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Celebrate with Action: Save Abingdon Woods!

Walking to the library this morning and feeling very pleased with the results of the Town Election I called a friend to share the joy.  I got the machine and this is what I said: Read more…

Hot Button issues in Bel Air Town Election

It’s election time again.  Nine candidates, three spots.  Vote wisely.

Some sources of guidance:

Three questions for Town of Bel Air candidates

Town of Bel Air Candidates speak to HCCA

Based on my conversations with candidates at meetings of  Harford County Climate Action, at the Candidate Forum held recently in the Bel Air Town Hall and hosted by the League of Women Voters, the responses to questions from Harford County Climate Action and my own conversations and email correspondence, I have decided to vote for

Kevin Bianca

Erin Hughes

Donna Kahoe

Highlights from candidate responses on key issues (their original responses are included below, with text and video)

Funding the new police station

  • I have heard the town commissioners discuss the need for a new police station for at least 2 years (since I started attending town meetings – perhaps they discussed it before that as well.)  This may be through renovation or new construction or a combination of both. They have been clear in articles in the Bel Air Bond as well as in the public forums that they would need to raise taxes to fund this and have emphasized every time that the town has not raised taxes in more than a decade and works very hard to stay in budget.  While one may be able to develop a plan that would cost less than $8 million and may be able to save money in other areas, it is unrealistic to think one could cover the entire cost without any new tax at all. If someone claims that they will not raise taxes to cover the police station renovation / construction costs then I have to wonder how they can keep this promise and also ensure timely action on the police station.  If they claim they will cut services then I expect to see what services they will cut and I would like to evaluate the impact these cuts will have on public welfare and by extension on public safety. Few people running for office will be honest enough to acknowledge that they might have to raise taxes but we need someone who will look beyond winning the election to fulfilling the objectives of the town and having the maturity to make good decisions. 

At the Community Forum in the Bel Air Town Hall each candidate responded to the question regarding raising taxes to fund the police station.  It was very clear who was grasping at straws to come up with other sources of funds and who was ready to acknowledge that along with trying to save money in the proposed as well as existing budget they would need to approve a tax increase.  

I think that there are ways to reduce the money required for the police department but some of these might involve a longer term planning and the results might come much later.  So any way you slice it there will be a significant outlay in the next term. There are probably ways to save money in the current budget without cutting services to those who need them.  If it is sufficient to cover the cost of the police station I am sure that all the commissioners would be glad to do that. When commissioners start saying that they will cut services rather than raise taxes I find that shortisghted and irresponsible.  So unless you have already analysed the budget and identified $8 million dollars that you can save (or a lower amount if you can reduce the police station budget too) and are prepared to share that plan with voters I think it is meaningless to claim that you will rule out the possibility of raising taxes.  

Trees & Bees

Many of us who walk in Bel Air’s lovely parks find trees cut and wonder why.  My daughter asked at a town meeting a few months ago why the mulberry trees and a couple of pine trees in Shamrock park were cut down.   She was told that the mulberry trees were attracting bees and that the pine trees were cut to make way for a gazebo. We need to prioritize trees and bees and have better ways to plan our parks and recreational spaces.  

Some candidates showed better understanding of this issue than others. 

Pedestrian Safety

As a daily walker throughout the town this issue affects me personally and closely.  Many candidates acknowledged the issue, some declared it as one of their key priorities and said they would call for better enforcement at crosswalks.  To my surprise one candidate actually blamed pedestrians who crossed without waiting long enough. Needless to say he will not be getting my vote! I agree that as a pedestrian even if one has the right of way one had better wait for a long enough gap in the traffic because we unfortunately cannot be sure that cars will stop at the crosswalk.  In other towns with crosswalks I have seen pedestrians walk confidently and I think that we can have that in Bel Air if we work towards it. 

Diversity

Some had substantial (and impressive) responses, others were vague.

I would write in detail about them if I had more time but I have shared my recommendations at the top of this post.  ICYMI it is:  Erin Hughes, Kevin Bianca and Donna Kahoe. 

Feel free to read their responses in their own words.

Also, here are some videos of times I heard them speaking publicly:

Three questions for Town of Bel Air candidates

I asked three questions to candidates for the Town of Bel Air elections.   Here are the responses from those who responded.

Questions for candidates – Town of Bel Air Board of Commissioners

Can you name one or more goals you would like to be held accountable for accomplishing during your tenure?  

How can Bel Air be more bee-friendly and tree-friendly? 

How can the town’s budget for arts & culture be used to foster more diverse programming?

Read the responses from the candidates: Questions for candidates – Town of Bel Air Board of Commissioners

Concerned grandmother

I posted a comment on a letter, Blatant racism is unconscionable for Harford County Public Schools, that appeared in the Aegis on Oct 20, 2017.

I appreciate your concerns and would like to share your hopes.  As a society, we need a much greater awareness and willingness to confront the problem head-on.  The extent of segregation, discrimination and doublespeak is getting worse and requires a forceful, unified challenge.

We need to observe very closely which of our public officials acknowledges the seriousness of this issue and which dismiss and laugh about it.  We have seen both kinds following this and other incidents in Bel Air and Harford County.  We need to keep the light shining, and support one another in working for change.

Written by a grandmother who persuaded her daughter to move to Bel Air, and is now ashamed of the recent racist incident that took place at the high school, the letter made me think about the book we discussed last night at our book club, The New Jim Crow. How naive so many of us have been and how urgently we have to get out of that if we hope to change things rather than talk about how we hope to change things and find two generations later that things are worse than when we started.

When Carly stood up for me

A new librarian smiled from behind the children’s desk.   New to me – she had been working there for some time.  Maybe because they rearranged the children’s section or maybe because my daughter was now a volunteer, I no longer found myself approaching the children’s desk with her in tow, and had not properly met some of the newer librarians.   Little did I know that it was I, not my daughter, who would receive invaluable help from her.
Read more…

Amy Chmielewski sworn in as Town Commissioner

Amy Chmielewski was sworn in as Town Commissioner today.  We look forward to working with her on the various issues Bel Air faces.

Town of Bel Air election results

The results are in!  Congratulations to Patrick Richards and Amy Chmielewski.  We look forward to working with you and setting strong expectations for improving life in our community.

The Final and Official Election Results are: Read more…

Vote for Bel Air Town Commissioner

Dear daughter, who has attended and spoken at several Town Hall meetings, took the initiative to write to the candidates running in the 2017 election for Town Commissioner.

Read more…

Speaking of Racism in Bel Air

Background:
Seven Bel Air High students disciplined for racist photo
from the Aegis, October 12, 2017

Town Council Meeting, Oct 17, 2017

At the beginning of the public comment period the mayor said that they had received a number of letters and that they all agreed that what happened was unacceptable. Of course they said that they have no control over the school and encouraged us to take it to the Board of Ed, which we plan to do. We in turn tried to talk about what they could do as commissioners and what the town needed to do as a community to combat prejudice, bullying and a climate that promotes racial injustice. Read more…

Laughter, applause and “Amen!” as Kathy Szilega dismisses SPLC data on discrimination

Though our book club was scheduled to discuss “Hope in the Dark” by Rebecca Solnit, Pam proposed and others agreed that we reschedule it so as to be able to attend a public meeting concerning a development coming up in Joppa which was known by various names – River Run, Old Trails, and “Muslim housing.”  The issue was:  “Is this neighborhood going to be Muslim-only?”
Read more…