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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

McClement Fails to Lead

George Wenschhof

The City of Frederick election is only a week away and with a first time ever three way mayoral race and the off year municipal election guaranteeing a low voter turnout, the race for mayor promises to be very close.

The second largest city in the state deserves leadership and vision with a path forward, not a mayor who has exhibited a lack of management and at best could be described as one who is treading water or maintaining the status quo.

Republican mayor Randy McClement boasts he has kept city taxes at the same rate and has maintained the same level of services over his four year term.  He adds this took place during a period of economic downturn across the country.

In my most recent interview with him, he told me the only service he cut was bulk trash pickup and the city only received 30-35 calls a year in response, with half of them settling for the new process.

Interestingly, alderman candidates tell me one complaint they hear most from voters, as they campaign door to door, is the elimination of bulk trash pickup, followed with their desire for it to be resumed.

The other most often heard description of the mayor is “he is a nice guy.”  In my interviews with him over his term in office, I have always found him to be cordial.

However, his management style, or lack thereof, is what his critics point to and is what led to a record number of 7 candidates for mayor in this election.

The city has a charter form of government that calls for a strong executive; the mayor and a legislative branch to provide balance; the board of alderman.

Due to lack of leadership during the McClement administration, the board of alderman has had to step up and provide administrative support which is not their role and makes for a cumbersome and sluggish way to run local government.

Watching a mayor and board workshop or meeting, Randy remains silent, never offering his position on an issue or why a yes or no vote on the issue being discussed should transpire.

The mayor, who is the elected city executive, by charter, should be leading and not expecting the board of aldermen, who are legislators, to be administrators.

Following the inability by McClement to hire an executive assistant and then reading a local paper headline stating the board of alderman hires new police chief; his lack of leadership becomes readily apparent.

The less than satisfactory manner in which the contract with the Frederick Keys was conducted and the bungled rollout of a long proposed downtown hotel/conference center are more examples of his inability to grasp the political aspect of being a mayor.

In regard to his claim to have balanced the budget and kept city taxes level, Democratic mayoral candidate Karen Young was quick to criticize.

She pointed to the recent announcement from McClement the city was $2.3 million below the legislative agreed upon level for the rainy day fund, with the explanation it was a human error by finance director Gerry Klobfleisch.

This was immediately followed by Gerry Kloblfleisch announcing he had found a surplus in the current budget ($1.9 million from the capitol improvements program) to handle the deficit in the rainy day fund.  So, all was well.

Or, is it? Following the disclosure and Kolbfleisch’s admission to an error at a city workshop, Alderman Karen Young told me she sent the following memo to the mayor:

“* Wasn't the accounting error really $5.1million? We thought that we would start FY 2014 with a $2.8mm surplus. Then a $2.3 deficit for the Rainy Day Fund was identified. The two total $5.1mm.

* How did this occur? I still haven't received an answer to this. This could not have been a simple math error. Were there erroneous assumptions? Were expenses underestimated? This is too much of a discrepancy to go without an explanation.”

You can read the response from Klobfleisch here.

When I asked Alderman Young what was the response from the mayor, she said in an email to me "Randy never responded to me." She added "I find it totally unacceptable that there was a $5.1 million accounting error with little or no explanation, no apologies and no accountability."

I agree.

Being a nice guy is not enough for the mayor of the second largest city in the state.  The City of Frederick needs a visionary leader who is comfortable with managing professional staff, setting priorities and communicating policy effectively with staff and the public.

It is time for a change and why Karen Young is the best choice for mayor to move The City of Frederick forward.

Make sure you vote on November 5.

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