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Monday, March 16, 2009

Dougherty Puts Economy First - Challenges Holtzinger's Spending Spree

Jennifer Dougherty

"Life is not a static thing," said Everett Dirkson. I am running for Mayor for the City of Frederick because I think I have the skills to help the City be a model for the nation. My experience as a business owner connects me to the local economy. My experience as Mayor will let me get to the important facts without delays. My commitment to openness and transparency in government make me the right leader for our City after 4 years of a more private Administration. My hopes and vision for our City offer sensible solutions and creative options for our challenges locally and beyond.

We can promote wide-ranging "green" policies that create jobs and save money. Light bulbs were switched in my term, but more can be done to encourage energy efficiency and environmental stewardship. We can reward "green" certified (LEED) projects by reducing building permit costs.

We can protect and preserve the 7,000 acre City Watershed with a Civilian Conservation Corps 2.0. We can capture methane for power at our wastewater treatment plant and by examining our own trash disposal plans and costs, we can improve recycling in the City and pay less in County taxes.

During my term as Mayor of Frederick, I am very proud that we completed the first phase of Carroll Creek, created the Department of Economic Development, sponsored the Downtown Frederick Partnership and helped to make Frederick's Downtown strong and vibrant. Four new buildings plus the Library are welcome additions to our Downtown. We can foster the climate to get this important economic development engine humming again.

We promoted the Golden Mile and Commercial Tax Credits to invigorate aging shopping centers and their expansion created more than 1,000 new jobs in the first year. Boscov's, BonTon, Home Depot, Carrabbas, Aldi Foods, Wolf Furniture, Ashley Furniture are a few examples of the businesses that invested in our city with that initiative.

My commitment to restoring the high-standing of our Police Department was matched by their commitment to exceed expectations. By hiring a highly qualified and respected Chief of Police, our agency committed itself to a new day. We earned the first accreditation for the Department, expanded community policing efforts, partnered with civic groups like the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek to expand the Police Activity League. The collaboration resulted in a 25% reduction in crime by 2005.

But elections are about the future and many people are committed to moving Frederick forward. I respect all of those people. The challenges we face require a good plan and a practical approach. My experience will help me work with the City staff effectively and efficiency. The obligations of running a $90 million government are huge, but the most important obligation is transparency. As we have watched this Administration manage issues, many of us feel like the real debate is taking place behind the scenes or , worse, not at all.

Some of the practical solutions that create opportunities in Frederick are those that became more apparent while on the Congressional campaign trail and some are just extensions of what has been successful in Frederick before.

  1. A "Get Off the Grid" program will allow the City to work with private industry, the EPA, Department of Energy and the State of Maryland to promote sustainable energy choices. Dedicating open space at the Airport for solar panels or converting the energy supply at Harry Grove Stadium to solar power can be achieved with local, state and national partners.
  2. Veterans need better facilities that are close to where they live. I propose that we plan a Veteran's Facility to better serve their rehabilitation needs. It will be good for them and a great way to build careers in Frederick.
  3. Golden Mile Task Force should be re-established to plan the best opportunities for development in this corridor. While technical matters have slowed redevelopment of the old Frederick Towne Mall, other ideas might be put on the table for discussion. Possible projects for the Golden Mile include medical or healthcare facilities, recreational plans and residential projects that reflect the new urban design.

Recent decisions by this Administration raise concerns across every City neighborhood. The Early Retirement Buy-Out for selected City employees will cost City taxpayers about $10 million, but it is made more troubling because it is just one more financial decision that will have a lasting legacy. The salary increases for elected officials came without much discussion. Employee salaries and COLAs enjoyed nearly double-digit increases in FY07, resulting in significant ongoing costs.

The City's General Fund during the two prior terms increased between $2-3 million per year, but this Administration has increased spending by nearly $10 million per year. It is not sustainable.

And just last week, the Administration doubled the City's debt – adding $121 million in debt funding. Despite the rosey scenario that was painted, several of these projects could have been delayed and nearly 20% of the debt goes to the least examined multi-million dollar project in the City's history.

The condemnation of the Hargett Farm was achieved with an $18 million price tag, but little or no discussion of the lost impact fees, lost property taxes, higher taxes to cover the road and development costs, not to mention the operating costs - $75-100 million. No one is against a park, but you should not add a $100 million park that was not in the City's Comprehensive Plan 2 years ago to the City's debt load.

The next Mayor should not contemplate trying to re-live these 4 years. If elected, I will not spend time trying to unravel the legacy of the current Mayor and Board of Aldermen. The next Mayor and Board should do everything in their power to deliver the means to make progress sustainable, affordable and well-planned.

I will work hard on the important issues facing our City and make sure we stay focused on our City's priorities.


Editor's note - we have not endorsed any candidate in the upcoming City of Frederick election. We will continue to offer all of the Democratic candidates in the City of Frederick, Maryland election, the opportunity to post planned events on our site. We informed Democratic candidates we will publish an announcement column from them detailing the reasons they are running for office and this is the column received from Ms. Dougherty. We also plan to have online Democratic forums during the primary so stay tuned.


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