Candidates were asked: 1. In your opinion what are the two major problems or issues facing local elected officials in your county?
2. What is your position in these issue? How would you change existing policies on these issues? Edward L. Cochran, 49, of 6858 Pindell School Rd., Clarksville, is Howard County executive. He has served on the county school board and the County Council.
1. and 2. Two important issues that will face Howard County leaders during the next four years are the character of our futher growth and the source and composition of our revenue or tax base. Local jurisdictions depend on the property tax for a large percentage of their revenue. In Howard County that figure is 46 percent. Commercial properties historically consume less in services than they pay in property taxes so a way to relieve the tax burden on residential property owners is to encourage commercial growth that is compatible with the local environment. In Howard County we located 253 new businesses over the last six years and created 6, 794 new jobs. Our unemployment rate is, in fact, the lowest in the region at 2.7 percent. We need to continue improving the percentage of our commercial and industrial tax base.
I also advocate refinements to our present dependence on the property tax. The state government should shift part of the tax burden to a more progressive income tax. I believe with these adjustments and a strong emphasis on increasing productivity in government (i.e. better management and strict fiscal review of programs) will enable us to strike the proper balance between the need for service and the ability to pay.
Howard County is inique in several ways to area metropolitan jurisdictions. We have a stable tax rate, a nationally recognized educational system, the most successful example in the country of new town planning in Columbia, good dependable public services, and an effective growth management program. Yet much of the county is still very rural.
Situated between Baltimore and Washington Howard County will continue to be subjected to instense development pressure. During the past four years comprehensive zoning and land use regulations were adopted, providing the tools to accommodate growth while protecting a fine living environment.
The infrastructure for ordely controlled growth is being put in place. Over $100 million dollars in road and utility construction will take place in Howard County over the next five years. Needed public facilities such as parks, libraries, solid waste disposal and many other projects, are under construction. A major community redevelopment effort for some of our older communities is under way.
It is now the time to follow up on these initiatives and carry them to completion. We must alos begin a revision to our general plan and initiate a comprehensive review of our county charter in order to insure that we stay ahead of the demands placed on a dynamic growing county. J. Hugh Nichols, 47, of 6117 Sebring Dr., Columbia, has been assistant secretary of the Maryland Budget Department and was state delegate for seven years.
1. Problem I: The county government budget has grown 57 percent in the current administration ($42 million to $66 million) and is projicted to grow by 75 percent ($66 to $116 million) in the next five years. The largest percentage of increases have been in administration and not in direct citizen services.
Problem II: A recent report of the Economic Development Advisory Committee says the businessman's perception" . . . is that Howard County is a difficult place to develop a new business, or expand an existing one, because the county's rank-and-file (and often some senior administrative and engineering leaders) have shown a negative attitude towards business development." This seriously affects the county's ability to have a balanced economic growth and places additional strains upon the residential tax burden to provide essential services.
2. Position I: I would institute a modified form of zero-based budgeting to better manage government operations and to hold the line on growing costs by internal efficiencies. I would place greater emphasis on providing direct citizen services, rather than administration in expending the taxpayer's funds.
Position II: This also relates to Problem I. I would actively pursue environmentally safe economic development to create jobs and to generate revenue to cover the costs of essential services without raising taxes. C. Howard Strahler Jr., 38, of 8817 Autumn Hill Ct., Ellicott City, ran for delegate to the Democratic Convention in 1968.
1. Taxes, restrictions and regulation in government with the same old faces dictating them. Return to the basic education in the schools.
2. Returning to the basic government of the people and continued hard work.