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"If I Ran . . ."

Justin Kiska

 . . . there would be a reason.

(10/2017) Believe it or not, there was a time when "politics" wasnít a dirty word. It was at a time when elected officials could disagree while debating an issue, then turn around and go out to dinner and put their differences aside.

It may sound idealistic, but I believe we can get back to a time like that in the country and right here in Frederick County. Of course, that means we need to elect the right people. People who, above all, are willing to put service first and do whatís best for the people they represent. I told you it sounded idealistic. But you have to understand, the people I consider to be my teachers are Elizabeth and Bob Dole and Jack Kemp. Iíve been very fortunate in my life to have worked for such legendary public servants Ė to have learned from them. Public service meant something to them and public service means something to me.

Looking at Frederick County, I am amazed at its potential. I grew up knowing Frederick County is a very special place and thatís why after my time in Washington, I came back to Frederick and started a business with my family. I wanted to be a part of Frederickís future. In the last sixteen years, since my family purchased The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, Frederick has changed and grown and will continue to grow. As much potential as I saw sixteen years ago, it has even more today. I am excited about all of the possibilities of what can happen right here in Frederick County.

Thatís one reason I was a candidate for the newly formed County Council in 2014. To help guide Frederick County into the future Ė to help unleash Frederick Countyís potential. I also ran because I knew we needed levelheaded, practical leadership to transition us into the new form of government.

Weíre only about three years in to our new Charter government and as expected, there have been some transition pains. Personalities have clashed and politics have been more important at times than policy making.

Not necessarily by its design, but by the actions taken since the last election, weíve seen how the new government has created a strong County Executive while the power of the County Council has been relegated to being something of a rubber stamp, going along with the executive on everything and anything. The system was set up so there would be checks and balances. Just like in every level of government. The Council has missed opportunities to exercise its own power as the legislative arm of the county government. The members of the County Council were elected to represent the residents of Frederick County. They have a responsibility to the people, not the County Executive. Thatís certainly not to say they canít work together. But at the end of the day, the County Council and its members need to provide a true balance to the executive.

One specific way the County Council can do this, which I have been advocating since day one, is by advancing a Charter amendment dealing with the budget process. Under the Charter as it is currently written, the County Executive is responsible for putting the budget together. The executive gets to decide how much and where county dollars will be spent. Thatís one of the main reasons they are elected after all and thatís the way it is done by counties throughout Maryland.

What, then, is the role of the Council in the process beyond approving the budget?

They can make cuts to the proposed budget and decrease spending, however they do not have the ability to increase funding for any budget item. To provide a true check and balance to the executive, the County Council should be given the authority to not only decrease funding for particular line items but increase it as well. With the caveat that they are able to find the money in other areas to keep the budget balanced. A change for which the next Council should advocate.

As the candidates begin to line up for the election next year, we need to take a good long look at each one. Why are they running? What do they believe in? Do they have a plan for the future? If they win, will they serve the people above all else, putting politics aside when itís the right thing to do? The next four years are going to be just as important as the last, so we need to make sure to elect the people who are going to show up and do the job.

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