By Debra Zimmerman Murphey and Maury Tobin
No matter whether you are happy or disappointed with the outcome of Maryland’s gubernatorial race, what happened in Charles County, Md., on Tuesday proved the validity of two adages: all politics is local and government is for the people and by the people.
The resounding defeat of a charter form of government and the landslide wins of Peter Murphy as commissioner president, newcomer Amanda Stewart as commissioner in District 3, as well as the re-election of Commissioner Ken Robinson in District 1, don’t just speak volumes. They are more like shouts of victory reverberating off the walls of the Grand Canyon.
After all, those of us who were so often told we were in the minority and on the wrong side did something on Tuesday that Democracy allows: We said, “We’re not taking it anymore.”
What citizens did was go up against the well-financed and well-oiled machine that promoted business as usual: encouraging more sprawl development and backers cozying up to commissioners to support that side.
Now, this monumental and historic election ends decades-long control by power mongers who generally were not average people – but, rather, wealthy developers and land speculators who dominated growth and planning policies here. It was the art of the deal that proved how political capital was often used in our county and it is representative of how the political system in our country needs to be overhauled. We have to stop letting special interests usurp the faith we put in those we trust to lead.
But a new day dawned and a revolution has prevailed in Charles County.
Murphy, Stewart and Robinson fought long and/or difficult campaigns and knew the relevance of what their battles meant. So, we thank them collectively as well as others – such as former Planning Commission Chairman Courtney Edmonds and former Commissioner President Candice Quinn Kelly – who openly and publicly questioned from the dais things their predecessors never had. (It was compelling, too, that this came during a time in which we think the call for civility by some people could just as easily have served as a ruse to silence some of us.)
Then there is Melanie Holland, a kind, smart and sincere candidate who proved that, no matter the odds of winning a write-in campaign, you can still strive for your dream in America. We hope Holland has a bright future in politics. Many informed voters admire her because they expect she would have been a direct, transparent and accessible commissioner.
We also thank the parents, bloggers, citizen “journalists,” organizations, experts, information providers and newsmakers who knew that to change things here they couldn’t solely rely on the traditional media in Southern Maryland to probe issues. We also recognize the committed law enforcement professionals, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel (EMS), Board of Education members, teachers and environmental champions who stood by their varying principles. And we applaud all of the volunteers, candidates and families who worked honestly and hard on all of the campaigns.
So what do we think made Tuesday’s results a new reality and turned the tide?
- Years of dismissing public input;
- Outrage about backroom deals;
- Misrepresenting those who asked for a growth-management plan that would both protect our county and propel our economy;
- Pigeonholing and maligning anyone who says having a healthy environment is a priority;
- The attempt to discredit activists and decision-makers who questioned the status quo;
Dismay over the recent draft comprehensive plan and playing down thousands of comments from members of the public who indicated they wanted smarter growth and valid studies;
- Those who weren’t associated with key and vocal players in the real estate, building, mortgage and development industries consistently being shut out of processes and policy development; and
- A growth plan that advocates more of the same and does nothing to address the horrible claims to fame Charles County has amassed: high property taxes, overcrowded schools, and terribly long commutes to jobs outside of the county.
Still, it is refreshing and heartening to understand that people voted for change. Additionally, even though there is a new kind of Board of Commissioners in play here, we are hopeful that fresh visions and thinking can be explored and considered by each commissioner.
And ultimately, we hope we can all work together to make our county a great place to invest in, live, visit and work.
Video and audio pieces for We Make It News are produced by Tobin Communications.