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December 17, 2010

Morning-After Pill

Norman M. Covert

The era of “Hope ‘n Change” in Frederick County began with re-elected Clerk of the Court Sandra Dalton swearing in the all-Republican Board of County Commissioners and new members to the Board of Education. It is a time of political euphoria for “our side,” but with it the optimism that the elixir of victory doesn’t turn into a morning hangover.


The game is on, so to speak, and with governance, the ability to turn a good sound bite is not a “value-added” commodity.


Election winners deserve the bragging rights and we’ve heard about as much as the media can handle on its news and editorial pages. We heard such braggadocio from a long line of local and national leadership. After his election in 2004, President George W. Bush boasted of his mandate; he lost The Congress two years later. We heard the same from President Barack H. Obama, whose two years of failed leadership brought the national conservative landslide.


The term “Hope and Change” has become a euphemism for failure, considering President Obama’s dramatic fall from grace. This new era of optimism – with a Republican flair – is not a guaranteed win-win for county voters, the majority of whom point to the groundswell of support for new Commissioners Blaine R. Young, Kirby Delauter, Billy Shreve and Paul Smith.


Public office brings the responsibility of representing the people with dignity and professionalism. We didn’t see much of that in the old commissioners’ board, whose accomplishments were a mixed bag of good and bad, foot dragging, bad decision and indecision.


It was disappointing that the newly seated school board inaugurated its term with a sophomoric media fight about leadership. With the need to pare down the $500 million budget to the essentials, the new board quarreled about what should have happened and actually did occur.


Political newcomer Brad Young’s election as board president was tainted December 8th by his assertion that a deal was in play to elect him to the top job. Past President Kathryn Groth’s nomination of Donna Crook for the job was a stink bomb in the room.


Ms. Crook, an incumbent who has never been president, would have been a good choice because of her experience. She could have won the post, but abstained, giving Mr. Young the position. Elected vice president, she probably understands the terrain of the school board. Sometimes it’s better to follow.


Mr. Young showed great political savvy during the campaign. He is a capable professional, but is on record as standard bearer to change the culture of the board, which includes what we hope will not be an unwieldy working relationship with Superintendant Linda Burgee.


Mr. Young has not been circumspect in his public criticism of Ms. Burgee’s leadership, the size and scope of the administration or personalities within that group.


He has coveted the school board position and presidency, apparently sharing his supporters’ impetus to mete out “payback” to the school administration. He developed a media following which reflected in hundreds of column inches what he felt was unjust punishment related to his part-time job as a girls’ softball coach at Walkersville High School.


Mr. Young was caught short last year when a parent complained that alcoholic beverages were part of adult fare at a team cookout at Mr. Young’s home. It was ruled a violation of school policy by Frederick County Public Schools Athletics Supervisor Lynn Carr, who terminated Mr. Young. It was not a popular decision, but upheld a legal determination of the school systems’ prohibition of adult beverages at school sponsored events, or those on the fringe of that opinion – including Mr. Young’s private residence.


Superintendant Burgee agreed to a sit-down with Mr. Young, but was not forthright in undercutting her staff director’s enforcement of school policy. She did rescind the firing, instead suspending Mr. Young for three games and cautioning him about the systems’ policy regarding school sanctioned events and those with the appearance of it.


Mr. Young, whose honor and integrity are without question, was stung by the entire affair. Now he wants her out – the sooner the better, but will have to wait until July 1.


In the meantime among his first agenda items was getting the ball rolling for a new superintendant; successfully instituting a hiring freeze on the school administration; and taking the first steps he hopes will eliminate the Investigations (TERC) mathematics program.


Mr. Young is confident his success as a businessman and financial advisor gives him the tools to lead the school system into a more economical operation with improved hiring practices and education programs. Whether the board supports Mr. Young’s vision remains to be seen.


Mr. Young’s brother Blaine also has an ambitious agenda with the county commissioners, much of it yet to achieve “on-paper” status. However, he has a way of getting things done in a big way. His goals include overturning years of regulations that have handcuffed businesses, to the point of several pulling up stakes for greener pastures, and discouraging local work for construction firms with “no-growth” politics. No less of a challenge is the several million dollar budget deficits looming.


The Young brothers, Blaine and Brad, might review how their Dad Ron forged so many successes in his long career in local government. They both owe a large portion of their electoral successes to having the Young surname. Senator Young had his personal agenda, too, but he realized running the City of Frederick was a business – and he succeeded. Personalities get in the way and you have to go around them.


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