The forum was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.
Frederick, Md (KM) The four Democrats running for Mayor of Frederick squared off Thursday night.
Former Mayor Jennifer Dougherty said the election was about whether incumbent Mayor Michael O’Connor should continue in office. She said the answer to that is “no.” “I’m running because I don’t think he’s a good leader. His ideas are not his own, and he doesn’t communicate clearly with us,” she said. “He is not decisive. And when he does make a decision, they defy common sense, like the logo, the FOP contract, and busting up the NAC’s.”
Alderman Roger Wilson outlined what he wants to do. “I’m running for Mayor because the city needs leadership and vision. Simply put: I want to provide that leadership,” he said.
In response, Mayor O’Connor pointed his accomplishments over the past four years such the hiring of a new police chief, the formation of the Department of Housing and Human Services, and dealing with flooding and the COVID-19 pandemic. “My opponents would you to forget that we have presided over an era of great uncertainly in our community. And despite what they said, we did communicate with the public throughout the pandemic.”
The forum was organized by the Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Building Industry Association. The participants were the four Democrats running for Mayor. Moderator, Matt Edens said the Republicans in the race, Steve Garrahy and Steven Hammrick, were unable to make it to the forum that evening.
The candidates were asked whether they thought the city’s property tax rate is too high. . Alderman Wilson said it’s a struggle for senior citizens to pay taxes in Frederick. “One of the first pieces of legislation that I established as an Alderman was establishing a senior tax credit that had never been done in the city,” he said. “So I want to build on that. I understand the tax burden on our must vulnerable citizens.”
Mayor O’Connor responded by saying the city’s property tax has not gone up in nine years. And over the past ten years, the city has been phasing out the business personal property tax, a process expected to be completed over the next two years. “I understand generally no one believes that taxes are too low. But my commitment as Mayor will be to continue to insure that taxes align to the high quality and expectations of our residents for city services and shouldn’t be a penny higher than necessary to accomplish that,:” he said.
John Funderburk suggested selling the Westside Regional Park. “If we were to sell that land, we would have that tax base. We could then lower taxes in Frederick. We have the ability to build affordable housing, the ability to handle homelessness in more of a vibrant way because our budget would be freed up from the very bad investment,” he said.
Mayor O’Connor said he was opposed to the city’s purchase of the 133-acre property. But when he was elected Mayor, he said he took action to turn it into a park. “Our residents that live on the west side of the city of Frederick actually live among the most affordable housing units in the city. And what they deserve is the same kind of first class amenities that we’re willing to deliver to neighborhoods all across the city of Frederick,:” he said.
When the question of where to place the new headquarters for the police department came up, Mayor O’Connor responded: . “Short answer: downtown, which I am committed to. And I hope that there will be some very exciting information on this front coming out very soon. I know that’s a tease. There have been closed sessions on this recently, and it would be inappropriate for me to comment further,” he said.
Dougherty said the location of a new police headquarters is not as important as officers building a presence in the city. “The idea of our officers get out of their cars, and make sure that they are on foot or bike, seeing the people who they serve,” she said. “We have to have a police department that’s building a presence again. And it doesn’t matter where the headquarters is unless the police officers are actually shaking hands with the people who walk our streets.”
Primary election day is September 14th. Early voting begins four days before primary day, and ballots will be mailed out to registered voters in the city.
By Kevin McManus