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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hagen Wrong Choice for "Envision Frederick County"

George Wenschhof

I could not help but feel skeptical as I watched the roll-out of "Envision Frederick County". The early January 2011 announcement followed the thumping "no-growth" county commissioner candidates, led by Commissioner Kai Hagen, received at the polls in November 2010.

The announced purpose of "Envision Frederick County" found on their facebook page states the following:

Envision Frederick County was founded on the principle that informed public discourse and active engagement of individuals and groups in our civic life is essential to our well-being and prosperity. We are dedicated to enhancing the social, economic and environmental vitality of our community. To that end, we employ a broad range of strategies, tools and programs to promote effective and accountable government, sustainable environmental and economic policy, and quality planning for long term growth and development.

The listed nine member Board of Directors are Judith Elizabeth Bauer, Steve Chafitz, Patrice Ann Gallagher, John Edwin Hinde, Ellen Kreis, James R. Racheff, Fred Ugast, Aaron Anthony Valentino and Robert White.

A noble purpose, with an impressive nonpartisan board of directors.

Yet, it appeared, at first blush, the creation of this nonprofit, would serve two immediate purposes; both aimed at benefiting Kai Hagen. One was the naming of Hagen as Executive director and the other was the announcement that funds would be raised to pay him an annual salary of Fifty Thousand.

As the newly named executive director, Hagen would be able to keep his name in the media, as he plotted strategy on how to return to elected office, receiving a paycheck as he did so.

A return to "Friends of Frederick", where Hagen got his start in local politics, was not possible as their executive director position was already filled by Janice Wiles. Wiles, was another of the "no-growth" candidates who lost in the 2010 election.

I hoped my initial thoughts would be wrong as the stated intent of the newly formed organization was one which is needed in Frederick County.

Unfortunately, my fears were correct, as Hagen has used his position to constantly objected to actions by the new all Republican Board of Commissioners, led by "pro-growth" advocate and Rush Limbaugh wannabee talk show host; Blaine Young.

In a January 1, 2011 article in The Gazette written by Katherine Heerbrandt, she wrote; "One thing they will not do, said Hagen, is raise money for political candidates, act as a pool for potential candidates, or make endorsements in elections".

Yet, in a recent column appearing in The Gazette, written by Sherry Greenfield on June 2, 2011, Hagen speaks about the hours he spent collecting signatures for a petition to force a special election for the members of the "Charter Writing Board" appointed by the Board of County Commissioners.

Making one question whether "Envision Frederick County" should have been registered as a political action committee as opposed to a non profit.

Objections to the actions taken to date by the newly sworn in commissioners are desperately needed, but Kai Hagen is not the one to voice them at the moment.

In a recent conversation with a group of local Democratic Party activists, one woman, who has been involved in politics for many years, said "Hagen was like waving a red flag to Republicans" – I agree.

Leading me to to opine Hagen is the wrong choice for "Envision Frederick County".

The intent of the organization is a noble one and one the community should support as Frederick County residents deserve a reasonable voice when examining the past, dealing with the present and planning for the future.

I trust the "Envision Frederick County" board of directors understand their newly formed organization is more important than one person. Reconsideration is needed in who will be their executive director tasked with implementing their goals.

It has been said the board of directors were handpicked by Hagen – This may be true, but they strike me as a group of independent thinkers who are capable of seeing that Hagen is not a good fit for this new local nonprofit.

Hagen should not wait for the board to act but should resign, to take time to reflect and renew before reentering the local political scene.

I voted for Kai Hagen in the 2006 election which he won. Over the next four years, his actions lost my support when he ran for reelection in 2010.

Kai showed he never learned the difference between activism and governing. Activism brings attention to an issue whereas governing is where consensus must be reached and decisions are made.

Hagen never learned the importance of obtaining two additional votes on the five member board of county commissioners and failed miserably when he was on the right side of the issue opposing the construction of a costly incinerator to handle Frederick county waste disposal.

He never articulated a reasonable alternative and consequently was unable to obtain a single additional vote from the board members.

Hagen has tremendous talent and a good mind. He would be well advised to take a break from local politics and take time to reflect.

For too long, Frederick County residents have been subjected to extremes in political viewpoints. Presently, they are faced with draconian far right wing actions taken by four members of the Board of County Commissioners.

The answer is not a tit-for-tat response from political activists from the far left. Rather, what is needed is fair reasonable, effective and balanced representation which will work hard to unite as opposed to dividing the community.


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