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Jack Lynch, Editor
Note: Commentary and viewpoints on this website are the sole opinions of the writers and do not represent in any way any organizations of which they may belong, promote, or by which they are employed.
June 9, 2009
Note: Commentary by Jack Lynch is his personal opinion, and not the views of any campaign, or to be attributed to those he supports, particularly at this juncture: Jennifer Dougherty for Mayor.
Is This the End of Frederick Smart Growth?
The City of Frederick represents the political end game in the implementation of smart growth policy in Frederick County, yet the advocates and adherents have potentially been fractured by failure to gain traction and build the broad coalition of public force that could remake the City’s Comprehensive Planning process.
Successful county elections and planning and policy realignment coalesced between 2004 and 2006 with a helping hand of public disdain for intransigent growth politicians, and a firm relationship with existing political powers who yearned for their visible support for saner growth management policies – those plans are being confirmed now, and the zoning regulation will follow, before the big question of who will likely be seated on the next Board of County Commissioners is decided.
Pivotal to any municipal change, and the next county board, are the fates of Commissioner Kai Hagen and the campaigns to moderate municipal growth plans, not only in the City of Frederick, but recently failed in elections for the town of New Market, which is highly symbolic due to the focus that region received in county planning during the recent timelines and the noteworthy success in drawing back growth scenarios there.
While I am hopeful, and support his efforts to garner support against city growth plans, I fear that he will be unsuccessful, and that even his own future is compromised in the county, certainly a view quite contrary and unassailable to his own measure of his prospects.
Hagen imagines he will have the prime seat on the next board. And while the development furor is stilled by the economy, the knives are already drawn and awaiting blood on the side of his faithful opponents. You can expect Billy Shreve, Joan McIntyre and Farrell Keough to consider serious attempts to defeat Hagen and any like minded slate this time around, as well as to run their own campaigns for Frederick County office.
Beyond the City challenge and Hagen’s support for Jason Judd for Mayor, he has little clear support in the City, has not worked the territory or even learned the politics, his likewise advisor to Judd, Ron Young, represents the worst political pandering for smart growth in the City anyone has ever seen.
Having attempted a candidacy for Mayor myself, I can assure you that neither man seriously attempted to consult or consider my run for office, and I am today the only person who has presented any concept or plan towards a better future for City smart growth other than simple election pandering, and most candidates do not even bother with that - because it has not been made the defining central issue in the City that it was in the county.
To be fair, there are certainly many other factors in deciding such political support, but their process was wrong. I’m not fighting that now, as the ideas were always primary to anything I worked towards, and remain so.
To also be fair, I see no prevailing advocacy or outspokenness on the part of Jason Judd to stand up for anything that those of us in the growth and environmental community have struggled to accomplish in Frederick for at least eight years.
Judd supporters would have you believe that he is a 'made man', sparkling in endorsements and living off the steriods they pump into Roy Meachum to churn out Juddite puff press and his usual male vitriol. I see Young's disingenuous hand in it.
Like most political pretenders, Judd serves up only weak pandering towards his own unlikely election. It is even leaving some with a severe case of candidipause or politicopause, hot flashes to run for the office themselves.
Worse in my view, the potential coalition of forces that might have made City planning turn around and reconsider itself may indeed have been split by Hagen’s choices and self absorption. While he has succeeded to a degree, it was never without a shrug from the broader smart growth leadership of local groups – Hagen could be both loved and hated in turn, but he had to be acknowledged and considered. Now, one must wonder if that coattail will be maintained or left sidelined by the next elections in the county.
The City of Frederick appears resolute in growing northward and along the Monocacy River as suggested by its Comprehensive Plan and growth boundaries, the county can delay the zoning, but not stop the annexations, Hagen notwithstanding.
Neither planning process, economic argument, environmental features, nor sheer political audacity swayed City officials from their deliberate headlong rush towards a city that buys into the growth myths and spoon feeds higher costs to residents for development interests. This is the true legacy of Mayor Holtzinger and the current board.
Wisdom would have dictated building a stronger connection between the river and citizen advocacy as a wedge issue, it has not been done. But it might have been listened to by the elected officials in time, at least against the current contiguous properties, and the crossing of the river in the future.
Count New Market strike one, if Judd loses in the City, it’s strike two for certain. Hagen’s big battles, waste to energy, and annexations, are a mixed bag, even in losing, he earns support from his supporters, but his detractors gain as well – where will the next pitch come from, and how it will all play out remains to be seen. Two out in the eighth inning, with one more to go. I’m rooting for the home team, but not betting on it to win. I'll be the guy downtown with a Washington Senators baseball cap on, watching the scoreboard.
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