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The Tentacle


July 25, 2008

All the City Government Goofed

Roy Meachum

Fortunately for me, the state of county and city remained tranquil for months; only minor whoopdeedos. County Commissioner President Jan Gardner deserves praise for her good job keeping John "Lennie" Thompson from mucking up the public order. And that's great news.

 

Frederick Mayor Jeff Holtzinger mostly contends with aldermen who want to take his office; they can be counted on putting their oar in any water that comes along. After the four years of turbulent hell citizens suffered under his predecessor, pins can be actually heard throughout the old county courthouse building. Some of my peers objected. Their basic gripe?

 

Compared to Jennifer Dougherty's regime, information flow from the handsome Civil War red-brick structure dropped to a trickle. His Honor went about the business of doing the city's job with little public agonizing and no profligate sweating. Maybe that's the existential difficulty he now faces.

 

Mayor Holtzinger is not a politician who welcomes public participation from the get-go. The trait permits all kinds of second-guessing, from the public as well as elected officials. What someone inside City Hall knows and when he learned it has become the latest version of skipping rope. In-out, in-out.

 

Now it's here; now it's there.

 

Loading up all sorts of charity, I'm hard-pressed to believe this mayor would shove anything major – like the senior employee buy-out plan – without trotting it past the Board of Aldermen. I'm reminded of the wonderful Nash cartoon that shows Tammany Hall cronies in a circle pointing at the next guy. Obviously, they're saying “not me.”

 

The buy-out program is large and ambitious; especially when it offers freshly retired executives their old offices back, even with vastly reduced salary. That's the straw stuck in the craw of various people. Getting two years pay and all the jobs' benefits, what sense does it make to hire people with such heavy pockets jingling?

 

Frankly, my dears, I don't know.

 

The upper reaches of financial mathematics seem highly exotic to anyone with a writer's turn of mind. Elected and non-officials are paid to understand all that. What might be cockeyed to me, an expert can understand very clearly. My mind is currently given to writing the book and trying to explain why Portuguese might be the result of mixing Spanish with Ostra Gothic language. Few people seem to want go there.

 

When it comes to the proposed and partially implemented buy-out, the bugs should have been fixed long ago. While the proposal may have been certified by senior bureaucrats, the ultimate responsibility belongs to those who plead for our votes. The aldermen's total official charge is watching out for the people's interest.

 

Certainly there were leaks long before the proposal saw the light of day; the details were generally known. Why didn't elected officials, or employees paid to mind our money, not speak out. They could have said before the program was implemented: Stop! We don't understand!

 

The other thought is very unworthy of everyone involved in the process; their numbers also encompass my peers and colleagues in the media who have the specific charge to watchdog local government. That responsibility once belonged to me. During the 20 years I was a three-times-a-week columnist on The Frederick News-Post, my main charge was the scene in Frederick, city or county. Writing for TheTentacle.com my horizon is much broader.

 

I am totally unwilling to call for the mayor's head on an antique pole; I'm equally loathe to blame the people directly involved in the buy-out program. They may be too close to see the flaws. It's possible.

 

Some of Jeff Holtzinger's critics certainly have other agendas. If this fall's congressional election turns out in the incumbent's favor, Jennifer Dougherty becomes available next year for her old job. She was a one-term mayor.

 

Ms. Dougherty, her family and her backers still think sexism did her in. Former Mayor Ron Young, her opponent in the primaries, may have contributed. In the outlook of the Dougherty clan, she was sent home because the community simply doesn't like strong, smart women. They ignore Beverly Byron, Anita Stup, Fran Baker and the slew of other ladies elected more than a single time.

 

As I observed in a column more than 10 years back, there is a pack of female politicians banded together to take over local politics. God bless 'em. It is this coalition that leads attacks against Jeff Holtzinger.

 

Personal plumbing should have absolutely nothing to do with sitting in the county's and city's power chairs. Undiscerning about gender, I have supported across the board, Democrats and Republicans, men and women – including Jennifer Dougherty in her first race for City Hall.

 



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