Updated City Council financials

With less than a week to go until the General Election on April 5th, the candidates are trying to raise money for the final push. My analysis of the latest report will be broken into two parts: total money raised, and money raised since the initial reports were completed on February 23rd.

Total contributions to date:

  1. Muir Boda – $3,250
  2. Tim Spies – $3,010
  3. Terry Cohen – $2,836
  4. Orville Dryden – $2,750
  5. Laura Mitchell – $1,970
  6. Bruce Ford – $310

Since the first report – this shows contribution trends:

  1. Laura Mitchell – $1,820 from 31 contributors
  2. Muir Boda – $1,615 from 16 contributors
  3. Terry Cohen – $681 from 15 contributors
  4. Tim Spies – $650 from 13 contributors
  5. Orville Dryden – $650 from 6 contributors
  6. Bruce Ford – no contributions, aside from a loan to himself

Once again we have two groups of contributors giving to two separate candidates. Terry Cohen and Tim Spies are now the largest beneficiaries of this trend since eight of Spies’ 13 donors also gave to Cohen. Some key donors among them were Dana Kennan ($100 apiece), Scot Disharoon ($100 to Cohen), P.E. Bolte ($100 to Cohen), S.J. Disharoon ($100 to Spies), and Todd Smith ($100 to Spies). All are listed as a Salisbury address.

On the other hand, Muir Boda has broken away from Orville Dryden to some extent. While they were nearly joined at the hip on the first report, only five of Boda’s 16 contributors also gave to Dryden. Largest among them was the Maryland Realtors PAC, which gave the maximum $250 to both. Also maximizing their contributions to Boda were Deborah Anderson of Salisbury (Boda’s treasurer), Jonathan Boda of Santa Monica, California, and John Cannon of Salisbury. Jeffrey Benner of Salisbury also gave Boda $100.

Dryden received a major contribution from F.M. Young of Salisbury, who donated $150.

Perhaps the most “independent” candidate was Laura Mitchell, whose contribution list didn’t feature a single person who gave to another candidate. However, there were some well-known Democratic elected officials on the list – Trudy Andersen and Harry Basehart from the Wicomico County Democratic Central Committee, Delegate Rudy Cane, and Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton. Andersen and Basehart gave $115 and $140, respectively, so I would consider them “major” contributors. Others who fall into that category include Lynda Donaldson of Selbyville, Delaware ($125), Michael Weisner of Salisbury ($140), Sharon Barto of Parsonsburg ($100), R. Neill Carey of Salisbury ($100), and Patrick Bostian of Salisbury ($250).

This report also revealed that Mitchell had made $150 from 4 contributors prior to the last report, so she was correct in stating she didn’t meet the $600 threshold at that time.

Apparently Bruce Ford is self-financing his campaign at the moment, loaning his coffers the $494 in expenses he paid in the last reporting period. He reported no other contributions.

But Laura Mitchell seems to be the political flavor of the month – even opponent Muir Boda gave Mitchell a total of $45. Whether that will haunt him in the end remains to be seen, but the biggest money seems to be moving to the race between Mitchell and Boda for that number three slot – Cohen and Spies could be considered shoo-ins, while Dryden and Ford may be too far in arrears to have a good chance at leapfrogging two or three spots, respectively. The contributions seem to reflect that reality.

And what of the two who didn’t make it? Michael Taylor didn’t file a report, as presumably he didn’t raise or spend any money after the primary. But Joel Dixon spent the remaining $715.81 after paying his bills on a good cause, as he donated the remainder of his campaign account to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

As was the case before the primary, I should also send kudos to Brenda Colegrove, the Salisbury City Clerk, for making these reports available in a timely manner. It’s nice to get this information before the election to assist in this important decision.

And a note to Tim Spies: this time when you cite my information, print the whole thing.

Salisbury Council field set

After all the absentees and provisional ballots have been counted, the six contestants who presumably advanced by last Tuesday’s initial results indeed held on. The battle for the sixth and final spot went to Bruce Ford over Joel Dixon by a 307-302 count, his largest margin.

The sole change in the order was Terry Cohen moving ahead of Tim Spies to become the top vote-getter.

Here is the final order of finish:

  1. Terry Cohen, 608 (18.63%)
  2. Tim Spies, 604 (18.5%)
  3. Laura Mitchell, 486 (14.89%)
  4. Muir Boda, 446 (13.66%)
  5. Orville Dryden, 343 (10.51%)
  6. Bruce Ford, 307 (9.41%)
  7. Joel Dixon, 302 (9.25%)
  8. Michael Taylor, 168 (5.15%)

The remaining field now has just less than a month to either hold their top-3 position or try and move up. As it stands, the key battle is between third-place Laura Mitchell and fourth-place Muir Boda – either of the other contenders need to pick up well over 100 votes on April 5th to pass Mitchell and grab the last spot.

Final turnout was 1,226 voters, or 10.64% of eligible voters. This compares to 13.7% in the last similar election (2007.)

Hopefully Dixon and Taylor, who were both worthy candidates, will consider another run in 2013 or 2015. A 2013 run would place them against incumbent Debbie Campbell should she choose to run for a third term, while 2015 would see this same situation of three seats open.

A couple upcoming events:

Tomorrow (March 10): East Main Street Neighborhood Association Forum, 6:30 p.m. (Epilepsy Center, 688 East Main Street.)
Sunday, March 13: All-You-Can-Eat Chicken and Dumpling Fundraiser for Laura Mitchell, 4-7 p.m. at Sage Diner (917 S. Salisbury Blvd.) – $20. Advance registration required.

As I find out more I’ll share.

First Salisbury absentee canvass in, results slightly change

I thought this came tomorrow but the update was today.

This will be presented in order of votes acquired today, since the pattern of these absentees may provide a clue as to how the remaining few votes could fall. It may only turn out to be a few dozen votes, but now the split between moving on and moving out is just one vote.

  1. Terry Cohen +51 (now has 583, moves from second to a tie for first)
  2. Tim Spies +43 (now has 583, falls into a tie for first)
  3. Orville Dryden +34 (now has 338, stays fifth)
  4. Muir Boda +29 (now has 409, stays fourth)
  5. Joel Dixon +24 (now has 299, stays seventh)
  6. Bruce Ford +23 (now has 300, stays sixth)
  7. Laura Mitchell +21 (now has 472, stays third)
  8. Michael Taylor +11 (now has 161, stays eighth)

Interestingly, the absentees hurt Laura Mitchell quite a bit as Muir Boda gained eight votes out of the 236 counted. While it’s only 8% of the total vote, these absentees made enough difference that the battle for sixth will remain uncertain until next week.

So it’s pins and needles for both Bruce Ford and Joel Dixon until the count (and perhaps a recount) finally ends.

Unofficial Salisbury City Council results have Dixon, Taylor out

Update: absentee ballots are counted Friday – the only rankings where that could prove a difference are Spies/Cohen and, more importantly, Ford/Dixon.

And then there were two…

If the unofficial results hold up, one of the monoblogue-endorsed candidates will be knocked out in the primary while another finished out of the top three.

According to the Daily Times, here is the unofficial order of finish – I believe this does NOT include absentee ballots since they only had to be postmarked by today.

  1. Tim Spies – 540 (18.4%)
  2. Terry Cohen – 532 (18.1%)
  3. Laura Mitchell – 451 (15.4%)
  4. Muir Boda – 409 (13.9%)
  5. Orville Dryden – 304 (10.3%)
  6. Bruce Ford – 277 (9.4%)
  7. Joel Dixon – 275 (9.4%)
  8. Michael Taylor – 150 (5.1%)

Even with the two-vote margin between sixth and seventh, it’s pretty clear that the real race right now is between two people – Laura Mitchell and Muir Boda. Any of the trio of Orville Dryden, Bruce Ford, or Joel Dixon would have to increase their voter base by half again to have a legitimate shot. On the other side of the coin, it’s clear that Terry Cohen and Tim Spies have worked together to corner a large percentage of the electorate.

What I would be most curious about insofar as the voter breakdown is which precincts were well-represented. I suspect the Camden area turned out well as always, which boosted the totals of Cohen and Spies. And just as it was in the last election the aspect of teams or slates may be introduced: in 2007 the sides generally were considered as Terry Cohen, Tim Spies, and Louise Smith against Gary Comegys, John Atkins, and Don Ewalt. In that case the Camden bunch had the upper hand, getting two of three elected against those candidates considered to be in the pocket of the Salisbury Area Property Owners Association, best known as SAPOA. However, we all know how the 3-2 votes tended to turn out in the last term.

Obviously Cohen and Spies are back, and Laura Mitchell may end up being considered as part of a tag-team against Boda, Dryden, and Dixon (if he can snatch sixth place over Bruce Ford.) Based on tonight’s results Camden could get the clean sweep, which would certainly elevate either Debbie Campbell or Terry Cohen to Council president and likely kill any effort for sanity in Council districts since three members – a majority – would live in the Camden neighborhood.

And now a note on my polling. I was almost vindicated on my prediction of Ford and Taylor being out, and absentees could still hold that true. Obviously Laura Mitchell polled much better once I added the Progressive Delmarva crowd and that aspect held true in the actual election, while Tim Spies also outperformed.

On the other hand, Boda and Dixon did worse in reality than my polling would have suggested, but it pegged Orville Dryden pretty well. I figured Terry Cohen would make it easily and I was right on that one.

So the next step is for the remaining six, five of whom are pretty obvious now, to catch their breath and try to claim a portion of the expanded voter universe – many more voters will partake in the April 5th election. But as it stands the next two years may be open season on the rental industry in Salisbury, and while some would consider this a good thing turning your back on a large segment of business activity may hurt the city in the long run.

A couple scenes from the campaign trail

Just after 3:00 I went to remind myself where my polling place was, for I haven’t voted in a city election since 2005. Along the way I decided to stop by both polling locations to see what was going on outside.

This is across from the Wicomico Presbyterian Church on Broad Street. As you can see, candidate Tim Spies (left, in the hat) is among those out campaigning. It was nice to see supporters of Laura Mitchell and Michael Taylor out there – also covering the scene (but outside camera range) was local blogger Joe Albero.

Over on South Avenue in front of Harvest Baptist Church, several other candidates and supporters gathered. Back along the street is Laura Mitchell in front of Muir Boda (and behind the bearded Spies backer.) Another local blogger, Jonathan Taylor, was on the scene – he’s leaning on the car to the right of the picture.

It should get more interesting as the evening wears on, as peak voting time tends to be after work.

The darkest of horses

Well, it looks like Michael Taylor got as many votes in my poll as he may get in the election at large Tuesday. (I’m only kidding – sort of.)

There are only two conclusions I can draw: either people REALLY liked my interview with the guy I posted Friday or they’re messing with my poll. Aside from the complete outlier of Taylor winning, the other seven candidates seemed to settle into the order they’ve had all along – the other notable trend is the waning popularity of Orville Dryden as he fell perilously close to missing the top 6 in the poll (assuming Taylor was an outlier, otherwise Orville finishes out of the money.) Tim Spies has also seen a downward trend.

My second possibility becomes more apparent when one looks at the pattern of voting – early on Taylor was in his usual bottom slot before he suddenly surged to the top in just a few hours. And once the field began catching him another spurt placed him well ahead again.

I am pleased that this poll had much more interest in a shorter timeframe, as 392 votes were cast.

And the final poll showed some stark differences due to the leftward influence of Progressive Delmarva. (I think it helped Laura Mitchell a lot, too.) Here’s how they stacked up, with their previous two poll finishes in (parentheses) beforehand.

  1. (7,8) Michael Taylor, 85 votes (21.86%)
  2. (3 – tie,2) Terry Cohen, 64 votes (16.33%)
  3. (8,6 – tie) Laura Mitchell, 54 votes (13.78%)
  4. (3 – tie,1) Muir Boda, 51 votes (13.01%)
  5. (1,3) Tim Spies, 48 votes (12.24%)
  6. (5,5) Joel Dixon, 36 votes (9.18%)
  7. (2,4) Orville Dryden, 34 votes (8.67%)
  8. (6,6 – tie) Bruce Ford, 20 votes (5.1%)

I think a more comprehensive (and perhaps realistic) picture occurs when the three polls I’ve done are combined.

  1. Terry Cohen, 143 votes (17.8%)
  2. Muir Boda, 134 votes (16.7%)
  3. Tim Spies, 126 votes (15.7%)
  4. Orville Dryden, 106 votes (13.2%)
  5. Michael Taylor, 101 votes (12.6%)
  6. Joel Dixon, 80 votes (10.0%)
  7. Laura Mitchell, 70 votes (8.7%)
  8. Bruce Ford, 43 votes (5.4%)

If I were to make a prediction, my guess would be that flipping Mitchell and Taylor around would probably put the actual order of finish pretty close – I think Taylor and Ford will be the two odd men out, while the three who have ran before make up your top three primary finishers. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Spies in second and Boda in third, though – it’s a hunch based on Camden’s voting strength. Orville Dryden will probably be the closest to the top three, but Mitchell or Dixon could end up in fourth as well – that order is the most difficult to figure out.

But before I wrap this primary coverage up I want to thank Two Sentz and those over at Progressive Delmarva for their assistance. There will be more polling over the five weeks leading up to the general election April 5th, but I may change a few poll parameters around based on how this went.

For Salisbury City Council

As promised, tonight I’m going to endorse three candidates for Salisbury City Council.

Last night I alluded that I had four candidates I liked and four…well, not so much. While all eight who are running should be commended for stepping up and doing so, the stark reality is that some are more qualified in my eyes than others. There are reasons I wouldn’t recommend voting for these four.

Unfortunately for Michael Taylor, he falls into the category of a really good guy who I simply don’t know enough about in a public situation to know if he’d be a good fit. I simply think this election occurred at a time in his life where he couldn’t make the case for himself due to his job – once we move to fall elections (assuming he remains in his current job at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center) Michael should have more time to wage a campaign in the public sphere.

Having said that, I think when the opportunity presents itself Michael should attempt to become more publicly visible. Taylor has some great ideas and thoughts (and perhaps a few hardy backers.) Hopefully next time around he can have the time to put up a campaign worthy of them.

Tim Spies is sort of a sad case in that I supported him last time. But this time around he seems more bitter and combative; while that can be a good thing at times he’s picking on an industry which, like it or not, should have a place at the table. He’s also lashing out at those he may be working with if he wins.

The clincher, though, was saying we may need a tax increase at the AFP forum. With the state eagerly seeking ways to extract more money from our pockets yet again the last thing we need is someone who’s only too happy to raise taxes and fees.

In the next case, Orville Dryden seems to fall back too often on the mantra of “working together,” and the impression I get is that he’s not completely thought through some of the issues he’ll have to face should he win. I know he lives right in my neighborhood and it would be nice to have someone on this end of town represent us, but it should be the right person and he doesn’t strike me as the right person.

Similarly, if Bruce Ford doesn’t care if he wins or loses, neither should I. But I think the worst offense he made during the campaign was when he responded that, “I believe that housing initiatives such as Mayor Ireton’s Safe Streets program are properly considered as crime fighting initiatives.” I don’t, because I haven’t seen Ireton’s neighborhood initiative as much as a crimefighting tool, but more of an effort to damage a number of small business people who may only own a rental house to help with their income. The larger players could afford these restrictions, but not the small fry.

So those are the four I don’t support, meaning my choice comes down to Muir Boda, Terry Cohen, Joel Dixon, and Laura Mitchell.

I liked Muir Boda enough in the 2009 campaign that I openly wished there were two seats available for both he and Debbie Campbell (and I sold him advertising space for this election.) While Salisbury made a bad overall choice two years ago they have the opportunity to begin to rectify that oversight and I recommend they do.

In Terry Cohen’s case, while she hasn’t always made moves I agree with I can’t see a reason why enough of the challengers would be an improvement. She is a quite thorough person (almost to a fault) when it comes to city issues and the city would be served best to give her another term.

So it comes down between the two political newcomers, who both would bring a fresh perspective sorely needed by a new City Council. They both have experience the City Council could use, as Laura Mitchell has a financial background while Joel Dixon has worked in public safety and serves the city as a volunteer firefighter.

In truth, the biggest difference between the two lies in their support (or lack thereof) for Mayor Ireton’s neighborhood initiatives – Mitchell is a supporter while Dixon is against them. And since we already have two Council members who serve well as fiscal watchdogs, the public safety perspective will be an important one. This tips the scales to a bright young man who’s willing to listen and grow on the job.

In the end, there are three people who deserve your vote on Tuesday for Salisbury City Council. To move Salisbury forward and begin the attack on problems which face the city (albeit we can’t get more help in that respect until two years hence) I’m voting for the following three people and believe you should too:

  • Muir Boda
  • Terry Cohen
  • Joel Dixon

See you at the polls!

Interview with Michael Taylor

While Michael Taylor hasn’t consciously been the “stealth” candidate in the Salisbury City Council race, he’s only managed to make it to one of the forums and hasn’t raised any money.

But in the interest of informing the electorate I sat down with him on Monday over coffee (for him) and beer (for me) at SoBo’s. This is what you call a raw recording, taken in the restaurant’s dining room.

The interview.

In a little over 20 minutes we touch on most of the key subjects in question, so enjoy the conversation.

The NAACP forum and the campaign tone

Update 12 p.m. – Tim Spies replies to my questions – see end of the post.

Last night the final major forum before the primary election was held at the St. James AME Zion Church, sponsored by the Wicomico County chapter of the NAACP. It was taped for later broadcast on PAC 14, although editing the tape in time could be a challenge!

Ignoring the irony that the forum was held in a district which won’t have a say in the matter, seven of the eight candidates came to engage moderator Orville Penn and each other in a discussion which started out rather freeform as forums go but became more constrained as the evening wore on. For example, each candidate could make as lengthy of an opening statement as they wished but by the time closing statements were uttered, they were limited to one minute.

A focus of the forum was on civil rights issues, so the line of questioning was a little different than in other forums. After the opening statement of why each candidate was running they answered a number of questions briefly described as follows:

  • The most challenging civil rights issue the city faces
  • On crime, how the candidates stood on racial profiling
  • Whether they would agree with subdividing the city into five separate Council districts (this was a question I supplied, so I’m saving it for last)
  • How they would place work sessions at times more convenient to the public
  • Their opinion on trying to override Mayor Ireton’s veto of rescinding health benefits for certain members of Council via charter amendment
  • Civility, in general
  • Employment and attracting jobs
  • A closing statement

The loose format meant there was no set order to deliver the opening statement so the first person to speak up went first, and that’s the order in which I’m going to summarize the performance of each participant. Bear in mind, though, that some questions have such obvious answers that I may not necessarily go through each answer. Instead, I’m just going to go over the highlights of the evening as provided by each along with the impressions I received.

This means I get to start with Tim Spies.

In a relatively lengthy opening statement, Tim explained his military background before working his way into some of what drew him into the political scene. He told the audience that his Camden neighborhood was “sort of in the middle,” caught in a transition period where the two rentals on his street present when he moved there over a decade ago had evolved into over half the street now. “(That) doesn’t make for a stable neighborhood,” he added.

One mention in his opening statement aroused my curiosity. If, as he said, he had resigned in the middle of his third term as the Camden neighborhood association president to run for Council this time, why didn’t he do so in 2007 when he first ran? Since I know he reads my site (as I’ll bring up later) perhaps he can explain.

Spies mentioned his Weed and Seed experience when pressed on the civil rights issue, calling the afterschool programs sponsored by the group “a haven” for at-risk youth. On that same token, he later said in replying to the racial profiling query that there’s “close to a dozen” gangs in the city and we need to “embrace the (gang) problem as our own.”

One interesting idea Tim brought up in response to the work session question was changing the location of sessions to neighborhood venues. It’s worth considering on a trial basis, although it would also mean members would have to be more prepared because they wouldn’t be close to their offices in the Government Office Building.

Tim may have been responsible for the forum’s most heated moments, though. In responding to the health insurance question he chided fellow Council members for their politically motivated votes, calling it “a slap in the face.” He then chided outgoing Council President Louise Smith in his next answer, calling her “responsible for a great deal of incivility” and drawing a pointed response from NAACP head Mary Ashanti, who briefly halted the proceedings to remind participants to be respectful of those attending – among them was current Council member Shanie Shields, who Spies would have to serve beside should he be victorious (her term expires in 2013.)

But Spies wasn’t quite through with the cutting remarks, stating in his closing that, “my goal is to see that the things that happened in the last twelve years don’t happen again.”

Now, allow me to digress a moment.

As most of the candidates did, Spies had literature for distribution at the forum. One of his pieces was a partial reprint of my recent post called First reports. In it, he cited the fundraising figures and my assertion that perhaps three of his opponents could be considered SAPOA candidates based on who contributed to them. Fair enough.

But Spies opted to omit the following paragraph regarding his fundraising alliances with Terry Cohen, the latest of which is detailed in this press release turned Daily Times article. (I received the same release earlier today.)

However, it can also be shown that Cohen and Spies are running as a team of sorts, with the most obvious sign being a joint fundraiser. Thirty of their contributors gave to both (mainly as a result of the joint effort) but only one maxed out to both so far: Anita Malik of Salisbury. Other significant contributors to both Cohen and Spies are Mary Gibson of Salisbury ($100 each), Dorothy Truitt of Salisbury (also $100 each), P. James Doyle of Salisbury (also $100 each), David Suiter of Salisbury (also $100 each), Patricia Derrick of Salisbury ($100 to Cohen, $250 to Spies), and Gail Reilly Cross of Salisbury ($100 to each.) Whether that is enough for them to help the candidates or if they are holding money in reserve for the general election that both should easily qualify for is the question, and one which won’t be answered until late next month when general election reports are due.

I understand the business of politics, but I also have to ask if that’s an omission which would be made if Tim didn’t feel the need to hide that fact.

Still, Tim provided most of the exciting moments. That’s not to say others didn’t contribute.

Laura Mitchell “never thought I’d be doing this.” But she’s running for Council for her children and grandchildren.

She made a remark in her opening statement that I’d love to have clarified, telling us that she had been politically active on the state level. But she didn’t say in what manner, just that “voting is not enough.”

For the civil rights issue, Mitchell pointed out that we need affordable and livable housing, which most would agree with. But she also revealed as part of her answer that she’d grown up in “an abusive house” and was “determined not to repeat the cycle.” That was a surprise for most, including me, and something you rarely see in a politician.

She asserted that racial profiling “does occur (and) has occurred in the past.” We need a zero tolerance policy toward profiling, along with better training and incentives to keep officers on the city force.

In an echo of Spies on the health benefits issue, she believed that the City Council was trying to bypass the rules by proposing a charter amendment because they didn’t have a 4-1 majority to override Mayor Ireton’s veto. There were rules of order which needed to be followed to promote civility, she continued in answer to that question.

Turning to job creation, Mitchell also opined that we had overused enterprise zones during the boom times, but we could use them on a more limited basis for infill purposes.

Afterward, Laura informed me that I’d made an erroneous assumption in the “First reports” post, as her January event was not a fundraiser as I’d believed. (I’ve changed the post to reflect this.)

I already knew from previous forums that this was a city Muir Boda loved. But he was first to jump on the civil rights question, pointing out that it was a question of economic opportunity and among the measures to employ it were faith-based items. Considering the forum was held in a church and opened with a brief prayer, that was a winning answer. Even Tim Spies, who answered next, agreed.

He also had a little bit of a different perspective on the racial profiling issue since he worked so often with law enforcement – Boda said the situation was “getting better.”

Muir also expressed his disagreement with the health insurance charter amendment, saying it promoted an “atmosphere of contention.” He got points from most of the women in the room, though, when he remarked on civility that his wife is more right than he is – Laura Mitchell, for one, agreed it was a smart answer.

When Boda talked business, he believed that we needed to both reach out to the business community for ideas and take a page from the success of Berlin and its mayor, Gee Williams. We could also take advantage of Delegates Norm Conway and Rudy Cane, he thought. (Sorry, Muir, I see them more as roadblocks than problemsolvers.)

Finally, Muir told his fellow candidates that he appreciated the respectfulness they have exhibited as they were passionate without being personal. Afterward, he cleared up a question I had received from a previous commenter on the First reports post.

In essence, I thought Bruce Ford started out like he’d say a lot but really didn’t. “I need to make sure this community is viable” as a place for his kids to grow up in, he began. He had seen 13 years of “slow decline” in the city based in part on the negative coverage we get on the televsion news and local paper.

But one question which sprang to mind was when he spoke about “a lot of major concerns I need to look at” and then brought up the fact he works 80 hours a week at times. How does that affect his commitment to the job, particularly when he said in closing, “this is more important than me being elected…we need to ask is what we do right?”

Ford saw the Safe Streets initiative as a “first step” in addressing civil rights. But then he tossed out another idea, asking why some would pay rent that equals his house payment. Perhaps we could look into arranging financing?

If Bruce is saying what I think he is, well, our economy hit bottom in part because government tried to address this on a national scale.

Among the other questions, Ford believed it was “inappropriate” for the outgoing City Council to try and couch the health insurance issue as a charter amendment. He also had an idea about forming a committee to look for businesses appropriate to lure to the city.

If anything, though, Bruce was one of the candidates who seemed to always be a responder after the first one, so he couldn’t add a lot of new ground to the questions. He doesn’t seem very talkative to begin with, and being one of the later to answer didn’t help him in that respect.

Incumbent Terry Cohen spoke of her “culture shock” upon moving from Texas to Salisbury as a young teenager but realized “Salisbury is a town of potential.”

A couple items which helped her in politics was her membership in the Salisbury Business and Professional Women’s club (20 years) and the work ethic she inherited from her father, who worked for the Piedmont family of air carriers until the age of 86. I didn’t know she had served under two governors on the Maryland Commission for Women.

And she could use her incumbency to advantage in answering questions. She distinguished the roles of state and local government when it came to civil rights issues, while saying that “we break our kids” and tell teachers to fix them. When we neglect neighborhoods, we break our next generation, said Terry.

Since the relationship between the minority community and the police was “an important bridge,” Cohen praised new police Chief Barbara Duncan for being sensitive to those issues – she came from a community with numerous ethnic groups. Cohen also encouraged interested members of the public to attend the upcoming Citizen’s Academy to learn more about police work.

Obviously Terry was the target of the health insurance question, and she had to mainly recuse herself from answering. She did bring up a provision in the Maryland Constitution which prohibited a change of salary or benefits due a public official during a term in office.

Cohen also brought up a three-pronged approach to civility during Council sessions – prioritize issues, scrap the time limits as necessary to get the job done, and enforce the rules equally. (It was another, more subdued, slap at Council President Smith.)

Regarding business development, Terry contended “we can incentivize ourselves into a hole.” We need a diverse set of industries to create jobs.

She closed by reminding those attending that she had a track record of accomplishments, including the Maryland Safe Streets Program.

Joel Dixon seems to be a man of few words, and generally had some of the shorter answers.

But his reason for getting into the race – having $2,000 worth of property stolen “upset me a lot” and drove him to “go out and do something” is as sound as anyone else’s.

It was “ignorance between cultures” which helped aggravate our civil rights situation, and we needed to “break down barriers” to help fix it via interaction. “Racial profiling is wrong,” he added later.

Dixon didn’t agree with the charter process to address the health insurance issue either. Instead, civility dictated we follow the Golden Rule and “set your pride aside.”

He shined best on the business question, providing an example of where Salisbury didn’t promote a business-friendly environment and calling on the city to “market our strengths until we fix our deficiencies.” The campaign has been a learning experience for him, Joel concluded.

While Orville Dryden recounted his term as local postmaster-turned-bailiff to note on the crime problem, “it’s not all rosy out there,” he only vowed to work with other law enforcement agencies to tackle the problem. He seemed to retreat to the idea of “working together” a lot rather than propose more specific solutions. “I don’t know if crime has any color” probably wasn’t the answer those attending were looking for on profiling, for example.

Dryden may have ruffled the feathers of one of his opponents, though, when he asked why we should provide health insurance for City Council members when other employees are being furloughed.

Yet he was behind the curve a little when discussing the idea of spreading out impact fees over a period of time, as the city’s already taken steps in that direction.

Perhaps the one area he spoke differently was in asking people to get out and vote. He had the final word in the affair so that would be what stuck with the crowd most about him. “Make this one beautiful city,” Dryden concluded.

Finally, this brings me to the discussion of my question on redistricting.

As it stands right now, all five Council representatives live in an area west of Division Street, four of them live south of Business Route 50, and two live within blocks of each other in the Camden neighborhood. Admittedly, this situation could change for the better since all but Terry Cohen and Tim Spies live in other hitherto underserved portions of the city, but we could have three Council members in the same neighborhood if Cohen and Spies join Debbie Campbell on the City Council.

Not surprisingly, Tim Spies was dead-set against the reditricting idea, claiming it would “fragment the city.” Bruce Ford was also leaning against the idea, while Terry Cohen was open to a “robust” discussion of the issue and mentioned the fact similar changes were discussed at a work session.

The supporters of the idea had different approaches. Muir Boda would support the move, as well as having four Council districts and electing the Council president at-large. Laura Mitchell had a similar idea using Business Routes 13 and 50 to divide the city into quadrants. (That probably won’t work for equal population, though.) Joel Dixon and Orville Dryden also supported it, with Dryden saying that he may finally get a snowplow for his far east-side neighborhood. (As it turns out, he lives on the street behind me.)

Perhaps I have muddied the waters with the long post, but with five days to go and counting I’m still considering each candidate – even Michael Taylor, who missed the NAACP forum due to work reasons and didn’t answer my questions. However, later today I will put up a 20-minute audio interview I conducted with him earlier this week, which may clarify some of his positions.


I got an e-mail this morning from Tim Spies regarding the Camden Neighborhood Association presidency and his citation of my material.

In answer to your as-yet personally posed question regarding the presidency of the Camden Neighborhood Association, the association’s by-laws do not specify what actions are to be taken when an officer is a candidate for public office.  In 2007, I stepped aside for the duration of the campaign, the vice president ascended to the presidency and an interim vp was elected.  When the city election was over, the interim vp decided on his own to resign and I resumed the presidency by popular request.  We decided to do it differently this time, although, again, there are no rules to abide by.  I have resigned my position as president, effective as of our January 2011 meeting, the first meeting after declaring candidacy.  At that meeting I proposed no new business except to complete that resignation process.  In my ex officio capacity, I have no more control over the association than any other member at large.

Regarding my leaving out the last paragraph(s) of your council report on campaign contributions when providing it to forum spectators/participants, I felt that it was common knowledge that Councilwoman Cohen and I are sharing and contributing efforts toward one another’s campaigns.  We share many of the same opinions, but we are not connected at the hip – we have disagreements, but come to accord on virtually all of them.  We decided early on that a united front would better serve the purpose of meeting the sleaze and misinformation that characterizes the well-funded campaigns previously orchestrated by SAPOA.  As you can see from your own report, those contributions indicate the very real possiblility that several candidates are essentially fully funded by dollars donated by SAPOA members and/or “friends”.  I highly suspect that more maximum donations will come to those who seem to be SAPOA’s candidates of choice, possibly under individual and business names that are more or less unknown to the local public – from outside the city and even the state.  The rental industry in Salisbury has, at minimum, an annual income of $96,000,000.  As an organization, it exists, according to its opening website statement (which may have been softened since I first read it), to minimize the effect of government and community on its industry.  What better way to minimize government’s effect than to control it? 

I look forward to dialogue with you regarding this campaign and city government.

Tim, let me tell you – if it were “common knowledge” that you were coordinating efforts with Terry, it would have been just as common to know that SAPOA was backing some candidates as well – particularly when the forum is held in the part of town where many don’t own their homes.

And I’m curious – why are you turning your back on a $96 million industry? To get the same economic impact, we would have to import 1,920 jobs at $50k apiece. (Granted, a large portion of that money goes elsewhere but there will always be a rental industry here since it’s a college town. And a fair sum of that money comes right back to the city in taxes and fees.)

Waging jihad on SAPOA isn’t going to get the city anywhere, particularly at an economic period when homeownership is down.

Since I presume, by polling and other indications, that you’ll survive the primary election I look forward to continuing the debate.

First reports

This morning the City of Salisbury released 37 pages of candidate financial reports which cover fundraising for the pre-primary period. So who’s winning the fundraising race? Well, in order of finish for the period:

  1. Tim Spies, $2,360 from 45 contributors
  2. Terry Cohen, $2,155 from 49 contributors
  3. Orville Dryden, $2,100 from 9 contributors
  4. Joel Dixon, $1,850 from 9 contributors
  5. Muir Boda, $1,635 from 9 contributors
  6. Bruce Ford, $310 from 2 contributors
  7. Laura Mitchell filed her report stating, “contributions to date are insufficient to require a full report.” However, she did hold a fundraiser in early January so presumably she has raised a little money – just not up to the $600 threshold. (In speaking to Laura after the NAACP forum, she informed me the January event was not used as a fundraiser, so I stand corrected.)
  8. Michael Taylor filed his report with the same message, but listed contributions as zero.

Perhaps my polling isn’t so far off after all based on monetary results – the five who are leading the pack have significantly larger financial resources than the remaining three.

And if you look at the contributor lists, some interesting alliances occur.

Seven of the nine contributors to Orville Dryden maxed out their contributions to him (the city allows only a $250 contribution per candidate.) All nine also gave to more than one candidate:

  • Charlene Lococo of Berlin gave $200 each to Dryden, Muir Boda, and Joel Dixon.
  • Bret Hopkins of Fairfax Station, VA gave $150 each to those three.
  • Bryan Fox of Lexington, SC gave $250 each to Dryden and Dixon.
  • Paul Allen, also of Lexington, SC gave $250 each to Dryden and Dixon.
  • Gabriel Investment Company of Salisbury gave $250 each to Dryden and Boda.
  • Lauren and Keith Fisher, both of Salisbury, gave $250 apiece to Dryden and Boda.
  • Lynne Smith of Salisbury also gave $250 apiece to Dryden and Boda.
  • Susan and Arthur Spengler together gave $250 apiece to Dryden and Boda.

While I don’t know what each of these contributing individuals do for a living, one could construe this as evidence these three are the so-called “SAPOA” candidates. Boda only had two other contributions from individuals and Dixon received much of his other support from his family.

However, it can also be shown that Cohen and Spies are running as a team of sorts, with the most obvious sign being a joint fundraiser. Thirty of their contributors gave to both (mainly as a result of the joint effort) but only one maxed out to both so far: Anita Malik of Salisbury. Other significant contributors to both Cohen and Spies are Mary Gibson of Salisbury ($100 each), Dorothy Truitt of Salisbury (also $100 each), P. James Doyle of Salisbury (also $100 each), David Suiter of Salisbury (also $100 each), Patricia Derrick of Salisbury ($100 to Cohen, $250 to Spies), and Gail Reilly Cross of Salisbury ($100 to each.) Whether that is enough for them to help the candidates or if they are holding money in reserve for the general election that both should easily qualify for is the question, and one which won’t be answered until late next month when general election reports are due.

I should also send kudos to Brenda Colegrove, the Salisbury City Clerk, for making these reports available in a timely manner. It’s nice to get this information before the primary to assist in this important decision.

Informing the electorate

We know that the race for Salisbury City Council is a non-partisan one, and I’ve asked the candidates a number of questions which touched on how they would approach city issues.

But there is also a question of underlying political philosophy, and one answer where this is best expressed comes from which party they are registered with (if any) and which candidates or causes they’ve contributed to over the last few years. Are they already politically active in that respect or not?

So I asked a friend who had the registration records for a hand in determining their age, voter registration information, and what elections they participated in, then went to the Maryland Center for American Politics and Citizenship website to look up a few pieces of information on each candidate regarding their political contributions. While most had contributed to some candidates or causes, none came close to the maximum $4,000 per candidate or $10,000 per cycle allowed for each four-year electoral cycle. 

Muir Boda

Age: 37 (38 on General Election Day)
Registration: Libertarian
Voting Pattern: General Election 2006, 2008. (The Libertarian Party has no primary.)
Contibutions: Mike Calpino $25 (1 occasion), Libertarian Party of Maryland $180 total (4 occasions)

Terry Cohen

Age: 53
Registration: Democratic
Voting Pattern: General Election 2006, 2008; Primary Election 2006, 2008
Contributions: Jim Ireton $25 (1 occasion)

Joel Dixon

Age: 25
Registration: Republican
Voting Pattern: General Election 2008; Primary Election 2006, 2008
Contributions: Anne Arundel Fire PAC $270 total (8 occasions)

Orville Dryden

Age: 64
Registration: Republican
Voting Pattern: General Election 2006, 2008; Primary Election 2006, 2008
Contributions: Ron Alessi $100 total (2 occasions), Bob Ehrlich $45 total (2 occasions)

Bruce Ford

Age: 50
Registration: Democratic
Voting Pattern: General Election 2006, 2008; Primary Election 2008
Contributions: none on record

Laura Mitchell

Age: 45
Registration: Unaffiliated
Voting Pattern: General Election 2006, 2008 (no primary for unaffiliated)
Contributions: Martin O’Malley $20.10 (1 occasion)

Tim Spies

Age: 59 (60 on General Election Day)
Registration: Democratic
Voting Pattern: General Election 2006, 2008; Primary Election 2006, 2008
Contributions: Jim Ireton $30 (1 occasion)

Michael Taylor

Age: 52
Registration: Republican
Voting Pattern: General Election 2006, 2008; Primary Election 2006
Contributions: none on record; although there are several Michael Taylors in the state database none are from Salisbury.


So we have a nice variance of ages (from 25 to 64) and affiliations here: three Democrats, three Republicans, a Libertarian, and an unaffiliated voter. Something for everyone I suppose.

Admirably, they all seem to be relatively active voters as well.

If this is a help to your decision, that’s a good thing. I’m sure someone will criticize me for bringing party into a non-partisan election but it’s worth remembering that people change affiliations all the time (this information provided to me on voter registration is from July, 2010) and not everyone marches in lockstep with party philosophy – many Democrats in these parts cross over to vote for Republicans but we saw a number of Democrats win in 2010 and it couldn’t have been all Democratic voters pulling them through. Most voters cast a ballot for the person.

But in case you’re wondering, the two who will remain on City Council are both Democrats so if you want party balance that could factor into the decision.

Second C of C forum…well, it was different than the first

New moderator, new cast of characters, new questions – it was an interesting mix at the second of two PACE/Chamber of Commerce Salisbury City Council forum kicked off at noontime yesterday to a cast of onlookers which included the Daily Times, WMDT-TV, and two bloggers (although the other just took pictures.) The four gentlemen in the hot seat this time were Muir Boda, Joel Dixon, Tim Spies, and Michael Taylor.

Matt Creamer, who was supposed to moderate last week until he fell ill, did the honors this time after thanking Mike Weisner for handling part 1.

After each candidate had five minutes to deliver an opening statement, the questions dealt with health insurance for City Council members, the prospect of user fees for stormwater expenses, fire calls, non-resident accidents, and the like, afterschool programs, nonconforming uses, and a quick closing question on whether there should be a skateboard park in City Park along North Park Drive.

As I did last week I’ll go through each candidate in turn, with Michael Taylor drawing the first slot.

Taylor literally came from work to play his part; his task today was helping to set up the Civic Center for tonight’s Fernando Guerrero fight. He works for Wicomico County, but ran for Council to “help the city of Salisbury the best I can.” One piece of his past he pointed to in his opening statement was a background in construction.

Since Michael was brief in his opening statement and had allotted time remaining, Matt Creamer opened the forum to questions specifically for Taylor. I asked, given his construction background, whether he had any insight into improving business and development. Permitting and licensing could be “more user friendly…(it was) very, very difficult” to secure permits. However, Michael’s experience was that Salisbury wasn’t much different than other cities for permitting. (Perhaps this “streamlining” could be something we can take advantage of.)

Taylor “would say no” to part-time Council members getting health insurance paid for. He’d also say no to user fees unless they were “necessary, fair, and equitable.”

Michael informed the questioner regarding afterschool programs that the county already performs these tasks. “Having somewhere for kids to go is paramount.”

To Taylor, the mayor’s neighborhood housing initiative was “essentially killing an industry.” Instead, each of the seven parts should be passed on its own merits after some necessary “tweaking.” He added, in response to another audience question directed specifically at him, that we need a “balance” of places to live because many in the working class lack their own transportation, thus they live close to work in the city.

Finally, Taylor agreed the need is there for a new skate park, and the county’s parks and recreation department is looking into suitable venues for one.

Following Taylor in his opening statement was Muir Boda. Boda went over his background and work experience in his opening statement, pointing out that 1/3 to 1/2 of his current job deals with criminal activity. But he was running because “I love the city of Salisbury.”

“We all get frustrated with the political environment,” continued Muir, who called on the process to be “inclusive, not exclusive.” He applauded the current Council’s decision to spread out capacity fees over 24 months as “a wise decision,” and saying people affected by City Council “need to be part of the process.” He wrapped up the statement (and his time) by challenging the faith-based community to step up.

He agreed that City Council members don’t need to have their health insurance paid for, and while we could pick through the budget to question specific items from the past (as Tim Spies did in answering before him) the Council should have benefits similar to those of other part-time positions in the city.

Boda believed we could look into a stormwater fee, but the fire department could benefit from a system similar to Worcester County’s. There each department gets a base contribution but additional funding depends on the number of calls serviced. Muir also thought it time to take a fresh look at the tax differential.

Muir was familiar with some youth programs through his church, which served as a mentorship to WiHi. Government could create the environment but needed to identify partners to lend a helping hand.

The neighborhood housing initiative was an example of legislation crafted without input, Boda believed. He also opined that Salisbury was using the wrong comparison models – instead of Dover and Annapolis, he thought better comparisons would be Morgantown, West Virginia and Blacksburg, Virginia – towns which house West Virginia University and Virginia Tech, respectively. They have relatively similar renter to homeowner ratios as Salisbury’s.

Boda would only support a skate park if the residents wanted it.

Tim Spies described his experiences in the Navy and with returning to the Eastern Shore after his military service. In the early ’90’s he bought a house he described as a “fixer upper” and eventually he became involved with the Camden Neighborhood Association. He’s contributed “ideas, time, and energy” to the city since.

Crime was at the “forefront” of issues and the crime rate was “rather embarassing,” but “employers are what we need here.” And while crime was down 11 percent, as a questioner claimed, it’s gone up “400 percent” since he came to the city.

In responding to the question about health insurance for City Council members, Spies pointed out previous foibles like the acquisition of the Cypress Street property for the new Station 16 for $660,000 shortly after a previous owner bought the property for $175,000. “The foolish spending has to stop,” said Spies, but “$10,000 (to cover health insurance for Council members) is paper clip money.”

“I think you need more incentive (to run) than a $10,000 salary,” said Tim.

But when it came to a response fee for those from out of town who were unfortunate enough to cause an accident, Spies borrowed a familiar phrase. “You betcha,” he said. In addition, a stormwater fee wasn’t a bad idea but it had to be “scientific,” based on the total property area and impervious surface. “There is money to be generated,” he said.

Spies also reflected on his previous experience running the “Weed and Seed” program in answering the afterschool activity question. “We can’t have enough afterschool programs,” Spies enthused. He added that faith-based organizations have their place too.

The “seventh and most deadly” part of the neighborhood housing initiative turns out to be the nonconforming use provision. Spies doesn’t support it “to this point.” Compromise with the housing industry on that portion and get the other six parts rolling, pleaded Spies.

And build the skate park – just not in a dense residential district, concluded Tim.

Our final contestant in opening statement order was Joel Dixon. He drew the last position in his first public campaign event.

In his opening statement he passed around a prop – a chart from the Salisbury Police Department showing a 29.4% drop in Part One crimes vs. the total one year ago. It’s a “good step in the right direction,” said Dixon, a firefighter by trade who works in Anne Arundel County and volunteers here on his off days. He’s a volunteer lieutenant at the aforementioned Station 16.

He jumped into the race as a victim of crime. “I didn’t want to sit back and complain about it,” said Dixon. He also felt that his age (25) brought a different perspective than the others would have.

Since he also came in under the five-minute wire in his opening, Joel got the opportunity to confess his ignorance about a nearby community center in his first answer. But he promised to look into what was offered there.

On several of his answers, Joel came across as a fiscal conservative. For example, paid health benefits for City Council members would be “a good tool” but right now wasn’t the time for that.

“I don’t think I could support any new fees at this time” was his succinct answer to the fee question, although he conceded Anne Arundel County is implementing accident fees similar to what the questioner proposed.

Community-based and citizen-based afterschool programs could create the proper atmosphere for youth, Dixon argued. He also opined on the Neighborhood Housing Initiative question that there was no plan for relocating those affected and asked if they could afford the newly created single-family units.

In his final answer, Dixon echoed Muir Boda (who answered first) in leaving the question up to those affected. Joel’s answers were usually the most brief but generally conveyed the points he wanted to make adequately. (This also tended to be true in his responses to my questions.)

Upcoming forums include the AFP effort at Brew River next Wednesday and the NAACP forum at the St. James AME Zion Church the next night.