Elkton candidate forum marked by missing faces
Incumbents talk goals while challengers claim bias
— Following claims that the event would not be fair to all involved, only two candidates showed up to the Elkton Chamber and Alliance’s public forum for the candidates running for the town’s board of commissioners.
The event, held at the Patriots Glen’s clubhouse Monday afternoon, was open to candidates running for the two open seats, including incumbents Earl Piner and Charles Givens and newcomers Bob Gorman and Chris Zeauskas.
Only Piner and Givens showed up to the event, however, as Gorman and Zeauskas declined the invitation to participate in the forum last month in a letter sent to Roger Owens, chairman of the alliance.
The letter stated such reasons as the chamber accept- ing over $1 million in town funding over the course of the incumbent candidates’ tenure and Owens and Mary Jo Jablonski, executive director of the alliance and a town commissioner herself, praising Piner “as “the best commissioner we have ever had” during a luncheon earlier in April as evidence of the organizers’ bias.
They also noted that they have publicly been critical of the Elkton Chamber and
Alliance’s involvement in the town-backed plan to rent downtown space in order to block a nonprofit from doing so, potentially jeopardizing future development potential in the downtown. Zeauskas also made formal complaints and public allegations against Jablonski two years ago in regards to an email scandal, which she deemed was a misinterpretation and ultimately has yielded no charges.
“Given the numerous conflicts of interest, public disagreements, public endorsements, and otherwise stormy history, it is inconceivable that the Elkton
Chamber and Alliance can project even the slightest semblance of an unbiased entity,” the letter stated.
Owens acted as moderator on Monday, asking the candidates three questions, created beforehand by the board of directors, and giving candidates about five minutes to answer each question.
While Piner waited in another room, Givens answered the questions first. The situation was then reversed for Piner to make sure neither candidate heard the other’s answers.
“If elected or re-elected, what is your No. 1 goal for your term in office?” Owens asked.
Givens said he does not have one goal, but many he would like to accomplish if
One of his goals includes changing the image of the Elkton Police Department, saying he is tired of seeing media and social media outlets “antagonizing” the department, especially when the department has decreased crime. Capt. Joseph Zurolo, EPD spokesman, later verified for the Whig that crime decreased by 3.6 percent in town in 2015.
Additionally, Givens said he would like to make downtown more inviting to visitors to town.
His third goal is to have open dialogue with citizens and listen to their concerns and issues. He added the town needs a recreational center for people to go and enjoy.
Similarly, Piner said his top goal is to work closer with departments, organizations and other groups in the town to learn about their concerns and issues. He also said he would like to work closer with the police department.
“Social media posts have listed Elkton as a dangerous area. Others have said the numbers are misleading and exaggerated. What is your response to that and what would you do the change these perceptions?” Owens asked.
Givens said people need background information when looking at these statistics, such as knowing what type of crime is included, because that can change the interpretation of the data.
Piner said it starts with the police department. He said the police department needs to be equipped with the correct personnel and equipment to do their jobs properly.
“The state of Maryland offers grants and loans to businesses. What are your thoughts on utilizing these resources for the businesses in the town of Elkton?” Owens asked.
Givens said it is an “essential and important” way to help local business. He said grants have “played a significant part in the progress” in Elkton’s growth.
Piner said he encourages people to apply for grants and funding to help make their business goals a reality.
“Why wait to say what
we should have, when we could have it?” Piner said.
Following the board’s questions, audience members were invited to ask the candidates their own questions.
Among those with questions was County Executive Tari Moore, who is also a town resident, who asked how the board could strengthen the already strong working relationship with the Cecil County Council.
Givens said the board of commissioners and county council should have regular meetings to keep an open line of communication. Piner said he agreed, and it would be a good idea to discuss concerns or issues during a workshop meeting.
Matt McCoy, his fiancee, Tia Dangerfield, and their two daughters, Amaya (held) and Aubrey, are surrounded by supportive relatives and friends.
Roger Owens, chairman of the Elkton Chamber and Alliance, right, asks incumbent Commissioner Earl Piner questions during the public forum Monday.