As much as I admire Dan Watson and the increasingly large group of Talbot County residents who want to thwart the pro-development thrust of the current county council by electing individuals who want to preserve a pristine part of Maryland, I question the focus on one issue, to the exclusion of other important matters facing the county.
Please excuse my 54-word lead sentence.
More concisely, the candidates endorsed by the Talbot Integrity Project (TIP) do have other priorities that need to be evaluated along with their views of land use. I counsel caution; Single-issue criteria tend to distort a more holistic perspective.
I do understand that our country is replete with interest groups advocating a particular policy stance and supporting candidates sympathetic to their perspective. These groups, however, seem less rigid in demanding absolute fealty and more aware of political opinions that might diminish the favored candidate’s credibility and effectiveness. In other words, fellow acolytes may carry viewpoints injurious to an interest group’s objective. The message then becomes muddled; voters are distracted, if not disenchanted.
TIP undertook a process unknown previously in the county, excepting the anti-tax campaign many years ago that successfully enacted the tax cap on the property tax. The result, while applauded by many in Talbot County, has impeded the delivery of necessary public services. I digress.
Do I agree that the current county council, excluding Pete Lesher, is oblivious to the comprehensive plan? Do I agree that the decision to proceed with Lakeside in Trappe is foolhardy and hurtful to the Choptank River and a sense of proportion in Talbot County.
Please record two unequivocal yeses for me.
But I am concerned that some of these candidates, and one in particular, might also advocate for changes in public school curriculums,or other divisive social positions that would bury the county in a constant whirl of controversy. County council members should focus on the budget, not on what’s taught, what’s not.
I am aware that I am deliberately avoiding calling out that particular Republican candidate, already the subject of criticism in readers’ comments.
Why my reluctance to mention this person’s name? I believe he is entitled to his opinions. They are diametrically opposed to mine. I prefer to forsake personal attacks. He and I have disagreed agreeably in the past. He is highly intelligent. He articulates his positions clearly and convincingly (to some).
Admittedly, I do not feel equally restrained in my criticism of current county council members. After all, they are public figures. Their actions warrant review and criticism, if necessary.
Voters must view the total picture of a candidate and his/her views on a slew of policy issues. To do otherwise is irresponsible.
Those elected based upon one overriding issue often are rigid and doctrinaire. They consider compromise anathema. They impede the political process. Teamwork is a foreign concept. This is true on both sides of the aisle. And collaboration is increasingly rare in our currently divisive public arena.
The public spotlight on the Talbot County Council has never been so intense. That’s beneficial. Democracy is working. Increasingly more people are engaged. The community is stronger. County members are feeling the discomfort imposed by public accountability.
TIP, organized by Watson, a citizen extraordinaire, exemplifies democracy at its best. Talbot County citizens are participating in the election process in a transparent manner. They are not accepting the status quo. They are seeking change in a respectable and responsible way.
Beware, however, of single-issue selection criteria. Understand that issues, such as the Lakeside development, do require singular focus and opposition. Also, as we all know, national battleground policies like abortion and gun control justifiably call for laser-like, if not fierce discussion, in Washington, DC and state capitals.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.