Chamber Forum: Commissioner Candidates Speak, Show Pictures

September 29, 2010

   The Cecil County Chamber of Commerce hosted a softball candidates’  forum Tuesday night,  with candidates for County Commissioner getting a chance to pitch their biographies and platforms without questions on issues. If pictures are worth a thousand words (or the four minutes of talk alloted to each speaker), then incumbent Commissioner Brian Lockhart (D-3) took the cake with his slide-show of ribbon cuttings for new or expanded businesses opened in the county on his watch.

  Lockhart, the current President of the county board, highlighted his participation in ribbon-cutting ceremonies for multiple businesses opened in the county since he won his seat in the 2006 election.  What he didn’t say was that some of the businesses had been courted by the county long before he took office.  However, he particularly mentioned the Monday “soft opening,” as the owners call it, of the new Hollywood Casino in Perryville, the state’s first slots facility.  That project, the result of a state-wide referendum on slots two years ago, did receive substantial support from the county on expedited permits and inspections that led to the early opening of a facility that has already created over 300 jobs.  The facility’s Penn National operators  have said that most of the jobs have gone to Cecil and Harford county residents.

   Lockhart. who owns two trash removal companies and is a board member of Cecil Bank,  said he went to the Monday “soft” opening of the slots facility and was pleased to meet so many Cecil County residents who have found jobs close to home. “It came at a great time,” he said of the revenues that the slots facility will bring to the county. He cited his experience as a small business owner to illustrate his commitment to support existing business in the county. “It makes me mad,” he said, when people only talk about incentives for new businesses. “We need to help the businesses already here,” he said, adding that he endorses a “buy local” agenda.

   His opponent, Michael Dunn (R) said the county “needs fresh ideas on the Board of Commissioners” and cited his “experience” working for Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36) as a legislative aide. He said he had worked with his family in the hospitality industry. Dunn said his agenda was “lower taxes, less government spending” and “jobs” in the county. He said he had been active with community and Republican groups for over ten years and noted he had served a term on the county’s Republican Central Committee.

  “We need to adopt a new path,” Dunn said. He said the county must “eliminate waste” in spending and “lower taxes.”

   In the 4th District Commissioners race, Democrat Carl Roberts, who defeated incumbent Commissioner Wayne Tome in the recent Democratic primary, highlighted his “executive experience” as the former county Superintendent of Schools and cited his resume for bringing “effective leadership” to county government. Roberts emphasized his campaign theme that the county is too reliant on  residential property taxes–constituting 61 percent of the revenues used to support county government costs– and  he urged business expansion to “re-balance” the revenue funding mechanisms of  county government.

    Roberts mentioned the concerns of county voters he has met, using their first names, and how he would address their issues. Among them are concerns by farmers that they have been ignored since there are now no farmers on the county board. “Agriculture is the single biggest business” in the county, he said, and farmland constitutes the largest land use.  He pledged to listen to and address the concerns of the farm community.

   His Republican rival, Diana Broomell, cited her “grassroots background” as a GOP activist and land preservation advocate. “I’m a hard worker,” she said, citing her involvement with the 21st Century Republican Club and efforts to bring about an elected county school board.

   Broomell obliquely criticized Roberts, saying that a former Schools Superintendent testified in Annapolis for a ‘special taxing district’  bill that did not provide for “school funding provisions.”  ( At the time that legislation was pending in Annapolis, Broomell was employed as a legislative aide  to Del. Smigiel, who strongly opposed the legislation, which was nevertheless enacted by the General Assembly.) That legislative authority, which has yet to be used by Cecil County Commissioners, allows assessments of fees against developers whose projects would cost the county for additional services required by their projects.

   In the 2nd District Commissioners’ race, Democrat Earl  Piner, Sr., a longtime Elkton town commissioner and former school board member,  said his most important qualification for the Commissioner seat was his personal “integrity” and his dedication to listening to the community.  He cited his many family members, all graduates of county schools, as proof that he would listen to parents and educators to ensure the schools have the support they need.

  Piner said he would bring the concerns of local residents to the Commissioners’  Board: “I want your input so I can bring it to the table,” he said.

  His GOP opponent, Tari Moore, said she and Piner had agreed to wage a positive campaign.  But most of her presentation sounded like past Carl Roberts candidate appearances that focused on the need for a “strategic plan” for the county. (During the Tuesday forum, Roberts only briefly mentioned needs  for a  ‘strategic plan.’)  Moore cited her experience as former executive director for the county’s Chamber of Commerce and said she knew how to help bring business to the county. She said her top priority was to bring “infrastructure” to the county’s growth corridor between I95 and Route 40.

  [Cecil Times will file a separate report on the Chamber of Commerce candidates’ forum for state candidates for Delegate and state Senate.]


County Commissioners: Roberts Upsets Tome in Democratic Primary

September 14, 2010

    Former Schools Superintendent Carl Roberts apparently upset incumbent County Commissioner Wayne Tome Tuesday in the Democratic primary for the District 4 Commissioner’s seat, after a well-financed campaign that contrasted Roberts’ dire predictions of fiscal and policy crisis against Tome’s contention that the county was on the right course.

   With all 19 precincts and early voting tallies reporting, Roberts had 2,928  votes to Tome’s 2,492. Roberts garnered 54 percent of the vote to Tome’s  nearly 46 percent.

    (County election officials said late Tuesday that all regular ballots had been counted. However, absentee ballots and provisional ballots will be counted Thursday and next week.)

   Tome, a battalion chief with the Baltimore County fire department and former mayor of Port Deposit, has been a strong supporter of local volunteer fire companies and EMS personnel. However, he drew fire from county Sheriff’s deputies– normally an ally of other emergency responders. Tome and other commissioners opposed legislation drafted by Sen. E.J. Pipkin and Del. Michael Smigiel, both R-36,  to impose binding arbitration on negotiations between the county and deputies represented by the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 2.  After a legislative battle in Annapolis, the county commissioners largely prevailed with approval of collective bargaining, which the commissioners always supported, and non-binding arbitration.

   Roberts, who presided over the county schools during a period of population growth and rising test scores for students, nevertheless drew criticism for spiraling costs of running the school system on his watch. During his Commissionercampaign, Roberts blasted the current board of Commissioners, saying they lacked a “strategic plan” to direct county policies, programs and finances for the future.

   The winner of the Democratic primary will face off in November against the winner of the Republican primary. 

    That GOP race, like many other contested Republican races in the county Tuesday, pitted members of a “slate” of candidates fielded by 36th District Del. Michael Smigiel and Sen. E.J. Pipkin, against non-slate candidates. 

   In the 4th District GOP primary, Diana Broomell, who ran against Tome in the general election four years ago but lost, ran a low-key, low budget primary campaign.  Her  better-financed opponent,  Mike Dawson, a former Prince George’s county police officer, was a member of the “Young Republicans Club” and a member of the Smigiel-Pipkin “slate” of local Cecil County candidates.

   But Broomell narrowly pulled off a 51 percent tally, with  2,908  votes, to Dawson’s 48.8  percent, with 2,777 votes.

     District 3

      The Pipkin-Smigiel slate pounded out a surprise victory in District 3, with the upset win by Michael Dunn, a legislative aide to Smigiel. Dunn registered 2,469 votes, or 42 percent.

        Former County Commissioner Harry Hepbron, who lost a re-election bid in 2006 to current Board of Commissioners President Brian Lockhart (D), came in second place in his comback campaign in the Republican primary Tuesday. Hepbron owns the popular Dove Valley Vineyards and Winery in Rising Sun and served two terms on the county Board of Commissioners before his defeat in the last election. ( Lockhart was unopposed in the Democratic primary Tuesday.) Hepbron received 2,084 votes, or 35.5 percent of the tally.

   Coming in third in Tuesday’s GOP primary voting was Ted Kolodzey, a local “tea party” activist, who surprised attendees at a candidate’s forum this summer when he attacked Smigiel and Pipkin for what he said was an attempt to control county politics and government. “They will destroy this county,” said Kolodzey, who said he had rebuffed attempts to recruit him to a Smigiel-Pipkin slate. Kolodzey received 1,314 or 22 percent.

 District 2

   As in so many local contests this year, District 1 became another Smigiel-Pipkin surrogate contest,  pitting their relatively unknown “slate” candidate, Christopher  Zeauskas, against Tari Moore, a former executive director of the county Chamber of Commerce. But Moore– the non-slate candidate–  won the victory.

    Moore pulled in 3,044 votes, or 52.2  percent, while Zeauskas received   2,784votes, or 47.7  percent.

 The winner of the GOP primary will face Earl Piner, Sr., who was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Piner is a former member of the county school board and Eklton town commissioner. He has also coached basketball teams at Cecil College and youth sports teams in the Elkton area.


4th Dist. Commissioners Race: Roberts Outspends Tome in Democratic Primary

September 8, 2010

   The Democratic primary for the 4th District county Commissioner’s seat is shaping up as one of the more expensive local campaigns of the year, with challenger Carl Roberts spending more than twice the campaign money of his opponent, incumbent Wayne Tome.

  Roberts, the former superintendent of  Cecil County schools, is trying to unseat Tome, who won the 4th District slot four years ago. Tome is a batallion chief with the Baltimore County fire department, a longtime volunteer firefighter and paramedic with local fire companies, and the former mayor of Port Deposit.

  Tome raised a total of $14,322 for his campaign and has spent $10,831, according to campaign finance reports filed through Sept. 3. His net cash on hand was $3,491. He had no loans to his campaign and financed his campaign out of current donations and fundraising events.

 During the same period, Roberts raised $33,068,  including $15,000 in personal loans to his campaign. He has spent $28,458, according to reports filed with the State Board of Elections. His remaining bank balance was $4,611.

   Roberts’ campaign spent a total of $15,000, in three installments paid in April, May and June, to Dyekman Design of Chesapeake City for design of his website and campaign materials as well as “social media” services. The firm is operated by Jim Dyekman and his wife, Linda, who is the chairman of Roberts’ campaign committee. (Printing costs were paid separately to other businesses and Roberts has sent out three flyers to Democrats in the county.)  The Roberts website is here: www.electcarlroberts.com

  Such a figure is unheard of for local candidates, most of whom have volunteers create their websites and Facebook pages or paid more modest fees to professionals. One of the most politically effective websites in this year’s campaign season has been that of Chris Sutton, a candidate in the Democratic primary for sheriff, who paid a total of  $2,025 to an Elkton firm for website design, technical set up and webhosting services, according to finance reports filed with the state Board of Elections.

  In an interview with Cecil Times, Roberts said that he loaned the money to his campaign to cover the website and related costs because he felt getting his message out, as a “rookie” in politics, was important and that Jim Dykeman did most of the work, not his campaign chairwoman.

   While Roberts may be a “rookie” at running for office, he is no stranger to local politics from his many years of dealing with the County Commissioners as the schools Superintendent. “I’m not a politician, but I am political,” he said.   Roberts said he “hates” to ask people for donations to a political campaign, especially in this tough economy. “I think that’s the hardest thing to do when you are running for office,” he said.

  Meanwhile, Tome has been active on Facebook and also has a website, www.waynetome.com .   In an interview with Cecil Times, Tome said volunteers created his website without charge. He also has not spent campaign funds on big ticket items like billboards. He is sending out some targeted flyers to registered Democrats.

   Roberts paid $4,046 to Apple Outdoor Advertising for design and rental of billboards.  He has several billboards in highly visible areas, especially along Route 40.

   Donations to both candidates show some large contributions from prominent entities doing business in the county.

   Tome received $1,000 from North Bay Charters and Seafood, of North East; $1,000 from Clark Turner, whose companies have been involved in the Bainbridge redevelopment project as well as the “Extreme Makeover” TV show that rebuilt a theraputic riding center;  and $1,000 from the Firefighters Political Action Committee in Cockeysville.

    Contributions linked to County Commissioner Brian Lockhart (D-3rd) were Tomes’ largest source of funds: $2,492.  Lockhart transferred $892 from his 2006 campaign account while Monterey Refuse Service, which is owned by Lockhart,  donated another $1,000 to Tome. And Cecil Bank, where Lockhart sits on the Board of Directors, provided another $400 plus $200 in fundraiser ticket purchases.

   Tome said that other executives at the bank pushed for ticket sales and that Lockhart closed out his old campaign committee when he thought he would not run again for commissioner. (Lockhart subsequently changed his mind and has created a new campaign committee for his re-election race this year.)

  Roberts joined the golf bandwagon that has been the ticket to major fundraising money for other candidates in the county.  His early September golf event has already brought in a substantial amount for his campaign, with the largest figure– $1,500– coming from NBRS bank for sponsorship of the event’s breakfast.  Roberts also received a donation of $1,000 from Robert “Chick” Hamm, the former President of Mercantile/County Bank who is now an executive with PNC Bank.

 Roberts had numerous smaller donations from residents of Harford County, where he worked in the school system before coming to the Cecil County schools. Roberts has also attracted a number of small donations from Republicans, as well as Democrats.

  Both Tome and Roberts each received $1,000 donations from what was listed as “Perryville Medical Center” with a York, Pa. address. The address is actually that of Stewart and Tate, a heavy construction firm that is also involved in building medical facilities and is part of the Stewart enterprises that are among the largest landowners in Cecil County, with various business parks and gravel mining operations in their portfolio.

  During the campaign, and at a face-to-face matchup at a  forum in North East, each candidate has highlighted his experience in public service in the county and addressed the pressing budget issues facing the local government.  Roberts has painted a dire portrait of the county’s current status and future while Tome has said the county is doing a good job of living within its means and not raising property taxes for recession-strapped homeowners this year. 

  “I think people need to hear the truth,” Roberts told Cecil Times.  He said his message– that the county must develop a “strategic plan” to cope with the impact of the recession– is being “well received”  by voters. And, despite being a veteran educator, he said he has received an “education” from voters in one-on-one conversations about the issues.

  Tome said Roberts was trying to appeal to volunteer fire companies– Tome’s strongest base of political support– with a letter to fire chiefs pledging support for the companies and their equipment needs. Tome cited his own track record of  ensuring that public safety needs in the county are met.  “I’m not just making a lot of campaign promises,” Tome said.

  The Democratic primary in District 4 is one of the most competitive local races on the Sept. 14 ballot. Neither candidate predicted victory, and each said they were not assuming anything or even looking ahead to the general election.

  The winner of the Democratic primary will face the winner of the Republican primary, which pits Diana Broomell against Michael A. Dawson. Broomell lost the 2006 election to Tome. Dawson is a newcomer to Cecil County and is affiliated with the “Young Republicans” faction that is fielding candidates in all Commissioner races this year. Dawson is also a candidate for the GOP Central Committee.

   Broomell has filed an affadavit with the state Board of Elections stating that she has not raised or spent over $1,000 on her campaign.

  Dawson has raised $4,725, including $2,500 from Jill Cappol of Wilmington, DE and $450 from the “Republicans of Cecil” club affilated with the Young Republicans. Dawson has spent $4,314, including $435 paid for his website design to Josue Sierra, another leader of the Young Republicans club.


Sheriff’s Race: Incumbent Janney Conserves Campaign Cash

September 3, 2010

    Incumbent Cecil County Sheriff Barry Janney, while facing two challengers in the Sept. 14 Republican primary, appears to be conserving his considerable campaign funds for a general election race against the winner of the Democratic primary for Sheriff.

    Janney raised $21,990 from January through August 10,  plus he raised another $25,250 in 2009, for a total of  $47,240, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state Board of Elections. Janney also had a carry-over balance from his last election campaign fund of $15,895, giving him a cumulative total  of $63,135 available for this year’s election season.

  But Janney’s fundraising falls short of the total raised by Democrat Chris Sutton, who raised $27,816 from January until August 10, on top of his 2009 fundraising of $38,313, for a total of $66,129, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state.  Sutton is facing a spirited challenge for the Democratic nomination for Sheriff from Robert “Skip” DeWitt. (See Cecil Times report on Sutton here:  https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/sheriffs-race-sutton-out-fundraises-janney-but-cupboard-is-bare/ 

 Janney’s most prominent challenger in the Republican primary is Dan Slater, who has raised a total of $13,770.  But, after expenses, Slater only had $69 in the bank as of August 10, according to state elections reports. (See Cecil Times report on Slater’s fundraising here: https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/sheriffs-race-slater-picks-up-the-pace-latecomers-penniless/ )

  Despite his GOP primary opposition, Janney has conserved a substantial part of his campaign funds, apparently looking forward to the November general election. Even after spending of $29,530 from January to August 10 and campaign costs of $14,268 in 2009, Janney still had $19,337 cash on hand in the bank as of August 10.  (Sutton had just $24 in the bank as of the August 10 closing date of the first pre-primary report filed with the state.) Janney’s largest campaign materials expenses — $9,327– have been for billboards promoting his candidacy, and he has paid in advance to keep billboards up through the general election, the reports show.

  In past election campaigns, Janney has raised as much as $100,000, with much of it raised through golf fundraisers. Janney has continued to hold golf fundraising events in this election season, as well as hosting a $100 a ticket seafood buffet at the Wellwood. [He has scheduled another golf fundraiser for Sept. 10, which should yield another boost for his campaign balance.]

  Janney had mostly larger donations and ticket purchases, rather than a lot of small contributions, and quite a few of his donors live outside the county or out of state.

    His largest individual donor is also his campaign chairman: Harry Hammond, who has contributed a total of $1,679. Janney also received a $2,000 donation from a business, Covenant Cove Marina,  in Chesapeake City; $1,000 from Ken Graybeal of North East; $1,000 from Phillip Farmer, of Elkton; $800 from Duane Rhine, of Baltimore; and $500 from Upper Chesapeake Flex One, (related to the Stewart enterprises) of York, Pa.

   Businesses associated with Cecil County Commissioner Brian Lockhart, a Democrat, also donated to the Janney campaign.  Cecil Bank, where Lockhart is a member of the Board of Directors, donated $600 and Monterey Refuse Services, Inc., of Nottingham, Pa,  which Lockhart owns, provided $800.  Lockhart personally donated $600 as part of Janney’s September, 2009 golf fundraiser, bringing the total of Lockhart-related donations to $2,000. Lockhart was the chairman of Janney’s past campaigns but gave up that position when he ran for County Commissioner in 2006.

  Janney has established a detailed website, www.janneyforsheriff.com , which includes a comprehensive overview of his accomplishments while Sheriff. He cited as a key benchmark the planning for expansion and renovation of the county detention center. Ground was broken for the $31 million project a few days ago. Half of its costs will be paid for by state grants. Janney said the project came out of a planning process he led with his staff, beginning in his first term, to create a long-range master plan for corrections needs through the year 2030.

  UPDATE: In an interview with Cecil Times, Janney said he had decided to conserve  his campaign funds in anticipation of a general election contest because he did not want to “have to go back to people again and again in these hard economic times.” He said he decided after the last election to continue his tradition of an annual golf fundraiser in the fall as a way to slowly but steadily build his campaign account so that people could give smaller donations over time. He said that after his golf event this month,  he expects his campaign will have raised a total of about $70,000.

  “We’re all in the same boat,” he said of the economy’s impact on campaign fundraising. “Its hard to ask anyone for money.”  He said he had built up name recognition over his career as Sheriff and had been “blessed with a large group of loyal supporters” who have continued to support his campaign despite the economy.

   Janney said he felt he had paced his campaign and its fundraising and did not jump into the fray too early. “You can jump out too early and burn yourself out” with the voters, he said.

    As to which Democratic candidate in that party’s primary he would prefer to run against, if he wins his own party primary, Janney said: “It doesn’t really matter to me.” He said it would be “up to the people to decide” which candidate has the best experience and qualifications.  “We’ve done a lot of good things,” he said of his administration.


Cecil Commissioners’ Forum: Democrats Sing from Different Songbooks

August 31, 2010

   It was the Democrats’ turn to face off at a forum for county Commissioner candidates Monday night, with 4th District primary opponents Carl Roberts and Wayne Tome offering strikingly different assessments of the state of the county and its future.

  But it was Commissioner Brian Lockhart, D-3, who is unopposed in his party’s primary, who offered the biggest surprise of the night. First, that he appeared at the forum, sponsored by the Cecil County Patriots (the local arm of the “tea party” movement) and second, that he said the commissioners are considering privatization of other county-owned assets and services, beyond the pending sale of certain county water and sewer operations to the private Artesian company. In a post-forum interview with Cecil Times, Lockhart said the commissioners are considering privatization of landfill and jail operations.

   Also speaking at the forum was Earl Piner, Sr., who is unopposed in his party’s primary for the Dist. 2 commissioner seat. Piner was a long-time Elkton town commissioner, a former county school board member, and a coach of sports teams at Cecil College and in local youth programs.

   The Patriots’ group again enlisted a moderator from the non-partisan Toastmasters’ International organization who read a list of questions, drafted with input from county residents who responded to a request for suggested questions for the candidates. In the contested primary race, Roberts and Tome appeared together to answer questions and were able to respond to each other, while Piner and Lockhart each appeared alone. All candidates appeared together at the end of the two hour program to offer closing statements.

    The Patriots’ group held a separate forum several weeks ago for Republican commissioner candidates, although three candidates affiliated with the “Young Republicans Club” boycotted the event. Read the Cecil Times report here:   https://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/candidates-forum-civility-and-cliffs-notes-for-cecil-county-issues/

   During Monday’s forum,  there was a glass half-empty, glass half-full disparity between Roberts, the former superintendent of county schools, and Tome, a Baltimore County professional firefighter manager and the former mayor of Port Deposit who was elected to the county board four years ago.

  Roberts outlined his assessment of the dire state of the county’s economy and its over-reliance on residential property taxes for revenues. He warned that next year’s budget would be even more difficult than this year’s since property assessements by the state have been reduced due to falling home prices, and the county will be hard-pressed to come up with the revenues needed to pay for essential services.

   “We need to dramaticallty change he way we govern, the way we lead,” Roberts said. He called for creation of a detailed “strategic plan”  to provide a roadmap for dealing with the current recession but also to  create a framework for business and economic development to fundamentally change the way the county obains the revenues it needs to support public services. “We’re late, we’re behind the eight-ball,” Roberts said, and the current reliance on residential property taxes to supply 61 percent of revenues should be downsized to about 55 percent.

   Tome said the county was “doing well with economic development” despite the recession. He said the current commissioners had worked hard to find solutions to the need for infrastructure in the growth corridor, between I-95 and Route 40, and the Artisian sale would finally bring utilities to the area without costing taxpayers. He noted that the county was also poised to put in place agreements to provide infrastructure to serve the long-stalled Bainbridge project in the northwestern part of the county and also a franchise agreement with a Delaware firm to bring natural gas services to the growth area.

    “The records speaks for itself,” Tome said. “I’m here asking for four more years.”

     Tome said state and federal aid, possibly through homeland security programs, could ease the county’s fiscal problems and to help get the long-stalled Bainbridge project on track. He also said the anticipated revenues of $3 million in the current fiscal year from the new slots parlor in Perryville could  be used to “finesse” the county’s budget  problems.

     But Roberts shot back, “Nobody’s going to bail us out…there’s no federal dollars coming, no state money coming” and the county must “solve our own problems.”

      At one point, Roberts took a shot at himself, saying he had heard critics say he should “smile more.”  So he smiled. “I do laugh, I do smile, I do have a sense of humor,” he said. And if people think he is “not collaborative” with others, then they should talk with the many county business groups he worked with over the years to develop partnerships for educational programs.

     Meanwhile, Lockhart, who is seeking re-election to his second term on the board, defended the planned sale of county water and sewer facilities to Artesian, a deal that is currently under challenge in a lawsuit brought by a citizens’ group.  And he said the county would continue to “pursue privatization of other assets that the county government has.” He said the county has to keep cutting expenses and “we’re going to continue to cut taxes.” (This year, the county cut the property tax rate to the so-called “constant yield” rate, which means the county must live with the same amount of revenues as it had in the previous budget year.)

    After the forum, Lockhart told Cecil Times that he wants to see the county jail turned over to a private contractor. The county just broke ground on a multi-million dollar expansion and modernization of the jail. He said the county would own the facility but hire a private contractor to run it and hire its own employees to guard inmates.

    He also called for privatization of county landfill operations. County commissioners came under fire from citizens this year after imposing a new recycling fee and higher trash drop-off  fees, as well as sharply reduced hours of operation at the landfill and two county trash transfer stations.

     Lockhart’s appearance at the Patriots’ forum, held at the VFW hall in North East, was his first question-and-answer candidates forum appearance since he first ran for office four years ago.  He has stayed away from organized forums in the past, saying he preferred one-on-one contacts with individual voters.

     Piner emphasized his involvement with the community during his comments at Monday’s forum, saying he could sit down and work with disparate groups and hammer out a compromise solution. He also refused to “guarantee” that taxes would not be raised on his watch. “I hope not to raise taxes,” he said, but the local economy is “going into a dive” and new sources of revenue must be found, especially through business development.


Breaking News: Janusz Files Against Del. Rudolph, Broomell Resurfaces

July 6, 2010

   Democrat Joe Janusz filed Tuesday to challenge veteran incumbent Del. David Rudolph in the Democratic primary for the Dist. 34B seat, embarking on what some political observers from both parties characterize as a political suicide mission.

   Janusz had initially filed for the Third District County Commissioner seat currently held by fellow Democrat Brian Lockhart, who initially planned not to seek re-election. But, as the Cecil Times previously reported, Janusz decided this spring to pull out of the race for family reasons. (He and his wife, Sara, are going through a divorce and the couple has several young children.) Lockhart filed for re-election last week.

   Democratic political circles had been buzzing for a week or more that Richard (Tucker) Mackie, a former delegate himself, was pushing Janusz to run against Rudolph. But few, if any, thought Janusz would actually do it.

   Janusz was seen as a young rising star in the county Democratic party after his impressive, but losing, campaign against Lockhart in the Democratic primary for county commissioner in 2006. Lockhart later appointed Janusz to the county Planning Commission.  Janusz had been carefully planning for a commissioner run for a long time. But with his personal concerns, his political future seemed to be on hold, with a potential revival a few years down the road.

   Now, with his filing to run against the popular and well-financed Del. Rudolph, Janusz’ political future in the county would seem to be in doubt. It’s an odd turn of fate and political fortune to jeopardize a future political career by jumping in at the last minute to such an uphill battle. The winner of the Democratic primary will face Ted Patterson, a leader of the county’s “Young Republican” club and recently graduated student at the University of Delaware.

   Another last minute surprise, and another Phoenix-like rise from the political graveyard, came when Diana Broomell filed Tuesday as a Republican for the 4th District County Commissioner seat now held by Democrat Wayne Tome. Broomell, a former longtime aide to Del. Michael Smigiel, R-36, ran a spirited campaign against Tome in 2006 but lost. She became active in the Tea Party movement last summer but then disappeared from that and other local political activity, after taking a job in Harford County.

   The 4th Dist. Commissioner contest is a crowded field. Tome is already facing a tough Democratic primary challenge from Carl Roberts, the former county Superintendent of Schools.  Broomell will face Mike Dawson, a political newcomer and a former Prince George’s county police officer. Dawson has been considered to be aligned with the GOP faction led by State Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-36, and Smigiel. Broomell is much better known in the county than Dawson.


Brian Lockhart Files for Re-Election as Third Dist. Commissioner

July 2, 2010

     Cecil County Commissioner Brian Lockhart, the current president of the Board, filed for re-election as a Democrat on Wednesday, saying he was proud of the Board’s accomplishments in the past four years.

   Lockhart filed his candidacy a few days after Democrat Joe Janusz formally withdrew his candidacy for the Third District seat. Lockhart had previously decided against running again and had given his blessing to Janusz to run for the seat. But when Janusz decided to withdraw from the campaign for personal reasons, Lockhart decided to get back into the race. (See previous Cecil Times report on Janusz’ decision here: ttp://ceciltimes.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/family-concerns-led-to-janusz-pullback-on-commissioner-race/

   In an interview with The Cecil Times, Lockhart said one of the most important accomplishments of his term was the creation of a citizens’ comprehensive plan review panel and the adoption of a new comprehensive plan to guide future growth policies. The panel’s recommendations were generally well received in the community and were adopted with just a few revisions.

   The board president also cited the renovations and expansion of the county detention center expected to get underway soon after many years of planning.  However, the county is currently seeking concessions from the Town of Elkton on more than $400,000 in fees that the town wants to assess on the project and Lockhart said at this week’s Commissioner’s work session he would be willing to look for another site outside town limits if the town does not lower the fees.

    Lockhart said he was pleased that the Commisioners were able to adopt a budget for Fiscal 2011 that cut the tax rate.  “We need to keep the tax rate as low as possible but still keep services like police and ambulance,” he said.  “When people dial 911 they want an immediate response.”  He added that the budget was cut without layoffs or furloughs, which was important to “maintain our county workforce and keep up morale.”

     While Lockhart’s district is based in the Rising Sun area, he has to run countywide. In a nod to southern Cecil County, he said he would support creation of new parks south of the Canal. The county currently has a small boat ramp at the state-owned Earleville Wildlife Management Area but no county parks in the area. However, a proposed senior citizens/community center in Cecilton was dropped from the county’s five-year Comprehensive Plan this year. Lockhart said that due to the tight budget  new projects such as the Cecilton proposal were shelved. But he claimed that the county parks and recreation department might be able to “do something in the south county.”

     Being a Commissioner “is a full-time, seven day a week job,” Lockhart said. But Lockhart also wears other hats, some of which have required him to abstain from votes on important issues pending before the Board and led to an Ethics Board finding that he failed to file proper financial disclosures.

  He owns two trash removal companies and abstained from voting on the recent controversial plan to cut back hours at the landfill and trash transfer stations and to charge fees for people who bring recyclables, even if they do not deposit trash, as well as higher fees for those who bring their trash to the county facilities. The plan was adopted on a 3-1 vote, so Lockhart’s abstention did not affect the outcome. (Opponents of the proposal said it could lead to people dumping trash by the roadsides or force them to hire private trash services that could be cheaper in the long run than the new county fees.)

   Lockhart is also a member of the Board of Directors of the parent company of Cecil Bank, and this week he abstained from voting on selling a parcel of county-owned land to profit-making developers of a proposed senior citizens apartment building in Elkton. Cecil Bank is involved in financing the project and is set to sell an empty building and its land to the developers. The land was not included in the original senior housing plan but was added recently for “open space and a garden,” according to a representative of the developer.  The Town of Elkton is currently being sued by two citizens over concessions made to the developer and Cecil Bank as part of the project.

   Lockhart has also abstained from votes on projects by his father-in-law, prominent developer Barry Montgomery, including a recent proposal for an apartment project in the Appleton Road area.

    Lockhart has abstained from voting on the controversial Aston Point housing development, which is receiving financing through Cecil Bank. But citizens opposed to the project filed an ethics complaint because he spoke in favor of granting water and sewer services to the project at a county commissioners’ work session.  After an inquiry that cost taxpayers $25,000, Lockhart and the ethics panel signed an agreement stipulating that he improperly failed to disclose his ownership of stock in the bank’s parent company on mandatory financial disclosure forms. He told the Cecil Times that he mistakenly thought he did not have to list the stock in a publicly-traded company in which he was a small investor and that his ties to the bank were a matter of common knowledge.

   At the time of his election in 2006, Lockhart was an employee of the bank, as vice president for business development. Lockhart’s picture and cell phone number were prominently displayed throughout the campaign season in commercial advertising placed by the bank in local newspapers. Those ads were not counted as campaign expenditures and Lockhart ran a low-budget campaign. He also did not attend candidate forums to face questions from community groups and voters.

    He said he plans to run for re-election in much the same way, without a lot of yard signs or other trappings of political campaigns. “I’m not a big sign waver,” he said. “And I’m not going to spend $70,000 for a job that pays $30,000 a year.” He said he would rely on personal contacts with voters, phone calls, and “taking people to lunch.” He said he takes people to lunch “two or three times a week” at his own expense.

    In 2006, Lockhart defeated incumbent Republican Harry A. Hepbron, who had served two terms on the board. Hepbron filed his candidacy this week to try to regain his old seat.  Hepbron faces a contested Republican primary but a potential re-match between Hepbron and Lockhart could be one of the more interesting local contests this year. Hepbron is the owner of Dove Valley Vineyard and Winery in Rising Sun, where he grows grapes and produces award-winning wine with his family.