It is election season in the county, and that is the time when a public official’s fancy turns to politics.
It is a time to make proposals — some serious, some not — that are appealing to their base of support, trying to solve problems for a particular constituent or trying to score political points against the other party.
All three were on display at the Frederick County Council this past week.
Taking the last category first, we have Councilman Billy Shreve introducing a bill that would have required council members within 30 days of taking office to undergo the same training as new members of the Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals.
The obvious underlying point: Republican Shreve thinks some members of the council do not properly understand planning and zoning and need to be further educated. Our guess is he especially thinks slow-growth Democrats are ill-informed and need to be trained before they can vote on growth issues.
Shreve is a real estate agent and a former member of the Planning Commission and zoning board. He has been a pro-growth voice on the old Board of County Commissioners and the new County Council.
The council rightly voted down his proposal, with Shreve being the only yes vote.
Council members are elected by the people, not appointed as members of the commission and the zoning board are. The voters get to decide who is qualified to serve on the council, and who is well-informed enough.
Suppose a council member felt that someone was elected who didn’t know enough about the budget. We wonder if Shreve would support requiring remedial math courses for new members. Probably not.
Another Shreve proposal was rejected on a party-line vote. It would have required the county to make public the name and all contact information for anyone who reported a zoning violation to the county. This would include the complainant’s address, telephone number, email address and the county where they live.
Shreve said that local wedding venues and a mulching company had complained that they were hurt by anonymous complaints or complaints by people from outside the county.
Fellow Republican Kirby Delauter supported the bill, saying that people should be able to face their accuser.
In this situation, we cannot agree. This is not an instance in which someone is accused of a crime, when they should absolutely have a right to confront their accuser.
This is an accusation of zoning violation, which often involves a dispute between neighbors or people living in the same community.
As Councilman Jerry Donald observed to News-Post reporter Kelsi Loos: “There are people out there who are afraid of their neighbors.”
In addition, the county does not simply take the word of the complainant and issue a citation. Zoning inspectors investigate to see if the complaint is valid.
Zoning violations directly affect neighbors, often by reducing property values. Anyone should have the right to ask for an investigation without having to worry about the accused violator or his friends and family harassing them for speaking out.
Finally, another of Shreve’s proposals was easily passed. It will give a temporary tax break to senior citizens who have retired from the military and who are 65 or older. As we have opined previously, we are generally supportive of giving special recognition and financial help to our veterans in view of their service to our country.
This bill is no exception. A five-year, 20 percent property tax credit for retired servicemen and women seems justified and appropriate.
It should also be politically beneficial to Shreve as he runs in the Republican primary for the state Senate seat in District 3. Supporting veterans is widely popular, particularly so among more conservative Republican voters. Expect the veterans’ tax break to be a featured issue for Shreve in the June primary.