Party change seen as county race’s top issue
Democratic county council candidates outline priorities
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.
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.
Dominic “Mickey” Terrone, a Democratic candidate for Talbot County Council, speaks with a local resident at the Talbot County Democratic headquarters in Easton.
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.