Posts Tagged ‘ City of Frederick ’

Is the City of Frederick Doing Enough to Address Blighted Real Estate?

Some may answer this question positively, but others believe at best the effort has been sporadic and inconclusive.

Here’s the good news:  It appears that with all the attention that the issue of blighted real estate has gained over the last few years that the infamous slumlord  Duk Hee Ro is taking serious steps to improve her well-known Asiana building up to code … only of course after several delays and unfulfilled promises.

But there is a rumbling dissatisfaction among many that the City of Frederick may still not have a clear plan on how to follow through with recommendations made by the Blighted and Vacant Property Committee appointed by Mayor Randy McClement.

A History Lesson

During the summer of 2011, the Mayor and his staff began forming an ad hoc committee (meaning to serve at the pleasure of the Mayor) to help the City design a program for managing a growing concern about decaying buildings in the city.

It was in January of 2012 that the Committee officially was formed and became actively engaged in their mission.

Over the next ten months, the 16 member committee of citizens (including yours truly: Steve Cranford) and city staff reviewed hundreds of documents on blighted properties.  It studied legislation and community activities enacted by other jurisdictions to manage their blighted building problem.

From the beginning, the committee understood they were not a legislative or judicial body and their recommendations were a conceptual road map to help guide the City staff. The committee received excellent support from code enforcement, legal counsel, and various city staff.

To a member, the group was committed to presenting a comprehensive set of recommendations. The discussions were thorough, often passionate, and always charged with energy.

In the fall of 2012, the committee presented reports for both residential and commercial blighted real estate.  Within the reports are seven recommendations for the Mayor and Aldermen to use as a platform from which the staff could creatively design a wide-ranging program to help manage blighted real estate.

The Final Four … and Only Four

So, after 10 months of committee work followed by two years of city staff efforts, the Mayor’s office managed to identify just four blighted properties. This is a fraction of the thirty properties that staff identified in early 2012.  Over time the number was narrowed to twelve, but eventually it all came down to four.

It is understandable that when venturing into uncharted territory of facing the blight problem that the Mayor and his staff would approach such an effort with caution. But then again the actual blighted and receivership ordinances were mirror images of a neighboring jurisdiction that had given them time tested experience.

Six months after the Blighted and Vacant Property Committee completed its charge in April of this year, City staff provided an update of the committee’s recommendations to the public. As the briefing went on, it became evident to this and other committee members that in fact the recommendations were not developed beyond their initial statement. It seemed that the recommendations had become a task list.  As each recommendation was read aloud, a brief explanation was given of how the staff had completed that task.

It’s unclear if any further activity will take place on the committee’s recommendations. After all, each recommendation now has a check mark next to it.

It seems a Committee’s Work is Never Done?

Coincidentally several weeks ago a citizen’s petition was presented to the Mayor requesting the Blighted and Vacant Property Committee be reinstated as an ongoing advisory committee to the city; signaling that the citizens wanted more.

In an effort to mend “their relationship with residents, business owners and land-use professionals” over this issue, the Mayor and his staff held another briefing on Wednesday, August 27th … as well as for the benefit of the committee members to assure them that things are moving forward.

The Mayor’s opening remarks thanked the committee for its services, and clearly reiterated their ongoing efforts were not required.

Obviously, the city staff has a waterfall of initiatives they encounter every day and slogging through them is an arduous adventure. There is no doubt that the mayor has a highly talented brain trust at his disposal.

Unfortunately, that aptitude doesn’t appear to be fully utilized.

How many Crayons do you have?

The analogy that comes to mind is if you give a child a box of crayons and a piece of paper, within minutes he will create something and will likely use most of the colors in the box. The city’s blighted and vacant property committee gave the city a box of crayons and it appears they neatly listed all the colors in the box.

Is a citizen advisory committee the answer? Does the city need to direct more resources directed toward the blighted initiative?

Clearly, something has to be done to keep the mediocre momentum the city has generated from slowing down any further.

The author: Steve Cranford, Vice President of Commercial Sales and Leasing with MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He served as a member of the City of Frederick’s Blighted and Vacant Property Committee during 2012. 

City Economic Development Advisory Council Formed

Can 16 members of the Frederick community provide BOLD ideas to enhance and attract more businesses to the City?  

It was early May of this year that I received an email from Richard G. Griffin, Director of Economic Development for The City of Frederick. 

The message was to inform me that Mayor Randy McClement was going to “appoint a 16-member Economic Development Advisory Council (EDAC) for the City of Frederick composed of business owners/representatives, developers, and commercial brokers,” and I was identified “as an individual whom he would like to serve on the Council.”

The goal of this new entity is provide “advice and specific recommendations to help ensure that the City of Frederick, both today and into the future, is the preferred community in the Baltimore Washington region for attracting private business investment, jobs, and economic opportunity.”

Of course I was honored to be asked and very willing to serve.  I was also very impressed by the others who accepted the Mayor’s invitation.

It is hoped that this crew of “EDAC-ers” will be able to provide advice and recommendations to the Department of Economic Development and city elected officials regarding the development of:

> Sound regulatory policies affecting business and industry

> Annual economic development work program and budget

> Business development incentives

> Evaluation methodology to determine efficacy of economic development program

> Special issues/projects assigned by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen

> Community education on economic and business development topics

The first meeting was held on Monday, June 30, 2014.  It was and will continue to be open to the public.

City Alderman Josh Bokee was introduced by the Mayor to provide and overview of the City’s hopes for the council.  Bokee stated that he seeks BOLD ideas for the group to increase what many may believe is an already vibrant economy.

Richard Griffin and his staff outlined a detailed overview of the many positives that they have found draw new business to the City, as well as a number of real and perceived impediments to business development.

Issues like the fact that real property taxes are costing city owners up to $2.00 more per square foot than similar buildings located outside the city limits in the county.  The City also has a business personal property tax, while the county does not.

Traffic congestion, lack of transit options, the City’s zoning ordinance, and its seemingly cumbersome development review process were also listed, among other things.

Clearly the City of Frederick has many attributes that have caused any number of businesses to relocate within its boundaries.

Consider Leidos Biomedical (formerly SAIC-F), Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, State Farm Insurance and AstraZeneca (formerly MedImmune) to name a few.  But as the national economy has struggled to recover, many of our neighboring jurisdictions on Maryland’s outskirts have ramped up their efforts to attract business to their door steps.

Having recently served on the Economic Development Task Force in 2012 and 2013 that was appointed by the Board of County Commissioners with similar goals, it will be interesting to see how BOLD this City version is willing to be … or maybe the question will be how far the Mayor will let these EDAC-ers go?

Stay tuned … this could be fun!

The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He has been an active member of the Frederick, Maryland community for over four decades.  He has served as chairman of the board of Frederick Memorial Hospital and as a member of the Frederick County Charter Board from 2010 to 2012, to name a few.  

Corporate Franchise Purchases Boost Frederick’s 1st Quarter Retail Property Sales

7-Eleven purchased two local convenience stores last quarter, nearly doubling dollar volume of sales in the commercial retail segment.

As far as my kids were concerned, the big news in Frederick’s commercial retail segment last quarter was Sonic purchasing a 1-acre retail pad near Walmart on Guilford Drive for $790,000 and opening the county’s first Sonic restaurant.  We have yet to try it because the line at the drive-through always seems to be wrapped around the building at lunch time on the weekends.  Now that school is out, maybe we’ll have our chance.

Frederick’s retail segment was a mixed bag of results during the first quarter.  Fewer square feet of retail space sold, but at a much higher dollar volume.  The doubling of dollar volume sales was due to 7-Eleven Inc. purchasing two local convenience stores in Libertytown and Thurmont for $1,220,639 ($541.30/SF) and $1,245,808 ($562.70/SF), respectively.  Convenience stores (particularly those with gas stations) tend to sell at a generous price per square foot, so these two purchases also bumped up the median price per square foot for the entire segment last quarter as compared to the first quarter of 2013.


Frederick’s retail leasing market had a lackluster first quarter in terms of the number of transactions and square footage leased, much like the same time period last year, and not unexpected given the first quarter contraction of the economy:

The good news in local retail leasing is that vacancy rates are holding below 5% on average.  New retail pads near  Wegmans and Francis Scott Key Mall have leased up fairly quickly, at rates between $30-35 per square foot before expenses.  Prime retail spaces in the heart of Frederick’s downtown historic district are hard to come by, and if the past few lease deals are any indication, average retail lease rates in that area are creeping up  into the mid teens to high teens per square foot, before expenses.

Note: Statistics provided for commercial property sales in this report are based on thorough research of every recorded commercial sales transaction listed in SDAT for the first quarter of 2014, and are deemed reliable.  Lease transactions are not recorded with Frederick county government.  Lease rates for this report were researched in CoStar.  Lease rates, if reported at all, are usually estimated.  Median lease rate calculations for the quarter are based upon available estimates and are meant to be used as a baseline trend versus hard data.  

The author:  Kathy Krach is a commercial sales and leasing agent with MacRo.

City of Frederick Elections: Who will win and who will lose?

Weighing the election chances of thirteen candidates in the 2013 mayoral and alderman races for seats at City Hall.  

There has been a lot of strong talk, amazing displays of confidence and campaign signage everywhere.

The issues have been discussed and debates have been moderated.   But …

What do city voters really want from city government?

Great question, glad you asked! 

Traditionally the average voter wants his/her roads to work without congestion, good jobs, good schools, stable taxes and a safe community.

In general most city residents probably feel such things are pretty good.

Within the limits of the City of Frederick there are already many amenities that many of our citizens may actually take for granted:

1.         A vibrant downtown, cohesive communities.

2.         Easy access to and a variety of shopping options, like a new Wegmans!

3.         A reasonably stable and improving local economy.

If serious threats to such things arise, voters will rally to change their elected officials in order to protect their quality of life.

In past city and county elections concerns over uncontrolled housing growth and annexations have motivated voters to express their support for candidates.   

While annexations for future development have risen to record levels the last four years and concerns have been raised, it doesn”t appear that concerns have reached a bulb-busting level on the panic meter this election cycle.

If the majority of voters are generally satisfied with City government services, will they show up at the polls?

Turnout in City elections has been historically low.  Consider that there only 23.8% of registered voters cast ballots in the 2009 election, and as a result current Mayor Randy McClement squeaked by his challenger Jason Judd by 281 votes.  Keep in mind that it seemed to many that Judd had victory in the bag.

The results in last month”s City Primary Election were even more depressing.  Less than 16% of the registered voters found their way to the polls.

Now compare the City election turnouts to the 2010 County General Election results:  52.7% of voters countywide cast their ballots.

Of course it never hurts to have state and national political races stimulate turnout, which is the case in county elections, while the City has stood alone without such sideshows.

This year”s campaign has generated discussion on any number of key issues:

From a local businessman”s perspective, I feel strongly that the other core city priorities should be to project strong leadership, have a long term plan for fiscal responsibility and take a fresh look at economic development.

But are these the kind of topics that will motivate residents to cast their ballot this time?

I really don” t know if such things will increase turnout.  However there always seems to be one thing that differentiates the winner from the losers in local elections:   The feeling of a personal connection that an individual has with a particular candidate.

That connection (a brand loyalty of sorts) will probably be the primary factor that will determine who claims victory this year.

From this final perspective here are some of my observations:

The Mayoral Race: 

Randy McClement (R), the incumbent Republican, has given most voters the impression that the last 4 years have provided a stable atmosphere with little memorable drama.  With that message, has he worked hard enough to motivate voters to show up to endorse four more years of the same?  I give him a better than average shot to pull this off.

Jennifer Doughtery (I) has suffered innumerable defeats on either side of a one-term mayoral stint.  This time, it appears her strategy is to divide and conquer the conventional party affiliated candidates  as an Independent.  She”s a hard worker with a familiar name.  And she has convinced many that her new term will again deliver results, but this time with much less tension and drama.  Most think she is once again a long shot, but this is her first time being the “odd man in” in a general election.

Karen Young (D), who found victory in a polite, but below the surface a bitter and expensive primary battle with challenger Galen Clagett.  Her platform calls for much more fiscal responsibility (among other issues).  Probably the hardest campaigner of the three.  From that she has won over several Republican voters, but after defeating Clagett, will she be able to convince his followers to cast a ballot her way this time?   And what about other Democrats who could sway to Jennifer or even Randy?  A real challenge, but I wouldn”t be surprised if she comes out on top after the effort she has put forth in this campaign.

The Race for Five Alderman Seats:

Alan Imhoff (R) has won this slot in the past, and he was a very practical and effective elected official.  His campaign style is less obvious, which has worked for him in some races, but not in others.  He believes he has been targeting enough loyal followers to make the grade.  Hard to say where he will stand after the last ballot is cast.

Daniel Cowell (R) is a relative newbie to city campaigning.  As a banker, his message is about fiscal responsibility and economic development.  He was the lowest vote getter of the primary victors, but has invested lots of time to overcome his lack of name recognition. He has made a good run in this race; we”ll have to see if his extra effort these last few weeks will make a difference.

John Daniels (D) was unsuccessful in this race in 2009, he made it through this year”s primary with an 89 vote margin.  His platform is environmental sustainability,  re-purpose vacant and blighted properties with legislative disincentives and safety.  I see his chances as not impossible, but then again it depends on the strength of the base he has built since early September.

Donna Kuzemchak (D) has been there and done that as an alderman; so already has a crew of loyal followers who help promote her lightly funded campaign.  Her primary results put her 4th out the 10 Democratic primary alderman contenders and still bettered more votes that the highest ranked Republican candidate.  I wouldn”t be surprised, if she makes it back.

Josh Bokee (D) is well known to City Hall with planning commission experience and other high profile community service positions.  High ranking in his platform is economic opportunity and fiscal responsibility.  Has worked hard and has support from both parties.  I think he has a serious shot at a November victory.

Philip “Phil” Dacey (R) has proven to be one of the best Republican campaigners of this year”s race.  Another newbie to a city campaign, but really has his act together.  He has  articulated very well his platform of managing future growth, safety and holding taxes, but more than anything it is hard to be anywhere in the City without seeing his signs.  Very high chances of a victory.

Katie Nash (R) is another candidate who has proven she knows how to campaign.  She has carried the load for others in successful political races.  Her platform leads off with a call for financial responsibility, open communication with citizens and steady management of growth.  Her relentless efforts to garner a solid voter following could well win her a seat in City Hall.

Michael O’Connor (D) has had a familiar name, face and radio voice for many years in Frederick.  This fared him very well in 2009 alderman seat victory, and again in this past September primary.  His website reiterates he pledge to be “a good steward of public resources and the people’s voice in government.”  Michael has a loyal following, and I think it is likely that he will be back.

Kelly Russell (D) is the only other incumbent vying for a return to her seat in this race.  She has a long history with the City as a retired city police officer, many can relate to her grass roots positions on safety, protecting resources, and proper planning for long-term growth.  If she isn”t a top vote getter, I”ll be surprised.

Dave Schmidt (R) is another newcomer to city elections, and at 26, the youngest of all the candidates.  That stated, with military service behind him and being self employed, his well spoken message of fiscal responsibility, economic development and getting more state tax dollars back into Frederick seem to be grabbing attention.  He has made great headway … but still has a lot of work to do to get into the top five.

At the end of the day, it will come down to whose message resonates best with voters … and whose message motivates voters to get out and cast a ballot.

With fewer than 30,000 registered voters in the City of Frederick and an unfortunate likely expectation of no more than 8,000 ballots being cast, this is any candidate”s election to win or lose.

Please, get out and vote on Tuesday, November 5th!

The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. Many of his articles also appear in  TheTentacle.com 

Is Downtown Frederick’s Hotel Conference Center a Pipe Dream?

With nearly all 2013 City Candidates campaigning on a platform of “no financial support” from city government for a Downtown Hotel Conference Center, how will the dream come true?

Let’s say you are the mayor of a small city and a real estate development is proposed to you and the city aldermen.  It promises an annual boost to your local economy of $16.5 million in direct spending in local businesses.

All in the new venture would also generate $25.9 million in direct and indirect spending from operations, which includes 280 new jobs that would pay an average of $32,000.

On top of that another $1.9 million in tax revenue would flow into local and state coffers … and that is before property tax income.

Speaking of property tax revenue, consider a vacant tract of commercial real estate that generates no more than $8,000 per year to state and local government accounts now will, once developed, increase that figure at least ten fold.

I’d say that just about any city would be excited to learn more!

There is only one catch … there’s a price:  The $50 million +/- project is not financially feasible to any private real estate investor without the city providing some kind of support equal to say $12,000,000.

While the city would not reap all the rewards from this new revenue (other portions to state and county accounts), it is very obvious that the net return on the $12 million investment would provide an exponentially positive boost to the local economy, and eventually fill local coffers with a lasting stream of new tax revenues for decades to come.

So, yes, the city is our own City of Frederick, and the proposed real estate development is long discussed and heavily studied Downtown Hotel Conference Center.

Our city has been so excited about this project that it established its own task-force with local business and community support, and we cannot forget the fact that a hotel consultant is also being paid by the city to analyze each step of a carefully crafted vetting process for just the right site and just the right developer.

Studies have been commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce and the Department of Economic Development that have been made available the public that show the above noted tremendous boost that such a facility will bring to the local economy.

Several private individuals (including yours truly) have paid for private studies to consider the economics of the project from an investor’s perspective.

With all this talk, investigation and all around buzz over the last decade about a Downtown Hotel Conference Center, it has been made clear that if any serious proposal is brought to the table, all the formalities of the so-called vetting process will cast aside.

The red carpet will be rolled out, and the project will receive priority status within the corridors of City Hall.

But still after all these years, no “apparent” suitor has come forward.

Why not?

Among many others who work in Frederick’s commercial real estate market, I have had the opportunity to meet with many qualified hotel developers over these recent years and have presented to all the choice sites along and near the Carroll Creek Linear Park.

In nearly every case the interest has been extremely strong, except for one thing.

While the studies commissioned by the city promise great economic benefit to the local economy and city coffers, time and again premium brand hoteliers have shown me and others in the community that without some kind of financial support from government, the investment risk of the city’s dream concept for a Downtown Hotel Conference Center is too high … and they are right.

It seems that the local economic studies produced by the Pinnacle Group in 2010 and an “critique/update” of the study by Crossroads Consulting Services in 2012 did not delve very deeply into side that investors want to see.

As has been stated to me by several developers, the real positive is that whatever hotel lands in Downtown Frederick first, it will rule the roost and keep other serious competitors from entering that market for years to come.

The bad news is that building a 200 room hotel downtown will be much more costly than the typical structure with a sea of at grade parking.  Parking garages don’t come cheap in Frederick’s Historic District. The city has a monopoly on all other decks and has set a competitive limit on parking fees, which is significantly less than what a 250 space private garage can charge to provide a reasonable return on the cost of the construction investment.

More bad news is that while all us locals are convinced that a 15,000 square foot  Conference Center will be a big winner, history of other such facilities show otherwise (such as the government subsidized centers in Rockville and Baltimore, Maryland).  There are plenty of other examples, but don’t take my word for it … ask any hotel developer.

Consider what it will cost to build such a facility … probably at least $250 per square foot or $3,750,000.  Just to keep the lights on, cover the investment and pay the taxes, the annual ticket will be about $500,000 (over $30/SF) before a single employee is hired.  That can be costly to an event just for a roof.

Real estate investors and banks don’t like such things; unless they have a long standing well established client base and solid track record.

On the other hand stand alone hotels with a strong well known flag located in a prime spot (without all the burden of structured parking and a conference center) are bankable … not always easy, but bankable for the right real estate investment group.

This past August 23rd, the editors of the Frederick News Post had to confess that their “jaws dropped slightly at the estimated price tag the city will have to pay to move the [hotel conference center] project forward: $10 million to $12 million.”

Actually this was not new news at all.  Embedded in the “Financial Feasibility” section on page 78 of the January 2010 Pinnacle Group study, the consultants stated the following:

“… we believe that an additional $12 to $13 million would need to be generated in the form of deferred loans (from city, county, and/or state), TIF, local investors, land, parking, grants, etc.”

In actuality the figure could be closer to $15,000,000 or more, but as suggestions above offer, this assistance does not have to be “cash on the barrel-head” from the city coffers.

So, let’s think out of the box, folks!

One way or the other if the city really wants to reap the economic development rewards that a Downtown Hotel Conference Center will bring to our fair city; I suggest that our soon to be elected new city officials reconsider their individual hard line campaign positions of no financial support.

Open that door, and our impatient citizens may be surprised at how fast this long awaited dream could come true!

PS: If you are interested in learning the origin of the phrase “Pipe Dream” click here!

The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. Many of his articles also appear in  TheTentacle.com 

Hirsch wants to tell the Inconvenient Truth

Answering to a higher calling, this candidate for mayor aims to make Frederick more environmentally friendly!

When I began this effort six months ago, I figured that it would be quite fun to write about people I have known for a long time.

As luck would have it, out of the seven candidates who threw their hats into the ring of Frederick”s mayoral race, I consider six of them to be friends — Galen Clagett, Jennifer Dougherty, Randy McClement, Karen Young, Shelley Aloi and Jeff Holtzinger.  That stated, it has been an interesting challenge to balance my perspective with their positions on any number of issues that the fair city of Frederick faces in the years and decades ahead.

… and then along came Carol A. Hirsch, who quietly filed for the race on the day of the deadline.

“Carol who?” I asked along with many others.

It wasn”t long before I learned that she is a member of the county”s deaf community and has made her platform one that is all GREEN.  Her goal is to make the City of Frederick the most environmentally friendly in the nation … a model city that others can learn from.

Her slogan “Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.”

How interesting.

While I am a big advocate of recycling, minimizing waste, preserving farmland and saving forests, I have also stated on many occasions that I believe that some of our politicians have gone way overboard with very restrictive environmental legislation.

Putting my opinions aside, I wanted to get to learn more about Carol and get to the heart of what inspired her to jump into the fray.

I made a point of introducing myself to her at the Roundtable Candidate Forum  held on July 8th at  the Faux Factory downtown along the Carroll Creek.  Without an interpreter available, all we were able to do was make eye contact, shake hands and I handed her my card.  Later on that evening, I was impressed to see that candidate Shelley Aloi used her American Sign Language (ASL) skills to communicate with her.

This got me to wonder why more of us in the Frederick “hearing community” don”t make more of an effort to learn ASL?  Maybe FCPS should make it part of the required curriculum in our schools?  While Spanish and French are foreign languages, ASL is one of this country”s languages.  Hmmm?

As I have done in preparation for all the candidate profiles, I began to read about Carol on the web and in the Frederick News Post.  In addition I heard her August 10th (hour 1) interview with host Pattee Brown on Frederick”s Forum on 930 AM WFMD.

Last week it was my turn.  Carol and I spent nearly an hour on a conference call with her interpreter.

So, why did Hirsch decide to enter the race?

Answer:  “Why not!?!”

She describes herself as a strong leader, who has volunteered a lot including PTA and has served as an officer in the local chapter of the Junior NAD program at the Maryland School for the Deaf.

Carol states that as a cashier at Wal-Mart, she interacts with 300 to 500 people per day, has “a great work ethic and very good communication skills.”

She believes that it is time for her to get involved in government and use these skills to benefit the broader Frederick community.

But what was the spark?

Hirsch says that she was deeply moved by former Vice President Al Gore”s 2006 movie An Inconvenient Truth,  and combined with Gore”s 2000 lost bid for the presidency, she became very focused on the environment.  She began to think about what Frederick can do to stop global warming, and believes that under her tutelage as mayor, she can lead it to become “the grass roots” of a movement that other cities can learn from.

Frederick, she says, has any number of opportunities to expand its recycling program, like making the bins larger and increasing the number of collection times.

Bettering the environment will give the community cleaner and more healthy air to breath.  “People are getting more and more sick,” states Hirsch. “Who is going to take care of these issues, if we don”t?”

She sees this effort as a challenge and an opportunity “to experience an advancement in this area … and work together with other communities.”

Solutions to other pressing issues facing the city:

Of course the city has a number of other challenges, and Carol knows that some of them will not be easy.  But her approach to resolving all is very simple and straight forward:

1.            How should the city deal with its unfunded pension and OPEB liabilities?  – The candidate asked “How did that happen?”  Then acknowledged that the unfunded liabilities that the city owes its current and retired employees is a serious problem; therefore “we need creative ideas and [get people] to work together to analyze the issues.”

2.            The Hargett Farm as a city park?  — Hirsch takes the road less traveled on this topic.  She believes that the city already has plenty of parks … “We don”t need anymore,” she says.

3.            Then sell Hargett, right? — She does not think that it is a good idea for the city to sell the 148 tract of land purchased during the Holtzinger administration.  We should keep it as a farm and expand its productivity by getting volunteers to work the land, she says.  It can be used as a place “where we can bring students in to learn more about farming.”

4.            What about the $120,000 /- monthly debt service on Hargett? — She says that we surely do not need more debt, so people in the city should come together and analyze this as well … to find a solution.

5.            Should the city government support a downtown hotel/conference center? — Without hesitation her answer is “no.”  As a matter of fact, Hirsch believes that Frederick already has plenty of hotels with no need for any more.  Besides, she adds if a hotel were to be built downtown, it would cause serious traffic congestion.

6.            What is her solution to bring in more downtown development? — Plain and simple Carol states that “we don’t need to be putting up any more buildings … [as] there are so many vacant properties around … we should fill them first.

7.            What should be done with the empty land along East Street corridor near the Carroll Creek?  — “Turn them into a nice place for people to go when downtown,” she states. “Plant them all in flowers” and make that a “Feng Shui area for the city.”

Final Question:

With your two opponents (Clagett and Young) raising over $100,000 in campaign contributions, knocking on doors and putting up signs all over the city, what is your strategy to win the Democratic primary on September 10th?

“Yes,” says Hirsch, “they have raised a lot of money.”

She continued by asking me to imagine how many poor people could be fed with all that money.  That she says is a “wasteful use of money.”

“Everyone expects you to put up posters,” added Hirsch, “but I don’t want to harm the environment … as for me, .”

She concluded by telling me that she is getting the word out and reminded me that she did a radio interview and has a Facebook campaign going.

In my research I also noticed that she was featured on “Around the News” on August 20, 2013 as part of the Deaf Newspaper”s YouTube channel, where CEO & Founder Ken Davis applauded her for her courage and offered her congratulations for entering the mayoral race.

I too, congratulate Carol Hirsch for jumping into the campaign.  Many in the “hearing community” may think that she is a bit naïve about the serious issues that face the city.  Be that as it may, I sincerely appreciate her willingness to remind the citizens of Frederick that there is a vibrant deaf community that resides here too.

Maybe it”s time that more of us listen to what the deaf in Frederick have to say!

So, if you are a registered voter residing within the City of Frederick … make sure you get out and vote!

>>> Read each one of the 2013 Mayoral candidate profiles here on the MacRo Report Blog:   Galen ClagettJennifer DoughertyRandy McClementKaren YoungShelley AloiJeff Holtzinger, and Carol Hirsch.

The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. Many of his articles also appear in  TheTentacle.com 

Holtzinger wants to retake the bull by the horns!

Can the self proclaimed “git ‘er dun” guy get it done in the city’s September  primary election for mayor?  

For the man who said just four years ago that he had no interest in seeking a second term to serve as the Mayor of the City of Frederick, Jeff Holtzinger has made a complete 180 degree turn by throwing his hat in the ring one week before last month’s filing deadline of July 2nd.

Holtzinger is back, and is ready to take the “bull by the horns and git ‘er dun!”

The Republican stakes his credibility on a reputation of telling his constituents what he planned to do once elected as mayor in 2005 and then accomplished those goals before he left office in 2009:

  1. Resolved a water shortage supply crisis by executing an agreement with Frederick County government to draw water from the Potomac River.
  2. Designed, permitted and executed the construction contract to build the center section of Monocacy Boulevard.
  3. Completed the left turn lane improvements at the intersection of Opossumtown Pike and Thomas Johnson Drive.
  4. Put in place the first Adequate Public facilities Ordinance in the City of Frederick.
  5. Fostered a positive working environment within City Hall.
  6. Reduced the city property tax rate twice.

Upon reviewing the above it doesn’t take long for one to realize that he is a practicing civil engineer.  As a matter of fact he served as the Frederick City Engineer under his mayoral predecessor Jennifer Dougherty … which by the way did not end well.

Jeff likes projects, especially road projects.

Within his campaign literature he states that “understanding a problem is essential to solving it, and this is what I believe separates me from the other candidates in the mayoral race.”

I had an opportunity to sit with Holtzinger over lunch recently.   I asked him to elaborate on that statement … because if you are paying attention to all the rhetoric among the 2013 city office seekers, there are apparently a lot of “problems” that need to be solved.

So let’s take it from the top.

Hargett Farm: 

In 2009 after a lot of legal action, then mayor Holtzinger won the right to acquire a 148 acre tract of real estate on Butterfly Lane that was slated for a residential housing development.   It was the mayor’s strong desire to develop it into a regional park.

At the very hefty price of $18 million the city has carried the property at the cumulative cost of nearly $5 million during the four years since taking title.

Is it still realistic to expect his vision to become a reality?

“It’s a hell of a lot of money, I know that,” he states, “but I think it is a good long term investment … you can not quantify the quality of life” especially for those living in the neighborhoods near the Golden Mile.

He remarks that the city has a number of small neighborhood parks that never have enough parking and are not allowed to install lighting.

Consider for example that “the city spent all this money putting in an ice skating park in Baker Park near Schifferstadt … and then they can’t put lights up, because the [nearby] residents don’t want it, and I don’t blame them.  Same thing happened in Max Kenne Memorial Park.”

With very tight budgetary constraints that include over $100 million in unfunded city pension contributions, how can the city continue to afford to carry Hargett?

“I’d look internally,” he says. “I’d be resourceful … you’re going to have to carry it like you do any other capital project.”

“What will it cost to develop Hargett into a regional park?” I asked.

Well, “… I don’t know for sure, but it will surely be less than the $3,000,000 an acre the city is spending on the Carroll Creek for surface improvements.”

Speaking of the Carroll Creek Linear Park:

When asked on July 8th at the Roundtable Candidate Forum at the Faux Factory about the funding for next phase of the Carroll Creek improvements, Holtzinger gave many a negative impression for the project.

I asked for a more of an in-depth response, and he replied with the following:

“I know I ticked off a few people when I compared [my vision of the future for the] Hargett Farm Park with Carroll Creek [that evening].”  He believes that the Carroll Creek is not making the City any real money.  “The analysis I had done when I was the mayor showed that Carroll Creek is sucking wind to the tune of $800,000 to $1,000,000 a year.”

“It is an attraction,” he states, “but I would cut back the scope somewhat … like make it a 10 or 12 foot [wide] walkway … and then have [developers] finish it off” as sites along the creek are improved.

The once and future mayor hopeful thinks that the differential in funds should be spread out to other projects, instead of just concentrating all our money in one place.

“On top of that,” he says, “the city does not have a good track record of sticking to the construction budgets … a lot has to do with the fact that the [design] plans were not [drawn] that great.”

“You know I hear all about how we are creating a world class park,” he continues, “but to me we have experienced a lot of world class change orders, and I suspect that this will happen again on the next phase.”

Land Management Code (LMC):   

One of the serious issues that Holtzinger believes is holding back downtown development, among other areas within the city limits is the LMC.  This complex book of rules and regulations that was adopted as he came into office in 2005 includes the city’s zoning ordinance … and much more.

“I don’t think the LMC can be fixed,” he states bluntly.  “I really think that someday someone in law school will use this code as an example of what you do not do [when writing] a land use ordinance.”

It is so confusing that “it leads to conflicts,” Holtzinger continues, “… it does not produce consistent results.”

On small properties things are often taken to extremes.  As an example he “was hired to assist in getting a handicapped parking spot moved — shuffle a parking space around … they [planning staff] wanted us to do a boundary survey … ridiculous!”

“It’s hard for a lot of the staff to take the mile high view of the LMC,” says Holtzinger.  “They get caught up in trying to make each provision perfect, and [therefore] don’t see that the whole thing doesn’t fit together.”

Regarding Randy McClement?

 I had to ask:  What made Jeff throw his hat in the ring a week before the filing deadline?

Did he get the word that Shelley Aloi was going to jump in at the very last minute?

“No.”

Plain and simple:  He has lost faith in the Mayor’s ability to do that “git ‘er dun” thing.

Holtzinger says that he “had hopes that Randy, coming in with what I thought was a small business guy with a common sense mentality … well, I just don’t see it in him.”

No question about it, Jeff likes road projects, and he had several plans queued up for his successor.

He says that once McClement was elected, “I spent a lot of time driving Randy around to show him this stuff, and even though he didn’t have the background, I had hoped that he would use the good people we have” to keep the momentum going to completing the preconstruction stages of these projects.

Jeff understands that the city has to deal with tight budgets, “but why not work on getting stuff designed and permitted right away,” he says for “public works projects like Christopher’s Crossing, Kemp Lane, Old Camp Road and Monocacy Boulevard … and again, here we are stopped … there is no reason not to have these ready to go … when funding comes available!”

On the topic of the Mayor’s working relationship with his board of Aldermen, Holtzinger in his no nonsense way states “I think they run rough shod over him.”

As for his staff, the former mayor thinks that his successor “gets caught up in the minor issues, and does not give good direction on [the] big issues.”  They are often “left flopping in the wind … sometimes they end up taking a beating at the Mayor and board meetings, from what I have heard.”

… and my final question to the candidate:

 How are you going to win this election?

 “Ahhh, I don’t know that I know that answer” was the first thing out of his mouth.

Upon further reflection, the man who still practices law, provides engineering services to many clients, including acting as the official engineer for the Town of Brunswick, and helps out with football coaching at Thomas Johnson High School (among many other things), says:

“Well, I think what I gotta do is really burn the candle at both ends and walk neighborhoods … I’ve never been one that has been great at raising funds, and I didn’t do it last time either.”

He continues:

“I have to hit as many neighborhoods and talk to as many people as I can and point out that last time when I was in office, I think we did a pretty impressive amount of road work … we just took the bull by the horns and we did it.”

My advice to the candidate regarding what he needs to do over the next few weeks:

Take the bull by the horns and git ‘er dun!

>>> Read each one of the 2013 Mayoral candidate profiles here on the MacRo Report Blog:   Galen ClagettJennifer DoughertyRandy McClementKaren YoungShelley AloiJeff Holtzinger, and Carol Hirsch.

The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. Many of his articles also appear in  TheTentacle.com 

Aloi Kicks into High Gear

Mayoral candidate Shelley Aloi is ready for the fight … First goal: Kick McClement and Holtzinger out of the primary!

Taking a page out of a ninja super hero script, Alderman Shelley Aloi waited until the last moments of the 2013 City of Frederick mayoral filing deadline to announce her candidacy last month on July 2nd.

With former Mayor Jeff Holtzinger filing a week before Aloi, as late comers, they  are far behind in the fundraising race according to recently released filing reports. Anyone following the race clearly knows that the fight of focus is on the Democratic primary where Karen Young and Galen Clagett have raked in well over $100,000 in contributions compared to less than $17,000 total for the three GOP candidates.

So considering the overwhelming money advantage, does any Republican even stand a chance to win in the November general election?

Shelley Aloi thinks so. 

I spent some time talking with her a couple of weeks ago, where she laid out her reasoning for entering as an underdog in this very crowded field.

It was after a meeting that she had with Mayor Randy McClement several months ago. Purpose: to decide if she could support him in his re-election campaign.  Result: She became convinced that it is time for him to be replaced.  As she left the room she says that she looked at him and stated: “It is my intention right now to run for mayor.”

When first meeting Aloi, many will get the impression that she is the warm and silent type.  Spend more time talking with her, and you will discover an edgy side of a strong willed campaigner, who deeply desires to display her leadership.

She says that while the mayor has given many the impression that he has maintained a steady hand on the wheel, look below the surface and one will see a lot of unresolved issues that require strategic thinking … something she says McClement sorely lacks.

Unfunded Pension and OPEB Liabilities.

The city’s pension fund was $78 million unfunded in FY 2010 with a meager 47% funded … now that figure has soared to $100 million for FY 2014. “Abysmal!” she says.

As for Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB), by grabbing some low hanging fruit out of the package the administration has been able to reduce the $128 million unfunded obligations to city retirees to $104 million.  But with that there are a number of other issues that can and (likely) will exacerbate the problem.

Consider, she says “the commitment made under the new contract with city employees that extends the provision of 100% of healthcare premiums as well as full coverage for their spouses, future spouses … and dependents!”

Her case in point is former Mayor Ron Young.  Since he was sworn into the city’s top job in 1974 up until he qualified for Medicare in 2005, he and all of those he declared as dependents over the years, “including his current spouse Karen Young, have received free healthcare from the City of Frederick,” states Aloi.

While the rules are the rules, and former employees can take advantage of such, there aren’t too many public or private organizations that offer such generous benefits.

“Nobody anywhere does that … Nobody!” she exclaims. [Editor's update: as of August 15, 2013, Mayor and Board of Aldermen voted to modify these regulations]

Consider also the former employees who optioned the take advantage of the early retirement buy-out and pension offering made by then Mayor Jeff Holtzinger.  As it turns out 14 of those folks who were rehired by the city now qualify for a second retirement benefit!  Double dipping from the same employer?

No Succession Plan.

Among the ranks of city staff there are about 130 employees who will be eligible to retire within the next 5 years.  This gives pause to Aloi, as there is “no succession plan … that’s a lot of institutional knowledge that could be lost.”  A costly thought, she muses.

What should be done about the city owned Hargett Farm?

When then Mayor Holtzinger succeeded in his battle to purchase the Hargett farm, it appeared that the idea of a 148 acre regional park at a base cost of $18 million was workable, but times have changed. 

In a recent candidate forum sponsored by the Frederick Gorilla Magazine and WFMD radio, it was clear to most that along with heavy monthly costs of over $100,000, there is no realistic plan.

As for Shelley Aloi, she asked, “Are we going to continue to wish [that the city can afford to develop the property as a park] or cut our losses?”  She advocates for the latter.

Business Friendliness on the Decline.

The last minute candidate states that the Frederick County Government is now much more business friendly now than the city is … which is the reverse of where things were just 4 years ago.

This is a direct result of McClement’s lack of leadership, she claims. 

“I have gone into Randy’s office no less than 20 times to share specific constituent concerns they have experienced with staff members regarding problems over decisions, approvals and permitting,” Aloi says.  It seems whatever the complaint that “I’ve shared with him, he says he does not see it that way … [he] wants more details before he takes action.”  In reality she considers these statements to be stall tactics, because “he rarely interacts with staff on such matters.” 

She offered examples of how the Mayor’s lack of executive engagement with staff has caused constituents to get caught up in thousands of dollars of bureaucratic red tape.

Aloi offered up the 2011 case of Shawn Winpigler, who was stopped in his tracks in his attempt to replace a radio antenna that has been on the roof of his family’s building on East 4th Street since the 1960′s.   In the end Winpigler, after very costly process of filings, hearings and legal action, was able to prevail.  

“You just don’t do that to people,” says Aloi.

On top of his lack of leadership, Shelley believes the Mayor has not challenged his administration enough to make an in-depth review of regulatory costs that are laid on new and expanding businesses in the city.  “Many have told me that the City of Frederick is one of the most difficult places to do business with,” she says, “… and that includes Washington DC.”

Inspire more Economic Development.

Aloi believes that the city’s “regulatory” (Euclidean) based zoning program is outdated and inhibits the creativity and design.  The concept of a Form Based code allows for the flexibility needed react to the changes in real estate market and trends in urban planning.  The Form approach works well when serving the needs of the millennial generation and others who provide vital city services.  Form can also preserve the historic nature of the city that Frederick residents cherish.  

Changes like these, says Aloi, will stimulate the economic development of Frederick’s downtown, including new construction and more adaptive reuse of existing properties along the Carroll Creek Linear Park.

What makes Shelley Aloi a better Leader?

Her website outlines her background and her contributions to society before she settled into a career “as an analyst in the banking industry.”

What is not noted in her web bio is that her leadership roles in coordinating housing for a part of the 1996 Olympics or overseeing teams for 2000 national census.   While there may be no major role that stands out to prove her skills worthy of leading the city government, she boasts that what she loves the most “is communicating with people and empowering them.”

“I want to ignite the creativity and innovation that has been squished out of” many city staff members, exclaims Aloi.

If energy is all it takes, she has that.  But as a late comer in a crowded field with less than a month before the primaries, she will have to put it to use with all the skills of a ninja super hero to overcome the odds! 

>>> Read each one of the 2013 Mayoral candidate profiles here on the MacRo Report Blog:   Galen ClagettJennifer DoughertyRandy McClementKaren YoungShelley AloiJeff Holtzinger, and Carol Hirsch.

The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. Many of his articles also appear in  TheTentacle.com 

Young Blood on the Campaign Trail … Again!

No doubt that mayoral candidate Karen Young will wear out more than just a few pair of shoes over the next few months in what is clearly shaping up to be the race of her political life!  

From the outside looking in, it would appear the Young family has a powerful lock on Frederick County politics.  It seems like there has hardly been a local political campaign in Frederick County during since 1969 that a Young hasn’t run for some political office.

Karen Lewis Young is wife of Ron Young the current Maryland State Senator of District 3 and former mayor of the City of Frederick from 1973 to 1989 … among other political offices he has sought, been elected and/or appointed to over the last 44 years.

In addition Ron’s second son Brad currently serves as an elected member of the Frederick County Board of Education.

… and then there is the widely known local radio celebrity and possible gubernatorial seeking son Blaine, who is the current (and last) president of the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners. The younger of all these political Young’s broke from the Democratic Party family tradition years ago to follow a much more conservative path.

But this article is not about the Young men, it is about Karen, who began her political career in 2010 when she won a seat on the Board of Aldermen of the City of Frederick.

Her term had barely begun before she had “mastered” the fiscal and operational details of Frederick City government and began pursuing an agenda to bring about efficiencies on both levels and to nurture the city’s priority economic development projects.

Karen arrived in Frederick in 1996 where she accepted the position of the Chief Marketing Officer of Farmer’s and Mechanics National Bank. Holding many of the ABC’s of degrees (B.A. in History from Franklin & Marshall College and an M.A. in American History and M.B.A. with a Marketing concentration from Columbia University), her pre-Frederick life involved significant roles in finance and management with several major financial institutions.

For those who get to know Karen well, they quickly learn that studying the numbers and deeply researching the issues is right up her alley.  It is not unusual for her constituents to receive an evening phone call or past-midnight email with feedback on an issue that was brought to her attention earlier that day.

Being the conservative that I am, it is a unique occurrence for me to find a Democrat who preaches fiscal responsibility … and means it!

During Young’s tenure as an alderman, she lists the following on her website among her achievements … and please take note of the links to the impressive support material that is covered with her fingerprints:

Karen has made no secret of the fact that she feels Frederick’s current mayor Randy McClement has not been aggressive enough on budget issues or economic development among many other things … and she says that there is much work yet to be done.  That thorough website of her’s lays out a clear platform of issues and goals for the City of Frederick.

On the campaign trail there is strong evidence that since her announcement in January of this year, Young has been hard at work knocking on doors and putting sign up all over the city.  Even Mayor McClement has taken notice … he told me a month or so ago that he was somewhat perplexed as to why certain businesses that previously gave him support are now allowing Young to install signs on their property.  Go figure?

Candidate Karen’s first hurdle on he road to City Hall is fellow Democrat Galen Clagett, the current Maryland State Delegate representing District 3A that spreads across much of the City of Frederick.  While I consider both good friends of mine, I doubt that either would say the same of the other.  With Clagett’s track record of bringing home bacon from Annapolis, he has earned a lot of respect from his constituents.

To counter that, Young has her own well-healed spousal weapon from Maryland’s capitol city, who probably has never campaigned harder in his life as he as been doing for her … few would doubt that statement!

Does Karen Young have any faults?  According to her critics, there are concerns that because she is so thorough in research and analysis, she may have a tendency to get caught in the weeds of the issues and thereby find it hard to delegate to staff, or suffer from lengthy deliberation on matters that require timely decisions … stating that such things “require more study.”  Young’s reply: her management and leadership experience has taught her to follow the 80/20 rule — 80% focus on the big picture and 20% on the details.

Even though her resume boasts of deep management experience, those same critics express doubt that her style will work in City Hall … and not surprisingly that is what critics will say in very competitive political campaigns!

Many state that husband Ron, whose true claim to fame was envisioning the 20th century Carroll Creek eyesore as a vibrant focal point linear park, will bring tremendous depth to Karen ability to lead Frederick into the future.  Others express concern that many of his liberal positions on issues decided in Annapolis (Dream Act, gas tax, and gun control, to name a few) may be a negative for many of Frederick’s more conservative Democratic voters in the general election.

For some reason I still don’t understand, as chairman of Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), Young allowed the regional body to get wrapped up political controversy by supporting Maryland’s gun control legislation.  Once the heat was turned up by several rural counties in gun proud Virginia, as well as our own Frederick County, she moved quickly to have COG overwhelmingly nullify their previous position.

On July 7, 2013 (less than 2 weeks ago) the Frederick Gorilla Magazine co-sponsored a Mayoral Candidate round-table discussion that was held that the Faux School in Frederick.   Of the now seven candidates who have taken on the mayoral challenge — McClement (R), Holtzinger (R), Aloi (R), Dougherty (I), Clagett (D), Hirsch (D) and Young (D) — all but late comer Hirsch participated in the rapid fire Q&A session.  The personality and style of each candidate gave the voters a taste how their soundbites will resonate in future clashes.

For Young, she did well … not as quick on the draw as others, but she clearly provided the audience with well thought out and very creditable points.

There is no doubt that the hard campaigning Young team will make Karen a strong contender in this election.  She has an encyclopedic understanding of the city’s operations and budgets, her campaign platform is clearly stated and well-prioritized. She displays a serious passion in her effort and is playing to win this election.

All that said with less than 8,000 (of over 30,000 eligible) voters who went to the polls in the 2009 general election … that succeeded a far lesser in the primary, this is truly anybody’s race!

Clearly with all the Young Blood left on the campaign trail thus far, Karen has a lot more determination left in her tank … and that alone will keep this a close race!

>>> Read each one of the 2013 Mayoral candidate profiles here on the MacRo Report Blog:   Galen ClagettJennifer DoughertyRandy McClementKaren YoungShelley AloiJeff Holtzinger, and Carol Hirsch.

The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. Many of his articles also appear in  TheTentacle.com 

A 2nd Sailing of the Good Ship Frederick?

On the good ship Fred-er-Rick, it’s a nice trip, there ain’t no shtick, while critics nay-say, on the good ship Fred-er-Rick

The difference between the winner and the loser in the 2009 mayoral race in the City of Frederick was just 281 votes.

While it was a very tight race, for the second consecutive time in the match for the top seat at City Hall, barely a shot was fired across the calm seas off the coast of campaign history.

The 2005 general election between former Mayor Ron Young and Jeff Holtzinger was so low key that many forgot that there was an election going on — very different from past city electoral wars.

The victor that evening of November 3, 2009 was Randy McClement, the man who had never campaigned for political office, and will be the first to admit that he despises the process that candidates endure to garner votes.

For Frederick’s incumbent Mayor it will be All hands on deck! and Batten down the hatches! as even he can see stormy seas ahead with two challengers (Aloi and Holtzinger) in the September Republican primary and an equal number (the winner of the Young-Clagett-Hirsch democratic battle and Dougherty running as an independent) in the November general election.

As helmsman of the Good Ship Frederick the last three and one-half years, McClement has used his past experience as a small business owner and a property manager to quietly steer around most storms he spied ahead.

Friend and foe alike regularly refer to the Mayor as a nice guy, who has been focused on doing a good job of delivering essential services to the city’s citizens.

State Senator David Brinkley has praised him as “a practical mayor who works to fix things in the city like potholes and doesn’t indulge in argumentative politics.”

“It’s those things that people take for granted when they’re done correctly” that Brinkley says Randy has done so well.

As part of his stump speech, McClement will quickly remind voters that within days of being handed his stripes he found himself in charge of clearing the streets of the 52 inches of a snow that fell upon his city between December 9, 2009 and February 5, 2010.  The surprise blew his budget for removal of the white stuff before it stopped falling.

Each year since then, Captain Randy has been handed a budget deficit and has always worked hard to balance it as a good manager is trained to do.

What are the critical issues that the next mayor will be facing?

Listening to County Commissioner President Blaine Young talking with his WFMD co-host Anita Stup speaking on the air a few weeks back, they seemed to agree that there are calm seas ahead as far as serious issues facing the city, and there should be no need for a change at the helm … Well, that’s one perspective.

I’ve had the chance to talk with the Mayor McClement over the last few weeks, to find out if he agreed with the self proclaimed good ol’ boy and his gal pal … and get a deeper read on his other major achievements.

In sum for the city’s Captain, it’s Full Steam Ahead with the caveat of Steady As She Goes and Let’s Not Rock the Boat.

The humble incumbent is not only proud of keeping the streets well maintained and his conservative budgeting, but also considers the completion of the Monocacy Boulevard extension near the airport very significant … and speaking of the airport he saw to it that the new airport tower was completed.  He also boasts about the completion of the small area plans for the Golden Mile and finding the funding to complete the next phase of the Carroll Creek Linear Park east of Carroll Street over to East Patrick Street.

McClement acknowledges that the city police force has reached a critical low.  Currently operating at 72% of its authorized capacity, he has been working with newly appointed Chief Ledwell to modify and accelerate recruitment measures to resolve the problem.

One does have to wonder why city officials didn’t see that coming.

I asked him about some of the concerns I outlined in a March 12th MacRo Report Blog post that expressed a wish for No More Can Kicking:

Does he believe that more can be done in addressing what many see as a looming tsunami with future post-employment benefit and pension obligations?

Yes, he says, but this is not a problem that can be fixed “with the stroke of a pen.”  It needs to be addressed in “chunks over many years.”  His goal is to be 80% funded within the next 20 years.

Does he see the Land Management Code (LMC), city’s 2005 zoning ordinance, as an impediment to downtown real estate development?  Does it need a complete overhaul?

The Mayor acknowledges that many parts of the  LMC are already outdated, having been written at the top of the real estate bubble.  To that end, for the last few years Randy has been working with the Land Use Council of the Frederick County Builders Association, who have made a number of recommendations that have been modified into Code text amendments … a steady process, he says.

And what is it about McClement’s leadership style that has raised criticisms?

He makes it very clear that his approach is one of a director who addresses issues in a quiet and deliberate manner.  He says he knows what the problems are and speaks to each as if he has everything under control.

Often chastised for not being more vocal at the Board of Aldermen meetings (unlike his predecessors), he feels strongly that he should follow the procedures of the city charter, where he is required to act as the president and presiding officer of the body, allowing the aldermen do their work.   

One thing for sure, there is no drama in the Mayor’s style, whether in his role as the chief executive of the city or as one campaigning for re-election.

So the question that will be answered in September primary and then if he is fortunate enough to make it through to the general election is:  will McClement’s message of being the captain with a quiet and steady hand at the helm once again resonate with the voters?

>>> Read each one of the 2013 Mayoral candidate profiles here on the MacRo Report Blog:   Galen ClagettJennifer DoughertyRandy McClementKaren YoungShelley AloiJeff Holtzinger, and Carol Hirsch.

The author: Rocky Mackintosh is President of MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He also writes for TheTentacle.com. 

© Copyright MacRo Ltd, Real Estate Services
Web Design by Wood Street