as part of a committee, officially charged with its review! This, the better answer.


Granted, Jason Judd would make a better economist than Randy would, so I hear.


Very telling, indeed.


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Picking Five Aldermen for the City of Frederick:


In today’s political climate, being an incumbent is not the guarantee of re-election success it once was. And that’s fine, as the original crop of new aldermanic candidates was a bumper one.


Having followed each and every debate, forum, column, and radio interview on this subject now, I feel quite confident in predicting and supporting the following lineup, as only five will make the cut:


One is Republican Amanda Haddaway. With youth and savvy on her side, she first appeared to me at the Dearbought Home Owners Association meeting before the primaries. I was most impressed when she introduced herself and her goals, and then insisted on immediately jumping in with help for our most dangerous main community entrance. Before we knew it, a traffic evaluation was promised by officials toward safety measures there, potentially saving lives.


Amanda is a professional human relations executive, with the full pallet of management skills to match. The city employee buy-out scandal would never have happened on her watch. She and Karen Young are the best-prepared of the candidates, as evidenced in their forums. A true fiscal conservative, she will concentrate on a “destination downtown.”


Two is Democrat Karen Lewis Young, who happens to be under the tutelage of former Mayor Ron Young, and is his current wife. Don’t let the connection fool you, as she more than stands on her own merits!


Another very strong woman, Karen stopped in to my house for a chat, and I found her to be quite personable and knowledgeable. Having managed very large budgets for organizations, she brings yet another strategic skill-set to our city.


Karen sees growth as inevitable and, with an MBA from Columbia University, would understand the nuances to take it on and get the city its best deals.


Three is Paul Smith, the Republican incumbent alderman. Paul brings with him the institutional knowledge-in-position that would be essential to bringing a new board to life. With an avid pro-growth stance, Paul’s strong professional experience as an attorney would lend that special knowledge to the circle of alderman, and assist them as a unit.


Paul emphasized use of the Hargett Farm acquisition to assist development of the “Golden Mile” and the west end of the city. He understands the concept of “business friendly,” and would shepherd in completion of Monocacy Boulevard and Christopher’s Crossing road projects.


Four is Republican Shelly Aloi, who practices karate and has a demonstrable passion for the aldermanic slot. I met Shelly at several Republican functions, and know that she is a tiger of a fighter, and will take a strong look at the double taxation problem with city-county double taxation inequity.


Shelly is a local woman, graduating Hood College magna cum laude, she would champion economic growth through examining the opportunity of public-private partnerships.


A proud “citizens advocate,” and a supporter of the northern annexations already, Shelly would govern from a populist center.


Fifth is Democratic candidate Michael O’Connor, who many will recognize from his days on the channel 10 cable access show. With media in the blood, Michael also served as news director for WFMD/WFRE radio prior to that.


Excellent presentation and communication skills were certainly derived from those experiences, and with his good judgment, he could facilitate the consensus views from the board to the mayor’s office. This, a major benefit as prior administrations have failed in this arena.


Michael prefers to start with “infill development” which may end up being quicker as the northern annexation opportunities may be stalled at the county level now.


Also his platform, he would examine Historic Preservation and Land Management Code for opportunities to enable small business growth.


Again, the above are but my humble, but formulated opinions!


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At the end of the day – tomorrow – vote your conscience, and if that’s also your declared party, then so much the better!


But do vote.

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