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May 24, 2011

Five Months Later

Roy Meachum

The Board of Commissioners’ swearing-in happened a little over five months ago; I was there.


The slight surprise on that occasion was that no Democrat took the oath. Not because of personal politics; when a single party has a lock on government, they usually run amok over the outs. In this instance, David Gray ensures the minority will be heard. Although a GOP member, David’s political philosophy veers decidedly left of mine; and I have remained faithful to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, except for voting for Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan the first time around.


In any event, as the sole voice opposing county President Blaine Young and the three who followed him into office, David Gray poses little more than an irritant. The other gadfly on the Frederick County Board of Commissioners is Kai Hagen who spent a single term in Winchester Hall (2006-2010). Kai was a leader in gathering signatures for the petition that calls for a charter writing board elected, rather than appointed.


As readers know, this column was staunchly opposed to the petition calling it a threat that the county might be stuck in a horse-and-buggy government while the rest of Maryland counties have moved on. A colleague wrote how Frederick County voters rejected Winchester Hall modernization five times.


After moving here from Bethesda 28 years ago, I survived a single attempt; that was killed by the Democratic political machine and the machinations of then-city mayor Paul Gordon. The successful opposition was motivated by abhorrence of Galen Clagett. It doesn’t take tea leaves to figure out the recent petition was based on fear of Blaine Young and his political ambitions. I don’t share the signatories’ repulsion.


In the first place, I’m older, and in my time I observed many seemingly straight-forward goals by officials turned inside-out. With expectation of fewer years, I seem to be more patient; I’m certainly more experienced. I certainly don’t agree with several of this board’s positions, including cutting back on Head Start, non-profit organizations and health care.


The most recent decision to overturn the last board’s zoning for the entire county seems only fair. Before Blaine and his cohorts took control, we had been in a twilight zone of no-growth, which certainly hampered expansion by restricting jobs. Construction had everything to do with Frederick’s “good times,” maybe at the expense of “quality of life,” as proponents of no-growth complained. Traffic is much worse in the Historic District after 28 years downtown. But remembering the days when the national population was less than half of now, I tend to accept that. In any event, the court system is always available. And that’s where the charter signatories wound up.


Over the years, I’ve learned to trust Stuart Harvey as an enlightened and judicious man; the county elections director disapproval of hundreds of signatures was based on current law and regulations. Ellis Burruss, the most prominent voice in the petition drive, managed to enlist former commissioner and attorney John L. “Lennie” Thompson to take the disapprovals to the Frederick County Circuit Court. Neither criticized Stuart by name. The eventual goal shapes up as loosening state restrictions on petition requirements, which should never happen. Chaos would result.


Let there be no doubt five months after the voters’ choices took office the new commissioners are shaking up the county; how their attempts fare will be decided in the 2014 elections – if not before.


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