There’s no single solution to blight and vacancy in the city of Frederick. They are complex issues, ever-changing and evolving. The only real way to ensure progress is to constantly critique policies and innovate new solutions — responsibilities that some believe are best suited to a permanent committee of city residents.
Creating a permanent blighted and vacant property committee was among the roughly two dozen recommendations finalized Wednesday night by members of the Blighted and Vacant Property Ad Hoc Committee.
The calls for a standing committee come after two rounds of work by the ad hoc committee, which was first convened in 2012 and then reinstated last fall amid growing public dissatisfaction about the way the city handles blight. The revival of the committee was also prompted by a proposal introduced in October by Alderman Josh Bokee to create a permanent blight committee.
After six months of discussion and debate, members of the ad hoc committee agreed — a standing, or permanent, committee was crucial to combating blight and vacancy.
“This is the kind of problem that defies a ‘here’s the fix,’” said Alderman Michael O’Connor. “Constant tweaking is going to be necessary ... constant monitoring and influencing and pressure.”
“It’s a dynamic agenda,” member Steve Cranford agreed.
In addition to recommending ways to adapt to changing circumstances Cranford also noted that a permanent committee could regularly review how well the city was implementing its recommendations. Members of the original ad hoc committee have voiced concern in the past that the city didn’t properly implement its recommendations.
Bokee, who is not a member of the ad hoc committee but attended the Wednesday meeting, also expressed support for a permanent committee.
The group on Wednesday outlined the framework for its proposal. It called for a seven-member committee — one representative each from the fields of law, finance, commercial real estate and residential real estate, in addition to three “at large” city residents. The group would meet at least quarterly to recommend best practices for combating commercial and residential blight and vacancy issues.
It would also review the effectiveness of existing practices and programs at least once per year, and incorporate resident feedback and concern into its findings.
Members emphasized the need to make the permanent committee’s mission specific yet flexible enough that the committee could adapt its work and focus according to changes in the climate and context of blight and vacancy issues.
The proposal is just that: a recommendation. The power to create a standing committee, and to dictate the specific terms of the committee, rests with the mayor and Board of Aldermen.
The ad hoc committee will pitch the idea, along with a host of other related recommendations on blight and vacancy, in a city workshop meeting as early as next month. The mayor and aldermen will vote to adopt some or all of these recommendations in a subsequent public hearing.