Candidates Talk Issues At OPAC Forum
Patch covered Tuesday's candidates' forum.
If you couldn’t make the OPAC meeting Tuesday, don’t worry.
I took notes for you.
Below is a condensed, as-fast-as-I-could-type-it recap.
In closing, moderator Dr. David Jaffe wrapped up the forum by saying: “We’ve got a very bright and engaged group of candidates here. Speaking personally, more so than I’ve seen in memory here. This is going to be a great election, we can’t go wrong.”
8:30 p.m.: Candidates are asked to tell something about themselves that reveals something about their character:
- Glenn: Commitment is unparalleled. Always there, giving of himself. Goal: “I want to make a difference.”
- Scharbrough: Professional and committee experience lends to bringing unbiased, professional
- Miller: May appear gruff, but approaches things in a matter-of-fact fashion and speak the things that others think. Said he works for everybody without playing favorites.
- Cullum: Feels he has integrity. Married for 44 years; 42 years with hose company, 33 years with government, 16 years with council.
- Smith: Calls it a “save the world complex.” Conflict resolution in Harlem, NY. Treated patients in Jamaica. Career took him away from that. City is at scale to allow for giving back.
- Martin: Live with honor, integrity and fairness. Be part of the solution and not the problem. Wishes America was what Havre de Grace is.
8:23 p.m.: Candidates were asked about their take on could be planned for a youth venue or something for teens:
- Smith: Build off what’s in place. Pool for summer; ice rink for winter.
- Martin: With three kids, it’s important to him. Bring to council, he’ll support it.
- Glenn: As a coach, focus is on kids and programs.
- Scharbrough: Rec center is great. Encourage younger kids to do more community service and get involved.
- Miller: All councils have heard the concern. Parks and Recreation program is in support of many youth activities.
- Cullum: Activity center isn’t just for seniors. Can’t provide a place for unsupervised activity.
8:17 p.m.: Candidates were asked how they would encourage businesses to maintain “look-and-feel” to fit in with downtown Havre de Grace, as well as investing in downtown Havre de Grace:
- Cullum: Budget offers personal property tax break of up to $500. Façade programs through Main Street. Pro-business programs should be supported.
- Smith: Good job has been done so far to address historical issues. Untapped potential remains. Get the word out better on points of interest. Create incentives, reduce penalties.
- Martin: Believer in free market. Businesses struggle to stay open as it is.
- Glenn: Tax credit a positive first step. Change business hours. Creatively encourage people to go downtown.
- Scharbrough: Maintain buildings for public safety and as an incentive for visitors.
- Miller: Several programs are available. City can’t dictate what private owner can do, but can encourage.
8:11 p.m.: Candidates were asked their take on the city’s rental ordinance and the need for it:
- Miller: Was initially in favor, but data collection didn’t amount to anything. No lists on rental properties. Issue at hand is landlords. Citizen committee formed, but nothing has been brought to council from that committee.
- Cullum: Initial ordinance was too complicated and cumbersome to enforce. In support of re-writing the ordinance.
- Smith: Has to be balance for tenant and property-owner rights. Needs to be a balanced approach to property rights and supporting and protecting tenants.
- Martin: Is “anti-slumloard” but “pro-rental.” Ordinance was designed to address issues found from police department when visiting poor conditions.
- Glenn: Collectively, the best answers can be found in gathering key stakeholders. Doesn’t have all the answers.
- Scharbrough: Supports home ownership, making simple for first- and second-time home buyers. Prefer a citizen-home-owner to an out-of-town landlord.
8:05 p.m.: New candidates are asked their knowledge on the Lily Run issue as it pertains to the OPAC community—on the water-side of Juniata Street south of North Park
- Scharbrough: Problem that has existed for quite a while. City should ask for the state to recoup some funds to channel Lily Run and allow for sediment to settle before reaching the bay.
- Smith: Hasn't been solved, indicative of difficulty. Engineering and financing are the main issue. Thought council didn't give proper response to high school envirothon team's proposal during a recent council meeting.
- Glenn: Has seen flooding first hand. Documents that came from studies are many. In short term, minimize flooding by clearing debris. Also go after grant funding.
7:59 p.m.: Candidates are asked their stance on bicycling and walking in the city:
- Glenn: Thinks the community has made great strides and should look for further safety.
- Scharbrough: Worries about safety. Proponent of health and fitness, but suggests an off-street place for biking.
- Miller: The Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway will allow for a trail from the Conowingo Dam to Oakington. The issue is money and time. Plans in place for trails around town, and eventually, perhaps, across the Susquehanna River.
- Cullum: First priority should be safe walking and biking across Route 40. Improvements in bike safety have been made.
- Smith: In support of providing help for bikers to have easier access to downtown Havre de Grace. Why not provide bike trails throughout the region?
- Martin: Moped and scooters should be encouraged, too. Havre de Grace is primed for alternative transportaiton
7:53 p.m.: Incumbents were asked to clarify their stance on their votes on Sustainable Maryland Certified. Challengers were asked to provide their stance on green initiatives.
- Martin: Voted against joining Sustainable MD Certified, because it was a new program. Took cautious approach on the program, but is in full support of the green team.
- Glenn: An active recycler. Thinks council voted against as there was some ambiguity.
- Scharbrough: Has increased recycling to two bins a week. Would review legislation.
- Miller: MML and state rolled out program based upon a successful program in New Jersey. There was confusion in Havre de Grace, and there would be no cost to citizens.
- Cullum: Voted in favor of the program. On the board of directors with MML and felt it wouldn’t promote something detrimental to municipalities. Will push for and support it. Grant funds are available.
- Smith: Offers a chance to shine. The environment calls for bold stances. High school’s Envirothon team should be leaned upon.
7:47 p.m.: Candidates were asked about structure at City Hall, increased police force, and what services would be cut first with the suggested tax cuts:
- Smith: Doing an analysis of job efficiency would be important.
- Martin: We will cut taxes and we will not cut any services.
- Glenn: Look for areas within government operations to make the city more efficient.
- Scharbrough: City staff is cross-trained. Look at new technology. Can’t cut services in favor of tax cuts.
- Miller: Proposed tax cut without cutting staff. Great city staff.
- Cullum: Would never support cutting services to cut taxes. Have great employees who go above and beyond. Area within city has doubled since he joined council.
7:42 p.m.: Candidates are asked their favorite events to attend and businesses to visit downtown:
- Cullum: Hits about a half-dozen weekend events because he travels on weekends. Businesses: Amanda’s, Lyons and Joseph’s are among the businesses he visits.
- Smith: First Friday, Farmer’s Market regulars. Riversweep last weekend. Businesses: Art Rooms, Amanda’s, Laurrapin. Opening his own business in July.
- Martin: Tries to make all events. Businesses: Java By the Bay, Laurrapin, Brewster’s.
- Glenn: Tries to make all events “because my wife likes to spend money.” Opted not to single out businesses.
- Scharbrough: Serves food at American Legion. Enjoys coffee, book store, art store, Brewster’s.
- Miller: Tries to hit all events. Businesses: Orange sherbert at Brewster’s best around. Goll’s Bakery. Pizzazz, Island Jack, Biller’s Bikes. Businesses often close at 5 p.m., making it tough for him to hit.
7:35 p.m.: What commitment are you willing to make to encourage home ownership versus rentals in downtown Havre de Grace?
- Miller: Proposed a five-cent tax reduction last year. One penny on tax rate equates to $140,000 for the city to use.
- Cullum: Tax rate will eventually hit a point where it must stay flat in order to maintain core services.
- Smith: Asks, what if we hit an issue and don’t have the funds to address them?
- Martin: Tax rate was at 65 cents when he joined council.
- Glenn: Supports continued decrease in taxes.
- Scharbrough: Lending standards are tight and that’s what’s hurting home ownership.
7:30 p.m.: Candidates, specifically those from Bulle Rock, are asked about an issue last year where Bulle Rock residents wanted a tax credit because they felt they were not getting fair services from the city:
- Scharbrough: Some residents didn’t do their research, he said. Rates aren’t different in Bulle Rock, but taxes are based upon home values.
- Miller: The city can do some things to make things more fair for residents in Bulle Rock without costing the city.
- Cullum: Residents may not have been aware of what they were buying into. The neighborhood was to be an adult community that did not leave a burden on the city. Willing to work with Bulle Rock on trash pick-up but streets don’t meet county standards and can’t be taken on by the city.
- Smith: Not the first planned development that he’s lived in, and understands covenants. There are some shared-service models that can be put into place.
- Martin: Does not believe in a special taxing district. Was proud to bring The Paddocks into the city. Has no problem with discussing the addition of Bulle Rock to Havre de Grace’s services.
- Glenn: Taxes are part of life. Developer opted to build gated community.
7:23 p.m.: Candidates are asked to give their thoughts on the proposed rate increases for water and sewer, and if they have any alternative suggestions:
- Glenn: Rate increase is the best option for now. Look to gain efficiencies in water plants. Credits current council for their work on the rate.
- Scharbrough: The city has its hands tied on the fund, but should look to the state and federal government for aid.
- Miller: Not in favor of raising rates to make loan payments. City needs more efficient operations. Raised rates will lead to individual water conservation.
- Cullum: The problem isn't new and isn't going away in the short-term. The city will close the gap in about four years, possibly sooner if housing development picks up.
- Smith: It is what it is and can't be radically changed. The "what if?" questions should have been asked to plan ahead for issues such as a stalled housing market.
- Martin: Voted against a prior five-percent rate increase. Now fully believes in the three-year schedule after seeing the response to the flat rate.
7:15 p.m.: Candidates are asked, what is your feeling about and solution to the problem of a lack of integrity of the historic quality of downtown?
The question comes about in the light of the new 7-11 built on Union Avenue.
- Martin: Teaches the value of history for a living. He said the 7-11 was built into an area that was zoned for one.
- Glenn: Main Street facade program is a plus. Equates the issue to eating an elephant—one step at a time.
- Scharbrough: New businesses should assimilate into the downtown landscape. Grants and tax breaks should be used to help improve facades.
- Miller: The zoning code was set in 1982 and there was no way to stop a 7-11 in the historic district in Havre de Grace. Miller said, "We can't legislate people's property rights away from them."
- Cullum: Likes old houses, lives in one built in 1899. Would like to see homes restored.
- Smith: Moved to Havre de Grace in part for the charm. A city can't legislate how property use developed, but a city can encourage development.
7:08 p.m.: Candidates are asked if they support the push for hotels in the 21078 zip code, as hotels seem to congregate around the Riverside exit on I-95.
- Joseph Smith: He is in support of the idea of a hotel in Havre de Grace. He said a hotel has to meet "a charm requirement" to fit into the city.
- Bill Martin: A hotel-conference center would be great for Havre de Grace
- Dave Glenn: The city is missing out on a significant hotel crowd
- Barry Scharbrough: A parcel of land to hold a hotel isn't available to his knowledge. He feels a hotel should be focused downtown, rather that to the outskirts of downtown.
- Jim Miller: Said he felt the property owned at the I-95 interchange wasn't owned by the right people when an opportunity arose.
- Fred Cullum: More activities and events in Havre de Grace should draw an investor to build a hotel in Havre de Grace. Property availablility may be an issue, he said. He said he feels a hotel at the I-95 interchange is very likely.
7:03 p.m.: Candidates were asked a two-tiered question.
For challengers: what issue inspired you to run?
For incumbents: what resolution that you introduced are you most proud of?
- Fred Cullum: A resolution that set in place a funding mechanism for the fire department and the ambulance corps that increased revenue as the emergency calls and the city’s population increased. He said he’s also proud of establishing an emergency fund for the general fund.
- Joseph Smith: His neighbors and others in the city gave Smith the drive to run for council.
- Bill Martin: The ordinance to mandate carbon monoxide detectors.
- Dave Glenn: Tourism and the city’s profile to the region.
- Barry Scharbrough: It was the first time he’s been eligible to run. Bringing the city together as a whole was also important.
- Jim Miller: It’s tough to take individual credit for passing legislation. He closes by saying he's happy to have contributed a bathroom to Tydings Park.
6:45 p.m.: Candidates begin their introductions, starting from right-to-left from the audience's view.
- Jim Miller is seeking re-election. Miller has served six years on council. He was short and to the point passing his time down the line to the other candidates.
- Fred Cullum is seeking re-election. Cullum has served 16 years on council. Cullum draws laughs by pointing out the
- Joseph Smith is seeking election. Smith said he's been a frequent visitor to Havre de Grace before moving to the city a few years ago. Smith was elected to the Harford County Democratic Committee, and is a founding member of the Bulle Rock Civic League. Smith said he plans to open a business downtown in the coming months.
- Bill Martin is seeking re-election. Martin jokes that the back-lit table felt like "The Last Supper" setting. Martin is completing his fourth year as a councilman and second year as council president. Martin recognizes his wife, Taryn, who is in attendance at a forum for the first time tonight.
- Dave Glenn is seeking election. Glenn points out that his wife and parents are in the audience. Glenn said he should be coaching Martin's son, Devon, at Stancill Field. Glenn said he recognizes up front that he doesn't have the answers and, "It's not my seat, it's your seat."
- Barry Scharbrough is seeking election. He recognizes his wife, Mary Ann, who is in attendance. Scharbrough said he would like to work with the mayor and City Council to continue moving the city forward. Scharbrough is a disabled veteran. He said the basic city services are crucial for the city to provide.
6:43 p.m.: Six of the seven candidates are seated at the front of the room—Robert Sawyer is the only candidate not in attendance.
The candidates are back-lit by a setting sun.
6:40 p.m.: Dr. David Jaffe begins an introduction to the event and an explanation of the OPAC group, which was formed by concerned citizens in the northern end of historic Havre de Grace approximately 10 years ago.
The forum will end at 8:30 p.m., Jaffe said.
Jaffe will moderate the forum, but those in attendance can a fill out an index card with a question for Jaffe to ask of candidates.
Jaffe's wife, Brenda, is the timekeeper.
Candidates will have three minutes to deliver an opening address, and they'll have one minute each to respond to follow-ups.
6:33 p.m.: The forum is about to begin. Plenty of open seats at the church hall.
I've seen at least six candidates in attendance.
6 p.m.: The OPAC Candidates' Forum will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the St. Patrick's Church Hall on Pennington Avenue—the same location of the polling place for the May 8 election.
Candidates invited include incumbents Fred Cullum, Bill Martin and Jim Miller, as well as challengers Dave Glenn, Robert Sawyer, Barry Scharbrough and Joseph Smith.