Choices put on display
Chamber forum highlights primary races
— More than 200 people got a chance to examine the positions of those seeking county office on issues such as spending, animal control, crime and more Tuesday night at a candidate forum at the Milburn Stone Theatre organized by the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce.
The forum was the most highly publicized opportunity for the public to hear from the Republicans seeking the county executive position and, perhaps most importantly, two county council seats.
No Democrats filed for the council races, meaning the winner of the Republican primaries in District 1 — largely the area below the C&D Canal — and District 5 — largely the greater North East area — will be the de facto winners of the seats.
At the top of the primary ballot will be those seeking to replace outgoing Republican County Executive Tari Moore. Republicans Joe Carabetta, Greg MacDonald, Alan McCarthy and Dan Schneckenburger will face each other in the April 26 primary, where the winner will move on to compete against Port Deposit Mayor Wayne Tome, the
lone Democratic candidate for county executive, in the Nov. 8 general election.
First, however, they sparred on Tuesday night, answering questions from a panel comprised of chamber members Bob Palsgrove, Kathy Kunda and Mike Ratchford.
Carabetta, who recently retired after 34 years at Aberdeen Proving Ground, described himself as a hard worker who is only loyal to the taxpayer.
He wants to phase-out the personal property tax on business, which he thinks will promote business growth. Carabetta favors expanding county sewer service only to residents and businesses who want it and he wants the users to pay for it, not all taxpayers. He also thinks the county should create a one-stop shop for the public seeking permits.
“I’m more experienced in Annapolis than the other candidates because I served three terms on the Republican Central Committee and made many trips to see lawmakers,” he said. “I know a lot of people at all levels of government and can work well with them, if elected.”
He said that while he supports Cecil College, he doesn’t not believing in raising taxes to fund new
services. Carabetta added that he would build a budget from the ground up and not raise taxes.
County Council Vice President Alan McCarthy, who is completing his first term in office and forgoing a chance to run for re- election by seeking the county executive position, described himself as a “common sense” candidate who understands the issues and is most qualified.
McCarthy, who has been a strong advocate to extend infrastructure to attract business growth, said he would make the necessary investments in the growth area. He also envisions improvement of the county’s business friendliness by streamlining services, improving customer service and auditing the system. He said his budget style would be to determine revenues for the year, then assign funding based on priorities.
In response to a question on the importance of the role of Cecil College, McCarthy, who has served eight years on the Cecil College Foundation as a financial adviser, he said he would continue his support.
“This is our future,” he said.
A question aimed at finding out how well each candidate can work with other officials to get things done prompted McCarthy to give three examples: working with multiple levels of
government to bring water service to the communities affected by the Pearce Creek dredge site, working with the town of Elkton to bring public sewer service to the YMCA and working with the town of North East to bring natural gas to town residents and businesses.
Councilman Dan Schneckenburger, who is midway through his first four- year term, said that, if elected county executive, he would reorganize county staff from the top down to gain efficiency.
He disagreed with Carabetta on funding for sewer expansion in the growth corridor.
“We absolutely must use taxpayer’s money to pay for this,” he said.
Schneckenburger, a former president of the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce, said the county tries to be business- friendly but needs to improve.
When asked about his ability to work with others, Schneckenburger pointed to his coordination of a meeting on Bainbridge with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and Bainbridge Development Corporation members at the Donaldson Brown Center, which he said got action within three days from the Maryland Department of the Environment.
He touted his experience, along with his council colleagues, at cutting the county executive’s budget last year as proof it
can be done.
Greg MacDonald, a former W.L. Gore employee for 18 years, struggled with nerves Tuesday night in trying to get his views known.
“I’m nervous up here and it shows,” he told the audience, adding, “But, please speak with me. I do have a vision and I have the drive.”
MacDonald said he’s been long interested in state and national politics, but only in recent years became interested in local politics.
“I would draw the line on making taxpayers pay for infrastructure,” he said during the discussion of how to expand infrastructure on Route 40.
MacDonald agrees with the other candidates who say permit policies and procedures need to be made easier and faster for the public.
“I think the college is valuable and we should support it as much as possible without raising taxes,” he said.
Because he has not held an elected office, MacDonald cited his work experience at Gore as teaching him how to work in collaboration with others to get a project done. Three debate for
council While Tom Cole, a candidate District 1 council, was not able to attend Tuesday night due to a health issue, his opponent Bob Meffley participated
along with District 5 candidates Jackie Gregory and Paul Trapani. Council members are elected atlarge, but must live in one of the five districts up for election. This year’s winners will replace outgoing Council President Robert Hodge and McCarthy.
None of the council candidates have held elected office, but Trapani did serve two years on an appointed citizen budget advisor y panel for the county government.
Meffley has owned H&B Plumbing for 37 years, while Trapani owns the Boat Warehouse and Sunset Cafe and Gregory spent 17 years teaching school and another seven years as a grassroots political activist.
Meffley said he would trim any redundancies of county government services to spend tax dollars more wisely, while Gregory believes the use of more technology would result in efficiencies. Trapani thinks all county departments could be trimmed.
Meffley and Trapani both said they support County Executive Tari Moore’s decision to take over animal control, but Gregory said she would prefer a private contractor operation, saying, “the county’s between a rock and a hard place on this.”
Meffley and Trapani would formulate a budget after speaking with department heads and looking for
fat, but Gregory said her plan would be to design a budget that supports the strategic plan, while separating “needs from wants” and using more technology.
All of the candidates also agreed that it’s best for the council to work as one collaborative unit to support entire county, not individual council districts.
When asked what the county should do to help attract new employers, each candidate differed slightly.
Gregory said that “it’s time to install infrastructure now and stop talking about it,”
On the other hand, Meffley said the county needs to lower business fees and do a better job marketing itself.
Meanwhile Trapani wants to streamline the permit process, lower business fees and taxes, and maintain good schools to attract business growth.
As the candidates summarized their qualifications for council, Gregory took a final swing at Trapani, her opponent in District 5.
“You don’t have to be a marina owner to know which way the wind is blowing,” Gregory said as she criticized Trapani’s choice of former County Commissioner Jim Mullin as his campaign treasurer, noting Mullin’s position in favor of planning maps that Gregory believes took away property rights.
Republican Cecil County Executive candidates Greg MacDonald (top left, clockwise), Joe Carabetta, Alan McCarthy and Dan Schneckenburger fielded questions during a chamber of commerce forum Tuesday night.