New entry or publicity hound?

Originally I was going to use this item yesterday as part of the headquarters story, but on second thought I decided it deserved its own headline and post.

In five months beyond the November election, Salisbury voters will decide the fate of three of their leaders: District 1 Councilwoman Shanie Shields, District 2 Councilwoman Debbie Campbell, and Mayor Jim Ireton. I’m under the impression Shields won’t run again; the other two are presumably going to seek another four-year term.

You may recall that earlier this year I profiled a campaign kickoff by local realtor Adam Roop, for a yet-to-be-determined city elected office. But I hadn’t mentioned this effort by political gadfly and blogger Joe Albero – until today.

Joe Albero and his rack 'o shirts.

Now I understand my political advice is generally worth the price paid for it, but it seems to me that having shirts and bumper stickers will build name recognition but not give someone a reason to vote for you. As it stands right now, the website listed on the shirt simply redirects to his Salisbury News website, not a separate campaign site.

I can already see the comment now should Joe deign to add his two cents to this conversation, something along the line of “it’s my campaign, I know what I’m doing, you simply fail to understand my master plan to win this race.” Whatever – as I said, my advice is sometimes worth the price paid for it.

But if he’s as popular as his rhetoric makes him out to be, why would he be wheeling out a nearly full rack of shirts (presumably as a giveaway to supporters?) The shot was taken as he was leaving to go to another event, as Joe said to me.

I have a hard time taking Albero seriously as a candidate until I see a formal announcement and (as a Salisbury voter myself) his ideas on how to improve the city. Several of those I spoke with this afternoon felt similarly, preferring to keep their distance for the time being.

That didn’t have anything to do with the headquarters, nor will the local GOP be actively involved in the Salisbury city races because they’re non-partisan elections. Hence the reason I decided this should be a separate post. But I took the picture since Albero’s space was placed next to the GOP’s at the Farm and Home Show; aside from that, the Wicomico GOP has no official connection to the Albero mayoral campaign – or any other Salisbury one, for that matter.

As I made clear on my comments on the Roop event, the current mayor didn’t kick off his spring 2009 campaign until November, 2008 – after the election of Barack Obama. Aside from perhaps trying to build name identification (and as a fellow blogger who HAS run for office in this county twice, I am quite aware that simply having a website doesn’t necessarily translate into lot of people knowing who you are – that’s why I barely hung on to my seat in 2010) I’m not sure what Albero’s point is, aside from perhaps a publicity gimmick to promote his site. If that’s the case, give him an A for marketing but an F for being taken seriously for future political endeavors.

The next step

Now that the primary is behind us and the Maryland General Assembly session will come to a screeching halt by midnight Monday evening, there’s an obvious focus on the three races we will have at our local level: the Republican nominee (most likely Mitt Romney) for President vs. Barack Hussein Obama, the U.S. Senate race featuring Dan Bongino against political lifer Ben Cardin, and the Congressional race which will pit Andy Harris against the most likely Democrat winner, Wendy Rosen (who, by the way, was once a Republican.)

But we also need to keep a couple things in the back of our mind. One is that the citizens here in our fair city are less than a year away from electing a new mayor. (I say new because, quite frankly, what has Jim Ireton done to deserve re-election? Then again, what did he do to deserve election in the first place?) We will also have the City Council seats currently held by Shanie Shields in District 1 and Debbie Campbell in District 2 to vote upon. (For the sake of this post, I’m going to assume the new district boundaries will mostly reflect the old ones – Lord knows the three-person Camden crew on City Council won’t select a model which makes sense and redivide the city into five Council districts because at least one of them would be out of a job.)

It’s my understanding that Shields will not seek re-election in her majority-minority district, and while it would be a tough sell for a Republican to win there it wouldn’t be a stretch to have a conservative win the seat – the city election is non-partisan and has been for some time now.

And while Campbell has faced opposition in both her initial election bid (Mike Dunn in 2005) and subsequent re-election try (Muir Boda in 2009) it seems like prospective candidates are easier to find when the district elects three seats as they did in 2011 than the one-seat race we have in the other cycle coming up next year. But there’s no reason to leave Campbell unopposed should she decide to run again, particularly since she’s part of the Camden crew.

So far only one person has gone public with his intention to run for city office, but there’s been no fleshing out of his platform up until now and the campaign is still in its earliest stages. Unlike federal or state office, there’s really no need to begin a campaign until this fall considering it covers a city of just 30,000 people.

But those conservatives who are interested should be making the push over the summer in attracting grassroots support and financing for their run. Truth be told, the city seems to have fallen prey to a power struggle between the Camden crew and the mayor as to who’s really in charge, and in my estimation both are fighting over a sinking ship as things currently stand. I’ll grant that a lot of dead weight is being placed onboard by the state and federal governments, which will leave a new chief executive boxed in to some extent, but these aren’t times when the city can be placed on a glide path like it could a decade ago.

Nor is it too early to consider what we can achieve for a number of county offices which haven’t had turnover in decades. While the bulk of county Republicans only came into office in 2006 or 2010 (exceptions are County Council members Gail Bartkovich and Stevie Prettyman), most of the Democrats have been there for well over a decade and their offices may not be getting the fresh leadership they deserve. It’s time to make them earn their office rather than let them cruise in for another four years. A good goal for local Republicans would be to fill up the 2014 ballot – actively seeking a person to run for State’s Attorney, even after the filing deadline, paid dividends in 2010.

Focus on 2012, but don’t forget 2013 or 2014.

Early to rise

As the calendar turns to 2012 and the political calendar becomes focused on the presidential primary, over the weekend we had our first prospective 2013 Salisbury City candidate announce the possibility he would run.

That’s right – Adam Roop announced in January, 2012 for an election to be held in April, 2013. Roop made his statement before perhaps a dozen supporters according to a Daily Times story by Jennifer Shutt. The story presumes he will be running for mayor, but Roop made no firm commitment to a particular office. Bear in mind, however, that based on where Roop resides he would either have to challenge Jim Ireton to become the new mayor or District 2 Council member Debbie Campbell, whose term also expires in 2013. Neither Ireton nor Campbell have confirmed their desire for another term at this time.

As a point of comparison, I did a little research and found that Ireton announced his mayoral bid in November 2008, just five months before the election. In that 2009 race, Jim won a four-person primary over then-City Council Vice-President Gary Comegys, former City Council member Bob Caldwell, and 2005 candidate Mike Della Penna before again defeating Comegys in the general election. Out of that field, Comegys declined to run for re-election in 2011 due to illness, Caldwell was elected to County Council in 2010 before his death in October 2011, and Della Penna has finished well out of the money in both previous runs. In short, the time is indeed ripe for new contenders in the political arena.

But will announcing so early create a problem? There’s no question Adam Roop has a little bit of name recognition based on his real estate ventures, but he’s not nearly as well known for his community involvement – it’s a shortcoming he addressed in his statements. And if elected, Roop would be the youngest mayor Salisbury’s had in some time as he won’t turn 30 until June of 2013. By comparison, Jim Ireton will be 43 years of age by the 2013 election – still, that’s younger than any member of Salisbury’s City Council, where the current roster ranges in age from 46 to 62.

In my observation, Roop may have been better served by getting involved more in the community first before making an announcement. Certainly there is some lead time required in plotting a political campaign against an incumbent officeseeker but running for office is far more than putting together an attractive logo and hosting a gathering for would-be supporters. Yes, it’s good to know that one of those who may be running for re-election in 2013 will not go unopposed, but there’s such a thing as looking too eager to serve.

A pair of follow-ups

Just to update a couple stories I’ve featured recently…

You likely recall the story about the Hudson farm in Berlin and their trouble with environmentalists determined to extract their pound of flesh from this chicken growing operation. I received a note from former Maryland GOP head Jim Pelura which noted this sort of problem isn’t new, and farmers shouldn’t bear the brunt of the blame. He forwarded to me a copy of a letter he wrote to Kim Coble of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation back in 2005, part of which I excerpt here:

Thank you for your letter and brochure outlining the CBF’s position on agriculture’s part in the over-nutrification of the Chesapeake Bay. It was well written and concise.

However, I must take exception with the underlying premise that Maryland agriculture (both animal and crop) is the major cause of pollution in the Bay.

By using the Maryland Department of the Environment’s own figures, a major cause of Bay pollution is malfunctioning sewage treatment plants. I would even go so far as to suggest that sewage treatment plant malfunctions are the major cause of nitrogen and phosphorous pollution of the Bay.

According to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), close to 700,000,000 gallons of raw or minimally treated sewage was dumped into Maryland waterways in 2004. So far in 2005, there has been nearly 400,000,000 gallons of raw or minimally treated sewage that ended up in our streams and rivers. (Additional 3 million gallon spill in Arnold, Maryland this week).

As an advocate for Maryland agriculture, I have been following this situation for some time. The Maryland Department of the Environment has been aware of this situation, and in 1995 realized that antiquated and poorly maintained sewage treatment plants were a major cause of Bay pollution. (Emphasis in original.)

So the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and their environmentalist allies should know what the problem really is – but it’s more difficult to sue a city or other unit of government than it is to pick on farmers or big bad agribusiness in general. As the Hudson family is finding out, being the little guy makes it much easier to pick on you. Thanks to Jim for the update.

I also heard from Laura Mitchell of Salisbury City Council, both in person at the Winter Wonderland of Lights unveiling last night and on her Facebook page this evening. It seems she’s not giving up on her dogged fight against a city charter change:

Tomorrow night at 6:00pm in the Salisbury City Council Chambers, I will ask the Council to consider a Resolution to put the recent Charter Amendment on the 2013 ballot for a non-binding referendum vote.

More than 2,300 people signed the petition asking that the Council give the decision to determine the structure and operation of their government back to the voters. I heard that message loud and clear and I hope that my colleagues will as well. If you would like to help deliver the message of strength and unity and the desire for an inclusive City government in Salisbury, please join me at the meeting at 6:00pm.

You may speak during public comments if you wish, but there is no requirement to do so. Your presence will speak volumes. Please join me in turning up the volume of our message to a level that demands recognition.

I hope to see you there!

While I don’t support the Charter change because it’s a case of the legislative branch usurping the power of the city’s executive, I’m not sure a non-binding vote is the way to go; after all, the Charter change will go through regardless. The only reason this could be relevant is the timing – one of the three who voted for the change (Debbie Campbell) will be on the ballot, while the other two offices up for grabs will be that of Mayor Ireton (who will presumably be seeking re-election) and Council member Shanie Shields, who said at the beginning of this term that it would be her last. So there would be a new member in her place as well.

Having said that, though, the prospect is there of a different 3-2 configuration tossing out the Charter change 18 months from now and taking us back to the old way. Obviously 2300 people (including myself) were interested in preserving the system in place and that would be a significant chunk of the electorate with a vested interest in the 2013 race.

I will have another piece of news tomorrow morning concerning state politics – those who follow me on Facebook already know what it is. Tonight I’ll put the finishing touches on those tasks I need to do on this site to accommodate the new feature.

New City Council poll

There’s a new sidebar poll on the City Council race, with an important difference.

I have changed the parameters to discourage frequent repeat voting. Although someone could skew the results to an extent, it’s going to be a little more difficult to do.

As for the poll this replaces, I found it interesting that support for creating five single-person districts in the city is reasonably strong. Over 50 percent (51.42% to be exact) favored that option, although a small portion of that group advocated adding two at-large Council members to base it more closely on Wicomico County. 40 percent favored the current system, while the other 8.57% would like all five elected at-large.

It’s highly doubtful this will happen anytime soon, though, as primary results indeed suggest three City Council members (Terry Cohen, Tim Spies, and Debbie Campbell) will represent the Camden neighborhood. Obviously they’ll have nothing to do with making that neighborhood just one of five districts; meanwhile areas like Johnson’s Lake, Doverdale, and the southeast quadrant of the city where I live may have no local representatives if results hold true.

A name recognition leader

Two years ago, Muir Boda ran for a Salisbury City Council seat and lost to a fairly popular incumbent, Debbie Campbell. As I wrote back then on the race:

The only race between two good candidates is in District 2. Both of them promise to be good stewards of taxpayer money, and either would be a great City Councilman. It would actually be somewhat of a nice scenario to have Comegys elected Mayor and allow the loser of this race to be selected to fill the vacated District 2 seat.

Well, as we all know Gary Comegys didn’t win the mayoral seat so my District 2 wish didn’t play out. However, Boda is back to try again (as is an unsuccessful Council candidate from 2007, Tim Spies) and it appears that thus far the Libertarian stalwart is making the biggest splash in the race. This is especially true since he’s the subject of an article by Sarah Lake in today’s Daily Times.

While Lake’s article, apparently gleaned from an interview with the candidate, is relatively straightforward, I would take a little exception to the headline – obviously his former platform wasn’t popular enough to sway more than about 1/3 of the voters to his side. Of course, if you figure Boda survives the March 1 primary and goes on to the six-way race for three Council posts on April 5th I’m sure he’d (figuratively, of course) kill for a 1/3 share of the vote there. And if you read a little closer, there’s little to dislike about Muir’s stances on the issues. Making the city more business-friendly by streamlining the job creation process is sorely needed.

Yet even moreso than those candidates who are already serving – as of this writing, I’m not aware that any of them desire re-election but they have until January 18 to make their intentions known – Boda is the subject of spirited debate among those who write the local blogs. One political gadfly, who also castigated the fact the candidate works as a manager for Wal-Mart, has even darkly intoned that Muir Boda is a Muslim name in his vain search for relevency.

Depending on which current candidates (if any) decide to try for another term, it appears that the battle lines will be drawn among the main contenders by those of us who write on local politics as they were the last time we had a similar election in 2007. More than ever, it will be up to the voting public to determine what the truth really is and the best way to do it is get the story from the horse’s mouth. Once campaign season arrives there should be plenty of opportunities to interact with candidates, and it’s up to voters to arm themselves with the facts.

Let’s make an informed decision.

‘Safe streets’ or unsafe for landlords?

I guess they are going to keep trying until they get it right.

Salisbury City Council members Debbie Campbell and Terry Cohen are hosting their third public meeting to solicit public comment on the ‘Safe Streets’ initiative at the Government Office Building in downtown Salisbury tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m. Despite two packed previous hearings, the legislation is stalled in Salisbury City Council.

In a press release, Campbell and Cohen bill this Neighborhood Legislative Package as a public safety initiative:

“Just today, I discussed the “Three Strikes, You’re Out” proposal with a city resident and what reducing the high-repeat call load from certain properties can mean for making better use of our police resources,” said Cohen.  “It’s astounding when you see statistics like 59 properties in just one neighborhood generating 1,800 calls for service to police in three years.”

Campbell said that the previous two meetings, both with overflow attendance, yielded useful feedback on possible changes to the legislation.  “This legislation could provide substantial benefit to the public and contribute to the overall Safe Streets initiative already under way, thanks to our law enforcement agencies in partnership with the community,” Campbell explained.

In reading the seven portions of the proposed legislation, I fail to see how many of the new laws will reduce crime. It seems like much of the legislation instead is a broadbased effort to both wipe out many of what the city considers ‘nonconforming uses’ which have been around for years or even decades and in the process make a little bit more money in licensing fees and fines from landlords.

There’s no question there are landlords who don’t do their due diligence, instead succumbing to the allure of the almighty buck. Yet they are in the minority, and the proposed laws are akin to taking a sledgehammer to an ant hill. Those who live in houses adapted decades ago or who bought a property intending to become an entrepreneur and landlord may find themselves facing the prospect of extensive and expensive repairs if they can’t convince a judge that the use predates an arbitrary deadline. Obviously they will be stuck with a property which has lost its appeal and value to prospective buyers and face financial ruin.

Like it or not, Salisbury will be a rental haven for years to come due to a combination of a growing university where demand for housing outstrips on-campus availability and a crashing housing market which forces former homeowners to become renters. Soon the largest group of new homeowners may be financial institutions, and certainly they’re not going to be interested in following these regulations – instead, houses may sit empty and become tempting targets for crime. That defeats the purpose of the bill!

This bill, which is strongly backed by Mayor Jim Ireton, can’t move forward because Council President Louise Smith won’t put it on the Council’s legislative agenda for a vote. Likely this is because the bill as written has little chance of passage – Smith and fellow City Council members Gary Comegys and Shanie Shields seem to be immovably against the bill. With just one City Council meeting remaining on the docket this year, all are marking time until bill co-sponsor Terry Cohen (along with Smith and Comegys) have their seats come up for election next spring. After the holidays, the city’s campaign season will begin in earnest as the filing deadline is January 18.

While Cohen and Campbell may be trying a TEA Party-style tactic by holding frequent public meetings to denounce the lack of progress, the political reality is that this change isn’t desired by a large percentage of Salisbury residents. They want real, tangible answers for crime, and picking on landlords won’t make a difference in the perception that Salisbury is a drug and gang haven. It’s no wonder people flee to the county the first chance they get.

Can the Grinch steal a Salisbury City Council seat?

Well, this post (since taken down) oughta stir up some interest and get the local blogosphere going. Jonathan Taylor is best known as the host of a website which points out the faults and foibles of another local political gadfly, Joe Albero. (In Taylor’s defense he has toned down the Albero criticism somewhat in recent months – still, they don’t like each other.)

Needless to say any discussion of local Salisbury politics will sit on the back burner until the 2010 election cycle is completed in November, but Taylor would enter the District 2 field at a time when three of five City Council seats are up. With one incumbent battling cancer, the presumption would be that at least one seat of the three at stake next year would be freed up.

The personality conflicts are inevitable because Salisbury politics seems to be full of them. The last three years have been a story of 3-2 votes, with Debbie Campbell (re-elected in 2009) and Terry Cohen (up in 2011) almost always voting as the minority. One would presume the acrimony between Taylor, Cohen, and Campbell (as an extension of Jon’s dislike of C+C ally Albero) would make City Council meetings quite interesting – but would anything get done?

Of course, there’s still the filing and actual campaign to go through, but Taylor could add a little pizzazz to an offyear municipal election and provide a reality check for the power of blogs to influence the political process.

AFP has ‘action packed’ meeting

Tonight, Julie Brewington was speaking to “my favorite people in the world.” I presume that comes after her family, but that was how she opened up the February meeting of Wicomico County’s Americans for Propsperity chapter.

Now that the group had a regular meeting date and location, over 60 attendees had the opportunity to hear a number of speakers in a briskly moving program. One thing the group wasn’t going to do, though, was send a bus to tomorrow’s Blair House meeting even though the national AFP was protesting at the site.

Yet, noted Julie, “if it weren’t for us, health care would’ve passed in June.” Our focus, though, was going to shift a bit to more local issues since “the only votes that matter are at the city, county, and state level” in 2010. “We have power in local issues,” added Julie later.

The two most immediate concerns were finding volunteers to attend city and county council meetings and helping to organize the Salisbury TEA Party April 15 – we need people with “organizational skills.”

The meeting was then turned over to a number of speakers, first up being Ed Urban representing the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. He started right out by saying he approached the county years ago with the suggestion that these operations be run like a business and they put him in charge of doing so.

Deftly keeping the conversation away from the recent purchase of five acres to expand the Civic Center’s parking lot (better known to my readers as Pollitt’s Folly) Urban instead spoke about the economic impact the WYCC creates along with other aspects of the county’s tourism, parks, and recreation programs.

The tourism department combined with the Civic Center creates $20 million in “rollover” economic impact. The county’s tourism bureau is supported by a room tax of 6 percent, with 2/3 going to pay for tourism programs and 1/6 to help the WYCC. Parks and recreation essentially support themselves through user fees, with the only county fiscal input being that of paying for the administrators.

But Wicomico County still has to subsidize the Civic Center to the tune of around $227,000 a year (averaged over the last three years.) The Civic Center “can be profitable,” Urban stated, but in order to be so the prohibition on alcohol sales there would have to be lifted. He noted that the site was originally slated to be a ballpark for local children, but that was built elsewhere – yet the no-alcohol clause remained.

Urban concluded his remarks by finally addressing the parking issue, saying that the County Council saw the need for additional parking; the only question was cost. There are only 900 spaces on the Civic Center lot, and any event where more than 2,250 attend would require more space. The developers who owned the land the county bought were threatening to charge $10,000 per month rent. (I’d have called their bluff, figuring that $1.5 million is 150 months’ rent.)

I asked Urban about the lifespan of the arena, given that many similar facilities only last 40 to 50 years. Urban thought that with proper maintenance the design was such that it could last several more decades – he “doesn’t see a 40 to 50 year lifespan.”

Speaking for the opposition, County Councilman Joe Holloway then briefly recounted his reasoning for voting against the purchase. It was “not a wise choice” for a number of reasons; in particular he again criticized the county’s method of land acquisition. Joe also noted the real cost to taxpayers would be $2.6 million when improvements are figured in.

Holloway also warned us that “we’re in trouble” financially because of what’s brewing in Annapolis.

John Palmer, president of the local group VOICE, spoke next. After vowing that “we will be going down to the Civic Center” and analyzing their finances, he got to the root of his presentation. In polling the audience and soliciting what we thought key problems were, the consensus was that Wicomico County didn’t spend money wisely – “unnecessary personnel” and an out-of-control Board of Education seemed to get much of the blame.

We could vote the people in charge out, but that would involve getting good people elected and those are tough to find. Instead, the approach VOICE is taking is that of petitioning for redress – “if you take control of the checkbook I guarantee things will straighten out in the county,” Palmer asserted.

The group has two ideas it would like to bring to voters: one is a prohibition on land acquisition and capital projects without the approval of county voters, and the other is reducing the number on County Council from seven to five by eliminating the two at-large posts.

Personally I don’t care for either idea.

In considering the capital improvements proposal, it seems to me that we have a representative government for a reason. While the idea of a referendum for capital improvements seems excellent in the wake of Pollitt’s Folly, the truth is that this would cripple county government’s ability to act in a timely manner. In addition, there would be the expense of frequent elections to consider as the county buys land and improves property on a regular basis.

As far as the changeover from seven County Council members to five, I don’t see where we save all that much in that the duplicity of services we already have would still exist. Obviously there’s a small savings in salaries, but I prefer the idea of having three Council members at my beck and call (my district plus two at-large) rather than one. The chances of having someone who agrees with my point politically are exponentially better this way, although I admit that since Joe Holloway happens to be my district councilman I have a pretty good advocate of my point of view already.

Palmer’s second-in-command, Johnnie Miller, spoke next – but on a completely different subject. He updated us on legislation he and Palmer have authored called the “Green Watt Program.” Based on a program in Tuscon, Arizona, this voluntary program would create a fund to promote energy efficiency. Miller noted Delaware pays a much larger share of costs for renewable energy projects; up to $31,500 for residential and $250,000 for commercial.

But one commentor made the point about government subsidy, and I think it’s a valid point. While it’s Miller’s business to promote solar panels and the like, it’s obvious that people would likely go another route for energy usage if this subsidy in Delaware (where Miller does most of his business) didn’t exist. Obviously Johnnie means well with his proposal, but if this were done by General Electric or some other large corporation we’d call it rentseeking.

Nick Loffer, representing the state AFP, began his remarks by quoting Governor O’Malley from late 2007 – “we passed a fair, long term solution to our budget problems.” Uuuuhhh, no.

His time at the podium was spent alerting us to the fact that the hearing on the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA for short – SB141 to the General Assembly) occurs Wednesday, March 3rd at noon and there would be a bus for those interested in attending the hearing or even testifying. (The bus would leave Salisbury around 9:30 a.m.)

“This is our chance to stop the budget,” opined Nick, otherwise, “a vote for this budget is a vote to raise taxes in 2011.”

Salisbury News blogger Joe Albero was next, and although I found his remarks may have been a bit self-serving he made some valid points. (Perhaps he underestimates the impact other blogs have on the conversation.)

One thing I found interesting – albeit anecdotal, of course – was his claim that Rick Pollitt said, “Joe, that will never happen” when asked if taxpayers would be paying for additional Civic Center parking at the Old Mall site. At the time, a land swap was discussed.

Having gone to Annapolis to watch testimony on sex offender legislation, Albero observed, “things are no different in Annapolis” than they are here. “I could do this (be a Delegate or local legislator),” Joe continued, but “I’m only one voice (out of many).” As commenters on his site, “we have an incredible impact on local government.”

“Things are turning around for the better,” said Joe, but we need to stay united. He relayed the fact that General Assembly Republicans had put up a budget alternative saving almost $830 million, including over $2 million just by putting a salary cap on state officials so none made more than the governor’s $150,000 salary.

The last of the slated speakers was Salisbury City Councilman Debbie Campbell, who told us “really important things were going on” in Salisbury. Mainly she decried a lack of accountability on the part of the city, and spoke of two egregious examples.

The city of Salisbury has accepted a dump truck and is using it – unfortunately they haven’t officially allocated the money to pay for it yet. And if that’s not bad enough, the Council president contracted for and signed two change orders for a $1.8 million housing project called “The Bricks” by claiming City Council approval when she had none, charged Campbell.

In all, said Debbie, the Council was “running roughshod” over taxpaying citizens, and she begged those attending, “please show up and support us.” Joe Collins later intoned that, “we’re lucky to have Debbie Campbell” on Salisbury’s City Council and as an AFP supporter.

Returning to the podium, Julie Brewington talked briefly about the issue of infiltration – the TEA Party movement was so successful that the opposition isn’t ignoring it anymore but trying to destroy it from within. She mentioned the ersatz Tea Party in Nevada, which gave me the opportunity to enlighten the group on the particulars of the situation.

Another observer, S.J. Disharoon, spoke about the lack of dialogue at Salisbury City Council meetings and thought we as a group should press for a rules change to allow more opportunity for the public to interact in a timely manner, not just after all is said and done.

G.A. Harrison related his recent experience with the GOP Central Committee regarding something he found offensive and told those gathered a Republican “has to earn your vote…Conservatives need to take back the GOP.” I agree!

Finally, Bob Harris brought up the two ways a referendum can get on the ballot – either by petition or by vote of the County Council. He encouraged the County Council (since Joe Holloway was still present) to put two items on the ballot – one for disclosure of members of a LLC which does business with the county and the other to start the process of getting an elected school board, to which Joe Holloway replied he “fully supports” an elected board of education too.

These meetings generally turn out to be rather long and a lot is said. But they’re really worth the time to cover because I feel that most of my readership has been crying for leadership on these and other issues and the AFP is attempting to provide it on a nonpartisan basis.