Thank you for visiting our website

Featuring breaking political news and commentary on local, state, and national issues.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"Meet The Candidate" Jennifer Dougherty - Live Online Anwers to Your Questions

George Wenschhof Bio

We thought and the Democratic candidates for Mayor of the City of Frederick, Maryland agreed, it would be helpful to offer a series of online "Meet The Candidate" forums. This week we asked for your questions for Jennifer Dougherty. Tonight from 7:00 to 8:00 PM ET, I will ask her your questions and she will send me her answer to post. This is the first time I have tried this, so bear with us if we encounter any technical issues.

As is the case when you are on a website and want to be sure you see the latest post, remember to hit "refresh" often throughout the hour to see the updated questions and answers. We have ranked the questions in a order to be asked and will begin at 7:00 PM ET by publishing the answer to the first question right here on this post. Ms. Dougherty will respond to what she sees and give me her answer to publish. We will continue this until one hour has elapsed. On Thursday April 9, Jason Judd will answer the questions you submit next week.

The Democratic candidates will surely be coming to your neighborhood as well, but this is another way for you to get to know your Democratic candidates for Mayor. If you happen to miss this live online exchange, this post will be available for viewing later. We will also place a link in an easily spotted location in the right hand margin of the Home Page.

We thank all of you who asked questions and we thank Jennifer Dougherty for agreeing to participate and to go first.

Jennifer, the first question is:

Anonymous said...

what do you see as the number one issue facing the city and what would you do about it?

April 1, 2009 12:01 PM

Leadership. The economic crisis is reaching down to our lives and our City. We will be tempted to cut public safety, cut economic development initiatives and cut quality of life programs. The desire to do “everything” has led to increased staffing, increased spending and increased debt. The desire to avoid controversy has led to increased secrecy and growing distrust.

If elected, I will rely on my experiences and stick to solid priorities. We have to make sure that we are safe, our streets and parks are clean, and our water is clean and reliable. I will continue to work with our Department of Economic Development to strengthen our businesses and recruit new businesses. I will promote some progressive approaches to public financing that might shake up local governments, but we need to be willing to adjust in times of strain and crisis. I will work with the Board and the public to phase important public projects and I will be honest about how much it will cost and how we will pay for it because I PAY CITY TAXES TOO!

I will promote good ideas like the “Get Off the Grid” or Civilian Conservation Corps 2.0 that put us in line with progressive communities. And, I will seek out ways to reduce the load on taxpayers with federal and state grants, non-profit initiatives and “sweat equity” partners so we can protect our quality of life and take an ownership interest in our City.

The problems will change, but the need to address them will not. We need leadership.

2. Anonymous said...
Is the early buy out city employee pension plan that was passed by Mayor Holtzinger and the Board a permanent change? If so, if elected, do you intend to make changes here?
March 31, 2009 2:32 PM

The Early Retirement Buy-Out was a one-time deal with lasting costs – probably $10 million by one expert’s estimates. I cannot undo it if I am elected. There was a chance to void this action with a second vote, but the majority of the Board of Aldermen stayed with the Buy-Out. This is a done deal.

The best way to minimize the impact on the Budget and City’s Bond rating is to repay the loan from the retirement fund asap. The cash to pay out the retirees was taken from the retirement fund and given the market conditions, it was a big hit at a bad time.

Every Mayor, myself included, looks at ways to control costs. Since labor costs are more than 50% of the City’s budget, you always look at how many people work for the City. During my term, we reviewed an early buy-out plan, but we were looking at $10,000 per person – not $200,000! We did not do it, and, I would not propose a plan that the City’s financial advisors opposed so strenuously.

3. Anonymous said...
Is there anything the aldermen can do to get rid of department heads tobin and reed who are receiving double pay and continue to be employed by the mayor in a acting capacity? If you became mayor would you keep these two employes?
March 31, 2009 11:45 PM

The Aldermen set the rules, the Mayor is supposed to follow them. The positions you mention are supposed to be appointed by the Mayor and approved by the Board. I understand Jeff’s defense of the appointments now, but they were “retired and rehired” almost a year ago. He should have kept his word to the Aldermen. The ultimate step by the Aldermen would be to not fund the positions in the upcoming Budget. I hope it does not come to that. It’s kind of testy right now, so I will let them debate it further.

The two people you mention seemed to have gotten a HUGE benefit…who wouldn’t take that offer! But, the responsibility for the City taxpayers getting such a bad deal falls on the Mayor’s desk. The responsibility for not living up to his word to the Aldermen to seek reappointment for these positions falls on his shoulders.

If elected, I expect some City employees will retire/resign, but I would rather focus on the importance of people understanding what I would do in office, not setting out on a “witch hunt” of sorts. I would put my team together and get the approval of the Board of Aldermen.

4. Joe Cohen, business man downtown said...
Being as we are in a depression, i think the local politicians should make it easier to shop in Frederick not harder , you know the American main st prize we won ahem, well its about time we lived up to that by making parking easier here and my question to you jennnifer is if you get back in power would you resind the prices people pay on the meters and the two hour waiting time ,as many of my customers have said they will never come back to frederick again, to make this simple for you and all would be mayors and aldermen, if you park two hours and then get a ticket in this recssion you would also be angry dont you think
March 31, 2009 3:40 PM

Thanks Joe, I agree that local politicians should do everything we can to support a strong local economy. I don’t know if it’s a Depression or what, but it feels like better days are ahead. Making it easier to shop downtown is important – and, yes – I am very aware of the Great American Main Street Award our City won in 2005!

You might be right about the parking meters. I am open to the discussion. When I served as Mayor, we used a Parking Task Force to make recommendations about street parking and parking decks and we tried to deliver on that checklist – the new deck is there and another is on the way, but every plan has room for improvement and given the economy, we could do it quickly.

We should also have a discussion with Downtown Frederick Partnership about ways to spread the cheer from the First Saturday Gallery Walks to more weekends. One suggestion is to focus on family-friendly events on Saturday and Sunday mornings to add to the activity level.

Downtown parking is part of the discussion and I am willing to listen to good ideas about ways merchants and residents think the Downtown needs to be strengthened. For the record, I will listen to people who want more for the Golden Mile or any other commercial corridor.

Finally, I think the Mayor and Aldermen have to be visible supporters of our businesses – whether Downtown or beyond. My experience as a local business person has tattooed that concept on my brain. That was one reason that I had a weekly lunch with the Chief Officers…we knew it was important to support local businesses (and have more than Irish-American fare!).

5. Anonymous said...
What strengths do you have versus your current opponent, Jason Judd? How can these strengths really differ you from Jason Judd?
March 31, 2009 11:11 PM

I will let all of my opponents speak for themselves. I have a unique resume – I have been a business owner for more than 20 years in Downtown Frederick, a community volunteer, and Mayor. Having lived in Frederick for the last 22 years, I have watched the community grow and develop. My respect for the place we call home is deep and genuine. Quite honestly, I love Frederick!

The next Mayor will have a lot to do – it will take experience that does not come from a classroom. It will take leadership and knowing who to call upon and trust. And, it will take vision.

I am committed to making sure people trust our government again. People trust that I am not running to serve any special interests, they know I am committed to the City.

Finally, I put it out there. I am willing to tell people my vision. Go to my website and look at the list of actual priorities that you can measure. When people run for office they often describe a concept, but don’t often tell you what that concept looks like in practice.

“Get Off the Grid” is how we improve our sustainable energy practices. The Civilian Conservation Corps 2.0 is how we improve the health of the City Watershed and develop the next generation of naturalists. Foreclosure Prevention Court, Carroll Creek, the Golden Mile Task Force, the NACs are all concrete plans that address current or future problems. I want you to know what we will try to do, my platform is transparent as was my government.

Democratic voters will get the chance to choose between two or three Mayoral candidates, the same for the Republicans. Everybody gets in the race for the right reasons for them, but voters have to pick who is best for the times. My experience in the community and in local government will help me do a great job for the City.

6. Anonymous said...
Jennifer, I think we all know a bit about your successes as Mayor, and your personal 'toughness' against odds like a water shortage - tell us about the lighter side of yourself, what do you like to do outside business and politics? I think that family has been important to you, and you've travelled to Ireland I believe - tell us about those experiences...
March 31, 2009 7:48 AM

Thanks, that’s a nice question, I know you’re not my Mom because she doesn’t go online!

If you have spent any time in my restaurant or Irish shop over the years, you would know that it did not take much for me to talk about politics…but it took even less to get me to give free advice on great towns and villages to visit in Ireland. I always kept my favorite Irish travel books at the bar for loan or reference! I have been lucky to go many times and just love it. I don’t know what I love best the natural beauty – which can be breathtaking – the wonderful people, or the legends that become “more legendary” after the locals had a pint or two! Quite honestly, Frederick County looks a lot like the west coast of Ireland with the hills, the farms, the weather (except July and August!).

Now, my neighbors will tell you that I always have a project going in my yard! I am always improving my gardening skills, but I have a very long way to go.

And, like a lot of people my age, I think about my golf swing more than I actually swing a club, but I love it. My best golf memory – not surprising – is from Ireland when we were hit with an incredible rain, wind and hail storm but I finish the 18th hole by sinking a long putt for a 99! Next time, I will invest in Doppler radar instead of a caddy!

It is hard for people to “know” public people. Most people know I come from a big Irish family and that is usually pretty cool.Now, I get identified as someone’s aunt as much as anything else which is really cool.

With my business, I have had the chance to get to know many friends and I am not done yet! When I get to talk to scout troops or any group, I think they usually end up knowing that I try to do my homework, I enjoy bringing creative ideas forward, and I like peanut M & Ms rather than plain! So if you want to send a gift, and we have some great candy stores in Downtown (don’t stop with the dark chocolate bricks for Christmas!), but it’s really all about peanut M&Ms.

We have run over time, however, Ms. Dougherty has agreed to answer one more question.

7. Anonymous said...
the city does not seem to have a public information officer since Holtzinger became mayor and he does not hold regular press conferences as you did. Would you hire a public information officer for the city if you won and why?
March 31, 2009 10:05 PM

Frederick needs a trained Public Information Officer. A city of our size needs a trained professional to communicate with the public and the media. It saves time for City staffers and elected officials and it is essential when an emergency hits or when a small matter should not distract from the business of the staffer. It is also the easiest way to make sure the City complies with Public Information Requests under Maryland law.

I thought it was important to have weekly press conferences to update the press on weekly meetings and any upcoming initiatives. Sometimes the pressers went on for a few minutes and others for more than an hour. It was really up to the media! If elected, I will restore regular press conferences.

If elected, I would empower the PIO with the same responsibilities as I did during my term and review the current best practices to see if the job needs to grow beyond direct communications, emergency operations and information requests.

We thank Jennifer Dougherty and all of you who submitted questions. We will continue to offer "Meet The Candidate" forums so stay tuned!


Editor's note - we have not endorsed any candidate in the upcoming City of Frederick election.


To receive "Daily Updates" from Air-it-Out with George Wenschhof, click on "Subscribe to this feed" below.

No comments: