County decides to relax stream buffer requirements

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/01/2013
The legally required swath of trees and shrubbery separating Frederick County's homes from its streams is becoming 25 feet slimmer. Commissioners voted Thursday to relax the county's stream buffer ordinance, a "modest change" that they said would have little effect on the county's waterways. Allowing homes closer to county streams opens up a bit more land to developers, giving them more flexibility in site design as they deal with state environmental requirements, county staff said. "Really, we see this as a jibing of county standards to harmonize with the state standards," said Dusty Rood, president of the Frederick County Land Use Council. However, local residents, environmental groups and former County Commissioner Kai Hagen all said they believed decreasing the required stream buffer size would endanger area water quality. Hagen said county's current leaders have shown a pattern of elevating developer interests above other considerations. "They said, 'Jump,' and you jumped," Hagen told the board of commissioners.

Open meetings complaints filed against Frederick County commissioners

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
09/25/213
At least two complaints of an Open Meetings Act violation have been lodged against the Frederick County commissioners for their closed-session vote on a $200,000 grant repayment. The submissions to the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board claim that the decisions should have happened in the open because they relate to public business. Middletown resident Sonja Sperlich wrote one of the complaints, and The Frederick News-Post submitted the other. County commissioners voted Sept. 5 to send the $200,000 check with a letter to the state in order to facilitate the sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. Sperlich’s letter references several portions of state law to bolster her argument that commissioners breached the Open Meetings Act. The law’s intent is to ensure that “except in special and appropriate circumstances, public business be performed in an open and public manner and citizens be allowed to observe the performance, deliberations and decisions of the BOCC,” Sperlich, former chairwoman of the Citizens board of trustees, wrote in her complaint.

Green acres, not greenbacks

Frederick News Post
Chuck Honse
09/04/2013
The Monrovia and Green Valley areas are about to change. The folks living there are about to lose the lifestyle for which they moved into the area — lots of green space instead of blacktop and concrete; lots of peace and quiet instead of the sounds of traffic and emergency equipment; lots of fresh country air, the smell of freshly cut grass and hayfields instead of the fumes generated by huge volumes of traffic; lots of peaceful living instead of living in fear of increased crime, which is often the result of densely populated areas; lots of space around their homes instead of having to listen to their neighbor snoring, sneezing or their radio/TV program; lots of sounds of children at play in their spacious backyards, birds chirping and singing instead of the sounds of honking horns and screaming sirens. Head puppeteer Blaine Young and his three puppets (Billy Shreve, C. Paul Smith, Kirby Delauter) are about to change it all.

Commissioners look to shed excess building space

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
09/03/2013
Frederick County officials have laid out a strategy to get rid of extra building space and free up more room in the budget. Relocating county staff members and programs will allow officials to sell several properties, cancel a $2.5 million maintenance project and end two leases, officials said. A task force has been working since last year to sketch out the five-year building consolidation plan approved Thursday by county commissioners. "I'm very happy to see it," Commissioner Paul Smith said of the plan. "It will help us be more efficient and reduce the taxpayer burden a little bit." With the plan, the county would put on the market a building at 520 N. Market St., now the headquarters of the citizens services division. The division would eventually move to 340 Montevue Lane, according to the plan.

Violating the Open Meetings Act is no laughing matter

Frederick News Post
08/24/13
When is a quorum, not a quorum? Don't waste your time asking Frederick County Commissioner Kirby Delauter that question. Judging by his reaction of last week's unfavorable opinion by the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board he's "not going to lose any sleep on it." Not to be outdone, Commissioner Billy Shreve told Frederick News-Post reporter Bethany Rodgers, after learning about the ruling, that the compliance board's decision won't change his approach to talking about county issues. What we find troubling is that it's this kind of arrogance and disrespect for government transparency that continues to be the hallmark of the majority of this current board of commissioners. In case you missed it, the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board ruled last week that three commissioners, including Delauter and Shreve, violated the state's Open Meetings Act when they talked about the pending sale of two county-owned facilities on a local radio program on June 15.

Frederick County commissioners OK taxi voucher program

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
08/23/13
Frederick County commissioners Thursday gave their approval to a taxi voucher program that will supplement local transit services but won’t offer expanded hours. Officials for months have looked at using taxis to accommodate more riders with TransIT-plus, a service that provides reduced-cost transportation to senior citizens and people with disabilities. At Thursday’s board meeting, commissioners weighed in on the design and scope of a two-year voucher program set to start in 2014. The pilot will provide TransIT-plus riders with prepaid vouchers for paying their taxi fares.

Voting history shows power of Young’s bloc

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/21/2013
Commissioners President Blaine Young says there's no point in denying the existence of a Frederick County voting bloc led by him. "I'm not going to run from the obvious," he says. For many, the four-commissioner alliance becomes particularly obvious during hot-button decisions, such as when the county decided to give up control of the local Head Start program. When officials approved an overhaul of fire and rescue funding. And when they sealed the sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. Commissioner David Gray has been a voice of dissent from his seat on the panel's right flank, but in each of these decisions, he has been alone. From their first motion more than two-and-a-half years ago to the June 25 hearing on the future of Citizens and Montevue, the commissioners have cast 1,273 votes. The bulk of those, more than two-thirds, were unanimous decisions, many about routine issues. But Gray has been in the minority for almost 78 percent of the split votes and has acted as the sole dissenter in 269 of the decisions.

Voting history shows power of Young's bloc

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/21/2013
Commissioners President Blaine Young says there's no point in denying the existence of a Frederick County voting bloc led by him. "I'm not going to run from the obvious," he says. For many, the four-commissioner alliance becomes particularly obvious during hot-button decisions, such as when the county decided to give up control of the local Head Start program. When officials approved an overhaul of fire and rescue funding. And when they sealed the sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. Commissioner David Gray has been a voice of dissent from his seat on the panel's right flank, but in each of these decisions, he has been alone. From their first motion more than two-and-a-half years ago to the June 25 hearing on the future of Citizens and Montevue, the commissioners have cast 1,273 votes. The bulk of those, more than two-thirds, were unanimous decisions, many about routine issues. But Gray has been in the minority for almost 78 percent of the split votes and has acted as the sole dissenter in 269 of the decisions.

Returning to the subject of boycotts

Frederick News Post
07/15/2013
Our editorial questioning the boycott against businesses who advertise on Commissioner President Blaine Young's radio show got our readers' attention. Even across the Independence Day weekend, when other editorials drew online clicks in the double-digits, "Calls for local boycotts ill-advised" netted over 1,100 unique hits (the most we had on any editorial since we launched our redesigned website on April 11) and 121 comments (another record). Clearly, we provoked a strong reaction. Some of the criticism was directed at us. "FNP you have lost your mind," said alovelyplace, and in another comment, "I'm sorry for the FNP's downslide several notches on the respectability scale." stated. "This editorial is nuts" said formerfcps. "This is the most ignorant editorial from the FNP I have ever seen," said runningaddict414. "Did the brains take the day off?" "This editorial is laughable," bukweet commented. Woof. Some stiff criticism there.

With privatization’s end comes a time to reflect, explain

Frederick News Post
07/14/2013
Saying there's nothing more to privatize, Commissioners President Blaine Young called it a day in a optimistically toned July 8 letter to county staff, lauding a streamlined, much-less-costly, much-less-populated county government. The controversial and unfortunate decision to sell Citizens Care and Rehabilitation and Montevue Assisted Living "will be the last major change this Board will make," he wrote. Since 2009, the county workforce has been reduced by 25 percent -- one in every four staff -- through "layoffs, eliminating vacant positions and consolidating County divisions and departments and privatizing services." "I realize all the changes have been difficult," Young wrote. That doesn't really capture it.

With privatization's end comes a time to reflect, explain

Frederick News Post
07/14/2013
Saying there's nothing more to privatize, Commissioners President Blaine Young called it a day in a optimistically toned July 8 letter to county staff, lauding a streamlined, much-less-costly, much-less-populated county government. The controversial and unfortunate decision to sell Citizens Care and Rehabilitation and Montevue Assisted Living "will be the last major change this Board will make," he wrote. Since 2009, the county workforce has been reduced by 25 percent -- one in every four staff -- through "layoffs, eliminating vacant positions and consolidating County divisions and departments and privatizing services." "I realize all the changes have been difficult," Young wrote. That doesn't really capture it.

Blaine and Co. bad for Frederick County

Frederick News Post
George Wenschhof
07/07/2013
The 4-1 vote recently to sell the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Care facilities and disband their board of trustees, illustrates the latest example of Frederick County government behaving badly. Immediately following the 2010 election, new board of county commissioners’ president Blaine Young (R) proclaimed Frederick County “Open for Business.” Joining Young as newly elected Republicans on the five member board were Kirby Delauter, Billy Shreve and Paul Smith, who I quickly dubbed with the moniker; “Blaine and Co.,” the moniker resulting from their like ideology and the carte blanche votes Delauter, Shreve and Smith gave to Young on anything Young would propose. Fueled by “tea party” fervor, prevalent across the nation, that promoted less government and less spending, Blaine and Co. wasted no time in promoting these ideals, a disturbing pattern of governing that clearly illustrates how following ideology often trumps reasonable representation. The resulting action from Blaine and Co. was felt immediately after their election, when they moved to eliminate $2 million in county funding for Head Start, a proven and effective federal program that helps children in need during the critical early years of development. What has followed over the next 2 1/2 years has been a continued move to follow an irresponsible privatization path in governing.

Citizens/Montevue fate sealed before hearing

Frederick News Post
06/30/2013
To no one’s surprise the Frederick County Commissioners wasted little time in selling Citizen Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living Facility following a five-hour public hearing Tuesday evening. It’s now clear the public hearing was nothing more than a “go-through-the-motions” sham and validated claims by opponents that the meeting was being held because of a legal requirement and not because there was any chance the commissioners were interested, much less willing, to change their minds. A standing-room only crowd of more than 400 people crammed into the Jack B. Kussmaul Theater at Frederick Community College in a last-ditch attempt to stop the commissioners sale of the government-owned nursing home and assisted living center that have served needy local residents for about 140 years. But four of the county commissioners, lead by President Blaine Young, had already made up their minds.

When Ideology Trumps Reasonable Representation, Bad Things Happen….

Frederick Politics
George Wenschhof
06/23/2013
The proposed sale of the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Care facilities, illustrates the latest example of Frederick County government behaving badly. Immediately following the 2010 election, new board of county commissioners’ president Blaine Young (R) proclaimed Frederick County “Open for Business”. Joining Young as newly elected Republicans on the five member board were Kirby Delauter, Billy Shreve and Paul Smith, who I quickly dubbed with the moniker; “Blaine and Company”. The moniker resulting from their like ideology and the carte blanche votes Delauter, Shreve and Smith gave to Young on anything Young would propose. Fueled by the “tea party” fervor, prevalent across the nation, that promoted less government and less spending, Blaine and Company wasted no time in promoting these ideals, a disturbing pattern of governing that clearly illustrates how following ideology often trumps reasonable representation.

Grand Canyon makes erosion look good, Shreve says

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/21/2013
Consider erosion, says Commissioner Billy Shreve. Is it a thing to be feared? Battled? Buffered against? Or enjoyed? During Thursday’s board meeting, Frederick County leaders discussed Chesapeake Bay health and a recent county study of local streams. Though the report found erosion was an issue in many county waterways, Shreve said he’s not sure how problematic the process is. “We have this report in Frederick County. It talks about the restoration of streams, and how we can’t allow streambeds to erode, and all that stuff. Yet, we celebrate one of the greatest erosions in the history of mankind, and it’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world: the Grand Canyon,” he said. “It’s the biggest, worst case of erosion ever. So ... I don’t know which way to go on that.” Commissioner Paul Smith followed Shreve’s logic to provide a vision of the Eastern Shore millions of years in the future. “The bay has a future as a grand canyon?” Smith said, laughing

Commissioners seek answers to Gray's tie to Friends of Frederick County

Frederick News Post
Daniel J. Gross
06/06/2013
Frederick County Commissioner David Gray is under scrutiny from other commissioners over ties to a county land-use nonprofit that has filed numerous lawsuits against the county. Commissioners President Blaine Young sent Gray and other county officials an email Wednesday morning stating that Gray Enterprises was the documented tax preparer that handled the 2011 tax filings for Friends of Frederick County, a land-use and cultural preservation nonprofit that has been in near-constant litigation with the county over land-use issues in recent years. When reached by phone Wednesday night, Gray said his wife, Sharon, owns the business, and that she prepares Friends of Frederick County’s tax documents without pay. “I don’t get involved in that. I separate myself from those things,” Gray said. “My wife is free to volunteer for them. As far as I know, she’s never received any compensation.”

Commissioners seek answers to Gray’s tie to Friends of Frederick County

Frederick News Post
Daniel J. Gross
06/06/2013
Frederick County Commissioner David Gray is under scrutiny from other commissioners over ties to a county land-use nonprofit that has filed numerous lawsuits against the county. Commissioners President Blaine Young sent Gray and other county officials an email Wednesday morning stating that Gray Enterprises was the documented tax preparer that handled the 2011 tax filings for Friends of Frederick County, a land-use and cultural preservation nonprofit that has been in near-constant litigation with the county over land-use issues in recent years. When reached by phone Wednesday night, Gray said his wife, Sharon, owns the business, and that she prepares Friends of Frederick County’s tax documents without pay. “I don’t get involved in that. I separate myself from those things,” Gray said. “My wife is free to volunteer for them. As far as I know, she’s never received any compensation.”

Commissioners set 1-cent rain tax

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
05/31/2013
County commissioners Thursday decided to start charging eligible properties an annual fee of one penny, enough to net the county a grand total of $487.81 each year, according to staff estimates. For county leaders, though, the goal is not to drum up funds but to do the bare minimum to comply with a state mandate. Legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2012 requires 10 jurisdictions, including Frederick County, to craft a stormwater remediation fee by July 1, 2013. The law gave local leaders freedom to design the fee, known by its critics as a “rain tax,” but stipulated that proceeds should pay for watershed restoration and preservation.

Frederick Zoning Board of Appeals member files to run for alderman

Dacey: ‘I want to see the right kind of growth when it comes to Frederick’
Gazette
Tripp Laino
05/09/2013
Frederick Zoning Board of Appeals member Philip Dacey has joined the expanding list of candidates vying for a spot on Frederick’s Board of Aldermen. Dacey, 34, a Republican, said he grew up in Frederick, graduating from Gov. Thomas Johnson High School in 1996. He is currently director of external affairs at the Motor Vehicle Administration, and is formerly a lawyer. He said his primary reason for running for the board was concern over the city’s growth, and making sure that the city grows responsibly.

Clagett announces run for mayor of Frederick

Delegate has served 11 years in the House, eight as county commissioner
Gazette
Tripp Laino
02/28/2013
State Del. Galen Clagett is hoping to trade his post in Annapolis for one closer to his hometown as mayor of Frederick. “I’ve got a real investment in the city and what goes on in Frederick city,” said Clagett (D-Dist. 3A). “Without sounding too egotistical, I’m going to bring a lot to the table. I have a huge history in public and private life; I have good contacts at the state level and can work with a new county executive. All of that can help us build a great city.” Frederick County will shift from a board of commissioners to a voter-approved charter government in 2014, with a county executive and council.