County council candidates share views at forum
There were few points upon which incumbent Seventh District county councilman Todd Crandell and challenger Brian Weir disagreed during a candidate’s forum earlier this month hosted by the Essex-Middle River Council in Bowley’s Quarters.
Both Crandell, a Republican, and Weir, a Democrat, agreed that community associations were essential; that more police officers were needed; that Baltimore County should not be a “sanctuary county” for illegal immigrants; and that open space in the district needs to be preserved.
In his closing statement, Weir even addressed those who oppose Crandell and would like to see Weir run a more aggressive campaign.
“Ever yone is ver y critical of me for not attacking our current councilman,” Weir said. “But there’s enough negativity around. You either like me for who I am, or you don’t.
“But I’m not going to fight with this man up here. It’s not worth it.”
On the question of Section 8 housing being concentrated in the southeast area, however, Weir offered a unique solution which Crandell opposed.
Saying the average Section 8 voucher was for $1,694 a month (with residents expected to contribute another $600 to $700 a month), and many vouchers lasting for 10 years (close to $170,000) or more, Weir suggested a better way to disburse the money.
“The biggest complaint about Section 8 residents is they don’t care about the property, they don’t take care of the property
because they have no pride in it,” Weir said. “[Instead of giving them money in monthly chunks over a decade or more], to put pride back in people’s lives, put up that money for closing costs and a down payment, and have the residents pay a $600-700 mortgage for 30 years.
“They will be paying for their own home.”
Crandell didn’t agree with
“I would not be in favor of giving people homes,” he said. “That’s not a very good strategy; there’s no value in free.”
Rather, Crandell said he would seek to overturn the consent decree signed by Baltimore County during the administration of the late county executive Kevin Kamenetz, which requires the county to put aside $30 million to encourage developers to build affordable housing in the county.
“In our district, we have a disproportionate amount of Section 8 housing,” Crandell said. He wants to overturn the consent decree because “the county executive signed a legal settlement without consulting anyone about it. We’re going to work through federal courts to look at that settlement.”
(Republican county executive Al Redmer has also pledged to work to overturn the consent decree, which Democratic county executive candidate John Olszewski Jr. has called a waste of time and money, because the county will lose.)
Asked about how they would approach the issue of crime, Crandell mentioned that crime statistics were down compared to 2017, while Weir said the statistics didn’t tell the entire story.
“I’ve been an advocate for more police the past four budget cycles,” Crandell said. “In the Seventh District, crime is down across the board 15 percent versus 2017.
“Violent crime in our district is usually targeted and related to the drug trade. People aren’t being randomly attacked or mugged in the street. Opioid abuse is driving the theft numbers in our district. We need to get our hands around the opioid issue, which is the public health crisis of our time.”
As mentioned, Weir found the crime stats misleading.
“I’m a firm believer we can make numbers whatever way we want to make them,” Weir said. “We have very high crime stats. They say no, I disagree.”
According to Weir, there are 15 police cars patrolling the district at any one time, but “we lose 25 percent of them in the morning and afternoon, because they are acting as school crossing guards.”
Weir said the county needed to hold a job fair for crossing guards, in addition to recruiting more police officers.
“Baltimore County is bad in its hiring practices,” he said. “I know people who have applied for jobs with the county, and it has taken six months to be processed.”
The candidates were also asked about proposed county legislation that would have given property tax credits to public safety employees. The legislation was tabled without a vote.
Weir said the property tax credit should be given to public safety employees, as well as 9-1-1 operators, veterans, teachers and school system employees.
Crandell suggested the county couldn’t afford to start spreading around property tax credits.
“There were different nuances the county council could not gain a consensus on,” Crandell said. “There was an argument in terms of who we were trying to give the property tax credit to.
“There are fiscal realities the county government has to face,” Crandell said. “If we start to offer property tax credits to everyone, we have to think about the fiscal impact it will have.”
Another question submitted by the audience at the forum concerned how money was cut from the Board of Education budget, and why was the council only allowed to remove items from the budget and not add to it.
Allowing the county council to place items back in the budget that had earlier been removed “would require a county charter change,” Crandell said. “And that would have to go through a referendum to the voters.
“We just created a county charter review commission, and that was not one of the recommendations.”
In reference to community associations, Weir said he would use associations to identify crime problem areas and then place plainclothes officers and unmarked police cars in those areas.
Crandell noted that his administration had helped create or restart five community associations in the district, and how his office worked with community associations when he was approached by a developer with a proposal.
After the end of the main forum, which also featured Sixth District candidates Cathy Bevins (the incumbent) and Republican challenger Ryan Nawrocki, Libertarian Party candidate Doug Stanley and write-in candidate Dave Rader were given a few minutes to speak.
Rader, who lost the Republican primar y to Crandell, said he is pursuing a write-in campaign in order to publicize issues he feels need attention.
“I didn’t want to drop out and support a candidate I may regret supporting,” he said. “While staying in the race, I can continue to support issues I believe are right. And I do believe in miracles; I will give it everything I’ve got.”
County council candidates (from left) Cathy Bevins, Todd Crandell, Ryan Nawrocki and Brian Weir fielded questions during a candidates forum earlier this month in Bowley’s Quarters.