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June 22, 2005

A Certain Sameness

Alan Imhoff

With the official announcement and filing for mayor of the City of Frederick by former Mayor Ron Young, let the fun begin. It would seem from recent news articles that he is the only one running, at least by the number of column inches and photographs leading up to and during this prolonged period of "announcing." From some viewpoints one would wonder if there is another race for mayor, besides that of the Democrats.

But it will be an interesting summer leading up to the party primaries in September; who knows, even the Green Party may get a candidate on the ballot for November.

As of now, both state parties have indicated that this race for mayor - and hopefully some will remember that five aldermen need to be elected as well - is crucial to their respective party. Money and resources will flow from Annapolis and Baltimore (or wherever the party headquarters are) throughout both the primary and general election periods. Over four months of "point - counterpoint," "tit for tat" and one-upmanship in newspaper ads, phone calls, and television, we will be subjected to outside professional advice of what we need here in Frederick city.

Former Mayor Young has skillfully used the pre-announcement and announcements to full advantage. What remains to be seen is how the local media will treat this campaign. The regional media (Baltimore and Washington) will almost assuredly focus exclusively on the Democratic mayoral campaign, leaving the Republican Party race for mayor - yes, there is one - in the dust.

Even during less controversial years in the race for mayor, aldermanic candidates seem to draw less attention; theoretically they could control the future of the city if four were elected with the same goals. This super-majority could easily override a mayoral veto, pass their budget and set priorities the mayor would need to follow. But no one believes that is possible, or could it?

There have been some rumors to the effect that in this election "slates" might be formed. Coalitions of candidates within a party or even across party lines would be forged to affect a certain outcome.

One rumor is that the current mayor is reaching into the Neighborhood Advisory Councils for like-minded individuals to run for alderman. Another is that the former mayor is casting about in both parties for former associates to join his bandwagon of reform, a sort of "back to the future" coalition.

Whether these rumors are true or not, the summer should heat up to an interesting conclusion on all counts. I am sure there will be a last minute flurry of activity just prior to the August 1 filing deadline as more individuals place their "hats in the ring" - the history of that phrase escapes me at the moment. And as they proliferate, the differences between them will homogenize.

Everyone will be saying the same things only crafting their messages in somewhat similar phrases, so how will we differentiate? Length of residency in the city? Service on boards or commissions? Community service? Color of hair?

Quite frankly there are no minimum requirements for either mayor or alderman other than being a registered voter and residing within the city limits within one year of election. Which means we get what we ask for.

So what, you may ask. The voters will decide.

As I have pointed out before here on The Tentacle, actually very few voters make the choices all residents must live with during this election process. About one third of each of the two main parties' registered voters bothered to turn out to choose their respective candidates in the primary four years ago. All other parties and the "undeclared" voters are prohibited from participating. As a footnote, "undeclared" voters are even prohibited from serving as election judges in city elections, so much for fair and equitable.

Then, at general election time, only about one-third of the entire eligible registered voters cast their ballot. So, we have individual candidates chosen by minorities in their respective parties, then elected by a minority of all voters, and all candidates that win have been chosen by a system that has no minimum requirements for office.

So why complain about what type of government we have?

So, what can we expect for the next five months or so?

The 2005 city elections will evolve around the race between the current mayor and a former mayor, everyone else will be lost in the dust until September. Then, all of a sudden, 11 other people will emerge on the ballot, maybe 12 if the Green party is successful in its petition drive.

By then everyone will have practiced their speeches in which they have changed their phrases to all sound alike. They will all emphasize the same priorities and how well they will do their best to achieve them for you. And now you must make a choice, so if you are part of the one third who cares enough about the next four years maybe the color of ones hair is not such a bad requirement for making a choice.

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