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Monday, August 26, 2013

O’Connor: “It’s an Honor to Serve”

George Wenschhof

Alderman Michael O'Connor 
One of the questions I asked City of Frederick Democratic alderman Michael O’Connor, during my interview was; “Why did he want another four years in office?”

He replied with “the city is great and has been very good to him throughout his professional career and he has been honored to have served the last four years.”  Michael added “he wants to continue his efforts and that it has been the hardest fun he has ever had.”

“His efforts”, Michael was referring to, were his hopes to help create a sustainable community, maintain strong fiscal stewardship of the city finances and to increase citizen engagement in the political process.  Taken together, they will help in his overall goal of creating a safe, clean and well connected community.

O’Connor was pleased the city was able to include in the budget, funding for a sustainability manager and was hopeful, once the person was hired, they would help establish procurement rules leading to purchasing sustainable products and more.

He wants to see an increase in recycling and composting in the city and told me he did not support the county government plans to build an incinerator for the disposal of solid waste.

Michael often spoke of his belief of governing from the bottom up as opposed from the top down and believed in including all city stakeholders in developing a vision for the city.  He pointed out his support of the board of alderman recently passed resolution calling for a strategic plan.

The adoption of the Golden Mile Small Area Plan and East Frederick Rising were two examples of what O’Connor would like to see more of throughout the city.  Unfortunately, he told me the city planning staff was not sized to take on additional small area plan developments. So, he would either support an increase in staff or the hiring of a consultant.

When I brought up the Neighborhood Advisory Councils (NACs) and the possibility of involving them in small area plan developments, he rapidly agreed, saying “they are chomping at the bit to be more involved.”

Michael said the interaction between police and public works with the NACs was very good, but that “it was time to raise the bar.”  He would like to increase their input in the planning review process and to also have them help shape policy in regard to the allocation of services to neighborhoods.

He pointed out that businesses were also part of communities and he would encourage them to become involved with the NACs.

Overall, O’Connor wants to get more input from citizens in the development of a strategic plan and feels strongly residents should have a voice in city hall.

In regard to fiscal stewardship, Michael reminded me the economy was horrible when they took office in 2009 and that they have managed to balance the budget during difficult times. 

In regard to the underfunded Pension and Other Post Employment Programs (OPEB), Michael told me he was satisfied with the actions they have taken so far.

He did say he was frustrated the city has taken so long to see visible steps taken from the recommendations put forth by the  Blighted and Vacant Property task force.  Michael was hopeful the city would take the steps necessary to allow them to use receivership as a tool in combating neighborhood eyesores.

The alderman concluded the interview by saying “he puts great value in listening to the voter.”

There are eight Democratic and seven Republican candidates running for the five member board of aldermen.

The City of Frederick primary election is September 10.

Stay tuned.
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