The letter writer alleged, these "friends of the developer crowd," using a "pseudo-newspaper, they created "news" based on semi-facts and outright lies."
In defense of that position, she went on; the Gouge Administration "represented the best interests of the vast majority of the population." Gouge further lamented, "We have been open, responsive and fair. We open our doors wider to the citizen than we do to the special interests."
These statements in of themselves are so outrageous, so dishonest they defy logic. The facts and the money trail paint a clearer picture.
First, all of the candidates that ran in the primary were all first time commissioner candidates, save the sitting board. All were private citizens, homeowners, parents or small business owners.
Only two candidates had run for office on different levels, here and in Howard County. In reviewing campaign finance reports available up to this time, none of the candidates were financed, or backed by "the developer crowd" by any stretch of the imagination.
Second, this "pseudo-newspaper" has not received, nor has it been compensated in any way by developers, bankers, builders or the like. We are not coached, steered or told what to write, as the editors of at least one local paper is conditioned to do. We are unaffiliated with any political party or individual candidate running now or have ever run in the past.
The Standard runs on its own fuel, and the citizen's right to know everything these commissioners have failed to convey. The owner of this publication has been a small business owner in the county for some 30 years, notably, not as a developer or builder.
Third, based on the lack of voter turnout, the "vast majority" of the county did not turn out to support the incumbent board. Those numbers tell a different story as the incumbent commissioners received significantly less votes than in the 2002 primary, an 18,000-vote difference. In 2002 they received almost 55 percent of the vote, in turn received less than 45 percent in this primary election.
Their victories were marginal at best. Perry Jones lost his bid because of his lack of independent thinking, his team player image caught up to him.
Apparently, the "vast majority" for these incumbents consists only of county staff, family members and friends.
Forth, the commissioner's concept of open responsive government is troubling. In past administrations, any citizen could walk into the people's office building, meet and greet sitting commissioners, staff and employees. Permits for any number of projects with the exception of development projects could be attained on the spot. No waiting period, no restrictions or covenants attached after the fact. All within legal limits. Department heads and staff cheerfully assisted citizens on every level. If a citizen wanted any information, it was readily produced, they had nothing to hide.
Today the county office complex is guarded, the commissioners do not entertain citizens one on one, and staff has been subjected to vet everything through the chief of staff. Permits can take months to process for projects as simple as adding a deck to your home, any project is now vetted by an environmentalist, without a zoning or planning background. Department heads and staff have been admonished not to give any information out without a freedom of information request.
They require all information to be vetted through the county attorney, and they will then decide what is released. Your information paid for with tax dollars is now only available after jumping through hoops. To be sure, all the information you receive is only half the story as the packet will come to you incomplete with redactions. An open government would under normal conditions, not require a freedom of information act. The County office would be open to all residents, not just the commissioners' perceived majority of friends and family.
Almost lastly, "special interests," according to finance reports filed with the State Election Board, Gouge specifically, has benefited from contributions from the forth-largest developer in the Baltimore area. In 2003, the developer had filed over three hundred permits. The same developer is currently fighting to build 320 units on a golf course in Westminster, demanding a waiver to build without adequate facilities.
Other contributions come from a section eight housing developer; ironically, various section-eight projects have been developed since 2002, more are in approval stages. The bulk of the remaining contributions, for both incumbents come from county employees and family members, one of which is heavily involved in real estate sales and development. The vast majority of citizens have not contributed.
The bottom line of the deceptive remarks made by Gouge are of her own design, lacking credibility, everything she attacks with clearly falls on her own doorstep. The fact remains the present board of commissioners are the "good old boy's" network.
Finally, we are concerned with the cries for an investigation into our publication. We stand on our First Amendment right as a free press. Any challenges to those rights will be fervently defended and in turn, we will use whatever legal means necessary to hold accountable those responsible for making claims contrary to those rights.
We admonish any publicly elected officials to temper what they say; after all, we do not live in pre-war Germany, as they would have you believe. The references are insulting, not for us, we know who and where we are, but for themselves. We encourage those individuals that are confused to request an atlas and a current calendar.