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Follow up Banter on the In-Comprehensible Plan” Posting “

 As many of you know, every Blog post that appears here also show up in a few other places on the web.

Incomprehensible Banter

Facebook is one of  those places.  In response to my posting of Frederick County Commissioners’ In-Comprehensible Land Use Plan, County Commissioner Kai Hagen had to chime in … and so we had a very healthy exchange/debate over some of my statements.  Joan McIntyre, a former Frederick County Planning Commissioner member, business woman  and current writer for the added a few thoughts as well … this turns out to be a pretty long post,  but it shows some interesting philosophical differences among the participants. Other than a few clarifications …  and typo corrections (which you probably have learned is not my forte) this is verbatim.

Hagen: Rocky: You said that, in the process of updating/re-writing the comprehensive plan, that the BOCC [Frederick County Board of County Commissioners] “made little to no effort to include any representatives” from the municipalities in the county. But that isn’t even remotely accurate, and it is more than sloppy of you to suggest they were not included (at various times, individually, with the Planning Commission and the BOCC).

On somewhat related note, given your vociferous and largely one-sided critique of this plan, may I ask you what, if any, criticism you had of the 2006 New Market Region Plan (written and approved by the previous board)?

Mackintosh: Kai, thanks for the critique. If you read into the core of my comments, my focus is on lack of cooperation between/among all the fiefdoms we have in this county. I have been watching this for nearly 35 years. In the last 25, it has been nothing more than friendly nods at best. Whether you like it or not, I have not found too many elected/appointed city folks who tell me that they don’t bite (haven’t bitten) their tongues, lips, etc., when the BOCC comes calling. To that end as I have been stating in my posts, I personally think that the system of county government that we have has grown into a terribly dysfunctional and obsolete form of government. Clearly taking it to a charter form will help, but in my opinion only fractionally; because the “bubble culture” will likely continue to persist.

It’s a culture that you walked into and unfortunately, as most do, you bought into it – probably without even knowing it … Because that’s the way its always been done! This is not a growth/no-growth issue, it’s simply something that seems to be accepted as a given over the years and the different gov’s just find a way to deal with it … And to me that is “incomprehensible”.

As for the 2006 New Market Plan, that’s ancient history, and not relevant to what “IS” today. We now have a plan that will never be able to meet the housing needs for the population that the county and state endorse – I will not argue with the 36,000 d/u need. I accept all of the BOCC & staff projections in that regard, but when it now takes about 7 years to take a project from a raw state to delivery of the first house (confirmed by staff), there is no way we will not run out of new SF inventory at some point within the next 7 to 10 years … unless the all local gov’s change their attitude toward dealing with growth. So show me the math, and if I’m wrong I’ll be happy admit it without biting my lip. All I want to do is hold you and your fellow Board members accountable for the plan you approved – nothing more, nothing less! You willing?

HagenAs for your statement that charter will “Clearly” help, I think that depends a lot on what sort of charter would be written, AND would not necessarily help, either way, depending on who was actually in the office.

Not surprisingly, I also disagree with your assertion that our current county government (structure and/or elected officials – two different things) is “terribly dysfunctional.” I know some of the reasons you say that, but I’d love to see you quantify it in various ways – effectiveness and efficiency of various public services, tax levels, education, openness and transparency, and a host of other clear quality of life issues.

The 2006 New Market Region Plan may be “ancient history,” so to speak, but in terms of getting at your own biases and whatnot, I think it would be instructive if you could tell me if you had any substantive criticism of it (as a citizen, as a person in the land business, whatever) at the time?

Finally, I am perfectly happy to associate myself with the new comprehensive plan. I certainly don’t agree with every single decision that went into it, but I think it is a vast improvement, overall, and a very good plan.

I also think it establishes a new structure, moving forward, that is more flexible, timely and responsive to the issues and choices that we will face in the more dynamic parts of the county, including, but not limited to, the areas around our municipalities.

Mackintosh: Kai, my only focus in all my commentary of the plan centers on land use and planning to meet the needs of the community. The rest of the plan in general is not bad .. my compliments! Back at the 2006 plan where you want to expose my biases … OK well, FLASH at ya. My concerns then were the same as they are now. Specifically, I stated then as I have stated just a week or so ago … the BOCC over the course of a generation with few exceptions has always treated the Lake Linganore Community/PUD as a step-child — rarely giving it the respect that it deserves. It has paid severely for that. And although you as a BOCC member (after pushing for major development scale backs) supported making a deal with Land Stewarts to “save” Linganore from its ultimate fate, you were in the minority and the BOCC gave a royal screw job to the community … which has been a typical part of the BOCC generational cycle. Again some of this goes to the fact that there is one fiefdom in particular in the New Market region that the BOCC has battled with, but this plays into my argument that the BOCC form is broken.

As for the number of units in the 2006 New Market plan verses what there is now … I believe that there are too few now … again as part of the bigger picture to meet the growth needs of the county.

Let me ask you, if there was one representative among all of the county’s 65 plus elected officials, which position would be the one you would say that could speak on behalf all county elected officials?

McIntyre: Rocky, I’m 200% behind this statement and have uttered it myself many times.

“I personally think that the system of county government that we have has grown into a terribly dysfunctional and obsolete form of government.”

There are many reasons but just one would be that no one is held accountable, when things go badly they always have four others to blame.

2nd the purpose of spending 18 months rewriting the New Market Plan when they were going to rewrite the entire county was doing wasted work on top of wasted work. Updating the Comp. Plan ok, needed it but the economy alone was going to take care of other issues and if nothing else N.M. could have been bundled in w/ the Comp. Plan as a whole and not wasted another 18 months on that and the DRRA [Developer’s Rights and Responsibilities Agreement]to boot.

Mackintosh: Joan, you site one of the core foundations of what defines “Dysfunctionality” … to prove our point, just look at the Land Stewarts debacle … is the BOCC to blame, or just those who deep sixed it?

McIntyre: That darn Buck has to stop somewhere and squarely in one person’s face. No, Kai hold on, I’m not going to blame you per-say.   I’m just using you as an example on Land Stewarts debacle because it got brought up and you spearheaded it.

New tool in tool box and Kai was jumping at the bait to use it. Ok, so what BUT…………. what happened is he should have done it differently and more pointed, it morphed into something unrecognizable and completely out of control. By the time it was done had I had the power I wouldn’t have voted for it. It didn’t serve the public, it was a monument right or wrong to one Commissioner and did nothing for the county residents other than those living w/in the development to finish their roads and lower than HOA fees by bringing more people in.

That’s in a nut shell so obviously I’ve left out much.

Last bit of thought on DRRA, it’s nothing more or less than an annexation agreement. Kai couldn’t pull one off yet he slams the municipalities for the way they write theirs. Pot Kettle happening here and once again no one particular person is accountable.

Mackintosh: Details, Details

McIntyre: from me? likes and dislikes of DRRA?

Hagen: I have no regrets about the Linganore DRRA, except that, in the end, after saying it was 95% there (including a number of things he pushed the developers for in the waning months) Charles didn’t vote for it. I think it was a good agreement. The developer was in agreement. And there was a lot of support among residents of the PUD. I won’t bother to delineate or defend the details here (there are many), but I wish it had passed.

The work on the re-write of the New Market Region Plan was not all wasted, just because we later took on the comprehensive plan. It was a core campaign issue. A majority of us promised that we would revisit the plan, right away, if elected. We were, and we did. And most of what we ended up with in that plan was retained (and required much less time) in the new comp plan.

Why would you blame the entire BOCC for anything, Rocky, rather than those who supported or didn’t support what you think should have happened?

This notion that there isn’t accountability because there are five (or whatever number more than one) is silly. Are people suggesting there is no accountability for any elected officials except for executives (President, Governor, County Executive, etc.)? Why do you think [former Frederick County Commissioners] Cady and Lovell (both incumbents in the majority party and, on many or most issues, the majority on the board) lost in their bid for re-election, and Jan [Gardner] and Lennie [Thompson](also incumbents, in different parties, that were clearly not in the majority on the previous board, on many key issues, anyway) were both re-elected?

Rocky, [you] said:

“Let me ask you, if there was one representative among all of the county’s 65 plus elected officials, which position would be the one you would say that could speak on behalf all county elected officials?”

There is nobody who can speak on behalf of all “county elected officials,” and there wouldn’t be with a county executive either.

Mackintosh: Joan, I don’t need any more of the DRRA details … thanks.

Kai, this is a great exchange and it highlights the philosophical differences between us.  My concerns for the future of the county as a region (inclusive of all 13 jurisdictions) is that we have a very fractured system of governance.  Our nation has a president, our state has a governor, and many county’s within the state have a county executive, as in the cases of Howard and Montgomery Counties, to name a few.  Companies have CEO’s, and Charitable organizations have executive directors.  All are individual leaders/spokespeople for their entities.  They all have legislators or boards that challenge, support or oversee them, but from the outside looking in there is one person who is the representative.

Foreign governments don’t look at the US as 50 fractured states, and we as Marylanders don’t look at Virginia as 95 different counties and 39 independent cities.  From the outside looking in the US is one country with one president and Virginia is one state with one governor.  As messy as government is underneath the blanket of  the US, Virginia, Howard County or Frederick Memorial Hospital, at the end the day there is one person who is the chosen leader of that entity who represents that body and the majority decisions that its boards of legislators make.  That has proven to be the most functional way to move from point A to point B.

When someone from the outside — say Ken Ulman, the County Executive of Howard County — looks at Frederick County, who does he consider the one person in that can speak for all of the county?  When he knows that Frederick City has its own mayor (and 11 other similar types) and there is a delegation who the BOCC has to make requests of for  certain legislation … does he really consider Commissioner Gardner on the same level as he is within their respective counties? I doubt it.

In Frederick County, it is my humble opinion that we have matured passed the old agrarian method of governing to a point that we have to move in some way toward a more unified governance structure.  Currently, as my Lawrence Welk picture in my blog posting of today symbolizes, we are 13 bubbles that float around within a fishbowl with no one conducting the traffic or acting as a leader to bring about collaboration for the greater good of Frederick County as its own region.

On top of that you make my point so very clear when you reference Jenkins actions on Linganore DRRA and the Cady-Lovell defeats.  While it appears to me that you have your blinders on, looking only at what is going on within the BOCC bubble, my point is that no one is looking at Frederick County as a single entity and truly focusing on what is best for the County as a whole.

Now, you can say that you and the other four Commissioners did just that with the newly adopted Comprehensive Plan.  I say that has to be only in your minds, because it is hard to me to find any representative of the other 12 jurisdictions who will step up and tell me that they felt like they played an important role in the development of that plan.  I have found no buy-in … none at all … yet.  I have not yet had to opportunity to speak to people from all twelve, but I’ve done an OK job thus far.  If you can steer me in the right direction, I’ll go there.  Please help me out!

… and you may tell me that you don’t need their buy in, because the BOCC represents all of the County.  While statement may be technically true, with all citizens voting in BOCC elections, I say that’s a cop-out.  That level of arrogance is not healthy for the greater good of Frederick as a whole.

Please understand, I’m not pointing fingers and saying that if we could only get this bunch of arrogant BOCC members out of office, and replace with a less arrogant bunch all will be better … that’s not it at all.  This is not about growth or no-growth, liberal or conservative.  It’s about a governance structure … It is a broken system, and as I stated in my blog post, it’s a cultural thing that has evolved over decades into this dysfunctional system of government that Frederick County and its 12 other jurisdictions has adapted to.  We need to find a method to bring more unity and collaboration among these entities.

So don’t take it personally … you are just a victim of your own environment!  I look forward to further comments!

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