January 6 2017
I am humbled and honored to have served the residents of the City over the last 7 yearsÖit is hard to believe the time has passed so quickly.
Thank you Alderman Russell for your kind introduction.
To those elected officials past and present, and candidates past and present, at all levels, thank you for your service to Democracy. To those of you with whom I have served, you have enriched my public service.
I want to acknowledge my siblings who are hereÖand my parents who never discouraged a conversation about politics around an always talkative, and frequently loud, dinner table. Anyone looking to assign blame for me standing here can look to them. But not a day goes by that some word or phrase of theirs isnít repeated by me and that is a wonderful legacy. They are my heroes and role models and I miss them enormously.
Finally, thank you Tammy, my best friend and confidante, and our daughters Clare and Erin. It is my great joy to see the intelligent, funny, opinionated, beautiful, strong people you are. I love and thank you for your support, your patience, and your understanding. The three of you are the fixed point in my life and just three of the reasons why this is so important.
I am blessed every day to have had the opportunity to be from this place, to have attended school here, enjoyed personally meaningful and important work hereat Saint Katharine Drexel Church, at Cable 10, and before that the radio station, and about 10 years of that time as Adjunct Faculty at Frederick Community College, as well. Iíve volunteered here, countless hours on behalf of causes and organizations from the Frederick Jaycees, where I met Tammy, to serving as Chairman of the Frederick County Workforce Development BoardÖand Iíve raised my family in this community.
So that others, anyone who wishes to, can enjoy the same opportunities I've had we have work to do.
I believe that while Frederick has made progress in many areas, the lack of a comprehensive vision for the City makes that progress disparate and unfocused. There is perceived lack of urgencyÖa sense that all priorities, all neighborhoods, all residents, don't get the same attention...I want to change that...for Frederick to move forward...We Must Move Forward Together...So today, I announce my candidacy for Mayor of the City of Frederick.
There is nothing we cannot do when we apply our energy and demonstrate our resolve. Our challenges are opportunities...and we are starting from a position of strength...our community is rich in history and diversity, which I see from the various Boards and Commissions, such as Celebrate Frederick and Frederick Community Action Agency, on which I serve. And along with other committed volunteers, we all know our work together makes us stronger. We have an expanding and maturing arts culture and it has been my pleasure to serve as the liaison to the Delaplaine Board, that manages and oversees the important resource we are standing in today, as stewards of art and history in this old Mill. I recently attended the 90th Anniversary of the Weinberg Center, a phoenix which emerged from flooding in the mid-70ís thanks in no small measure to visionary City leadership.
We have the Frederick Arts Council and Festival of the Arts. And Iím fond of saying Iíve never seen a bad show at the Maryland Ensemble Theater which sits in the core of our Arts and Entertainment District. Thanks to a partnership with the City, the MET is reaching out to put performing arts in the lives of elementary school students throughout the CityÖI look forward to a long, productive, and expanding engagement We have abundant recreation opportunities and natural resources, our 70 plus parks, City funded school-based Parks and Recreation Programs, a golf course, a stadium, and now a Master Plan for the Westside Regional ParkÖIím proud to have served as the Parks and Rec liaison the last seven years. We are convenient to the attractions available in Baltimore and Washington, and are home to great public schools, Fort Detrick and Frederick Memorial Hospital.
To Move Frederick Forward we must embrace an enhanced Vision for the City, so everyone knows our goals and how we plan to achieve them. Because that doesnít happen by accident and it isnít sustained by chance, weíll be launching a listening tour over the coming weeks to hear from you, the Community, about your priorities. Weíll apply planning and focus, and attention and care. We may live with our feet in the present, but our eyes must always look to what is ahead of us. We will be aspirational and guided by several core principles...starting with Good Governance
Our vision and goals will drive the budget process. It happens now in a very limited fashion.
Good Governance is transparent...from public information to finances, from the largest projects to the smallest departments.
Good Governance is collaborative...we will work with our partners at Frederick County, in our State Delegation, and in Congress. Itís why I accepted the Presidency of the Frederick County Chapter of the Maryland Municipal League, and serve on the statewide organizationís Legislative Committee. I am grateful for all those representatives here today. They are and have been my colleagues and friends. We will continue to work together. And we will forge improved alliances with our business and non-profit communities to move our collective objectives forward.
Our economic development efforts must encompass the entire City. So will strive for Economic Resilience. For example, letís take the lessons of the original Carroll Creek Project, substantial community leadership, input, and guidance, and apply them to the West Side, working with the Golden Mile Alliance, Centro Hispano, and the Asian American Center. We need to elevate the profile of East Frederick Rising, an area home to anchor institutions like the Fairgrounds (and its committed Board of Managers), the most substantial industrial tax base in our City, and of course, the Airport (guided by another commission of volunteers on which I serve as liaison). These areas represent the largest commercial and employment centers, but they are not the only ones. We must maximize potential along Jefferson Street, Rosemont Avenue, North East Street, Opossumtown Pike, and elsewhereÖNo neighborhood, no resident, should ever believe city leadership doesnít care about them or their community.
Our economic development efforts have moved major projects forward including Astra Zenecaís expansion and Flying Dogís relocation into the City; yet we have not executed a coherent, well-articulated game plan for the hotel/conference center project. All of the right partners are at the table: Chamber of Commerce, Tourism, the Downtown Frederick Partnership, and most importantly, a private sector investment of $50 Million. The City needs to be the champion.
We need to move with greater focus and determination to address long term vacancies, and any properties, that contribute to blight in our City. It was a pleasure to work with two Committees of smart and committed volunteers who looked at the issue, with no shortage of strategies. We need clear goals to measure success and an improved means to communicate them to the public.
If we are going to celebrate Historic Preservation, and we should, we need to be sure our processes are clear, the benefits are evident, and incentives to comply when property owners want to do the right thing are available.
It was my focus when I served as the Board of Aldermenís HPC representative during my first term.
The next administration will be undertaking the update of the Cityís Comprehensive Plan. We should build on the data and the model devised by County Executive Jan Gardner and her staffís Livable Frederick approachÖa planning document guided by a community vision.
The third core principle is Expanding Vibrancy.
We have programs and partners addressing poverty and homelessness from our own Community Action Agency to the Frederick County Coalition for the Homeless to the Affordable Housing Council, among many othersÖand these partners are doing good work; but the impact often appears isolatedÖwe need a coordinated Community wide-strategy that makes clear what the Cityís role will be. The City canít do everything, but we should lead the conversation about how things get done. For example, we need to transition from poverty amelioration to poverty elimination. And weíll have that community conversation in the first 100 days of an O'Connor administration.
Another aspect of expanding vibrancy is public safety. Our Police Department is first class and from my perspective the envy of the region. There is a history of strong leadership, the adherence to a departmental strategic plan, a commitment to true community policing, and the reliance on data to help solve and prevent problems. Seems like a model for success that can and should be replicated throughout the City. And we need to renew the conversation about the departmentís space needs and an appropriate headquarters facility.
Our transportation and infrastructure are the foundation upon which a vibrant community will thrive. Iím pleased to have supported various phases of the Monocacy Boulevard construction, advancement of the Carroll Creek park as a multi-modal transportation corridor, new shared use paths and connections, and pedestrian improvements. In short, we need do more, in more parts of the City, to further improve our reputation as a walkable, bike-able community, and to ensure our residents can efficiently connect to regional transportation options.
Expanding vibrancy is ensuring safe and adequate water and sewer capacity, appropriate for our growth objectives, while being mindful of our natural resources and the environmental impacts of our decisions.
Which brings me to our fourth core principle: Environmental Stewardship. Hiring a Sustainability Manager was the first step; she needs help. We've taken additional steps with the adoption of a Sustainability Plan, focused on moving Frederick forward as a more environmentally-aware community; weíve adopted a Watershed Management planÖBut energy costs continue to be substantial and green infrastructure from renewable energy, to electric vehicle charging stations, to overhauling the Cityís vehicle fleet to be more oil-independent arenít happening fast enough. Frederick should be a model; environmental stewardship, from our tree canopy to stream protection, to recycling and solid waste management cannot be an afterthought.
The last, and maybe most important, core principle is Community Engagement. The public must see themselves as part of the process and be welcomed as such. Improved communication between our residents and City Hall is critical and we must maximize the use of technology for the benefit of residents, businesses, and visitors.
We have strong and diverse neighborhoods from Hillcrest to Monocacy Village, from Cannon Bluff to East Church; but our community outreach, crime prevention activities, and parks and recreation opportunities are not uniformly accessible. We especially need more attention to areas where the impacts of poverty are greatest and public participation in the process is less visible.
I'll make outreach to historically underrepresented parts of our community for Board, Commission, and other committee appointments a priority. And weíll create an outreach program to improve how we communicate with those who are not native English speakers to engage and embrace our diversity.
We need Neighborhood Advisory Councils 2.0. Now a teenager, our NACs are an important tool to engage our residents. But we need a refreshÖto take the best of what our best NACs are doing and duplicate it...and to raise the stakes for what all of our NACs can contribute to the decision making process.
Our email communication with residents, our website, social media presence and Channel 99 should all represent opportunities for two-way feedback on critical City issues.
In my professional life today, working for Saint Katharine Drexel church, we often use the word Stewardship. I think the concept is equally applicable to government. Elected officials must be good stewards. We must spend public dollars wisely. We must protect public resources like our water supply and our open spaces. We must preserve the quality of life that makes this such an attractive place to live, work, and play. We need to do it so that Frederick remains a place for our children and our grandchildren to live, work, and play. But we must be more than just good stewards. We must lead.
Positional leadership is the authority that comes from title or status. Itís the authority embedded in organizational hierarchy. Relational or thought leadership is different. Itís the authority that comes from the trust and respect of others. It cannot be demanded. It is given freely (or not) by you.
We have to expect a mayor to provide basic servicesÖpolicing, public works, planning. Thatís positional leadership. When it happens, it should not be remarkable.
The real job of the Mayor, the relational leadership, is about how we talk about Frederick, how we strengthen and support the leaders who are in our workforce and community already, through training and mentoring, and how we inspire the next generation of citizens to see Frederick as theirs. People are the key to progress on the important issues facing our community, issues our people can help us address, if we just ask them.
We know that most resources are limited. But one we have in abundance is our people, about 70,000 of them. Now is the time for our citizens to renew their commitment to their communities and the City of Frederick, because none of us, in any sector, can do it alone. If everyone does what they can, no one has to do too much. We cannot expect that in an era of steady but slow economic expansion, that treasure will suddenly materialize. Our time and talent are just as valuable as we look to create and innovate.
Through two campaigns for Alderman I talked about the skills developed over nearly 20 years as a journalist in this community, watching local government from a unique front row seat. I always considered that job as one of service on behalf of citizens. Little has changed except the perspective from which the questions are asked. Add to that now the experiences of two terms on the Board of Aldermen and the boards and commissions on which I’ve served, and I am uniquely qualified to Move Frederick Forward.
We Move Frederick Forward when there a high quality of life for all of our families ó a Frederick that provides good jobs for all our citizens, and provides numerous educational, recreational, and cultural opportunities.
We Move Frederick Forward when businesses, small and large, are nourished and new opportunities are encouraged where they make sense.
We Move Frederick Forward when our citizens can walk, bike, and drive safely through the streets of all our diverse neighborhoods and natural resources.
And We Move Frederick Forward when the City nurtures our creative community, which adds immeasurably to our quality of life.
Today, I ask for your service in support of this city, and to this campaign, so we can achieve our goals together. Our website, oconnorforfrederick.com is live. There are sign-up sheets I hope you used, and we will be in touch about ways you can get involved. Please, tell your friends and neighbors about what we are trying to do. And despite all the words Iíve used, I want to hear from you. As I said earlier, we are launching a listening tour with stops throughout the City so watch the website and your email and share the dates and locations.
In conclusion, you will hear a lot of campaign promises, Iím asking you to look at history and experienceÖwhat I have done as an elected official so far, my approach to governing and collaboration, my past leadership and civic involvement, my career commitments to community, to stewardship, and to people. Because it is the only thing I have ever doneÖI will work with you, as your Mayor, and we will Move Frederick Forward Together. Thank you!