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Monday, October 5, 2009

City of Frederick, Md. Election Potpourri

George Wenschhof

The local Republican Central Committee tried to add a little excitement a week ago to a very boring election by pointing out the connection Democratic candidate for mayor; Jason Judd had with a union and then attempting to tie him to ACORN. As I wrote last week, Mr. Judd has spent his time since his college studies working for the SEIU and the SEIU has performed some community based work with ACORN. So ok, what's next?

I asked Jason in a telephone conversation last week what his position was on the Employees Free Choice Act (also known as the card check bill) which is currently on the back burner in Congress due to the attention being given to health care reform. He basically felt it had little to do with the mayor's role. I advised him he should work a little on his answer as Republicans will be interested in his position to this controversial bill pertaining to the way employees can form a union.

Personally, I feel employees have the right to form a union should they decide to do so in an allowable manner and a mayor should not intervene. I support keeping the vote to do so by employees secret as is the common practice of voting in elections in our country.

In the same conversation, I asked him if he had signed the petition being circulated calling for the three recent annexations approved by the city to go to a referendum for the voters to decide. Judd said he had signed the petition and would be issuing a campaign statement today or tomorrow.

As I indicated in my column last Monday, four of the five Democratic alderman candidates have expressed their approval of some or all of the annexations so his statement will be scrutinized closely by the voters.

Unfortunately, the annexation issue has escalated into a battle over who (city, county, state) has, or should have, the final say on these annexations.

It appears the Frederick County Commissioners unanimously feel the Thatcher and Crum farm annexations are premature and the City of Frederick did not put forth a good will effort to negotiate with them prior to their approval to bring the farms into the city limits.

Commissioner Kai Hagen (D), who is also a big Judd supporter, has lent his support to a effort to obtain the necessary signatures of 20% of the city registered voters to force the issue to a referendum. Approximately 6,400 verified signatures will be needed to force the issue to a vote.

Mayor Jeff Holtzinger (R), who is not running for reelection, has responded with sending a letter to city voters asking they not sign the petition, saying it was organized by non city residents and was also misleading. You can read the city news release here.

Unfortunately, Holtzinger did not take this action to a mayor and board meeting for discussion and a vote. He added the names of three of the five aldermen to the letter and failed to disclose to the voters the cost of mailing the letter on official City of Frederick letterhead was paid for by the developers who stand to benefit from the annexations.

The county responded by adding a city annexation page to their website which explains their position on this volatile issue. You can read it here.

During the annual "In the Streets" celebration on Saturday, I ran into several of the candidates and found it somewhat humorous the booths for the City of Frederick and Friends of Frederick County (which is supporting the petition drive) were side by side on the street next to the local Democratic Party booth.

I spoke to Mayor Holtzinger briefly and it was obvious he was not a bit pleased with the effort to force their decision to a vote. I expressed I understood city officials sending a letter to the registered voters expressing their position on the issue, but felt he should have disclosed who paid for it and I would have preferred an approval being obtained in a mayor and board meeting prior to mailing the letters.

Commissioner Hagen indicated he did not know the number of signatures they had obtained, but others offered me a number around 3,500. The deadline is October 18 to obtain the necessary signatures.

Later in the day, I ran into Frederick County Board President Jan Garner who expressed her dissatisfaction with the city moving forward on these annexations. She told me the county commissioners had discussed their concerns with the city for some time prior to their vote to approve and that many issues pertaining to who would build the required US 15 interchange, school overcrowding and fire and rescue issues were never answered.

I saw the Republican candidate for Mayor; Randy McClement on several occasions throughout the day, but we did not discuss politics. He indicated to me early in the morning as I was getting my coffee, he was coordinating the event and had decided not to personally get involved in political discussions as he felt it was not appropriate. However, he assured me his volunteers would be out and about with T-Shirts and Brochures. I respect him for that decision. However, I was unable to ask him his position on the annexations.

Perhaps this issue will awaken the voters from their slumber and the less than 18% voter turnout in the primary will be eclipsed several times over. Sadly, I doubt this will happen.

Stay Tuned....


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