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Jack Lynch, Editor
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The Next Mayor of Frederick
February 26, 2008
by Jack Lynch
The position of Mayor in the City of Frederick is uniquely positioned towards real community leadership, and that role needs to reemerge in both symbolic fashion and on the ground. It should exist as a position of vision, publicity, boosterism in a good sense for local business and downtown, and most importantly as an advocate for the interest of citizens and their voice in the governmental process.
I am not disregarding the strengths and person of the current Mayor Holtzinger, he is a good guy in many ways, but he has demonstrated that his administration was the lull in the vision and promotion, a nadir of the past administration of Grimes, and a middle ground until a new vision could arise and lead us out of the acrimony of the previous administration, and the bitterly lost election.
The rushed accomplishments of that leadership have come back to haunt the City, through the Comprehensive Plan that ignored residents input and the Land Management Code that failed to do any more than blindly support the building density sought by the Comp Plan, and which was then further burdened by a mad rush to amend it in a gross, extraordinary effort, all at the last moment, vote called, done deal. Bad effects have ensued.
The process was broken, and now the process impedes progress and harmony.
The vision that should compel the next set of candidates is the management of growth and the revisioning of the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Government must return to determining its growth patterns by looking at growth in the manner of a business transaction, it is a cost analysis of supplying infrastructure and services against the tax and employment revenues generated. Then there are the softer terms of growth, the way in which land use determines the quality of life.
Starting out from a broken picture of traffic and schools and impending costs is not the point at which good growth decisions get made. The pressures of the planning process and planning vision, couples with the Board’s lack of experience in analyzing the growth proposals is not the means to good decision making. The limitation of citizen inputs is not the direction of progressive government.
We need a Mayor that will say to developers, don’t come to us to sell your concepts, take it to the community and come back when they understand what you propose and feel comfortable with your plans. Then we’ll talk. Recent efforts to make the Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) review process a matter of real substance when it is still possible to pursue changes in plans is a good first step. It is a long turnaround from the initial days when this administration wanted to kill off the citizen NAC’s.
I have not explored the legal aspects of doing so, but there should be a primary process that comes before the professional planning staff delves too deeply into developer plans, before the planning commission approves a site plan or subdivision, before an annexation is considered by the board – it should be a citizen based analysis of the proposals prior to any other reviews, with the greatest power to affirm or deny a proposals prospects, much as the California Coastal Commission rules over any development proposals on their coastline.
Call it the draconian power of the people, but is that not real democracy? Let the orators debate before the citizens, as in the Greek model, and while a Socrates may die once in awhile, believe in the spirit of the community to guide the future again.
For despite all the names called, the attempts to paint some of us as anti-growth, that is merely a power base attempting to disenfranchise the community voices. Go to a meeting at City Hall and watch how the land use attorneys and developers, paid to influence power, rule the day. The process has been geared to empower them, and to promote development and growth without any reflexive thought.
Citizens however, know that when growth comes in a good manner, they benefit, they like the outcomes. But that has happened so rarely, they have almost conceded the battle to the forces of those paid advocates in City Hall and the compliance of the boards and representatives whose choices are limited by the process.
It is time for a real change. The City is at a turning point and cannot delay recreating its growth vision. The community of Frederick City is in a growth crisis with the pending Comp Plan and the massive scale and impacts projected for the northern annexations coming to its plate.
There is a Chinese symbol for crisis, it is composed of two divergent outcomes, danger and opportunity. Citizens need to stand up and embrace the crisis and insure that the opportunity emerges to build a better future. Part of that will be finding the right voice of citizens to be the next Mayor of the City.
Check Out a lively and progressive Frederick political blog : Air It Out with George. I've recently begun posting blogs there