Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Endings, Beginnings, and Who Knows What...

Earlier this week, I hope that you had a chance to read this post, a press release announcing that my dear friend David Dunmyer will not be seeking a second term on the Queen Anne's County Board of Commissioners.  This is the story of how I came to help Dave write that press release.

I met Dave about four years ago. In fact, now that I think about it, it might have been exactly four years ago this week, as the ironies and coincidences of life are to have it. We were both in the process of engaging in a fight to stave off the construction of a State Department training facility just a mile or so from where Dave lives. I was fighting because of what I wanted this new place for me and Kim to continue being, rural and close. Dave was fighting for something so much more important.

I did a lot of writing about the issue here at the blog, traded a lot of barbs with various people on social media (God that was fun), attended a lot of meetings, and lobbied folks in Washington DC against the facility. There were certainly a couple of people more involved than me, but not many more involved than Dave. He was a relentless, no holds barred champion for the people of Ruthsburg.

Kim and I had moved to Centreville in the late fall of 2009, and were neck-deep in the facility fight by January. I can say that there is no better way to find friends in a new place than to stand next to them during a good old fashioned dust up. I still count Mike and Tina Naumann, Mike Weddell, Jay Falstad, Bonnie Roschy, and of course, Dave and Rhonda Dunmyer, as good friends that I might have never met if not for FASTC. 

I got a call from Dave one day in the spring of 2010; he knew that my racket was politics, and he was thinking about running for county commissioner. I didn't know much about the county board of commissioners, nor about the political vagaries of the county, but I knew that Dave was a guy worth helping, so I signed on to the effort as a volunteer campaign manager. As Kim can attest, the spring, summer, and fall of 2010, my life was Dunmyer for Commissioner. Together, Dave and I redefined the way you run for commissioner in Queen Anne's County. We worked every weekend, knocking on thousands of doors over the course of the campaign. We worked nights, we worked mornings, we ate breakfast at Batter Up (but apparently not enough times to keep the place in business). We answered more questionnaires then now seems possible. As Theodore Roosevelt would have wanted it, we spent ourselves in a worthwhile effort.

I can say that there is no better way to learn your way around a county, then to help someone run for county commissioner.

Election night 2010 was a supremely weird event. Dave had won his first ever campaign as a candidate, and I had won my first ever campaign as a full-fledged campaign manager. I had counted votes at the Board of Elections until late in the night, and knew that while Dave had won, he and his slow-growth principles would be in the minority 3-2. So while it was a great night, it was also a night with big question marks about the future. We were surprised at the outcome of the election and that Dave would be in the minority; we sensed that it would be a frustrating four years.

It was a cold and rainy Friday near the end of my paternity leave in October 2013 and Dave and I were scheduled to have lunch in Centreville to talk about his ensuing reelection campaign. After we ordered, Dave got to the real special of the day: admitting that he did not think he was going to run again. That, after pouring himself into being a commissioner for four long years, he had had enough, emotionally, intellectually, financially. The job of commissioner, done right, done the way Dave did it, is certainly a full-time job, yet its wages, the wrong side of $20k a year, are hardly enough to call a living. The unavoidable responsibilities of life could not be avoided for four more years.

I let him know that I supported him either way, that I would be there to run another campaign, or that I could help with the drafting of a statement that he would not seek reelection. I warned him that, if he decided to not run for reelection, a lot of people would try to guilt him in to changing his mind. I promised to not be one of those people. But as we traded drafts of the release back and forth, I kept letting him know it was not too late to change his mind. As evidenced by the earlier post, there was no change in his mind on this one.

I don't know how many citizens of Queen Anne's County realize just how great of a commissioner they had in Dave Dunmyer. Here's a guy who literally put more free time into his role as commissioner than he could well afford, and all in the service of making progress on things he thought were important, like cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, and keeping our county a great place to live. When he was stymied by the myopia and recalcitrance of the status quo, he blazed his own path, meeting with US senators, governors, the EPA administrator, cabinet secretaries. When major progress couldn't be made, Dave made incremental progress. He took on issues, big and small, with a doggedness, a heart, and courage that you won't find in many people, let alone politicians, and as a result, Dave has grown into a leader in the field of conservation policy. His advice will be sought by the doers and the thinkers long after the other four members of this board have melded back into the fabric of whatever it is that they do when they aren't sitting in the Liberty Building.  

There is a discussion that needs to happen, about the emotional and intellectual toll of seeking and serving in public offices that keeps good people from running, or in the case of Dunmyer, from running again. There is the constant divisiveness, perhaps pronounced by the still small-town feel of Queen Anne's County, that provides no refuge from sarcasm and negativity. When we, and I think it is incredibly important that we realize that we all do play a role in this, make elected offices attractive only to the retrogrades and the argumentative, then only the retrograde and the argumentative will we get. Our collective need to get the last word, whether in a comment section, a social media forum, a town hall meeting, a radio show, is poisoning the public arena. Negativity is self-perpetuating.  

Dave Dunmyer will be replaced on the Board of Commissioners, and there might be much to say about that race in the days ahead right here on this blog. But I want to offer my most sincere gratitude to my friend Dave for the sacrifices he has made over the past four years to the people of our home county, to the Chesapeake Bay, and in defense of the notion that good people can hold office, and accomplish good things, without every having to raise their voice.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Statement: Dunmyer will not seek reelection in 2014

January 20, 2014
For Immediate Release
Contact: 443-481-0707

Queen Anne's County Commissioner David Dunmyer Announces He Will Not Seek Reelection in 2014

Centreville, MD Today, David Dunmyer, who has represented the First District on the Queen Anne's County Board of County Commissioners since 2011, announced that he will not seek reelection to the Board in 2014. 

Dunmyer, who now serves as the Vice President of the Board of Commissioners, will leave an incredibly strong legacy of leadership when he departs the Board. He serves as the Chairman of the Upper Shore Regional Council, and as an advisory member of the Chesapeake Bay Local Government Advisory Council. Dunmyer also serves as a voting member of the Maryland Association of Counties Legislative Committee, and as a liaison to the Queen Anne's County Council of Governments. Dunmyer has also recently been named to the Local Leaders Council for Smart Growth America. 

"As I think many of my fellow citizens know, I have happily poured my heart and soul into this job, serving Queen Anne's County to the best of my abilities. But after much thought, I believe I can better serve the places I love, Queen Anne's County and Maryland's Eastern Shore, as a private citizen." Dunmyer said. "In 2010, I proudly ran on a platform of improving the county's finances and sustaining our rural quality of life, and there is no question that, with the help of the citizens, progress has been made on both of these fronts during my time on the Board, and I step away without regret," Dunmyer continued.

"I have never wanted to turn politics into a career, and never thought that running for reelection was at all inevitable. I have met some great people interested in running across the county, and they deserve a chance to see what they can accomplish," Dunmyer said. "I am not sure exactly what the future holds for me personally, but I am excited about taking a more prominent role in issues related to conservation and smart growth, and perhaps serving the county in other roles," said Dunmyer. 

"I have enjoyed serving the county as a commissioner, and am incredibly grateful to the voters who gave me that opportunity. I look forward to staying engaged in the issues facing our county, and supporting great candidates in 2014." 


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

But What Are you FOR?!

The 2014 Governor's race here in Maryland is shaping up to be underwhelming. As far as I can tell, the Maryland Republicans have one candidate that is remotely viable, David Craig, who as sitting Harford County Executive has the only meaningful executive experience in the GOP bunch. There are rumors that the vaunted Larry Hogan, of Change Maryland "fame" will enter the race, but I suspect what few in the GOP establishment can probably see from being too close, that few outside of that establishment (and probably few of the "75,000 strong Change Maryland army" know who the Hell Larry Hogan is.

I want to support David Craig for Governor. I promise, I really do. Moderate as I am, I find the idea of another Democratic administration coupled with unfettered Democratic control of the state legislature to be anathema to fairness and sensibility. One party rule should be rejected. To express my sincerity about wanting to support Mr. Craig, I plan on reaching out to the campaign in the coming days, because while some of the messaging they are using on social media is just fine for the red meat Republicans of the state, its been a really long time since those red meat Republicans won a statewide election in Maryland. And by really long time, I mean never.  

What I think many ambitious Republicans do not understand is that being against a solution (Obamacare, for instance, or the Stormwater Fee) is all fine and good, but it leaves the underlying problem firmly in place. I am not the first to say this, but for all intents and purposes, Republicans in Maryland come off as the opposition party, as opposed to a party of workable alternatives. As Ted Kennedy said to Republicans opposing No Child Left Behind years ago on the floor of the Senate, "We know what you are against, but tell us, what are you FOR?!" That is one of the chief reasons, in my opinion, the GOP continues to fail in this state, because it does not present itself in a coordinated fashion as a governing party, but merely as an opposition party. The people of Maryland, in election after election, reject the inherent negativity of Republican politics, and I do not see this changing any time in the near future; although my hope is that Mr. Craig could be convinced to see the light on issues like these.

And further to my point, today on his Facebook account, Mr. Craig has asked his followers: "How has the failed rollout of the Maryland Health Exchange affected you?" The question was asked earlier in the day as well (although that post was removed, presumably because no one answered). I wonder if Mr. Craig and his social media consultants are surprised that no one has fessed up to it impacting them personally on the new post, either. And this sort of proves my theory, doesn't it? The failed rollout of the Maryland Health Exchange hasn't affected anyone you are pandering to, Mr. Craig! Aside from being an inherently negative question, guaranteed to garner angered online diatribes, it's not governing, and it isn't serious, and it won't get you elected. A campaign whose stock in trade is torching straw men is bound to end in failure. Instead of making people angry about opposition, bring people together around solutions. One of these things is harder than the other, but the easy one won't get you elected as a Republican in Maryland.

And while opposing the stormwater fee, or the rollout of the Maryland Health Exchange, or the theory of gravity might be very safe ground with the Lincoln Day Dinner circuit, it will come across to millions of other voters in the state as being another negative campaign with no real ideas of its own.  And that is why, Mr. Craig, if you continue down this path, you will not get elected. Like Bob Ehrlich before you (twice). And like every other failed statewide Republican who proceeded you to an electoral Elba.