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The Growth Machine Slate

July 12, 2006

by Jack Lynch

The battle for the soul of the Frederick Republican party has begun and some of the territory is familiar, the usual suspects are property rights, not your property mind you, just the property of a select close circle of friends and financial supporters. 

Between the revived Defenders, the Chamber, and the new developers Alliance and PAC, you can expect tons of money to be showered along with a spotlight of media attention on the chosen few of the candidates who speak softly and carry, like a Brezhnev Russian nesting doll (matryoshka), a bomb behind their back for the adequate public facilities ordinance (APFO) and better comprehensive planning.

Count Charles Jenkins and Billy Shreve as those top contenders, along with Cady and Lovell.  Shreve, with the clean cut youthful look and the spin about affordable housing, as if thousands of new homes priced around $400,000 would help the issue, regardless of his noble Habitat for Humanity efforts, is selling spring water in a bottle on social issues, when really the growth wolf awaits to pounce. 

Shreve stated on Cable 10’s Pressing Issues show that we’d suffered through twelve years of ‘no-growth’ Commissioner boards – what?  You’ve got to be kidding?  Two thousand homes averaged per year since at least 1990.  The Reeder and Hoke years were lacking growth?  Is this a joke, or do you truly believe in sheer public stupidity and apathy?

Shreve’s support of farmer and property rights is a subterfuge of his basic belief that they should be able to rezone and develop their land at will, even against the Frederick County Comprehensive Plan and citizen protest.  Arguing that retiring farmers need to sell out is a subterfuge - they bought their land as farmland, they lived off it, changing land uses for big profits is not an individual right, it is a decision about community needs.

Jenkins (Charles, not Chuck) is another darling of the home building crowd.  His time on development and  Realtor organizations count him clearly, along with his previous statements, as a Shreve without the sheep’s clothing.  In 2002 while running for the BOCC he said that  "Most (issues regarding) where houses are going to be built are decided by the planning commission" instead of the commissioners."  (Frederick News Post, 7/11/02) and that he wanted to see more growth and development.  "Obviously they have done things in the county that have not made it favorable for us and others to build," he said.  That points to a growth philosophy that's out of bounds.

The Growth Machine slate can be identified by the selection of featured candidates for the Cady campaign event at Gladhill Tractor:  Cady, Lovell, Jenkins and Shreve.  Apparently the other ten Republicans don’t rate on the political payback and investment schedule. 

But there is a growing dissatisfaction with all things impacting the general public, and you can find beneath the surface of the party, big names and familiar faces that truly don’t toe that line and who appear to sense the lid coming off the public as the waters boil over on growth issues. 

A couple of these growth skeptics are clearly Republican Central Committee leaders.  They acknowledge that infrastructure and quality of life concerns are real, and they disparage the life they envision and have lived in Frederick County.  Not that they’d lose any of their other core Republican beliefs, they simply read the public mood as they see their own interests.  They point to the New Market Regional Plan as an abrogation of the public interest. 

Some of the concern seems to be emerging from leaders in public safety and response, it seems to be why Mickey Fyock is running for Commissioner with growth concerns.  After all, when all these new Washington commuter homes are built across the landscape, who is going to man the fire engines and ambulances?  It won’t be those workers who spend the workday a couple hours drive from home.  It won’t be the soccer moms.

Lulie is another strong good growth candidate, though his writings point to his otherwise partisan stridency.  But he is a good friend and long time supporter of David Gray, and that wins him points.  We can expect he may speak his mind in ways that most of the rest will avoid, which could prove fruitful to the overall outcome.

What of Joan McIntyre?  Her Planning Commission status leaves her questionable on growth, though school issues seem to move her, and her acquiescence to Cady over the past four years on New Market planning is a high negative, and yet, she might actually be one of the more middle road and reasonable players in the game.  Does she have a chance to emerge against the slate of the Growth Machine?

 

 

 

 

Growing pockets of citizen activism on growth and planning throughout the county leaves everyone hopeful for a positive citizen outcome in the election.  The Mt Airy election uprising, the Thurmont annexation stirrings, the Urbana power line opposition, and the New Market plan buzz all work to keep the heat on the machine.  But will those few core Republican primary voters respond, that’s the million dollar question.

Even the Governor acknowledged at the Weinberg Monday that growth would be leading the next decade of challenge and controversy, ‘We get it’ he said.  Let’s hope that he truly does and that the state’s influence flows down to better manage our unbridled local growth machine.  But he’s likely talking through his hat, adding to the smokescreen, for he backed the state off intervention in the New Market plan, and he has plenty of money and support here from development interests.  Cady sat at his side on stage left, and Blaine Young was emcee, they represent much of his political vision.

The future of Frederick County is in the hands of Republican primary voters.  If they vote for more than two Growth Machine candidates, a majority growth board will likely continue to hold sway.  If they rise to the issue and vote for the good growth candidates, then those folks will likely join the slower growth Democrats in a majority.

But in the meantime, we still face more quick challenges of the APFO, as development interests are seeking to have schools testing extended over fifteen years, and to not even apply to developments of fewer than fifty individual homes.

A decision on the Smith-Cline property in the New Market region is still due – and why should anyone feel confident that any argument or facts will stop three hands from rising for it?  It’s like a great land grab before the big election vote, attack after attack upon the APFO statute, and campaign contributions after every decision in developers favor. 

They should fear they’ll lose the election unless they pump out enough smokescreen and plant enough money into their Growth Machine to defraud voters in the way they did the last time around on growth.