Staking his claim on a new style of leadership to Move Frederick Forward… Together!
The anticipation of who would throw themselves to the wolves in the City of Frederick’s 2017 Mayoral race is over, and for the pairs of Republican candidates (incumbent Randy McClement and Shelley Aloi) and Democratic candidates (Michael O’Connor and former Mayor Jennifer Dougherty), the time for serious campaigning has begun.
Heck, here we are in the height of the summer vacation season, and there’s only 61 days before the September 12th primary!
Is anybody paying attention?
Michael O’Connor, a current member of the City’s Board of Aldermen with seven and one-half years of experience under his belt, thinks a lot of people are. He’s been on an official “Listening Tour” around Frederick since he made his formal announcement to run for Mayor on January 6th of this year.
The former local radio-TV personality and talk show host has been communicating with the members of the Frederick community for decades, and while most of the political noise that gobbles up headlines and social interactions still blusters about who is conspiring with whom to undermine the other in the nation’s capital, O’Connor is finding that the voters in Frederick are tuned into local issues.
What has he been hearing, and what will he do about it?
The issues vary, depending upon with whom he has been conversing. Some express concerns about growing traffic problems in and around the city. Many small business owners in the downtown see the increased traffic as a sign of growth, which happily equates to increasing bottom lines.
The topic of stronger leadership on the matter of dealing with blighted properties is something that O’Connor says he hears a lot about. He pledges to take a decisive stand using existing tools (policies) to deal with the owners of such structures.
With all the talk around town about the hotel/conference center project, he says he hears very strong support and a small vocal minority leading the opposition. Is there substance in what the voices of the latter are saying? The candidate says that everyone should be heard, but regarding the future of the decades-empty Birely Tannery building, he does lean toward seeing it being dealt with in such a manner as to make way for progress.
Does that mean he favors demolition of the structure? Well, not necessarily.
If the city’s Historic Preservation Commission votes this week that the old tannery should stay … O’Connor says, he still doesn’t want such an action to keep the project from moving forward.
The city’s twelve-year-old, burdensome and often contradictory “Land Management Code,” the Alderman says it’s time for an overhaul, but exactly how the task would be undertaken, he is open minded and wants to do a lot more listening.
On the matter of what the city should do with its now nearly $30 million investment in the Hargett Farm, which was acquired in 2009 through a condemnation suit during Holtzinger administration with that mayor’s dream to develop a regional park, O’Connor has shifted his views from the time he first campaigned for alderman in that same year. Back in ’09, he questioned benefits of developing the 148-acre property into a regional park. But today, while he sees no realistic way in which the city can find the money to invest another $100 million or more into a regional aquatic center, he does think that it should be held on to and developed as a recreational area in a more reasonable manner — possibility through some kind of public-private partnership.
O’Connor’s other hot button issues are addressing poverty elimination, diversifying our tax base and developing more small area plans like those of the Golden Mile and East Street Corridor.
But it is bringing his personal style of leadership to City Hall and instituting good governance that he believes will make the biggest impact on how the local government will serve its constituents in an O’Connor Administration. The candidate wants to foster a very broad and engaged “community-oriented, goal driven, and problem-solving” coalition of citizens to provide the foundation for building a new strategic vision for the City. From this base, a clear vision will arise from which he will collaboratively Move Frederick Forward Together.
For sure, such an approach will take a lot more listening … well past the general election.
With local off-year election turnout continuing to trend lower over the last many years, can O’Connor’s message inspire city voters to the polls?
He thinks it will sell.
And how will his platform and leadership style play during the primary contest, where he will face off with veteran mayoral candidate and former mayor herself Jennifer Dougherty? She is well known for her in-the-trenches campaign style, strong opinions and sometimes combative nature in a debate.
O’Connor says he sees the differences between the two of them as very contrasting. He sees no need to battle over the issues. He stands on his reputation and states that the public has come to know him well. And they will clearly see that his very diversified background and years of public service make him the most qualified leader from either party to preside over City Hall.
Well, one thing for sure, Candidate Michael O’Connor, we will all be listening … too!
Rocky Mackintosh is President of MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He has been an active member of the Frederick, Maryland community for over four decades. He has served as chairman of the board of Frederick Memorial Hospital and as a member of the Frederick County Charter Board from 2010 to 2012. He currently serves as chairman of the board of Frederick Mutual Insurance Company. Established in 1843, it is one of the longest enduring businesses in Frederick County.