Should county government incentivize growth in the county through zoning and, if so, what types of growth (residential, commercial, high density, etc.) should the county focus on and why? What steps should the county take to comply with state-mandated planning requirements?
Robert: My vision is that Carroll will be the Best place to Raise a Family. To achieve that vision, I am for responsible residential and commercial growth. I am against high rises and high-density growth. Growth should be in a reasonable way and not all growth should be dumped into the unincorporated area of Eldersburg. Each town controls their own growth and planning and the Commissioners should work in tandem to fulfill each towns’ own vision for appropriate growth. For Sykesville, Warfield is being modeled as a living/working community with residential areas and corporate headquarters with some smaller amount of retail. One of the development concerns is how to best update and utilize the historic buildings. I will work in conjunction with Mayor Ian Shaw to make sure that the development proceeds in a smoother manner. Sykesville Main Street merchants are sensitive to possible competition from Warfield retail. Hopefully a good partnership can be worked out and one of the ideas includes have a tram/trolley going back and forth to connect the two areas. The State of Maryland, Carroll County, and the Town of Sykesville have been working together over many years to see that Warfield comes to fruition.
What is your vision/strategy for economic development in the county. What incentives do you think are appropriate to lure businesses/employers to Carroll?
Robert: I would encourage aggressive action to invite new businesses. When small towns were dying we took on the challenge in 2007 to turnaround Sykesville’s main street, we turned Sykesville into the “Coolest Small Town in America”. My Vision is to do the same thing to make Carroll the “Best Place to raise a family” which of course inculdes thriving businesses. So I would encourage utilizing a multi prong approach to Economic development in the County. Employers are looking for a pro-business environment where their business would be welcomed, and their employees would have good housing and good schools. We also want Carroll to be a destination. I am currently on the Pilgrimage task force which is mapping out ways to bring history to various parts of the state and Carroll has several locations. I will encourage our Economic Development team to take an aggressive approach to bring good corporate partners. Several members of my team have high level positions in technology companies and would like to see more technology inside Carroll. We would like to see more technology companies locate here. One suggestion being discussed would bring a Data Center to Carroll. Technology is an excellent growth area for the county. I will work to help make Carroll more pro-business.
Approximately 47 percent of the county’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget goes toward Carroll County Public Schools. Do you believe this number is appropriate, too low or too high? Should there be a set percentage of the budget dedicated to public education each year?
Robert: If we want Carroll County to be the best place to raise a family, we want spectacular schools. We have very dedicated folks and we need to provide more resources for them to be most effective. We should have a better working relationship between the Commissioners and the Board of Education. When the starting salary for teachers was one of the lowest in the State of Maryland, it sent a strong signal that Education was not valued. I will work to make sure that does not happen again. Much of the funding for education is formula based and mandated, so a set percentage would be nice but not practical. I have some unique funding mechanisms that I will be offering to increase resources. I currently have the backing of 3 current Board of Education members and the Teachers Union. I think that listening and understanding the plight of our very dedicated educators is the first step. As a former teacher and College administrator, I understand some of the issues that can appear in a classroom and additionally how colleges view various high school students seeking admission into selective colleges. I am in the midst of visiting all of the Schools in District 5 to see and hear what are the current issues in each. I will also work to finally provide turf fields inside Carroll County.
Do you believe existing revenue sources are sufficient to effectively cover necessary expenditures in Carroll County? Currently a supermajority (4-1 vote) is required to raise taxes. Do you think that is appropriate or should only a simple majority (3-2 vote) be required?
Robert: During my 8 years on Sykesville’s Town Council I never voted for a tax increase. Governments, just like any house hold, or any individual, can easily desire to spend more. However we do need more resources in certain key areas. An immediate need is to combat the Heroin/Opioid Epidemic. I am fine with the 4-1 vote necessary to raise taxes. I would also like to have the public be able to have input on taxes and other issues with the ability to more easily bring issues to referendum. There are times when the public needs to be able to overrule politicians’ actions or in some cases actually push them to act appropriately. Referendum action can be a powerful tool.
Do you support or oppose a move from the commissioner form of government to charter government?
Robert: I will work to provide more access and responsiveness to our county residents. The current form of government for the county needs some updating. Our county residents need to have more input on issues. I will work to allow more opportunities for this input and also to more easily bring issues to referendum. We have been very fortunate that Maryland has a Republican Governor that listens to the concerns of the residents outside of the politically powerful zones. This has not always been the case. Now maybe the best time to insure this freedom for the future. If we can provide more freedoms for Carroll County residents by making some changes and updating the form of government then I am all for it. If it is just another level of bureaucracy, then I am not for it.
Enabling legislation in the Maryland General Assembly gives county government authority over fire and emergency services. What do you see as the best path forward for emergency services in Carroll County?
Robert: With the need for two income families growing, I can see that the volunteerism for our emergency services is diminishing. I would like to see a planned and appropriate way to add professionals to this group. I would like to study how this has best been implemented by other jurisdictions and utilize the best practices to do so in an orderly fashion but still allowing the volunteers to participate with the appropriate training. In Sykesville, we have an excellent auxiliary police force with volunteers that augments the professional police force. Hopefully we can get to a similar place with our Emergency services.
What do you believe county government’s role should be in combating the opioid epidemic?
Robert: We have an Epidemic in Carroll County dealing with the Heroin/Opioid crisis that our county folks have done a great job of slowing the progression of deaths. I am a big fan of what Tim Weber, Tammy Lofink, Brian DeLeonardo and the Sheriff are doing. I have attended several programs in the High Schools, Community College and Libraries. I like the aggressive tactics versus the dealers and the offer of help to the victims. With my 22 years of experience in the medical arena, I have some additional ideas to implement. We have not tapped all of our resources to combat this Epidemic.