Arundel council candidates answer questions

6 seeking Cohen's seat face issues other than slots

December 13, 2009|By Nicole Fuller | nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

The candidate chosen to replace Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen on the Anne Arundel County Council will cast an important vote in the slots debate just days after becoming the council's District 6 representative on Dec. 17.

But the new council member, who will represent Annapolis for about nine months before having to run for re-election, will also have a role in shaping other legislation and voting on important issues like rezoning and the county's budget.

Councilman James Benoit created questionnaires on topics such as education, growth, fiscal issues and the environment, for the six candidates to complete as part of the application process.

The candidates are:

•Cynthia Abner Carter, vice president of the board of the Annapolis Housing Authority; former Annapolis alderwoman

•Charles W. "Chuck" Ferrar, owner of Bay Ridge Wine & Liquors

•John A. Giannetti, attorney and former state senator

•Lisa Hillman, a senior vice president at Anne Arundel Medical Center

•Michael G. Miller, real estate investor

•William Moulden, middle school science teacher

Here are some of their thoughts, edited for space and clarity:

Question: What, if anything, should the county do to support an effort to help businesses weather the current fiscal crisis?

Abner Carter: I will join in all neighboring communities and counties to begin promoting the work of small and minority business operations. Develop a center of communications to help them and their families through the recession to continue their service and overcome obstacles that are leading them to failure.

Ferrar: As this county has done, a temporary decrease in fees was a good start. However, we have to be proactive and look for ways to attract new businesses to Anne Arundel County. We should have a program to bring high-tech jobs to our county by giving strong incentives, similar to what Northern Virginia and Montgomery County have done.

Giannetti: To help businesses in any financial crisis, the county must have a finger on the pulse of the business community and must react quickly and directly to any signs of sickness. … Without a major expense, the county can help qualified companies secure business loans by entering into a short-term strategic partnership, which essentially guarantees loans upon default. The Economic Development Corp. and various county agencies can use current resources to evaluate and strengthen applications. … Anne Arundel could pave the way with a new business-centric entity which would create from within the current business community and would exist to provide low-cost business crisis advice, planning assistance and resource identification.

Hillman: The clearest signal to the business community to express support for their efforts during this fiscal crisis is to adopt as conservative a budget as possible to sustain a low tax rate.

Miller: In good times, as well as in bad, a fundamental rule of government should be "first do no harm." In the context of the current national financial crisis, this means at a minimum that county government should avoid increasing the relative burden of taxes and regulations on residents and local businesses. The county has a robust program of encouraging business and economic development. These efforts, while long-term in nature, are vital to growing employment and opportunity. They should be sustained, even in the face of budgetary pressures. The county should continue to be proactive in leveraging external resources including federal stimulus funds and BRAC-related opportunities. County officials should listen to local business people, and be as responsive as possible in today's resource-constrained environment.

Moulden: Stay out of the way. Do not promulgate any new regulations that hinder current business activity. For businesses incorporated here in Anne Arundel County, foster policies that engender deferential treatment, an Anne Arundel County first.

Q: Comprehensive Rezoning will take place in 2010. If selected, what are your priorities relative to the Comprehensive Rezoning?

Abner Carter: We have experienced tremendous growth, with many new residents from other counties and cities nationwide. We also have to be careful not to overlook the many thousands of homeless families who have lost their residence and have no stable addresses. The census process will ... help us to have a better understanding of the needs during rezoning.

Ferrar: We need to focus on growth in priority-funding areas where we have existing infrastructure. I would like to see zoning that encourages revitalization of existing and aging commercial centers. We should carefully listen to communities that would be affected by any zoning changes to ensure that we do not change the character of the neighborhood. We need to achieve a balance in zoning that gives us the ability to increase the tax base, in order to provide the best public safety and education, while protecting and enhancing our environment.

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