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Advertise on the Tentacle

January 30, 2012

Open for Business

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

The next big battle between state and local government might just play out along a highway in Frederick County.


Seems the Board of County Commissioners wants to advertise that the county is "Open for Business," an indication that the policies and procedures of these commissioners are conducive for the private sector.


Sure, it's a gimmick. These things usually are. But it's a good gimmick, one that cannot hurt during a depressed economy and a period of dour employment news.


Telling people that we're “Open for Business” might be one more signal that we want entrepreneurs to invest their hard-earned capital in Frederick. It's a way to remind people that we no longer perceive the free market system as the enemy.


Others have done it, so it isn't even very creative or groundbreaking. The State of Virginia employs it as a tag line, adorning street signs, bumper stickers and note pads with the language and logo.


So, why a battle over a trite slogan that doesn't hurt anyone and has been used to good effect in other places?


Because Frederick County is in the State of Maryland, that's why. Claiming that one county is “Open for Business” might cause a potential investor to dig deeper, to assess the overall business climate for the whole state.


That's where the real problem comes in. The O'Malley Administration has been bashed by the current Board of County Commissioners, on everything from taxation to environmental regulation. The latest flap involved the War of Rural Maryland, a slogan created by the Republican leadership of the Maryland Senate.


Commission President Blaine Young has used this wartime slogan to describe the state's new land use planning document, PlanMaryland. He has regularly complained about the tax and spend mentality of Annapolis, and reminded county residents that the state's problem relates to spending, not revenue.


Blaine actually has a credible argument here. From Garrett to Queen Anne’s, counties across the state are feeling the pinch of a liberal, environmental, and agriculture unfriendly agenda, driven by urban special interests.


He has been so vocal that he has probably raised the hackles of Gov. Martin O'Malley himself. No doubt the charge would be denied, as it's unflattering for a governor to admit that he pays much attention to a local elected official.


Rest assured he does, though. The Annapolis Clipper, a staff-created daily tip sheet that includes articles from papers all over Maryland, has carried plenty of Mr. Young's unflattering comments about Team O'Malley.


Given that most legislators, lobbyists and administration officials read the Clipper, one shouldn't be surprised that State Highway Administration (SHA) officials might suddenly have an issue with what goes on a street sign.


The question is how petty can the state be when it comes to something as meaningless as what words go on a highway sign? The answer: plenty petty.


Chuck Gishler, the spokesman for the SHA, is quoted in a local paper claiming the issue relates to standards and safety, not politics. Don't blame Mr. Gishler, he's just a mouthpiece. Anyone with half a brain knows that explanation to be a pile of steaming bovine fecal waste.


Of course it's political, it's always political.


Here's hoping that the Young board fights to keep the signs, and places them everywhere, regardless of the SHA opinion on the lingo.


Maryland might have problems with advertising a pro- business message, but Frederick County shouldn't shy away from it.


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