It’s Awards Season–and we have some in mind for the 2/5 County Council Meeting

Your locals bounced into the show late mid-Monocacy River Plan Presentation and it does sound like the early part of the meeting was worth listening to because there were some comments made with bipartisan concerns about things that were eliminated from the plan and we don’t have the low down on that. Our chief take away really is that it is a plan. It isn’t legislation, although it may be the basis for crafting legislation that uses the plan as a resource. If that’s the case, then you get to go through the whole process that is normal when you have an elected public official you have to talk to. Part of the plan is specifically that eminent domain should not be used, so the entire land grabbing narrative is silly. Like so many things. And we will have to return to how representative democracy works later when we had to consume the entire bottle of Barefoot Bubbly.

They ticked through the public hearing portion of the bills the council is considering rather quickly, after a brief interlude of disco video game psychedelic electronica music. Who picks that stuff?

Then there was a discussion about bills for the council to offer support to or withhold sending support to for the state delegation, and holy moly. It would be appropriate to hit the sauce just so that we can address this in writing. We are going to award the nickname Philly to Phil Dacey, due to an uncanny likeness this evening to Billy Shreve’s confusion over Roberts’ Rules everything. Tonight he was incensed that they must quickly offer opinions on items they don’t know enough about. This would seem like a BFD, if it were true that the public never gets to weigh in. But here is the thing: the public elected Delegates and Senators and Joseph(ina) Q. Public is perfectly free to contact the people who will actually be voting on these bills to let them know what their priorities are. The council opinion is not meant to convey the constituents’ opinions, so much as it is meant to offer insight from the standpoint of officials who have a closer relationship with all the invested players in the business community and pertinent county agencies. And hey, we can understand if you aren’t familiar with this process that it seems a little crazy, but at least they asked for your opinion. You can give it, or not. And there’s a little foreshadowing for you folks…

First they were to offer support or decline to support a bill to establish a registry of private laboratories that have biohazardous materials so that in the event of an emergency the first responders know about the biohazards. This is of particular concern to Frederick County for reasons that are hopefully obvious to most everyone. Steve McKay referred to this bill as a “no-brainer” because (per his explanation) basically we are talking about nasty stuff that is one step away from being weaponized. Philly indignantly snapped, “Are you implying the state delegation has no brain?” There was more agony with the hand wringing over not knowing anything about this and having to decide in a hurry (glug, glug, glug) and Kai piled on, seconding the “no-brainer” quality of this needed legislation. I mean, whoever heard of it being a big deal if anthrax happens to get out into the environment, right? Oh and also this has come up thrice already with unanimous support from the Council in every previous year, but it has passed the House of Delegates and failed in the Senate repeatedly. Jerry Donald contributed that Ron Young is optimistic that it can be passed at long last because the thorn in the Senate is not longer in office. Fingers crossed. 6 ayes, 1 abstention on this one. You can’t make this stuff up.

Phil Dacey gets the “Abstinence-Only Doesn’t Work” Award. In this case it literally means you aren’t working. Sigh.

That he was getting nowhere with tabling the opportunity to give an opinion to the delegation started to really grate at Dacey, and in turn agitate your Yokel on duty. The next one was somewhat confusing, because of a sort of double negative setup. Here’s the query: Should the Council oppose including Frederick County in State Legislation exempting Agritourism businesses from being required to meet certain life safety building and zoning standards.

Some of the more interesting work of the previous Council was working to have farm wineries and breweries and allow special events in these spaces. Because many of them are charming old barns they are susceptible to certain safety hazards (like flammability), and so this having been a thing that was extensively cultivated involving the various interested parties like brewers and vintners and farmers and county agencies, the thinking was, “Nah, we’d not like to have gone through all that and have these things exempted from safety measures.” Fire safety regulation has had its opponents previously, if you followed the rogue wedding venues dramas of the past year or so. (If not: Here, here, here.) Philly moved to table the opportunity for opinion giving. Back and forth and forth and back and then got snippy that he had a motion and M.C. had to explain that nobody seconded the motion, and then no one did, so the motion failed.

And.

He.

Kept.

Going.

There was so much whining and undignified begging. It was truly disrespectful of the process that he was so desperately trying to knight-in-shining-armor save from itself. Steve McKay and Jessica Fitzwater both said they were comfortable with taking a position, because it was a position not to do something rather than a position favoring a new measure. We have to disagree here. That is entirely beside the point, which is up above, but we will revisit. We are all free to contact our representatives in Annapolis. That is how government works. We don’t need it to pass from us through Kai Hagen and Michael Blue or whomever. Annnnnd…On that note, we are so terribly remiss in bestowing an award of gratitude upon Michael the Miracle of District 5–this is such an improvement from He Who Shan’t Be Named. With that, we will end on a positive note. Deep breaths.

Lost in the woods: decisions, decisions, decisons edition

Your council thingy for today. Billy Shreve has a proposal. (Isn’t that the beginning of a spooky campfire tale?) Well, here, we were going to transcribe it, but have a screen grab for efficiency:

We are not “a lawyer”, but how does the County legislate the State? If the thing we think is a thing is a thing, chug a 40.

READER UPDATE: Anne Hicks (thank you, Anne!) points out that Billy wants these residences to be edible! Dipped in sewer sauce. YUM.

Next decision is whether or not the preferred bureaucracy gets to oversee a photovoltaic (that’s solar, yo) array at the Ballenger-McKinney wastewater treatment plant. This is for reasons of red tape and red tape minimization specifically. Billy will whine impertinently, because whining about solar is one of his hobbies, ranked just after rollerblading and growing out that mullet-tail. If we are also right about who whines here…do nothing. Because a serious horror show is coming, and you will want to be in top form for…

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. 6 proposed amendments to the Act to Adjust School Construction Fees.

Goodnight, and good luck. We will all be at soccer. Let us know who/what gets tossed in the wood chipper or whatever.

 

 

Annual tradition: fantasy budget cuts

In case you are new here, every year Kirby comes up with “fat” that we can trim from the budget (also Tony and Billy, but mostly Kirby) in the form of unicorn and rainbows amendments. He proposes a bunch of stuff without knowing really what this money does or what happens when we take it away. Like today when we tried to cut the money for library staff at Walkersville and Myersville. Oopsie-daisy-dummy. (Failed) Sometimes he has to pull his own amendments because he didn’t know what they were. Weird how that happens.

Just as long as you don’t become the County Executive, do whatever.

We breezed onto the scene right about the time Billy tried to suspend the rules and let The Yellow T-Shirt Brigade take over. We expected shenanigans and malarkey, because Billy was involved, but in reality this was the Career Firefighters’ Association, and their presence there and contributions everywhere are very much appreciated by Local Yokels and all of our friends everywhere. We are very pleased that our assumptions are wrong, because they were somewhat dark, based upon Billy’s Twitter feed and the black hole of intellect that can drag a yokel into. On the upside, Billy Shreve’s State Senate page only has 35 likes, so we may be free of his torment soon.

Something like this scene occurred (text transcript)

Kirby just got petulant because they don’t want to cut $$ for MET to go do theater programs at schools with high percent FARM (that’s free and reduced meals, if you don’t know the lingo) lunch kids because they had no problem voting down a quarter mil for Classical Charter.
M.C.’s reply: We haven’t voted on that yet.
Kirby: Well, the last two years!
Yokel text: Oh my God. You know what we should do? Find the post we wrote about his amendments last year and see if it matches up. Just to prove what a dead horse beater he is!
Man, oh man. Even the broken sidewalk budget cuts are part of the historical record! (Tonight Kirby explained that he had made a handshake deal with the mayor of Emmitsburg and he’s going to split the cost of the sidewalk repairs. M.C. was as uncomfortable as we would have been not knowing whether or not Mr. Mayor had agreed to this, but Jerry counseled that it was Kirby’s D and if he didn’t want to fix the sidewalks one way or the other, that would be his problem in the end. So fine. That all works out spiffy.)
But enough about Kirby, because Tony Chmelik got in a complete snit over $45,000 for an administration position in the Office of Economic Development. Since they’ve been doing a grand old job, even though they haven’t filled a position, but have needed to for four years, it’s obviously fine to continue overworking people there who are covering that shift, so to speak. Surely nobody who is doing extra work all the damn time will find a new job where they don’t have to put up with that. Right, Billy and Kirby? Suggestion: you volunteer your time, just like teachers do when they are grading and planning and documenting after school and on weekends, and sacrifice pay for being useless human bookends to the council since you apparently earn money for other things that you do in life. The pay of two marginally sentient council persons will cover one administrator in the OED. Problem solved! Also, tons of egregious mansplaining from Tony Chmelik here. The Lady Yokels felt that Helen Propheter was a particular heroine tonight, because who wants to be treated like that IN PUBLIC for their job? Nobody. Billy and Kirby also had “contributions” to this discussion in the form of: won’t we need to build all the houses you keep telling us to stop approving? NO. The answer is no. Some people already live here and could work closer to home, and would even like that. Question: what if we just made Jefferson TECH Park make the leap from fiction to nonfiction?
Jessica is a hero tonight, over and over again. Every time Kirby and Tony tried to snip, snap the budget she jumped in, diplomatically, like an excellent teacher, to guide them toward the information showing that they are so very, very wrong. For all her hard work this evening we present her the following award:
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 7.49.25 PM.png
We are also happy to report that Bud landed on the side of county employees by helping to defeat Kirby and Tony’s austerity amendments. Nice to see you back on the team, Bud!

April 17th meeting menu: third reading casserole with Fredneck salad

Here is an exact transcript of our text messages concerning the first part of the meeting (yawn):

Billy voted against the agenda.
Abstained on the budget adjustments.
Voted for the minutes.
 He is such an idiot
Then both he and Kirby gave the same tired old argument about how keeping the tax rate the same is the same as a tax hike.
For the 4th year in a row.
Then there was a magical interlude of professionalism wherein the Retired Military Tax Credit was combed through by county staff before it passed, and we moved on to the circus events.
Billy had proposed legislation requiring that council members receive some minuscule amount of education regarding what the hell they are supposed to be doing there. Presumably this is because Billy is confuzzled. Possibly because he says he took a thing online with a quiz and it took five minutes, so what’s the big deal? How very educational. M.C. Keegan-Ayer proposed some amendments, which Tony Chmelik felt neutered the power of that legislation since it made it a mere suggestion. M.C. was basically like (to paraphrase this as we would have said it), look, don’t get all snippy with me, I was just trying to polish Billy’s turd here. Nobody was into making unnecessary laws, except Billy. Failed 1-6.

Then there was the zoning violation drama, which is naturally a big ol thing to the nincompoop faction, in large part because of the great wedding venue drama of 2016. Billy and Kirby are both very upset that zoning complaints can be filed anonymously and for some weird reason they are allergic to anonymous criticism (neener-neener), and so Jerry Donald had to explain to them that some people may be afraid of their neighbors–and for good reason. (Tangential thought: can you imagine if Billy Shreve or Kirby Delauter were your neighbor? And you had some sort of property dispute? Scary.) At one point M.C. made it clear that she was not even able to try and fix this. Sigh. This failed too, because obviously. Turd status: unpolishable.

Also there was the wood chipping scandal (it’s as if these bills Billy launch begin a listicle of Billy and Kirby’s prior buffoonery and proof that neither of them deserve to hold current office and certainly do not deserve to be entrusted with any additional responsibilities). Their position here, in a nutshell, is that these people have been in violation of the law for ages now, and how is it fair that someone noticed and is going to make them stop? Scandalous indeed! In fact, it becomes rather clear through Kirby’s bellyaching about County Executive Jan Gardner’s role in these zoning violations matters that he still does not understand the different branches of government under the charter. How is he going to be the county executive if he doesn’t know what that is? It will be a lot like the current status of Billy Shreve, who does not know what he is supposed to be doing ever.

This bill failed because the one business it was initially custom tailored by Councildolt Shreve to benefit–until Tony Chmelik took over the turd polishing operation–was likely to be harmed by it, and hardly anyone thought that was a good idea. At one point during the discussion of this (or it could have been the earlier bill, but no matter) Billy was so stuck in oppositional defiant mode that he started opposing his own position. It was really a scene. Billy still remembers to like his own dumb ideas in the end, though. And after all that grandstanding and noise that Kirby made here, he voted against it!

Off-track betting passed unanimously. It now has to go back for public hearing.

 

Texsplaining: child trafficking, crime, and immigrants, oh my…

Hey, folks. Two stories popped up on the news junkie radar yesterday, and got us thinking about Sheriff Jenkins “expertise” in a couple of key areas. When Jessica Fitzwater promoted the Human Trafficking Task Force, and the Frederick City Police Department took an active and engaged interest, but the Sheriff’s Department found it unnecessary (and Billy Shreve #neverforget said that some people are in favor of human trafficking) we developed a new awareness of this horrifying issue that our Fredneck Trump Train Faction seems so untroubled by. Oh, and Cindy Rose had some thoughts about that too, now that we recall. It was allegedly some sort of scam for teachers to get more training or something that makes covfefe amount of sense. How could you possibly look more foolish than dismissing the efforts to keep kids from being sex trafficked as an evil liberal teacher plot? But, you do you, crazies. Please proceed.

Well, yesterday The Washington Post had a story about a training program the Texas Department of Public Safety has launched to help officers recognize when they find a child who is being trafficked and what they can do to help. The officers down there have found it to be so helpful, they want to see it go nationwide! This is a fantastic story about good policing–please do follow the link. Isn’t it a wacky coincidence that this type of training was the exact reason cited for forming a task force locally? Is there some reason we wouldn’t be promoting good policing?

It’s incredibly disheartening to review the local discussions surrounding this issue. The more we learn about it, the more monstrous the ambivalence toward–or, more accurately, the hostility toward–acting to stop this seems.

Every damn day these people make us ask…

But there’s more Texsplaining to do because another thing that we read yesterday in The Houston Chronicle deals with immigrants and crime. We’ve bristled before at our local “expert” on the border and what exactly would qualify someone on the Mason-Dixon border to act as a special adviser on these matters. Well, it seems that the quite well-known and esteemed conservative think tank, The Cato Institute, has research indicating that undocumented immigrants in Texas are less likely to commit crimes than native born Texans are. In the immortal words of Rick Perry, “Ewps.”

“Using data from the Texas Department of Public Safety, researchers from the conservative think tank Cato Institute found the arrest rate for undocumented immigrants was 40 percent below that of native-born Texans.” — Fernando Ramirez, The Houston Chronicle, March 6, 2018

Law enforcement officers in real border states uphold sanctuary policies as a tool to help them to solve crimes because it increases the reporting of those crimes and the cooperation of witnesses. It seems like The Cato Institute’s research suggests something in support of that thinking. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from people who have first-hand experience and research in support of their positions? Just a thought.

 

Piecemeal digest of February 27th Workshop

Your Yokel Ladies have been in and out of this meeting for the past couple of days. It’s a lot to contend with, so we are chunking it up and throwing it down, bit by bit.

No Shreve, what a relief! Meetings are always nicer without him!

Steve Horn and friend are in the house to present the Livable Frederick plan. You can go to this website to see all the details, plus the entire plan as it stands today. We say today, because there are still chances for change. If you read our drinking game, you saw that Kirby called this plan a POS. He doesn’t use exactly those words, but he does have things to say. For example, he wants Steve Horn and Co. to explain why the modeling software they use isn’t some kind of soothsayer. It is explained, ever so gently, that all modeling is, by definition, a guess. However, Mr. Horn also points out that the accuracy really isn’t the point here. The point is to see what different paths the county can take based on the possible outcomes that may occur. It’s called PLANNING. Well, Kirby isn’t done. He tells us that the market should decide where people live because the market is NEVER wrong. That’s right people: NEVER. Well, he is also very gently told why that isn’t true.  Jerry clears up the erroneous notion going around that this plan is going to downzone properties. It is not. Tony complains some, but it’s pretty much nonsense. After an hour this discussion wraps up.

Unsurprisingly to anyone who pays attention around here, Tony was the council member contacted to introduce legislation having to do with Off Track Betting (OTB). He brings in four representatives, including local lawyer Rand Weinberg, to discuss this pending legislation. Essentially, they want to identify a local restaurant to set up OTB, kinda like Cracked Claw before it closed down. First reading of this bill will be soon.

The Veterans Affairs Council had a lovely professional presentation that introduced the panel of distinguished advocates. Please keep doing what you do. We are relieved to see this move forward. There isn’t a lot of new information to report. Well, other than that a miracle of trans-partisanship that occurred when Bud Otis (unaffiliated), M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D), and Tony Chmelik (R) pared down the originally proposed bill, which had “timed out,” and according to the knowledgeable panel this bill is a reasonable step forward in accomplishing the goal of having a “one stop shop” for veterans to get assistance in accessing the services that are available to them. We know this is a huge problem, and the point that it is unreasonable to expect a veteran with PTSD to sit on the phone through a menu of options for 13 minutes is absolutely true. There were other ghastly anecdotes, so please know that we thank you all for working on this, and we apologize that we aren’t giving this the focus that it is due. There is just so much to say about so much today (and another meeting tonight, people!).

There was the Interagency Internal Audit Authority thing: a panel of accountants working on a bill to codify the existence, charges, and governance of their authority (the interagency aspect is the county, FCPS, and FCC). Work on this bill began in 2014 with the transition to charter government, and they are doing the formal work to ensure that the appointments to the body will not be under the control of those being audited. In other words, a county executive should never be making those appointments, nor should FCPS or FCC be sending their people to do the work. They propose that the current members will nominate future members. Sounds good.

Then we reach the issue of the proposed pipeline under the Potomac River at Hancock. Some environmentalists (yay! go Sierra Club!) ask that a letter be drafted–ideally from the Council, but if not, by individuals on the Council– asking for Governor Hogan to withhold the 401 Water Quality Certificate and request a full environmental impact review of this project from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). This is requested because:

  • We are downstream from an 8 inch pipeline that would tunnel under the Potomac River to connect a proposed pipeline in West Virginia with an existing one in West Virginia
  • A bunch of municipal governments both up and downstream have already said, “Hey, let’s be careful!” and sent their own letters, including Hagerstown, Boonsboro, Washington County, Montgomery County and P.G. County. hm.
  • The geology (that’s rock formations, yo) of the land they will tunnel under is extra risky, because the Karst geology (science term) is Swiss-cheesey, so if a blowout occurred, the chemicals could be dispersed in any direction. Many pipelines already go under the river, but none through this type of geological formation.
  • Frederick County get lots of our drinking water from the Potomac (91%). And the City of Frederick also gets some of its water supply there, too, (17%) so we would theoretically not want to risk poisoning our water supply.
  • The Chesapeake Bay is also downstream (for good measure).
In case you were wondering where this thing is supposed to go. You can kind of see the Eastern Panhandle Expansion converging with the Potomac there, but unfortunately the County Seal and headings got in the way of some of the relevant details on a couple of these slides.
  • We nicked their slides. Hopefully they don’t mind. Here is the Karst Swiss Cheese. Get the idea?

This is all well and good for the reasonable, and even seems likely for the less reasonable eventually, reluctantly, however it pains them, to agree that we shouldn’t be reckless with our drinking water. However, it must be noted that we have two drilling savants, both Republican, on our esteemed County Council, so the curt reaction to the idea of a letter from Tony Chmelik was, “It depends on what the letter says.” Well, they only asked for a letter to exhibit caution and thorough review, not to declare pipeline construction forever abolished, so the hang up is hard to understand, but thank goodness we could be treated to some gassy emissions from these guys. We probably don’t even need a pipeline, since we create our own energy like that. Fun fact: one of your local ladies used to work in the gas pipeline accounting, so we know a thing or two round here, too. Gas is tricky to account for, as a matter of fact, due to particle dispersion. That and the Swiss-cheesy thing are a double tricky combo.

**Ten Minute Break because they’ve been there since 4:30; this is taking an eternity and there is a lot left.** Stay tuned. Holy moly, they’re trying to kill us, y’all. There’s another meeting tonight, you know.

So it seems kind of like Billy’s blissful absence and Kirby “#ImReallyRunning4CountyExecutive” Delauter’s recently located partial degree of restraint (NB: we didn’t watch Council Member Comments, so we could be wrong about that) freed the air for Tony Chmelik to fill the role of council insurgent. At this point we are losing all the patience that we never had, but Ray Barnes and the legal advice come with him, and also Steve McKay, think that the move to ax the section of the code pertaining to DRRAs entirely is no bueno and will cause a bunch of legal problems and their advice is to not move forward with that. They have other ideas. And obviously Tony has a problem with them going before Dog and Everyone implying that he meant to do away with DRRAs forever (“What would the developers think???” <<clutches pearls>>) when he would NEVER. He and Jerry Donald have a back and forth that is pretty priceless, wherein Jerry admits that was his goal, and he also thought that was what Tony wanted. We are pleased with Jerry Donald. He is funny but not mean. We have a hard time with that. Then Jessica Fitzwater asks the question we are wondering too, which was, to paraphrase in LocalYokel jargon, “WTF were we trying to do for real then?”

We have finally thought to ourselves somewhere in the midst of the MXD discussion: we do not like this bill either. We would all be pissed if we bought a house and then they changed the zoning and we lived next to a warehouse now. We aren’t going to listen to this anymore. We. Are. So. Done.

Legislative priorities: moonshine & mobile home edition

It’s that time of year when Frederick County decides what they want the State of Maryland to accomplish. Always fun, because it allows our Council bookends to get creative with their fantasy lives.

 

 

Our current favorite is Billy Shreve’s (failed) proposal that mobile homes be sold as real property and not as vehicles. Here is the best way to explain why it ain’t never gonna happen: what mortgage lender would find it in their interest to make a loan where the collateral can be up and VROOM VROOM coal-rolled right off into the sunset? He had another one about exemptions from the Forest Resource Ordinance that fell flat due to insufficient information provided. Why can’t they have a staff to understand things for him, freeing him from the obligations of his job?

Jerry Donald FTW with a measure to deregulate the liquor industry (if you click on the FNP link up above they say it’s come about because of something impacting a Brunswick brewery). YEEHAW! The current code does not allow smaller banquet facilities–those with less than a quarter of a million dollars invested in non real estate type stuff–to have a liquor license. Donald points out that this seems to be a measure to eliminate competition. Look, we’re all Republicans on this one. More competition! Oh wait, when was the last time a Republican busted up a monopoly? Never mind then. Still not Republicans.

Modest hat tip to hoodie clad and newly beardless Tony Chmelik (we get the feeling he was under the weather with that awful thing going around, and boy do we sympathize: get well soon, Mr. Chmelik!) for moving his school related priority through the Board of Ed. ICYMI, he wants homeschoolers to be eligible for county school sports teams. Kudos to him for being the lone current Republican of the Council who seems to understand how processes and procedures best work.

Y’all aren’t going to believe this one. The King of the Deplorables and his buddy (these are Billy Shreve and Kirby Delauter, if you’re new here–we’ve written a bit about this particular issue) voted against a position statement favoring providing support to youth victims of human trafficking. Billy interjected a complaint about not knowing what it was until they saw it written out, which becomes ultra weird immediately afterward when…wait, no. It’s already ultra weird. Gross.

Kirby. He had an idea about investigating funding for school resources, so that perhaps funds from the state allocated to one project might be moved to another if they are not used for the one they were intended for. He tried to inexplicably call this a position statement. This already had us furrowing our brows, so when fellow semantics enthusiast Jessica Fitzwater pinpointed the issue we were grateful. More than position statement, this seemed a (likely reasonable) call to investigate. It needs to become a fully fledged idea, and that’s fine–even for Billy–to leave in the hands of Roger Wilson and the County Executive’s office, even though we certainly had the impression that we don’t currently know precisely what it says. Perhaps we should simply be glad for a rare sign of good faith. Passed 7-0, too! Well done! Was this a moment of bipartisan harmony? Perhaps we were hallucinating.

There was what felt like a long hearing about the Forest Resource Ordinance. It had us mostly sawing logs like it was a zoning discussion. We did perk up when Kirby mused about what this was actually protecting and was told that there is a definition of forest and the county and the state use the same one. Guffaw!

That’s yer County Council, folks!