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October 18, 2010

Campaign Diary Forums Continue

Michael Kurtianyk

Monday, Oct. 11 – FOP & FCFA Forum


Not all the candidates were asked back to meet with representatives of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Frederick County Firefighters Association this evening. All of the candidates met with these groups before the primary at Hollow Creek in Middletown.


It would seem that some did not make the cut, so those of us who did meet tonight were asked questions about where we stood on the issues important to these groups.


It has been increasingly obvious that since the Task Force presented its findings, the issue of a single fire tax has been the most talked-about issue among the people I’ve spoken with recently. No one denies that something must be done – the county faces a $5.6 million dollar deficit for next year, and we need to come up with ways to overcome this. Four options were presented; and to make a long story short, the Board of County Commissioners asked that Options 3 and 4 be further studied.


There are pros and cons to a single fire tax. On the plus side, not only will it be easier to manage, it will be on a par with school taxes, where everybody pays their share, whether the service is used or not. We don’t base schools, roads, police and other services by sectors of the county. The fire service has grown to a point that many believe we can no longer take a sector approach.


On the other side, we have municipalities with a strong volunteer base (Walkersville, Thurmont, etc.). A single fire tax would mean an increase in the current tax rate for those in the suburban tax areas. In this economic time, no one wants a tax increase.


So, what is the solution? Maybe it’s Option 3. Maybe it’s Option 4. Maybe it’s an Option 5, one wherein the fire companies handle their own service area, based on their own revenues and budgeting. It all comes down to this: it is not the level of service that people want that is important; rather, it’s the level of service that the citizens are willing to pay to receive.


Tuesday, Oct. 12 – FCAR Trade Show & Thurmont Lions Club


I spent most of the day at the Frederick County Association of Realtors’ Trade Show. This is an annual event, held this year at the Frederick County Fairgrounds, with booths from vendors who are members and affiliates of our association. It was an opportunity to catch up with my friends in the real estate industry. I was able to talk to my colleagues about their issues and hear about the challenges facing our profession.


The evening was spent at the Thurmont Middle School, with a forum sponsored by the Thurmont Lions’ Club. Each candidate was given four minutes to introduce themselves and answer one question (paraphrased here): “How would you deal with the fire tax issue?”


We drew numbers out of a basket, and I ended up going fourth. When it was my turn, I spoke about the fact that the county was looking more closely at Options 3 and 4, and that was when I unveiled my “Option 5” suggestion, about each company handling its own budget and service area. I went into detail about how the question is really about the level of service the citizens in a service area want. Looks like the next board will have their hands full when it comes to this issue.


Thursday, Oct. 14 – Farm Bureau Forum


This evening was a great event at the Jefferson Ruritan Club, a forum sponsored by the Farm Bureau. We sat in alphabetical order (more on this in a moment), and Elaine Kessinger, the write-on candidate, joined us for the first time since the primary, making eleven of us. At each of our seats was a fishbowl, each with five slips of paper. On each slip was a different question, and each fishbowl had the same five questions.


After each candidate answered each of the five questions, there were seven questions submitted by audience members. We were given one minute to answer these questions. Lastly, we were each asked the same question: “Why should we vote for you?”


When it was my turn, I said that I liked it when the candidates sat in alphabetical order, because I ended up exactly in the middle. This, I said, is symbolic of my campaign: I am not on one slate or the other. I am my own candidate, and it is more reflective of the citizens of Frederick County, who are moderate and can see that there is more than one side to every issue.


Looking forward to going door-to-door this weekend….


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