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Candidates address city issues at forum

April 17, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Candidates for Hagerstown's mayoral post and five City Council seats answered questions on issues including crime and home ownership at a candidate forum on Wednesday night.

Eight of the nine Council candidates attended the forum at Hagerstown Junior College. Incumbent Democrat William Breichner was out of town on a business trip.

About 33 people attended the forum, which was organized by students in the college's State and Local Government class.

The general election will be held on May 20.

Here's what the mayoral candidates had to say:

- Incumbent Democrat Steven T. Sager, the only candidate to discuss the Maryland Theatre, said city officials stand ready to help the troubled theater. The city has already bailed the theater out of financial trouble once.

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"I think it's at a tough-love phase. I think the person that is president is working hard, working hard to drive it into the ground."

- Republican challenger Robert E. Bruchey II said the city needs to toughen up on crime and hire more police officers before home ownership can be improved.

"No one I know is going to buy a house on (North) Prospect Street if two blocks away someone was shot in the head."

Here's what the Council candidates had to say:

- Republican Alfred W. Boyer said he favored at-large elections over the ward system, especially with the city's small pool of voters.

- Democrat Larry W. Craig said Hagerstown and Washington County officials need to work together to attract companies to the area that will help increase citizens' effective buying income.

That could mean having a joint economic development director or each government having its own director, as long as they work together, he said.

- Republican J. Wallace "Wally" McClure said he would address drug problems by having police focus on disrupting the market for a lengthy period of time so drug buyers and sellers would have to go elsewhere.

- Incumbent Democrat Lewis C. Metzner said raising the property tax rate to hire more police officers sounds like a simple solution to the city's drug problems, but a better solution would be a multi-faceted task force.

- Democrat Eugene E. "Buddie" Morris said he would not accept the already approved $2,000 a year salary increase for Council members who are elected in May. The increase takes salaries from $6,000 a year to $8,000 a year.

He also advocated capital punishment for drug pushers, rapists and murderers.

- Incumbent Republican Susan Saum-Wicklein suggested improving the home ownership rate by turning large apartment houses into condominiums so renters could become owners.

She said the city might have to be the first to convert an apartment house to show it can be a success.

- Republican Paul H. Toothman said he preferred at-large elections over the ward system. He also said more enthusiasm needs to be generated to improve voter turnout. City residents should vote, whether they vote for him or not, he said.

- Democrat Larry A. Vaughn said he would fund more police officers by using money budgeted for downtown redevelopment rather than by raising the property tax rate.

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