The Democratic candidates for Frederick's Mayor and Board of Aldermen talked about the issues during a forum held Wednesday evening. A medium-size crowd gathered at the Jack B. Kussmaul Theater for the forum, sponsored by the Frederick News-Post, WFMD Radio and FCC.
Mayoral candidates were asked about the failures and successes of the current administration at city hall. Alderwoman Karen Young said one shortcoming was not moving very quickly on the issues. She says she would "work first collaboratively to make sure the agenda moves forward on a quicker, more predictable basis."
Delegate Galen Clagett said he would use the powers of the mayor's office to affect change. "Obviously, if we're going to move this system, we need a strong mayor. And we haven't moved it in a fashion that I think is adequate," he said. "So what I would strive to do is read the code and make sure I understand my job." Clagett says he's already done that.
Carol Hirsh offered this plan. "Each of us have meetings in 12 zones in Frederick. We need to have different meetings in 12 zones," she said. We need to continue to "get our own officers, get our own leadership in these 12 zones." Hirsh is deaf and spoke through a hearing interpretor.
The Democratic candidates for Aldermen had a separate forum. They included incumbents Michael O'Connor and Kelly Russell, and Josh Bokee, John Daniels, Jack Lynch, Derek Shackelford and former Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak. Candidate Kevin Greene did not show up.
One of the issues they addressed was traffic. "We have to work with the state and county and the federal government to expand our traffic," Kuzemchak said. "More importantly, we need to bring businesses to Frederick. If we can make Frederick a place businesses want to be, we can live, work and play in Frederick and lessen the amount of the traffic that is on those roads."
John Daniels said the city may need to reduce some development in order to relieve traffic congestion. "We need to really work with the state a lot more because those choke points are normally at those state entrance and exit points from US 15 and those other places. So if they're not on the same time line as we are, we should probably pull back some of that development in those areas to relieve that traffic pressures," he said.
Another topic was the controversial issue of red light cameras: do they promote safety, or are they only a revenue generator for the city. "It's about changing behaviors. It's about slowing people down that are moving too fast. It's about stopping at intersections," says Alderwoman Kelly Russell, a retired Frederick Police Officer. "Crashes at red lights from somebody rear-ending somebody because a car stopped in front of them are less serious, and there are less fatalities from running red lights."
On the issue of where the city should spend in the future, most of the candidates favored adding more money for the police department. "We hear during election time oftentimes that we want a fully staffed police force. But the question remains why is it not fully staffed now. That's going a priority, fully staffing the police force, and that's what we have to do," said Derek Shackelford.
On the question of spending and budget cutting, Alderman Michael O'Connor offered this idea. "We often talk about where you can spend and where you can cut. But oftentimes, particularly with the use of technology, is how can you stretch the resources that we're already spending in ways that don't necessarily require you to put more money in, but you get more result out. And technology is a key component of that," he said.
Wednesday night's forum was moderated by Cliff Cumber with the Frederick News-Post.
The Republican candidates for Mayor and Aldermen will have their forum Thursday night at FCC.
Primary Election Day is Tuesday, September 10th.