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Lennie Thompson's Action Rankle.

August 31, 2006

I have recently been involved in a situation with one of our local representatives that I believe requires attention. To that end, I would like to share with you my background and the circumstances of this event so there is no confusion as to motivation.

First, I am new to Maryland, having lived here since 2001. I am a transplant originally from a Midwest college town, and, hence, I understand the impact of "newcomers" and residents who have the opportunity to vote on various issues and then move away and avoid the impact.

There seems to be a "common" belief that many of the new residents to Frederick are Montgomery County transplants. While I have no idea of the validity of this perception, I, for one, am not of that mold.

Secondly, I have never been involved in any local politics until the last year or two. I am well into my 40s. I guess I have simply been blessed to have lived in places (I lived in North Carolina for a number of years in my 20s and 30s) where I was not affected in such a way that I found any need to involve myself in the local politics.

Finally, I live in the Villages of Urbana. As many of you are aware, tremendous growth and change has been taking place in and around this community. It is due to this situation that I found myself getting involved in local politics.

I am not a developer, have never been a developer, and am I in any way paid by or affiliated with the developer community. You may be saying to yourself, "What a strange thing to state? Why would this person tell me this?"

Good question!

The reason I state this so emphatically is that I was (and continue to be) accused of being involved with "the developers" by one of our local representatives. Just for the record, I am an employee of the National Institute of Health as a computer geek.

On the evening of August 1 there was a Board of County Commissioners meeting about a proposal to change the zoning of some property on the northern edge of the Villages of Urbana, [Case Number R-06-1]. I was not able to attend this meeting personally, but I watched it on TV, as well as having sent in an email in support of this proposal which was entered into the record.

It was a somewhat complicated issue, but suffice it to say, the developer owned some land between Urbana High and the new Urbana Middle School. Rather than build 300 new residential units on this property and cause unbelievable problems and congestion in an area that is already overcrowded, he requested that these units be moved to an area on the northern portion of the Villages of Urbana that already had been designated for building commercial and industrial properties, (somewhere in the area of 300 units as well).

In other words, this would move more residential units into one area, changing its designation from commercial and industrial to mixed use and stop the building of residential units in another, already congested area.

The developer had worked with the Urbana Civic Association, a well-established organization of long-time residents of Urbana, and received their backing for this project. He had also worked with long-time homeowners in the area.

The county commissioners determined this relocation would work, but they dropped the number of additional units to somewhere around 200; and, I believe, they are still in the process of putting other restrictions (like age of residents) on the new units. Additionally, the commissioners required so much build-out of commercial property before new residential units can be built.

This is by no means the end of this proposal. Other studies and proofs have to take place before any of these units can be built. The impact on the school and roads systems have to be determined and measures taken. This will be a long process, and I have cited the specific case number above if you want to look into it.

But this is not the point of my letter. What occurred at the end of this Public Hearing and thereafter is what I want to convey the residents of Frederick County.

The president of the Frederick Board of County Commissioners is John L. "Lennie" Thompson, Jr. At the end of that meeting, he accused those present of "not representing" The Villages of Urbana. He also made the assertion that "we", (his constituents) did not have the acumen to understand the (Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance) implications and the long-term effects on our schools from such an action.

I was so incensed by these comments I immediately sent Mr. Thompson an email. Not only did he reply, but he charged me with being someone who wants to pave all of this area: "I'll put you down as an unpaid advocate for the out-of-county developers, cheering them on in their quest to bulldoze and pave the county over from the Mouth of the Monocacy to the Mason-Dixon Line, as well as being a staunch proponent of overcrowded schools and traffic congestion."

Mr. Thompson's "bumper sticker" responses continued for numerous emails; even after I pleaded with him to stop. Mr. Thompson was fully aware that these emails were going to his fellow commissioners, the press, and members of my neighborhood. Yet he seemed incapable of stopping this vitriolic spewing: "The bulldoze & pave crowd, like yourself, already have more than adequate representation in county government via the developers, their lawyers, lobbyists, campaign contributions, political action committees, undisclosed secret meetings, etc. I represent ordinary folks." As I have already shown, I am "ordinary folks."

Still this did not stop.

The Urbana Civic Association put together a "Meet the Candidates" night at the Urbana Volunteer Fire Department on Wednesday, August 17th. Mr. Thompson was present.

As he had never actually met me, I took this opportunity to try to find out if this was simply a bad day for him and did not represent his general demeanor. I approached him and asked how he would deal with someone who differed on one position from him.

He started telling me how he always does differ from the majority and giving political platitudes. I tried to narrow the focus of the question and find out if he is able to work out a "consensus" on these issues that come before the commissioners; that is what I have always understood our representatives to do - work out a decision that takes into account all parties needs and desires and represent their constituents to make the best outcome decision. Mr. Thompson continued with the platitudes.

Finally, I told him my name and he went off. He again accused me of being in the pockets of the developers. Mr. Thompson, (very loudly) told me "he does not represent me!" I replied that as an elected official, he does represent me as I am one of his constituents. He would not listen, nor would he change his tone. The conversation became moot.

But, once again, it did not end there!

Mr. Thompson then went on to accuse me of being "with the developers" to the woman standing behind me hearing this conversation!

I have never met this woman, nor do I know who she is, but Mr. Thompson took it upon himself to slander me to her. I disagreed with Mr. Thompson on one specific issue. For the most part, I have not agreed with much of the development plans and their effects on the roads and schools within our area, but Mr. Thompson put me in a box and that was the end! He will not represent me as he stated.

As I have seen little-to-no press on this side of Mr. Thompson. Searching the web, I have found this a common occurrence with Mr. Thompson. I wanted to make my fellow residents of Frederick County aware of just what kind of individual we have representing us.

Mr. Thompson is up for re-election, so I would implore you to research his activities and decide for yourselves if you want to re-elect someone who will not represent you if you differ from him in any form.

For myself, I would rather elect a commissioner who can work with his/her constituents and come to consensus, making the best possible solution for all, rather than have someone who will not budge and will spew such abuse if anyone disagrees with him.

Farrell Keough, Urbana

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