The following (below the image) is a Letter to the Editor of the Frederick News Post, which was written by all five members of the Gardner Board of County Commissioners (2006-2010), and published in February 2014, in response to certain actions (and comments) by the Young Board of County Commissioners (2010-2016).
Frederick News Post
Letter to the Editor
Sunday, February 9, 2014
We are Republicans and Democrats, who served the public as members of the 2006-2010 Board of County Commissioners. We worked together for the betterment of Frederick County. We brought different ideas and life experiences to the table, actively debated the issues in public session and mixed up our votes. Unlike the current board of commissioners, we did not have a consistent voting block.
Our collective strength rested in shared values and a shared vision to make Frederick County the best place to live, work and raise a family.
We value honesty and integrity in government. That’s why we adopted strong ethics laws and lobbying reform. We were willing to subject ourselves to stringent rules and public disclosure requirements because we believe citizens have a right to trust that the decisions county officials make are in the public interest, not in the interest of those who may benefit from the decision. Ethics laws have since been weakened or repealed and penalties for ethics violations eliminated.
We value fiscal discipline and good stewardship of public tax dollars. We are proud to have earned the county’s first AAA bond rating. Not only did we control spending, we actually cut spending by $38 million, adopting two budgets that were lower than the year before. We did not raise property tax rates or income taxes.
In contrast, spending has increased each and every year since the end of our term. County spending under Commissioner Blaine Young’s board is at the highest level in the county’s history. Even with the $43M rollover of the fire and rescue tax into the general fund, the 2014 budget is an additional $34 million beyond the last budget adopted by the Gardner board. The Young board raised the combined property/fire taxes on residents in Thurmont, Sabillasville, Lewistown, Walkersville, Middletown, Mount Airy and Brunswick.
We value core county services and oppose corporate welfare. You may hear that over 200 fees and taxes have been cut by the Young board. What you won’t hear is the rest of the story: that almost all of these fees and taxes are paid only or mostly by developers.
This means you, the taxpayers, are now paying at least $1.2 million annually to cover the costs of new development. County taxpayers are now paying more to subsidize new development than the county is spending on certain core services like economic development or transit or the department of aging.
We value public participation and open government. That’s why we added public comment at the beginning and end of each meeting, offered citizens an opportunity to speak for five minutes at public hearings, and mailed notification to residents about controversial issues. Public input is now limited to three minutes, public processes are often unclear, public information harder to access, and the commissioners meet infrequently because so many decisions are made without debate.
We value county employees and treated them with dignity and respect. County employees are dedicated to providing the services that Frederick County residents depend on day in and day out. We have been saddened by the devaluation of county staff. The departure of many long-time employees and their historical knowledge has been astounding and is not in the best interest of the public. We hold our public employees in high regard, value their work and thank them for their dedicated service.
We value responsible growth and protecting the taxpayers from being stuck with the bill. Frederick County is a desirable place and people will continue to want to live here. We balanced the need to meet projected population growth with the need to retain our agricultural heritage, our historic and cultural assets and our friendly sense of community.
We believe growth should pay its fair share of the public costs it creates to prevent school overcrowding, road congestion and a tax burden to existing residents. Adequate Public Facilities laws have since been gutted, 20 year contracts have been signed with developers totally eliminating fees for transportation, and millions of dollars of infrastructure costs have been shifted to county taxpayers. The raiding of general fund revenues to support the development of Jefferson Tech Park is gross incompetence. We believe these decisions are wrong.
As for being “open for business,” we have to wonder what that really means, other than for their primary campaign contributors: developers. We facilitated Banner Insurance (400 jobs), Life Technologies (100 jobs), and the Social Security Administration data center (200 jobs). What new major employers have opened new business over the past three years? Bechtel decided to move hundreds of jobs out of our community during the Young board. This does not add up to being open for business.
We feel confident that the citizens of Frederick County share our values and will vote for a return to good government in 2014.
Jan Gardner, David Gray, Kai Hagen, Charles Jenkins, and John “Lennie” Thompson Jr.
The writers were members of the 2006-2010 Frederick County Board of Commissioners