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June 10, 2003

A Meeting We Could Have Done Without

David 'Kip' Koontz

The June 5th Mayor and Board of Alderman (BOA) meeting was full of surprises and fireworks, most of which - to anyone who holds dear the ideas of freedom of speech, and well, takes the Constitution to heart - made them ill.

The problems stemmed from the Board of Aldermen's consideration of a resolution that proponents claim simply shows support of our troops.


Why, then, did it contain language such as, "The Mayor and Board of Aldermen support the President of the United States as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces and his strategy to protect our security and promote and ensure the peace both at home and abroad?"

Though alternative language was selected that reads along the line of "we support the President as commander-in-chief and his work." most of those who have followed this know very well the true intent of this resolution.


Some critics of the resolution questioned why the City of Frederick needed to concern itself with passing a resolution dealing with national issues - something with which the Board of Aldermen have nothing to do.

Some also questioned the aforementioned inclusion of supporting the President and his strategy instead of simply showing support for those in the Armed Forces.

The problem that some do not understand is that this issue became unnecessarily political in nature because phraseology such as "supporting the President and his strategy" were put in to begin with.

Many do not support the President and his strategy. Some find the invasion of Iraq wrong, while others hold that some aspects of homeland security infringe on some of our basic freedoms.

Some said that inclusion of such language simply promoted one political viewpoint over others - something the Board of Aldermen shouldn't do.

The sponsor of the resolution, Alderman David Lenhart, can't understand why some might find that resolving to support policies that some don't support is political in nature.

Well, to that end, the instigator of this entire resolution, Tim Brooks, a member of the Republican State Central Committee, was heard on Cable 10's "Pressing Issues" program last Wednesday night, calling opponents of such language "communists."

If Mr. Lenhart can't grasp the inherent nature that speaking with unanimity on behalf of all citizens when there isn't unanimity isn't political in nature -- maybe the fact that those who opposed the resolution wording can be defined as "communist" by his compatriot will help put the political nature into a clearer focus for him.

Additionally, it certainly isn't out of the question that Alderman Lenhart is looking for - and helping to create - niche issues that he can use to define himself and potential opponents in future campaigns.

Thus far, he has been effectively able to raise two biggies that he will likely use to his, or what he would hope is his, benefit in the future.

The first was the issue of praying before the start of BOA meetings - if you don't want to do it - you are "anti-God."

The second being the "support our resolution or you're a commie - thus 'anti-American'."

One can just hear Mr. Lenhart now during the 2005 campaign saying something like: "Why would you vote for them, they are anti-God and anti-American."

Two low, yet effective tools, used by politicians of his ilk, to sully the image of their equally God-loving and patriotic opponents.

It is highly probable that "opponent" just doesn't believe that the way Mr. Lenhart, Mr. Brooks and others use God and country are doing either one any justice.

The entire hearing got worse when Alderman Bill Hall took his opportunity to speak to bash the opponents of the wording of the resolution.

In what could be the worst performance Mr. Hall has yet put on for his constituency, he referred to one man's expression of speech as being "idiotic."

The man's action - displaying flag-themed boxer shorts while making his case, may have been a bit tasteless, but should it have prompted Alderman Hall to denigrate a constituent?

When Mayor Dougherty interrupted Alderman Hall to impress upon him that it may not be wise to challenge a constituent and call his views "idiotic," Mr. Hall retorted that Ms. Dougherty can not tell him what to do and, in bad form, told her to shut up.

And all she was doing was trying to help him out by getting him free of a less than nice situation but.

Mr. Hall continued his rant by making matters worse by expanding his criticism of the opponents by declaring he wanted nothing at all to do with people who held the views of the opponents of the resolution's wording.

He then continued by clearly implying that people who thought that way not only had idiotic thoughts - they were simply idiots. Alderman Joe Baldi, who had given assurances that he would not support a resolution that went further than a statement that simply supported the troops, did a famous "Wafflin' Joe" and decided that he would support the compromise language that went further than simply supporting the troops and voted in the affirmative - lest he be "anti-American" in the 2005 race.

With that matter out of the way, Mayor Dougherty called for the conclusion of the night's business, even though it had gone past the 11 o'clock quitting time that the Mayor and Board have been attempting to stick to.

Thing is there were only aldermanic comments (there were none) and one other brief matter that Police Chief Kim Dine needed taken care of and that was that - an additional 15 minutes max.

Well, Mr. Hall, behaving badly, interrupted Herzonner to inform her that they had not voted to suspend the rules to go past the 11 o'clock stop time and that he was not going to stay for the remainder of the meeting.

She proceeded with the agenda with the seeming consent of the other four aldermen.

Not long into Chief Dine's talk, Alderman Bill Hall rather childishly, got up and skulked from the room muttering something about how he wasn't going to stand for this, or some other such stuff.

Funny thing is, he stood out front and talked to a constituent longer than the meeting took to adjourn.

His behavior was inappropriate and rude to the citizens of Frederick, who elected him to serve their interests - not his - even if that may mean staying until 11:30.

Memory doesn't come up with any instance that Mr. Hall stormed out of a late night session when the mayor was Jim Grimes, even when they went longer than 11:30.

Maybe, just maybe, Mr. Hall needs to resign his position if he feels he can only give the time he wants to serving as alderman, rather than the time required of him.

Maybe his need to "go after," or whatever one can call it, Mayor Dougherty has become a obsession and has gone beyond the absurd at this point.

I do not think anyone voted for him to opt out of meetings in progress simply because of his personal animosity toward the mayor. Nor did they elect him to attack constituents and their views.

Many times, Mr. Hall's behavior has been excused because he had a legitimate complaint.

This time, however, Mr. Hall has not only embarrassed himself with his walk-out tirade, he has diminished himself and his office in the manner with which he dealt with constituents who disagreed with his point of view.

Maybe, as Mr. Hall's criticism of staying past 11 P. M. stemmed from the thought that it was in some way "going against the rules," he should take the documents on which our country is founded and read the rules about how one has a right to one's own opinion regardless of whether that opinion matches yours.

Be that as it may, the June 5th meeting was one the city could have done without.

It only served as a venue to bring to light some of the ugliest truths about what has happened to the governing process at all levels.

There appears to be only one "universal truth" about what is good and right and that only a certain select few are entitled to it. (Oh, and that governing is only about getting what you want, how you want, when you want it.)

In the meantime, it seems that the rest of the citizenry must sit silently on the sidelines letting those with the keys guide them to the Promised Land or change their minds and conform or what seems to be the preferable solution - shut up and go away.

There is a stink that permeates government right now. From Washington to Annapolis to Frederick's City Hall and that is distrust, fear and an apparent loathing of anyone and any view that is opposite that of the key holders.

At least the elections aren't that far off.

On the national level, you have to wonder if Congress will suspend the elections for "security reasons."

Locally, well, it is too bad that it might just be that those folks we get to pick from may not be worth picking at all.

Well, stopping for now - knock at the door. Hope it isn't the homeland security folks coming to get me for supporting the Constitution again.

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