Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


From the Desk of
County Commissioner Paul Smith

(1/11) In the recent state and county election campaign, the most powerful of all campaign themes was the importance of bringing good jobs to the area. In the County and around the nation, we elected people who pledged to work to bring in new jobs. I am certainly committed to doing this.

As the nation continues to experience unemployment rates at about 10%, more and more people are coming to realize that having a strong economy is a key ingredient of liberty. People who are struggling to obtain food, housing and health care usually are less concerned with the protection and preservation of other freedoms—like speech, press, religion, travel and property rights. During the New Deal era, following the Great Depression, property rights were significantly eroded, as the nation sold some of its liberty for the security of government promises. But many economists today recognize that the New Deal security programs actually prolonged the Great Depression, rather than cured it.

The recession of our time, which has been going on for 2 ˝ years, is causing us to ask the same questions that the nation asked in the 1930’s: Are Government social programs the antidote to the ailing economy? The nation got it wrong in the 1930’s. I hope to help us get it right today. While there always will be a role for some government involvement in our lives—It would be a mistake to turn our government into socialism to attempt to fix our ailing economy. Socialism doesn’t work. It never has. In the long run it always weakens the nation, as it encourages and rewards sloth, and as it penalizes and discourages initiative, creativity and hard work.

What does this have to do with Frederick County? Understanding this broad, universal principal should guide us in our efforts to bring jobs here and to strengthen our local economy.

We want to attract private sector jobs to the county because these jobs are the foundation of true economic strength. Even though we will be happy to accept government jobs that are willing to come here, enduring economic strength will come from the private sector which actually produce marketable goods and services. Most government jobs only transfer wealth from one people to another; government does not provide the food, clothing, cars, entertainment and services that are the foundation of a strong economy.

To help the County strengthen our jobs base, I am committed to three major strategies to help increase the private jobs in our county. First, I will help to create a business-friendly environment. To do this we must eliminate regulations that are too harsh; we must revise and streamline cumbersome regulations; we must make some zoning changes to attract jobs to the areas where the employers will want to come. (This specifically applies to the 435 areas recently annexed into the north of Frederick City.) Second, we need to actively seek to attract some of the best national employers to come here. This marketing effort is extremely important—we must recognize that NOW IS THE TIME to do this. Major employers are looking to locate in the best places—of which Frederick County is one. Now is the time to let them know that Frederick is open for business. Third, we need to make the key road improvement that will accommodate the needed job growth. The premier employers will not locate their people here if they find the local people are not attending to protect the quality of life for our people. The primary issue in the roads strategy is to address the growing congestion in and around Frederick City. If you don’t believe that this is an important issue, you don’t understand the thinking of the major companies that are here and that will consider coming here.

Ethics. Several articles and letters in the Gazette and Frederick News Post have criticized me for my desire to amend one, defective ethics law that causes a waste of government time and money. A recent FNP editorial also criticized me on this issue. At best none of those articles explains the defect in the law that I propose correcting. Most of the writings contain erroneous conclusions, incomplete information and/or misinformation. None of those writings acknowledged or discussed the problem that needs correcting; rather they take the shallow, superficial approach that if a law pertains to "ethics," then it must be good. I disagree.

The flawed law is found in Sections 15-855 of the State Government Article, MD Code. This law applies only to Frederick County, and it requires County Commissioners to disclose and report ALL communications between Commissioners and everyone with whom a communication occurred regarding certain land-use applications. The prior BOCC asked our legislators to pass a different version of this law—they would have only required the disclosure and reporting of communications with "applicants." But the State Legislature changed the language, broadening the disclosure requirement from "applicants" to everyone. The broadening of the disclosure/reporting requirement causes the commissioners and staff to waste time and money reporting communications that are of no concern to anyone. Failure of commissioners to report all of these communications with non-applicants subjects commissioners to jail time and fines. It is virtually impossible to know when an innocent conversation with a citizen triggers the disclosure requirement. There is a reason for tracking communications with applicants for land-use changes, but not for communications with everyone else.

The over-breadth of this reporting requirement, coupled with the near impossibility to ascertain the substance of each such application (of which there are now over 60 pending), coupled with the harsh criminal penalties for non-compliance—all of this combine to make the law time-consuming, a waste of tax-payers money, and an unconstitutional regulation of protected speech. This flawed law needs to be corrected.

The correcting of this flaw will NOT give applicants for land-use changes greater opportunities for improper and undue influences on Commissioners. Correcting this flaw is not a repudiation of ethics laws—the dozens of good, existing laws are unaffected. Correcting this law is neither an attempt to exempt ourselves from the duty to be ethical, nor is it a signal that the BOCC is cutting a break to land-use applicants. In fact, the proposed correction does nothing to give land-use applicants any benefit; it merely frees up the Commissioners and the County staff from the burden of reporting communications with people who are not land-use applicants.

Read other articles from Frederick County Commissioners