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As Long as We Remember...

November 1, 2010

From Outrage to Voter Action

Earl 'Rocky' Mackintosh

It seems all too often that in order to affect an ideological change circumstances must get so serious that people “just won’t take it anymore!”


On a national scale we’ve seen this in the elections that have brought in Ronald Reagan, the “Contract with America” and, more recently, Barack Obama. With each case these swings were rooted in an unstable economy. When voters feel the pain in their pocketbooks, they rally around a cause of change that they “believe in.” And now another tsunamic ideological shift is about to occur again as the national sentiment has waned from the unfulfilled political promises of just two years ago.


On a local level in Frederick County politics, the political pendulum of ideologies has swung back and forth over the last 20 years. While the major swings nationally have most always been economically centered, our community has been very fortunate with its proximity, lying within the Washington Metropolitan area.


This alone has generally sheltered us from dramatic economic downturns, so there has been a slightly different battle that has resonated with voters: Growth and Traffic. Both of these are impacted by that Washington-area influence. The result has been that our government – and the people it employs – has slowly but surely built barriers and hurdles to channel and restrict the inevitable growth that has steadily impacted our county.


Looking at the situation from a “MacRo” level, a lot of good planning has been done to “manage” the situation; but as in most cases if given the opportunity government will go too far … and often blindly continue even when other more pressing issues face the community. In this case it is best expressed in the words of former President Bill Clinton: “It’s the economy, Stupid!”


Yes, while economic conditions have had their ups and downs in our community, for the first time that I can remember, we have a lot of people and businesses who are really hurting financially. And when you combine that with the innumerable amount of governmental regulatory fees, red tape and taxes that have evolved over those last 20 years, it has truly created a sense of rage within the business community like I have never experienced before.


As one local business person told me recently: “You know, when the economy was booming and I was making money hand over fist, I just put up with the growing regulation; so I just took it on the chin and paid the price in time, money and concessions to get what I needed. But now it’s a different story. It’s back to basics, and I need my government to do the same: play fairly and get rid a lot of this stuff … it’s vital to my survival.”


This kind of anger is not just concentrated in the building industry. In my property management business, our retail tenants have complained about utility fixture audits conducted by the Department of Public Works, who enter their units to count sinks, toilets, floor drains and dishwashers. In one case a $5,000 fine was levied on the tenant to either pay up or remove the fixtures!


I can give plenty of examples. But the bottom-line is that a large number of business people are fed up with the level of regulation that they have to face for just simple improvement requests. And their anger has reached a point of outrage that is pushing them to change the current local government “establishment” – specifically with the Board of County Commissioners.


As I see it the voters of Frederick County are faced with some very clear candidate choices. By banding together in “slates” that they have created for themselves, or by supporting PACs, one can vote for the “Establishment” or “Change.”


The “Establishment” slate, as I call it, has been defined by the “Citizens for Good Government, PAC” (I refer it as the “Citizens for Good Ol’ Government, PAC”). This group generally holds the philosophy that local government has been well managed over the last four years and with a bit of budgetary tweaking it should maintain the status quo.


Incumbents Kai Hagen and David Gray are grouped with Ellis Burruss, Janice Wiles and (a reluctant) Linda Norris.


In watching, reading and listening to the views of this group, it seems that they really don’t have any real solutions to the biggest issues. The primary response to “What would you do?” seems to be “study” the situation more.


With the exception of Linda Norris, none of the other “Establishment” candidates, in my opinion, really have a clue as to the needs of the business community. Their campaigns are more focused on single issues based in some non-economic cause.


On the other hand the remaining 5 candidates – Blaine Young, Kirby Delauter, C. Paul Smith, Billy Shreve and Michael Kurtianyk – have heard the outrage from Frederick employers and have offered up real ideas and answers to affect “Change” in government.


The Frederick County Chamber of Commerce (, and a number of other community groups who are tuned into the plight of business in these times, have given the Young, Delauter, Smith, Shreve and Kurtianyk slate positive grades.


The RAGE is out there, and I hope our citizens will sympathize with our business community, as they are the life blood of what makes this one of the best places to live and work … so take ACTION and Vote tomorrow!


Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He also writes for The MacRo Report Blog.



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