Growth, planning, crime on minds of the 13 candidates

County Council

Maryland Votes 2006

October 29, 2006|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

Thirteen candidates for six seats on the Harford County Council are expounding on growth, education, crime and transportation, hoping their ideas catch on with voters.

Incumbents and newcomers, including Harford's first Green Party candidate, all vow to work to win right up to the Nov. 7 election.

"I am still working to convince one voter at a time," said Mary Ann Lisanti, a Democrat running in District F. "I am still waving at intersections, knocking on doors and sitting down with people in their living rooms."

Managing development has emerged as voters' overriding concern in a county facing unprecedented growth in the next few years, due largely to the nationwide military base realignment, the candidates said.

"There is no magic bullet," said Richard C. Slutzky, 63, a Republican seeking re-election in District E. "It took us a long time to get into this situation, and it will take a long time to get out of it."

Democrat Dion F. Guthrie, 68, vying for a second term representing District A, said, "We need progress, but we have to do it right. We have done it backwards by building houses without roads or schools."

The third incumbent Republican, Veronica L. "Roni" Chenowith, who will be the senior council member if she wins a fourth term in District B, said, "If you don't get a handle on crime, all the rest won't mean anything."

Most candidates are calling for more police, and Republican Christopher J. Biggs, 24, Guthrie's opponent in District A, has a plan for enticing high school graduates into law enforcement.

"Pay them to get an associate's degree in criminal justice, and then ask them to give us at least five years," Biggs said.

While campaigning, Biggs has compiled a list for police of "the problem houses" in several neighborhoods, he said.

Incumbents stressed the value of experience, particularly when the council tackles a contentious rewriting of the zoning code early next year.

"I have four years' experience, and that learning curve gives me a distinct advantage," Slutzky said.

Chenowith, 68, said she has a hands-on record.

"I go hard 60 to 70 hours a week in this job that takes time, common sense and responsibility," she said. "I am not about bashing the other guy. People can look at my record. My opponent has no record."

She actually has two opponents in District B: Democrat Valerie Twanmoh, 49, a Bel Air attorney; and Green Party candidate Brian Bittner, 27, a teacher and debate coach at Towson University.

"I want to use legislative power as a tool to make my community better," Bittner said. "I am looking to rewriting lots of things. The incumbent has written less than five bills in the last four years."

Twanmoh, who is well-versed in zoning law, is running for a third time against Chenowith.

"I deal with planning and zoning on a daily basis," said Twanmoh. "I understand the way things work and I know how to make changes we can handle."

Three candidates - Lisanti, Republican Chad Shrodes and Democrat Joan Morrissey Ward - would bring years of planning experience to the council.

"We have all worked together and know what to do and how to plan," said Shrodes, 32, a District D candidate. "But you can't implement plans unless you are in control."

Ward, 49, a former county planner now working as a transportation consultant said, "I have worked on planning issues for 12 years and dealt with community councils. I won't start from scratch."

In District C, Ward faces Republican James V. McMahan Jr., her fellow Bel Air town commissioner.

"I have enjoyed working with my opponent, but he does not have the background to handle the county job," she said.

McMahan, 67, said his broad business background, as well as military and police experience, would enable him in the job he intends to work at full time.

"The county is a business and must be run like a business and have accountability," he said.

District F also pits two former colleagues against each other. Republican John P. Correri Jr., 54, mayor of Havre de Grace, said his decades in municipal government provide a good basis for leading the county.

"This all boils down to experience and lessons learned as an elected official," he said. "I have good tools for the job."

His opponent, Lisanti, 38, a former city manager of Havre de Grace, said effective government is critical.

"People want their government to work for them," she said. "They are looking for creative answers as opposed to rhetoric. They want leaders who can develop and implement policy."

Guthrie is hoping for a win and some Democratic company on the council so he can drop his "lone Democrat" status.

"The tight governor and Senate races will bring out a lot of voters," said Democrat Terence Cox, 44, who is running against Shrodes in District D. "No one is a sure bet. The more voters who show up, the better for everybody."

Democrat Leonard Wheeler, 68, Slutzky's opponent in District E, agreed.

"The top ticket will help the Democrats," said Wheeler, who is running his first political campaign. "A lot of races will be close and end with a messy tally."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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