A willingness to use incinerators to reduce Anne Arundel's and Annapolis' growing need for new landfills separates the Republicans from the Democrats in at least two County Council races.
County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, told the Severn River Association Wednesday night that she is opposed to trash incinerators because they send pollutants into the air.
Glenwood Gibbs, her Republican opponent in District 6, said he would like to see the construction of an incinerator, capable of converting Annapolis' trash into steam and electricity. An incinerator would be part of a complete solid waste program, including recycling and composting, aimed at keeping the Annapolis landfill open, he said.
Gibbs and Lamb were two of the seven council candidates who participated in the SRA's environmental forum. The SRA is an umbrella civic group representing more than 80 neighborhoods in the Severn River watershed.
During the 2 -hour forum in Annapolis, SRA members asked the Democratic and Republican candidates from Districts 2, 5 and 6 to outline their plans for recycling, encouraging mass transit, cleaning up polluted waterways and addressing other environmental concerns. Though unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election, District 4 Councilman David Boschert also spoke.
Most of the candidates stressed the need to step up county enforcement of erosion controls by increasing the number of better trained inspectors. They also agreed the county should preserve open space in its natural state by beefing up land trusts -- which offer tax incentives to property owners -- and through outright land purchases.
But the Democratic and Republican candidates from District 2 and 6 split over the use of incinerators.
Gibbs, a former CIA analyst with a degree in biology and geology, said he wants to heal the rift that has developed between city and county officials over the expansion of the city's Generals Highway landfill. Lamb is leading the fight to block that expansion.
As part of his solid waste program, Gibbs said he supports expansion of the city's landfill and permitting Annapolis to use the county's landfill in Millersville.
Lamb said she too would allow the city to use the Millersville landfill, but, only in lieu of expanding the Annapolis landfill. She favors starting composting and recycling programs at the city's landfill to reduce the volume of trash and the need for expansion.
"I'm definitely not for incinerators," Lamb said. "Four years ago, when I was younger, I know I was keen on them. But now I'm for composting because it doesn't have the emission problems."
In District 2, Democrat Edward Middlebrooks said he also opposes the use of incinerators, though he may consider a regional facility built and operated jointly by several counties.
Republican Ernest C. Michaelson said incinerators can be "appropriate if they are done properly." An chemical engineer for Chevron for 22 years and an environmental consultant, Michaelson said some of the leftover ash, which many consider hazardous, can be recycled.
Regarding mass transit in District 5, Democrat Linda Gilligan said the county needs more park-and-ride lots and expanded MTA bus service, particularly in Severna Park where a number of senior housing projects have been proposed. She also supports extending the Towson-to-Linthicum, light-rail train to Annapolis.
"As far as light rail is concerned, it's an expensive proposition and I won't commit to it," said Diane R. Evans, the District 5 Republican.
Even if the state has the money, Evans said finding an appropriate route would be difficult. The county has spent million of dollars to build a hiker-biker trail along the old Baltimore-Annapolis Railroad bed and to beautify the Ritchie Highway corridor, virtually eliminating them from consideration.
Boschert said he favors construction of a Disney World-like monorail between Odenton and Annapolis along the abandoned Washington-Baltimore-Annapolis Railroad. In Odenton, Annapolis commuters could hook up with Amtrak and MARC trains into Washington and Baltimore.
Middlebrooks came up with one of the most novel suggestions for the evening. To stop sediment pollution into the creeks, the Glen Burnie attorney said the county should create an emergency task force to respond to the site of violations, repair any damage and then bill the construction contractors responsible. "We can't sit around and wait while a rain comes to carry away the sediment," he said.