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January 2, 2004

Glancing Into The Future

John W. Ashbury

Each year, toward the end, it becomes apparent that things haven’t gone as well as predicted – or hoped for – early in January. But “hope springs eternal,” as Alexander Pope wrote those centuries ago.

And despite the fact that prognosticators usually have “eternal optimism” on their side, there are those of us who peer darkly through the looking glass.

From my perch high atop the crow’s nest, or should that be the starling’s nest, in downtown Frederick, it can easily be seen that if the decision made by the Weinberg family, the mayor and the chairman of the board of directors of the Weinberg Center for The Arts on December 29, 2003, is allowed to stand, the former movie palace will close before this new year staggers to its timely end.

County Commissioner John L. “Lennie” Thompson will have an epiphany of sorts and finally realize that the unintended consequences of his adamant stand against any future development in Frederick County has actually burdened beyond belief ALL of the taxpaying citizens of his “beloved” county. Unfortunately, his wife tells him it doesn’t matter, so he ignores the fact.

Mike Cady, the most outspoken of the current county commissioners, will discover before year’s end, that, as the old rock ‘n roll hit says, “silence is golden.” It also prevents foot-in-mouth disease.

Commissioner Jan Gardner succeeds in getting all the taxing authority she thinks is necessary to satisfy the Board of Education’s grandiose ideas and plans. Unfortunately, tax receipts take a nosedive as long time residents flee to Washington County, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to avoid the taxes.

Despite all her training and hard work practicing and taking ballet lessons from Joyce Morrison, the premier dance teacher in town, Mayor Jennifer Daugherty will fail to garner the lead in the 2004 production of “The Nutcracker” at The Weinberg, a role she is eminently qualified for in all other aspects.

Commissioner Bruce Reeder will finally convince two of his colleagues that Frederick County’s elderly actually matter to the welfare of this jurisdiction but will fail to garner the required majority on critical legislation benefiting older property owners when Commissioner Jan Gardner fails to show up for another voting session.

County Manager Doug Browning will succeed in convincing a majority of the commissioners that they’d be better off if they listened to his advice, but then finds out how much former County Manager Ron Hart is making selling overpriced real estate (and spending half the time at his job), and he quits to hang out his own Realtors’ shingle.

The City of Frederick, still being sued over the location of the Ten Commandments monument in Memorial Grounds Park, despite the fact it no longer own the ground, will win the case. However, the losing side will appeal to a higher court and the case will drag on for another millennium – or so.

Frederick City COO Vinny Hughes resigns to pursue a less dangerous profession - working for Frederick County Animal Control catching pit bulls.

Frederick Alderman Joe Baldi will announce that he will not challenge Mayor Daugherty in the 2005 election campaign, after he is informed that President Reagan has decided to come out of retirement to seek the position. Mr. Baldi declared that, despite his illness, Mr. Reagan would make a far better mayor than he would.

Alderman David Lenhart will renounce his own political ambition and sign on as Mayor Daugherty’s campaign manager, singing “I Saw The Light.”

Instead of flushing a half million gallons of water down the toilet every day, Fort Detrick officials will publicly (after doing so privately months earlier) offer it to the City of Frederick with the hope that the mayor will realize it is a legitimate offer and actually take some positive action to seal the deal.

Mayor Daugherty will take a leave of absence to recover her mental health and to prepare for her re-election campaign after finally realizing that throwing gasoline on a fire only makes the problem worse.

Delegate Galen Clagett will suddenly be cast into the statewide spotlight when Speaker of The House of Delegates Michael Busch resigns, and he is elected to replace him. Unfortunately, the light is blinding and he can’t see what he is doing. His constituents, however, see little difference in his behavior as their representative despite his new handicap.

Delegate Paul Stull, chairman of the Frederick County delegation to Annapolis and a champion of the farm industry, will develop a real penchant for mimicry, especially his “mad cow” impersonation which he says comes naturally.

Delegate Patrick Hogan, frustrated by House colleagues who mistake him for a General Assembly page and ask him to bring them coffee, substitutes floor cleaner for creamer and finds himself the new Minority Leader when the rest of the Republican Caucus is taken ill.

Delegate Joe Bartlett will have his application for membership in Mensa denied by its board of directors, who based their decision on a lack of evidence.

The Frederick County Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools Jack Dale are completely stunned and dumbfounded to learn that they will have to close two high school, one middle school, and several elementary schools after the state increases the number of students allowed in each classroom from its current 25 to 31, thereby hiking capacity in all schools by 24 percent.

Board of Education President Linda Naylor loses her 3x5 card collection just before an important policy statement, and discovers that she actually can speak extemporaneously without any help from her “advisors.”

Ron Peppe, no longer president of the BoE, threatens to take his bat and ball and go home when he doesn’t get his way. When none of his colleagues object, he quickly adapts to his new role as “just” a plain-old Board member.

Dr. Mike Schaden, another member of the BoE, will be suspended, not expelled, after performing a necropsy at an elementary school, which led to several incidents of cruelty to animals in the neighborhood. “But it wasn’t my fault they didn’t understand,” Dr. Schaden. “That’s the teacher’s job.”

Bob Smariga, legislative coordinator for the Chamber of Commerce, gets fired when Joe Lebherz, Chamber CEO, realizes that all Mr. Smariga does is sit in city and county meetings all day. The Chamber votes to replace Bob with a tape recorder.

And so it will go in 2004. Perhaps the outlook will be better next year.

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