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The Tentacle


September 28, 2006

Hold Their Feet to the Fire

John W. Ashbury

Perhaps it is unwise to criticize those who offer their opinions on continuing issues before the public. However, it is entirely frustrating to hear local pundits pass judgment when their rhetoric demonstrates their total lack of knowledge of the subject matter.

The local media - including The Tentacle - is sometimes rift with inaccuracies and just plan falsehoods. (We try to avoid them here as best we can.) This problem extends to every subject and comes from every perspective.

Just recently one local "expert" allowed as how the next Board of County commissioners has to rein in the explosive residential growth - with draconian measures if necessary. In public pronouncements before and since, he is supporting the "slow," "no," "managed" growth crowd at "the November 8 General Election," to quote him.

Almost in the next breath he pointed to statistics which show that new housing starts have declined at least 10 percent in each of the past two years nationwide, with the same or greater decline expected this year. Next he said that if interest rates continue to rise, buyers will begin to lose money on their new homes because inflation and interest payments will exceed any increased value they might realize.

He didn't bother to correlate the two positions at all. He doesn't seem to understand that in a major way the reversals in the housing economy will have a significant impact on the construction of new houses throughout Frederick County.

It is possible that the next Board of County Commissioners won't have to do anything at all to slow residential housing growth.

In a recent conversation, a major local builder - one who builds about 150 houses a year - said he had not sold a single new property in nearly a year.

Another commentator continues to cast aspersions on the leadership of Frederick Countians for Real Republicans Political Action Committee for what she perceives as deception and dishonesty in its legally required financial reporting, leaving the impression that they have done something wrong.

The deadline for filing the first report after the committee was formed was September 1; and it was filed in a timely manner. The cutoff date for contributions and expenditures to be reported was August 25.

She is upset because the Real Republicans PAC reported contributions of only $200 and no expenditures. Yet, as all who received the mailings and read the ads in The Frederick News Post know full well, the committee has received a lot more than $200. However, those came in after the August 25 cutoff date.

What's wrong with this picture? Is the commentator just disappointed that more information was not available? Does she truly believe that the leadership of Real Republicans did something wrong? Or is she just upset that she wasn't included in the loop?

According to Stuart Harvey, of the local elections board, the Real Republicans PAC is following the rules to the letter. He should expect a full accounting within the confines of the law when the next report is due - on October 27, just 10 days before the General Election.

It seems in this corner that too many candidates for county commissioner are preying on the fears and anger of a lot of residents over the growth issue. They are being dishonest with the electorate because they aren't discussing publicly just what they plan to do. And the pundits are letting them get away with it.

One such pundit says that the town of New Market can't handle all the growth allowed in the New Market Regional Plan. Well, gee, now that's a surprise. He doesn't seem to realize that the New Market Region Plan covers an area from west of New Market all the way to Mount Airy and south toward Urbana, and north toward Walkersville. The Town of New Market will not grow because of this region plan - it's a municipality, for goodness sake.

One reason for this lack of political brass from the commentators is their own political agenda. Few of them are honest enough to point out the consequences of draconian measures to "control" growth. The major cost is likely to be an increase in taxes on everyone.

Over the past several years, the commissioners have relied more and more on revenues generated by residential growth. As Bill Brosius pointed out in a column in The Frederick News Post a couple of weeks ago, a contractor has to pay the county nearly $50,000 before a building permit will be issued.

More than $10,000 of that is a school impact fee, which is dedicated to the retirement of debt service on bonds sold to build school projects.

Right now, the county needs to issue between 1300 and 1500 permits for new houses each year to keep pace with the debt already incurred. It doesn't count any new debt that the school system will demand be incurred to "accommodate" its "growth."

So, if the money isn't generated by new homes, the commissioners will have to find another source. And with the bunch likely to be elected on November 7, the general fund is a probable target. And these funds are mostly generated by property and income taxes.

The pro-growth candidates, likely to form a minority on the next board, are avoiding talking about the "intended" consequences being spouted by the "no," "slow," "managed" growth candidates.

And the commentators are letting both factions get away with it. And that's a disgrace.



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