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As Long as We Remember...

May 18, 2010

Political Spin and Quelling Discussion

Farrell Keough

It seems that every time we come into a political season, or when an important piece of legislation is presented, the hue and cry of civil discussion arises. Someone will say exactly what is on their mind and others will chime in that the words used are too harsh. Pollucka!


We have seen our president condemn the police prior to the facts being known – then try to reconcile his outrageous claims a la the “Beer Summit.” President Barack Obama has also called a very significant portion of the public “Tea Baggers,” a tremendously repugnant term. Once again, he later came out and attempted to turn the tables by telling us we need to open our minds and read publications which do not match our ideology.


The mainstream media informs us that our president is a consensus-maker. Amazingly, these instances of condemnation are magically forgotten. Only the dog and pony shows are remembered through rose colored glasses. Honest debate is quashed in place of photo-ops and scripted events which attempt to portray everyone getting along.


Our Republic was formed to allow for strong words and difficult argumentation. Wise compromise is a necessary component that can only be achieved by having both sides afforded the opportunity to make their case.


This faux outrage is not limited to the national arena; it also takes place on a local level.


We have recently seen some difficult discussions taking place during our Board of County Commissioner meetings. In an attempt to try and raise the bar of decorum, the board president rendered new rules of conversation. In short, rather than run a meeting and utilize her authority, Commissioner Jan Gardner attempted to employ rules of discussion to dissuade difficult exchanges, even allowing her to intercede if the dialogue became too heated.


Having been chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee to the National Transportation Planning Board, I understand the utility and necessity of strong argumentation. This group was composed of 15 members from Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The ideologies were as varied as the differences of the areas represented. Yet, we were able to build consensus on a proposal to change the entire funding process. This was only accomplished by allowing spirited and sometimes tension-filled discussion – I am being very diplomatic, the conversations were heated and on occasion personal.


But, what makes these new rules of discussion among the commissioners inappropriate is the hypocrisy surrounding them. For instance, voting to silence any motion on further cost cutting measures on the budget is considered appropriate. Rationales were made that this process has taken too long to meddle with any longer and the ‘budget is balanced.’ In short, you aren’t suppose to use certain words or speak when someone else is talking, but you can invalidate important, necessary, and difficult debate to ensure your proposal is not altered in any way.


While a case can be made for a balanced budget, it is done by ignoring the huge debts owed on retirement and discounting how much more serious the shortfalls will be next year! In short, play the accounting games and pass the problems onto the next board.


But, the problems of allowing spirited discussion go much deeper.


Commissioner Gardner recently spoke on a local radio program – Frederick’s Forum (WFMD 930 AM with Pattee Brown) about these issues and how the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan affects our local citizenry. Commissioner Gardner broke her own rules by stating that information presented by Commissioner Blaine Young was “B.S.” It seems the rules of decorum are tossed out the window when they contradict what the Queen of the Commission has stated is fact.


Commissioner Gardner also took on a local business person and community activist – Rocky Mackintosh. Mr. Mackintosh is a local developer, but he also has a long history of reaching out and helping the community through a variety of program including being on the Board of Directors of Frederick Memorial Hospital.


In an attempt to defend the tremendous down-zoning included in the Comprehensive Plan, Commissioner Gardner noted the plethora of projects in the “pipeline” which will suffice to handle our building needs for the next 20 years – including the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) relocation needs.


Mr. Mackintosh has a local blog in which a lengthy back and forth conversation occurred between himself and Commissioner Gardner. You can click on the link and read the information presented – but suffice it to say, the numbers quoted by Commissioner Gardner do not account for the many locations which will not pass our Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO), are ‘age restricted,’ or will take a minimum of five years to bring forth. This is the disconnect between the statements of Commissioner Gardner and the facts of how business actually works.


In short, the rationale for this draconian approach to zoning and classification has no basis in the realities of business.


When asked by Commissioner Young for the “compelling reasoning” for these down-zonings and down-classifications, Commissioner Gardner touted more political spin and machinations. Now, just who is really spouting “B.S.?”


Commissioner Gardner is presenting a new twist on the ‘Queen has no clothes.’ The bullying tactics she has been able to leverage, under the guise of correcting ‘misinformation,’ are coming apart at the seams. The truth of these radical and poorly reviewed plans is becoming evident!


While the mainstream media will defend President Obama and his Chicago-style politics to the nth degree, our local media outlets are beginning to see through these falsehoods and hold our elected officials accountable.


Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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