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October 15, 2010

Contrasting Candidates…..and Slates

Adam Avery

It is impossible to not enjoy the differing personalities and experiences of Blaine Young and Kai Hagen. Both men head into the general election for the Board of County Commissioners as the head of their respective slates.


Mr. Young would like voters to consider a smaller government, renewed efforts to attract business to Frederick County, and an end to “strangulation with regulation.” He supports fellow Republican candidates Kirby Delauter, C. Paul Smith, Billy Shreve and Democrat Michael Kurtianyk.


Mr. Hagen wants voters to consider maintaining the status quo. He hopes to control growth through his Comprehensive Plan and is adamantly against proceeding with construction of a Waste-to-Energy facility. His “team” includes fellow Democrats Linda Norris, Janice Wiles Ellis Burruss and longtime incumbent Republican David Gray, who has been identified in the past as a Democrat candidate (1982) and unaffiliated candidate (1986).


For better or worse, this election is between the ideals and experiences of coalitions formed by Commissioner Young and Commissioner Hagen. Though several candidates will claim independence from both coalitions, it is clear that sides have been chosen and alliances formed.


As such, to a large degree, this election will hinge on the appeal of both men, making their personalities and communication skills a determining factor of the outcome. Their stark differences will make it easy for casual observers to choose between the two.


I offer my assessment for your consideration and amusement.


Commissioner Hagen has always been accommodating of my aggressive tendencies when commenting on his ineffectiveness and ineptitude. He allows me to call it as I see it and except for the rare occasion, Mr. Hagen has allowed me a degree of latitude which few would feel comfortable matching.


I have lampooned – on both radio and Internet television – Mr. Hagen’s penchant for long-winded and seemingly empty answers to elementary questions. He sheepishly cries foul after debates and masterfully plays victim to my perpetrator of incivility.


Commissioner Hagen is a wordsmith. Whether by design or (bad) habit, he never answers a question directly, instead he takes inquisitors on a journey, demonstrating his superhuman lungs which allow him to speak endlessly without pause; long enough for all to forget the question he was asked to answer or a sighting of Haley’s Comet, whichever comes first.


And though I joke about it, I am genuinely impressed with his capacity to dance poetically around catechisms. He has managed to convince his supporters that he is thorough in his analysis and thoughtful of his proposed solutions to problems. He is adored by his typical supporter, the affluent, well educated, NIMBY-minded, protect our Utopian landscape regardless of cost to others.


While Commissioner Hagen tends to bloviate, Commissioner Young is short and to the point. His opponents characterize him as thoughtless and shallow, mistaking for reality Mr. Young’s on-air, self-described persona of the local good ole’ boy.


Mr. Young’s detractors – Mr. Hagen’s supporters – assert that Commissioner Young has limited understanding of complex issues and simplistic solutions translated neatly into razzing one-liners.


They are correct about Mr. Young’s deft and quick-witted tongue. They often miscalculate his attention to detail and ability to recall fact. So much so, that they are oblivious to his mastery of breaking down issues, framing facts with perspective, and translating solutions to multiple tiers of socio-economic citizenry.


Mr. Young appeals to a broader base of voters than does Mr. Hagen, if for nothing else, because of his superior communication skills which appeal to more voters. He is as comfortable chewing the fat about job creation with an unemployed voter as he is pontificating about the role of government with a political science professor.


Commissioner Hagen doesn’t have that kind of range.


Mr. Hagen takes himself entirely too seriously. He reminds me at times, of the starter at a tired municipal golf course mistaken for Augusta, who spends 15 minutes reading the rules of golf etiquette to beer-bellied foursomes who take as many Mulligans as they drink Budweisers, which is to say many and often. Meanwhile, foursomes back up three deep on the first hole.


Where Mr. Hagen is determined to control growth through policy and master plans, Mr. Young has given in to the reality that a bleak market will control growth without governmental intervention. He would rather spend time and effort streamlining and eliminating the nonsensical regulation and costly impediments that burden the current process of approving growth.


The drastic differences in both men’s style and substance are showcased in a recent debate ( I was fortunate to host. They couldn’t have been more diametrically opposed in their interpretation of relevant issues and articulation of their approach to problem solving.


Mr. Hagen begins the debate by claiming he hasn’t formed a slate, but after prodding agrees to call it a “team.” When he explained that he used a scalpel rather than Mr. Young’s meat axe to cut the budget, Commissioner Young inserts, “Paging Dr. Hagen to OR, the budget is on a gurney.”


After labeling Mr. Young’s slate as “the Developer’s Dream Team,” Mr. Hagen reluctantly admits that he has received campaign contributions from the “development community.” While Mr. Hagen attempts to disassociate himself from the no-growth organization Friends of Frederick County, Mr. Young recites housing starts for the past four years and makes his case for ending “strangulation by regulation.”


These are just a handful of exchanges in a 90-minute debate guaranteed to educate and amuse and make simple your decision as to which candidate and slate to support.


Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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