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The Tentacle


July 16, 2010

The Commissionersí Final Whirlwind

Roy Meachum

In this Board of County Commissioners’ swan songs there is a frenzy to get done items postponed and neglected in the past.

 

With board President Jan Gardner’s declining to put her fate in voters’ hands, and John “Lennie” Thompson running for a delegate’s chair, the other two elected commissioners rightly feel the tremors from the very frustrated electorate.

 

The current elections’ odds-on favorite, Blaine Young, was appointed to a Winchester Hall office. His feelings against incumbents Kai Hagen and David Gray are on the public record, another way of saying his three-hour WFMD radio talk show. He has voted to match his mouth, frequently being the single voice against a measure proposed by the board president or her two explicit supporters, the aforementioned Mr. Hagen and Mr. Gray.

 

Unlike Mr. Thompson, Blaine has no reputation for being opposed to all development.

 

Tuesday Commissioner Young, a former city alderman, withheld his approval of mailing out notices about the so-called “big red road;” the color taken from city printed plan, which, as Mr. Young pointed out, may never be constructed. Ms. Gardner doesn’t want property owners surprised – if and when.

 

The radio host – on leave because he’s running for election – goes along, but only up to the point that it costs money; he projects the concern that funds for the mailing should be used for more pragmatic causes. But then, Mr. Young was alone in his denouncement of his fellow commissioners donating to their favorite charities money unused in their expense accounts. Going into office, he announced he would take no reimbursement for charges incurred in going about his public duties.

 

For unequal balance, Ms. Gardner could cite the $23,000 bill given to City Hall. The levy is justified, in the commissioners’ mind, from the costs of recently mailing out Frederick’s property taxes. The county’s tab obviously caught Mayor Randy McClement and the Board of Aldermen by surprise.

 

In the first place, this city and the county’s municipalities were accustomed to having Winchester Hall handle the billing, collection and flushing out tax scofflaws. Local residents assumed that was a service provided for their hefty county taxes already paid. His Honor and the entire Board of Aldermen wrote letters to the News-Post vehemently protesting city programs and activities not included in the mailing.

 

In this regard, there was confusion. TheTentacle.com editor understood a high-ranking Frederick official as saying the list was the sole city services furnished to Winchester Hall. An alderman countered the same official provided to the board the entire spectrum of municipally funded projects, which were missing from the tax-bill mailing. It may have been this confusion that triggered Mayor McClement’s letter and Tuesday’s front page Frederick News-Post story.

 

It’s perfectly understandable that in this era of disappearing governmental money, Ms. Gardner and her two board supporters would try to bill everything and everyone they reasonably can. However, Frederick County’s cities and towns face a similar shortage. This is a clear case of unfair taxation – made worse by the fact that three commissioners have sat on the board for multiple terms; they raised no fiscal reservations earlier. Mr. Hagan was elected in 2006, which is still long enough for him to understand that every dollar spent must be recovered.

 

The president and Mr. Gray – last election’s top vote-getter among the Republican majority – were content in exchange for onerous taxes paid by residents living in legally recognized communities. They were joined by the elected freshman Kai Hagen in demanding repayment from all the incorporated places in the county.

 

“Why so long?” springs up as a legitimate question, which will be never answered. We will never know, not really, the various motives behind a whirlwind of county official moves, which altogether are reminiscent of a whirlwind, intended to leave behind the image of this particular Board of County Commissioners.

 

Frederick City taxpayers have very strong reason to thank Blaine Young’s conscience and the guts to do what he thinks right.

 



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