Scenic River Plan Escapes Blockade
The Frederick County Council workshop last week raised serious questions before it even began. The agenda continued the latest in the contentious debate on the 2017 version of the Monocacy Scenic River Management Plan. The original version of plan was handed to the Frederick County Council in August of 2017.
There were seven amendments based on the recommendations of the county’s Planning Commission that were to be discussed. Nearly one year after the plan was presented, it was being subjected to amendments after radical progressives lost multiple battles in the local court of public opinion. The drama was well worth a pay-per-view purchase.
First up was Democrat County Council Vice President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (the sponsor of the seven amendments) announced that a vote would be taken on each amendment as it was read aloud and put on the table. This ushered in a heated debate on the practice of voting during workshops.
Under the traditional circumstances of council workshops, a public hearing must be scheduled for the people to voice their comments on proposed legislation. The sudden departure from workshop protocol raised some eyebrows in the audience and among council members because no public comment is allowed in such proceedings.
The Monocacy Scenic River Management Plan has been contentious at every public hearing. Many voices from both supporters and detractors have been prepared for the point and counterpoint bombardment that makes public hearings relevant. This is local government at its finest.
In all, six of the seven amendments were passed as Kirby Delauter and Billy Shreve attempted to persuade the other council members that each amendment was unnecessary because the River Board was drafting a new plan. They argued that the amendments might not even make it into the final version of new plan being drafted. The three Democrats, and Council President Bud Otis, were firm that all amendments required a vote.
The last vote should have been the end of it. Some in the audience were stunned when Republican Councilman Tony Chmelik made a brilliant motion only seconds after voting ended. He proposed to send the entire amended version of the Scenic Monocacy River Management Plan back to the Carroll County/Frederick County River Board. Councilman Kirby Delauter seconded the motion in a rapid response. A superb battle of political maneuvering had just began.
All three Democrats on the council were completely flabbergasted at the speed and thoroughness of Mr. Chmelik’s precision political strike. The three Democrats voiced strong opposition to sending the plan back to the River Board. It became clear after snarky responses to questions and much eye rolling that the three liberals were in lock step. The Democrats did not want the River Board to be allowed to completely rewrite the plan.
The three council Republicans countered this argument by quoting each of the reasons Democrats had raised while demanding the workshop voting in the first place. They also questioned the intent of Democrats to offer guidance to the River Board only to refuse to send the plan as amended back to the River Board as the guidance that they felt was so badly needed. Hypocrisy, though not publically stated, was implied.
One could have heard a pin drop when the Council President Otis saw a crystal clear deadlocked council. He also saw that he would be the deciding vote. Failing to gain consensus from either side, he sat silent for a while; then called the roll for a vote.
The motion passed 4 to 3 and the plan has been sent back to the Monocacy River Board with President Otis casting his swing vote for the motion. The amended recommendations will be used in drafting a final version of the plan by the River Board. Frederick County would be wise not to touch the issue again until the final draft is presented.
In the meantime, the micromanaged monstrosity known as the Livable Frederick Master Plan might have hit an iceberg on the Monocacy River. Both the Livable Frederick Masterplan and the Scenic Monocacy River Management Plan need to be on the same page, so to speak, for Livable Frederick to be the 40-year utopia as imagined by leftist progressive liberals. All because of Councilman Chmelik’s firm stand for logic and reason in government. The man and the moment had met.