Trailer tax break

Frederick News Post
06/25/2012
Commissioner Kirby Delauter was the one who suggested reducing to nothing a tax on trailer parks, which the commissioners unanimously supported last week. It's a good move if, as Delauter hoped, the break goes to residents rather than owners of the property on which the mobile homes sit. The 15 percent tax is charged on the cost of leasing the land for the trailer and collected by the county from trailer-park owners. The park owners presumably pass the cost on to tenants in their rental bills.

Bully pulpit, part II

Frederick News Post
06/26/2012
When Blaine Young chose to run for commissioner, we urged him to close out his radio show. The reason is that Young's broadcast clearly gives him a political advantage, a pulpit from which he can broadcast his message three hours a day, five days a week. Now that Young is making moves to run for governor -- and in our opinion, if you're raising cash you're formally a candidate, even if you haven't signed that official little slip of paper at the state Board of Elections -- we have to repeat that call.

Tone-deaf

Frederick News Post
06/20/2012
Even Blaine Young's own stepmother said the tone of his emails was so nasty that she had to restrain herself from responding. But we won't. The reason is that constituents should demand that their elected officials are civil and treat each other with respect, even when they disagree. Maybe the commissioners president was just having a bad day when he fired off several emails to the Frederick mayor and Board of Aldermen on the morning of June 8. We suspect, however, it's more likely that this is just one more example of how the self-proclaimed "good ol' boy" deals with people he disagrees with. In case you missed it, Young, who is a co-owner of a taxi service in Frederick, was ticked -- and that's putting it mildly -- that the city held a public hearing and raised fares by 30 cents per mile the night before, according to the email exchange, reported last Friday in The Frederick News-Post. Young said he didn't show up at the meeting (as the city's other taxi companies did) because it would just "piss me off," and he asserted in an electronic exchange that the city should have no control over taxi rates.

Natural Wonder

Frederick News Post
06/12/2012
here are 190 certified backyard wildlife habitats in Frederick County. Judging by the testimonials that appeared in FNP reporter Pete McCarthy's Sunday story, "Nature for rent," these habitats are as valuable to those who maintain them as they are to the creatures they were created for.Human beings, including many here in Frederick County, are losing their physical connection and emotional bond to the natural world. Increasingly, daily life is spent in office buildings, cars and malls; TV, cell phones and the Internet are our passions. That's a real shame -- for both us and nature.

Uphill running

Frederick News Post
06/03/2012
Commissioner Blaine Young has made it official -- he intends to run for governor. It's a bold move. But we'll be frank here -- we'll be surprised if Young makes it through a potentially crowded field of primary challengers. Young is the first Republican to formally sign on. Also believed to be considering runs are Harford County Executive David Craig, Larry Hogan (former appointments secretary to former Gov. Bob Ehrlich and brother of Frederick Delegate Patrick Hogan), and Brian Murphy, a gubernatorial primary challenger in 2008. Other than his potential challengers, Young has some serious hurdles to overcome if he wants to make it as far as the Governor's Mansion. Let's run through a few.

Commissioners shouldn’t phase out nonprofit partnerships

Gazette
05/03/2012
In cutting the funding Frederick County provides to nonprofits that serve the needy and disabled, the Board of County Commissioners is endangering a useful partnership with the private sector that can save the county money

Blaine Young’s road show

Frederick News Post
03/19/2012
The rumors have been out there for a while that Commissioners President Blaine Young would enter the governor's race. Now he's exploring the option. Frankly, it's hard to imagine how Maryland's electoral math could turn his way. Not even former Gov. Bob Ehrlich could pull off a second term, and he was, for all intents and purposes, a moderate. We'll be interested to see if this goes beyond the exploratory stage. To be honest, we doubt it. Young, despite having once been a Democrat then flipping parties after he decided not to run again for Frederick city alderman, is about as conservative a conservative as Frederick County has to offer.

Blaine Young's road show

Frederick News Post
03/19/2012
The rumors have been out there for a while that Commissioners President Blaine Young would enter the governor's race. Now he's exploring the option. Frankly, it's hard to imagine how Maryland's electoral math could turn his way. Not even former Gov. Bob Ehrlich could pull off a second term, and he was, for all intents and purposes, a moderate. We'll be interested to see if this goes beyond the exploratory stage. To be honest, we doubt it. Young, despite having once been a Democrat then flipping parties after he decided not to run again for Frederick city alderman, is about as conservative a conservative as Frederick County has to offer.

Sloganeering

Frederick News Post
02/05/2012
If we thought for a minute that a highway sign that read "Welcome to Frederick County. Open for Business" would actually create a single job or prompt a business to expand or relocate here -- then that would be one thing. But the reality is that the only work created by a sign like this is for the county employee who painted the political slogan on it. We say "political," because that's exactly what this is all about. Here is the latest spat involving Commissioners President Blaine Young: The commissioner is upset with the Maryland State Highway Administration because it won't allow three words -- "Open for Business" -- on signs posted along major roadways, such as U.S. 15, U.S. 340, I-70 and I-270. The fact that it's just three words isn't the point, nor the fact that the words are "open for business." Instead, the real irony is that this is really nothing more than a campaign slogan being painted on a taxpayer-funded sign.

Far too far

Frederick News Post
12/28/2011
Commissioners President Blaine Young's recent comment, the one that indicates he will remake the planning commission, is a worryingly arrogant demonstration. His attitude to this board of volunteers carries consequences far beyond the minor annoyances of their recent activism. Young, speaking at a public meeting, implies no opposition will be brooked in his push for zero barriers for Frederick County's building industry: "I can guarantee you, in July, you're going to have a drastically different planning commission." Young and the county board have been at odds over revisions to the county's comprehensive plan, which governs land use over the next 20 years. The commissioners promised to overturn what they considered the previous board's unfair downzonings. The planning commission balked, called the process a sham, and refused to conduct hearings. Now Young is threatening to replace the two planning commission members behind the opposition when their terms are up next year. We assume he means with two pro-growth rubber stamps.

Mitigation fee

Frederick News Post
08/14/2011
After hearing directly from representatives of the local building industry Tuesday, we became convinced their hearts were in the right place when they suggested a new provision that would allow them to pay to build in areas where schools are overcrowded. But they have a long way to go to convince us and, as they acknowledged, other members of the public that the solution they offered is a complete one. Only time will tell. As Steve Seawright said during an editorial board meeting at The Frederick News-Post, "By the time the next election comes around, while things are hopefully better, they will not have changed significantly enough that there will be things people can point to tangibly that says this has been made worse." A stumbling block to public acceptance is that this offer was made out of desperation by an industry in crisis. The national economy has not been kind to home-building, and combined with an overly stringent county growth regulation, has made building new homes in Frederick County almost untenable. As generous as the offer is, it is too self-serving. The regulation's main objective is to let builders build. Any benefits to the educational system seem peripheral to that.

Kroll’s Exit

Frederick News Post
08/06/2011
The sudden departure of John Kroll, former head of finance for Frederick County, raises a few questions. Both Kroll and County Commissioner David Gray say that Kroll was forced out. Exactly what that means, we don't know. There are a number of possible explanations. It is also not totally clear exactly why this happened. Gray and Kroll himself believe that he was cut loose because a member of his department challenged Commissioners President Blaine Young's assertion that the county has a significant structural budget problem that requires serious budget-cutting.

Kroll's Exit

Frederick News Post
08/06/2011
The sudden departure of John Kroll, former head of finance for Frederick County, raises a few questions. Both Kroll and County Commissioner David Gray say that Kroll was forced out. Exactly what that means, we don't know. There are a number of possible explanations. It is also not totally clear exactly why this happened. Gray and Kroll himself believe that he was cut loose because a member of his department challenged Commissioners President Blaine Young's assertion that the county has a significant structural budget problem that requires serious budget-cutting.

Ethics code needs 'guts'

Frederick News Post
08/03/2011
It's disappointing that when the Frederick County Commissioners debated which of two sets of state-mandated ethics codes to adopt, they chose the less restrictive to send to public hearing. Two options were created by the state: one that is more suitable for a larger county government, one tailored to a smaller one.

Ethics code needs ‘guts’

Frederick News Post
08/03/2011
It's disappointing that when the Frederick County Commissioners debated which of two sets of state-mandated ethics codes to adopt, they chose the less restrictive to send to public hearing. Two options were created by the state: one that is more suitable for a larger county government, one tailored to a smaller one.

State WTE legislation is moving too fast

Frederick News Post
04/11/2011
The state is supporting the concept of waste-to-energy incinerators with high-power support from Gov. Martin O'Malley, leading lawmakers and the Maryland Energy Administration for incentives to build the plants. The deal is this: Last week, in the closing days of the Annapolis session, which will end at midnight Monday for another year, lawmakers floated the idea of creating incentives for waste-to-energy plants. We're not sure where the idea came from, nor the motivation behind it. However, the energy administration has said the trash-burning facilities will help Maryland reach its 20 percent goal for renewable energy sources. The legislation will add waste to energy into the same "tier 1" category as wind, geothermal or solar plants, allowing the facilities to sell renewable energy credits at a more preferential price. That's the incentive. The state already has three waste-to-energy plants, the closest to us at Dickerson in Montgomery County. The fourth, controversially, is Frederick County's, which will burn waste from Frederick and Carroll counties. How this will play out for incinerator opponents and Frederick County's project will be interesting to watch.

Shelving WTE

Frederick News Post
05/07/2009
The Frederick County Commissioners last week abandoned their deliberations on a proposed waste-to-energy facility. The WTE technology, which involves incinerating trash while producing electricity, had been for some time the board's favored option to address the county's solid waste disposal requirements in coming decades. The board cited a number of considerations in making its decision. Among the most influential were the huge cost of the WTE facility (in the $500 million to $600 million range), siting difficulties, pollution/health concerns, and public opposition that might generate costly lawsuits and push a solution further into the future. ome are characterizing the board's vote as a self-serving, political decision by commissioners unwilling to make a tough, but correct, call. The lone vote to proceed down the WTE path was cast by Commissioner John L. Thompson Jr., who has publicly said that a pro WTE vote by any board member would be tantamount to signing his or her own political death warrant. That may be a bit dramatic and probably overstates the case. While the opponents of WTE have run a vocal, high-profile campaign, it's clear that many others in the county supported the incinerator-based solution. The board's vote didn't actually kill the WTE option, but rather shelved it, removing it from current consideration in favor of other solutions. The alternatives the board will be investigating include increased/enhanced recycling and waste reduction, expanding the existing landfill, contracting to truck Frederick County's solid waste to an existing WTE elsewhere, and alternative technologies such as anaerobic digestion.

Positive impulse

Frederick News Post
04/10/2009
The battle continues between those who support the county's investigation into waste-to-energy technology and those who advocate making recycling the focus of local solid waste management. Who is "right" isn't clear, and may never be, regardless of who eventually prevails. However, whether local enthusiasts are correct or not in their assertions about recycling's potential, the impetus behind this movement is generally a positive one. Rather than simply throwing money or technology at the county's solid waste concerns, recycling proponents are instead trying to mobilize the local community to accept this challenge and get personally involved, resident by resident, in a solution that requires their active participation. There are other issues as well, including the cost, siting and operating concerns, and environmental and health worries associated with the proposed WTE facility, which would generate electricity while incinerating solid waste. The recycling/waste reduction program preferred by many in the community would avoid all these issues to some extent.

Right vs. rush

Frederick News Post
12/11/2008
The issue that's brought "No Incinerator" signs to the front yards of numerous Frederick residences has also brought national attention to states like ours that are grappling with the pros and cons of building waste-to-energy plants. Investigating the topic in its Dec. 6-7 issue, The Wall Street Journal looked at controversies surrounding combustion-based waste treatment options by observing that "opposition has cropped up against proposals in California, Maryland and elsewhere." It seems we are not alone. Not so, for Kai Hagen. He's the only Frederick County commissioner opposed to the idea of building a WTE incinerator in Frederick, recently developing a PowerPoint presentation to elucidate his stance and outline alternatives. A Nov. 19 News-Post story said an audience of "about 100 people" gathered for the show, coming as it did on the cusp of the review of the two final incinerator-build bids which, at that time, commissioners expected to have before the board by the end of the year. Estimated expenditure: $350 million. Hagen articulated multiple criticisms of the "uncertain assumptions" being made by the pro-incinerator-leaning board. One involves population growth and per-household trash production predictions. The other hinges on questions surrounding future environmental regulations, meaning those likely to be enacted down the road.

Countywide growth controls make sense

Gazette
10/09/2008
The Frederick Board of County Commissioners last month presented municipal leaders with a proposal that would force them to adopt a law to better control growth. Known as an "adequate public facilities ordinance," the law would prevent development if public facilities (roads, schools, police, fire and rescue, etc.) cannot handle the residents and traffic that accompany growth. Some towns have such laws, others do not and control growth using other policies. The efficacy of such measures can be a matter of debate, mostly because traffic continues to worsen, schools remain overcrowded, and fire and rescue personnel are at times overwhelmed. County commissioners are trying to change that by implementing one growth-control ordinance countywide, applicable to all municipalities. Such a move is rare, mostly because county and municipal governments are considered separate entities. Municipal leaders do not like county leaders telling them what to do anymore than county leaders like state leaders telling them what to do. But we see this move as necessary.