Editorial Archive

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.

Changing faces

Frederick News Post
0924/2013
Any resident of Frederick who hasn’t noticed the increasing diversity of the city’s residents must be either a very unobservant person or doesn’t get out much. Everywhere one goes in town — shopping districts, neighborhoods, the workplace, schools, parks — one sees increasingly significant racial and ethnic diversity. According to The News-Post’s Sept. 19 story “New data: Frederick city more diverse,” that diversity continues to increase. We think that’s a good thing that strengthens the community in a number of ways. As we would have expected, during the last five years both Frederick and Frederick County have grown, with the county making the most gains. When it comes to diversity, however, the city is a veritable melting pot compared to the county. The Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey found that in the city of Frederick one of every three residents are a member of a minority group. In the county, only two in 10 are minorities.

No success for secession

Frederick News Post
09/14/2013
The last time a state was able to successfully break away from another was West Virginia after pro-North residents split from Virginia more than 150 years ago. But that hasn’t stopped others in recent years from trying in other states such as Colorado, Michigan and California. And now there’s another campaign afoot in Maryland — this time with the state’s five westernmost counties, including Frederick. The five counties, which also include Garrett, Allegany, Washington and Carroll, have a majority of registered Republicans in a heavily Democratic state. To say this is an uphill battle is an understatement. There’s virtually no chance this is going to be successful, and we’ll tell you why in a minute.

Air of dissatisfaction

Frederick News Post
09/8/2013
A recent Capital News Service story on air pollution raised a number of questions. Those who read deeply enough into the story also found an eye-opening bit of information about Frederick. According to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study released last month, a higher percentage of Marylanders die prematurely due to long-term exposure to air pollution than residents of any other state. What is particularly galling about this situation is that, to some extent, the costly efforts Maryland has made to clean up its air are being sabotaged by some “upwind” states that haven’t made similar sacrifices. The MIT study listed Baltimore as the worst large city in the entire nation when it comes to emissions-related mortality rate. For those of us who are used to hearing all the horror stories about Los Angeles, Denver and other pollution-choked cities, this is somewhat of a shock. A bit further into the story, the news got even worse. Frederick pops up as one of several Maryland cities whose air-pollution-related death rate is nearly as high as Baltimore’s.

Citizens and Montevue’s $200,000 sticking point

Frederick News Post
08/25/13
On Wednesday, Commissioners President Blaine Young got to feel what it's like for many who stand on the podium across from him -- he was overruled. Young was in Annapolis alongside other county officials for a Board of Public Works hearing on the county's $30 million sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living to Aurora Health Management, a move that will ultimately privatize the two senior care homes, taking them out of public hands and ending close to two centuries of publicly supported care. The board, made up of Gov. Martin O'Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, didn't go Young's way. The sticking point was the state's investment of $200,000 -- later revised to $191,000 -- for the construction of the two centers. Those grants give the BPW a say in the disposition of Citizens and Montevue. Instead, because of two lawsuits pending against the county commissioners, and despite Young's grandstanding flourish of a $200,000 check while at the hearing's podium, the board voted to delay the sale until two lawsuits brought by opponents are resolved.

Citizens and Montevue's $200,000 sticking point

Frederick News Post
08/25/13
On Wednesday, Commissioners President Blaine Young got to feel what it's like for many who stand on the podium across from him -- he was overruled. Young was in Annapolis alongside other county officials for a Board of Public Works hearing on the county's $30 million sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living to Aurora Health Management, a move that will ultimately privatize the two senior care homes, taking them out of public hands and ending close to two centuries of publicly supported care. The board, made up of Gov. Martin O'Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, didn't go Young's way. The sticking point was the state's investment of $200,000 -- later revised to $191,000 -- for the construction of the two centers. Those grants give the BPW a say in the disposition of Citizens and Montevue. Instead, because of two lawsuits pending against the county commissioners, and despite Young's grandstanding flourish of a $200,000 check while at the hearing's podium, the board voted to delay the sale until two lawsuits brought by opponents are resolved.

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.

Let voters decide

Frederick News Post
08/21/2013
A small group of county residents has filed a new lawsuit to block the county’s sale of Montevue Assisting Living and Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center to a private, for-profit company. Those who filed the complaint in Frederick County Circuit Court last Friday all have a personal or emotional connection with the institutions. They include two current residents of Montevue; two member of the institutions’ former board of trustees, which the Frederick County Commissioners dissolved earlier this year; donors to the two institutions; a relative of a Montevue resident; a neighbor who lives next to the facilities; and a descendent of Elias Bruner, who sold the Montevue property to the county in 1828, the deed of which stipulated that the property was to be used only to benefit the poor. The suit consists of five counts, among them that the county lacked the legal authority to privatize the institutions, that doing so would deprive the community’s of its safety net for the poor, and that the two facilities had not been given a reasonable opportunity to become financially self-sufficient. Every indication we have it that county residents, on balance, believe these institutions are a credit to the community and a worthwhile use of the small percentage of taxpayer money that they require. We support that position.

Petitioning change

Frederick News Post
08/08/2013
Commissioners President Blaine Young is dismissive of their value, saying no local petition has changed his mind on any important question. He mentions two hot-button issues — the proposed waste-to-energy incinerator and education funding — as examples. Commissioner Billy Shreve is of the same mind, especially when he receives a form letter from an online petition site such as Change.org, which anyone can weigh in on. Says Shreve, “If I get a letter from someone in Australia, I pay zero attention to it.” But for average citizens, petitions can be a means to express their displeasure with local government and its decisions, and the simple act of doing so can be rewarding. While the effort may not succeed, there is value in it for those who participate. Frederick resident Ed Hinde, who promoted an online petition to recall Young, admits that he’d be hard-pressed to name any petition drive that’s had an effect on the commissioners. But he says, “I think the ones I’ve participated in are a venting of public angst. The basic premise is getting people educated and engaged.” Hinde makes a good point.

Raining on the ‘rain tax’

08/01/2013
According to a new report from the Maryland Public Policy Institute, Maryland’s so-called “rain tax” is poorly conceived, has been ineptly handled by some jurisdictions, and may not live up to its billing as an important weapon in the fight to clean up and save the Chesapeake Bay. MPPI’s John W. Walters, who wrote the report, concludes, “Despite its apparent environmental pedigree, the rain tax is basically just an additional property tax.” The report discusses many aspects of the rain tax, including how various jurisdictions have decided to implement the program. Thomas A. Firey, also of MPPI, edited Walters’ report and was quoted in a recent story in The Daily Record. His assessment of how it’s all going so far: “It’s really important to understand, at least in theory, why this could be good, but why a lot of this is getting screwed up.”

Raining on the 'rain tax'

08/01/2013
According to a new report from the Maryland Public Policy Institute, Maryland’s so-called “rain tax” is poorly conceived, has been ineptly handled by some jurisdictions, and may not live up to its billing as an important weapon in the fight to clean up and save the Chesapeake Bay. MPPI’s John W. Walters, who wrote the report, concludes, “Despite its apparent environmental pedigree, the rain tax is basically just an additional property tax.” The report discusses many aspects of the rain tax, including how various jurisdictions have decided to implement the program. Thomas A. Firey, also of MPPI, edited Walters’ report and was quoted in a recent story in The Daily Record. His assessment of how it’s all going so far: “It’s really important to understand, at least in theory, why this could be good, but why a lot of this is getting screwed up.”

Something vs. nothing

Frederick News Post
07/30/2013
Without any context to help sort this quote out, some readers would assume it came from the recent debate about whether to permit Wal-Mart to occupy the deserted Frederick Towne Mall space. In this case, however, the comment came from downtown Frederick resident Truby LaGarde, and the “something” she was referring is a chain establishment. As with the Golden Mile Wal-Mart, the big question is whether more chains would, on balance, be a good or bad thing for downtown Frederick’s central business district. Many residents and business owners appear to be somewhat conflicted about additional chains setting up shop downtown.

City decides Wal-Mart better than nothing

Frederick News Post
07/24/2013
Our hope is that a new Wal-Mart will spur economic activity on the Golden Mile and help revitalize that section of the city — that it will be good for other businesses on the strip, as opposed to making things more difficult for them. We also hope that the plans for the property will hew as closely to the letter and spirit of the small-area plan as possible. We encourage city officials to press the future occupant for any and all contributions it can make in support of this plan. It would be a real tragedy if this decision turned out badly over time. That’s possible, but we do believe it was made in good faith and after much debate and soul-searching by city officials whose alternative was basically to continue to do nothing and hope for the best.

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.

Going with the flow on the Golden Mile

Frederick News Post
07/11/2013
Frederick has asked the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments for $35,000 to fund a traffic study of the Golden Mile. According to Frederick County traffic engineer Ron Burns, MCOG’s Technical Advisory Committee reviewed the proposal and recommended approving it, so right now it looks like a go. This is very good news, because vehicle, transit and pedestrian traffic is a major consideration in the new vision for this commercial area that the city and Golden Mile Alliance have forged. It is vital to the alliance’s goal to “ ... ensure that the Golden Mile is an attractive, diverse, and highly dynamic, mixed-use commercial corridor with top retail, office, and service uses linked by safe pedestrian routes to healthy residential neighborhoods and parks.” Currently, the flow of all manner of traffic on the Golden Mile needs attention — particularly for bike riders and pedestrians. Despite efforts to improve safety and efficiency, it’s obvious that some new vision is called for. Among other issues, the study would likely examine the pros and cons of creating a dedicated bus lane. It should, because the Golden Mile corridor in heavily traveled and many who work and live in the area need or choose to use public transportation. Traffic flow also needs to conform to and facilitate the small-area plan that has been the centerpiece of the revitalization plan for the Golden Mile. As envisioned by the Frederick Planning Department, the concept is dedicated to making the Golden Mile corridor “walkable, connected, vibrant, safe, complete, attractive and sustainable.”

Rain in the garden

Frederick News Post
07/09/2013
Because we frequently editorialize on politics and government, it’s a nice change for us — and our readers, we hope — when we can focus on something that’s truly positive and uplifting. In this case, it’s the rain garden adjacent to St. James Episcopal Church in Mount Airy. Nancy Hernandez’s story about this little gem of a project was in Sunday’s News-Post, on page E-8. We hope you read it, as we did, with interest. If not, we recommend digging out your Sunday edition and doing so. We like this story because it’s about people working together to solve a problem. It also involves improving the environmental, and may even be of help to Frederick County residents as they seek solutions to stormwater runoff and ways to address the (drumroll) “rain tax.

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.

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.