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DOCUMENTS

Elect Virginia Fifer

2006 Frederick County Candidates For Elected Office

July 21, 2006

Truth Among the Tractors

Roy Meachum

Wednesday night's hoo-hah at Maurice Gladhill's new tractor dealership brought me out; I was not invited. Mr. Gladhill and I are not friends; we didn't meet the other evening. He was putting on the show and I was trying to figure out what was going on.

From stories I heard - and that day's Frederick News-Post editorial - I knew a forum had been arranged for four Republican candidates for county commissioner: incumbents Mike Cady and John Lovell, wannabes Bill Shreve and Charles Jenkins (not to be confused with Chuck Jenkins who's running for sheriff).

The promised pig was not roasted; something about a missing health department permit, I heard. Chicken, corn, beans and rolls ready to be picked up, along with cookies. There were only soft drinks, no beer, wine or booze. Seating was on bales of straw. Some folks used the backend of tractor equipment.

There were not many people I knew among the crowd: some were city slick, others farm fresh. A few lawyers here and there: fewer than I expected to turn out for an election year event. In addition to the scheduled speakers, I saw stickers from assorted candidates, all GOP. Republican Lennie Thompson's promotional material was not there: Jan Gardner's a Democrat. The other three incumbents were present. In his opening remarks, Mr. Gladhill offered any other wannabe commissioner equal time. And that seemed fair.

It was, by no means, a high-powered affair. Wednesday's heavy rains forced me to walk to the car: I'd left a window open because of the heat. I never returned. But in more than an hour, circulating and sitting to eat, I sniffed nothing secretive; nobody was asked for money. The candidates may have been preaching to the choir; I can't say that. I don't know.

Mike Cady laid out what he called "repeated dissemination of misinformation, a list drawn from the local newspaper." Mr. Cady and I know each other, through politics. I've sometimes wanted to kick him in the rear for pig-headedness, especially on issues upon which we disagree. But he has given no reason for me to think he lies or twists the facts.

His list of five items struck me as important enough to ask for a copy. The first point I verified separately, it figured in a recent column, even citing county chief planner Jim Gugel, as quoted in the News-Post.

Here are the Cady notes:

"'County Commissioners approved 14,000 new homes in the New Market Region Plan.' "

"Not so," Mr. Cady said, "and I quote Jim Gugel: 'The 1993 plan allowed the potential for 16,850 homes, with about 4,900 of them built by 2005.' "

Mr. Cady again: "I'm not sure where he got those numbers, but I am willing to accept them. Mr. Gugel went on to say, 'Since then the commissioners approved a Plan (2006) that resulted in a net decline of about 400 residential acres ensuring the New Market area will not go higher than the remaining 11,950 units from the 1993 Plan."

"Thus," Mr. Cady continued, "the true number of new homes is between 0 and my estimated 357 units. Last Mr. Gugel stated, 'If anything, we are going to be less than that. 14,000 is not accurate.' "

2. "For a resident to benefit from the 93.6 Constant Yield rate, the property must be assessed at a minimum of $600,000."

Mr. Cady: "This was stated by Ms. Gardner and reported by the media.

"Again, not so. Last year, we gave a $100 tax credit that applied to all residential property and was eliminated with the adoption of the Constant Yield Rate. Thus, if a property is assessed at $200,000, their new county property tax with be $1,872 (at the 93.6 rate) versus $1,900 compared to last year (at the $1 rate less the $100 tax rate).

3. " 'Our schools are becoming more overcrowded as a result of new developments' - a statement made by all of the 'no growth, anti-business' advocates.

"Not so," Mr. Cady rebutted. "In the last four years, the county approved less residential permits than in any four-year period preceding it since 1982 and, at the same time, built 3 new classroom seats for every new student to (cq) our public school system. (Report from the BOE states that 4,744 seats were added while only 1,619 new students were enrolled in the last four years.)"

4. " 'School teachers received a 4.5% pay increase' - another erroneous error figure reported by the media.

"Not so, the actual number is 8% (4.5% COLA plus 3.5% step increase."

5. " 'Development does not pay for itself' - Stated time and again.

"Not so, last year the county paid all its bills with the revenue received and had $41.1 million left over. In the past four years, the county's surpluses totaled in excess of $100 million. My estimate is that every house built in Frederick County and sold for more than $250,000 pays a disproportionate share of the tax burden than homes assessed at a lesser value. Thus, since nearly all new residential units sell for more than $250,000, development essentially pays for itself. Add to this operating budget analysis the fact that new development pays a variety of fees totaling up to $30,000 per residential unit, new development absolutely pays for itself."

As I said, Mike Cady has given me no reason to doubt his integrity or his accuracy. Given the arguments he presents it would seem the public interest would be better served if his critics settled down to provide counterarguments. His list strikes me as demolishing the case for labeling the present board as pro-developer and pro-rapid growth.

Too bad neither Ms. Gardner nor Mr. Thompson showed up for Mr. Gladhill's Truth Among the Tractors Wednesday night, one of them might have been able to set the crowd "straight." Knowing well in advance, certainly before I did, both commissioners could have been on hand.

Left unanswered, in specific terms, Mike Cady's list does, in fact, brand Jan Gardner and Lennie Thompson as playing fast and loose with the truth. But that's what demagogues do.



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