Ol­szewski, Red­mer field ques­tions dur­ing Es­sex-Mid­dle River fo­rum

The Avenue News - - FRONT PAGE - By BILL GATES bgates@ches­pub.com

Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive can­di­dates John Ol­szewski Jr. and Al Red­mer didn’t ex­actly face off dur­ing a can­di­date’s fo­rum last week hosted by the Es­sexMid­dle River Civic Coun­cil in Bow­ley’s Quar­ters, but they did have some­thing to say about each other.

Repub­li­can can­di­date Red­mer led off the event, which also in­cluded the ma­jor party can­di­dates for the Sixth and Sev­enth dis­trict seats on the Bal­ti­more County Coun­cil.

Ol­szewski, who had a prior com­mit­ment to ap­pear at an event on the west side, took the stage later in the evening af­ter the county coun­cil can­di­dates were fin­ished.

The event was struc­tured as a fo­rum, not a de­bate, with the can­di­dates pre­sented with a ques­tion and each al­lowed a cer­tain amount of time to an­swer.

Each can­di­date was also given three min­utes to in­tro­duce them­selves and three min­utes for a clos­ing speech.

(While Ol­szewski was not present dur­ing Red­mer’s seg­ment, he did have rep­re­sen­ta­tives from his cam­paign staff watch­ing.) Sanc­tuar y Sta­tus

When asked what, as county ex­ec­u­tive, he would do to stop vi­o­lent crim­i­nal gangs from es­tab­lish­ing a pres­ence and op­er­at­ing in Bal­ti­more County, Red­mer said the first thing he would do is elim­i­nate Bal­ti­more County’s sta­tus as a sanc­tu­ary county.

(Sanc­tu­ary coun­ties and cities are those where law en­force­ment is or­dered not to co­op­er­ate with fed­eral au­thor­i­ties in find­ing and tak­ing into cus­tody il­le­gal

im­mi­grants. Bal­ti­more County be­came a sanc­tu­ary county un­der for­mer county ex­ec­u­tive, the late Kevin Kamenetz.)

“It makes no sense to have law en­force­ment agen­cies out there, al­beit fed­eral, and Bal­ti­more County po­lice are not able to co­op­er­ate with them.”

As the au­di­ence ap­plauded, Red­mer noted “My op­po­nent sup­ports con­tin­u­ing the sanc­tu­ary sta­tus.”

Dur­ing his clos­ing re­marks, Red­mer said his op­po­nent had sup­ported over 50 tax in­creases while a mem­ber of the House of Del­e­gates.

Sec­tion 8, and the fed­eral con­sent de­cree

On a ques­tion re­gard­ing Sec­tion 8 hous­ing vouch­ers, Bal­ti­more City res­i­dents us­ing them to move to Bal­ti­more County and Sec­tion 8 ten­ants seem­ingly con­cen­trated in the east and south­east ar­eas of the county, Red­mer re­ferred to a fed­eral hous­ing con­sent de­cree the county signed a few years ago.

In the de­cree, the county agreed to build 1,000 new hous­ing units and spend $30 mil­lion over the next 10 years to cre­ate in­cen­tives for de­vel­op­ers to build Sec­tion 8 hous­ing.

“I will take that set­tle­ment to fed­eral court and fight it,” Red­mer said. “It was signed with­out county coun­cil sup­port or a vote. The agree­ment is dis­crim­i­na­tory in it­self, in that there is lit­er­ally a map that di­rects new Sec­tion 8 vouch­ers to cer­tain, spe­cific neigh­bor­hoods. I be­lieve that’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Pre­sented with the same ques­tion, Ol­szewski said “My op­po­nent thinks we can rip up an agree­ment with the fed­eral court. It doesn’t work like that. We would lose the law­suit and waste mil­lions of dol­lars in tax­payer money.

“My op­po­nent would take us on a wild goose chase and fight the fed­eral gov­ern­ment on an is­sue we wold lose. That’s ir­re­spon­si­ble.”

In his spe­cific re­sponse to the ques­tion, Ol­szewski said Bal­ti­more County has a fixed amount of Sec­tion 8 hous­ing vouch­ers, and that num­ber was not go­ing to in­crease.

“I sup­port de-con­cen­trat­ing the vouch­ers, so no one com­mu­nity bears the bur­den of hav­ing all those vouch­ers, all that poverty in one area. We should spread those pock­ets of poverty through­out the county,” he said.

Ol­szewski also said the re­quire­ment to build 1,000 “af­ford­able hous­ing units, work­force hous­ing,” ben­e­fits the county.

Long-term vs. im­me­di­ate needs

In re­sponse to a ques­tion as to where to find more money to put to­wards pub­lic safety and the in­fras­truc­ture, Red­mer said the county needed to think long-term, with a 10-year plan.

“We have no long-term plan, no multi-year bud­get,” he said. “It’s an an­nual bud­get and an an­nual fight for dis­cre­tionary funds. I will de­velop a process to look at iden­ti­fy­ing short-term needs and so­lu­tions, and de­velop a long-term plan.”

Ol­szewski, for his part, said the county was owed $200 mil­lion from the state and he would see the county gets that money.

“We need to con­tinue to make some in­vest­ments, we need to do things up­front, do it now, get economies of scale and we don’t lose those years,” he said.

“My op­po­nent likes to talk about 10-year plans. But when a first-grader gets in­volved in a 10-year plan, at the end of 10 years, she’s grad­u­ated. We failed that kid. We can’t wait 10 years, we need to do it now.”

In re­gards to Bal­ti­more County’s sta­tus as a sanc­tu­ary county, and vi­o­lent gangs, Ol­szewski said “I think ev­ery­one de­serves to feel safe in their neigh­bor­hoods. There was an ef­fort by the county coun­cil to re­quire county em­ploy­ees to co­op­er­ate with fed­eral po­lice.

“But my fo­cus is on the res­i­dents of the county; I’m not go­ing to ask the res­i­dents of the county to pay for en­forc­ing fed­eral pol­icy.”

That was greeted with an­gry grum­bling from some mem­bers of the au­di­ence.

Re­gard­ing con­cerns about gang ac­tiv­ity in the county, Ol­szewski said “we have to en­gage young peo­ple at ev­ery age, and equip law en­force­ment to be able to do their job.

“We need more po­lice of­fi­cers [a point also raised by Red­mer], learn com­mu­nity con­cerns and where the hot spots are. Use an­a­lyt­ics to get a bet­ter sense of where crime is emerg­ing and get ahead of it.”

Not a tax sup­porter

Asked af­ter­wards about the 50 tax in­creases he was said to have sup­ported while a state del­e­gate, Ol­szewski pointed out he had voted against in­creas­ing the state sales tax, voted against in­creas­ing the gas and al­co­hol taxes, op­posed rais­ing the cost of tolls to $4 and voted to lower state in­come taxes for 90 per­cent of Mary­lan­ders.

“Fac­tu­ally in­ac­cu­rate,” Ol­szewski called the state­ment he sup­ported tax in­creases while a del­e­gate.

School is­sues: dis­ci­pline vs. in­fras­truc­ture

Asked what they con­sid­ered to be the big­gest is­sue fac­ing county schools, Red­mer said dis­ci­pline and Ol­szewski named in­fras­truc­ture.

“We have teach­ers who oc­ca­sion­ally are as­saulted, teach­ers who are ver­bally as­saulted on a reg­u­lar ba­sis,” Red­mer said. “Teach­ers are not able to main­tain con­trol in the class­room, not able to dis­ci­pline kids, not even able to ap­pro­pri­ately grade them.

“That’s what we need to fix first.”

Ol­szewski, a for­mer class­room teacher at Pat­ap­sco High and Cen­ter for the Arts, said “Hands down, the most press­ing con­cern is our in­fras­truc­ture in our schools. For too long, we haven’t met the needs and we’ve de­layed our in­vest­ment.”

While a project to in­stall air con­di­tion­ing in all schools is close to com­ple­tion, “we still have fur­ther to go,” Ol­szewski said. “We have schools crum­bling to the ground like Lans­downe ... schools in the south­east part of the county are over­ca­pac­ity and need to be re­placed, added-on to, or ren­o­vated.

“Giv­ing stu­dents and teach­ers a 21st-cen­tury learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment is my top pri­or­ity.”

Com­mu­nity as­so­ci­a­tions: in­put wel­comed

Both can­di­dates re­sponded to a ques­tion con­cern­ing the role of com­mu­nity as­so­ci­a­tions in county gov­ern­ment by say­ing they would wel­come all in­put from com­mu­nity as­so­ci­a­tions, and both said they would be op­posed if the state tried to build a third bridge over the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay with one end start­ing in Bal­ti­more County (surely a press­ing con­cern).

Both Ol­szewski and Red­mer also re­peat­edly stressed their ad­min­is­tra­tions would be open and trans­par­ent.

Out of our ju­ris­dic­tion

The two can­di­dates also agreed the sit­u­a­tion con­cern­ing run-off com­ing into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay from the Conowingo Dam was a bit out­side the purview of the Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive.

Red­mer an­nounced his con­cern for the en­vi­ron­ment and deal­ing with run-off into the Bay, the im­por­tance of the Bay con­sid­er­ing parts of the county are on the wa­ter­front and his de­sire to pre­serve as much open space in the county as he could.

“There is no com­par­i­son in this race when it comes to tak­ing care of the en­vi­ron­ment,”

Ol­szewski said. “I’ve con­sis­tently had a 90 per­cent score from en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, while my op­po­nent has an 18 per­cent score. The Sierra Club has en­dorsed me.”

Zon­ing, and a bro­ken gov­ern­ment cul­ture

Red­mer stressed his great re­la­tion­ship with Gov. Larry Ho­gan (be­ing a mem­ber of Ho­gan’s cab­i­net) and his busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence.

“As a busi­ness­man who cur­rently runs a large state agency, we need to have ap­pro­pri­ate

ex­pec­ta­tions stan­dards and ac­count­abil­ity,” Red­mer said. “A Sec­tion 8 ten­ant signs a lease with the terms they will not il­le­gally pos­sess a gun, will not en­gage in drug ac­tiv­ity and will not en­gage in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

“Too of­ten, these terms are not en­forced. I will see they are en­forced.”

Say­ing the cul­ture in Bal­ti­more County gov­ern­ment is “bro­ken,” Red­mer said “we will bring in process-im­prove­ment folks. We’re go­ing to

au­dit con­tracts, go through ev­ery depart­ment in a busi­nesslike, me­thod­i­cal way, we’re go­ing to au­dit what it is we do, why do we do it, and how can we make it more effective, and cost-effective, than we do now.”

These state­ments were in re­sponse to ques­tions con­cern­ing county code en­force­ment and the zon­ing process.

Ol­szewski also talked about em­pow­er­ing county au­di­tors to do a sweep, and said peo­ple should be able to go on­line and re­quest in­for­ma­tion

about zon­ing changes.

“We need to em­power peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in the process”,

he said.

FILE PHOTOS

Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive can­di­dates Al Red­mer and John Ol­szewski Jr.

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