County Councilman Tony Chmelik (R) made good on his promise during Tuesday’s council meeting to send a letter to County Executive Jan Gardner (D) asking her to suspend any fines for a mulching business near New Market that was recently cited for operating without the proper county zoning.

After a bill from Councilman Billy Shreve (R) was voted down this week over fears that it was overly broad, Chmelik distributed more narrowly focused legislation that will be formally introduced next month.

In his letter, Chmelik said that he appreciated the Gardner administration’s efforts to assist the business, Bussard Brothers Landscaping Supply, in complying with county law or possibly relocating. He also appreciated that no fines have been levied against the business so far and asked that none be levied while his legislation is pending.

“I will anxiously await your prompt response and acquiescence to my request of the Administration to continue to waive any administrative or regulatory fines or penalties,” Chemlik wrote in a letter sent Wednesday.

Gardner responded on Thursday.

The one-page letter states that Frederick County is a good place to do business and confirms that the county has suspended any enforcement action while the business makes a “good faith effort” to move to a new location.

In a less formal email to council members, Gardner underscored that the business had not been in danger of incurring fines.

“I have never before been asked to not do something that I am already not doing!” she wrote. “It has been very clear that the County would not assess fines as long as an effort toward compliance was in the works. The County always works with property owners and businesses to solve problems and we will continue to do so.”

F&WW ratings, FWIW

Food & Water Watch, a D.C.-based consumer rights group, released its first legislative scorecard earlier this month, with grades based on half a dozen bills that further their vision of “a more just and equitable Maryland.”

The bills were:

  • A fracking ban.
  • A paid sick leave measure that was vetoed.
  • A bill that requires schools to test drinking water for lead.
  • Prescription price gouging legislation.
  • A “farebox recovery” bill.
  • Failed bills that would’ve placed a moratorium on tax sales for unpaid water bills and allowed Election Day voter registration.

Like most others, the scorecard broke down largely on partisan lines.

Food & Water Watch gave each of Frederick County’s Democrats — Sen. Ron Young and delegates Carol Krimm and Karen Lewis Young — an A-plus. Republicans scored lower. Sen. Michael Hough and delegates Kathy Afzali and Barrie Ciliberti received F grades, while delegates William Folden and David E. Vogt III each received a D. Both Folden and Vogt supported the measures on water tax liens, lead testing in schools and drug price gouging.

Flag flap

Following news reports detailing a Confederate connection within Maryland’s iconic and beloved flag, conservatives in the state have flocked to a petition urging state officials to support the banner’s design.

The Red Maryland Network created a ”Save Maryland’s Flag” petition on change.org this week, but by Thursday the state’s key lawmakers said there was no effort to change the design.

The flag is based on the paternal and maternal coats of arms used by Lord Calvert, founder of the Maryland colony.

But during the Civil War, the now-alternating rectangles took on a different meaning. Union troops flew yellow-and-black banners, while those supporting the Confederacy flew the red-and-white Crossland arms.

The state’s current flag was adopted by the General Assembly in 1904, but was flown as early as 1880 during postwar reconciliation efforts.

While there have been calls to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces, legislators said they were unaware of any efforts to change the state’s flag.

“Maryland has one of the most recognizable flags in the country. Our flag has a great story: a story of reconciliation,” said House Speaker Michael Busch (D), who was first to support an effort to remove a statue of Justice Roger Brooke Taney from the State House grounds last week. “There are no plans in the Maryland House of Delegates to change our state flag.”

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D) did not support the removal of Taney’s statue last week, but did not stand in the way of a majority vote that ultimately led to the statue being hauled away in the dead of night. Regarding the state flag, he told The Baltimore Sun on Thursday that he “never heard of such a proposal prior to the governor inventing it.”

Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who faced criticism from some of his supports after voting for the Taney statue’s removal, shared the petition on Facebook.

“Not only is the Maryland state flag a symbol of unity and pride, but it is also the most beautiful and most recognized state flag in America,” Hogan wrote. “You can rest assured that it will never be changed as long as I’m governor.”

The petition attracted more than 45,000 signatures by Thursday evening.

Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines.

Danielle E. Gaines covers politics and government in Frederick County, splitting her time between Winchester Hall and The State House. Having grown up in Illinois, she lived in New York and California before settling in Maryland.

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