Lawmakers to take aim at state taxes

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/27/2013
State lawmakers from Frederick County are laying the groundwork for an all-out attack on taxes during the 2014 session of the Maryland General Assembly. Sen. David Brinkley is looking to reduce the corporate income tax rate and adjust the Maryland estate tax. Delegate Michael Hough wants to require a supermajority vote for any tax increases. And Delegate Kathy Afzali is looking to ease the estate tax burden on family businesses. Several of these proposals have fizzled in past legislative sessions, but Brinkley, R-District 4, said bringing them back will continue the discussion about tax relief. “At least they can be conversation starters,” he said. The process of crafting legislation for the year is already underway. Earlier this month, state senators and delegates had to decide if they wanted to draft any bills to be pre-filed before the Jan. 8 start of session.

Afzali turns down alternate seat on growth task force

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/17/2013
Maryland Delegate Kathy Afzali on Friday rejected an invitation to serve as an alternate member on the county task force discussing local growth issues. She had previously volunteered to join the work group, but Sen. David Brinkley asked Delegate Galen Clagett to take a seat on the panel instead. Brinkley questioned Afzali's impartiality on the issue of creating a transfer tax, an idea she has said she opposes. Clagett, D-District 3A, is unable to attend Tuesday's kickoff meeting of the task force, so Brinkley on Friday sent Afzali an email asking her to represent the Frederick County legislative delegation for that day. But for Afzali, R-4A, serving as an alternate wasn't going to cut it. However, she said she will attend all task force meetings as a member of the audience. "Delegate Clagett doesn't have the time to devote to this very important topic," Afzali said. "I do have the time because I will be there. So maybe it's just time to appoint me the representative on the task force for the delegation."

Unbalanced task force

Frederick News Post
Steve McKay
11/17/2013
Since Commissioners President Blaine Young announced his intent to rid the county of the dreaded impact fees, I have been trying to pay close attention to this subject. After all, those dreaded impact fees are an important source of funds to mitigate all of the massive infrastructure challenges being created by the county’s drive to develop, particularly here in south county. So it was with some concern that I read The News-Post’s article of Nov. 12 headlined “Afzali passed over for seat on growth task force.” In all my efforts fighting against the Monrovia development, I can count on one hand the politicians that have raised their voices in our support, and Delegate Kathy Afzali is one of them. She has been a vocal supporter in our fight against Monrovia Town Center, and against excessive growth in this part of the county. She and Delegate Michael Hough came out to our meeting in Urbana, and we had a very constructive exchange. She even stood up and testified against the development at the planning commission hearing. She is doing her job and representing her constituents — us! So I was dismayed at Sen. David Brinkley’s comments in the paper that day. First, I found the comments very unprofessional, considering that he was speaking about a fellow legislator from the same district and party. Beyond that, however, I was dismayed that he would choose Delegate Galen Clagett, someone so clearly aligned with the development community, to participate on this task force, which is already so clearly biased toward the developers. Make no mistake, this task force is going to recommend ways to make the developers pay less for the impacts that new developments have on our roads and schools. Who will make up the difference? You and me, the taxpayers. Blaine Young wants to abolish the impact fee. For Monrovia Town Center, that represents 60 percent of their contribution toward new schools. When the impact fee is gone, under the terms of the Developer Rights and Responsibilities Agreement they have proposed, the developer will be completely off the hook for over $20 million! Under cross-examination at the third of four days of planning commission hearings on Monrovia Town Center, the applicant’s attorney, Rand Weinberg, confirmed as much.

Underrepresented on growth

Frederick News Post
11/16/2013
The growth task force, recently formed by the Board of County Commissioners to investigate ways for development to pay for its impact on our schools, roads, water and sewer supplies, and other infrastructure, lacks a broad enough membership to deliver a comprehensive and fair solution. Groups represented include the Frederick County Association of Realtors, Frederick County Building Industry Association, Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, a municipality, and the senior, education and library communities. Elected officials from Frederick County’s delegation of state delegates and senators will also serve — it was the choice of precisely who from that delegation would join the task force that caused some contention earlier this week. Delegate Kathy Afzali, a Republican who represents northern Frederick County, was rejected as a participant by a fellow Republican, Sen. David Brinkley. Brinkley instead selected Sen. Ron Young, a Democrat, and delegates Patrick Hogan (R) and Galen Clagett (D). While we understand the argument that Young, Hogan and Clagett represent districts that include the city of Frederick, an area naturally suited for more growth, we also understand Afzali’s position that she represents Monrovia, an area in which the debate over development is current and controversial. “Afzali is about Afzali and not a solution to the problem,” Brinkley told reporter Bethany Rodgers. Yes, Afzali has an annoying tendency to want to grab headlines, but she makes a good point about the task force’s composition: It has a clear bias toward developers, builders and real estate agents. While we understand that those representatives are some of the key industries affected by either a transfer tax on the sale of existing homes or an impact tax on the sale of new ones, what the group lacks is representation from county residents — the taxpayers — who also have skin in the game.

Afzali passed over for seat on growth task force

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11122013
A state delegate who raised her hand to join a Frederick County growth task force was passed over for appointment after a fellow legislator questioned how “fair and open” she would be on the panel. Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4A, argued she would bring a much-needed perspective to the growth group because her constituents in the eastern areas of the county are among those most affected by local growth issues. In a Nov. 4 letter, she asked Sen. David Brinkley, R-District 4, to put her on the county-led task force. In response, Brinkley challenged Afzali’s impartiality on the question of creating a transfer tax to fund infrastructure improvements. In a Monday phone interview, he attributed Afzali’s interest in the work group to a desire for publicity. “Afzali is about Afzali and not a solution to the problem,” Brinkley said. Despite Afzali’s request for the task force assignment, Brinkley offered the opening to Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, and Delegate Patrick Hogan, R-District 3A, before finally naming Delegate Galen Clagett to the work group. Afzali said her goal is to represent district residents who have concerns about development in the county. Controversial development projects such as the Monrovia Town Center heavily affect her constituents, she noted. Clagett, D-District 3A, represents the city of Frederick, where building does not generate as much opposition, she said. “I’m the one who’s fielding the calls from irate citizens who are going to have the traffic jams and the noise and the safety issues from this kind of growth,” she said.

Frederick city officials limit LLC campaign donations

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
11/08/2013
Business owners will now all be limited to the same standard when they make donations to candidates in city of Frederick elections, whether they own corporations or LLCs. The Frederick Board of Aldermen approved an ordinance Thursday that limits the amount of money an owner of multiple business entities may donate to a mayoral or aldermanic candidate. The limit is the same as it is for individuals and corporations that donate: $2,500 to an individual mayoral candidate, and $1,000 to an individual aldermanic candidate. The change comes after owners of multiple LLCs used the LLCs to donate beyond the maximum corporate donation to two mayoral candidates, Delegate Galen Clagett and Alderwoman Karen Young. When noticing the donations, the city's Board of Supervisors of Elections and the aldermen asked city staff to draft an ordinance, calling it a loophole in the law. When drafting the ordinance, the city's legal department mirrored the language in a new state law. The General Assembly passed a law this year that limits the owners' donations. It takes effect in 2015. The city decided Thursday expand the law even further than the state, at the suggestion of Alderman Michael O'Connor.

Election supervisors want to cap LLC donations

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
09/26/2013
Frederick's law regarding how much business owners can donate to candidates in elections should mirror the state's law, the city's Board of Supervisors of Elections decided Wednesday. The board will recommend to the mayor and Board of Aldermen that they pass an amendment to the city's election law that limits the amount a person who owns multiple business entities, such as limited liability corporations, is able to donate to each candidate. Anne Leffler, the board's president, said the change is long overdue. The business owner would be limited to the same amounts allowed to a resident or corporation — $2,500 to one mayoral candidate and $1,000 to one aldermanic candidate — no matter how many business entities that person owns or is making donations from.

City board: Clagett broke electioneering rules

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
09/26/2013
Delegate Galen Clagett broke electioneering rules during Frederick's primary election Sept. 10, according to the city's Board of Supervisors of Elections. Clagett, District 3A, lost the Democratic mayoral primary to Alderwoman Karen Young, who will be on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. The elections board voted at a Sept. 18 meeting to pursue legal action against Clagett, who illegally entered polling places and displayed campaign material on Sept. 10, according to the board's meeting minutes. Clagett said he was within his rights when visiting the polls and never violated any electioneering rules. Anne Leffler, the board's president, declined to comment. Multiple election judges told the board that Clagett violated city code by "entering numerous polling places, introducing himself and conversing with the judges," the minutes state. Clagett "refused to leave when asked to do so."

McClement, Young clinch mayoral nominations

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
09/11/2013
Mayor Randy McClement and Alderwoman Karen Young each clinched their party’s nomination Tuesday and will move on to the Nov. 5 general election, according to unofficial election results. In the Republican race, McClement defeated Alderwoman Shelley Aloi and former Mayor Jeff Holtzinger. He brought in 49 percent of the total with 808 votes; Aloi had 32 percent with 534 votes; and Holtzinger had 19 percent with 317 votes. In the Democratic race, Alderwoman Karen Young defeated Delegate Galen Clagett and newcomer Carol Hirsch. Young brought in 50 percent of the total with 1,168 votes; Clagett had 40 percent with 925 votes; and Hirsch had 10 percent with 237 votes.

Hogan: “I never intended to make a career out of elected service”

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
08/14/2013
Maryland Delegate Patrick Hogan announced Tuesday he will not seek election to a third term, a decision that will allow him to spend more time with his wife and three young children, and explore other career opportunities. Hogan, 34, said he started thinking about his future in state politics soon after winning in the 2010 election and reached the conclusion that his current term would probably be his last. Commuting back and forth from Annapolis to Frederick has been a challenge, especially during the 90 days the Maryland General Assembly is in session each year, he said.

Hogan: “I never intended to make a career out of elected service"

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
08/14/2013
Maryland Delegate Patrick Hogan announced Tuesday he will not seek election to a third term, a decision that will allow him to spend more time with his wife and three young children, and explore other career opportunities. Hogan, 34, said he started thinking about his future in state politics soon after winning in the 2010 election and reached the conclusion that his current term would probably be his last. Commuting back and forth from Annapolis to Frederick has been a challenge, especially during the 90 days the Maryland General Assembly is in session each year, he said.

Delegate Hogan Announces he will not seek re-election

Frederick Politicis
George Wenschhof
08/13/2013
In a press release, Maryland Republican state delegate Patrick Hogan announced he will not will running next year for the seat in district 3-A. Hogan said “I am grateful to the citizens of Frederick for giving me the opportunity to represent them in the legislature,” said Hogan. He continued, “I never intended to make a career out of elected service and now it is time for me to move on to the next chapter in my life.” He added "he is particularly proud of working to secure funding for important local school construction and transportation projects as well as working on the Environmental Matters Committee trying to balance environmental protection with economic growth." There are two state delagte seats in district 3-A and Democratic delegate Galen Clagett, who is running for mayor of The City of Frederick has already announced he would not seek another term. The Maryland state election is next year and it is commonly known Democratic city alderman Carol Krimm, who is not seeking re-election as an alderman in the city election this year, will run for state delegate next year. Also, in the rumor mill is Democrat Ryan Trout, who ran for state delegate in district 4-A in the 2010 election. He now lives in Frederick, which is part of district 3-A.

Roundtable Discussion with Frederick’s Mayoral Candidates (VIDEOS)

Frederick Gorilla
08/01/2013
On July 8 Frederick Gorilla and WFMD Radio, assisted by the Young Democrats and Young Republican clubs of Frederick County, kicked off the contest for City Hall’s top office by hosting a roundtable with the candidates for Frederick’s mayor. Candidates who participated included Randy McClement, Shelley Aloi, William J. (Jeff) Holtzinger, Galen Clagett, Karen Lewis and Jennifer Dougherty. Of note, Carol A. Hirsch, who is deaf and also running for mayor was unable to participate in the roundtable due to a last-minute cancellation of her interpreter. The forum was moderated by Pattee Brown.

Mayor: City has done more with less

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
07/30/2013
Mayor Randy McClement characterized his administration Monday as one that has managed to do more with less. McClement used his State of the City address as an opportunity to highlight his administration’s work on maintaining Frederick’s fiscal health, pushing forward road and public work projects, and helping spur commercial development — all during the recession. The mayor, whose first term ends this year, focused on the city’s current state, rather than giving specifics for what should happen in the future. “It was important to me that we not reduce service levels or increase taxes, but be more creative and do more with less,” he said. “I feel that with the passage of the fiscal year 2014 budget, the aldermen and I have done just that.” In the speech at City Hall, McClement addressed ongoing issues such as the second phase of Carroll Creek Linear Park, the city’s unfunded pension and other post-employment benefits, the downtown hotel and conference center project, and blighted and vacant properties.

Choosing Young's adventure [and] Legislators get low marks from group [and] Center sale opponents organize rally

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/19/2013
A state environmental scorecard for 2013 was released this week, and a couple of Frederick County legislators scored zeros. Sen. David Brinkley was one of the two local lawmakers who failed to win (any) points with the Maryland League of Conservation Voters in 2013. But Brinkley says it is important to consider how the league arrived at its evaluation about this year’s session of the Maryland General Assembly. Lawmakers were penalized for opposing a gas tax increase and working to delay a requirement that certain counties create a stormwater fee. “They can call themselves about conservation, but they’re not. They’re about an agenda of increased taxation,” said Brinkley, R-District 4. While Brinkley and Delegate Kelly Schulz, R-District 4A, both got the lowest possible grades from the league, some higher scorers weren’t happy with the report, either. Sen. Ron Young, who earned a 71 percent score from the group, said he thinks the organization dropped the ball this year. Young’s scores suffered because he didn’t vote on the offshore wind bill and supported the agricultural certainty bill, which gives farmers who voluntarily follow certain practices a 10-year exemption from new state and local environmental regulations. Young said he is upset that the league didn’t back his legislation to create low-interest loans for building green homes. “I would downgrade them,” said Young, D-District 3. “I think they had their heads in the sand.” Young and Delegate Galen Clagett, D-District 3A, tied for the delegation’s highest score, and the grades take a pretty sharp downturn from there. Delegate Donald Elliott, R-District 4B, received a 50-percent score; Delegate Patrick Hogan, R-District 3A, got 43 percent; Delegate Michael Hough, R-District 3B, got a 25 percent; and Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4A, got a 20 percent.

Choosing Young’s adventure [and] Legislators get low marks from group [and] Center sale opponents organize rally

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/19/2013
A state environmental scorecard for 2013 was released this week, and a couple of Frederick County legislators scored zeros. Sen. David Brinkley was one of the two local lawmakers who failed to win (any) points with the Maryland League of Conservation Voters in 2013. But Brinkley says it is important to consider how the league arrived at its evaluation about this year’s session of the Maryland General Assembly. Lawmakers were penalized for opposing a gas tax increase and working to delay a requirement that certain counties create a stormwater fee. “They can call themselves about conservation, but they’re not. They’re about an agenda of increased taxation,” said Brinkley, R-District 4. While Brinkley and Delegate Kelly Schulz, R-District 4A, both got the lowest possible grades from the league, some higher scorers weren’t happy with the report, either. Sen. Ron Young, who earned a 71 percent score from the group, said he thinks the organization dropped the ball this year. Young’s scores suffered because he didn’t vote on the offshore wind bill and supported the agricultural certainty bill, which gives farmers who voluntarily follow certain practices a 10-year exemption from new state and local environmental regulations. Young said he is upset that the league didn’t back his legislation to create low-interest loans for building green homes. “I would downgrade them,” said Young, D-District 3. “I think they had their heads in the sand.” Young and Delegate Galen Clagett, D-District 3A, tied for the delegation’s highest score, and the grades take a pretty sharp downturn from there. Delegate Donald Elliott, R-District 4B, received a 50-percent score; Delegate Patrick Hogan, R-District 3A, got 43 percent; Delegate Michael Hough, R-District 3B, got a 25 percent; and Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4A, got a 20 percent.

Clagett Signs on Yellow Cabs Stirs Controversy

Frederick Politics
George Wenschhof
07/16/2013
Over the weekend, Democratic candidate for mayor; Galen Clagett signs were spotted atop yellow cabs in Frederick. It did not take long for comments to begin in what promises to be a hotly contested race for mayor of The City of Frederick. Community activist Kimberly Mellon first reported on the Clagett signs with a photo on her Facebook page “One Frederick, Many Voices”. When I asked her to share her concerns, she sent me the following: “I am appalled by what appears at first glance to be Galen Clagett's campaign staff's ignorance to Interstate Mobile Advertising's (IMA) Taxi Top Ads used for sponsoring Blaine Young's rhetoric on his self-named WFMD Show.” Blaine Young is Republican President of the Frederick Board of County Commissioners and host of a daily radio show. Mellon added “I'm left pondering Clagett’s intentions. Are Clagett's and Young's stars aligned with developer’s interests? Mellon mentioned an article in The Gazette dated April 25, 2013 that said in part “The bill, introduced by Del. Galen Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick, will prevent opponents from asking the Frederick County Board of Appeals to overturn any of the long-term pacts — called Developer Rights and Responsibilities Agreements, or DRRAs — that can be in effect for a quarter of a century.”

Delegate says state public works board must OK Citizens sale

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/14/2013
Galen Clagett has not added his voice to the mix at boisterous public meetings on the sale of Frederick County's nursing home and assisted living center. The state delegate and Frederick mayoral candidate has not written any strongly worded letters to the editor. He has not participated in any demonstrations. However, he has been working behind the scenes to raise questions about privatizing Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. The Frederick County commissioners late last month voted 4-1 to sell the facilities to a private company, Aurora Health Management, for $30 million.

Mayoral candidates say city needs to act on big issues

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
07/09/2013
Candidates for mayor in this year’s election have their disagreements, but there is one thing they agree upon — there needs to be more movement on the city’s big issues. Blighted and vacant properties, Hargett Farm, Carroll Creek redevelopment, Frederick Towne Mall, and plans for a hotel conference center downtown were all discussed Monday night at the first forum for mayoral candidates. Six of the seven residents running faced off in the forum, hosted by Frederick Gorilla and WFMD radio at The Faux School. The only candidate who did not participate was Carol A. Hirsch. Hirsch is deaf and was not able to obtain an interpreter in time.

Frederick's race begins in earnest

Frederick News Post
07/08/2013
The field is locked down and -- if you’ll forgive us the cliché -- the race to lead the city of Frederick for the next four years is on. The primary has a swathe of candidates -- 21 in total. All told, 12 and one independent will go through to the General Election on Nov. 5. It’s inspiring, given Independence Day was less than a week ago, that so many want to stand up and be counted and do their civic duty. The primary is Sept. 10, so party voters have only two months to familiarize themselves with a lot of political wannabes; and those wannabes, those of them who aren’t incumbents with a degree of name recognition, will have their work cut out raising their profiles with voters. All 21 will be scrambling for a cut of the pathetic number of people who generally come out for the city election. Barely one in five of Frederick’s registered voters came to the polls for the Sept. 15, 2009, primary.