Some say that it’s been a steady eight years with Randy McClement as Mayor, so why rock the boat?
One does not have to hear the Mayor say that he is not “your typical politician” to know that the quiet manner in which he oversees the City of Frederick is in fact how it goes in City Hall.
It wasn’t necessarily a big surprise when McClement announced this past March that he will be seeking another turn at the helm of the vessel he has been piloting, but in “typical Randy Style,” there wasn’t a lot of fanfare at that time either. He put the word out, and a few minutes later, it was back to “All Hands On Deck.”
Four years ago, there were a number of big, debatable issues that sizzled through the primary campaign and right into the general election.
- The City police force ran at 72% capacity, and many complained that the Mayor got caught off guard
- The administration struggled with a terribly out of balance post-employment benefit and pension obligations
- Many parts of the City’s 2005 zoning ordinance and Land Management Code (LMC) had been deemed by many as an impediment to a more robust economic development effort
- The debt service to carry the Hargett Farm as a future regional park was challenging the city’s fiscal plans
Since that time, while not completely to everyone’s satisfaction, most of these issues have been addressed in City Hall to the point that his contenders in this the 2017 campaign haven’t significantly raised these banners. Could this mean that they accept them as bobbing idly in the wake of the Good Ship Frederick as it cruises into the September 12th primary?
It seems to be the issue of his leadership style that is the one proverbial complaint from those who seek to replace him which Randy can’t seem to shake. Ask him about that, and he will list the number of accomplishments and efforts that have been moved forward since 2013.
From his website and on the campaign trail, he boasts:
- The completion of the improvements to East Patrick Street along Carroll Creek Linear Park
- Continual improvements to, and the expansion of, Monocacy Boulevard
- Near completion of the Christopher’s Crossing Bridge over US Route 15
- Forward progress with the development of the Downtown Hotel & Conference Center with no taxpayer commitment other than parking
- Eight straight years of a balanced budget and an excellent credit rating
- Major improvements in public safety
- Many new businesses have moved into the city, boosting economic development
- The strengthening of regulations to enforce the city’s problem with blighted properties
With the exception of the matter of blighted properties, none of his challengers seem to be contesting the above bullet points.
Aside from his leadership and communication style, it seems that all of his opponents, two Democrats (O’Connor and Dougherty) and Republican Shelley Aloi, collectively agree that McClement should be doing much more to deal with the “so-called” blight problem.
In response, the Mayor does not “call” this a blight problem anymore, as he refers to it as an issue of “Property Revitalization.” He says that of all the properties within the city limits only one-tenth of one percent (0.01%) have been deemed blighted, and to date there are no open code violations. Taking the specific case of the infamous downtown landlord Duk Hee Ro, who is the owner of the “Asiana Building” in the 100 block of North Market Street, the Mayor states that with a lot of pressure from City Hall, she has made nearly $500,000 of improvements to the property that it now meets all building codes.
But his critics argue that when this topic first reached his desk during his initial term, McClement did not act quickly enough and only made progress in fits and starts, and despite the stronger codes, much more can and should be done. Some of his challengers have stated that they want to seek ways to force Mrs. Ro to lease the (what seems to be) perpetually vacant building. The Mayor says that such move would seriously infringe on the property rights of any landlord.
Will this primary campaign be decided on the issues of leadership and blight?
With the primary right around the corner and early voting already under way, McClement’s first challenger will be against Shelley Aloi, who tried to give him a bit of a dust up in their August 21st debate. Both candidates have been knocking on doors and doing their thing to garner votes.
But how many of the 11,632 registered Republicans (as of January 1, 2017) will actually show up to vote? Last go-round only 17.04% found their way to the polls in the GOP primary. While McClement beat her handily by a margin of 61% to 39% of the 1,419 total votes cast for the two of them, but that was not just a two-person race. If former Mayor Jeff Holtzinger had not entered that race, could it have been possible that Aloi could have captured all of his 344 votes? While it’s a long shot to assume all those would have been cast her way … imagine if such a thing had happened: Shelley would have won the primary by a mere 33 votes!
So, with only two at this year’s GOP gate, how will the percentages fall this time? How many voters are really paying attention? And will more than 17% of registered Republicans show up this time?
High Seas Ahead?
At the end of the day for this incumbent, will Aloi be able sink McClement’s Good Ship Frederick by stirring up enough turbulence in the calm waters that it has enjoyed since the last election?
After two terms in office can Mayor Randy’s boat really be rocked?
We only have to wait a few days to find out!
Rocky Mackintosh, President, 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.