On Tuesday, May 8th, at 6:00pm, Our Revolution Western Maryland is hosting a candidate forum at the C. Burr Artz Public Library in downtown Frederick. Please see the details below, and attend if you can.
Before scheduling/planning this forum, Our Revolution Western Maryland sent questionnaires to all of the candidates, and many (though not all) of us responded. Our Revolution Western Maryland has published the questionnaires they received, and I have also published my responses here (below the graphic).
Below please find: 1) The original email message from Our Revolution Western Maryland, and 2) Their questions and my responses to them, and 3) Links to various websites and social media pages for Our Revolution Western Maryland and the candidate forum.
From: Susannah Lapping
Date: Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 11:12 AM
Subject: Our Revolution Western MD
Attached is our candidate questionnaire. Please email back to me at this address by April 25th. Please let me know if you will be available to join us on May 8th for our forum?
ENDORSEMENT QUESTIONS—OUR REVOLUTION WESTERN MARYLAND
All Our Revolution Maryland endorsements are based on the input from those that live in the community. An Our Revolution Maryland endorsement begins with a recommendation from one of the official Our Revolution Maryland local groups. All questions and candidate responses will be made available to the public.
1. What have you done professionally or as an individual that qualifies you for public office and qualifies you as a candidate whom Our Revolution Western Maryland members would want to support?
Well…I have been involved in civic matters, as a citizen, an activist and organizer (volunteer and professional), for environmental and social justice issues and organizations, for almost the entirety of my adult life. I have studied and engaged the issues, i have a deep familiarity with how local government works, generally, and how Frederick County government works, specifically…as well as most of the issues that local government deals with, short term and long term.
In 2006, that lifelong engagement led me to run for county commissioner in Frederick County. I came in second in the primary (where five advance), and third in the countywide general election (where the top five win). I am proud to have served four years as a citizen commissioner, as it were, and I think my record during those four years (see some of the commentary and links below) makes it clear that I stayed true to the values that have motivated my dedicated engagement and activism since I started knocking on doors for a grassroots environmental organization in 1983.
2. Do you support debt-free post-secondary (vocational schools, community college) education?
As I also note in my closing comments below, I have been endorsed by the Frederick County Teachers Association (FCTA) on behalf of FCTA and the Frederick Association of School Support Employees (FASSE) and the Frederick County Administrative and Supervisory Association (FCASA), as I was in 2006 and again in 2010.
Public education is a top priority for any county elected official. As one of seven members of the county council, under our still-new charter government, I would sincerely hope that the County Executive and a majority of the County Council shared that view, including a genuine commitment to provide the funding necessary to meet and maintain excellence…across the entire system.
Put simply, there is no vision of a thriving and prosperous future for Frederick County that does not include excellent schools, of all kinds (includes vocational and technical) and at all levels (from pre-school through college).
As a member of the county council, I would strongly and reliably support that vision, with the sincere commitment to achieve and maintain system-wide excellence. Part of that commitment goes well beyond simply supporting responsible budgets.
Schools…and our school system…are not islands that can or will fare as well as possible, even with adequate funding, if they are not also part of a healthy community, with safe and attractive neighborhoods, with affordable housing, with adequate and accessible parks and other recreational opportunities, with clean air and water, and so on.
The county council has to support and approve the county executive’s budget, but many of the most significant choices we will make about how we shape our community and its future are the responsibility of the council. That could be an entirely separate and substantial conversation, and I’d be happy to discuss it further, but the shorthand version of it means adhering to the full range of smart growth principles as our community adds tens of thousands of new residents, and we are faced with genuine challenges and opportunities.
And, with regard to your specific question, any and every child/student in our community (and all communities) should be able to count on an excellent education, at no cost to the student, for every level of public education they otherwise qualify for. Income and wealth, or the lack thereof, should never be the reason that a student can not attend a good, post-secondary public school, community college, university, etc.
Without any question, it is one of the best investments we can make as a society, and we all reap the benefits in countless ways.
3. Despite great social progress, women continue to be massively underrepresented in circles of authority including elected office. As we all know, women earn less than men. What will you do to advance real equality for women here in Maryland and in Frederick County?
I take this and all forms of discrimination and inequity as seriously as I can.
This is not a simple question to answer in the context of being a male, and running for a local office, in which there are both limits and opportunities in terms of what local government can do directly. But, having said that, there are certainly some real opportunities to work to ensure that concerns of and issues affecting women…as well as ALL other groups that suffer the effects of overt discrimination, as well as historic and institutionalized, systemic inequities…are addressed, assertively and effectively, at every opportunity.
We’ve come a long way, albeit often at far too slow a pace, and against too much resistance, and we still have a long way to go…as your question expresses. In spite of some obvious and glaring setbacks, however…such as the assault on many basic civil rights we see during the Trump administration…I think we are at a turning point, and there is a real opportunity to make critical and overdue progress, and to keep building on the activism and organizing and education happening in regard to this and other civil rights issues at this volatile time.
I believe deeply that these social justice issues…along with certain major environmental threats…are the biggest challenges and opportunities of our time. And I’m happy to be as much a part of those changes…this progress…as I can be.
Our ability to be a thriving, prosperous, equitable and just society absolutely absolutely depends on the progress we make here.
As an ecological or holistic or systems thinker, I don’t see many of the things we can do as separate issues, to be dealt with individually, but as part and parcel of every issue. When you approach things that way, almost everything you do is an opportunity to address these issues, too…if the right values are infused into your day to day perspective.
4. Will you work toward establishing a public finance system for all local political campaigns?
There are many things that need to be reformed about our election process, from campaigns to voting. But right up there at the top of the list (along with very serious issues such as gerrymandering and voter suppression) is campaign finance reform.
The role of money in politics is at the root of a great many and very serious problems we have in elections and in governance (and concerns about being re-elected). And that isn’t going to change without significant and substantial campaign finance reform.
While it is often less of an issue in local campaigns, we have still seen plenty of local examples where fundraising and funding have led to everything from a basic conflict of interest to outright corruption. In communities with growth and development pressures, for instance, there is a lot of money to be made in land use and zoning (and related) decisions, which are made by local municipal and county elected officials. As a result, wealthy development interests have long had a hugely disproportionate impact on local elections, largely through campaign contributions. That does not serve the public interest.
See this blog entry of mine for some of my perspective on that:
Development interests “investing” in local elections is a “dog bites man” story
I’m proud to say that I do not, end never have, accepted campaign contributions from development interests.
There are certain campaign finance reforms (or obstacles to them) that are federal in nature. Other aspects can or need to be addressed at the state level. But, whether that can (legally or politically) include public financing at the county level, I absolutely agree that we should examine and explore the options we have at the local level (and there are some, certainly), to reduce the impact of money in elections…and in governance.
On a related point, I will also note that as a county commissioner (2006-2010), I supported successful efforts to improve our ethics and lobbying rules in the county (making them, at the time, the strongest they had ever been).
5. The Livable Frederick Plan lays out a long-term plan for the development of the Frederick County. Give an example of how you would implement one recommendation in the plan, be it legislation or policy.
I’m not sure trying to identify how I would “implement one recommendation in the plan, be it legislation or policy,” is the best way to convey my knowledge and experience…and values and perspective…with regard to land use and planning issues. But I’ll start here by noting that I have a long and well-established record on land use and planning issues in Frederick County. Among other things, that includes
• Being on the Citizens Zoning and Review Committee (as a representative of the environmental community) back in 2002,
• Serving as co-chair of the Western Maryland Committee of Reality Check Plus. Reality Check Plus was a series of growth visioning exercises that were held in four different regions of Maryland in the spring and summer of 2006. Business, civic and elected leaders from throughout Maryland participated in Reality Check exercises, which were designed to help the state make smart choices about where and how to accommodate the new residents and jobs expected to come to Maryland over the next 25 years.
• Being a Frederick County Commissioner for four years.
• Serving on the Frederick County Planning Commission for all four of those years.
• Serving as the Director of Envision Frederick County for the last seven years. ENVISION FREDERICK COUNTY is a non-profit, non-partisan organization founded on the principle that diversity, informed public discourse and active engagement of individuals and groups in our civic life is essential to our mutual well-being and prosperity. We are dedicated to enhancing the social, economic and environmental vitality and sustainability of our community.
Learn more about Envision Frederick County here: https://envisionfrederickcounty.org/
My tenure on the Board of County Commissioners was notable for our efforts to improve land use and planning in the county, and to apply more environmentally-responsible and sustainable Smart Growth principles (to the degree politically possible, given the composition of the board).
Below is a list of some of the basic principles (which I fully support) to guide smart growth strategies:
• Mix land uses.
• Take advantage of compact building design.
• Create a range of housing opportunities and choices.
• Create walkable neighborhoods.
• Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place.
• Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas.
• Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities.
• Provide a variety of transportation choices.
• Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective.
• Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions.
These are practical and proven planning principles. And applying them, in concert with other basic/core values, such as equity, social justice and opportunity, commitment to education, etc., not only contributes substantially to a broad range of positive outcomes for our community, it enables the investment of otherwise inefficiently spent or wasted financial resources back into the kinds of systems and programs that are designed to address a variety of remaining, but fewer, “critical unmet needs.”
And here are some of the key things we accomplished in this area when I was a county commissioner:
• Re-write of the 2006 New Market Region Plan
• Update of the Thurmont Region Plan
• Development and adoption of the new and updated Frederick County Comprehensive Plan
(Among other things, the 2010 Comprehensive Plan reduced sprawl and focused growth in traditional growth areas where infrastructure exists or can be provided more efficiently. It protected rural areas and historic, cultural and environmental elements of the county. The plan responsibly accommodated residential and business growth to meet the state’s population projects for the county over the next 15 to 20 years, including 3,000 acres of vacant zoned land available for business development. It also included new Priority Redevelopment Areas and Priority Preservation Areas in a number of productive agricultural areas of the county. NOTE: Very unfortunately, the land use designations and zoning map that implemented the plan was obliterated by the current Board of County Commissioners.)
• Supported the county-wide Stream Buffer Ordinance.
• Reduced by approximately half the development potential of the county’s Resource Conservation zones.
• Numerous improvements to the zoning ordinance to support agriculture and farmers in Frederick County.
Aside from the highly regrettable (putting it mildly) zoning changes that were made by the Blaine Young BOCC, the 2010 Comprehensive Plan is still, word for word, the operative plan in Frederick County…until and unless the Livable Frederick Master Plan is passed and supplants it (which I support).
Specifically, with regard to Livable Frederick, I’ll note that I have been fully engaged in that process since the very beginning. That includes having been appointed to serve on the Energy and Environment Working Group, as well as attending and participating in most of the steering committee meetings and Planning Commission workshops on the plan.
I am fully committed to seeing the next Frederick County government work to build on the foundation that will be (I hope) laid by the Livable Frederick Master Plan.
6. Is there one policy initiative you support that you would like to point to, in particular, as evidence that your priorities align with ours and give a final summation of why Our Revolution Western Maryland should endorse you?
This seems like a good place to note that I was an early, active and vocal supporter and contributor of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary campaign for president in 2015-16.
It’s hard to select one single policy initiative, past or future, that I think best serves “as evidence that your priorities align with” yours. I think there are dozens good examples of things I have done, as an environmental and social justice activist over the decades, as a county commissioner, and since leaving office, that consistently exemplify my values, my approach to civic engagement and governance, and my genuine and deep commitment to working hard and effectively to address a range of problems and support real and meaningful solutions.
However, if I need to pick something, I’ll refer to a recent article in the Frederick News Post, entitled “County announces community grants for nonprofit organizations.” It is about the Community Partnership Grant Awards that the county provides to a range of diverse, local, non-profit organizations that provide many valuable and under-appreciated social services in our community.
In case you can’t open the article, here is the list of organizations slated to receive Community Partnership Grants in the FY2019 budget.
• The ARC of Frederick County, $20,000 to expand day services to people with disabilities.
• Blessings in a Backpack, $15,000 for weekend backpacks of food for Waverley and Lincoln elementary schools.
• Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership, $14,500 for the Bridge Building Program.
• The Frederick Center Inc., $7,600 for LGBTQ youth services.
• Lead4Life Inc., $50,000 for the Frederick County Juvenile Entry Division Initiative.
• Legal Aid Bureau, $45,000 to improve access to housing and employment opportunities.
• Literacy Council of Frederick County, $20,000 for literacy programs.
• Mental Health Association, $76,000 for crisis services.
• Mission of Mercy, $25,000 for a mobile dental clinic.
• The Student Homelessness Initiative Partnership, $30,000 for New Horizons Summer 2018.
• Way Station Inc., $25,000 for renovations.
• Wells House Inc., Gale Recovery, $44,226 for telemedicine and life skills and GED programs for patients.
• Advocates for Homeless Families Inc., $12,385 for hardwood and laminate wood flooring and installation.
• Advocates for Homeless Families, $25,000 for case management for homeless and at-risk families.
• Frederick Community Action Agency, $125,000 for the homeless services program.
• Heartly House Inc., $60,000 to run its shelter for domestic violence victims.
• Housing Authority of the City of Frederick, $20,000 for the Beyond Breaking Even program.
• Interfaith Housing Alliance Inc., $25,000 for housing programs.
• Rebuilding Together Frederick County, $40,000 for Frederick County Safe and Healthy Housing Initiative.
• The Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, $142,000 for the emergency shelter and the prescription assistance program.
• Alzheimer’s Association, $12,000 for education, outreach and care.
• Daybreak Adult Day Services Inc., $50,000 to provide senior services.
• Mission of Mercy, $25,000 for senior health care,
• Partners in Care Maryland, $20,000 for staff funding.
• Seton Center Inc., $20,000 for the DePaul Dental Program
When I was a county commissioner, one of my very first motions during our first budget process was to substantially increase the level of funding for these grants to $1,000,000.00 (the highest it has ever been). It passed. Unfortunately, the subsequent board of county commissioners cut that back dramatically, and planned a complete phase out of all such funding, even though the need was especially great then (during the economic recession and early recovery); that it is only a tiny fraction of the county budget ($1,000,000.00 today is $4.00 per county resident); and even though the money often helps leverage other funding and a lot of volunteer activity (stretching the impact of that investment).
I’m still proud of that motion, and that there were three votes on our five member board to pass it.
• I am one of two candidates in the county council, at-large race (two will win the primary, and two will win the general election, at-large) to be endorsed by the Sierra Club. Here is the Sierra Club questionnaire and my responses:
• I am one of two candidates in the county council, at-large race endorsed by the Frederick County Teachers Association (FCTA) on behalf of FCTA and the Frederick Association of School Support Employees (FASSE) and the Frederick County Administrative and Supervisory Association (FCASA). Here is the FCTA questionnaire and my responses:
• In the past, I have also been received the Career Firefighters and Volunteer Fire and Rescue endorsements. They have not made any endorsements yet this year, and I’m not sure they will in the primary. But I hope to garner their support again if and when they do.
• There is more information on the “ABOUT” me page on my campaign website:
• Beginning in autumn of 2003, until I announced my candidacy for the Board of County Commissioners, I wrote a bi-weekly column for the Frederick County Gazette. Before that, he wrote a bi-weekly column for the Frederick News-Post for a year. You can read any or all of my columns here:
• For about three years, I was a host on “Eye on our Community,” a local talk radio about show discussing issues, events and more with community leaders and others in Frederick County. While many or most of the shows are interviews, you can tell a great deal about my values, knowledge and politics by listening. You can find links to most of those discussions and interviews here:
Thank you for your consideration.
I would appreciate, and you will not regret endorsing and supporting my campaign for county council, at-large!
Name: Kai John Hagen
Date: April 23, 2018