City candidates state positions at forum

April 15, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Washington County League of Women Voters hosted a forum for the Hagerstown mayoral and city council candidates Wednesday evening at St. John's Episcopal Church on South Prospect Street.

The mayoral seat and all five council spots are up for grabs in the Hagerstown general election May 19.

Ten of the 14 candidates participated in the forum.

Democrat R. Noel Brady and Republican Jeremy L. Manford, who are running for the council, did not attend.

Donna Smith, event organizer, said write-in mayoral candidate Jonathan Burrs and write-in city council candidate Penny M. Nigh were not invited.

The candidates initially were asked prepared questions from the League of Women Voters and then fielded questions from the audience.

Some of their responses are listed below.

Mayoral candidates

Robert E. Bruchey II, Republican, 50, Incumbent

Bruchey said the city government has a "fantastic relationship" with the Washington County Commissioners.

Annexing county land into Hagerstown is a good way for the city to increase its tax base and bring in revenue, Bruchey said.


He said it's been a challenge during meetings over the last three years trying to keep the council from acting unprofessionally, but he didn't want to bang the gavel and limit their chances to speak.

David S. Gysberts, Democrat, 31

Gysberts said the city government needs to improve its relationship with the Washington County Commissioners. He suggested the bodies should meet more regularly to have "courageous conversations" on "a host of issues," such as Hagerstown residents being double-taxed by the city and county.

Gysberts said he would try to set the right agenda before council meeting to ensure "sparring matches" don't break out.

Council candidates

William M. Breichner, Democrat, 77

Breichner said he supports changing the dates the city holds its general election to coincide with the presidential one. The primaries, however, should be held only a few months before the general election, he said, to prevent lame ducks from staying in office for several months.

Martin E. Brubaker, Democrat, 62, Incumbent

Brubaker said he has made proposals to reduce taxes and spending.

"I think I bring an approach of hard work," he said.

Brubaker said he likes to examine all sides of an issue before he makes a decision.

David A. Lidz, Democrat, 43

If elected, Lidz said he would try to open a better dialogue with county, state and federal legislators.

He said he would go to Washington, D.C., and ask U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-6th, why the city needs to hire a lobbyist to secure federal funding.

"I have big ideas about going green and expanding the University of Maryland campus," Lidz said. "I'm willing to do the work."

Lewis C. Metzner, Democrat, 56, Incumbent

Metzner said the city's hands are tied concerning the dilapidated former Municipal Electric Light Plant. The city doesn't own the property and can't tear it down without incurring costs that would reach seven figures, he said.

"The government can't touch it without eminent domain," Metzner said. "It's a nuisance. It's a problem. There are extremely prohibitive costs."

Patrick N. Crist, Republican, 46

Crist said the council should be concerned with creating business in the city while retaining jobs.

"We need to work on building up neighborhoods that have been neglected for years -- probably decades," Crist said.

He said the former Municipal Electric Light Plant sits abandoned and falling apart because the current owners aren't willing to put any money into their investment.

"The city could put a lien on it, but who's going to buy it?" Crist asked.

Forrest W. Easton, Republican, 34

Easton said he chose to run for a seat on the council because residents deserve better representation than they've had over the last four years.

He said he would not be opposed to imposing sanctions against building owners who allow their properties to remain abandoned for long periods of time.

"If all we do is tear it down, it's just an empty lot," Easton said.

Don Mohar, Republican, 49

Mohar said the city only should annex land if it will create more revenue for the city.

"I think we should take advantage of what we have at the moment," he said.

Mohar used the former Municipal Electric Light Plant, which is abandoned and in a state of disrepair, as an example.

"That area is a little bit of a gold mine," he said. "It could be a place to bring people in."

He said the city should stay clear of accepting federal stimulus money because too many strings could be attached.

Ashley C. Haywood, 24, Unaffiliated

Haywood said she can bring a unique perspective to the council because she is female, youthful and a small-business owner.

She said Hagerstown officials need to create a "critical mass," or a magic amount of activity that an area can reach to become self-sustaining. That would include commercial, residential, cultural and educational activity, she said.

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