Posts Tagged ‘ government ’

Kicking the Can, Shifting the Burden

Will real estate property taxes rise as Maryland municipalities struggle to shoulder burdens passed along by state and federal government?

The Frederick News Post reported last week that Frederick County commissioners are proposing a merger of fire taxes with property taxesto make up shortfalls in emergency services funding.

The resulting increase in real estate property taxes would not be a terribly substantial one—rates would be bumped in suburban districts by 4.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value.  But it does beg the question: is this just the beginning of a series of incremental increases in property taxes to offset the cutbacks in state and federal funds that Maryland municipalities have long depended on?

With the passing of the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2012, the State of Maryland made the very controversial decision to shift $710 million worth of the cost of teacher’s pensions to county governments between 2013 and 2016—not an insignificant burden by any means.  (This was in addition to a $260 million income tax increase.)

The pass-the-buck scenario is no doubt replaying all over the U.S. as state governments struggle to meet funding shortfalls during the prolonged economic malaise.  (Maryland was in fact one of only three other states that had not already shifted a share of teacher pension liabilities to local municipalities.)

And there is no help to come from federal coffers.  Democrats and republicans are locked in a mighty struggle to find a nonexistent magic solution to the budget deficit that does NOT appear to involve meaningful spending cuts or burdening the middle class with higher income taxes.

The reality is that whatever solution (no matter how ineffectual) Congress undertakes to resolve the U.S. budget deficit, it is going to be painful, and that pain is going to trickle down to state and local budgets.  Much like Frederick County, local municipalities throughout the U.S. have been belt-tightening for years as the recession ate away at state and local revenues—there isn’t much fat left to cut at the local level.

That leaves revenues to save the day.  The bulk of revenue collected by local governments comes from property taxes—in 2012 real estate property taxes are expected to make up 37% and 55% of total revenue collected by the City of Frederick and Frederick County, respectively.

In turn, the largest expense of Frederick County’s budget is the public school system.

Given that local politicians are no more eager to raise income taxes on the middle class than their peers in Congress, and that the state is in the process of passing school-related expenditures on to the counties, real estate property taxes start to look like a sitting duck.

While it would appear counter-intuitive for local politicians to take any action that risks further depressing the struggling real estate market, the money has to come from somewhere and real estate property taxes are at least still offset by federal tax deductions.  (Although real estate related tax deductions may be on the chopping block as well.)

For some time now, Federal Reserve has been artificially holding down interest rates at jaw-dropping levels in an effort to stimulate the housing market, and at last there are green shoots pointing to a steady recovery in that sector.

If housing does in fact bring some much-needed traction to the U.S. economic “recovery,” it would be logical for local governments to explore property-related taxes and fees as a source of additional revenue that is less likely to get them fired than say, a substantial increase in income taxes.  In the case of Frederick County that controversial leaner look that Blaine Young and is fellow commissioners has forced upon the government the last 24 months, may turn out to be able to absorb these burdens better than most.

In the unlikely event that the housing market really heats up fast, homeowners in Maryland are somewhat insulated from real estate property tax increases on their primary residences.  The Maryland Homestead Tax Credit limits the amount that real estate property taxes can be increased annual due to rising property assessments.  However, the deadline to make application for the credit is Dec. 31 of this year—any homeowner who hasn’t applied by the deadline will lose that buffer and could potentially face higher real estate property taxes.

The Homestead Tax Credit won’t protect property owners in Maryland from an increase in tax rates, however.

So let’s pray that Congress gets smart and finds a way to balance the budget that doesn’t involve treating taxpayers like ATM machines.

All I want for Christmas is a Miracle on Pennsylvania Avenue!

The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He also writes for TheTentacle.com and Want2Dish.com.

Charter Passes in Frederick, Maryland with 62% in Favor

Thank you to all our MacRo Report Blog readers who helped bring Charter government to our county!

 

The following excerpt is from the Frederick News Post news article by Pete McCarthy.

After failed attempts in the past, voters overwhelmingly approved a charter form of government in Tuesday”s election with 62 percent in favor. With all precincts reporting, county home rule was successful by a 58,751-to-35,443 vote.

“We did it,” Ken Coffey, chairman of the charter-writing board, said in a phone interview. “This is an exciting and historic moment for the people of Frederick County.”

The charter calls for a seven-member county council and an executive to run the day-to-day operations. Five of the council members will serve in districts and two will be at-large representatives.

to read the complete article.

2 Local Election Day Endorsements

On two key issues next Tuesday, the time has come to say NO to the STATUS QUO in Frederick County, Maryland!

In the midst of a very contentious Presidential campaign, some Frederick County, Maryland voters may be overlooking two significant subjects on the November 6th ballot.

BOARD OF EDUCATION RACE:

This is an important taxpayer issue since nearly 60% of property tax revenue is being entrusted to Frederick County Public Schools each year. Five candidates are seeking three openings on the seven member board.

While voters are asked to cast a ballot for three of the ­five, I can only endorse Colleen Cusimano and Anthony Chmelik. Both of these candidates will bring strong ­fiscal experience and fresh perspective to improving education for all our students. The other candidates are more representative of the current Status Quo majority.

I feel so strongly that I recommend supporters ONLY VOTE for  CHMELIK and CUSIMANO …  and leave the third choice blank.

CHARTER GOVERNMENT:

Question A on the ballot will ask voters this simple question: “Do you approve of the adoption of the Charter for Frederick County proposed by the Frederick County Charter Board?”

As one who served as a member of the Charter Board, our county has grown and matured to the point that the concept of a ­five official committee running the government is no longer functional.

It is truly a time to buck our Status Quo form of government and cast a vote FOR a change from the Commissioner form of government to Charter Home Rule.

The adoption of Charter Home Rule will implement an executive form of government and bring much needed accountability, transparency, stability and efficiency to Frederick County Government.

VOTE FOR on QUESTION A.

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 for TheTentacle.com and Want2Dish.com.

Debunking 5 Myths About Charter Government

As Election Day draws near, there has been a vocal minority who have used some of the following statements to express opposition ballot Question A – the proposed charter for Frederick County.

This is the first article that will provide as a rebuttal to the mythology of the contrarian view.

1.   The current County Commissioner structure works fine. – Not really. The current system has become very dysfunctional.

a)     Consider the number of times over the last 20 years that policies have shifted dramatically from one administration to another. All it takes is three like-minded individuals to overturn the actions of a previous board. This lack of consistency and reliability in government policies has contributed to business indecisiveness, as well as the polarization of our electorate. Under charter, the executive and legislative functions of county government will be split, and it will take five votes to make policy, which will force a higher level of compromise among our elected officials.

b)     County employees currently have had 5 bosses. It has often been the case where more than one commissioner has directed a county employee in opposing directions. Taxpayer dollars are wasted when employees do not have a clear understanding of policy. Under charter the County Executive will be the sole administrator of policies set by the County Council.

c)    More often than not at a state level, county commissioner representatives are not given the same respect or consulted in the development of new policy as counties that have an elected County Executive. Under charter the Frederick County executive will be provided more opportunity to influence policy for Frederick County that is made at the state level.

2.    I’m for charter, just not this charter! – Voters who favor charter government should recognize that the hardest part of adopting any charter document is having the voters approve the concept of Home Rule.  The finer points of the charter itself can be amended and approved by the voters as provided for in the document during each review period … the first review will take place five years after the charter is adopted.

3.   Having seven council members will only add to the size of government. The key difference under the proposed charter is that the county will no longer have five full-time county commissioners, but seven part-time council members and one full-time county executive. These seven council members will be paid a total of $67,500 less that our current five county commissioners, and at the same time county residents will have a closer connection to their elected officials through council districts.

4.    All council members should be elected at-large with no councilmanic districts. – There are several reasons why districts were made part of the proposed charter … here are a few:

a)   Greater representation for voters. Under the proposed charter, the county will be divided into five districts of equal population and demographic mix. A council member from a district will represent approximately 40,000 residents, which will assure that local community issues will be represented in county government. Consider the past county commissioner administrations that did not have residents of the City of Frederick on the board, in which there was great tension between the county and city governments. Circumstances such as this have wasted taxpayer dollars.

b)   Greater opportunities for candidates to get into office. The costs of political campaigns continue to rise as the population of a community grows. Candidates from districts will face a significantly lower cost to get into office that those involved in a county-wide race. At the same time, council members from districts will have the same voting authority as at-large members.

5.    Districts will cause political gerrymandering. Extremely unlikely! Paragraph (c), Section 214 of Article 2 in the proposed charter states that any Council District “shall be compact, contiguous, substantially equal in population, and have common interests as a result of geography, occupation, history, or existing political boundaries.” Any new district plan will be made available at a public hearing and must be approved by the executive and a majority of the county council.

The next post will provide rebuttals to concerns over the power of the county executive, lobbyist activity, the budget process, subpoena power and the role of the county sheriff.

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.

Assessing the Board of Education Race

After a heated, down to the wire primary battle this past spring, the six candidates for the three open seats for the Frederick County Board of Education were set.

Down to the wire it was, as after votes were counted on election night, candidate Emily Ann Meyer had a 3 vote lead over seventh place Tony Chmelik. However, after eight days of tabulating absentee ballots, the long shot Chemlik topped his opponent by a mere 11 votes.

So we thought the cast of six candidates were set for the November 6th general election:  incumbent Katie Groth, Tom Shade, Zakir Bengali, Joy Schaefer, Colleen Cusimano and Tony Chmelik.

The top four vote getters: Groth, Shade, Bengali and Scheafer, all ran on the safe and traditional platform of “Our System is One of the Best in the Nation; So Don’t Rock the Boat … The BOE has a Good Thing Going, and Keep the Union Happy.”

Then there are the other two – Cusimano and Chmelik. Both of these candidates are believers that the status quo is not good enough, and that while Frederick County Public Schools do in fact rank very well in the state of Maryland, there is a significant segment of the student population that require special focus. In addition, many families of those students are not satisfied with what feels like a one size fits all program.

One of the greatest challenges that a recast 2013 BOE will face is the fiscal challenges of making crtitical budget decisions. This has always been a process that brings out the best and worst of school board members.

Since last April, the six candidates have been behind the scenes quietly working their spheres of influence to garner support and much needed donations.

Then just two weeks ago, the BOE race re-entered the spotlight when one of the more popular candidates, Tom Shade (75), dropped out of the race due to personal health concerns.

This left five candidates to vie for three slots.

The current make up of the seven member Board of Education has been politically split down the middle for the last two years with three status quo members: Angie Fish, who is not seeking re-election; Katie Groth; and Jeanne Smith, who was re-elected two years ago on name recognition alone, as her participation in the campaign process was minimal.

Then there are three new members who were swept in with Smith in the last election:  Brad Young, April Miller and Jimmy Reeder. These three candidates brought for the first time in years a new perspective to BOE governance. They often challenged the status quo to be more fiscally responsible, while at the same time seeking alternative forms of education, like supporting public charter school initiatives.

The swing vote for much of the last two years has been Donna Crook, who at best has been more indecisive than introspective in casting her ballots. Crook sought re-election in the primary, but did not make the grade since, similar to her inconsistent vote casting, no one knew where she stood on issues.

Having served a total of 17 years on the boards of two private schools, nine years on the board of Frederick Memorial Hospital, and a number of other non-profit and local business governing bodies, I learned the value of status quo representation. But even more, I have come to understand the value of having members who show leadership in challenging long held traditions, programs and systems in order to improve what many believe is fine the way it is.

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.

Key Points to Charter Home Rule

Will the Charter Board’s pre-drafting outreach effort be the key to voter approval on November 6th?

After 18 months of outreach, research, and earnest debate, the appointed Charter Board (including yours truly) has completed a proposed Charter document for Frederick County.

Now the hard work begins of educating the voting public about the importance of voting “yes” to approve Charter Home Rule on November 6th.  To that end I am fulfilling a promise in a previous post, “Charter Home Rule Completed after Months of Healthy Debate, to provide a breakdown of the key elements within the proposed charter.

Soon after the Charter Board was launched, our group had the opportunity to sit down with Maryland Charter guru Victor Trevala. At that time, Trevala informed us there are four primary issues that make or break whether Charter Home Rule is adopted or defeated at the polls:

  • County Executive role
  • County Council size and role
  • Council members elected at large, from designated districts, or combination of both
  • Transition of government from County Commissioner form to Charter Home Rule

County Executive

The County Executive, as chief executive officer of the County, fulfills the executive branch of county government. This individual is responsible for executing the laws enacted by the County Council (legislative branch). The Executive will prepare and submit to the Council an annual County Budget for review and approval, as well as give an annual report. The Executive is also responsible for supervising and directing offices, agencies, and divisions of the executive branch and ensuring the county employees, as well as county boards and commissions, faithfully perform their duties.

The County Executive is elected at-large, and will be paid a salary of $95,000 with benefits. The Executive will serve no more than two consecutive four-year terms.

County Council

The County Council serves as the legislative arm of county government. The seven-member body will write and pass the laws that the County Executive will be charged with carrying out. The Council must act as a body and will have no power to create standing committees or delegate functions and duties to smaller groups of its members. The Council will not be allowed to interfere with the day-to-day functions of the County Executive. They cannot appoint, dismiss, or direct any employee of the Executive branch. The County Council is a part-time body that may sit for no more than 45 days in a calendar year for the purpose of enacting legislation.

Five Council members will be elected by district and two elected at-large by voters county-wide. Each Council member will be paid a salary of $22,500 with no benefits, and may serve no more than three consecutive four-year terms.

Councilmanic Districts and At-Large

After intense debate, the Charter Board ultimately decided that Frederick County would best be governed by a combination of members elected at-large and by district. The Charter divides the county into five Council Districts.

The district map is part of the proposed Charter document. Five County Council members will be elected by district, one from each.  Two are elected at-large.

Transition from County Commissioners to Charter Home Rule

Most provisions of the Charter become effective on Monday, December 1, 2014—the date the first County Executive and County Council take office.  At that time, the office of the County Commissioner will cease to exist.

All appointed officers and employees of Frederick County government holding office at that time will continue to be employed. Existing local laws and all rules, regulations, resolutions, and ordinances continue in full force until repealed or amended—unless they are inconsistent with the provisions of the Charter, in which case they are repealed.

So what do you think—will this proposed Charter make history and pass with voter majority?

I believe it will. This is truly a charter of the people, by the people, and for the people of Frederick County.

The Charter Board made the conscious decision to do what NO OTHER CHARTER BOARD has done in 30 years of attempts to bring charter government to counties throughout Maryland:  We began the process with a prolonged outreach effort to educate and gather feedback from voters BEFORE drafting the document.

Charter Board members held about 30 outreach meetings in every corner of the county. We collectively heard from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of private citizens—face-to-face, via telephone conversations, and in writing. We carefully and conscientiously weighed the concerns and suggestions of all.

I’ve written at length on the topic of why charter government makes sense for Frederick County. In a nutshell, the proposed charter will provide Frederick County with a stronger voice in Annapolis, more accountability within our local government, and a measure of autonomy from the State of Maryland.

It’s time for Frederick County to have a seat at the grown-ups table. It’s time to vote “Yes” on November 6th.

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.

Charter Home Rule: Two Reasons to Vote “Yes”

Charter government provides more local control and greater influence in Annapolis.

The Frederick News Post ran an editorial last week endorsing the Charter of Frederick County proposed by the Frederick County Charter Board.

As I read it, I was struck by the following statement:

“Most importantly, what the prospect of charter government promises is more autonomy from the state.”

I absolutely agree—the most important aspect of Charter government is, as the FNP put it, “… more freedom from the state Legislature, and more power for the county to determine the county’s direction.”

Clear enough and it is true.

In fact, the draft charter does provide Frederick County more legislative autonomy from the state by providing county government the ability to make more (but not all) local issue decisions in Winchester Hall, rather than having to wait for the entire Maryland State Legislature, once in session, to grant approval for a proposed ordinance that only impacts Frederick County.

Our local government should have as much sovereignty as possible to ensure that Frederick County’s lifestyle is preserved and growth is managed as the residents of our community see fit.

As was highlighted in “Lessons from the New Third World,” many counties and municipalities across the U.S. are struggling to handle additional financial burdens as states cut funding in the wake of declining real estate tax revenues, investment losses and the rapidly increasing weight of public pension obligations.

A charter form of government clearly defines its elected county executive as the one who is accountable for dealing with such issues.  Given the history of five elected county commissioners, who always seem to shift the blame for policy failures on one of their own, this alone will be a refreshing change.

In addition, as stated here in previous posts, the autonomy gained through adopting a Charter Home Rule form of government, combined with Frederick being the eighth most populous county in the state, will provide our county executive the opportunity to have a seat at the table with those seven executives at their regular meetings with the governor.

Those “Big Seven” counties–including Baltimore, Prince Georges, Anne Arundel, Howard and, of course, Montgomery–carry a great deal of political clout with the powers in the State House.  Given their dense populations and the single influence of their individual county executives, these counties–being metropolitan-centered by nature–often have very different needs than those of Frederick County residents.

Oddly enough, Frederick County (with over 230,000 residents) is made up of 13 different local governmental jurisdictions:  twelve municipal governments (all of which are structured under the doctrine of charter home rule) and our county government (which operates under rule by a majority of three county commissioners).

That being the case, a large percentage of our citizens are already governed under charter home rule by the fact that they live within one of the following municipal districts:  Frederick City, Walkersville, Woodsboro, Middletown, Thurmont, Brunswick, Rosemont, Burkittsville, Myersville, Emmitsburg, New Market and Mt. Airy.

It’s ironic to think that while all these jurisdictions fall under the auspices of the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners, in many ways the Mayor of Frederick City has a louder voice in Annapolis than the president of the  county board.

That is what the Charter Home Rule form of government gives those jurisdictions that adopt it.

The structure that most municipalities operate under separates the powers of government with an elected executive, who is responsible for administering the policies set by a five to seven member legislative council.  In this way, the lines of legislative and administrative duties do not get blurred. As a result, more balanced, stable and reliable policies transition from one administration to the next.

It’s time for Frederick County to take greater control of local decisions, and at the same time have more influence over state policy issues that impact the social and economic environment of our citizens.

These are only two reasons to vote “YES” this November 6th on the ballot question “Do you approve the adoption of the Charter of Frederick County proposed by the Frederick County Charter Board?”

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.

The Truth about Job Growth in Maryland

Who is still looking for work and why should we care?

Now that Mitt Romney has chosen his running mate, the real debates can begin in what is shaping up to be a very close race. Surely the malingering “Great Recession” is on deck to be the most hotly-debated issue of the presidential race.

The U.S. is nearly 5 years into this recession, yet we are STILL not on track to reach pre-recession employment until possibly late 2014 (and that projection assumes Europe’s economy remains somewhat stable in the meantime).

Of course, Democrats and Republicans paint a vastly different picture of employment in this country. The Obama administration would have us believe that their stimulus package and the jobs it did create pulled the U.S. back from the precipice of a depression.

But the bulk of the jobs created as a result of the stimulus aren’t necessarily the type of jobs that foster a robust economic recovery. CoStar Group, a commercial real estate analytic powerhouse, shared the startling graph below during each one of the company’s 2nd quarter 2012 market segment updates.

Most of the jobs created since the Obama stimulus package was passed fall into the categories of Education and Health Services, Professional and Business Services, and Leisure and Hospitality. It’s important to note that the first two categories rely heavily on government spending and contracts.

Sadly, the categories of Manufacturing, Trade/Transportation/Utilities, Information, and Construction, all remain millions of jobs below pre-recession employment levels. It is these categories that drive the production of goods for purchase and export in the U.S., create new technologies, and develop and improve our infrastructure—and they are all a critical source of jobs in our country.

The construction industry is traditionally a massive driver of economic recovery during recessions. In fact, residential construction outpaced every other area of the economy after each recession in the U.S. between the end of World War II and the turn of this century.

Until now.

American government at all levels, and a vast majority of the population as well, are carrying balance sheets that are bloated with debt. Corporations are too stunned by the lingering recession and paralyzed government to invest much of anything.

In this situation, no amount of purse string loosening by the Federal Reserve is going to enable the kind of spending that will jump start the housing market or sales of consumable goods. The collective value of commercial and residential real estate assets—long a mainstay of American net worth—will continue to lag well below pre-recession levels.

And so we remain caught in a viscous cycle.

Lacking a much-needed boost from real estate and construction, America must create an entirely new kind of economic recovery in order to end this recession. We need jobs—particularly technology and manufacturing jobs—that will increase GDP and drive exports. (And by exports I mean something more tangible than Facebook accounts.)

The focus on Capitol Hill needs to shift from taxing and spending to removing the barriers to entry that prevent newly-incubated companies from gaining a foothold in free markets without drowning in taxes and unreasonable regulations.

Maryland is a perfect case study in how NOT to do that.

Maryland, and Frederick by extension, is in a particularly precarious situation right now because so many of the jobs here depend upon federal government spending—and the federal budget is way overdue for massive spending cuts.

Taking the concept of CoStar’s jobs graph and applying it to Maryland jobs, it’s clear that Maryland has also suffered staggering job losses in critical industries during this recession. Over 60,000 jobs in manufacturing and construction alone have been lost since 2006. And of the jobs gained, the vast majority is in the industries of Government and Education and Health Services—jobs that are very vulnerable to spending cuts.

Maryland is uniquely poised to be the envy of the United States. We have one of the most highly-educated workforces in the country, arguably one of the best school systems anywhere, and many of the most brilliant minds in medicine, science, and technology executing government-sponsored research programs right in our own backyard.

In fact, Maryland has everything it needs to become a fertile incubator of lucrative manufacturing, science, and technology businesses—except a supportive government. Over and over again we see newly emerging or relocating businesses choose to locate in Virginia, where taxes and regulations make it possible to operate profitably.

The fact that the old Eastalco Aluminum property here in Frederick is a candidate for a manufacturing operation is cause for cautious optimism, as the 400 manufacturing jobs it represents would be precious to our community. My fingers are crossed for Helen Riddle and her team at the Office of Economic Development as they pursue this lucrative opportunity for Frederick County, but they have significant barriers to overcome.

Failure to remedy Maryland’s non-business friendly attitude before budget cuts set in could result in a mass exodus of intellectual capital from our state. That would be catastrophic for both our business culture and for our school test scores, as the best and brightest take their children with them.

Unfortunately, the powers that be would rather tax and spend us into oblivion than work to develop and nurture the unique and exciting potential of Maryland’s economy.

It remains to be seen if the millions of woefully under-employed U.S. citizens will rally to fire the Obama administration come November.  If it does, perhaps there is hope for a change at the top in Annapolis as well.

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.

Charter Home Rule Completed After Months of Healthy Debate

The board of twelve Founding Fathers (ten men and two brave women) propose a new constitution for Frederick County, Maryland.

At long last, the charge placed upon a twelve member board appointed by the Frederick County Commissioners is complete. The end result is a proposed constitution for Frederick County to adopt a charter home rule form of government.

The process began in March 2011, when the county commissioners, lead by their president Blaine R. Young, selected nine voting members and three alternates from a cast of 52 volunteers from all reaches of Frederick County.

The call for this cast of characters came just days after Young and the other four republicans were sworn into office- one that could be the last Board of Frederick County Commissioners (BOCC).

The election that swept these five into their seats of power in Winchester Hall was a very partisan and contentious campaign … to say the least. So when this group reached a decision on which twelve would sit on the Frederick County Charter Board, there were more than a few concerns.

A few of the commissioner candidates who didn”t make the grade with the voters in the November 2010 election quickly stepped up to challenge the choices that Young and his comrades had made for the charter board. A petition was raised with what appeared to be enough signatures to call for a special election that would overturn the panel chosen by the BOCC, in favor of candidates who would campaign for these seats.

In the end, a count of valid signatures caused the effort to come up with the short straw. An appeal was sent to court, only to have the original determination upheld in favor of Frederick County”s Director of Elections, Stuart Harvey.

In retrospect, these challenges were probably a very good thing, as it played a key role in solidifying the culture of the twelve charter board members. The contention that surrounded their appointments in the early months of their work, pushed the body to be more conscious of the value of transparency and their pledge to be non-partisan.

As the months wore on, and after nearly 30 initial community outreach meetings and interviews with other charter counties, many of the members of the opposition effort began to see that the appointed twelve were actually setting aside their personal interests in favor of what they believed to be best for the community at large.

In particular, one of the petition challengers, Ellis Burris of Burkittsville, attended nearly every board meeting and recently made a public statement that he was impressed with the effort of the group.

The final draft that was by the Frederick County Chart Board on Tuesday, July 10, 2012, was by no means a rubber stamped effort by a body of appointed puppets.

The board proved itself to be made up of individuals who often raised a few eyebrows from the viewing public.

Concern bubbled up from several charter advocates who wondered if the board could coalesce around some critical issues. As one of those “skunks in the room,” much of my purpose was to make sure that no stone was left unturned from the public”s point of view … As odd as it may seem, through all my years of experience with board work and strategic planning retreats, I”ve learned that a healthy and spirited debate often proves to be a major force to coalesce a body to make well grounded and properly vetted decisions.

This experience truly gave me, and the other eleven board members, a small taste of what the founding fathers of this country must have gone through 236 years ago.

The fanfare around a proposed new form of government for Frederick County may not have come about from a bloody revolution, but for many citizens who have experienced the growing challenges of Frederick County, they know that by balancing the power of our local elected officials with a county executive and county council, our county government will be better structured to make the difficult decisions ahead.

In future posts, I will provide a detailed breakdown of the key elements found within this document over the next 100 plus days before it appears on the ballot this November 6th.

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.

 

The Economy and US: Insight from Anirban Basu

More than anything, it seems that “uncertainty” is holding back a vibrant recovery

The Latest from Fred n' Rick: MacRo Report Blog 06/12/12Late last week, Kathy Krach, the Strategic Marketing Analyst for MacRo, Ltd., Real Estate Services,  had the opportunity to interview renowned economist Anirban Basu, Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc.

Named by the Baltimore Business Journal one of the region’s 20 most powerful business leaders in 2010, Mr. Basu is a trusted adviser to numerous business associations, private corporations and ventures throughout the mid-Atlantic states.

This two part article brings into focus Mr. Basu’s “take” on the state of the U.S. and global economies, and the impact that they have on Maryland, including Frederick County, Maryland.

As the 2012 presidential election draws near, voters seem to be looking past the traditional sideshows of political mudslinging and placing a stronger focus on the state of the economy and how it is impacting their careers, personal lifestyles … and their pocket books.

The June 8, 2012 Kiplinger Washington Letter states that while recent reports of “ebbing job creation” are very disappointing, “other economic signals are more positive [with increasing] business and consumer confidence, retail spending and factory orders.”

Kevin Thorpe, Chief Economist with the national commercial real estate firm Cassidy Turley in its US Macro Update for June 2012 echoes similar views:  “Job growth is slowing, even the recent numbers are far from a level that would indicate the recovery is falling apart,” making the nation’s GDP [gross domestic product] on track for a less than modest 2% increase this year.

However, the update states that within the same week that dismal May employment figures were released, other reports showed that “construction spending is still rising, the U.S. manufacturing sector still expanding, and consumer spending is still growing modestly.”

All that stated, it seems that the instability in the Eurozone, along with indecisiveness and gridlock in our nation’s capital, is playing a significant role in a recovery that seems to suffer from a failure to launch.

So, we asked for some “sage” advice from Mr. Basu.

Krach:  Has the U.S. hit another economic hiccup after robust job reports in February and March?

Basu:  The slow-down in jobs growth was more than a small hiccup—we went from 220,000 jobs added per month to 80,000— a huge sign that uncertainty over the Euro crisis and the U.S. budget is now having a major economic impact.

The Euro crisis has evolved into a social and political crisis, and resolve is weakening to adopt austerity measures there — as evidenced by recent elections in Greece and France.  As a result, many European countries will not meet debt reduction plans, and this crisis is going to drag on. 

Additionally … both national and multinational banks on the Eurozone periphery have large exposures to private debt. If efforts to capitalize these banks are unsuccessful, then Euro countries may be forced to submit to a strict austerity program prescribed by the European Central Bank (ECB) or even the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

At this point, the most obvious source of capital infusions into the IMF is China and the Middle East—they have plenty of money and very little debt. Having capital when the world is starving for it … is power.  Those with money establish the terms for those in need:  either through interest payments, or less tangible terms.

Krach:  Given that it is unlikely that Congress will act on the budget before the election, does that mean the U.S. economy will be in this stall until then?

Basu:  No.  Congress could push back the automatic sequestration mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 by another year,  or find other ways to cut the budget that make sequestration unnecessary.  Congress has power over these decisions, including the expiring Bush tax cuts and the payroll tax cuts, which would increase taxes significantly. 

The problem is Congress won’t TELL US what they are going to do.  We are only six months out from 2013 and major changes are possible in Washington government spending and taxes. When people are forced to speculate, they take a “wait and see” approach. 

The re-emergence of profound economic weakness may accelerate congressional action. 

Krach:  So overall what is your expectation for 2013?

Basu:  It’s impossible to tell.  In addition to the euro crisis and the U.S. budget crisis, there are so many black swan threats right now: tension between Iran and Israel, the fact that Iran could unilaterally jar the energy market, Korea’s young leader and nuclear power, instability in Russia.  The U.S. economy is susceptible to any of these issues.

The good news is, that we have a very resilient economy.  As devastating as 9/11 was, we were out of recession in about 1 ½ years.  When Lehman Brothers failed in 2008 we were out of recession by 2009.

It all hinges on how the uncertainties resolve and whether any of these threats materialize.  If we get Congress resolved and Iran stabilized, the economy could be booming in 2013.  On the other hand…

That “other hand” is 50% of the human equation.  It was poet Robert Browning who said: “There are those who believe something, and therefore will tolerate nothing; and on the other hand, those who tolerate everything, because they believe nothing.”

With the world economy in the hands of so many, it may very well be that even if the 50% who believe nothing keep their heads in the sand, it will all come down to the wire …

Now, where is that wire, anyway?

In Part Two of our interview with Anirban Basu, we put sharper focus on the economic state of the state of Maryland and its largest geographic area — Frederick County.

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 for TheTentacle.com and Want2Dish.com.

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