Superbia (arrogance): The original and the most serious of the seven deadly sins.
By whatever term you want to use, be it arrogance, pomposity or non-collaborative, these words were tossed
around by some prominent county/municipal elected officials this past week to describe a recent action by the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners. And what was all the fuss about? … well, a simple insert that was placed in tax bills that compared the services of the County to those of its municipalities … I guess some might call it a sort of justification notice for what is paid in property taxes.
There are two parts that drew new allegations of BOCC high and mightiness. Putting aside the claims of inaccuracy, our Commissioners decided to assemble this comparative paper without the input of their municipal “peers” throughout the county. Secondly, they decided to actually charge the municipal governments for the cost of document preparation and envelop insertion.
Notables and many others all offered statements of displeasure through interviews or Letters to the Editor in the Frederick News-Post. In addition local writers, and Roy Meachum others throughout the local web opiners all chimed in with their respective commentaries.
Even though I spent last week with my family on the beaches of North Carolina, I did stay in touch … and my first response to all this was “Well, it’s about time!”
But then this past Sunday, the Editors put their two cents on the table with a brief summary of the events with a perspective that troubled me: “…is it worth the level of outrage and energy? We don’t think so. The insert was a great idea, just mishandled.” I have to say that while this may have been a good idea, it was much more than mishandled. It’s just the tip of the iceberg!
They go on to state that “What was starkly revealed here is the depth of mistrust and antagonism between the current board and municipal officials, and that efforts are needed to improve this relationship.” OK, so they are heading in the right direction, but I have to ask the Editors: Where have you been that last 20 years? The problems of mistrust and antagonism did not just pop up with this “current board” or this fairly new group of“municipal officials.” The problem has evolved into a Culture of Arrogance on the third floor at Winchester Hall over these years, and only became exacerbated in the last four to a point where it is so blatantly obvious that people are now actually talking and writing about it … a lot!
So while “efforts” should definitely be made “to improve the relationship” as the News-Post Editors suggest, this is not a simple matter to accomplish. For the next Board of County Commissioners – whether a clean slate or a mix of old and new – a serious commitment must be made to exact lasting changes to the negative impact that this high and mightiness has had throughout county government … it must start with them. It will require a change in attitude and thinking within county government. While many within the ranks will welcome it with a sigh of relief, others will struggle … no matter how one cuts it, it is a huge and necessary task.
And for the voters in the upcoming primary and general election, if our desire is to truly be a “Superb” community, County/Municipality cooperation and collaboration should be a major campaign issue. If not, the “Superbia” of our elected county leaders will continue to cost all county taxpayers millions of dollars in misguided decisions over worthless and wasteful turf battles.
The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland.