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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


George Wenschhof
Don’t hold your breath for an amiable start to charter government in Frederick County, Maryland.  In one of the last acts by the current board of commissioners, and a poke in the eye to incoming county executive Jan Gardner(D), they appointed board president Blaine Young(R) to a vacant planning commission position.  This appointment to the planning commission will actually last longer than the four year term Gardner just won with the November election.
The supporters of Jan Gardner will call foul and argue she should be allowed to appoint the person to fill this position to a commission that captures the attention of those who follow the government actions pertaining to growth.
However, per the charter, the incoming county executive must receive approval from the county council for any appointments to commissions and any “at-will” employees she may wish to hire. The “at-will” employees are department heads that serve at the pleasure and are not merit employees.
With the composition of the council being 4-3 Republican, do not expect someone like a Gardner supporter and former county commissioner Kai Hagen(D) to  receive approval from the council.
But, when looking at the appointment of commissioner Blaine Young to the planning commission, the state constitution spells out a person cannot hold two positions in which they receive compensation.  A planning commission member does receive a small amount of compensation.
When I discussed this with county attorney John Mathias, he pointed out the appointment of Young to the planning commission takes effect on November 30, a Sunday and the last day before charter is enacted and the new elected officials take office.  In all practicality, he added nothing would be done on a Sunday.  Furthermore, Mathias said that by Young’s acceptance of the planning commission position, it would be deemed he had resigned his county commissioner position on Sunday November 30.
It will also be interesting to see who is elected president and vice-president of the council. The president will preside over the meetings.  Both positions are called for by the charter and are determined by vote of the full council.  With a 4-3 Republican advantage look to see these two positions filled by Republicans Bud Otis and Billy Shreve who were both elected at-large.  Otis received the most votes, but county commissioner Billy Shreve, a big Young supporter, will also want this position.  The council can decide to add another position, and if they choose to do so, perhaps another Republican council elect member Kirby Delauter or Tony Chmelik would take this slot.
Otis would be the wiser choice over Shreve for council president and he has the most promise to actually understand he is the swing vote and act in a more common sense manner.  It is obvious Shreve will continue his blind carte blanche support Blaine Young and his policies toward growth.
Regardless of who becomes council president, with Young on the planning commission and a Republican majority council, Frederick County residents can expect little cooperation with county executive elect Gardner and her positions on how best to manage growth.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


George Wenschhof
The win by Jerry Donald(D) over Ellen Bartlett(R) was significant as it creates a more balanced and hopefully, more effective Frederick County council.
The change to charter government in Frederick County, Maryland will be reviewed closely over the next 4 years following the swearing in of the new county executive and seven member council.
How to best manage growth was once again the front and center issue in the 2014 election with Democrat Jan Gardner easily beating Republican Blaine Young.  This result bucking the nationwide trend in a midterm election year where Republicans won a majority in the U.S. Senate and also expanded their majority in the House.
The arrogance and ill conceived actions taken by Blaine Young in the one term he served as president of the board of county commissioners contributed heavily to his loss.  Rubbing the Young loss in even more was the win by Republican Larry Hogan for governor of Maryland, a state where Democratic registered voters outnumber Republican voters by a 2-1 margin.
Interestingly, Blaine Young also only served one term (1997-2001) as an alderman with The City of Frederick.  Then, a Democrat, he would become embroiled in a “Black Book” scandal involving a local Madam.  This humiliation, combined with his support of Republican James Grimes over Democrat Fran Baker for mayor in the 1997 election, led to his changing party affiliation and reinventing himself as a conservative talk show host.
Where he goes now and whether he chooses to reenter the political arena remains to be seen. A man with a lot of political talent, he remains his own worst enemy with the inability to display an even temperament and failing to offer forth reasonable proposals.
Democrat Jan Gardner also displayed a single sided approach when she served one term as president with a board that supported her positions on growth.  Her actions also upset many voters when she down zoned properties and proposed reducing the amount of money due back to municipalities under the tax equity program.
Her steadfast support of building an incinerator only added to the ire of many voters, leading to the win by Blaine Young and company. This led to a reversal and then some over the next four years of the many policies enacted by the Gardner led board.
The win by Donald over Bartlett by 25 votes, in council district 1 gives Frederick County voters a 4-3 Republican council and a Democrat county executive.  Former member of the Frederick County Democratic state central committee Russ Currey told me prior to the election that Donald was working very hard and may just upset Bartlett.  He was right, as the outcome was not decided until the final count of the absentee and provisional ballots.
With county executive elect Gardner also not having a Democrat governor to help her, she will not experience the support she had when serving as president of the board of county commissioners.
Perhaps, as a result of the implementation of charter government, Frederick County voters will experience what I have longed for; a more balanced government and an end to the back and forth pendulum swing on how best to handle growth.
Gardner will need a majority vote from the council for her appointments to boards and commissioners as well as staff that serve at the pleasure.  The exception to this is the board of appeals whose members will be appointed by the council.
With the Donald win, it also keeps Republicans from holding a 5-2 super majority on the council.  Look to see at-large council member elect Bud Otis emerge as the swing vote on pivotal legislation.  Instead of just voting along the lines of the other 3 Republican council members ( two of them: Kirby Delauter and Billy Shreve currently serve as commissioners and are supporters of Blaine Young), he would be wise to work to become the consensus builder over the next four years.  This would position himself well if he chose to be a candidate for county executive in 2018.
Stay tuned.

Friday, November 7, 2014


George Wenschhof
Wow! If you ever wondered if your vote counts, there are two races in Frederick County, Maryland that remain too close to call after the first count of absentee ballots today.
County council district 1 race in Frederick County, Maryland tied after first absentee count – at 8,075 each between Republican Ellen Bartlett and Democrat Jerry Donald. Donald was 61 votes down on election night.
This is a pivotal race for Democrats in that a Bartlett win would give Republicans a super majority of the council 5-2 to work with Democrat county executive Jan Gardner.
A Donald win would make it a 4-3 Republican majority with at-large Republican elect council member Republican Bud Otis most likely becoming the swing vote. The other 3 Republican elect council members are Blaine Young supporters – Republican Blaine Young lost to Democrat Jan Gardner in the county executive race.
Many have questioned the ability of Ellen Bartlett (wife of ten term Republican congressman Roscoe Bartlett) to perform the duties of this position because of her age and her lack of knowledge of current events. Some have also questioned her residency, pointing to the family’s farm outside the state where she and her husband spend most of their time.
The other position still too close to call had Ken Kerr leading by a mere 4 votes over April Miller after election night for the last spot on the nonpartisan board of education race. He fell 66 votes behind April Miller after the first absentee count. However, there are enough votes outstanding to be counted that this race is not a done deal.
The next count of absentee/provisional ballots will be conducted next Wednesday November 12 by the Frederick County Board of Elections.
Stay tuned..

Thursday, November 6, 2014


George Wenschhof
Before Republicans get carried away with their victories and Democrats wallow in their defeats in the 2014 midterm elections, they should see the real message being delivered by voters.  The message is voters are tired of rhetoric and yearn for results.
A frustrated voter came up to me yesterday at a polling location and asked me “are there any moderates out there”?
Gerrymandering has contributed to candidates with far left and far right ideologies winning elections across the country.  As elected officials they often feel compelled to stand by their ideology rather than capitulate and reach agreement with their opposite.
The subsequent gridlock in Washington has lead to little to no meaningful legislation moving forward.
Adding to Americans disdain with elections is the amount of money spent on campaigns.
A loss of seats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives was expected in this midterm election by Democratic leaders.  History shows this is a common occurrence to the political party who has a president serving a second term.
However, the severity of the drubbing of Democrats by Republicans across the country in races for the House, Senate and Governor was a surprise.
As the fog of the morning after begins to lift, it looks like Republicans will hold 53 seats in the Senate and 242 in the House.
Republicans will revel in their victories and the second guessing by Democrats will begin.
Yet, the answer is simple and that is for elected officials to roll up their sleeves, work together and deliver results.
Opportunities exist to pass legislation to create jobs rebuilding the country’s aging infrastructure, immigration reform, tax reform and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Eyes will be on Republicans and the White House to see what actions are taken by both political parties over the next two years.
The 2016 presidential election campaign will begin in early 2015, shortly after New Year celebrations conclude.
The political party that recognizes the need for campaign finance reform and nonpartisan committees drawing redistricting maps in all states across the country will gain the favor of American voters.
Working together to deliver results and end the rhetoric is the message voters are sending to politicians.
Stay tuned.