What do you consider the greatest accomplishments and failings of the Glassman administration?
Johnson: The administration has achieved success with its Green Initiatives and continuation of the Agricultural Preservation Program. Allocating resources in the amount of $1.2 million for a school resource officer in each middle school and providing funding for additional security measures in all county public schools provides an extra layer of protection for our children. The public relations, marketing materials and videos promoting Harford County are consistently released to the public. The deterioration and devaluation of the Rt.40 Corridor didn’t start under the current administration and it hasn’t improved under the current administration. The Rt. 40 corridor is a major commercial area located within the development envelope. The redevelopment of the corridor is vital to future economic and business growth in Harford County. To spur interest and investment in the redevelopment of the Rt. 40 corridor the public sector (government) will need to have vision, flexibility and creative incentive packages. Tourism/Hotel Occupancy Tax – Harford County Bill No. 14-035 - Revise the current legislation to redefine or eliminate the “tourism and/or tourism related activities” as a qualifier for the Hotel Occupancy Tax Bill. Transparency is needed to track all of the revenue collected including the portion not awarded to non-profits and municipalities. Ensure the communities located outside of the municipalities receive a dedicated percentage of the hotel tax collected in their respective areas to be used towards community and economic development improvement projects. Support a designated percentage of the hotel tax to be annually allocated to the Visit Harford organization.
Does Harford County have adequate resources to meet its needs, particularly in the funding of public schools and law enforcement?
Johnson: Yes, Harford County has adequate resources to meet the needs of funding public schools and law enforcement. The goal should be to utilize the resources effectively and responsibly while increasing the tax base through economic development and smart growth. As the overall tax base increases the resources available for public schools, law enforcement, county employees, road improvements, snow removal and other public services increases.
Have the county’s land use policies adequately balanced growth and the preservation of existing communities and agricultural land?
Johnson: Over the past three years, Harford County has experienced very little growth in terms of redevelopment and new development projects. Business attraction and retention have been stagnant in Harford County as two big economic development and employment deals went to a neighboring county.; Lidl, a German supermarket chain and an Amazon distribution center both located in Cecil County. Additionally, Medline Industries is moving from its current location in Harford County to Principio Business Park in Cecil County nearly tripling the company’s workforce and adding 200 new jobs. The Proposed Fiscal Year 2019 Operating Budget has record-level funding of $22 million from revenue dedicated to preserving agricultural land. Preserving open space and agricultural land increases the quality of life for residents of Harford County. However, there are neighborhoods and communities within the county in need of investment, development and redevelopment projects t to increase the quality of life and living standards.
How do you rate the county’s efforts to fight opioid addiction overdoses? What else, if anything, should the county be doing to combat the epidemic?
Johnson: The Harford County Department of Community Services and the Office of Drug Control Policy are doing a good job with its efforts to educate and combat the opioid addiction epidemic. The Department of Community Services offers a wide array of services to residents and does an outstanding job of communicating through public relations and media campaigns. The opioid epidemic is a national crisis and Harford County has done a satisfactory job in trying to combat the crisis.
How would you characterize the relationship between the Harford County Sheriff’s Office and the communities it serves? Are any reforms necessary?
Johnson: There is always room for improvement between law enforcement and the community they serve. Establishing a relationship with members of a community or a particular neighborhood is essential for the purpose of preserving the peace and creating trust between officers and residents. Recruiting and hiring law enforcement officers that live in the communities they police as well as sharing similar backgrounds and experiences increases the opportunities for successful partnerships and relationships.
The Glassman administration is trying to lead Harford County’s formerly all-volunteer fire and emergency medical services to more a professional organization with more paid personnel. How do you rate the county’s effort and what should have or could have done differently in this controversial transformation?
Johnson: The successful Fire & EMS Association should always have a voice and a seat at the table when decisions are made about the particulars of the Emergency Medical Response System in Harford County. The transition is still fairly new and will need to be observed and evaluated by measurable and quantifiable results over the coming years.