Tag Archives: Frederick County

In miniature, January 1

  • Recommended: Geoff Kabaservice’s interview with pollster Mileah Kromer ranges among topics like Larry Hogan’s highly successful use of Change Maryland as a vehicle, the salience of property taxes as a issue with suburban black voters, and why private colleges like Goucher are home to so many influential polls [Vital Center podcast]
  • Dan Cox’s 32-point loss, in which he received only half as many votes as Larry Hogan had in 2018, decimated the Maryland GOP in close races as well as the Republican bench [Brian Griffiths, Duckpin, more, yet more]
  • Gee, who’d have predicted that? Crank AG nominee Michael Peroutka, who lost to Anthony Brown by 20 points as of election night and 30 points in the final count, wasn’t inclined to concede [more from Griffiths, see also]
  • It’s not a great idea for vacancies that open up in the Assembly to be filled by party central committees, especially not if the committee members can appoint themselves. A revolt against the idea among some Montgomery Democrats was quickly put down, though [Adam Pagnucco]
  • Metro’s glaring operational and safety deficiencies can be traced to its weak management structure [Christian Britschgi, Reason]
  • Jack Hogan interviewed a dozen people for this retrospective on Jan Gardner’s eight years as Frederick County Executive, and included my two cents [Frederick News Post]

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“Yes” on five statewide measures and Frederick County Question A

Of the five issues on the Maryland ballot this year, one is important by any measure, Question 4 to legalize marijuana. Criminalization has failed practically and is not supportable morally. Vote YES.

I am cautiously supportive of three court modernization measures. Question 1 would rename the state’s highest and next-highest courts to conform to the format in use in most other states: “Supreme Court” and “Appeals Court.” Question 3 would raise the threshold for full-dress jury trial from $15,000 to $25,000; given inflation, a change of this sort does not reflect any major policy change. Question 5 would authorize Howard County to follow Montgomery and Harford by absorbing the work of the orphan’s courts into the general circuit court system. Maryland is unusual among states in electing orphan’s court judges as a separate job (and on a partisan ballot line) and the merits of that arrangement are not so obvious as to impose it on jurisdictions that would rather follow usual court system practice. YES, YES, and YES.

Question 2 would require “that candidates for the state legislature maintain a primary place of abode in the district they wish to represent for at least six months prior to the date of their election or for as long as the district has been in existence.” While I have not found the explanations for this change to be ideally clear, I think the language makes sense. YES.

In Frederick County, I emphatically favor Question A, on authority over arbitration of firefighter union demands, which would help restore to the voters a power they should never have lost over public expenditures. Recovering this authority is vital for both fiscal soundness and democratic practice. Here is Council Member Steve McKay’s description:

Back in 2018, the public voted in favor of a Charter amendment brought by the Career Firefighters to give them binding arbitration. What did that mean? Under binding arbitration, when the County and the firefighters union can’t agree on a new contract, they must submit to a third party arbitrator, who then makes the decision. The problem that I’ve had with this is that the arbitrators in this region uniformly side with the unions. In other words, the union doesn’t have a good reason to compromise with the County when they know they can win at arbitration. But my concern is neither here nor there, because that’s what the voters decided in 2018.

The problem is that it created a conflict in our Charter. The County Executive negotiates the union contract. It would be the County Executive and union who would be parties to the binding arbitration process, which would result in a proscribed funding amount for the union that would then be part of the County Executive’s budget proposal to the Council. This is where the conflict arises. The Charter gives the County Council independent budget authorities from the County Executive. We can reduce or approve (but not increase) the County Executive’s funding requests in the budget. The Council isn’t party to the binding arbitration agreement, and we have independent Charter authority to reduce budget items – potentially including the funds for a binding arbitration agreement. Frankly, the 2018 Charter amendment should have specifically addressed this issue – but it didn’t. Since then, the union (or a Council member) could have addressed this issue with a Charter amendment in 2020 or now, but nobody did.

So what does Question A do? It simply provides clarifying language in the Charter and allows the voters to indicate that they understand that the County Council has these separate budget authorities, including the sole authority to approve or disapprove of the use of County funding to support a binding arbitration agreement.

Vote YES on Question A.

Question B would authorize fringe benefits for Frederick County council members. In adopting charter government, Frederick County decided on a citizen council, not meant to be a full-time job. By offering fringe benefits, the county would take a material step toward an employment model. Vote NO on Question B.

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In miniature, January 29

  • I’m honored to have joined the board of the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation, one of my favorite local organizations, which maintains historic buildings such as Schifferstadt and runs the wonderful annual Barnstormers Tour.
  • Howard Gorrell: More hypocrisy on Maryland redistricting [Maryland Reporter] LRAC’s legislative maps, unlike MCRC’s, split the city of Gaithersburg. Might that decision be vulnerable to a legal challenge? [David Lublin, The Seventh State] To help pry open the closed shop that is Maryland politics, try open primaries [Colin Alter, same]
  • Reminder: Del. Dan Cox’s many baseless election-theft claims include insinuations of “rampant” poll fraud in four GOP-heavy Maryland counties that did not return the sort of margins for Trump he expected a year ago: Frederick, Carroll, Anne Arundel, and Harford. [Brian Griffiths, The Duckpin] Numbers on county shifts here; note that while these four suburban counties all swung hard against Trump (10-13 points), as did more Democratic suburban jurisdictions like Howard (10) and Baltimore County (11), many counties that are partially suburban in character swung a lot too, such as Calvert and Talbot with 11-point swings, Washington 9, Wicomico and St. Mary’s with 8, and Queen Anne’s with 7.
  • The redistricting season has now wrapped up with the legislature choosing gerrymanders over our commission’s fair maps for both Congressional and legislative elections. Some clips: Henry Olsen/Washington Post, WTOP, Star-Democrat (Easton). And I’m quoted in this Frederick News-Post piece by Jack Hogan on the implications of the legislative maps for Frederick County.
  • Maryland ranks near the cellar in business tax climate and Andrew Macloughlin of the Free State Foundation explains why. [Maryland Reporter]

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On Jennifer Charlton’s WFMD “Success Happens”

Jennifer Charlton and I talked about the work of the upcoming Frederick County Charter Review Commission, along with other topics, on her WFMD show last weekend. You can listen here. More on the charter review process at the FNP.

I forgot to post it at the time, but you can also listen to a recent appearance I did on Jerry Rogers’s new WBAL show. We discussed among other topics the then-pending nomination of Judge Neomi Rao as a judge on the D.C. Circuit; she has since been confirmed.

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Should Frederick take Gov. Thomas Johnson’s name off TJ high school?

Peter Samuel’s letter to the editor in the Frederick News-Post hits the right points: it’s not wrong to memorialize founders and framers whose historical notability lies in their works of positive benefit to the nation, and that goes for Frederick’s Gov. Thomas Johnson as well as for figures like Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. In a Twitter thread, I get into some of my disagreements with the original front-page FNP piece by reporter Wyatt Massey.

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In miniature, February 7


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Alcohol restrictionists plot against Franchot; Flying Dog scraps Frederick expansion

Public health nannies, big alcohol lobbyists and intraparty rivals are all gunning for Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, so I figure he must be doing something right. Danielle Gaines reports.

To spell out what Franchot is doing right, he’s been pursuing a pro-consumer, pro-market, pro-competition agenda that would ease the way for craft beer and wine producers and other newcomers to offer buyers more choices at lower prices. Public health nannies like those at Hopkins’s Bloomberg Center don’t like that because they think drinks should be more expensive and harder to get, for your own good you understand. Big alcohol lobbyists don’t like it because their business model is premised on maintaining scarcer and more expensive choices with less competition. And intraparty rivals don’t like it because Franchot — though a Democrat of a rather liberal stripe — is happy to cooperate with Republicans like Gov. Larry Hogan to get things done.

Meanwhile, faced with intractable resistance among the majority legislative leadership in Annapolis to modernizing and easing craft beer regulations, Flying Dog Brewery has bailed out on its plans for a big expansion in east Frederick and put the land up for sale. Bad law has consequences.

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Frederick County: April Miller best choice for school board vacancy

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner will have the chance to fill a vacancy on the eight-member Frederick County Board of Education with Ken Kerr’s advancement to the House of Delegates. Those interested in serving have been invited to submit their names.

I myself am hoping that Gardner sees fit, despite party differences, to appoint incumbent April Miller to renewed service on the board, should Miller apply. The most obvious reason is at the ballot box: Miller ran fifth of eight for the four posts available, with 35,489 votes (unofficial), fewer than 2,000 votes short of what proved the cutoff. By comparison, Camden Raynor, the 20-year-old (as of September) college student who made a bid for a seat and is said to be a prospect for the vacancy appointment, received 27,701, even with the powerful endorsement of the teachers’ union (“Apple Ballot”).

The strongest reasons to support Miller, however, are substantive. To begin with, she has done a fine job on the board over her two terms, winning praise for constructive engagement even from board members with different priorities. Like colleague Elizabeth Barrett, sometimes seen as her opposite number on the board, Miller is known for thinking for herself and asking uncomfortable questions.

The wider question is whether it is a healthy development, in a county where conservatives make up around half the electorate, to wind up with a school board with no conservatives on it at all. The alternative is one consisting pretty much exclusively of present or past Apple Ballot endorsees. (The union declined to endorse Barrett this time around; she won anyway.) On many issues, absent Miller, there will be no voice raised in dissent, no one to ask certain types of questions or frame objections. In short, there will be a shortage along a very relevant dimension of ideological diversity.

Though nominally non-partisan the school board is all but partisan in practice, so this means asking CE Gardner, a Democrat, to overlook party lines and appoint a known Republican. On the other hand, that’s the sort of thing successful managers do: Gov. Larry Hogan has appointed Democrats to many high posts, part of the centrist appeal that has enabled him to win over Democratic moderates. At a moment where eager Democrats are no doubt applying for the spot, it might take a magnificent gesture on Gardner’s part. But it’s one we could use right about now.

More: Tom Neumark letter to the editor in the FNP.

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Frederick County: Union shouldn’t control school board

Tom Neumark says many of the things I had been thinking about the county school board races. We really shouldn’t want a board entirely consisting of members raised to office through the political clout of the teachers’ union with its Apple Ballot. Yet that’s what we may soon find ourselves with.

Two incumbents were denied the union’s endorsement this year, namely April Miller and Elizabeth Barrett. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these two — though differing from each other in many ways — are both known for thinking for themselves, asking hard questions, and standing up for parents and families not always represented otherwise.

It raises all sorts of conflict of interest for the education unions to place their members, retirees, and close associates in public offices regularly called on to resist union demands. Yet Frederick County is already much of the way down that road. Let’s not proceed further.

Related: two school board hopefuls aren’t FCPS employees, but still have a less direct stake in compensation decisions, per this LTE from Stephanie Covati of Middletown.

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Frederick County: NO on Question D

My letter to the editor in the Frederick News-Post opposing Question D, on mandatory binding arbitration and collective bargaining for career firefighters:

Please vote NO on Question D, a charter amendment promoted by the firefighters union at the intended expense of taxpayers and the general public. The provisions of D expanding collective bargaining are bad enough, but even worse are those subjecting the county to mandatory binding arbitration whose outcome — get this — must be funded in the county budget, no matter what the people’s elected representatives may think of it.

Mandatory binding arbitration in the public workplace takes fiscal decisions away from those who are accountable to voters. It gives unions an artificial incentive to arrive at a bargaining impasse so as to call in an arbitrator who will always give them at least as much as management’s offer. It is also unfair to other employees who don’t get such privileges. In states like Connecticut and California, this system has done much damage to the finances and flexibility of local government, resulting in high property tax levels, cuts to other services, or both.

News-Post reporter Samantha Hogan writes that, ‘At a forum for nearly all the county council candidates at the Brunswick Fire Department, each one said they didn’t support Question D, given the binding arbitration aspect.’ They’re right to oppose a measure that is D for damaging, destructive and defective.”

Walter Olson
New Market

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