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Friday, October 23, 2009

City of Frederick NACs Host Candidates

George Wenschhof

I was glad I went to the Joint Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) meeting held at the new Bernard Brown Community Center on North Market Street in downtown Frederick. The meeting provided the opportunity to hear what the NACs had been doing and an opportunity for the candidates for mayor and alderman to answer questions they posed.

The first half of the two hour meeting consisted of reports from representatives of the 12 NACs. These reports which were also available in a hand-out to guests provided information as to the neighborhoods they served, some of their accomplishments, their top three issues and a wish list. All valuable information for candidates seeking office.

The second half of the meeting had the candidates answering in a three minute period, a randomly selected question previously written by the NACs.

About 50 people attended the forum, of which 15 were candidates for office, members of the press and Police Chief Kim Dine. It was obvious, as NAC leaders delivered their reports, Chief Dine had their full support. Dine also had available as a handout a brochure pertaining to citizen and police partnerships.

Only incumbent Republican alderman Alan Imhoff did not attend. His run for reelection has been characterized as a stealth campaign by many who feel he has done little to encourage voters to support his reelection. Incumbents generally have the advantage due to name recognition and the predictable low voter turnout in the City of Frederick election. However, incumbent Democratic alderman David "Kip' Koontz was eliminated in the primary showing voters may take a different approach to this election.

Does this mean Imhoff is also in trouble? We'll see in ten days when voters take to the polls on November 3. Republican aldermen candidates Amanda Haddaway and Shelley Aloi came across well as they answered their randomly chosen question posed by the NACs. I also noticed they both worked the room prior to the start, during the break and following the meeting and several Democrats attending the meeting made a point to mention their names to me. Look to see both of them be competitive on November 3.

The other Republican incumbent alderman Paul Smith did well with his answer pertaining to traffic issues bringing up the need to coordinate with the state the timing of certain traffic lights at various intersections throughout the city. Republican alderman candidate William Huckenpoehler was present for the first half of the meeting but due to a family issue had to leave prior to answering his question.

I was late getting back to the meeting after the break and missed the statement by Republican Randy McClement who had led off and most of what Democratic candidate Jason Judd had to say in regard to his question.

All of the Democratic candidates for aldermen performed well with their question with Kelly Russell talking about how she would support continued funds for the NACs. Carol Krimm discussed public safety with bringing up the idea of combining law enforcement agencies as well as looking at new technology available to help officers such as "pocket cop" currently being used in Baltimore County and Annapolis.

Donna Kuzemchak spoke of how she felt the NACs, first created in 2002 under the Dougherty administration was what she was proudest of during her 12 years in office. Michael O'Connor acknowledged the need to use all available code enforcement mechanisms to deal with blight created by neglected and vacant buildings within the city. Karen Young spoke of how she had reached out to the Hispanic population by being the first candidate to have Spanish translation of her campaign website. She also felt education was important in furthering communication.

The growth of the Neighborhood Advisory Councils has been impressive since their creation in 2002. They are a great way for voters to get involved in their community and to work with city hall to solve identified problems. I would encourage city residents to get involved and attend their NAC meetings.

During the next city administration, I would like to see each aldermen assigned to several NACs as their liaison to city hall. Eventually, I believe the next logical step would be to create aldermanic election districts.


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