Dis­trict 36 del­e­gate can­di­dates dis­cuss is­sues dur­ing fo­rum

Times-Record - - NEWS - By JACK RODGERS jrodgers@ches­pub.com

WYE MILLS — Can­di­dates for the Mary­land House of Del­e­gates in Dis­trict 36 an­swered au­di­ence ques­tions and dis­cussed en­vi­ron­men­tal, eco­nomic and safety is­sues Wed­nes­day, Oct. 3, at the Cadby The­atre at Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege.

Can­di­dates at­tend­ing the fo­rum in­cluded Del. Jay Ja­cobs, R-36-Kent; Del. Stephen Arentz, R-36-Queen Anne’s; Del. Jeff Ghrist, R-36-Caro­line; and Demo­cratic chal­lengers Michael Welker and Crys­tal Wood­ward. Welker and Wood­ward are res­i­dents of Ce­cil and Queen Anne’s coun­ties, re­spec­tively.

Can­di­dates for the state Se­nate were in­vited for their own fo­rum, how­ever, in­cum­bent Sen. Stephen Her­shey, R-36, was un­able to at­tend, so it was can­celed. Demo­cratic chal­lenger Heather Sin­clair at­tended and talked with au­di­ence mem­bers in­di­vid­u­ally af­ter the event.

The fo­rum was hosted by the League of Women Vot­ers, which limited can­di­dates to 90-se­cond re­sponses.

Wood­ward, posed with the first ques­tion about pro­tect­ing the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, said re­duc­ing con­sumer plas­tics would be an im­me­di­ate ac­tion that could im­prove the health of the Bay. Wood­ward said her mantra — to ed­u­cate, ne­go­ti­ate, leg­is­late and, if nec­es­sary, lit­i­gate — would be an ef­fec­tive ap­proach to im­prov­ing the health of the Bay, by ed­u­cat­ing the dis­trict on the harms of plas­tic.

“I think we can pro­vide guid­ance and tips on how to re­duce our own per­sonal plas­tic con­sump­tions,” Wood­ward said. “I know that there have been cit­i­zens ... who have taken the ini­tia­tive and gone to lo­cal res­tau­rants to re­quest that they re­frain from of­fer­ing plas­tic straws.”

Arentz said the big­gest aid to the Bay would be the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, work­ing with the state gov­ern­ment to pro­vide as­sis­tance. Eight mil­lion gal­lons of hu­man waste pol­luted the Bay from the Bal­ti­more Har­bor this year, he said.

Amy Warner, a Church Hill res­i­dent, asked about the can­di­dates’ po­si­tions on ac­ces­si­ble health care. Welker said in open­ing re­marks that one of his top pri­or­i­ties was pro­vid­ing ac­cess, espe­cially to those with men­tal health is­sues.

“My sis­ter is trans­gen­der, and she’s a mil­i­tar y vet­eran, and a cou­ple months ago, she tried hang­ing her­self from the Delaware Memo­rial Bridge,” Welker said. “I want to make sure that peo­ple like her never have to go through that, that they have re­sources avail­able. I want to make sure men­tal health care is avail­able for all of our vet­er­ans.”

Ghrist said, in Caro­line County, com­mis­sion­ers used to say the county was “first in a lot of things that we want to be last in and last in a lot of things we wanted to be first in,” in­clud­ing ac­ces­si­ble health care. Ghrist said part­ner­ing with Univer­sity of Mary­land Shore Re­gional Health to pro­vide hos­pi­tals in ru­ral ar­eas like Caro­line and Kent coun­ties is es­sen­tial to ac­ces­si­ble health care.

Queen Anne’s County Sher­iff Gary Hof­mann asked about can­di­dates’ opin­ions on hir­ing school re­source of­fi­cers. Arentz said part of the is­sue with hir­ing re­source of­fi­cers is school ad­min­is­tra­tors al­low­ing them to do their jobs. He said of­ten school districts will try to han­dle is­sues in-house, in­stead of crim­i­nally rep­ri­mand­ing stu­dents.

“One of our key com­po­nents is we have to pro­tect our kids, we have to ac­knowl­edge our kids, but we also have to put ac­count­abil­ity from the top down in that,” Arentz said. “We have to have bet­ter con­trol over what’s go­ing on in the schools.”

Most can­di­dates agreed on the is­sue of ban­ning as­sault weapons, say­ing the state has fairly strin­gent laws per­tain­ing to the spe­cific type of weapons. Ja­cobs said the state needs to en­force the laws it has.

An­other au­di­ence mem­ber asked can­di­dates about what they planned to do in re­sponse to the opi­oid epi­demic through­out the state.

Welker sug­gested pa­tients deal­ing with chronic pain ex­per­i­ment with other forms of pain man­age­ment, specif­i­cally med­i­cal mar­i­juana. Welker also said doc­tors who hand out pre­scrip­tions for opi­oids “like candy” should be mon­i­tored. He said tar­get­ing the prob­lem at the root, treat­ing the ad­dic­tion as a dis­ease and adding ded­i­cated coun­selors to school districts.

Arentz said he ap­plauded the ef­forts of “Go Pur­ple” move­ments through­out the coun­ties, which pro­moted con­ver­sa­tion and aware­ness about opi­oid abuse.

“And my big ques­tion is, are you men­tally ill be­fore you use drugs or af­ter you use drugs?” Arentz said.

PHOTO BY JACK RODGERS

Del. Stephen Arentz, R-36-Queen Anne’s, an­swers a ques­tion Wed­nes­day, Oct. 3, dur­ing the Dis­trict 36 Del­e­gate Fo­rum at Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege. From left are Michael Welker, D-36-Ce­cil; Del. Jay Ja­cobs, R-36-Kent; and Crys­tal Wood­ward, D-36-Queen Anne’s.

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