The next installment of The Dagger’s Q & A with candidates in the 2014 Gubernatorial Primary Election features the Republican candidates running for Harford County Council President.
Among the three candidates who filed to run in the Republican Primary Election for the council president seat (currently occupied by Billy Boniface, who is not seeking re-election) are former county council candidate Todd Paterniti, current County Councilman Richard Slutzky, and former County Councilman and County Council President Robert Wagner. Their answers to The Dagger’s three questions appear below. (Note: Slutzky was reluctant to participate and ultimately decided not to answer the questionnaire. His explanation is stated below.)
Dagger: County council members often make decisions in areas where they may not have expertise, such approving tax increment financing proposals, expanding the development envelope, or approving multi-million dollar capital projects. Briefly describe the experience/skills you would bring to the county council and how you make decisions in areas outside your expertise.
Paterniti: My name is Todd Paterniti. I am employed by Re-Steel Supply Company. My position is specialty steel business development manager. I am also an insurance representative for Mutual of Omaha, an entrepreneur and a Candidate for County Council President.
I bring multiple levels of expertise and skills to the County Council. My experience and skills range from business owner to a genuine concern and a large visual perspective for the community’s safety and growth. I have been involved in many youth programs in Harford County and groups for business growth.
My visual perspective sees families holding picket signs on weekends and community meetings for the over developing of land. I do not like seeing these events in the county. Any decisions I would make outside my expertise would come from the experts, which are the citizens of Harford County for they will have to live with the outcome of our decisions.
Slutzky: After much deliberation I decided to pass on this opportunity. I have made electronic responses to political questions in the past but have never been comfortable with this format.
My careers and experiences are available as public information along with my voting record and I would encourage interested citizens to look up that information.
Wagner: I have been a life-long resident of Harford County, attending our public schools and graduating Harford Community College. Currently I am employed as a freight broker, and am a farm owner and landlord. From 1990 to 2006 I was elected to serve as councilman and council president (2002-2006). I gained a vast amount of knowledge and experience during my years on the council. With regard to making a decision that I need additional insight, I would seek expert advice from a qualified source; i.e.:bond counsel, attorneys, business-people.
Dagger: Please cite a previous decision by the Harford County Council with which you either strongly agree or disagree, and why.
Paterniti: Rather than point out issues from the past, let’s go with decisions that the County Council needs to focus on moving forward. The fact that more children are denied a vocational education than the ones that receive one, traffic volume, traffic flow, the overcrowding of schools, safe growth of our community’s and that no child should be denied bus transportation to school.
Slutzky: – No response.
Wagner: I STRONGLY disagree with the way this current council has sought to re-write and manipulate the county’s charter for their own self gain. They changed the two year provision whereby now an elected official can go from losing a re-election bid to immediately being employed by the county. Proposing that deputy directors are appointed is a wrong approach and trying to “unload” the council’s duties as the zoning board of appeals is wrong. All these charter changes and proposals are self serving and do not serve the public better. Look to the mishandling of the proposed Walmart and Eva Mar projects as further examples of issues that should have been handled very differently and more openly.
Dagger: The Harford County Council is charged with certain responsibilities. Among them are: Enacting legislation, adopting the budget, overseeing the redistricting process, and serving as the Zoning Board of Appeals. Looking ahead, what issues within the council’s purview are of specific interest or concern to you and why? Please cite two issues.
Paterniti: The overseeing of the redistricting process and that the County Council needs to oversee all aspects of the county, including education in conjunction with the Board of Education for budgeting and future growth. Citizens build communities and poor planning tears them apart.
The second thing that concerns me is Zoning Board of Appeals, this is a key roll for the County Council and it needs to remain a key roll of the council. The County Council also needs a common sense approach to zoning and the appeals process. Each district has its own unique characteristics from buildings, homes, silos, cell towers, trailers, boats, tractors and farmland and we need zoning rules that apply a common sense approach.
Slutzky: – No response.
Wagner: As we enter what I believe to be even tougher economic times, very strong budget oversight is needed on behalf of the council. We will have to do more with less, wherever we can consolidate and share resources, we will. We MUST restore accountability, and transparency. I would welcome public participation, which I see as all but shut out currently. The council’s own budget needs trimming because of the waste this council has approved. To a large extent, what one council changes, the next can put back or fix. I don’t see the brokeness in our charter and would seek to restore much of what this council has found to be problematic. I welcome the challenges ahead and would like the opportunity to lead the next council, one that is responsive to the people that it serves.