He says he will be dealing with city issues from a new perspective.
Frederick, Md. (KM) He’s worked with city issues over his eight years as Alderman, But Mayor-elect of Frederick, Michael O’Connor will be looking these same issues through a different perspective when he takes over the city’s top job.
O’Connor says even before he was elected Alderman in 2009, he was following city issues through his work in the media, including some time as a reporter at WFMD News. “When I got into that role as a member of the Board of Aldermen, I realized you see a lot from the outside, but it’s a very different venture when you’re on the inside. I have sense that the Mayor’s office is very much the same,” he said.
O’Connor recently spoke with WFMD as he’s getting ready for the job of Mayor. He says the city, under Mayor Randy McClement, has been well managed for eight years. “It’s a big organization, and it’s going to take some time to get to know it at all of the levels that I think the Mayor needs to understand it,” he says.
But Mayor-elect O’Connor said there’s more to being a Mayor than administering the city. The city’s chief executive has to have a vision and set to some goals. “I see the role of Mayor fundamentally as the lead administrator for city government, as a manager of the city’s resources and of the city’s staff. But also as a leader in terms of trying to set vision and direction and shared goals,” he says.
As Mayor, O’Connor says he wants to keep in touch with citizens in this high tech age. He says that includes more than just being available by e-mail, or broadcasting or webcasting city meetings. “Are there ways that we can use technology to allow residents who can’t participate in a meeting at a 3:00 on a Wednesday afternoon or at 7:00 on a Thursday night to have their voices become a part of the record on a schedule that works for them,” he says.
One idea O’Connor says he wants to continue is the “Talk with the Mayor” which incumbent Mayor Randy McClement holds each month. Citizens can come to city hall and discuss any issue with the Mayor. “I want to explore how it’s possible to take that on the road, perhaps, meet residents in their neighborhoods because that will increase that level of engagement as well,” he says.
One of the issues O’Connor will be dealing with after he’s sworn in will be the proposed downtown hotel and conference center. He hopes that a ribbon cutting on the facility will take place within the next four years. “I think we’re very close right now in terms of having a finalized view of what the finished product is going to be, and really how the marrying of the funding sources will come together,” says O’Connor.
The project is proposed for a parcel facing Carroll and East Patrick Streets and will include the former News-Post building. Opponents say it’s too large for that area of the city, and if it fails, the city and the county will be on the hook for. Supporters say the developer, Plamondon Hospitality Partners, will take the hit if the project fails, and the city is only putting up funding for infrastructure improvements.
“It’s misunderstood in some quarters. It’s clearly opposed in some quarters as well. And I’m respectful of the idea that not everyone believes that this is a project we should be putting time and energy into,” he says.
After he takes over as Mayor, one of the first tasks O’Connor will be facing is drafting a budget for the next fiscal year. He was asked if he would ever consider proposing a property tax increase to help balance the city’s budget. “My expectation is that if we make the right kind of investments in the way we craft our budget, that those investments will produce an expanding property tax base which is where increased revenue ultimately comes from,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor and the members of the new Board of Aldermen will be taking their oaths of office on Thursday, December 14th in a ceremony at the Weinberg Center.
By Kevin McManus