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City Council candidates field questions

April 29, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown City Council candidates took the stage at a forum Thursday, the first of several forums scheduled before the May 17 general election.

Eight of the 10 candidates for City Council attended. They were incumbents Kristin B. Aleshire and Lewis C. Metzner, both Democrats; Ruth Anne Callaham, the Rev. Haru Carter Jr., Scott D. Hesse, Dan G. Kennedy, and Torrence "Tory" M. VanReenen, all Republicans; and Alesia D. Parson, a Democrat.

Incumbent Penny M. Nigh and Kelly S. Cromer, both Democrats, did not attend the forum.

After opening statements, two candidates at a time were given random questions pulled from an envelope by a moderator. Each candidate had the opportunity to answer five separate questions, and there were a total of 20 questions asked by the moderator.

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The forum lasted one hour and 15 minutes. All the questions and the candidates' answers are available online at herald-mail.com.

Organized by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, the forum was attended by about 75 local business and government leaders.

Among their responses, the candidates, listed alphabetically, gave the following answers:

Kristin Aleshire, Democrat, incumbent

What role does the city have in revitalizing neighborhoods beyond the core of downtown?

The city's Neighborhoods First program "is a very key role in getting the neighborhoods themselves energized ... to want revitalization to occur." The city also needs to help neighborhoods get over stigmas.

Why should noncity residents of Washington County care about what happens in Hagerstown?

"The city provides numerous services outside city limits," including water and sewer service. A recent review of the rates charged to water and sewer customers "will have an effect on people that live outside city limits." Annexation and downtown development also have an effect, and "we need to make sure that we keep growth in the ... downtown by not pushing it outward."

Ruth Anne Callaham, Republican

What funding strategy would you use to finance your vision of revitalization?

She would "bring all types of people together," including businesses and developers, "people that are willing to take a risk." She also advocated for tax-incentive financing. "You use your bankers, you use your neighborhoods, you use your volunteers. ... Because we love this city, it will happen."

How would you encourage more citizens' input into the city's decision-making process?

She would change the city meeting agenda to move citizen comments to the beginning of the meeting instead of hearing them at the end, and said she would regularly go to nonofficial functions such as neighborhood meetings and sporting events. "There's all kinds of ways to hear people."

The Rev. Haru Carter Jr., Republican

What is your top priority for Hagerstown for the next five years and 10 years?

"The vision that I have ... would be to improve all aspects of life" in 10 years, and in five years "enhancing the lifestyles and economic opportunities." Through the development of the Arts and Entertainment District and more affordable housing, citizens are told they "are both wanted and needed and we value your partnership with the city."

What should be the city's role in the future of the regional health-care system?

"Development of a new, state-of-the-art hospital" is a priority. "The establishment of this new hospital here is crucial to the welfare of our citizens," and the hospital will "provide both health care and economic development" as well as "more efficient response rates to the needs of our citizens."

Scott D. Hesse, Republican

With a recovering economy and increased property values, how do you anticipate using increased revenue that may accrue to the city over the next few years?

"My primary use would be not to use it. ... I don't think we need to fill up what we do to match the funds." However, if there is a surplus, the needs of people on a "fixed income" such as poor and elderly, need to be considered, and the city's water and sewer infrastructure should be looked at for consideration.

How would you facilitate more business owners' input into the city's decision-making process?

He advocated "issue-based focus groups" of business and city officials that would meet regularly.

Dan G. Kennedy, Republican

What funding strategy would you use to finance your vision of revitalization?

"One would be the continued expansion of areas of Hagerstown," continuing to work with developers currently in the city and "taking advantage of tax incentives to encourage people to move into the downtown area."

Why should noncity residents of Washington County care about what happens in Hagerstown?

Hagerstown "is the center of many things that happen in our Tri-State area," including cultural benefits, restaurants and other activities "that greatly enhance the quality of life." Water and sewer issues also will "greatly affect their quality of life."

Lewis C.Metzner, Democrat, incumbent

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