80% of the candidates vying for the position of Baltimore County executive converged Tuesday, the 14th of November, at CCBC Catonsville, to answer questions and advocate for their election as Baltimore county Executive in 2018.
Jim Brochin, the state Senator representing Cockeysville and self-described nonpartisan democrat, was seated left of Middle river’s Republican Delegate Pat McDonough, with Democratic Delegate Johnny Olszewski Jr. of Dundalk and Republican State Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer seated adjacent and to the right in that order.
Questions were posed by the event’s moderator and CCBC Essex Political Science Professor John Dedie, and were chiefly concerned with public education at the high school and post-secondary levels. Dedie said the seating arrangement was purposeful to show that in local government, “candidates of both parties can share the stage…without it ending in nuclear Armageddon”.
Dedie also reminded the audience that the decisions made by state legislators have, for the most part, a more profound impact on their constituents’ lives than the policies drafted in Washington.
College President Sandra Kurtinitnis gave a brief introduction, assuring that all candidates present were “friends of CCBC”, which segued into a discussion about the rising costs of tuition.
Although the candidates had disparate intentions as far as making community college free of cost, 3 out of 4 agreed that certain cost saving measures should be put into effect to allow for underprivileged students to continue their education.
Brochin, a former CCBC Catonsville professor and proponent of need-based tuition relief for community college students said that, “the most heart wrenching thing for me was to have a student say ‘I’m not coming back next semester…because I can’t afford it’.”
Fellow Democrat Olszewski, or ‘Johnny O’ as the other candidates referred to him, said he is all for the idea of a no-cost community college education for those training in specific professional fields with a high demand for new workers, whereas Pat McDonough voiced his support for scholarship grants that could be given on an individual basis.
Redmer contented that there are insufficient funds available for such measures, although Brochin later claimed the previous year’s budget surplus to have been in excess of $200 million. The next elected county executive will be responsible for managing a $3.5 billion budget.
The county’s economic affairs were rightly discussed and Brochin, who professed his discontent for the “pay to play” tactics he feels are responsible for the increasing corporatization of the Towson circle area, said that if elected he will effectively “take the money out of the equation,” thus leveling the real-estate playing field to a certain degree for local business owners and entrepreneurs who wish to invest.
McDonough touted local business growth, but also cited the need for outside investors, such as the recently opened Guinness brewery in southwestern Baltimore County, to maximize revenue. Redmer boasted of his extensive experience dealing with high-dollar insurance claims as proof that he would be well equipped to handle vast sums of money.
When asked to respond to the recent New York Times article thrashing Baltimore County Public Schools for its leaders’ close ties to certain tech companies; specifically accusing former Superintendent Dallas Dance and current interim Superintendent Verletta White as being paid-off, Brochin brought up the fact that he had requested a state audit.
McDonough similarly referenced his previously filed ethics complaint against Dallas Dance, while Redmer stated explicitly that he feels White should resign from her position. Olszewski, a former teacher, said the matter is best left in the hands of the school board.
Delving further into the topic of secondary education, McDonough advocated for an internal curriculum overhaul which would entail replacing common core standards with practical courses such as soft skills, civics and “real history”, while simultaneously resorting discipline in the classroom.
This sentiment evidently resonated with CCBC Essex Alumni, Haley Wilson, who says she will be voting for “the one who speaks the truth”, better known as Pat McDonough, in 2018. Wilson feels that Redmer’s affiliation with Governor Larry Hogan and Olszweski’s ties to congress may sway their decision making if elected.
The candidates concluded by answering audience questions and presenting their respective visions for the Baltimore County of the future, which according to Professor Dedie, makes “the winners of the debate the citizens and candidates that showed up. The loser was Vicki Almond who was invited but declined.”
*Articles reflect the views of the author and or those quoted and do not necessarily represent the views of CCBC or the CCBC Connection.