Communicating with the Curmudgeon
It only took a few hours from the time our post on the role of Charter Government in the Comprehensive Planning Process was published to receive a comment from Jack Lynch, Editor of the Frederick Citizen:
I do understand how your world view brings you to think that charter simplifies the [comprehensive] planning process, but if trust has been broken, it is broken in terms of the public feeling empowered by the planning process to bring good public outcomes for all.
It’s not a locked down, land owner oriented process we need, but a return to planning principles that reflect wider interests, and follow state guidelines.
We also need a broader regional view of planning, and engagement across jurisdictions beyond Frederick County.
The logic of your argument does not fulfill your ends if a Jan Gardner [former president of the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners - BoCC] is elected County Executive under charter. In fact, that could impose upon your interests a draconian brick wall to your vision for development.
It is always a pleasure to receive a comment on the MacRo Report Blog from Frederick’s one and only self-professed curmudgeon.
That stated, after reading your comments, I must respectfully disagree with many of your assumptions of how I view the world and the role that charter home rule can impact government actions.
Allow me to touch on each:
Charter Government as a Simplifier I do not expect that instituting a charter form of government in Frederick County will simplify the planning process. The planning process will be the same planning process as outlined by Article 66B of Maryland’s Annotated Code. The proposed charter does not change any part of the process that all Boards of County Commissioners have operated under.
I know that you made it clear several weeks ago in the Frederick News Post that you are not a fan of charter government for a number of reasons (nearly all of which I take issue with).
What charter will do is bring to our county government broader community representation, a balance of power and more assurances than the votes of just three elected Commissioner members can give.
Let us not forget that many in our community have often charged the BoCC as a dictatorship (i.e., how many have felt of the reign of Lennie Thompson or currently some are saying about that of Blaine Young).
By broader representation the county would have one elected executive who will represent the county and run the day to day operations. His/Her job will be to carry out the policies set by a seven member council.
Within this new structure it will now require at least four votes from the council and one from the county executive, or if the exec vetos the plan, then it will require a super-majority of the council to over-ride that action – a similar concept that all twelve of Frederick County’s chartered municipalities operate under.
With charter home rule these actions require a greater consensus. This alone will contribute to providing what we agree on: a planning process that will “bring good public outcomes for all.”
Based upon this alone, I think the checks and balances of a charter home rule structure can instill more trust in our local government.
Land Owner Based Planning In reference to your statement of planning being “a locked down, land owner oriented process,” again the form of government has nothing to do with the process undertaken by the Frederick County Planning Commission.
The only difference as stated above is how selection decisions are made on the front end … and final decisions on the back end … both of which would provide for a much better vetting process, which in the end is solely intended to “bring good public outcomes for all.”
Broader Regional Planning While I whole-heatedly agree with our statement that our process needs to include a “broader regional view of planning, and engagement across jurisdictions beyond Frederick County,” I think that you are putting the cart way before the horse on this one, Jack.
I have long professed that one of the biggest problems our county government has had is the lack of full engagement with the twelve municipalities with our county boundaries.
This was one of my biggest complaints with the 2010 Comp Plan … I heard first hand from county, city and town planners that there was virtually no collaboration amongst these groups. I don’t fault any individual BoCC administration for this, because it seems that to varying degrees it has always been done that way … which does not make it right.
So my take is that your statement is a wonderful goal to strive for, but let us get our internal communication and planning coordinated first.
There is only one way that I believe that a charter form of government can benefit this issue: Leadership.
With a county executive we will have one individual who is solely accountable to the public for seeing that such collaboration takes place. If the council deems that this is a must and the exec doesn’t perform, then the exec can not legitimately blame anyone else as so often has been the case with the BoCC.
County Executive Who? My final gripe with your perception of my views is truly my favorite: That the “logic of [my] argument does not fulfill [my] ends if a Jan Gardner is elected County Executive under charter. In fact that could impose upon [my] interests a draconian brick wall to [my] vision for development.”
OMG! as they say, you are (in my humble opinion) so off base on this one! I am an advocate of Charter government no matter who is elected as county executive or to the county council. Charter is about FORM & STRUCTURE not INDIVIDUALS.
Frankly, (and you may not be aware of this) I was a strong supporter of Ms. Gardner being named president of the last BoCC (2006~2010). I expressed that to her early on. Under the former antiquated policy the individual with the most votes garnered in the majority party became the board president.
I felt it was time to change that, especially because, in my opinion, she was much more prepared to fulfill that role.
Even though she and I do not see eye to eye on a number of issues, if Jan Gardner chose to throw her hat in the ring for County Executive, I would not shake in my boots …. as a matter of fact, I’d have no problem if you took a run at it either. The proposed charter does not make it any harder or easier for anyone of a certain political party or philosophy to get elected.
The beauty of charter is that while it is not impossible that one individual with strong and uncompromising views can reign over the entire county, it is much more improbable that the county would be subjected to the whimsical swings of that pendulum every four years … My take is that our citizenry is tired of the instability it has caused.
This is where form and structure make a real difference.
Vision of Development As for my “vision of development,” I’m not sure what you think my vision actually is, but that should be the topic of another conversation.
At the end of the day, Jack, I am not aware that you, over the last 16 months, have ever attended any of the Charter Writing Board meetings, the outreach events or engaged in a direct face to face conversation with any of our twelve board members regarding your views on charter.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what charter home rule is and is not, so I invite you and any other concerned Frederick County citizen to feel free to contact me or one of the other eleven board members directly so that we can learn from each other in a healthy conversation and/or debate on this vital ballot issue.
Best wishes and I look forward to further communications,
Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He is an appointed member of the Frederick County Charter Board. He also writes forTheTentacle.com and Want2Dish.com.