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Trying to shove local politics under your nose since before it was cool: Frederick County Edition

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February 2016

It’s poll time again.

Before we get to our new question,  we need to close out our last poll.

So Jiffy lubing the custodians it is!

 

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Looking right at you Kirby and Tony!

We’ve heard Kirby’s take on his and Tony’s meeting with Dr. Alban. But we can’t help but wonder what was going on in Dr. Alban’s head.  Of course she’s too much of a professional to tell us, so we will just have to speculate wildly.

 

Hate snow days? Let Kirby think outside the box and fix that for ya!

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Every few weeks Kirby pens some propaganda for the Emmitsburg News Journal. (Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?)Predictably, Kirby focuses his “column” on the poor persecuted developers of our county. Read what we’ve had to say about this privatization idea here.  He cries foul over Councilman Donald’s email that suggests that letting students eat lunch in the hallway rather than making developers pay their share is pathetic. Then there’s this:

Council Member Chmelik and I met with the Superintendent of Schools Dr. Terry Alban and we mentioned putting a task force together to have the school system lease schools from private entities, a true public, private partnership. One thing I said to Dr. Alban that I think resonated with her was that during the recent snow storm I asked her how she spent her time? She said she was busy coordinating efforts to see when schools could be open. I replied that if she leased the schools from a private entity, she could make a simple phone call and state what day she wanted the schools open, and if they were not open, the entity would pay a penalty, pre-determined within their contract. This way she can concentrate on what she does best, educating students and not worrying about snow removal. I mentioned also that it’s her job to produce students that enter college, vocational school, the military or the workforce that are educated and prepared for this highly competitive world we live in. We all agree on that.

Folks, this hurts our brains. Is this private entity going to be in charge of clearing all the roads to and from the school. Because, if not, how the hell are the students going to get there? And what about all the other schools in the county? This logic truly boggles the mind. It sounds simple and reasonable, until you actually think about it for more than two minutes.  No other new information was obtained from this letter. Other than he’ll have it all worked out in the next “6-12 months”.

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Zeus help us all!

Hey Frederick City residents, care to pay double?

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Every few months the County Council sits down  with the Frederick Alderman to have a pow wow. We love that our local governmental entities make it a point to sit down and communicate with one another. Two of your Yokels are city residents and we have to say that we are always so impressed with these ladies and gentlemen. The way they work together, know their issues, and just seem so much more functional than some other government body. The main item on the agenda was to discuss school  construction.  Tony wants the city to pony up for the schools that are being built within the city limits. Thankfully Aldermanic heroes O’Connor and Kuzemchak were not having any of that. As Mr. O’Connor pointed out, city residents already pay county taxes. AND, it’s the county’s job–not the city’s–to build schools. Why should city residents be expected to pay twice?  And what kind of precedence would this set if local municipalities were expected to pay for school costs? Would that mean the incorporated areas of our county would be at an advantage when getting a new school? Or that they would be expected to come up with the money every time they needed a new school? Without any support, and all kinds of facts against him, Tony backtracked. There was some discussion of perhaps the city lending the county some money. Or perhaps the city paying for the extra large gym at Butterfly Ridge elementary.  We’ll see if this comes up at their May meeting.

Last night our RALE friends went before the Board of Zoning Appeals in another chapter of their long fight against the MTC. Here’s Steve McKay’s report on what happened last night:

RALE was at the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) tonight.

I’d like to tell you that we were successful, but we weren’t. The bottom line is that the BZA, which believes that County Staff is ALWAYS assumed to have acted correctly, decided that we didn’t count, that we didn’t have “standing”, and so they ignored the merits of our argument. I’m going to break this down but let’s first review what this appeal was about.

At the end of last year, AFTER the Council ordered the Monrovia Town Center case to start over again, we learned that an “Outlot” was being processed, based on the old, invalidated BoCC approvals, to accommodate the planned water tower to service Landsdale and MTC. The Planning Commission approved the Outlot plat recordation, and we appealed that Planning Commission approval. The Zoning Administrator (but not really, because it was really Cathy Mitchell acting on behalf of this guy) denied our appeal, saying that it was a “ministerial action” and, therefore, not subject to appeal. We then appealed their denial – because it was wrong – and that’s why we were there tonight.

Now let’s talk about the “standing” issue. First of all, the County didn’t even base their denial on a belief that we lacked standing. They based it entirely on their “ministerial” argument. It was the developer that raised the standing issue, and the County basically said – “oh yeah, we think that, too!” So the developer and the County were working together tonight – again – arguing that we don’t count. Their argument was based on the fact that RALE doesn’t own property. This is true. The much-fabled “RALE warehouse” doesn’t exist. But there is another element of standing that they ignored. You see RALE has “personal interests” in this case, and that should have been sufficient to establish our standing. You see, RALE has invested countless hours, effort and a whole lot of money (donated by all of YOU) to this effort. That’s the basis of our personal interest, our standing … that they ignored.

In the end, the appeals commissioners ignored that element and asked their County attorney whether we had standing or not. Not surprisingly, we lost the argument. On this point, I want to personally thank the people that testified about how RALE represents the community on this issue. The appeals commissioners didn’t hear it or acknowledge the point – but I did, and I thank you.

But now let’s look at the merits of the issue because although the BZA may have ignored this argument, or claimed ignorance to the issues (which was bull___), the County CLEARLY violated the zoning ordinance in submitting the Outlot for approval. Let’s start with the appropriate section of the Ordinance, shown below. The language and its implications are very clear. If an Outlot plat is part of a subdivision in a preliminary plan, then it must go through the final plat process.

In the other image, the preliminary/site plan CLEARLY shows the Outlot as part of the plan. This preliminary/site plan is NOT completed. Is NOT signed. Thus, the Outlot has not completed the final plat process, as required by the ordinance. It never should have been approved!

So you might wonder how the County attorney – Cathy Mitchell – responded to this argument. Basically, she didn’t! First, she said we lied but didn’t explain how. Then she justified the whole thing on the basis that the “County needed this plot of land” for the water tower. Now this pissed me off. We didn’t lie – we just caught them in an error. The language in the ordinance is clear and unambiguous and they violated that language. So I don’t appreciate being called a liar. Next, saying that the “County needed the land” is NOT a justification for violating the zoning ordinance. That’s Bull!

Beyond these points – which should have been enough – our argument boils down to this fundamental premise. This Outlot approval was based on a zoning approval from the BoCC. That approval was based on a record that has now been TWICE invalidated – by the Circuit Court and by the Council. You can NOT have a valid approval based on an invalidated record. Effectively, that record no longer exists. The Council decided to create a new record. The Planning Commission will now go forward, ignoring that past history. The record is null and void and any approvals based on that record are now moot.

So the bottom line is that County staff and Planning Commission should have never even entertained this Outlot plat recordation because it is based on an invalidated, non-existent record. But even so, they still violated the zoning ordinance by approving it! I’ll be real clear now – we will appeal this because it is wrong. It’s more time and money, but sometimes, you have to do what’s right.

Best regards, Steve

If you would like to help RALE with their legal expenses they are holding a raffle. Click here for more info.

Billy drops “f” bomb in workshop!!!!

It couldn't have ANYTHING to do with him, could it?
It couldn’t have ANYTHING to do with him, could it?

 

Howdy Yokels!! We’ll get back to our title in a moment.

Last night’s workshop had three items to discuss; Medical Marijuana, Kirby and Tony’s task force, and changes to the council’s rules and procedures.

We are all for the growth and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.  It is absolutely ludicrous that the Federal Government still considers marijuana to be a schedule 1 drug.  Ludicrous.  M.C. was the star tonight and had lots of good facts as to the research and uses of cannabis.  For example, there is a possibility that cannabis could be used as an alternative to opioids for pain management. If you still need to be convinced hop on over to this website and watch some of these movies. Let’ s not let Richard Nixon era craziness cloud our views on the benefits of this drug.

Next up is some very confusing talk about the creation of a task force to discuss this lease back idea of building schools.  Tony wants to go to Jan with the full support of the council. There’s some discussion as to why this needs to be done since Jan has already agreed to look into it. And Tony thinks its “very unfortunate” that anyone would think that this task force would be perceived as being against what the County Executive is trying to accomplish. Now why in the world would anyone think that Tony and Kirby would do anything to undermine Jan?

INCONCEIVABLE

Now, for the juicy stuff. The council members want to change some of their rules and procedures. This is where Billy gets really testy. He wants a break!!! Right now!!! Bud takes a little longer than Billy cares to wait and you can clearly hear him drop the “mother of all words” and storm out.

Just  cue up the video and go to the second hour and 29 minutes in ( 2:29) and enjoy! You may also want to click on the procedures to see the changes that Billy wants. Basically he wants to be able to talk all the time about whatever he wants. He doesn’t have the support of his fellow members. In fact, he and Tony have a nice little back and forth over all of this. But the pinnacle of irony for us is when Billy proclaims:

We don’t communicate very effectively.

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Brace yourselves!!! There are three opportunities for mischief this week!

We hope not Smuckers!
We hope not Smuckers!

Tuesday through Thursday are busy days in the county!!! First off we have a workshop tomorrow at 4:30. As of last week this workshop was to only deal with medical cannabis. However, after all the mystery over Kirby’s secret developer last week, we see this attached:

Lease Buy Back Task Force Proposal – Council Members Tony Chmelik and Kirby Delauter.

We shall see that how that goes!!

Then on Wednesday seems like a pretty tame meeting with the Board of Alderman. Culminating with a hearing on the MTC this Thursday at 7:00.  We’ll be watching for ya!

Frederick County is a mysterious place this week!

I bet we can solve this in 30 minutes or less!
I bet we can solve this in 30 minutes or less!

Quite the intrigue here in Frederick this week! First we had Kirby’s declarations of unconstitutionality concerning his sad, lost county contracts. Now, at last night’s joint BOE meeting, we learned that Kirby has a mysterious developer all ready to finance one of the two needed county elementary schools.

Why the mystery you may be asking? Well, just shut up!!! Kirby has his reasons!!! He won’t tell us, but why should he? It couldn’t be because there are some pretty outlandish conditions associated with this, could it?

What we learned from watching, and today’s FNP articleis that this all has the smell of back door school privatization. Not only would this school be leased back to the county, which has been been a bad deal throughout the land…Well, just look:

 Cost savings may also come from custodial and maintenance operations being handled by the private sector, the councilmen said.

So here we go again! Remember all this privatization crap when Blaine came into office? Now, Tony and Kirby invite it to rear it’s ugly head once again.  Here’s a great quote from an NEA analysis on privatizing school support services:

There is less accountability to the residents of a school district by their elected representatives when vital services are taken over by private contractors. Contractors tend to focus on performing only the tasks contained in their work descriptions, which is understandable because they are hired only to perform specific narrowly defined jobs.

By contrast, school district employees tend to view themselves as a vital part of the system of education, and provide numerous “intangibles” that enhance the quality of their work and the educational experience of children in school.

School district employees routinely perform a range of tasks that are not typically thought of as being in their official job descriptions but that are vitally important in providing a high quality education for children. [i] The great majority of educational support workers live in the school district where they are employed, and they feel responsible to their neighbors for the quality of their work.

Most private contractors base their sales pitch on the premise that they can provide the same or greater service at lower cost

Here’s the full NEA article and a great point sheet about the risks involved in such an endeavor.

Kirby and Tony cannot treat the school system as they do their contracting and excavating  businesses. It’s not the same on any level. Our children are not commodities that can be moved around on a spreadsheet. They are unique human beings  with a variety of talents and needs. And quite frankly, if we don’t get this part of their lives right and educate them properly, then we as a society will feel the repercussions for years to come. We must not allow the promise of a badly needed school lead us down a path of high costs, poor services and low wages. For this low wage, low cost thinking that has led to the elimination of many middle class jobs in this country.

We do need good discussion and solutions as to how to finance not only these two schools, but schools that will be needed down the road. It will have to be a combination of private and public funds and it must be a priority. It should not be a back door dismantling of our public education system all in the guise of saving money. We cannot let these gentlemen get away with that!

As for who the developer is, we really have no idea. But that is not going to stop us from speculating wildly and naming Roy Stanley. Should we start a pool?

 

Kirby’s mystery letter revealed…the State of our Union is in jeopardy.

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If you watched last evening’s council meeting, it was unearthed that civil rights activist and constitutional scholar Kirby submitted a last minute bombshell legal brief. Using Reconstruction Era Fourteenth Amendment his magical attorney explains the unconstitutional nature of the county ethics ordinance that would deprive Kirby and his relatives from benefiting from his seat on the County Council.

It was all very hush, hush. However,  since Kirby encouraged all Frederick County business owners to take a lookie, we just had to take him up on it. It seems like a bunch of horse doody.

The shocking part of this whole ethics ordinance is that in trying to keep our county government open and transparent we have violated the U.S. Constitution. At least that’s what this letter would have us believe.  Allegedly this ordinance is so “vague” that it really taxes people of “common intelligence” to figure it all out. Therefore, the great 14th amendment, designed to help protect former slaves from having their rights trounced upon, has been lit on fire. How can Kirby possibly stop all his relatives from storming Winchester Hall signing up for contracts and thereby risking his freedom? It is way too hard to figure out how to stop that from happening. Therefore, Kirby should get his contracts. Seriously folks, one and a half hours before the vote Kirby submits this? We’ve been talking about this for a whole year now. But I guess since all the tantrums, dead horse beating, and whining didn’t work this is what we are left with?

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Neil is judging you!

Psst. Also, this is not about Kirby or his very own law anymore. He is both the most special of snowflakes and yet through some kooky oxymoron is also completely self effacing. Just thinking of future businessmen who may heed the noble call of public service. Hopefully this all gets put to rest next week. Enough is enough already.

BOE/County Council: Special Two-Fer in One Week Drinking Game

Hopefully Tuesday night wasn’t too painful, because Wednesday’s Board of Education/Council meeting looks, uh…promising. From a drinking standpoint, anyway.

Glance at the agenda and you’ll see what we mean. There’s a history of bad behavior with some of these characters. And for those who didn’t click through, Billy Shreve wants to add 5th grade to middle school and/or get a bulk purchase discount on construction of two elementary schools. But do they honor triple coupons if you sign the contract on Sunday?

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So the rules are simple. Just follow ’em. (Responsibly, young man or lady. We’ve got our eyes on you.)

Whenever someone tells Tony Chmelik he needs to stop talking drink 2x.

Billy again cites an inability to do those pesky word problems that “nobody likes,” raise your glass and shout, “Life is a word problem!” Finish your drink.

When Tony questions arithmetic computations of the Board of Education that he finds inconvenient to his wishes, drink 1x.

The canyon-like gulf in development between a 10 year old and a 14 year old is mentioned and/or a sentient adult reminds us: middle school SUX, drink 2x.

When Billy presents a half-baked idea with no evidence of prior history of future likelihood of occurring, whisper “hot dog stand” into your glass and take as many sips as you need.

When Kirby mentions the ideas he wrote about in the Tentacle,  pour yourself a double. Of anything.  And then have another double. Because,  seriously,  how can anyone take that as a serious solution?

 

 

Special Alert: Billy wants to hand all county taxing power over to Annapolis delegation!

Alright, we'll give you two.
Alright, we’ll give you two.

It’s very possible that we’ve broken Billy. Maybe it was those long, cold, lonely walks from the Church Street parking garage. Or perhaps, it was the endless scratching upon the windows of Winchester Hall for someone, anyone, to let him in. For we know not what to make of what happened here this evening.

Our frustration was at top peak at the start, for we know not how long this pervasive strategy to do nothing will go on:

Agenda vote-NO

Budget transfers-Abstain

Minutes-Abstain

Then old Billy boy wants to be a part of stuff and decides to vote Yes on appointments. Not the proper AYE mind you, he’s not going down without a fight. (Why does it feel as though we have written these exact words at least twenty times now?)

Now we’ve come to the part where we think all the stress may be getting to Billy. You see our legislators in Annapolis have decided to strip the county council’s ability to change the hotel tax. Some of the county council members were upset about local control being swept away, but not Billy. These words came out of his mouth:

I support the delegation taking all taxing ability away from this council.

You see Billy is a self proclaimed “big picture kind of guy” who sees the “end results”. So logically, he will vote to allow the delegation to take local taxing ability away because he doesn’t like one particular bill. That’s a mighty big picture there. There’s also some confusion about voting to vote on allowing Bud to speak on this issue, and Jessica has to tell Billy not to vote against his own motion. However, when it came time for the actual motion, Billy was left flapping out all alone.  But not before he got one more zinger in aimed at Bud:

I would not have you speak on behalf of the council or for me in general.

What a hero. Good luck in Annapolis Mr. Otis.

How our hearts soared when we thought tonight would be the night this ethics nonsense would be put to rest. But curse you mystery letter sent in to the council at 3:00 this afternoon. The ghost of Antonin Scalia must have had something to do with this because all Kirby would allude to was that it was “unconstitutional”. We get a little more information from Councilmember Donald when he says its mostly the same old stuff again with the Kirby profiting from the county until  2018 clause  still alive and well. And Sweet Sappho, Billy doesn’t even have the letter. So we must postpone!!! We disagree here, Billy should read what he’s given and Kirby doesn’t get to wait until the last hour to obstruct things. He’s had plenty of time. But alas, it is done. Another week…another dead horse.

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