Campaign Diary – Discussing the Issues
Monday, March 8 – One of the great things about filing and being a candidate is that you get to meet some great people along the way. Today was no exception. My first meeting this morning was with someone who is active in the development community. We discussed how growth affects the local economy, and what is currently in the pipeline regarding residential and commercial growth.
The second conversation was with someone looking to form a charter school in Frederick County. I learned about the process by which our Board of Education reviews applicants for charter schools and how their message goes out into the public domain.
Upon reflection, it occurred to me that these two conversations could have easily been adversarial; that is, extreme positions could have been taken by both of these people. However, this did not occur. Both presented their viewpoints in a professional manner, without any need to become combative.
Tuesday, March 9 – Groundbreaking
One of the highlights of my day was going to Brunswick for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new library. While the current library is housed at 70 Souder Road in the Brunswick Shopping Center, development is moving forward on the new library. Construction is expected to be completed in 2011. The new library will be approximately 15,400 square feet and will include a meeting room, areas for teens and children, and a living room section with couches.
In what can be considered a true partnership, $400,000 toward the $2.86 million dollar project came from a state grant, while other funds came from impact fees, thanks to new construction in Frederick County in recent years. Furthermore, in a first for Frederick County Libraries, the construction of the building is striving toward obtaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification from the United States Green Building Council.
Now on to the earthshaking portion of the day. Earlier this morning, I was with a local lawyer discussing politics. At his office, we watched the Board of County Commissioners meeting regarding the county’s fire tax. The director of the county Division of Fire and Rescue Services, Thomas Owens, met with the commissioners.
Currently, the county provides fire and rescue services, and the revenue is determined by way of property tax assessments. We have two types of tax districts: urban and suburban. Those communities in urban tax districts pay more for services, but they get full-time, round-the-clock coverage. Suburban fire tax districts pay less for services because the community is covered by part-time, mostly volunteer people.
Commissioner John L. “Lennie” Thompson contended that the services provided through this tax are not equitable for all residents of Frederick County. That is, some regions in the county are getting services that residents aren’t paying for, while other areas are paying for service in those areas. Commissioner Thompson and Commissioner Blaine Young supported a motion to discontinue the current fire tax system, but were voted down by the other three commissioners. The outcome was that county staff has until August 1, 2010, to address the funding issues and report back to the commissioners.
There is support in the county for a single tax district. It would be similar to the school system, wherein everybody pays the same amount. There could be career staff and volunteers serving the county as a whole. Then, as equipment needs to be upgraded, like schools, then funding goes toward that fire and rescue organization.
Wednesday, March 9 – Colleague Discussion
I met a friend for coffee who is running for county commissioner in neighboring Carroll County. We met essentially to update each other on how we approach issues, and the ups and downs of being a candidate. It was great to have a discussion at that level. We shared how we approach voters, how we built our teams, and what the expected issues are in our respective counties. We had a great discussion, and we agreed to meet again in the future.
Thursday, March 10 – Beans in the Belfry
Today I met with some great people from Brunswick and the surrounding areas at one of the most unique coffee shops I’ve ever visited. Beans in the Belfry is located in a restored church right in the heart of downtown Brunswick. The high ceilings and stained glass windows add beautiful touches to the atmosphere. I can’t wait to go back there.
The more people I meet, the more I hear that job growth is important. People want and need jobs, either for themselves, their family members, and/or their friends. These are challenging times, and jobs continue to be an important issue for everyone.
…There was much discussion on the radio this week about whether Commissioner Young should keep his radio show while he is a sitting commissioner. My take is that this is fine, and respects the way the law is currently written. A candidate who has filed (like me) cannot have a radio show like Commissioner Young. Movements to remove Commissioner Young from his radio pulpit will not work. Let’s move on….
…Better to have all of this rain than snow….
…Looking forward to March Madness….
…Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways….