Party change seen as county race’s top is­sue

Demo­cratic county coun­cil can­di­dates out­line pri­or­i­ties

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By JOHN GRIEP jgriep@star­dem.com

EAS­TON — Democrats run­ning for Tal­bot County Coun­cil largely agreed on the ma­jor is­sues, in­clud­ing what they see as the most im­por­tant one — en­sur­ing Democrats are elected to the coun­cil.

Six of the seven Democrats — Keasha Haythe, Naomi Hy­man, Robin Page, Rose Pot­ter, Mau­reen Scott-Tay­lor and Do­minic “Mickey” Ter­rone — seek­ing the party’s nom­i­na­tion in the June 26 pri­mary spoke at a June 1 First Fri­day event spon­sored by the Tal­bot County Demo­cratic Fo­rum. Can­di­date Pete Lesher, an Eas­ton town coun­cil­man, was at­tend­ing an ex­hibit open­ing at the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Mar­itime Mu­seum, where he is chief cu­ra­tor, and was un­able to at­tend.

“Are you ready to change the face of the Tal­bot County Coun­cil?” Haythe asked.

A busi­ness owner who has worked in lo­cal govern­ment, in­clud­ing as Dorch­ester County’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor, Haythe said she is “ex­pe­ri­enced and qual­i­fied to ser ve on the Tal­bot County Coun­cil.”

Haythe also op­er­ates an education non­profit fo­cused on sixth-grade girls at Eas­ton Mid­dle School.

The fo­cus of her plat­form is eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, education and the en­vi­ron­ment.

and serves on the boards for the Dou­glass Bi­cen­ten­nial Com­mit­tee and Tal­bot County Empty Bowls.

Hy­man has four pri­or­i­ties: a strong, fair, sus­tain­able econ­omy; sup­port for pub­lic education; pro­tect­ing wa­ter­ways and pre­serv­ing the coun­try­side; and work­ing across ev­ery bound­ary to build safe com­mu­ni­ties.

“We need peo­ple able to not just leg­is­late, but also to ed­u­cate and in­spire; ... not just peo­ple who can get the job done, but those who can win in Novem­ber,” she said.

Page, a for­mer nurse and “proud par­ent of two Tal­bot County Pub­lic School grad­u­ates,” said her pri­or­i­ties are schools, af­ford­able hous­ing and chang­ing the county’s rev­enue tax cap.

“A good school sys­tem is the foun­da­tion for so­ci­ety,” she said.

Page said the rev­enue cap is “past its time and needs some re­form.”

“We don’t need to be that stingy, and our de­ferred pay­ment on things is start­ing to show,” she said.

Pot­ter said the county coun­cil “should make de­ci­sions for all the cit­i­zens they rep­re­sent.”

Pot­ter has served eight years as a Trappe town com­mis­sioner and has worked 30 years in state govern­ment.

Her pri­or­i­ties are schools, af­ford­able hous­ing and com­bat­ing hunger.

“Our chil­dren re­ally are our fu­ture,” Pot­ter said. “The coun­cil should feel morally re­spon­si­ble for ed­u­cat­ing our stu­dents ... (and) for pro­vid­ing a safe en­vi­ron­ment (in schools.).”

Scott-Tay­lor served two terms on the Eas­ton Town Coun­cil, was the town’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor and Main Street man­ager, and was com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for Eas­ton Util­i­ties.

Scott-Tay­lor has five pri­or­i­ties: school safety; job growth; build­ing part­ner­ships be­tween lo­cal govern­ment, busi­nesses and schools; pre­serv­ing our towns; and the en­vi­ron­ment.

She said school safety was her top pri­or­ity, even be­fore school fund­ing.

“Any of us will do a bet­ter job than the folks sit­ting in those chairs right now,” Ter­rone said. “We will, once we are elected, de­liver for the av­er­age folks who live in this county.”

“We are in this for the mid­dle class, the av­er­age Tal­bot County res­i­dent, and we mean it,” he said. “We’re go­ing to make de­ci­sions with the av­er­age res­i­dent in mind.”

Asked the most im­por­tant per­sonal char­ac­ter­is­tic to be a good county coun­cil mem­ber,

Hy­man said, “In­tegrity is tremen­dously im­por­tant. Com­pas­sion is re­ally im­por­tant.”

Ter­rone cited lead­er­ship and stand­ing strong for the right rea­sons, while Pot­ter said “an abil­ity to lis­ten.”

On the en­vi­ron­ment, Page said “things are get­ting bet­ter,” with more sub­merged aquatic veg­e­ta­tion in the Bay.

But pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment can’t be a strictly vol­un­tary ef­fort, she said.

“I love this place we call home,” Scott-Tay­lor said. “We have to be vig­i­lant and good stew­ards of the en­vi­ron­ment.”

“We have a ba­sic re­spon­si­bil­ity to the en­vi­ron­ment,” Ter­rone said, not­ing the county’s econ­omy is based on the en­vi­ron­ment, in­clud­ing the Bay and tourism.

“If we don’t have (the en­vi­ron­ment), the econ­omy is go­ing to go down­hill very quickly,” he said.

Hy­man said the coun­cil’s pri­mary role in the en­vi­ron­ment was through plan­ning and zon­ing.

“That’s where the de­ci­sions get made,” she said.

On eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, Haythe said the county needs a con­cise plan and needs to fo­cus on at­tract­ing new busi­nesses to Tal­bot.

“We al­ready have land zoned com­mer­cial” at the tech­nol­ogy park off Air­port Road and Com­merce Park off Glebe Road, she said.

In re­sponse to a fol­low-up ques­tion about empty store­fronts in Eas­ton, Scott-Tay­lor said she was the town’s first Main Street man­ager in the ‘90s.

The en­tire fo­cus of the Main Street pro­gram is to keep the down­town healthy, she said. “We’re noth­ing with­out our towns.”

Tal­bot needs bet­ter co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the county and the towns, Scott-Tay­lor said.

On education, Ter­rone said the county coun­cil “needs to pro­vide coura­geous lead­er­ship.”

The coun­cil should ex­am­ine the school board’s bud­get re­quest care­fully, “but, if it’s rea­son­able, we have to fully fund the bud­get,” he said.

Fully fund­ing the school bud­get would not cost county tax­pay­ers much in ad­di­tional taxes.

“It’s not that big a bul­let to bite,” Ter­rone said.

“Education is very im­por­tant to me,” Haythe said. “We def­i­nitely need to tweak the rev­enue cap. That’s a pri­or­ity.”

But any changes to the county’s rev­enue tax cap also must ad­dress county res­i­dents on fixed in­comes and with fewer re­sources, she said.

“Make it so ev­ery­one can af­ford it,” she said.

Hy­man said a rev­enue cap is one of the most re­stric­tive tax caps imag­in­able.

“A rev­enue tax cap lim­its how much money you can col­lect,” she said.

Tal­bot’s cap lim­its the ad­di­tional rev­enue the county can col­lect each year to 2 per­cent or CPI-U, which­ever is less.

As a re­sult, the county ac­tu­ally has to lower its prop­erty tax rate if it col­lects much ad­di­tional tax rev­enue.

The last ques­tion of the even­ing — and the most poignant — came from a fifth-grader at Chapel District El­e­men­tary School, who asked what the can­di­dates would do about school safety in light of “so many school shoot­ings” across the coun­try.

Scott-Tay­lor said it was a very se­ri­ous sub­ject that “keeps me awake at nights” and noted it was her top pri­or­ity.

“It’s ap­palling to me that you have to even worry about that,” she said.

Scott-Tay­lor said schools need to work to­gether with po­lice and the health depart­ment, and there needs to be bet­ter train­ing in men­tal health to iden­tify those at risk “be­fore there’s a prob­lem.”

“Fig­ure out the prob­lem and in­ter­vene be­fore it’s too late,” she said.

Haythe said the six­th­grade girls her non­profit reaches out to at Eas­ton Mid­dle School also are con­cerned about school safety and the school bud­get.

“It’s not some­thing they should be wor­ry­ing about,” she said. And with a son in mid­dle school and a daugh­ter in high school, school safety “is def­i­nitely a pri­or­ity.”

Page sug­gested each school should have a task force of stu­dents, teach­ers and po­lice of­fi­cers.

Pot­ter said Dorch­ester County has me­di­a­tion ser­vices in the schools and the ef­fort seems to be show­ing re­sults.

When stu­dents are in a dis­pute, other stu­dents will tell them they need me­di­a­tion, she said.

“Some­times chil­dren do not know how to speak their prob­lem, but they can act it,” Pot­ter said.

Teach­ing them how to talk about their prob­lems and re­solve dis­putes helps avoid big­ger is­sues.

“We will do ev­ery­thing we can lo­cally for you,” Hy­man said.

But change also needs to oc­cur at the fed­eral level.

“That means we — all of us — need to show up in the pri­mary and in the gen­eral elec­tion. Let’s change the per­son rep­re­sent­ing us in Con­gress,” she said.

PHOTO BY JOHN GRIEP

Demo­cratic can­di­dates for Tal­bot County Coun­cil lis­ten to a ques­tion dur­ing a Fri­day even­ing event spon­sored by the Tal­bot County Demo­cratic Fo­rum. From left: Keasha Haythe, Naomi Hy­man, Robin Page, Rose Pot­ter, Mau­reen Scott-Tay­lor and Do­minic “Mickey” Ter­rone.

Mau­reen Scott-Tay­lor, a Demo­cratic can­di­date for Tal­bot County Coun­cil, speaks with a lo­cal res­i­dent at the Tal­bot County Demo­cratic head­quar­ters in Eas­ton.

PHO­TOS BY JOHN GRIEP

Do­minic “Mickey” Ter­rone, a Demo­cratic can­di­date for Tal­bot County Coun­cil, speaks with a lo­cal res­i­dent at the Tal­bot County Demo­cratic head­quar­ters in Eas­ton.

KEASHA HAYTHE

PETE LESHER

Naomi Hy­man, a Demo­cratic can­di­date for Tal­bot County Coun­cil, speaks with a lo­cal res­i­dent at the Tal­bot County Demo­cratic head­quar­ters in Eas­ton.

Rose Pot­ter, a Demo­cratic can­di­date for Tal­bot County Coun­cil, speaks with a lo­cal res­i­dent at the Tal­bot County Demo­cratic head­quar­ters in Eas­ton.

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