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December 12, 2011

Recalling the past

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

The many political opponents of County Commissioner Blaine Young will seemingly stop at nothing in their quest to turn the clock back to prior to November 2010.


The idea that the brash, cigar-chomping, Crown Royal sipping, good old boy now occupies the same third floor office formerly held by Jan Gardner unhinges people.


The big question is: Just who are these people? Are these normal, everyday Fredericktonians who, in the course of their daily business, happened to notice something evil afoot at Winchester Hall?


If you believe that, there's a covered bridge for sale with your name on it.


No, the organizers of the marches, protests and cheering sections are the very people who were aligned against Commissioners Blaine Young, Paul Smith, Kirby Delauter and Billy Shreve in the last election.


You see, this is the new political reality in the age of the professional political activist. You support candidates for office. If you prevail, your work with your handpicked officials to implement the promises they made to voters. You rail against anyone who disagrees with you, calling them the enemy of all that is good and just in the world.


If your candidate should happen to lose, you spend the next four years criticizing the work of the people who unseated your choices. You attack everything they try to do, even though it reflects the promises that they made to the people who showed your candidates the door. You call them the enemy of all that is good and just, because what you really mean is that only you know what is good.


This perpetual form of campaigning is a recent development on the scene.


Back during past commissioner terms, while the various boards were implementing the policies they desired, there were always complaints. During pro-growth cycles, the anti-growthers fussed about portable classrooms.


Conversely, when the no-growth advocates held the reigns, the other side accused them of job-killing practices that stifled economic prosperity.


The difference with today's situation is that the advocacy is coordinated and targeted. The people behind the scenes are politically motivated and coordinated, and partisanship guides the strategy.


From the Planning Commission to the League of Women Voters, functions and organizations that used to play limited roles in the political process are now thrusting themselves into the spotlight, exchanging emails calling for protest marches and editorial letters to the editor.


At the core of their work is this simple concept: Blaine Young, and all he believes, is bad. The longer he serves, the worse it will be. The same applies to anyone elected with him.


Is Commissioner Young a pro-growth commissioner? Of course he is. He is one of the most pro-growth commissioners in history. Does he want to reduce the size of county government? You bet he does, with all of his heart and soul. Does he have more faith in the private sector than the public sector? He does, in almost all things.


Should anyone be surprised that he believes these things? Only if you are an idiot, or spent the better part of 2010 sound asleep. The actions and functions of the majority of the Board of County Commissioners is performing a rare and unique task: they are fulfilling the promises that they made to voters that they asked to vote for them.


The funny thing is people actually did vote for them. In fact, record numbers of people voted for them. It isn't like there wasn't a choice available to the voters in the last election. Looking back, the lines were very clearly drawn.


On one side, you had Kai Hagen. Former Commissioner Hagen was very clear about his goals and desires for the county. He ran on his record, the record of the Gardner Board. In fact, he proudly explained to anyone who would listen that – if elected – he would continue the policies and practices of the Board of County Commissioners on which he had served.


On the other side, we had Blaine Young and his pro-business, red tape cutting, free enterprise model. It happened that he had a group of like-minded candidates, hence the current Board of County Commissioners.


So, the activists are left to crank up their email blasts and public relations strategies. Fortunately for them, they have the likes of Kai Hagen, Janice Wiles, Democratic Party insiders, former Democrat officeholders and seekers, sitting members of the Planning Commission and long-serving leaders of the League of Women Voters to help them organize rallies and protests.


Were it not for the fairly obvious nature of this organized opposition, it might just appear to the unknowing that this really was a people's movement, a spontaneous outburst of voter anger over the direction of the county.


From the gatherings on Square Corner (let's call them "waves and honks") to the speakers at the various public hearings, this all takes on the look and feel of a community organizer's work. The latest spontaneous initiative is the idea of a recall provision. The people who long for the last group of commissioners are asking for a recall provision, hoping that the results of the election they just lost might be able to be overturned in a recall.


They're either counting on the supporters of the Young Board to be asleep at the switch, or they hope that the dummies who failed to follow their voting preferences will come to their senses and see that the "smarter kids" were right all along.


Here's the funny thing about recall. It works both ways. Sure, the smart kids might be able to recall Mr. Young and his colleagues. Of course, those allegedly dumb voters just might "recall" the kind of government they had when the smart kids were in charge, and might well go back to the voting booth and reaffirm the rear-end kicking they administered in November of 2010.


One can always hope.


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