Harford County

Election 2002

October 31, 2002

HARFORD COUNTY faces some of this region's starkest development problems, with houses going up at a record pace and schools and infrastructure unable to keep up.

That has meant terrible overcrowding in schools throughout the county, and it has meant a tax increase for county citizens, many of whom blame county government for not handling the situation better.

This year at the ballot box, voters have a chance to elect an executive and council who might be more creative (and more aggressive) in their efforts to control development. The Sun's picks would be the most likely to accomplish that goal.

County executive: Republican incumbent James M. Harkins has been taking a beating during the campaign over everything from his handling of development issues to accusations that his leadership style is arrogant and heavy-handed.

But Mr. Harkins did not create the mess of sprawling development that's choking county services right now; his predecessor did. And though he has made mistakes in response to that development (relying too heavily on new taxes, for example, to offset new costs) he has also been strong on preservation and has begun a promising effort to rein in further sprawl.

If Mr. Harkins needs anything for his second term as executive, it's a more independent council that will check his decisions. The council's new district system should help achieve that, but voters also have to do their part by electing enough new voices.

County Council president: Change for the council starts here, where incumbent Democrat Gunther Hirsch has been a pleasant leader but has not established a truly independent role for the council.

Republican Robert S. Wagner, a 12-year member of the council, supports redirection of development efforts toward the aging Route 40 corridor and favors excise taxes over impact fees for new developments. His ideas and experience would provide strong leadership for the council.

Council District A: Dion F. Guthrie is a strong Democratic challenger in this south county race, and a virulent critic of the current council's failure to challenge the executive's will. But Republican incumbent Susan B. Heselton's love of nature, the environment and open spaces makes her too valuable a voice to go without.

Council District B: Democratic challenger Valerie H. Twanmoh is the preferable candidate in this western district. She understands the need to control growth, while incumbent Veronica L. Chenowith hardly acknowledges development as a problem.

Council District C: This Bel Air district would best be served by Republican Robert G. Cassilly, a Bel Air town commissioner who believes the county must seek more creative revenue sources.

Council District D: Democrat Michael G. Comeau gets the nod narrowly over Republican incumbent Lance C. Miller. Mr. Miller has been a strong proponent of land preservation, but Mr. Comeau provides more forceful opposition to development.

Council District E: Democrat Barbara Osborn Kreamer would best represent this eastern county district. She's a former state delegate and County Council member with command of a wide range of issues.

Council District F: Democrat Philip J. Barker would provide a fresh new face in this district. Mr. Barker's many years of public service and his insistence that growth be controlled win him the endorsement over Republican Cecelia M. Stepp.

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