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Live Blog: Patch Mayoral Debate at HHS

Patch hosts a debate for hte mayors race—closed to the public but open to HHS students

The debate has concluded and students have returned to class. Check Havre de Grace Patch for updates through the election and full video of Friday's debate.

1:46 p.m. The question-and-answer portion has ended. Both candidates took time to make closing statements.

Dougherty: “Please, please, stay interested in government,” he said. “The key to everything—you are our future.”

He told the students they will be the ones making future decisions.

Shank: “A couple things we didn’t cover, and the big one is, ‘Go green,’” Shank said. “Wouldn’t be great if some day we could promote ourselves as 'Havre de Green,' instead of Havre de Grace.”

He said he is in favor of water turbines in town to save money on power. Shank said he would invest in Havre de Grace students’ futures with city government internships.

“On May 16, if Mitch Shank is mayor, come knocking on my door because I’ll be looking for interns,” he said.

1:43 p.m. A junior student directed her question specifically to Shank. “Were you one of the people in charge of trying to close ?”

Shank: “No,” he answered. “I [just] don’t want to see the visitor center in there.”

Shank said he would love it to be used as a reception hall.

“I am very much in favor of preserving that building,” he said.

Dougherty: “How do I do this nicely?” he said. “The mayor’s very happy where the visitor’s center is right now.”

The mayor said, “I have been very pro-Tidewater Players and entertainment.” He added that the building has to be "rehabbed" and that he has been working for two years to find grant money to install an elevator in the building.

Dougherty said Shank’s statement that Dougherty was looking to put a visitor’s center in the building is “misinformation.”

1:39 p.m. Both candidates declined a rebuttal.

1:38 p.m. For the sixth question, a student asked: Aberdeen was going to have a retirement community … until they told the mayor of the city they wanted to be tax-exempt for 15 years. Would you offer any special tax incentives and where would you plan to build these homes if Presbyterian Homes wanted to come to Havre de Grace?

Shank: “The biggest thing I’ve heard for two years is the taxes, the expense,” he said. “Our property taxes in Havre de Grace are 20 percent higher than Bel Air’s. ... To give a large corporation basically a tax break for an indefinite period of time, I would not be willing to do that.”

Land at Greenway at Bulle Rock would be a possibility Shank said.

“I’m willing to talk to them,” said Shank, before emphasizing that he would not support a tax break.

Dougherty: “When I saw that the legislation failed in Annapolis … I said I’d be more than willing to listen to what [they] have to say,” he said. “There was nothing discussed to giving a tax abatement.”

Dougherty added that an annexation would have to be added for the originally scheduled project plan, but that a reduced project could fit at Bloomsbury Park. He agreed that a parcel at Greenway may be a good fit, too.

“We need senior housing in the city,” Dougherty said. “It could be a win-win situation for the city," with a revised project plan.

1:35 p.m. Rebuttals for question five:

Dougherty: The mayor said Upper Chesapeake will be working to make sure the existing does not become a vacant building.

Shank: “It’ll be a great addition to Havre de Grace. And that most important thing to me, it’ll create jobs,” he said.

1:33 p.m. For question five, a student asked: Would you allow the rezoning of Barker’s farm?

Both candidates agree that the property has been rezoned and that a hospital is scheduled to be built on the property.

Dougherty: The property is set up for a mixture of retail and office, Dougherty said, and that Upper Chesapeake plans on putting a hospital in.

Shank: “I’m very excited about the hospital on the hill,” Shank said. He is concerned about what will happen to the existing hospital on Union Avenue, but that the new hospital will create jobs.

1:30 p.m. Rebuttals for question four:

Shank: “I envision a new building. ... We’d probably have to put you in portables on this parking lot for awhile,” Shank said. “I envision a new building—state-of-the-art.”

He is in favor of wireless technology in the school, too.

Dougherty: “My favorite phrase is, ‘Make it happen.’ And we will make it happen,” the mayor said. “I assure you that my administration has been working hard in these four years and we are looking toward the future. … But you cannot accomplish everything in four years.”

1:28 p.m. For question four Dan DiMeo asked: What timeline do you envision for a new building for Havre de Grace High School and how do you plan to involve the city government in that process? Additionally, why hasn’t Havre de Grace High School received a magnet program, and what could city administration do to help attract a magnet program to Havre de Grace High School?

Shank: The councilman said the school should pursue an environmental and arts program, but that the city “has not gotten involved in this debate before.” He said Councilman Randy Craig has worked with him on these initiatives and that they will come to students for help.

Shank also said that some Havre de Grace Middle School students don’t attend Havre de Grace High School because the class quality is not high enough.

Dougherty: The mayor said the City Council recently approved a resolution to “put a group together” and explore magnet programs and “come together and get our direction.”

Dougherty said he agrees with Shank that they should pursue arts and environmental programs together.

He added that he is discussing a potential new school building with County Executive David Craig and that Havre de Grace High School’s cafeteria hasn’t changed since his wife graduated in 1961.

1:23 p.m. Rebuttals to question three:

Dougherty: He said also served on the tourism commission and the board of directors for the Chamber of Commerce. He added that he is active with Havre de Grace High School.

The mayor wants to form a committee of students to meet with the economic development and tourism departments in the city.

Shank: “He’s been mayor for four years, why is it now he comes knocking on your door?” he asked. “I’ll do it … one day after I get sworn in.

1:21 p.m. For the third question David Link asked: Teenagers and young adults in Havre de Grace don’t have very many options for entertainment. We have to leave the city to shop, go to the movies or find other entertainment. How can Havre de Grace better cater to young adults and families. If elected, would you try to make Havre de Grace more student-oriented and family-friendly?

Dougherty: The mayor said he has done a lot of research on bringing new opportunities for entertainment to the city. He has explored bringing a movie theater (to) town but is waiting for an update from those assigned to researching the possibility.

Shank: Shank said he is qualified to revitalize downtown because “while Mayor Dougherty touts it, I’ve done it."

He added that Dougherty supports more professional services instead of retail businesses.

“I see my vision for the Route 40 corridor is more shopping, some major department stores,” Shank said.

1:17 p.m. Rebuttals on the second question:

Shank: He said the biggest expansion of homes has been in Bulle Rock and that those residents don’t get the same services as the rest of the city, and that money is not spent on those citizens.

Dougherty: “That is a gated HOA community,” Dougherty responded. He also stated that Bulle Rock residents voted to remain a private-street community without having the city provide services such as maintaining roads and lawns.

1:16 p.m. Ben Getz asked: The number of city employees has grown roughly 20 percent in the last six years. Mr. Shank has proposed a hiring freeze until the current budget has been finalized. Patch has reported Mr. Shank proposes to leave three full-time (positions) and one part-time position vacant to cut back on spending. Mr. Dougherty has stated he feels the city has the right amount of employees for its needs. Can the city restructure its workforce to make it more functional to the city’s needs, as well as save the taxpayers money?

Shank: “Mayor Dougherty’s been on the City Council since 1998 and government continues to grow and grow and grow,” Shank said. He also supported lower tax rates and said the budget has a 7.1 percent overall increase scheduled for fiscal year 2012 and that it equates to 40 less pizzas a year for families.

Dougherty: He said he instituted a hiring freeze when he was first elected mayor and that three positions have been left open since to save money

“Our city has grown, it has grown at a rapid rate,” Dougherty said. “The only increase that we have right now is because our boundaries have grown, the job has become more complex and there’s more work to do. ...

“That budget increase is grants that I have placed in the budget—that is not taxes.”

1:11 p.m. Rebuttals on the first question:

Dougherty: The mayor said local businesses have an opportunity to bid to serve for the city and that local businesses will have the opportunity. 

Shank: The councilman said the city has two websites: one for tourism and one for city. He believes they should be “bid out together” so that the same company can handle them and the city can save money.

1:09 p.m. The first student question has been asked by senior Sarah Waldron: While conducting research for this debate, many students ran into problems navigating the city website. Both Mayor Dougherty and Councilman Shank are on record as supporting general upgrades to the city website. Specifically, though, how would you improve the city website to better serve citizens, businesses and potential visitors?

Dougherty: “One of our biggest problems as far as the website is concerned is our computer space and our server space,” Dougherty said.

The mayor said he has budgeted money in fiscal year 2012 for a “total overhaul” of the computer system.

Shank: “The biggest problem with the website is that the administration has a contract with a company out in Ocean City, [Maryland],” Shank said. “The number one priority under Shank administration is to hire local people.”

1:06 p.m. Dougherty's video discussed growth in the downtown area and maintaining reasonable taxes for citizens while allowing them to live within their means.

Shank's video, shown second, said the city needs "a few things straightened out" and a "new direction." He said he will bring change to Havre de Grace and that the two main problems are water and sewer rates and that the community needs to be brought together.

1:02 p.m. Candidates each have two minutes to respond to questions that will be posed by the students. Each candidate will also have one minute for a rebuttal. Both Dougherty and Shank have been introduced and their prerecorded videos are being shown to the students.

12:54 p.m. Both candidates have arrived and are at their respective podiums with Havre de Grace Patch editor and debate moderator Sean Welsh seated between them. Students from AP Government and Politics class will present some of the questions. The debate is being recorded on video and will be posted on Havre de Grace Patch at a later date.

12:45 p.m. Havre de Grace High School students are entering the auditorium as we prepare to host a debate for the mayor's race. Incumbent Wayne Dougherty and challenger Councilman Mitch Shank will square off soon. The election is Tuesday at St. Patrick's Church Hall.

James P. Miller April 29, 2011 at 05:31 PM
Thank you Sean for posting this. The only thing missing is the crowd reaction.
Sharon Duncan April 29, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Very good questions by the students. I'm both impressed with, and proud of the student interest in our city government.
Tom Fitzpatrick April 30, 2011 at 09:32 PM
At first, I had my doubts about how valuable this would be, other than to awaken the student's interest in civics. And it obviously worked!!!! Judging by the questions, our high school students ARE paying attention!!!! If they form that habit now, and keep it, we'll all be better off!
Biller's Bikes April 30, 2011 at 10:21 PM
Civic awareness starts early! Huge kudos to Patch and everyone at Havre de Grace High School that helped make this debate happen. -Walter
Ben Michalski May 03, 2011 at 01:38 AM
I guess after 14 years of listening to who is going to save our city from some perceived or real threat. Who struck john, who pushed john, why john didn't get a permit or why john is doing what john does, why john has a $300 water bill...this election looks very similar to the one's in the past or any in recent history for that matter. Another desperate and quintessential battle of ego's, self-riotous indignation and more self centered whoey to get back at someone for something whether real or perceived. OR...politics as usual in what now may be a country on the brink of death by criminal greed and hogwash. Frankly....folks out there know dang well who's qualified and who aint....again whether real or perceived....the perception of reality is far more important and measurable than "real" reality. Most political games are nothing more than a manipulation in social behavior at best and a legally sanctioned game of three walnut shells and a pea at worst. The question will unfortunately boil down to who has the better rap, who is more articulate and who is going to put some bucks back into the pockets of us "great unwashed". The problem with this self prophesying revolving political door...is that the "Big Guy" ..the person or persons who pull the real strings will be waiting in the wings to usher the newly elected into the halls of personal legacy. It's not as apparent in the local counsels but it grows... as long as the ego grows. That. will always trump good intentions.

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