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May 9, 2016

Consider the Circumstances

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

In the last few weeks, Frederick’s local news has been replete with non-political stories about political personalities, both those who serve in office currently and those who used to. Much of that news has been less than flattering.


The question posed herein is whether that scrutiny is warranted, and the amplifying impact of online comments and unfiltered communication.


The answer to the first part of the question is that while the scrutiny is hurtful and, at times, demeaning, public personalities open themselves up to that scrutiny based on the fact that they place their names on a ballot. That act alone redefines the acceptable level of both scrutiny and commentary.


Former County Commission President Blaine Young finds himself on a soul-wrenching journey to rediscover himself following some bad personal choices. The easiest and most gutless path is to attack someone at their lowest point. The likelihood of a response is artificially low, as the person being attacked is probably being advised not to reply to any public call-out.


The idea that anyone, regardless of their political motivation, would find joy in Mr. Young’s personal pain is just sickening. There’s a special place in Hell reserved for the pathetic personages who subscribes to that line of thinking. Take along marshmallows; you’ll need them.


The other situation worming its way into the local news is the story of Councilman Kirby Delauter and a car wash in Emmitsburg. Seems as though Mr. Delauter, known to be intensely loyal to his friends, was approached by a former co-worker about investing in the co-worker’s business venture. As one might expect given his history, Kirby acquiesced and made the investment. It appears as though Kirby expected he would help out, then leave the operation to his friend, hoping to get a nice little return on his investment while doing a “solid” for a buddy.


As sometimes happens in these situations, the business apparently had some issues. It seems as though the lease payments were not being made as required, and the bank holding the lease took action to recoup their payments, fees and penalties.


As an investor, Mr. Delauter has some legal obligations, and it appears that he did what any successful and responsible person would do. He took immediate steps to set up a new management entity, resolved any outstanding financial obligations, and set the business on a path to finally be successful.


The Frederick News-Post article on the subject is both predictable and even appropriate. Court proceedings against sitting elected officials are justifiably newsworthy, even when it’s essentially a totally private matter that really has no bearing on the elected official’s official duties.


It isn’t the front page, above-the-fold placement, or the large type headline (Kirby Delauter named in $350,000 loan complaint; councilman says it is resolved) that suggest unfair treatment, it’s the uncontrolled and unedited online commentary that drifts from straight analysis into purely personal and hateful ranting.


Mr. Delauter owns and operates an incredibly successful commercial enterprise. His family’s business is an essential part of the northern Frederick County economic landscape, employing local people and enriching the local business community through secondary investment. Far from some shifty, shady character, in this case Kirby Delauter tried to help a friend, was confronted by a business failure, and aggressively acted to address the problem and right any wrongs.


Isn’t that the private sector behavior we expect? An argument can be made that this reaction is far preferable to public sector process failures, where we typically see blame-shifting, rug-sweeping and scape-goating. Think about the Internal Revenue Service, or the Pentagon’s $900 hammers for a comparison. In government, no one take the blame, and no one pays the price. And we don't give that failure a second thought.


How much of the intensely negative scrutiny comes from the fact that the local political environment was so badly poisoned during the last election cycle? Are the people who wanted to see political change in a local election so fervent in their beliefs that they aren’t satisfied with winning an election, they have to be able to dance on a grave?


All you have to do is read the online comments in the local daily paper. The same exact writers who were so adamantly opposed to Blaine Young and Kirby Delauter in the last election are the authors of the angry personal rants directed at those two men.


Perfection is a trait we, as voters, should neither expect nor demand from our community leaders. There was only one perfect leader, and His legacy will never be matched. Funny thing about that comparison is that He would be the first one to admonish gentle treatment and avoiding judgment of others, even political personalities.


Think about that when you contemplate Blaine Young’s future. Maybe instead of a taunt, offer a sincere prayer for a man who’s grappling with his own demons and his place in our world. You needn't support or even like him to pray that he finds himself and restores the faith of his family and friends. In my case, he already has spades.


When you consider Kirby Delauter’s circumstances, think about the times you’ve needed a true friend to help you out. Were they quick to figure out how to help you, or was the first response an excuse and apology? Kirby said yes when asked, and when it didn’t really pan out, he took responsibility and did the right thing.


Isn’t that what we really want from our local leaders?


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