I was reading in the Salisbury Independent last night and came across an item that piqued my interest. As some of you may know, the city of Salisbury has revamped its electoral system over the last few years.
Step one was moving its elections from the spring to the fall as well as synchronizing the terms of all elected officials to finish at the same time – those who were elected in the spring of 2013 only won terms of slightly over 2 1/2 years.
Last year the new leadership in City Council scrapped the old two-district system where one member was elected from a majority-minority district (District 1] while the other four came from District 2 and redrew it into five separate Council districts, with two having significant minority populations. Going to five single-member districts allowed the city of Salisbury to more closely reflect a minority population of about 2/5.
All that I could live with; in fact, I had encouraged the five-district idea for many years (even asking the opinion of candidates on the subject at a 2011 NAACP forum.) And while you run the risk of a complete turnover in government by having all seats elected at once, this reflects the system we live with in Wicomico County and in Maryland as a whole. So far we’ve not turned over anything close to the whole General Assembly and have managed to keep at least a couple incumbents on County Council.
However, aside from the likelihood of multiple incumbent participants being in the same district this cycle, the blurb I read leads me to think there will be an incumbent protection program in place this fall.
City Council, led by its President Jake Day, is floating a proposal to do away with the city’s primary election and simply place all comers on the November ballot. On the surface it makes sense given that the 2013 primary only eliminated one contender out of eight who ran for office. (Ironically, that one person was later appointed to City Council.) Certainly it’s a taxpayer-friendly proposal as well since only one election would be necessary.
But imagine, if you will, a situation where four or five are on the ballot with a somewhat unpopular incumbent. Each of those challengers will take a share of the vote, and knowing how some voters may go with the name they know it means an incumbent may win re-election with just 20 or 25 percent of the vote. At least with a primary culling the field down to two (at least in most cases, barring a tie for second as we had in 2013) we’re assured the victor has a majority of the vote. It can give voters the opportunity to amass support behind a single challenger.
Even so, there is opportunity in adversity given that City Council is expected to put this proposal into place. But it would take a meeting of the minds between all the conservative groups in town who may want to back a particular horse in a city race.
Since I happen to live in the same district as my friend Muir Boda, I’ll use him as an example. Let’s say I had a scintilla of desire to run for City Council (which I don’t) and that Muir also got in the race, along with a liberal incumbent who wasn’t doing his job. Seeing that Muir and I are both in a conservative mindset, it’s likely we would split the vote against the incumbent and allow him to win because there’s no primary to eliminate one of us and unite the opposition.
This idea goes a little bit against the grain for me, but there may be merit in having the proverbial (or literal, depending on who’s involved) smoke-filled room to decide which prospective candidate to back. Even though it’s a non-partisan race, it may be a good idea for the GOP to endorse a candidate beforehand. With the last election yielding a 5-0 Democrat majority on City Council as well as a Democrat mayor, it’s obvious our procedures heretofore weren’t very good.
Day contends that the new districts will produce a smaller number of candidates for each district, and he may be right. But if the residents of Salisbury want to take the city in a more conservative direction, we don’t want to split the vote by having several conservatives canceling each other out.
It came as a surprise to many that Salisbury City Council member Terry Cohen resigned with a little over a year left on her term. Citing her family’s “major life changes” she’s resigning as of August 8.
Cohen was originally elected as part of a reform-minded slate in 2007, and found a natural ally in then-Council member Debbie Campbell. And while those who advocated for reform eventually turned on Louise Smith, who was one of the two new Council members elected in 2007, the real change in Salisbury came when current Mayor Jim Ireton was elected in 2009. Campbell and Cohen became more reviled as the obstacles to Ireton’s agenda, eventually leading to Campbell’s defeat by Jake Day in 2013 as well as Cohen’s removal as City Council president, where she served from 2011-13, to be replaced by the newcomer Day.
Of course, the blogs which focus more on local politics are already aflame with comments and suggestions for a replacement for Cohen, with the situation further complicated by Day’s required military reserve service occurring this week – however, they have until September 5 to name a replacement and they’ll begin accepting applications Monday. That replacement will have just 15 months to serve out Cohen’s term before he or she stands for election, if desired.
Two of the names most bandied about to fill Cohen’s seat are Josh Hastings and Muir Boda. As most locals know, Hastings is already running for a County Council District 3 seat as the Democratic nominee while Boda ran at-large and finished third in the Republican primary behind Matt Holloway and John Cannon – respectively, present and former County Council members. There are others who are being mentioned, mainly on the Democratic side, so the obvious question is whether the Democratic-dominated City Council will stay loyal to party or not.
Yet what do I always hear from Democrats when the Republicans are in charge – we need to have bipartisan consensus, they say. Well, here’s an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is and select the best candidate out there. (Worth noting: the city elections are non-partisan.)
I believe in having everyone at the table. All are stakeholders in this city whether you are a homeowner or business owner, landlord or renter, employer or employee, you have a right to be heard. We all have a stake in this community and passing it on to the next generation better than we received it is not just the right thing to do, it is our duty.
Join me as we bring forth a positive message of healing, reaching out to our neighborhoods that are disenfranchised and opening up our doors for business. We have so much work to do and it is going to take all of us putting aside our differences to do what is best for Salisbury.
These were Muir Boda’s words in 2011, just before the general election where he finished fourth – it was the same election where Terry Cohen retained the seat she’s vacating, along with Laura Mitchell and Tim Spies. For the most part, the message rings true still today.
As the city moves into a phase where the downtown may be revitalized, I want to make sure that’s not at the expense of the neighborhoods. As a homeowner in one of the city’s most transient neighborhoods – most homes on his block are rentals – Muir has an interest in maintaining the sometimes-neglected corners of the city. I think he would be a fine choice for this sudden vacancy.
Update 2-28: Comments from Jacob Day below.
With the votes almost all counted – aside from a handful of provisional and absentee votes - it looks like both incumbents will advance in City Council voting; however, one incumbent has a steep uphill battle to maintain her seat. Turnout for the election was pathetic, coming in under 10 percent although absentees may push turnout to double-digits.
In District 1, it’s not yet clear who will face Shanie Shields on April 2. While Shields has a comfortable lead with 55 votes, Cynthia Polk is just one vote ahead of April Jackson, by a 40-39 count. If Polk wins it will set up a District 1 rematch from 2009.
District 2 voters, however, would seem to prefer a new member of City Council. Jacob Day overwhelmed the field with 803 votes, an astounding 63% of the votes cast. Incumbent Debbie Campbell appears to have enough of a margin over third-place Jack Heath (271-197) to be the second place finisher, but she enters the general election campaign already 42 percentage points in arrears to Day, who has thus far run an aggressive campaign of signage, mailings, and door-to-door activities (including mine.) Perhaps sending in answers to my questions was the charm for Jacob.
For the pair who are eliminated, it could be a story of lost opportunities, although a one-vote difference means Jackson and Polk will be on pins and needles for several days. If April Jackson comes up short, there will always be the question of whether she would have prevailed had she not dealt with health issues in the critical final days.
As for Jack Heath, I just don’t think he ran much of a campaign. He never seemed as comfortable on the stump and didn’t have a lot of funding to get his name out there, particularly when compared to his much younger fellow challenger, who received a lot of money from the building community. Of course, there will be a group who complains that the local Republican Party did nothing to help Jack, based on the fact he came to a Republican Club meeting and had financial support from former GOP candidates, but as recently as 2010 Heath was an unaffiliated voter. In terms of messaging, Heath’s “Working Together” tagline was fairly blah and didn’t express a sense of leadership or change that’s needed.
So now the general election campaign begins; five weeks where the fighting for votes will probably take a more bitter turn.
Comment from Jacob Day:
It is energizing and encouraging to see so many people send such a clear signal that they want a change in the culture of negativism, discord and pessimism in our City government. Moreover, the message is that they want things to happen in Salisbury and we showed them that – if elected – that I will work diligently to make things happen.
I am so grateful to all of my volunteers, supporters and voters that sent this message. I am uplifted and I believe the City is as well. I want to thank Jack Heath for stepping up as a community leader, working hard in this campaign and remaining a role model throughout. I’m eager to discuss the challenges our City faces with voters and my plan for overcoming them over the next month. I am more assured than ever that we will restore partnership to Salisbury’s City government and we will restore pride and prosperity to Salisbury.
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.
Five of six Salisbury City Council hopefuls pleaded their cases before over 100 voters and observers at Perdue Hall on the campus of Salisbury University last evening. Included among the audience were the other three members of City Council not up for election and mayoral candidate Joe Albero. Mayor Jim Ireton was a no-show from the event as was District 1 candidate April Jackson, who was dealing with “health issues.”
Unfortunately, I arrived a little late and missed most of the candidates’ opening statements. But the questions, delivered by moderator Ernie Colburn, mainly dealt with the business aspect of Salisbury – something to be expected when a co-sponsor is the local Chamber of Commerce.
One example was the lidlifter, which asked candidates what their top three priorities for change would be. Shanie Shields would “build partnerships for positive change,” focusing on business, education, and advocating for a STEM program (science, technology, engineering, and math.) Her District 1 opponent, Cynthia Polk, told the audience “my first priority would be jobs.” She wanted to take advantage of local universities and the proximity of Wallops Island as well.
District 2 incumbent Debbie Campbell believed the “things we can do are only limited by our ability to work real hard.” Economic development and public safety were among the items she wished to focus on in a third term, citing her “attention to detail” as an asset. She pointed to the River’s Edge development as a possible way to drive tourism business from Ocean City.
Meanwhile, Jake Day saw it as a matter of restoring prosperity and pride, particularly pride in our government, which he claimed suffered from a “culture of antagonism and pessimism…it has to change.” He wanted to encourage more youth involvement as well.
“My role will be one of a catalyst and culture changer,” said Jack Heath. He then reiterated the familiar themes he’s established throughout his campaign: enhancing the quality of life through jobs, recreation, education, and a safe environment, creating an inviting and vibrant downtown, and having the city government adopt the best ideas regardless of where they came from.
The next question seemed to be tailored as an attack on District 2 incumbent Debbie Campbell, since it asked about the “culture of ‘no’” on the City Council. Heath drew the first response, calling himself “a negotiator…it all starts with culture.” He vowed that, if elected, “I will sign a civility agreement” and ask the others to sign as well. Jake Day agreed, saying we needed open communication and “an entire culture shift.” He promised to establish what he called “coffee talks” and a mayoral/council blog. (It’s worth pointing out that one mayoral candidate and two Council members already have blog sites.)
Debbie Campbell is one of those Council bloggers, but she disagreed with the premise of the question. “This Council has said yes to 70 out of 80 ordinances and 190 out of 200 resolutions,” she countered. If the Daily Times would put news on the news pages and opinion on the opinion pages, we would be better off, she assessed. On the other hand, the renovated Bateman Street/Onley Road intersection was an example where “no” eventually became “yes” once the project was improved, said Campbell.
Shanie Shields disputed Campbell’s account, noting that some of the projects which Council rejected would benefit District 1, like the Bricks project. She wouldn’t sign the Heath civility agreement, since it’s “just a piece of paper,” but wanted to bring back the goal-setting sessions Council used to have.
While Cynthia Polk didn’t have experience with the Council, she pointed back to her time at the former Dresser facility where she organized the employee assistance program. Citing the declining health of her husband of 46 years, she wistfully noted that “once I become a city council person, that’s my family. Family is everything.”
Returning to the economic scene, the question of how to attract higher-paying jobs was next. Debbie Campbell drew the leadoff answer and declared “I think that we leverage what we have…(Salisbury is) uniquely positioned to fill a void” on tech jobs. One other idea worth implementing was using the excess EDUs from the Linens of the Week property, offering them to an entrepreneur who could utilize the property as a job creator.
Shanie Shields, however, believed that property should revert to something along the lines of the neighborhood’s residential nature, like a community center. We need to give kids hands-on experience, Shanie declared, but concluded by asking the question “Are we business-friendly in this town? The answer is no.”
Jake Day used a sports analogy to begin his answer. “We have a great defense, but we need to turn it to a great offense.” He walked through a laundry list of accomplishments from those in his high school class, pointing out one thing in common: they weren’t done here. The kids left Salisbury because opportunities weren’t here, said Day. We need to be more proactive and set ourselves up for success, continued Jake, adding we should remove investment barriers, create a business incubator, and have a full-time economic development officer. Opponent Jack Heath more or less agreed with Day, adding “we need to challenge the university” to come up with additional ideas.
Cynthia Polk recalled the “runaround” she had to endure when opening her business, making the suggestion that it could be done as a piece of software the city could sell.
The next topic got the luxury of longer responses, and crime was the subject. Again Campbell received the lead answer, and she told the audience that while we’ve made progress – in part due to the Safe Streets program – there’s a long way to go. Debbie bemoaned the fact that, for years, the city lost officers to other jurisdictions where they could be paid better, but salary adjustments were made in this budget and the mayor chose not to veto them.
When it comes to increased pay for officers, “I couldn’t agree more,” said Jake Day. But he went further, calling for another 30 police officers. He warned we’ll have to make “hard choices” when it comes to other investments, but didn’t want to ignore technology improvements, either. Those were far down his list of crime-fighting measures, however, as the extra personnel was key.
Jack Heath, however, cautioned there’s another side of the issue – “Thirty cops is extremely expensive.” He quoted a figure of $100,000 per officer (which means the city would need another $3 million each year for 30 more police officers.) Technology could help in high crime areas, he added, but he would defer to the wishes of police Chief Barbara Duncan.
“You can’t lock everyone up,” said Cynthia Polk in her response, which focused more on the root causes. “I don’t know how much that would cost,” she said of after-school programs, but she felt something was needed to respond to a “sense of desperation” on the west side. Polk also came up with a thought about teaching chess in these after-school programs, claiming you could tell the difference between a “chess mind” and a “checkers mind.”
Shanie Shields was more clear: “I do not want to see the city become a police state…most of the people in jail look like me and Cynthia.” (All three District 1 candidates are black.) She called on more preventative programs, but believed they should be funded by Annapolis and Washington, “instead of locking up people.”
The next question dealt with the choice between raising taxes and cutting services. “That’s a loaded question,” Jack Heath replied. He believed revenue could be gained through increasing economic activity.
Jake Day agreed with that principle, although he couched it in terms of increasing property values. To achieve that end, Day called for a downtown-centric approach, wondering aloud how a city could value riverfront surface parking when “we have to create vibrant, livable places.” He repeated an earlier point about removing barriers to investment, and wanted to use budget surpluses to keep a 10% operating reserve. In the meantime, though, “we may need to cut services.”
Debbie Campbell disagreed, though. “This year proved we didn’t have to do either,” she noted. In fact, they funded a few extra items to avoid a tax increase as the budget plan they adopted had items she didn’t care for funding. And after she pointed out that business development pays for itself (as opposed to residential development being a net loss) Campbell concluded “you need a legislator who sharpens her pencil every year.”
Shanie Shields also believed the mayor didn’t have to raise taxes. “Taxes are a bad word,” said Shanie, but she also warned “you can’t cut everything in a budget…I don’t believe in going line by line.” Shainie also bemoaned the fact we have no retail downtown, complaining you have to get in the car and run to Royal Farms or Walgreens to get an aspirin.
So how do we create a business-friendly climate? the body was asked. For Jack Heath the answer was simple: it’s culture. Negotiate the best deals possible, and return to the inclusion process the city had several years ago. Cynthia Polk extended this inclusion idea to one of cultural inclusion, calling for a downtown filled with ethnic eateries.
Debbie Campbell was more direct: “I don’t believe in developer giveaways,” she said. But instead of dealing with excessive bureaucracy, business developers “ought to feel like they just checked into a five-star hotel,” Campbell concluded.
On the other hand, Shanie Shields called herself a “business-friendly person” and told those gathered we need to bring people to the table. We weren’t willing to work with the developers of the abandoned Station 16 project, a building which is downtown sitting empty, said Shanie. She praised the expansion of Salisbury’s enterprise zone to new areas along Snow Hill Road and Eastern Shore Drive.
Once again pounding the themes of being proactive and reducing barriers, Jake Day said we need to become a community willing to invest in itself. But we need no new impact fees, Day said.
The closing statements were quite diverse. Cynthia Polk made it known that she’s not the greatest public speaker, but she had other skills in business ownership and development to make up for it. “I am very versatile,” she said. “I look at people from soul to soul.”
Shanie Shields felt it was her “experience and love for people” that gave her the edge. She spoke about growing up in Salisbury and dealing with family tragedies here, but she had chosen to stay in the town where she was born.
“I stand on my record,” said Debbie Campbell. Noting that legislation required someone who was “detail-oriented,” she cautioned that if a proposal violates state or federal law, “that should be enough to stop you.” It was not her goal to have a “rubber-stamp Council.”
Vowing to bring a “new energy” and “spirit of partnership,” Jake Day seized a little bit on Campbell’s theme, noting that his time in the Army had made him a leader, a planner, and detail-oriented. He would work hard in the position, Day added.
The final word belonged to Jack Heath, who, when asked why he was interrupting his retirement to run, said it was because he loves the city. “Work needs to be done (and) I have the experience,” Heath stated. He promised to make decisions based not on his personal beliefs but what was best for Salisbury.
This is among the final public forums for the six City Council candidates, who will be whittled down to four come next Tuesday. Obviously April Jackson’s health issues come at a most inopportune time as she faces two political veterans, and it may be hard for her to overcome that disadvantage. Yet with such a tiny probable number of votes cast in her district, it’s really difficult to know just how the District 1 race will turn out.
In District 2, however, I suspect Campbell and Day have the advantage going into the final weekend. Jack Heath needs to make a last-minute push for votes to avoid elimination, as I see it.
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.
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.
In a Pyrrhic victory for the Camden crew on Salisbury City Council, fellow Council member Laura Mitchell glumly announced she had fallen short of the required number of signatures needed to place the issue of their most recent City Charter change on the ballot. While she collected 2,327 signatures it was well short of her goal of 3,000 and the required 20 percent of registered city voters. Ironically, though, more voters signed the petition than voted in the election which placed Mitchell on City Council.
It seems to me, though, that there were valid reasons for bringing this question to a referendum. As I read the measure, it placed City Council in a position where they would be usurping some of the power reserved to the city’s executive. I’ll grant that Jim Ireton and I don’t see eye-to-eye very often and it’s my hope that a strong conservative candidate emerges for the next mayoral election in the spring of 2013. But in this case I think he was correct in opposing this change, since it essentially serves to weaken what was intended as a strong executive form of government similar to that of Wicomico County, the State of Maryland, and our very nation. In each instance, positions under the executive branch are selected by the executive but require the advice and consent of the legislative branch.
Plan 1 and Plan 2 both split the city into five separate districts, with two of them being majority-minority districts which Ireton claims more fairly represents the minority population in Salisbury. The major difference between the two is that Plan 2 adds two at-large seats to City Council, making the city of Salisbury reflective of Wicomico County insofar as its legislative branch is concerned.
Conversely, Plan 3 simply tweaks the current system and makes District 1 geographically larger so it continues to represent about 20 percent of the city’s population. That area includes most of the minority-populated portions of the city.
It’s been a week since Salisbury City Council approved a City Charter amendment to place the city attorney under the supervision of the council rather than under the mayor. That vote stemmed from a June incident when Mayor Jim Ireton advised the city attorney not to attend a closed session of City Council because insufficient public notice was given beforehand. The charter amendment was approved by a group of three Council members who have become the new majority in a run of 3-2 votes; interestingly enough all three hail from the same Camden neighborhood.
I have all the respect in the world for Muir Boda, and once I read the letter he had published in the Daily Times yesterday I decided to reprint it here as well.
As a citizen of the City of Salisbury and one who has been actively involved in city politics for the past couple of years, I have grave concerns over the process with which the City Council handled the budget process this year. I do feel some good things came out of the budget, such as removing furlough days for Police Officers and reducing the number of furlough days for the remaining city employees.
My concern is solely on the process and what appears to be a lack of negotiation and communication between the Office of the Mayor and the City Council. I have an even greater concern with the fact that the Council did not schedule a work session between the public hearing and the vote on the budget that included their amendments. Many ideas and suggestions were brought forth in the hearing and should have been discussed and considered before final passage.
I am also concerned that the Council was so quick to schedule an emergency session to override the Mayor’s veto. This was not an emergency; June 30th would have been considered an emergency, not June 8th. There still would have been plenty of time to for the Council to reach out to the Mayor to work on getting the budget to where all could have agreed.
This is very disappointing and their actions as a council are in contrast to what some on the council campaigned against and have complained about concerning past councils.
Reaction to the letter in the Daily Times comment section has been limited but seems to consist of bashing his supposed alliance with SAPOA and praise for Laura Mitchell. It doesn’t address the letter itself, so I took these (anonymous) people to task:
Whether Muir Boda would have voted for or against the budget is irrelevant to the conversation. He is correct that the city’s budget process was acrimonious and didn’t need to be done in such haste – that was his point.
I happen to think more people should have voted for Muir Boda as I did, but we are stuck with the Council we have because the people spoke back in April based on campaign promises of sweetness and light among the Council if the Camden crew were elected. Well, looks like too many of us were fooled again.
Now I don’t expect the mayor and council of any community to get along 100 percent of the time; in fact, a little bit of tension and rivalry can be a good thing. And Lord knows I’m certainly no Jim Ireton cheerleader but the depths we’ve descended to in this town are ridiculous. Where Muir’s argument is strongest is where he contends there was no big hurry – although Mayor Ireton was quick to slap his veto on the budget as presented by Council, there still was plenty of time for the two sides to discuss a compromise before the override.
However, Muir is somewhat incorrect on one key point: to not have a budget by June 30th would have against the City Charter, which stipulates the budget must be passed by June 15th (SC7-21 here.) Otherwise, the mayor’s budget would have been the one in force. Still, there was some time to work things out but both sides instead made a public show of rejecting the other’s budgetary guidance.
On another subject, I’m sort of curious what led Laura Mitchell to override the veto. (Guess I could e-mail her and ask, or she may enlighten us with a comment here.) Considering that there were three votes in pocket coming from the Camden mob, hers was the swing vote between the mayor’s budget and Council’s proposal. On the other hand, Shanie Shields is definitely the odd person out in this edition of Council and it will be interesting to see how that District 1 race shakes out in 2013 since she won’t run again.
All in all, Boda is correct in pointing out this is another black eye in Salisbury politics. Between the veto override and his favorite watering hole closing, last week was a bad one for Mayor Ireton. While one can always find a new hangout, the budget setback makes me wonder whether he will have the desire for another term in 2013 himself?
The political ascendancy of Laura Mitchell continues, apparently.
Laura finished in third, 122 votes behind first-place winner Terry Cohen, in the city’s March 1 primary but made up all that and more as she zipped by both Cohen and Tim Spies to win a four-year term on City Council. While it’s possible that absentees could push Terry Cohen into the top slot (13 votes separate Mitchell and second-place Cohen) the fact is that a woman who hadn’t even raised enough money to need a financial report in the primary beat out a field that was by and large comprised of previous candidates and well-financed challengers.
Perhaps the main ingredient in her success was her independence. It was no secret that Terry Cohen and Tim Spies were running as a Camden tag team, with several joint appearances and fundraisers. On the other hand, Muir Boda and Orville Dryden had a number of common financial backers and while they weren’t overtly running as a slate those allied with Cohen and Spies created the perception that Boda and Dryden were. Mitchell seemed as though she was the compromise candidate between the two camps, although as I revealed in my look at the last financial reports Laura had some prominent Democratic elected officials bankrolling her.
Still, Laura overcame some rumors dogging her and a campaign that was a little bit short on specifics to win a seat on City Council as the lone political newcomer. Tim Spies was successful in his second try at the brass ring and Terry Cohen won another four-year term.
So the Council appears set for two years, and the Camden neighborhood will be calling the tune. Look for a renewed push to get Mayor Ireton’s neighborhood housing initiative passed and an all-out war on the $96 million business of rentals to begin, along with a deterioration in town-gown relations with Salisbury University. The question now becomes this: is this the end of the 3-2 Council? I think it is, but that doesn’t bode well for the City of Salisbury.