The Worst of Politics at Its Finest
Well, here we go again ladies and gentlemen. The redrafted Monocacy Scenic River Management Plan has the members of the Smarter Growth Alliance for Frederick County running to the press in an attempt to once again derail a plan not resembling their wish list.
After a local activist group epically fails to screech loudly for public support, the normal “Plan B” is to run to The Frederick News Post (FNP).
Environmental groups in Frederick County traditionally attempt to hijack causes in the traditional "do gooder" style. Locally such advocates are used to declaring preemptive victory over their adversaries in almost every fight. The current Monocacy River plan handed these environmentalists a stinging defeat and they aren't over it yet.
A group of Monocacy River property owners and farmers stood united against the flawed 2017 Monocacy River plan and became extremely vocal against local government intrusiveness on their land. These men and women, with their homes and farms along the river beat back the considerable pressure local environmental groups had aimed at Frederick County government.
The Smarter Growth Alliance for Frederick County demanded that the county adopt a river plan with ambiguous language referencing the rights of personal property rights of land owner bordering the Monocacy.
In several public hearings the property owners were called selfish on more than one occasion. Matt Seubert, president of Residents Advocating for Land Use and the Environment went as far as to call them “fascist” for defending the rights to their homes and farms.
In order to understand how and why the latest draft of the Monocacy Scenic River Management Plan has activists with their hair on fire, it’s important to remember why the state of Maryland considered the idea of scenic river protection in the first place.
The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values for future generations. The act is known for safeguarding the special character of these rivers and also recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development.
Not soon after the act was passed, 1969 saw the Cuyahoga River in Ohio catch fire, bringing more negative national publicity to Cleveland and its polluted waterways. The shock of this event served as a wakeup call for every American – and rightfully so.
The State of Maryland established the Monocacy River as one of nine scenic rivers when it passed Maryland’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1974. There was a long overdue eco awakening in the United States.
Since the Maryland legislation was passed, the health of our rivers has dramatically improved. There are no disagreements with the progress made. The disagreements begin when environmentalists seek to impose their green vision on property owners by legislating how others ought to live, think, and generally behave.
Hypocrisy abounds when local environmentalists desperately seek a crisis to keep themselves relevant, while opportunistic politicians court their vote.
The Sunday Frederick News Post article entitled: “Watered Down: Environmental groups come out against new river plan,” was written by Samantha Hogan and offered insight into the thoughts of County Executive Jan Gardner.
Ms. Gardner seemed to think that Monocacy property owners serving on the Monocacy Scenic River Citizens Advisory Board itself could be al an ethical challenge.
“Where they cross the line as if they made a decision ... that would uniquely benefit them from the broader stakeholder group…”
The FNP article went on to expand on County Executive Gardner’s thoughts by adding:
"Gardner said that members of any board or commission should not make decisions that would uniquely affect themselves and should recuse themselves instead. She added that if there is a believed ethical violation, people should report it to the county Ethics Commission and it will be investigated there."
This is laughable. It is the most hypocritical statements our county executive could make in an election year about any Board's or Commission's ethics considering she has publically defended two Frederick County teachers serving on the Frederick County Council who annually vote for a Frederick County budget that has provided them with increased wages.
The land along the Monocacy River is not communal. One hasn't seen these environmentalist activists publicly offering to chip in and pay the property taxes that these private individuals are billed for every year by Frederick County and the state.
The Monocacy landowners aren't boogie men intent on poisoning their own property in a nefarious bid to impact the local water supply. It isn’t unethical for them to raise questions on the ripple effects erroneous language has in laws that directly impact their lives.
What's ethically challenging occurs when a county executive triggered into hypocrisy with a notable ethical double standard. This is all in an attempt to gain the election year support of special interests groups.
The worst of politics at its finest.