Activists plan to expand reach

Aberdeen Communities Together looks to Havre de Grace, Edgewood

December 02, 2007|By Madison Park | Madison Park,Sun Reporter

After playing a key role in the Aberdeen elections, members of the grass-roots group Aberdeen Communities Together say they hope to expand their political influence into neighboring areas such as Havre de Grace and Edgewood.

With three of the group's endorsed candidates winning last month, the group, which goes by the acronym ACT, recently gathered to celebrate the results, which included the defeat of former Mayor S. Fred Simmons, whom they blamed for promoting unbridled growth.

Standing in front of a banner inscribed with "Congrats to us," members sipped ginger ale and sliced a vanilla sheet cake decorated with the words "Thank You, Aberdeen." They toasted new Mayor Michael E. Bennett and City Council members Ruth Elliott and Ruth Ann Young.

But the success in the municipal election carries more significance, members say. The group's leaders are discussing a new focus, including involvement in a hodgepodge of issues, such as the city's lease deal for Ripken Stadium, water needs, youth activity and the federal military base realignment.

"We've earned a sizable amount of political capital. We want to build on it, not expend it," said Chuck Doty, the founding member of the group. "If we pick the wrong items and issues, it won't help citizens or the group."

The group's leaders are working to identify their next political objectives, but many are looking to their neighbor to the north. Many members live between Aberdeen and Havre de Grace.

"We're going to start focusing on Havre de Grace," said Charles Wallace, another ACT founding member. "I think we need influence in both towns."

Members say they plan to attend Havre de Grace civic meetings.

"We feel that Havre de Grace is close in proximity," Doty said. "The nature of some of their issues are similar to ours. It's a natural place to go."

ACT is also casting its attention to Edgewood, where a group of community leaders has been discussing whether to pursue incorporation.

"Each time in the past, basically the costs involved and citizens on fixed income have stymied every attempt," Doty said. "Knowing what has been successful for us, our recommendation to them is shoe leather. The door-to-door campaign is one area that we've gained experience in. By sharing this information with other groups, a lot of good can be done."

By knocking on doors of regular voters and displaying eye-catching signs, ACT members played a significant role in the campaigning that led up to the Aberdeen election last month.

The group formed in 2006 when several residents opposed an attempt by the city to annex about 500 acres. The residents launched a vigorous effort to lobby against the proposal, which was defeated in a 2006 referendum. The group also accused Simmons of ramming the annexation through the political process.

Wallace said that 18 months ago, before the group formed, he was averse to being politically active because of the time commitment.

"We have businesses to work in and operate," he said. "But here we are in the community every weekend working how many hours. ... You know what? It made a difference, and we're not about to let that go. With the right focus, with the right vision, we can accomplish anything."

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