Early voting begins on Friday.
Frederick,Md (KM) With days to go before early voting, candidates for Mayor of Frederick and the Board of Aldermen got together on Monday night for a candidates’ forum. They were on stage at Kussmaul Theater at Frederick Community College, taking questions from representatives of the WFMD Radio, the Frederick Extra, Frederick Magazine and Phi Theta Kappa at FCC.
The candidates fielded questions on a number of issues, including any parking and traffic problems which could result from the construction of a proposed downtown hotel and conference center. “We’ve gone through the Historic Preservation Commission process. We will go through planning. We will go through all of the tests that are required, and one of those tests is APFO for traffic. So we will continue to move forward and hopefully find the right way to make it happen, and keep that traffic congestion as minimal as possible,” said incumbent Mayor Randy McClement (R).
Challenger Michael O’Connor (D) had a similar answer. “We will be doing all of the testing to make sure that whatever mitigation is required of the private sector to make this project work. And what the appropriate public investment will be done,” he said. “We have been grateful to have a group of partners who have helped to move this project forward.”
The hotel and conference center is proposed for property along East Patrick Street at the site of the former News-Post Building.
The two Mayoral candidates also weighed in on finding a permanent shelter for homeless families. O’Connor said he would support such a project. “The perception oftentimes is that the city is willing to bend over backwards to help the business community get done what they want to get done. I’d like the city of Frederick have a reputation of bending over backwards to help our citizens get done what they need to get done. This is a multi-prong strategy. We have to look at the direct service delivery, which the family shelter is absolutely that.”
“I don’t agree wholeheartedly with Alderman O’Connor when he says we bend over backwards for businesses and not for our citizens. I think that we bend over backwards for everyone in our city. It’s proven by how our city is reflected in our area, in the communities , in our state. And we continue do to that. We have to do that across the board,” Mayor McClement responded.
The Aldermanic candidates also addressed a number of issues. One of which was the future of the now-closed Frederick Town Mall. Democrat Roger Wilson suggested an international mall. “And take the Frederick Town Mall and turn it into an international market where the residents there can have an opportunity to start small businesses, whether it’s crafts, or restaurants, new restaurants,” he said.
Republican candidate Alan Imhoff suggested the city look at putting in a citizens services center. “The city could buy the property, if it so desired and begin to put in community services into the space, such as a local library branch, maybe a daycare center, maybe a place to have work study for children, any number of things,:” he said.
Another question to the aldermanic candidates had to do with encouraging more citizens to come out and vote. “For the last, oh goodness, months, I have been knocking on doors and doors and doors. And maybe we need to do a little more of that in between times instead of just at election time. People don’t even know there’s an election,” said Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak (D), whose running for re-election.
Republican challenger Nate Power suggested doing away with at-large elections for aldermen. “Now,I’ve seen a lot of other communities where there are precincts set up, which would allow us to focus our marketing efforts on a smaller portion of the city. I think that’s one way to encourage more interest among the electorate,” he said.
Democrat Derek Shackleford said primaries should be open to all citizens,regardless of party affiliation, or no party affiliation. “I’m also looking at the idea of this being a national holiday.because of the emphasis on voting. If it’s important to citizens to be engaged about whose going to lead them and whose going to serve them, we should do all that we can to increase voter participation,” he said.
Other aldermanic candidates who took part in the forum were Democrats Kelly Russell, an incumbent Alderwoman, and Ben McShane. Other Republicans who participated were Hayden Duke and Bryan Chaney. Katie Bowersox was absent.
Write-in candidate Shelley Aloi (R) was not allowed to take part in the forum, but she did set up a table out in the lobby of the Kussmaul Theater to encourage citizens to write-in her name on the ballot. She said she was being “silenced.”
Early voting takes place at the Frederick Senior Center, 1440 Taney Avenue, on Friday, October 27th from 12:00 Noon until 8:00 PM, and on Saturday, October 28th from 12:00 noon until 6:00 PM. The General Election Day is Tuesday, November 7th. The polls will be open from 7:00 AM until 8:00 PM.
By Kevin McManus