Mayor Michael O’Connor recently reflected on his first two years running the city of Frederick, and he seemed generally pleased with what he has wrought.

Asked by News-Post reporter Colin McGuire to give himself a letter grade for his work thus far, O’Connor said: “I’d give myself a solid B, maybe a B-plus.”

We would be a little less generous in our assessment. And based on the available evidence and the words of the mayor himself, we would give him a grade of Incomplete.

To some extent, any public official being judged in the middle of a first term would be incomplete, but we believe that O’Connor has been moving too slowly to address the real problems facing the city. As a result, he has few real accomplishments to which he was able to point.

Read his answer, when asked how he might raise his grade to an A:

“I think we have to step up our engagement level,” he told our reporter. “There’s more that we can do in terms of engagement with the community. We have to get some of these big projects that have been sitting there in the ground. I think people want to see obvious action. We’ve done a lot of things behind the scenes that I think have made the function of government in the city of Frederick better than it was on the day I came into office, but a lot of that stuff isn’t visible to the community.”

Let’s parse those thoughts. Community engagement is important, but beyond that, people want to see positive achievements from their city government, the “big projects” and the “obvious action” to which O’Connor referred.

We would like to see more done to bring the long-delayed downtown hotel and conference center to reality. We would like to see some “obvious action” on the problem of blight in the city. O’Connor fired the former head of the Community Action Agency, the organization charged with helping the poor and the homeless, but we have yet to hear a clear vision for the future.

The mayor has said the right things about these issues, but his first two years have not produced much action.

On the hotel project, O’Connor had to concede that he has been unable to move Gov. Larry Hogan and local Republican legislators to support the project, and added “we’re working to find another path,” behind the scenes.

On blighted properties, the major said: “Slowly but surely, we’re beginning to see some longtime vacant properties begin to get occupancy. We also have some that continue to frustrate me, which is why we took the time to define what long-term vacancy is.”

Slowly but surely is not enough of a pace when it comes to this critical issue. For many residents, blight has become similar to the weather: Everyone talks about it but no one does anything about it. Deadlines come and go, and still the former Asiana restaurant site on North Market Street sits like a giant decayed tooth marring the smile of downtown.

What seems to be missing to us in the O’Connor administration is a sense of urgency to solve the problems we have been addressing. The mayor has said he intends to seek re-election in 2022. If he does, he is going to need achievements and real victories, not just plans and discussions, hopes and dreams.

At the end of the interview, in a self-revealing moment, the mayor touched on a personality trait that may be hindering him.

“I’ve always been a thoughtful person, and I think that can be problematic at times because sometimes what you need to do is act,” he told our reporter. “You don’t need to think, you need to do things, and that works against type for me.”

Mayor O’Connor has less than two years to overcome his reluctance and become a mayor of action. Already it is plain that he will be challenged in the next election, both by candidates from his own Democratic Party and Republicans. If he wants another term, he needs to get going.

(17) comments

DTFrederickEng

The logo incident might loom large in the first two years but the negative always sticks out more than the positive. I think there are a lot of things that Mayor Mike could really knock out of the park in the next couple of years for downtown at least. Vacant properties, hotel, downtown safety and security... Show us what you've got, Mr. Mayor!

Jaco

Absolutely nothing, but talk, studies, strategic plans (that aren’t strategic at all), and hyperbole.

Jaco

Mike Spurrier, the long-standing and highly successful director of the Frederick Community Action Agency was fired after 31 years of service because of one misunderstood comment he made at a meeting of Ausherman’s Downtown Safety and Services Initiative committee held on October 1, 2019. O’Connor, one of the worst and most egotistical mayors in recent history, fired Spurrier in order to pander to and gain the support of wealthy southenders who he hopes will now vote for him in 2022. It’s ridiculous and so is this mayor.

grisgris

"wealthy southenders??" Speaking of ridiculous...

Jaco

Yes, for example condo owners in Maxwell Place especially those living in the penthouse condos. It is a rapidly gentrifying area of the city and lower-income and minority residents are being pushed and priced out, but the elected politicians (except Ben MacShane) do not seem to care.

DickD

O'Conner can get the hotel. All he needs to do is find a company willing to build a hotel withouttax money. Not that building a hotel is a critical re-election issue. And that's the problem. The Mayor doesn't look at alternatives or realize what was once something that he wanted is not what the ones voting want.

KellyAlzan

EXACTLY. When I hit a brick wall - I look for an alternative.

Put word out on a national level that the City has a spot to build this hotel. Make it known that it must be self funded. AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

If anyone is not familiar with the owner (SwaN out of Leesburg VA) of the Hilltop Hotel property in Harpers Ferry, then do some research. There are articles out there about his investing, he's even part owner of the Washington Capitals.

THIS IS WHO SHOULD BE DEVELOPING THE DOWNTOWN HOTEL. And, there are others out there with the ability to make it happen via self-funding.

If the opportunity is not advertised - NO ONE WILL KNOW!

gary4books

I vote. My wife votes. You may be surprised about what voters want. Especially us who live in the City of Frederick.

gabrielshorn2013

"We would like to see more done to bring the long-delayed downtown hotel and conference center to reality."

Oh, for the love of Pete, will you let this boondoggle go already?! The county says no public money. The state says no public money, and the voters of both say no public money for a private business operation. If it were financially viable, it would have been built a decade ago. Let the developers and their investors take the financial risk, as any other business adventures do, including their competitors who had no public money.

gary4books

You say "if it were viable" and I say it is not financially viable. If it were viable, we would already have one without air or tax breaks or new highway links to bring in customers. Some start up money is reasonable.

Dwasserba

"We would like to see more done to bring the long-delayed downtown hotel and conference center to reality." This again. Give it up. As for Asiana, I read here I believe, the owners bring that up to whatever minimum standard in their own good time so further action then isn't actionable. Hate how it looks, too bad. O'Connor jumped in by okaying a city logo, and will hear about that probably for the rest of his political life. It cost a lot but it cost under $50k, which is the ceiling for what he can spend as mayor. "Incomplete" is fair. He's not in the news every day YAY shaking things up. So don't make it so. No drama here. How refreshing!

Obadiah Plainsmen

Mr. Mayor

The Editors of the FNP have made it very clear in giving you a grade of incomplete. if you want the FNP endorsement in the next election you will get the downtown hotel built. Nothing else matters.

KellyAlzan

What will really score points is getting the hotel built, with private funds, with NO tax / state / county / city / public money.

mr_twist27

O'Connor is a nice guy, but he isn't cut out for this job. The other aldermen gunning for the job are a little scary as well. Hopefully a solid candidate steps to the challenge.

KellyAlzan

Look, we get it that the contract for the sale of the FNP says that the new buyer must promote the development of the hotel. But give it up. You can’t promote something that’s not happening.

threecents

The mayor and the Aldermen and downtown businesses are very high on the hotel/conference center, but not sure how much support for it there really is throughout Frederick, and of course the devil is in the details. It would help if the mayor could get his vision across - without the use of a logo or a marketing team. I think we expected more vision from Mayor Michael, and that is why he won the election.

KellyAlzan

I feel like voters today are different than yesterday. I feel like voters are more interested in the nuts and bolts, and turned off by fluff. Just the other day I was reading something somewhere else that basically said this as well. And I was like "this is what I been saying!"

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