Salisbury money races have surprising leaders

If you were wondering whether the challengers could financially keep up with the incumbents in the Salisbury primary elections, wonder no more. The initial pre-primary financial reports are out and there are some intriguing results.

First of all, it’s no surprise that the small District 1 race has attracted very little in the way of contributions; in fact, challenger Cynthia Polk begged off the detailed report as she didn’t raise enough. Fellow challenger April Jackson has only raised $595 from just four contributors, with the most interesting one being $200 from Friends of (Delegate) Rudy Cane. Incumbent Shanie Shields has raised $860 from 19 different benefactors, with the largest being a city-mandated maximum contribution of $250 from former Salisbury mayor Barrie Tilghman.

As would turn out to be the case for most contenders, the largest expenditure for the District 1 aspirants was signage, although Shields spent over $150 on a fundraiser which apparently only about broke even, based on contribution amounts.

More surprising was the amount of money raised on the District 2 race and who’s raised it. Jacob Day is the clear fundraising leader, with 50 line-item contributions (some were by couples) totaling $6,295. Out of all eight candidates, Day just missed being the overall head of the class – with a caveat, as I’ll explain later. Former mayor Barrie Tilghman maxed out her contribution to Day with $250, but so did a number of others I recognized as local builders, realtors, and developers – Brad Gillis, Michael Weisner, Ronald Morgan (of Becker Morgan Architects), members of the Gilkerson family, and so forth. Also worth noting on Day is that 30% of his individual contributions came from outside the area. The only other candidate with a similar profile is Jackson, who received two of her four donations from a Florida family – perhaps related?

Meanwhile, Jack Heath finished a distant second in contributions with $2,400 from 26 benefactors. A number of prominent local Republicans were in that group, including former County Executive candidates Ron Alessi and Joe Ollinger, who both chipped in $100 apiece. However, Heath also has over $2,800 in loans outstanding – all to wife Linda.

In a bit of a surprise, incumbent Debbie Campbell lags behind in the money race having raised only $1,026 from ten contributors, including $250 from herself.

As was the case in District 1 signage was among the leading expenditures for all three District 2 contenders, although Heath has also invested in a mailing. (It may not have reflected on this report, but my fiance and I both received a mailing from Day yesterday so his fundraising prowess is being spent.)

The mayor’s race, though, proves to be an interesting case in campaign finance.

Incumbent Jim Ireton takes the prize for neatest and easiest-to-decipher report, for the most part. There are 79 contributors listed, who donated a total of $5,818.65. (Five donated a hokey amount of $20.13, which explains the odd total.) His contributors run the gamut from local progressives to a number of local politicians like former County Councilman David MacLeod, Register of Wills Karen Lemon, and perennial Orphans’ Court candidate Peter Evans. There are also Democrats from around the state who added to the pot, such as Delegates Luke Clippinger, Maggie McIntosh, and Anne Kaiser, along with unsuccessful District 1 write-in Congressional candidate John LaFerla. Even Salisbury University president Janet Dudley-Eshbach and local left-wing activists Mike Pretl and Harry Basehart added a few dollars to Ireton’s till.

On the other hand, challenger Joe Albero raised the most money with $6,550. But as I said earlier, there’s a caveat – Albero donated $5,000 to his own cause. The other $1,550 came from just a dozen contributors, several of which were businesses. Included among that subset were Electrical Solutions, Gary Pusey & Sons, MoJo Management, Market Street Inn, Ltd., and Crown Sports Center. It’s not illegal, but Albero has by far the highest proportion of these business-based contributions. A perusal of Albero’s Salisbury News website shows several of these businesses are also advertisers.

It’s also worth mentioning that while Albero’s “official” shell of a mayoral website that’s currently ‘under construction’ has an authority line, Salisbury News – a site where Joe freely takes swipes at his opponent under the guise of “news” – does not. The same is true, however, of the rarely-updated On Your Side blog where Campbell is listed as a contributor along with Council president Terry Cohen, although Debbie apparently hasn’t authored a post since at least 2011. Neither Campbell nor Cohen post an authority line there, although tucked at the bottom is a disclaimer that they speak for themselves and not the whole Council.

Once again, signage seemed to be the largest expenditure in the mayoral race. But it’s interesting to note that the services of DiCarlo Printing were sought by both mayoral candidates as well as Jacob Day. John Robinson’s printing business was also a supplier to Albero and Day. The other candidates mainly utilized other local printers for their signage, although Campbell chose an out-of-state printer for hers. And while I don’t want this to be perceived as “pick on Albero” day, shouldn’t he have included the cost of his “Albero for Mayor” shirts as an expenditure? While he hadn’t officially filed yet at the time the shirts were designed and purchased, it would probably be prudent for the record to know where that money came from and who the supplier was.

But to me, the biggest surprise was how poorly the District 2 incumbent is doing in the fundraising department. While it’s quite likely she can survive the first round based on her name recognition, it’s very difficult to make up ground in the remaining weeks before the general election. In the last several cycles, those who finished “in the money” in the primary went on to win almost every time. The one recent exception I could find was where Gary Comegys overtook Tim Spies to grab the third and final spot in 2007 – Spies was third in the primary. But the dynamics of a “top three” race are different than this winner-take-all set of battles.

On Tuesday we will find out if all that money raised by the challengers is enough to secure a position in the General Election April 2.

Filing deadline looms

Since today was a holiday, tomorrow may be a relatively busy day for City Clerk Brenda Colegrove (or her assistant Kim Nichols, or both.)

Experience tells us that a large percentage of would-be candidates file on the very last day (about 20 percent of those who ran did so for the 2010 primary election) and the recent news that two incumbents, Gary Comegys and Louise Smith, won’t run for City Council again should open up the field to would-be challengers.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the current seven-person field for the March 1 primary swell to ten or eleven since two seats have now opened up. So who would that benefit?

Obviously a larger field will help the lone incumbent, Terry Cohen. It wouldn’t surprise me to see her become the top vote-getter as those who don’t care for her style or voting record split their votes among a larger number of contenders. Others who have name recognition, like previous aspirants Muir Boda and Tim Spies, will also be assisted by a larger field, which may intimidate a number of voters into picking the ones they know.

The other key with a larger field will be getting financial resources to compete. Even those who strive to campaign simply by knocking on the thousands of doors around the district (essentially spending nothing on media) will have to have some funding to purchase literature. Some may request yard signs, and those cost money too. You don’t have to spend the most money, but you need some to be competitive and stand out on a crowded ballot.

On the other hand, if the field stays relatively small and only one or two are eliminated in the primary, that could allow some upsets to occur because most are assured a longer campaign. A lot can happen between now and April 5th, and today’s frontrunner could become tomorrow’s alsoran with a verbal gaffe or embarrassing incident from the past revisited.

But my prediction is that we will see a nine- or ten-person scrum as two or three file tomorrow. I don’t have any sort of insight on who these people would be except that I will not be one since I don’t meet the residency requirement. But we could see a couple of former players jump back in or maybe some exciting newcomers will take their shot.

The campaign will roar to life once the close of business arrives tomorrow. It should be fun.

Smith out, two newcomers in for Salisbury City Council election

Not only will Salisbury City Council have at least one opening for this election, but there will be a new president as well.

According to a published report, at a news conference earlier today Louise Smith declared she wouldn’t seek re-election to the Council seat she won last time around, in 2007. Add in the health issues Council vice-president Gary Comegys is facing, and it’s possible we could have a clean sweep in both Council leadership and a partial removal of a three-vote bloc which has at times stymied Mayor Jim Ireton and promoted what some consider a remnant ‘good old boy’ network dating back to the days of former Mayor Barrie Tilghman.

However, two new filees assured that city voters will eliminate at least one contender on March 1st. Orville Dryden Jr. and Michael Taylor have both placed their name on the ballot and join a significantly more crowded field as the filing deadline looms next week. With seven now signed up, the primary will be necessary to whittle the field to six contenders for the April 5th general election.

Beginning next week I’ll put together a short set of questions for each candidate to answer – for the first time in six years I’ll have a say in the proceedings. Better to be an informed voter.

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.

A response on Station 16

It took a few days to come to fruition, but the Station 16 controversy isn’t dead yet – at least not herein. This was a comment (and response) that deserves a post since it would otherwise be buried – and it comes from Joe Albero:

Michael, I’ll try to keep this as brief as possible. It should be known that my original offer of $250,000.00 was well before they created a RFP. In fact, it was because of my offer that they came up with the RFP to assure Joe Albero couldn’t purchase the property, even as a highest bidder. They did the same thing wien they dismantled the Horse Patrol and I offered to buy the horses, if you’ll recall. I offered to buy a fire truck for $5,000.00 with a blown engine, they sold it to a dealer for $2,500.00 instead. Nevertheless, when they created the RFP I stood in front of the Mayor and Council and asked, does this sale INCLUDE the other two lots going to the river. Gary Comegys immediately said, no, are you crazy. He then, (at a different council meeting) said, I wouldn’t sell Joe a damn thing, meaning the Fire Station. Considering the other lots weren’t going with the sale and Comegys stating he wouldn’t sell me the building, there was no reason for me to move forward with a RFP to purchase a piece of property the City was refusing to sell me. Each one of my offers was with no contingency and each check could be cashed immediately. We had already known that Gillis didn’t have an agreement with UMES and that is why he exposed such the night of the meeting, we were on to him and he knew it. My challenge to sue the City is real. The taxpayers are being screwed out of a very valuable piece of property/properties. As you mentioned, I do own a building outright on the Downtown Plaza. If I purchased this property, it too, (along with 18 other properties I own in Wicomico County) would be owned outright. My original proposal, (again, before there was ever a RFP) was explained to the City Council to be an exact replica of Station 7 in Pittsville with the exception of it being an All-You-Can-Eat Seafood Restaurant. Kitchen in the basement, dining on the first floor and a bar on the upper floor. I still to this day have numerous local Doctors who would dive into investing along with me to make this a reality as partners. The restaurant would employ some 70 people and the impact economic wise on the Downtown area would be incredible, while not really competing with the other restaurants Downtown. I say that in the sense that it would not challenge their menu. So please recognize my offer as good clean business. It would not sit empty and it would go under construction immediately. I’d like to say this as well. I like Palmer Gillis and like Palmer, I’m all about getting a really good real estate deal. If he gets the property, well, I hope he does exactly what he says he’s going to do but before they even get started it has been proven his original proposal has failed and the City Council should immediately drop the deal until they see him under contracts with someone willing to do what they proposed. However, that’s not how the City of Salisbury politics works. One final comment. The City should keep the property and forget my offer or Palmer’s. Louise Smith making remarks about how the building will fall apart, PLEASE! Perhaps she should take a walk down the Plaza and look at at least a half dozen properties sitting vacant for the past ten years, there’s nothing wrong with them and if there was Code & Compliance would be all over them. Some of us bought our properties for a great price and we’re sitting on them until the real estate market has a come back. Until then, who cares if the building sits empty, that’s our problem, not theirs or anyone else’s. Since when is everyone else so worried about my investment or anyone else’s anyway. Thanks for letting me share my side of this story and Merry Christmas Michael.

Yes, it was all one paragraph; I didn’t change a thing. Here’s my response.

Well, since this is your side of the story the questions I have are thus:

First, if you had the money and “numerous local Doctors who would dive into investing along with me to make this a reality as partners” why didn’t you come in as a silent partner in an LLC? If you had a good RFP proposal that Council then rejected it simply because you were involved, then perhaps you would have a leg to stand on in court. Now, I’m no lawyer (far from it) but it would seem to me that you couldn’t prove discrimination simply based on an out-of-context remark by one Council member. If your proposal was properly submitted and that good then Comegys gets outvoted 4-1.

As it stands, the original proposal you outlined and the one Coastal Venture Properties presented are essentially the same aside from the usage of the upper floor (CVP proposes apartments while you propose a bar) and the exception of CVP following through the process where you did not. Your newer proposal would involve office space, which brings me to my other question.

You claim you own almost 20 properties in Wicomico County, a couple of which I’m familiar with – besides the occasional travel by 300 W. Main, I patronize Station 7 on a semi-regular basis so that adjacent property is most familiar to me. I would hope that isn’t representative of the state of your properties as a whole, but the ones which are most ‘famous’ are unoccupied. Seems to me you could use your existing downtown building for the office space for your ‘media empire.’ (I guess you already do since some of your videos were taped there.)

If you had a more successful record in refurbishing and getting tenants for your buildings, perhaps Council would look more favorably upon your ideas.

As for the Station 16 property, it will obviously be up to the citizens and City Council to hold them accountable for what they do. Granted, we don’t have a very good track record but there was a process in disposing of the property and it was done by the book, unless you wish to attempt to prove otherwise in a legal venue.

Merry Christmas to you and yours as well.

I suppose Joe is one of those occasional drive-by visitors so it took him a few days to comment. While I’m glad he gave his side of the story, my common-sense advice is to hope Palmer Gillis and the CVP group can get right to work on restoring the building and perhaps bringing some life to an otherwise moribund downtown. Save your lawsuit money, Joe.

And perhaps I’m opening a giant can of worms by bringing this further into the light, but I thought the response deserved more attention than it probably would have had being buried under nearly a week’s worth of posts. If he’s going to get involved in the discussion I’d welcome comments on what he has to say in this forum.

Boda announces another Salisbury run

Two years ago, Muir Boda faced off against Debbie Campbell in a two-way District 2 race and lost by a 65-35 margin. But I was impressed by the Libertarian afterward and hoped he’d consider a 2011 run – well, it looks like he’s in.

Via the Maryland Libertarians site (and his new campaign site):

The City of Salisbury stands at a crossroads in her rich and storied history. There are tough choices that lie ahead and they need to be made now. Continually putting off issues has brought us to this point, where gangs are controlling our streets, businesses refuse to come to Salisbury and personality issues hang over us like a dark cloud.

On one hand we can continue down the path we have been steadily going for years. Economic stagnation, rising crime rates, gang problems and an assault on property rights which is fueled by name calling, personal vendettas and an outright refusal of elected officials willing to address the issues that this city faces. We have alienated the business community, neighborhoods and our law enforcement community. Leadership and responsibility have been sucked up into the black hole of gridlock, making our government ineffective on major issues.

On the other hand we have a choice of electing leaders who are willing to put aside personal differences and egos to help move our city forward. We need leaders to reach out to our disenfranchised neighborhoods, embrace our business community and encourage everyone to join together and resist the gang violence and crime that is destroying our city.

I believe a three pronged approach to reducing crime is needed from a City standpoint. Strengthening economic opportunity, providing law enforcement with the tools they need to succeed and challenging our faith based community to step up and support our civic organizations in reaching out to those who need and are crying for help. All of these are intertwined and cannot fully succeed without the other.

The economic situation we face is dire and we need to make changes now. We need to create an environment that is conducive to business and it begins with a welcoming attitude. We need to approach our business community with an attitude of – what can we do for you? One way I believe we can help businesses, is by creating a streamlined process into one office for purposes of doing business in the city. This will reduce confusion and set clear expectations and fix a process that currently drives business away.

There are many more issues that we face and I believe they should be approached with common sense, integrity and a servant’s heart. Public servants are just that, servants. Not Lords or masters, they are here to serve the citizens, taxpayers and all who enter into our boundaries for peaceful purposes.

We have much work to do and I believe it is our duty to pass on this great city better than we received her. We are obligated to make her stronger, safer and more beautiful for the generations to come after us. Leaving her deep in debt, rundown from violence and with less opportunity is not only wrong but I believe immoral.

Join me as we work to restore dignity and pride in Salisbury. We must return civility to our debates and respect to the council chamber. That is where we must begin, that is where I intend to begin.

This should be an interesting race for Boda because the dynamics are completely different. In 2009 he was running against a popular incumbent in a vast district. (District 2 actually comprises roughly 80% of Salisbury since District 1 is drawn as a single-Councilperson, majority-minority district. The other four Council members all represent District 2. Yes, I shook my head too.)

But this time we’ll have a 8- or 10-candidate scrum, with the top 6 from the March 1 primary advancing to a general election on April 5. The top three vote-getters will be sworn in later in April.

While none of the three incumbents have announced their intentions yet, it’s presumed that Terry Cohen will seek re-election. At one point, I believed Louise Smith was planning on just one term but she may have changed her mind since; meanwhile, Gary Comegys has missed some time over the last year with a serious illness so he may opt not to run again.

Having just concluded one election cycle four weeks ago, there could be a little bit of burnout from the turnaround. But for Salisbury voters this will be the last time for the foreseeable future we’ll have to deal with local elections right after state elections – terms for the 2011 winners don’t expire until November 2015. 2013 will be the last spring election.

So Muir Boda will be out in familiar territory once again. It’s beginning to look a lot like a campaign.

‘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.

Something to watch for

It doesn’t seen possible, but shortly after the holidays we will once again be subjected to what I call the “90 Days of Terror,” better known to most as the Maryland General Assembly session. While Governor O’Malley pledged the budget would be “balanced without tax increases” that doesn’t mean he won’t be hunting for new sources of revenue. And even if he doesn’t, municipalities which have felt the pain for the last few years won’t be spared from the budget axe.

That’s where this comes in.

You’ll notice that O’Malley is being cagey. Perhaps he won’t increase taxes, but I’m sure he’d quickly sign this enabling legislation. The Maryland Municipal League (MML) was also making sure they had the votes rounded up.

This didn’t come up in any forum I attended but I’m sure the MML is buttonholing election survivors to see if this is doable.

So cities and towns are crying poverty. But what such enabling legislation would do is place those who live in municipalities in situations where they are quite possibly triple-taxed by the state, county, and city. Of course, eventually that drives people and businesses out of the cities and into unincorporated areas of counties.

Why is this important here in the Salisbury area? Because our City Council approved a Resolution over the summer expressing its support. Here is Resolution No. 1977.

It was approved on a 3-0 vote: Cohen, Shields, and Smith in favor. Campbell and Comegys did not vote.

While this resolution was approved a few months back, there’s little possibility of the actual legislation being enacted by the Maryland General Assembly before the next City Council election next spring. Therefore, this Resolution can and should signal the willingness of those who approved it to raise taxes on Salisbury residents who are already being slammed with several consecutive years of property tax and water/sewer rate increases.

Of course, the MML states the case of cities and towns who are scrambling to make their budgets stretch out through the fiscal year. But this resolution received little attention in the midst of a state election campaign and it may belie the rhetoric of those who would otherwise claim to be taxpayer-friendly budget hawks.

In 2011, the seats of Terry Cohen and Louise Smith will be up (along with Gary Comegys’ seat), and chances are both will seek re-election (Shanie Shields is in office until 2013.) Their willingness to support the mechanism for a tax increase should be a campaign issue and a legitimate question to be asked of others seeking those City Council posts.

Unintended consequences strike again!

Perhaps I’m picking on our county just a little too much – but I wonder if the liability is included in the $1.5 million land price?

This came from Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt and his mouthpiece Jim Fineran:

Wicomico County Executive Richard M. Pollitt, Jr., announced today that immediate traffic control procedures will be initiated on the portion of Glen Avenue directly north of the Wicomico Youth & Center by prohibiting vehicular traffic before, during and after major Civic Center events. The action follows two hit and run accidents on March 12th, involving pedestrians crossing Glen Avenue from the old mall parking lot to the Civic Center.

“We can’t delay on taking measures to insure the safety of our Civic Center patrons,” said Pollitt. “Stopping traffic on Glen Avenue is the quickest, cheapest way to make sure that our patrons can cross over to the Civic Center in safety. When we own that parking lot, we shall make improvements and pedestrian safety will be chief among them. We need, however, to do something now.”

The old mall parking lot is not owned by Wicomico County but Civic Center patrons have been using it for overflow parking. Among the upcoming major events scheduled for the arena are Bill Cosby, the annual poodle show, high school and Salisbury University graduations and the Fernando Guerrero boxing match.

Perhaps the best solution to this issue would be to eliminate the problem entirely and permanently close the portion of Glen Avenue in front of the WYCC. (As an added bonus, we could gain some pervious surface back – maybe they’ll count it towards the requirements of new stormwater regulations!) But residents farther east along Glen Avenue may object to a permanent closure.

Another possible solution would be a traffic signal at the corner of Glen Avenue and Civic Avenue, but that costs money too. Instead we’ll pay on a per-use basis for traffic control.

My point is that the county is buying this parcel of land and building the new parking lot despite the issue which has lay dormant for awhile but reared its ugly head again after the two pedestrians were struck. For years people have used the Old Mall parking lot as a shortcut or as overflow parking to the WYCC – I’ve even done it once or twice for the former Beast of the East custom motorcycle show and other events when the main parking lot was used as part of the exhibit area.

No question there’s an issue with the WYCC site – the planners of 60 years ago when the original was built didn’t fathom the extent of parking needed for events such as those held today. It’s been my opinion that the WYCC is nearing the end of its useful lifespan because of this and other issues. Had the county been thinking, a better use for the money spent on acreage for a far-off west side park or other lands bought with Program Open Space money may have been to secure the land adjacent to Perdue Stadium for a future Civic Center – parking already exists and access from any direction is excellent. Instead, they insist on placing lipstick on the pig that’s there now.

So we will now have the confusing spectacle of traffic being redirected and misdirected during selected events (granted, I believe the WYCC already does this during the poodle show.) With the bulk of these events occurring during the evening hours, perhaps the potential for tragedy is lessened for some (the pedestrians) but increased for anyone who needs to direct traffic (county employees.)

Shortsighted solutions begat unintended consequences. It’s a rule we forgot about when we approved the land deal.

In other local news, we learned that Salisbury City Councilman Gary Comegys was diagnosed with cancer. The 2009 mayoral candidate won his current City Council term in 2007, which obviously leads to speculation as to whether he will run again next spring when his term expires. Given his perceived position on the City Council as one of the three “establishment” votes against Debbie Campbell and Terry Cohen (Cohen is also up in 2011 as is Council President Louise Smith) the prospect of an open seat may make the next year of local politics even more interesting.

But there are things more important than politics for all of us, and hopefully Comegys can make a full recovery and choose the political path he wishes to take free of any ill effects.