2014 Wicomico County NAACP forum draws county candidates (part 2)

On Friday I discussed the portion of the forum dealing with the aspirants for County Executive, so today I turn my attention to those running for the seven County Council seats. A total of 15 people are running for these seats, and 13 of them stated their case on Thursday night. Just as a reminder, the forum was hosted by the Wicomico County NAACP and its president, Mary Ashanti, and moderated by Orville Penn, a veteran of these affairs.

I’ll begin with the four who are running for two at-large seats – in order of presentation they are John Cannon, Laura Mitchell, Matt Holloway, and Muir Boda. They dealt with a little different set of questions, being queried about the prospects of funding the Chipman Center where the forum was held, the merits of an elected school board, an increase in the minimum wage, and thoughts on a race relations commission.

John Cannon served on the County Council as an at-large member from 2006-10 before an unsuccessful run for state delegate pushed him off the political stage. He agreed job growth and restoring our economic base would be “important goals to set,” believing that the pieces, such as the local universities and Peninsula Regional Medical Center, were in place and would be “the one tide which would raise all boats.”

Obviously John was kidding when he told moderator Orville Penn that “we’ll give you the Taj Mahal here” when referring to the Chipman Center, but he used that question as a springboard to state the case that the state had “absolutely ripped our budget” over the last few years through reductions in highway user money and passing along teacher pensions, among other things. We would have to figure out how to raise money on our own, continued John, and job growth was key. “We’re not going to increase taxes,” said Cannon, but if we can improve the economic situation we can “look after citizens as a whole” and try to find resources for needs such as the Chipman Center.

“I would like to see an elected school board,” said Cannon. He respected the Board of Education’s work, but would like to see more accountability because he was concerned about their audit. Moreover, while spending for the rest of government was perpetually on the chopping block during his previous tenure on County Council, he “never felt as if the school board was really on board to make the same cuts that they should have been doing.”

As for the minimum wage, Cannon asserted that at least one of two things would occur if the minimum was raised, if not both: overall price inflation and cuts in hours and jobs. He reminded the audience that the CBO predicted at least 500,000 jobs lost nationwide if the national minimum was increased to $10.10 an hour and that only 19% of the individuals below poverty level would be helped. The alternative, John continued, was an increase in the earned income tax credit, whether at the state or federal level.

A commission on race relation “would be a great idea,” Cannon said. He advocated “asset building,” where all local resources are brought together to address the issue. He concluded his remarks by noting that serving on the Council heightens awareness and is like getting a “master’s degree in all areas.”

A current elected official in a similar office is seeking a Council seat as well. Laura Mitchell was elected to Salisbury City Council in 2011 and is running from the cover of that seat for a county post. But in addressing those who believe government should be run like a business, she said, “really, you don’t, because businesses are there to make a profit, and we don’t want our government to make a profit. They should do exactly what their mandate is.” She’s tried to instill that in the city and wants to bring it to the county.

“There is a role for the county to play” in restoring the Chipman Center, said Laura. It could be the “connector” for funding and volunteers, but she agreed there is some responsibility for the city and county.

Regarding the school board, Mitchell told those assembled that “as far as I would be willing to go is a hybrid” school board with both appointees and elected members. Rather than being more accountable, she thought those elected would be more beholden to their donors and not the students. She argued that there’s a balance with an appointed board, and that members who serve at the pleasure of the Governor could be more easily removed as opposed to conducting a recall election.

Laura was in support of a minimum wage increase, asserting many who would be helped were single mothers; furthermore, “minimum wage needs to keep pace with inflation…it would be at about $10.40 had it kept pace.” As for employers, “this is one of those costs of doing business,” said Mitchell, lumping it in with other costs such as materials. She argued that it would be better to raise the minimum, otherwise “it’s more beneficial for them to sit home and collect a check (because) they can’t afford to go to work.”

A race relations committee was a great idea, but the need was larger than just a committee would provide. “It is our job to start that conversation,” she added. But with several different organizations chasing the same goal, an “asset map” would be helpful in determining a course of action, although the existing Safe Streets program is already working in that direction.

After remarking how she loves learning new things, Mitchell concluded that while she loves what they’ve been able to do at the city level, she’s run into some “stumbling blocks” on the county side – we needed more partnerships between the county and municipalities.

Of the two current at-large members of County Council, only Matt Holloway is seeking re-election as Bob Culver is running for County Executive. He originally ran in 2010 to provide a perspective from the agricultural community, stressing property rights. In the time since he’s come on board, he’s become the “bridge builder,” believing the relationship with the County Executive “is stronger than it’s ever been,” as is our relationship with the state. Matt also touted his membership on two governor-appointed committees, the Sustainable Growth Commission and the Critical Areas Commission. “I bring a lot of things to the table,” said Matt.

Restoring historic buildings was one of the county’s functions, remarked Matt regarding the Chipman Center, much like the county has an interest in keeping up the Pemberton estate and the old courthouse, which is in need of renovations. County government “could play a role” in resoring Chipman.

Matt also favored an elected school board, touching on Mitchell’s objection because he felt it would be a good thing if members felt like they owed someone. “They would feel like they’re responsible to the taxpayer,” said Matt. “It’s about accountability.” He was okay with a hybrid board as an interim step.

In discussing the minimum wage increase, though, Matt conceded the county has little role. But an increase “could be very detrimental” to the climate they were trying to create with recent tax reforms. “I don’t think the time is right,” said Matt.

Matt argued that many of the current committees formed by the Council were already diverse, but before establishing a citizens’ race relations committee, we should get the key players together and “come up with a game plan first.” He concluded in his closing remarks that he had helped the minority community by improving education, law enforcement, and business.

Muir Boda is no stranger to the ballot; this is his fourth run for elective office after bids for Salisbury City Council in 2009 and 2011 and Congress in 2012.

But he saw they key issues as a three-legged stool, with curtailing crime, providing educational opportunity, and improving the economic climate being the three legs. “All three have to work,” said Boda.

In restoring the Chipman Center, Boda would support a partnership between the county, city, and Community Foundation – they would be “the avenue we could go through first.” They could help raise the appropriate funds.

While Boda also preferred an elected school board, he also had a stipulation for a hybrid model where appointees would be determined locally rather than by Annapolis, which has no local accountability.

Since Muir has a position where he works with a lot of younger workers who make minimum wage, he could point out that there were a lot of things they could not legally do, such as run machinery. They were only useful in certain positions. Small businesses would cut positions and hours, he argued. “We have to understand what entry-level positions are to companies,” added Boda.

Boda returned to his three-legged stool analogy in describing his thoughts on race relations, citing the High Point initiative as well. “Everything has to be seamless…if you have skyrocketing crime rates, it’s going to affect companies that want to come here and invest in our community,” said Muir. “This (commission) is one piece of the puzzle.” He got to buttress his points because he gave his closing statement immediately after his answer to the previous question.

Compared to the lengthy segment dealing with the at-large Council candidates, the district races were quite brief.

In District 1, two of the three contenders came to discuss the issues.

McKinley Hayward was making his second try at the District 1 Council seat, having lost in the 2006 primary to current seatholder Sheree Sample-Hughes. If elected, he said, “I don’t want to be a political figure, I want to be a working figure for Wicomico County.”

When asked what the three biggest challenges to Wicomico County were, Hayward cited four: “empowering our community through jobs, education, housing, and employment.” Creating a good job which would enable workers to invest in their own homes was his goal, and Hayward saw high-tech jobs as the ticket. “I want Rick Pollitt to hear this – we need to invest in our future,” Hayward said. “Fruitland had a vision,” he continued, but what about the Mardela end of the county? Thousands go to Ocean City every weekend, but “we don’t get a dime of that money.”

The key to doing that would be encouraging vocational education and on-the-job training. “You could be a barber and be successful – every man in here has to get a haircut,” exclaimed Hayward.  He went on, “Every kid that graduates from high school should graduate with a resume.”

As for the idea of a race relations committee, McKinley didn’t know if that would solve the problem. He saw it as something more deep-seated.

“I run a playground during the summer at Lake Street,” he said. “My kids see a policeman, they run from him…the only time a black kid sees a policeman, he thinks he’s coming to arrest someone.” It’s a “stigma” we need to get out of in Wicomico County, added Hayward. But if he wins, “no one’s going to be safe” in government because he would do what he feels is best for the county.

One of two opponents for Hayward, Ernest Davis, cited his experience with the Maryland State Police and two businesses he’s created, along with his belief that “I’m a working person” as part of his calling card. His key issues were education, economic growth, and agriculture. This worked out well with the next question, where Davis expanded on these issues, particularly in agriculture. He warned that phosphorus regulations could hurt the local agricultural industry, leading to dire consequences. We also needed to promote our county’s educational institutions and proximity to Wallops Island. “That thing is growing leaps and bounds,” Davis added.

Davis also advocated bringing all the parties to the table in dealing with race relations, rather than pulling in several different directions.

But returning to his three main points for his close, Ernest believed that, “Wicomico needs to start tooting its own horn (and) standing on its own two feet.”

The third candidate in the District 1 race, Marvin Ames, was absent from the forum. Similarly, District 2 candidate Kirby Travers missed the affair, giving Marc Kilmer an opportunity to go through his first forum without any opposition.

So Marc got to speak about those things he wanted to accomplish in making the county better for his two young children: education, having a safe community, and jobs.

The District 3 race had all three contenders, and drawing first blood for them was former County Council member Larry Dodd, who served there from 2002-06. Since 2009 he’s been a member of the Wicomico County Board of Education. It was in that vein he noted, “I’m here for your kids and the future of Wicmico County.”

In discussing job creation, Dodd made the case that “I believe in smaller government,” but maintained that education, crime control, and economic development were indeed legitimate functions of government. He praised the local vocational programs and the efforts in place to control crime, but the key was keeping kids in school.

Common Core was an issue which was brought up, but Dodd conceded it can’t be scrapped because “it’s state mandated.” But “we are working to make it better and usable,” said Larry.

Dodd chose to close in part by thanking current District 3 Council member Gail Bartkovich for her service, touting his experience and skills and pointing out “I’m invested in this community.”

In contrast, Josh Hastings was making his first run for office. His background is mainly in the land protection and environmental fields, including the Rural Maryland Council and a stint in the office of the chair of the Maryland Senate’s Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. “I’m here to protect our farms and our rural industries,” said Hastings, who would build on relationships across the state and the Shore.

Hastings didn’t believe it was the role of government to create jobs; rather, it’s the council and executive’s job to use dollars wisely and efficiently. But he felt they should have a say in how an area looks and grows.

He also admitted he didn’t know enough about Common Core to have an opinion, but would listen to the teachers.

Josh concluded that it should be possible to be the number one county in the number one state for education. We also needed to build upon what makes us special and unique, and he would “continue to build the relationships” to assist in that.

After two unsuccessful runs for County Executive, Tom Taylor decided to try for the legislative branch this time. To begin, he claimed that he “wanted to represent the largest minority in Wicomico County – the individual.” People needed to realize that Annapolis is taking our local representation away – “things are getting out of your control…we have to get control of these things.”

Taylor had an interesting take on job creation as well. “It’s not the role of government to make sure everyone has a job,” said Tom. “The role of the government is to protect individual rights and property, and protect people so they can create these jobs.” Just give businesses the opportunity to create jobs by minimizing government intrusion, said Tom.

When it came to the core curriculum, Taylor was blunt. “I don’t like my son and his education being an experiment in social engineering.” Instead, we have to rubber-stamp everything which comes from Annapolis. His goal was to maximize classroom spending.

If elected, concluded Taylor, he vowed to fight for our Constitutional and property rights. “I’ve taken it to Annapolis before,” Tom said. “I’m more of a pit bull than the lovable person you see here.” We should accomplish our goals without the fear of government intrusion.

Our final segment combined both Districts 4 and 5 because District 4 Council member John Hall is unopposed for a full term.

Hall assessed the current situation thusly: “There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and my job is not to extend the length of the tunnel.”

The first question for the group was on racial disparity in jobs and housing, and Hall agreed “we have racial and economic disparities.” While we could have committees and asset maps, “education is going to be the key.” There should be more opportunities for the 36% of Wicomico County residents who are minorities. And when asked how the Board of Education could be more efficient, Hall advocated for an elected board.

But in his conclusion, John conceded “we’re living in a difficult time.” He also asked people to be “role models, not roadblocks.”

Representing District 5 since 2006, Joe Holloway reminded us that “we started in the recession.” And among those tough decisions to slice up the financial pie, finding out about the Board of Education audit was “very disappointing.” He even was surprised to agree with the Daily Times assessment of the situation as a “financial failure.”

Assistance in getting jobs back would come from reducing the impact fees, which now seems to have the County Executive on board because much of that housing growth was going to Sussex County, Delaware. As for raising the minimum wage, “I have a little problem with raising the minimum wage.” It’s a “training ground,” he continued. Moreover, the salaries of those who make a little bit over the minimum would have to go up as well. “I see a big jump in unemployment,” Joe said. He hoped that $10.10 was just a negotiating ploy and a lesser amount would be acceptable.

“It’s no secret I support an elected school board,” continued Joe. And it was an issue where, despite the fact that those things the Board of Education was spending on were within their policies, Joe reminded us he had “caught hell” for bringing up these same problems five years ago. An elected school board would be a good “first step.”

And after picking on the school board, in his conclusion Joe decided “to pick on Annapolis a little bit.” He warned that “if we’re not careful, Annapolis is going to run the poultry industry off the Eastern Shore…we will be a ghost town.” Everyone in county government was on board with that, and while the idea of job creation was great we need to consider how to keep the jobs we have. “We’re not sitting up there twiddling our thumbs,” concluded Joe.

Ron Pagano had a different tack on many issues. As an job creator and advocate for the disabled, among other groups, he wanted to provide equal opportunity, better housing, and improved public transportation, which was a cause dear to him. He wanted to keep our kids here, as “our kids should always be part of our vision.”

Ron also vowed to “talk to anyone about job creation,” but differed from most of the others in supporting a “fair” minimum wage. “$7.25 an hour is not enough to raise a family, let alone doing anything outside buying bread and milk,” said Pagano. A smaller minimum also drives up the cost of the SNAP program, he argued.

He also took a moment to express his support of a “biracial commission,” recalling a similar organization existed in the days when U.S. 13 and U.S. 50 were built and that era’s “tearing apart of neighborhoods.”

Pagano agreed the Board of Education audit “isn’t pretty,” but wanted to see what the Sage Policy Group report had to say. But he defended the Board, stating “as an attorney, I always knew there was two sides to every story.” He was against an elected board, saying “the problem with an elected board is that no one wants to run,” particularly with the financial disclosure reports required. He also pointed out the “balance” between parties.

He summed up by revisiting job creation. “I want to focus on bringing jobs to this community,” noting that Wor-Wic Community College will customize training programs to various companies. Ron also sought to establish partnerships, particularly with NASA Wallops: “I personally will go to NASA Wallops and speak to the director there – I’ll speak to whoever wants to create jobs here.” Given that we have job creators like Jubilant Cadista – which, Ron noted, has created 300 local jobs in the last 7 years and is on track for 200 more – “obviously there is something about Wicomico County that appealed to Jubilant Cadista, and we can appeal to others as well. I will promise you I will bring jobs to the county,” Pagano concluded.

After 2 1/2 hours, the forum came to a close and the 60 to 70 people who crammed into the room went their separate ways. Among those offices covered in the event, the fields for county executive and County Council Districts 2 and 5 are set since only one from each party filed. District 1 will be decided in the Democratic primary since no Republican filed, and District 4’s John Hall is unopposed. Out of all those there, only one District 3 aspirant and one for at-large will be eliminated.

But the event was useful in staking out some positions, and there will likely be several more forums for candidates to attend in upcoming weeks.

2014 Wicomico County NAACP forum draws county candidates (part 1)

Last night the Wicomico County chapter of the NAACP held a candidate forum in the historical Chipman Cultural Center near downtown Salisbury. I snapped this photo last night for Facebook and as you can see it was in close quarters.

Attendance was good at the NAACP forum.

The event featured most of those running for County Executive and the seven County Council seats, with a handful of exceptions I’ll note in my second part. What I’ve decided to do in part 1 is summarize what each of the County Executive candidates said, with a little bit of opinion as needed.

As has normally been the case, Orville Penn was last night’s moderator and he asked questions with an eye toward the minority perspective – in one case, asking the County Executive candidates for a specific commitment to placing minorities in paid policy positions.

The evening began, though, with remarks and an invocation from local NAACP leader Mary Ashanti, who reminded us that the questions we submitted from the audience “won’t offend or insult the candidates.” This was an issue during last year’s municipal primary forum.

We heard from the County Executive candidates first, with both Bob Culver and incumbent Rick Pollitt there to answer questions. Since Culver spoke first, I’ll begin with him.

Culver, who currently serves on County Council in an at-large position and ran unsuccessfully for County Executive in 2006, make his case quite simply: “I feel like the county is (going in) the wrong direction.” While we didn’t need to replicate the successes of other counties, we did have two necessary items on the to-do list: maintain our status as the #1 agricultural county in the state and create jobs. “Teach young people how to work,” said Culver.

So when he was pressed about hiring minorities, Culver noted there had to be some effort on their part as well. Getting an education and showing a “desire to get ahead” were key. “Everybody should be valued on their knowledge and education,” Culver added.

Crime was an issue as well. Bob seemed to assign more blame to the victim of a recent shooting involving a Maryland State Police officer in Delmar, calling it “truly a shame,” but noting “you don’t go to a state police barracks with marijuana in your car.” He also conceded there will be bad people and “we can’t cure all the ills in the world,” even though we have an outstanding sheriff and State’s Attorney.

Turning to the subject of a recent audit of our Board of Education, Bob took Pollitt’s decription of it as “troubling” and added “troubling is not the right word for it.” Culver stated those who read the audit “will be appalled.” He advocated giving the Board no more than required for maintenance of effort until they managed their finances properly, but also wanted the children to be as technologically advanced as possible.

“We’ve got to get out and get jobs.” That was Bob’s initial answer to the question on the County Executive’s role in job creation. That gave Culver the opening to discuss his small business experience. He also stressed teaching kids how to work – perhaps in a WPA-style program – but he added the county is not here to create jobs, only to be an enabler in job creation.

Incumbent Rick Pollitt is running for a third term as the county’s first (and thus far only) County Executive. He pointed out the difference between him and Culver would be in their respective approaches. His was one of stressing relationships.

But since the office was created in 2006, the county has seen a severe recession which has “redefined the rules” and created “a new normal.” We needed to get out of the “silo mentality” and leverage other areas of government to succeed.

As far as minority recruitment, Pollitt stated his goal all along has been to have government “reflect the face of the county.” But it wasn’t just diversity in racial or gender terms, but also in geography as well. “We didn’t want to have everything in Wicomico County run by old white men who live in Salisbury,” said Rick. Pollitt added that he tries to recruit diversely, including in outlets tailored to minority readership, But in the most recent major opening for the Department of Public Works, no minorities applied. And when the question was continued to elicit a specific commitment, Pollitt pointed out “experience shows the pool can be shallow.”

On the whole, though, Rick was willing to create a context where diversity is encouraged.

When it came to crime, the current executive made the case that we have to deal with the root causes. We are not among Maryland’s wealthy counties, he added. One thing he was working on, though, was the rate of recidivism, trying to find “those people that could be saved.” There he was consulting with activist Ron Pagano, who you will hear from in Part 2 as a candidate for County Council in District 5.

As I stated before, Pollitt found the Board of Education audit “troubling,” but also believed many of the expenses were legitimate. “Clearly there needs to be a tightening up of the accounting,” conceded Rick. Pollitt added that an upcoming efficiency study report from the Sage Policy Group would be of great assistance in creating the FY2015 budget.

On job creation, though, Rick believed “it’s something we’ve got a pretty good record on.” He also thought that an “upside” of going through the recession is that “it’s given us time to step back and take a good hard look at who we are and who we want to be.” But the way out of the doldrums is through economic development.

Some of his successes in creating a positive business environment, though, have been to decouple the personal property tax rate from the real property tax rate so that businesses have saved money on their tax bills, eliminating the inventory tax over a five-year period, and making a manufaturer’s tax exemption automatic. “We are putting together the climate” for businesses to succeed, opined Rick.

In their closing statements, the two candidates played off each other, since they have known one another since the seventh grade.

Culver noted that while he disagreed with the means, he also thought he and Pollitt had several points of agreement, too. He pledged to help Wicomico County grow and expand it to the next generation.

Pollitt thanked Culver for generating more interest in the office, and noted he was approaching this like a job application. Philosophically, Pollitt said “my basic pattern is gettting people engaged.” He reminded those in attendance that his job was the result of people losing confidence in their leadership and seeking a new alternative. It wasn’t just “rights” as citizens, though, but there were duties and obligations incumbent upon us as well to be involved. Finally, Rick saw the seeking of “collaborative dialogue” as the key difference between himself and Culver.

Since I have a post already set for tomorrow, I will look at the County Council hopefuls on Sunday.

NAACP forum well attended – except by candidates

On my Examiner site I have pictures as well, but quite honestly they serve to record some of the participants for higher county office.

There are 46 total candidates on the primary election ballot for county offices here in Wicomico County. Perhaps it was the somewhat late notice for the event  – as a candidate I received an invitation earlier this week – but barely half could be bothered to attend. (Granted, the thirteen Republican Central Committee aspirants make up a large percentage of the ballot and there was a competing event in Ocean City. But none of the four Democrats for their Central Committee showed either!) Many of the so-called “Tea Party” candidates locally were absent as well. In fact, aside from the County Executive race there weren’t a whole lot of challengers present – all but one District Council forum participant was an incumbent member of County Council.

Of course, being an NAACP forum many questions focused on race, but the audience of nearly 100 seemed to be most interested in economic issues. The audience-supplied questions tended toward that part of the platform. And since local NAACP head Mary Ashanti demanded respect in order to avoid trouble with the national organization, the candidates and audience were fairly well-behaved and polite.

In looking at each individual race, some differences were clear from the outset.

Right off the top, speaking in his opening statement, Tom Taylor told the crowd he was running on a “strict” fiscal accountability ticket for County Executive. On the other hand, incumbent Rick Pollitt said as the first County Executive, “we needed to concentrate on getting the citizens more engaged,” and talked about his efforts at diversity in employment and appointments. And these guys are both Democrats. The Republican in the race, Joe Ollinger, pointed out his lifetime of business experience and vowed to bring new, refreshing ideas to the table.

Even the books which best exemplify their approach to government (yes, this was a question) were radically different. Rick Pollitt chose John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage,” while Joe Ollinger selected “The Genius of the People,” which is a look at the trials and tribulations of our Founding Fathers as they drafted the Constitution in 1787. Tom Taylor preferred Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” which also happens to be one of my favorites.

Two related questions talked about disparity and inequity. While Joe Ollinger spoke about hiring the most qualified people, he also noted “the great equalizer” was public schools. Conversely, Tom Taylor said that government’s sole purpose was to protect individual rights, not provide services – it’s “the great umpire” but governs best when it governs least. And once again, Rick Pollitt brought up his contention, “the government had to reflect the face of the community” but not, as Ollinger said previously, a quota.

When the question turned to harmony between the executive and County Council, Ollinger promised to “work very closely” with County Council; Pollitt also thought “we’ve established a good relationship.” Meanwhile, Taylor related his experience with PAC-14: he tapes each County Council meeting for the community access cable channel. Taylor vowed to continue to attend County Council meetings if elected.

The final question dealt with quotas as moderator Orville Penn wanted to ask if the officeseekers would promise a particular percentage of minorities in county government. Of course, Rick Pollitt said, “I will try my best.” Joe Ollinger would hire the most qualified person since “the most important job” is to make sure money is spent wisely. But Tom Taylor not only would hire the best person, he spoke about us being “all one race – the human race.”

It’s unquestionable that Democrats have a choice in their primary race, as Taylor described himself as a libertarian Democrat while Pollitt spent the first three years of his term making the case the revenue cap was handicapping him. In some respects Taylor could even be considered to the right of Ollinger, who believed his business background would hold him in good stead for running the county.

Democrat John Wayne Baker, who would be described as a Tea Party candidate for County Executive, did not attend the forum.

The forum turned to the three (of six) County Council members who were present – Democrats Ed Taylor and David Cowall and Republican Bob Culver.

In his opening statement, Taylor talked about the three terms he’d already served on County Council, and remarked people asked him, “why are you crazy enough to run again?” He wanted to, “be part of the solution.”

Political newcomer Cowall said County Council was, “a job that needs doing right” and a place for “logical, nonpartisan decisions.” Culver, the Republican who ran for County Executive in 2006, simply cited his upbringing and business experience in his remarks.

The first question regarded the revenue cap, which Culver favored but Cowall thought “needs a new look” and Taylor opposed – he claimed that in 2002 he calculated the county would lose $50 million under the cap.

Another question concerned how minorities “get the axe” when budgets are cut. Culver contended that core services have to have “first consideration” while Cowall believed we needed to “set our priorities and set them right” – across-the-board cuts were a “bad idea.” Taylor would leave education and public safety alone.

A final question asked about jobs for the minority community. I thought Bob Culver had an interesting point, one that encouraged minorities to take low-paying jobs now because of the prospect for advancement as the economy rebounded. This generation expected what his already had without working its way through life as he had. He also had the idea of subsidizing job creation through grants which would defray part of salaries for new hires. (Of course, what happens when the grant money is gone?)

Cowall, who said we “need to support our farmers,” pointed out that jobs are being created in certain sectors like health care and by Salisbury University. Green jobs were also a possibility within our ability to create them, and he was upbeat about our future. Taylor thought we needed to add more economic development staff and try to draw construction back in.

Honestly, none of the three excited me a great deal and it’s a shame that Mike Brewington (another “Tea Party” Democrat), Matt Holloway, and Chris Lewis (a “Tea Party” Republican) weren’t in attendance to express their ideas and make the forum a little more rousing.

The final major portion of the debate dealt with district Council members, with most of the stage time devoted to District 1 council candidates. Not only was that the only district which was represented by both candidates in the running for the seat but it’s a district which serves a large part of the black community and is represented by the sole black member on Wicomico County Council, Sheree Sample-Hughes. Her opponent, Dave Goslee, Jr., is white.

In their opening statements, Sample-Hughes talked about “having a seat at the table” and her interaction with the community through quarterly meetings. On the other hand, Goslee touted his business and farming experience.

Of course, some of the questions involved NAACP and civil rights issues. Sample-Hughes played up her membership in the organization, calling it an “educating” organization, and discussed an incident which occurred in a local barbershop where patrons were told to hit the floor by police. The African-American community was “not as respected as it should be,” she opined, but added, “there should be a point in time where we are okay.” Meanwhile, Goslee spoke about his “endeavor” to attract talented people to the business he helps to operate and believed that Biblical principles should be the basis of our relationships.

One interesting interchange was the candidates getting to ask questions of each other. Goslee asked Sample-Hughes about her charitable works – which mainly involved working with the American Legion auxiliary – while Sheree asked Dave about what he could bring to the table in partnerships? Goslee cited his work with the Delmar Fire Department, the United Way, and the Joseph House as examples.

Since the other candidates were unopposed at the forum, they were allowed an opening statement before getting into group questioning.

Stevie Prettyman of District 2 told the crowd her “commitment is to conservative principles” and talked about her favorite books: a tome by fellow Councilman Taylor called “Just Me and God” and her mother’s journal. Her opponent, Mike Calpino (another local Tea Party participant and the lone Libertarian on the county ballot) did not participate.

District 3 Council member Gail Bartkovich talked about the importance of the upcoming county comprehensive plan and related how she and Sample-Hughes, who serves as Council vice-president, work out the weekly agenda together. Bartkovich has served as Council president for the last year. Her Republican opponent, John Hamilton, was not in attendance.

David MacLeod of District 4 was more blunt: “I need four more years to get it right.” He related his life experience, which including time living overseas in Africa, and said he would concentrate on crime  – “a cancer” on the community – if re-elected. Opponent Bob Caldwell, a Republican known for community involvement, surprisingly missed the forum.

Joe Holloway of District 5 is in the catbird seat since he is unopposed. So he talked about Council’s role as a “filter” between the County Executive and the people and termed it the “last line of defense” against overlegislation.

The questions by this point were more simple, perhaps because the evening had grown long and there were still more candidates who were on the agenda.

On the revenue cap:

  • Sheree Sample-Hughes thought a modification (a 3% increase) was needed because she could see the constraints from sitting at the table.
  • Stevie Prettyman voted against the original tax increase which set off the drive for the revenue cap and instead said “we have to create job opportunities (and) get out of the way.”
  • David MacLeod noted the “community expressed themselves…I have to learn to live within that.”
  • Joe Holloway is deadset against removing it because the revenue cap acts as a control on spending.
  • Gail Bartkovich described the “mistrust” caused by the original situation and called for more transparency.
  • Dave Goslee would honor his constituents’ wishes.

Reagrding the comprehensive plan:

  • Goslee related his business experience with making short- and long-term plans with his employer and vowed to create “the best county in the state of Maryland” by stressing jobs and public safety.
  • Bartkovich sought public input and described the plan as a “vision of (the county’s) look and growth.”
  • Joe Holloway wanted to make sure we didn’t tackle the “downzoning” issue before the comprehensive plan was complete.
  • MacLeod sought a “balance between growth and agriculture” and also stressed public participation.
  • So did Prettyman, who saw the plan as a method of expressing our, “hopes, dreams, (and) vision.”
  • Sample-Hughes saw the plan as a foundation to preserve agriculture but also as a work which could enhance employment and public safety.

Speaking of downzoning, the last question was regarding the candidates’ position on the subject. While Sample-Hughes thought it best to study the approach other counties have taken, MacLeod was “very concerned” about the possibility of state involvement, and Bartkovich said she wouldn’t consider the subject until the comprehensive plan was finalized.

Even more hardened in their opposition were Prettyman, who demanded any downzoning plan include adequate compensation, and Holloway, who contended there was no good compensation method. Dave Goslee was very much opposed since part of his plan for retirement involved selling pieces of his farm – an option which Holloway also remarked saved some of his farmer friends from bankruptcy.

Since the hour was late, remaining candidates were briefly introduced. The two present State’s Attorney candidates answered a question about the role of the State’s Attorney – Seth Mitchell saw it as one of “seek(ing) justice” and demanding responsibility while training young staffers properly, while incumbent Davis Ruark saw his role as being a leader in the community, seeking justice, and assuring fairness. Newly-minted (and perhaps former) candidate Matt Maciarello was not present.

Other candidates who attended the forum (and absentees):

  • Mark Bowen (Clerk of the Court) who remarked he’s unopposed for the first time in 16 years.
  • Norma Lee Barkley, Melissa Pollitt Bright, William Smith, and Pete Evans for Judge of the Orphans’ Court. Barkley, Bright, and Smith are incumbents, and Smith is the sole Republican. Barkley remarked she was seeking her last term and the three incumbents work well together as a team regardless of party. No candidates were absent.
  • Sheriff Mike Lewis is unopposed but was called away before having the opportunity to speak.
  • Three officeseekers (of 13) for Republican Central Committee were there: myself, Dave Goslee Jr. and G.A. Harrison. Harrison has his own thoughts on the proceedings. Political bloggers running for public office: whooda thunk it?
  • Amazingly to me, none of the four members of the Democratic Central Committee came up to speak. Each Central Committee member (by this point it was two, Goslee and I) were allowed 30 seconds to speak and I took about 15.

A future forum is in the works for state candidates (District 37A incumbent Rudy Cane and his Democratic opponent Von Siggers were in attendance) with a date to be determined. Hopefully they do a better job of showing up than a number of county officials did.

Friday night videos – episode 41

It’s back to the political for this edition of FNV, and I have plenty to choose from since I took the extra week.

You know, Americans aren’t happy with their government and its spending. So says the Senate Republicans.


Nice of them to use some video from my old hometown – the part about Senator Voinovich was taken from WNWO-TV, the NBC affiliate in Toledo.

As a matter of fact I find this next video pretty funny. The vain stumbling in search of a thought is the best part.

Sure Bob Ehrlich put it out, but when you’re caught you’re caught.

Even more funny is this spot for a phony product. Fortunately, I’m not in the market for it.

I still want the sticker I’ve seen which says: ‘You voted for Obama? Thanks a lot @$$hole!’

One group which still supports Obama and his agenda is the NAACP. While it smacks of ‘gotcha’ journalism, sometimes these guerrilla efforts are the best way to get the truth.

Human Events did the video, so consider the source before you demean the message.

Here’s another example of ‘gotcha’ journalism. But imagine if it were a pro-life group disseminating incorrect information – would you not see someone like Geraldo Rivera all over it?

I guess considering the fetus ‘medical waste’ makes it all better?

The next two videos are an impassioned plea from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal regarding the oil drilling moratorium and jobs. This was at the ‘Rally for Economic Survival.’

If Governor Jindal can continue being a leader, he may yet be a factor in 2012. Do you wonder if President Obama is trying to make him look bad as a potential opponent?

I’m saving the best for last. Americans for Limited Government took time to remind us that next February marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of an American who fought for limited government as much as he could.

Ronald Reagan’s message seems a good way to bring this edition to a close.