With just a few days before Aberdeen voters go to the polls, the mayoral and city council candidates worked hard Wednesday night at the Candidates Night Forum to demonstrate why they would be the best choice to represent the city for the next two years.
Nine of the ten active candidates (all 3 mayoral candidates and 6 of the 7 running for city council) fielded 9 total questions generated by some of the approximately 100 people in attendance and The Dagger, which moderated the event.
Those 9 questions included:
1. Why are you running in this year’s election?
2. How would you position Aberdeen to reap the greatest benefit from BRAC?
3. What is your position on a hotel tax for Aberdeen? If you support it, how would you overcome opposition to the tax?
4. What is your opinion of the city’s current obligations under the Ripken Stadium contract?
5. What is your position on Aberdeen’s water supply issues?
6. How would you lower taxes or generate new revenue for the city? Would you annex or are there specific city departments, services or areas you could cut back?
7. How effectively do you feel the city police department is handling its duties? How might the department improve its service to the community? Do you believe the Aberdeen Police Department is adequately funded?
8. Would you support term limits for city council members and the mayor? How long should each serve?
9. What is your one (1) priority if elected/re-elected?
The last question, with extra emphasis on the ONE priority, seemed to give the candidates most pause. Here is a summary of each candidates’ one (well, in most cases) priority if they are elected:
Young: Presbyterian Homes project with regard to the water and sewer hook-up rates
Bennett: Continue to grow the commercial base and job center in the city
Hiob: More public connection at city council meetings, especially letting citizens ask questions directly to department heads
Kreamer: Lower your tax bill and then annexation won’t be so scary
Elliott: “Listening to people.” Elliott then went on to rattle off about 4 other priorities, blind and deaf to the protests and gestures from the crowd and moderators. In fairness, Elliott ended up demonstrating she’s already on top of her first priority – when one woman in the audience stood up and shouted “ONE!,” Elliott promptly listened and passed the microphone down to the next candidate.
Garner: Presbyterian Homes of Maryland Inc. “The city will lose milllions.”
Kupferman: Priority is prioritizing priorities
Landbeck: Acquaint the city with the comprehensive plan
Todd: Make sure citizens get a return on their investment of taxes
Some other highlights from the Aberdeen candidates forum included:
- We had some trouble with our live video feed at the start of the forum (don’t ask me to explain), but fortunately Todd, who admitted to me earlier in the evening that she was “really nervous,” had to get up and make a stop in the restroom. That bought us enough time for our best technical minds to get together and resolve the glitch.
- Once it was up and running about 125 people watched (at least part of) the forum live via the streaming video on The Dagger.
- About 80 seconds into answering her first question, Kreamer’s microphone shorted out and stopped working. She quickly turned toward the moderator’s table and sat down – thinking we had cut off the volume because she extended beyond her 90-second time allottment. “We don’t have that power,” I said. “It must have been a higher power.” Strangley, Kreamer seemed to be the only candidate who had microphone problems throughout the night. Maybe a higher power truly was involved.
- When addressing term limits for the mayor and city council, Garner patted Kupferman, who was seated to his left, on the arm and said “No offense. I don’t think we need a Senator Byrd” (referring to U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd – the longest serving member in Senate history, with a half-century in office). The crowd broke out into laughter and Kupferman, who was first elected to office in the same year I was born, thanked Garner for the nice transition.
- Kreamer was the most theatric of the candidates – standing for almost every question, reading and referring to literature she handed out, and at one point even weilding a city budget document as a prop.
- Young was more subdued. In her closing statement, she read quietly from a poem about greatness.
- Hiob launched two interesting ideas: rebooting the city’s former walking community meetings and the possibility of Aberdeen adopting in-district elections to ensure representation from all portions of the city.
- When it came to Ripken Stadium, Hiob said he would go directly to Cal Ripken Jr. to talk “as fellow Aberdeenians” about what can be done. Not to be outdone, Kreamer said she would take the issue to the next branch on the family tree – straight to Cal’s mother, Vi Ripken.
- Garner was one of the few candidates brave enough to invoke the name of Sen. Nancy Jacobs as the primary roadblock preventing Aberdeen from reaping the benefits of a hotel tax. Most of the other candidates simply referred to her as “the senator.”
- Notable attendees included Del. B. Dan Riley, Harford County Councilman Dick Slutzky, delegation candidate and TEA party organizer Patrick McGrady, county executive candidate Steve Wright, Havre de Grace Police Chief Teresa Walter, George Harrision – treasurer of the New Harford Democratic Club, and plenty of Aberdeen city employees – including a department head or two.
- Notable absence was city council candidate Trudie Norman, who never sent in an RSVP and did not show up for the forum.