One of the most important things that elected officials can do for the City of Frederick is to help it sustain its economic strength. While the entire nation is currently suffering from the international economic downturn, the City of Frederick is doing better than most parts of the nation. Our proximity to Washington, D. C. is partly responsible for this; government jobs are faring better than the private sector at this time, and our region is supported by a lot of them. Frederick’s location makes it a prime location for many businesses that desire to be close to Washington, D. C., but who would prefer to be outside of the metropolitan area. Since approximately 40% of Frederick’s working force travels outside of the county to work, there is a need and an opportunity to bring new, major employers to the region. We need to bring good, new jobs to the region so that more of our people can work where they live. Specifically, we still have the land for a few major employers north of the city in land that is applying for annexation into the city. This type of growth will bolster the economic strength of the city. Whether or not we add any other residences in new annexation areas, we need new jobs. This should drive the city’s handling of the annexation applications.
One of the interesting aspects to see in the city’s consideration of the annexation applications is to observe some of the County’s opposition to them. The current County administration has taken a strong opposition to economic growth in the county. This “no growth” position of the BOCC has led developers to seek to locate within the City. The City has been more receptive to bringing businesses and jobs to the city because they are needed to help pay for the development of Carroll Creek and to take advantage of the BRAC expansions at Ft. Detrick. The County’s “no growth” posture has been at odds with the City’s welcoming approach. In today’s difficult economic situation, the preeminent importance of preserving and developing a strong economy in the region has become more obvious. Again, I don’t believe anything is more important for the region than to promote and insure a strong business economy for Frederick. This does not mean that I want to eliminate the rural beauty of the county. In fact, I want to retain it. But there is some job development growth that the region can tolerate, which would help us to be better insulated against the ups and downs of the national economy. We need to do this—to bring several, new, big employers to the region. And while the County does not seem to share our concern for this growth, this City is on the right track and should stay remain on course in the future.
Promoting certain kinds of development evokes criticism from some who want to preserve undeveloped, green land. However, the bringing of additional major employers to the Frederick is in total harmony with the most sophisticated and sound smart growth principles. One of the best ways to cut the use of automobile travel is to bring jobs to the places where people live. That is precisely what would be a great benefit to Frederick. If we could reduce the county residents who commute out of the county from 40% to 30% this would be a great help for the environment, and it would alleviate some of the congestion on our roads.
Another principle of smart growth principle is that there should be more condensed housing along main transportation arteries. This will make mass transportation more feasible, and it will make it possible for more people to live without traveling by car to shop and go to work. The application of this principle means that the Frederick region should promote the building of more residential housing in the city and along our main travel corridors. This would make it possible for transit to be more self-sustaining. (Of course now it is highly supplemented by state funding.) Accordingly, the most environmentally responsible residential development will be to build in the city, including on and around Carroll Creek and close to the existing transit routes. This type of development does not need to disturb the beautiful rural character of the rest of the county.
All of us in the county love the beauties of our mountains, trees and farmland. Thus far we have done a pretty good job in preserving it. Surrounding counties in Virginia, West Virginia and western Maryland are experiencing a lot of residential growth because housing is cheaper there than it is in Frederick County. However, what this means is that more and more people living in these out-of-county areas are driving to and through Frederick to get to their jobs. We are getting all of their traffic, and they are taking many of our county jobs. This growth and this trend will continue, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Because we are part of the Washington, D. C. employment region, there is going to be sustained job growth and population increases in our region for the next 50 years. We cannot stop the growth. But we should control the type of growth we have. The smartest thing we can do is to bring good jobs to the region. This is always good for our tax base, and it will help us to have a regional economy that is better insulated against the ups and downs of the economy. When the economy experiences downturns, people lose jobs, and welfare needs increase. These serious economic problems make it clear that nothing is more important for us than to maintain a strong local economy. A strong local economy eases the financial burdens on the citizenry, and makes it easier for the entire community to provide a good quality of life for all of us.
In addition to bringing new employment to the city, it is important that we maintain a strong Downtown business district. It is important that we take measures to revitalize the western end of the city. And it is important that we begin to take steps to develop the east side of the city, too. It is my goal as an Alderman to promote the business successes of our city businesses. The city residents all benefit when our city businesses prosper. When we enact and enforce laws to address one problem, we need to be careful not to inadvertently harm other residents and businesses, and we need to be careful not to increase the size and cost of city government to enforce new regulations. Achieving the proper balance in these matters is always complicated, and it is something in which we must be vigilant in overseeing. Two pending issues that involve these complicated issues are the “overcrowding” concerns and the dissatisfaction with some of the regulations of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). (There will be further discussion of both of these below.)
In a sense, the city’s elected officials are charged to be the guardians of the city economy. Whether or not we wish to acknowledge it, this is so. I believe that the County has inadvertently harmed itself economically by heeding the alarmist calls of the “no growthers.” The bad effects of this mistake has been manifest during the recent economic downturn, where the County’s revenues have been reduced too much—causing extreme financial problems; the County’s “no growth” approach has actually exacerbated the effects of the slowing economy. And though the City has also been affected by these difficult times, our existing wise growth policies are putting us in a stronger position than we would otherwise be in.
These economic issues are complicated and involve many facets with far-reaching implications. In my opinion these economic issues are the most important ones facing the next administration because they will directly impact future budgets, property tax rates, and quality of life issues for all of us. The Holtzinger administration has done an excellent job in this most important area. I intend to use my influence to hold the course and to continue to work to maintain and strengthen the local city economy.