Does the important topic of ethics in Frederick County government really have to be framed by an idle comparison to a Roman conquest?
I’m never amazed anymore that when the political winds shift dramatically, as they tend to do here in Frederick County, Maryland every four years, how the power of a victory will often distort the minds of those and their supporters who reach the summit.
A couple of weeks ago I was directed to read a letter to the editor in the Washington Post entitled Searching for Equilibrium in a New Suburban Reality, where Linda Norris-Waldt (one whom I have endorsed in past elections) authored a short piece that announced to the Greater Washington DC Metropolitan Area the grand accomplishments of a citizens task force that she recently chaired.
This group was charged with drafting new ethics regulations for elected Frederick County government officials. She referred to these in the article as “some of the most detailed ethics legislation in the region.”
Now, I am sure that Ms. Norris-Waldt is very proud of the accomplishments of her task force, just as I was when I served on the Frederick County Charter Board charged with drafting a new charter to replace the county commissioner form of government just a few years ago. As in the case of the draft charter, the next step toward approval is to bring the work of the task force to a public forum for debate.
In her announcement to big brothers Washington, DC and Montgomery County, Maryland (among the other jurisdictions in the region), it appears to me that the pride of her work drove her to claim the task force has laid the foundation for an even grander accomplishment. That being in Linda’s opinion, while Frederick County has been a member of the Washington DC MSA for many years, it has never been sophisticated or professional enough to make the grade of its peer MSA members. In other words, our county has been an embarrassment of sorts within the DC metro area, and the proposed changes in the ethics laws once approved will now give us equal standing.
She makes broad statements that those residents with deep generational roots within our county are members of “the old culture … [of] people … [who] looked the other way when questionable behavior occurred … and while technically within the law, violated the moral sensibilities of many citizens.” These “Old-Frederick” residents, some of whom she tells the Nation’s Capital area, like to refer to themselves as “Frednecks” – such a distinguished phrase for many whose ancestors who have immigrated from all corners of the globe risking their lives and sometimes their fortunes to escape the turmoil of their homeland in the New World since the seventeen century.
Ah, but fear not, she exclaims to Frederick’s fellow members of the Metropolitan Statistical Area:
The newer citizens, [the] people who have put Frederick County on the list of the fastest-growing counties, … are more urban, cynical [and] expect a high level of accountability for people elected to public office.
It is these New Urbanites (borrowing a word from another friend Farrell Keough … Ah, but I digress), who not unlike the Roman Army of the late BC’s which conquered those uncivilized well rooted, less sophisticated and less educated people known as the Huns, Vandals and Germanic tribes (among others), “are playing a fast game of catch-up” within the hostel tribal “environment of [the] genteel old-boy network.”
So much for County Executive Jan Gardner’s new county road sign tag line Rich History, Bright Future which replaced the previous administration’s Open for Business. Seems it might be better to drop the word “History” altogether, as it is clearly time to sweep the ugly “Fredneck” past under the banquet room bear skins, as the New Urbanites feast upon the rich rewards of their victories.
Now, you may ask why am I dwelling on all this Urbanite versus Fredneck gibberish, without casting an opinion on the meat of the matter – the proposed ethics changes?
In his October 25th within the OpEd page of the Frederick News Post, Farrell Keough penned an article entitled County ethics task force chair's letter raises eyebrow, questioning “why was [Norris-Waldt’s] letter sent to The Post rather than our own local paper?”
… the premise of [her] letter seems self-evident. While the greater majority of this nation (and Frederick County) are not “urbanites,” those who are consider themselves of superior knowledge and push their agendas within the contexts of their own media outlets. To do otherwise would mean needing to engage the general public, and that is anathema to their desires — desires that are not broadly shared.
While I may agree with his conclusion, what I found most offensive is how she seemed to separate all the residents of Frederick into two distinct and very convenient classes … as Keough alludes: the new smart people and those less sophisticated Old-Frederick people.
These are very broad brush groupings, that just about any local resident can see through: Right or wrong, it’s all about taking another shot at Blaine Young, Billy Shreve and Kirby Delauter! Which seems to be the approach which the first administration under charter home rule seeks to “professionalize” Frederick County government.
And if this is the case, then have at it! But why not just tell it that way, instead of creating a Game of Thrones theme that includes all Frederick residents into the important debate of the ethics in county government?
For those in Montgomery County and other parts of the Washington, DC area, who don’t thrive on the wacky world of Frederick County politics or our ethics, the interpretation to those who read it is likely quite different … more like the manner in which I wrote this article:
All hail those powerful NEW URBANITES, for they have finally gained a political foothold in the wilderness known as Frederick County and are about to finally conquer the barbarians known as Frednecks!
… and, I guess that is what we want others in our region to take away from an article in the Washington Post about our beloved community!
The author: 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, as a member of the Frederick County Charter Board from 2010 to 2012, and currently serves as Co-Chairman of the Economic Development Advisory Council to the Mayor of the City of Frederick … to name a few.