Wicomico County Executive Candidate Forum

SALISBURY, Md. – Republican Julie Giordano, Libertarian Muir Boda, and Democrat Ernie Davis took the stage at Salisbury University Tuesday to tell voters why they should be the next Wicomico County Executive. The candidates answered a wide variety of questions, with each trying to sell their vision for the way forward in the county.

Revenue Cap

Wicomico County currently has a two percent cap on property tax increases year over year, known as the revenue cap. The measure was implemented following the 2009 recession and has been kept in place since. Giordano and Boda both believe the measure has served the County well and is worth keeping.

“We have a 50 million dollar surplus in the county, and we are told it will be at another 12 by the end of this year, we are not scrambling for funds at this time,” Giordano said, adding “I’m here to increase the quality of life, not your taxes.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Boda, who says the measure served the county well during the last recession, and even with inflation rising would not support its removal. “Could there be some version where newer properties pay more? Sure, but as it stands I think the cap is good and should stay in place,” Boda said.

But Davis believes with the need to retain staff in the County, expand fire and ems coverage and attract professionals to help with the sewer project, the cap cannot remain at two percent indefinitely.

“With all the demand placed on the County in the next years with fire, ems and, the airport, we need roads and the state cut our road money. I won’t say it needs to go but we need to sit down as a group and discuss steps forward,” Davis said.

Double Taxation

Another issue raised at the forum is if any of the candidates wanted to amend the tax code to reflect the property owners in the county who pay for services both to the county and to those in their municipalities, doubling up on payment for services not all receive. All candidates mentioned they were open to reforming that system.

“I know it cannot be one size fits all, but I want to reach out to the leaders and tell voters I hear them,” Giordano said.

“There are times when people pay for this service in Fruitland and they are getting that coverage and other times they are not. So it’s worth looking at that breakdown,” Boda said.

“It’s something we have seen discussed at the County Council, but each town is a different situation,” Davis said.

Police Accountability

Wicomico County was the last to implement the State mandated police accountability board, and while a county executive does not have the power to block any actions the board takes, Boda and Giordano took issue with its implementation.

“It’s not a bad thing inherently, I never liked it when the State shoves it down your throat you have to do it, and then is constantly changing the rules,” Boda said.

Giordano said she too disagreed with the implementation of the board, calling into question the qualifications of those appointed to oversee them.

“It is a good goal but this was reactive legislation. But we are building the plane as we fly it, with guys who wear a bulletproof vest to work,” she said adding “I don’t see someone who takes a 40-hour class and might be retired or not can judge an officer in a split second decision, so I want to see more education for those boards,” she said.

For Davis, he says his years as a police officer inform his stance, that the board is working as intended, and can help to weed out any accountability issues within police departments.

“I come at this from the perspective, if you are an officer, and you are out there doing your job, you are doing what you got to do, you have nothing to worry about,” Davis said.

WATER AND SEWER

Wicomico County is the lone Maryland county without a unified water and sewer plan, and the need to implement one was agreed to by all candidates, but how they would do it was where the candidates diverged. For Giordano, the issue is the main bottleneck for more housing in the area.

“You talk to these neighborhoods in Delmar, where there is new housing and they are sick of it. They say our infrastructure is at capacity, so while we have this affordable housing issue, it comes back to this sewer issue and the need to address this,” Giordano said.

For Boda, the issue of implementation rests in the zoning and safety restrictions imposed on new housing, and on the labor it takes to start it rolling.

“You have so many restrictions, and then when you are building this you have to anticipate the guidance and the rules not just for this year, but for 15 years from now because this is a long-term problem, and the rules from Annapolis can change,” he said.

He says building the plan will also lay bare the lack of competitive salaries for the technicians that would be required to build out the infrastructure.

“Right now we are losing County workers for Dorchester, but once you get to this level of technical skill,  you start competing with Anne Arundel, with Baltimore county and how do you bring them into the fold?” he said.

Davis says these were issued the Council has been working on and his record reflects his desire to see it fixed.

“This sewer plan we put forth is one piece of my record I am most proud of for Wicomico County,” he said.

Individual Questions

The candidates also face questions specific to them, from the forum organizers.

For Giordano, the question was raised on if she was closer to the Hogan or Cox wing of the Republican party and what she would say to her voters that deny the 2020 election.

“I did support Dan Cox and thank god that I did, ” she said adding “What kind of conservative will I be? I will be a good one; I’m the Republican that backs the blue, stands for our teachers, and keeps your taxes low,” she said.  She did not address how she would address voters who deny the election results.

For Boda, the question focused on the historic failure of 3rd party candidates to win in elections, and if he saw a path to victory for his campaign.

“It’s about knocking on doors, and knocking on more doors,” he said adding, “I’ll admit it’s a tough path sometimes it is about bringing forth ideas I didn’t feel were being discussed.”

For Davis, the question centered on his self-described quiet demeanor in County Council, and if he feels he can rally voters behind him.

“You say I don’t speak much, I don’t have to, actions speak louder than words. You check my record, I’ve voted for things that set this county forward,” he said.

Early voting for the election will begin on October 27th. The General Election will be held November 8.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Local News, Local Politics, Maryland, MD Election 2022