In his May 24, 2002 rant...I mean column, entitled "Thompson Proposal Smacks Of Rebellion Against America," Blaine R. Young attacks Commissioner John "Lennie" Thompson with what appears to be every weapon in his verbal arsenal. Unfortunately, though his inflammatory rhetoric was aimed at the commissioner, his volley did more damage to fairness, honesty and the truth.
We read that "Thompson would have been a Royalist and Tory" during the American Revolution. And he "would have gone down kicking and screaming opposing the Bill of Rights to the Constitution."
According to Mr. Young:
"There is only one obvious and logical answer: as with everything else Commissioner Thompson does, he is doing this to promote his own political career, under the guise of political reform. It is a blatant and obvious attempt to attack people whose only transgression has been to disagree with the policies and antics of the exalted ruler himself, and an attempt to disguise his attack as political reform."
We are told that "Commissioner Thompson cares only to attack his political enemies," and that "Lennie's transparent attempts to gain political victories over his opponents will die their usual death" and be "laughed out of the room in Annapolis."
Apparently, all that personal and political bombast didn't leave room for the facts of the matter.
So, I went to find them for myself.
I obtained and read the proposed legislation, which is a bit too long to print here. It is, of course, available to anyone who doesn't want to accept Mr. Young's particular spin on it.
Here is the e-mail that Commissioner Thompson sent out to his fellow commissioners (a group that includes two of his "cronies," according to Mr. Young):
From: John & Suzan Thompson Sent: Sunday, May 19, 2002 1:02 PM To: Dave Gray; Jan Gardner; Rick Weldon; Terre Roy Rhoderick; Thompson Cc: Wendy Kearney; Sharon Hale; Ron Hart; John Mathias; Doug Browning; Steve Horn; Sharon Suarez
Subject: Proposal for 2003 Legislative Package
I propose that we request the delegation, as part of our package for the 2003 session, to enact legislation that would:
- prohibit applicants for changes in certain land use regulations from making campaign contributions to BOCC members during the pendency of the application;
- require the recusal of BOCC members who had received campaign contributions from the applicant in the 36 months prior to the filing of the application; and
- require disclosure of ex parte communications between BOCC members and applicants during the pendency of the application.
The land use regulations subject to the proposal are:
- zoning map amendments;
- comprehensive plan map amendments;
- water and sewerage plan map amendments; and
- requests to consent to the zoning of annexed land in a classification substantially different from than the land use designated in the county's comprehensive plan.
The provisions concerning campaign contributions and ex parte communications are severable. We can deal with them separate and apart from one another if you so desire.
§§15-829 - 15-835 of the State Government Article served as a model for this proposal. Those provisions apply to the PG county Exec. & County Council.
A draft of my proposal is attached to this e-mail. Your opinions & commentary are welcome.
Does that read to you like a proposal from a "non-benevolent dictatorship?"
Let's look at it another way.
Why does Mr. Young believe it is appropriate for current applicants for changes in certain land use regulations to make campaign contributions to BOCC members during the pendency of the application?
Why does Mr. Young believe it is inappropriate to require BOCC members to recuse themselves from a specific vote if they received campaign contributions from the applicant in the 36 months prior to the filing of the application?
Why does Mr. Young believe it is unacceptable to require disclosure of ex parte communications between BOCC members and applicants during the pendency of their application?
Why doesn't Mr. Young tell us that he supports off-the-record meetings and conversations between an individual commissioner and, for example, a large developer applying for a zoning change (perhaps in your neighborhood)?
Does Mr. Young care that this is contrary to the general policy of open government and the specific policy that rezoning decisions be based on the record (i.e. the documents, exhibits and testimony presented via public input) and not secret meetings and conversations?
And finally, why doesn't Mr. Young tell us that most, if not all, of the larger counties in Maryland already have similar provisions?
Even Walter T. Mills, the president of Defenders, agrees with Commissioner Thompson on the issue of disclosure:
"Mr. Mills agreed with Mr. Thompson's third proposal on communications disclosure." See "Thompson seeks to ban applicant's contributions" in The Frederick News-Post, Wednesday, May 22, 2002, page a-4, col. 1
As a reader, a resident and a voter in Frederick County, I would rather be informed than inflamed.
Mr. Young is generating a lot of heat.
But no light.