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August 16, 2010

Campaign Diary Making Life Simpler

Michael Kurtianyk

Sunday, August 8 – Apparel


“You know what one of the cool things about being in a campaign?” I asked my wife. “It’s that I don’t have to think about what to wear each day anymore. It’s either the polo shirt with my name on it, or the t-shirt with my name on it.”


Life is simpler (in that respect), each day now.


Monday, August 9 – Information Briefing


So, I get this letter last week from Frederick County Manager Ron Hart. In it, he stated: “In an effort to provide information uniformly to all the candidates, county staff will be conducting a ‘Candidates’ Information Briefing.’” This was done in 2006, and 2002, and so, why not do it again this year?


Well, my first reaction to this letter was: “Why should I go to this? I’ve met with many of the division directors already, and I’ve worked hard to schedule meetings with them, ask questions, and learn from them. If the other candidates want to make the effort, then they should do what I did.”


I spoke to a few people, and gave it a lot of thought. I came to the conclusion that this was indeed a good idea. I did meet with county division leaders, and that time was well spent. As I spoke with them, I came in to listen to them. My reasoning was that, should I be fortunate enough to become elected, I should learn who they are and what they do.


I want to take this time to share what I learned from those meetings prior to today: both individually and as a group, the division directors have what I call great “institutional knowledge.” Each one brings a wealth of information to their jobs, and really do care about what they do. Each one that I met also possesses intellectual curiosity, as evidenced by their citing of current research as practitioners in their fields.


There’s one more thing: among the division directors and their staffs, there is a collegiality that, as an outsider, I didn’t realize existed. They are peers and equals, and thus share information with each other to make the county better.


I saw further evidence of this collegiality at the Information Briefing this morning. Though only six of the division directors spoke to us, I saw most, if not all, of the other division leaders in the audience. It was, to me, remarkable. How often do we see it in business that peers and equals are supportive of each other in this manner? They could have easily stayed in their offices or scheduled meetings elsewhere. Instead, they were in the audience watching their peers.


Getting back to the briefing, it turns out that as a whole, the day was informative for me as a candidate. Because I had met with many of the speakers already, the information wasn’t new; granted, some of the statistics cited were more up-to-date, but overall it reinforced what I already knew. I didn’t have to take copious notes; I highlighted a few things. It was like sitting in a freshman English course, having taken AP English in high school, whereas those who didn’t received a lot of information that was new to them.


Wednesday, August 11 – Waste Not Forum


I received an email that began: “CALM (the Frederick County Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center) will be hosting an evening with the Candidates for County Commissioners and voters of Frederick County on the topic of Solid Waste on August 11th from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Community Room at the C. Burr Artz Library on Patrick Street.”


My first reaction was: “What does CALM have to do with Solid Waste?” I thought that an anti-incinerator group like Waste Not would be hosting a forum to ask the candidates about their position on solid waste, recycling, and the like. It turns out that CALM was facilitating the small group discussions, and not really hosting it.


The format was like the one done last year for the Frederick City candidates: citizens sit in circles, and candidates rotated every 20 minutes to a different group. Because there are so many candidates, there was more than one in most circles. Each circle had a trained facilitator, who kept the dialogue focused on the topic and allowed citizens to interact with the candidates.


There were some good discussions. I think it helped the 40-50 people there place faces with names and hear about where the candidates stood on the issues.


For this one issue, like the dozen or so other issues facing Frederick County, there are people on both sides, though I didn’t meet anyone there who was in favor of the incinerator. Not all of the candidates were there, so the participating citizens couldn’t get to talk to all 19. By my count, only four of the seven Democrats were in attendance and 11 of the 12 Republicans.


Thursday, August 12 – Habitat for Humanity Support


Due to a conflict, I was not able to attend the Board of County Commissioners meeting, of which one topic was to decide whether to proceed with a waiver of impact fees for affordable housing or not. I wrote a letter in support of this, and it was read into the record by my colleague Steve Fox. I wrote, in part:


“… it is because of these difficult economic times that we must support the staff’s recommendation giving you authority to waive impact fees in support of affordable housing development. The concept of “Live Here, Work Here” has become increasingly more difficult these last few years. Impact fees make home-building more costly for Habitat for Humanity, and these costs hurt their efforts to continue the good work that they’re doing.”


The motion to waive impact fees for affordable housing passed 4-1. The next step is to draft the language and then take it to public hearing. I am glad it passed. It was the right thing to do.


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