Frederick's mayoral race began bubbling with intrigue more than a year ago after former four-term mayor Ronald N. Young hinted that he might challenge Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty. But now that Young has vanquished Dougherty in a bitterly fought Democratic primary race, an odd thing has happened.
The general election campaign between Young and his Republican opponent, W. Jeff Holtzinger, has calmed to an earnest debate over growth and infrastructure, while the contest among 11 candidates seeking seats on the five-member Board of Aldermen has perhaps become more interesting than the headliner.
With three incumbents, all Republicans, out of the running -- Joseph W. Baldi, who unsuccessfully campaigned for mayor in the primary, and William G. Hall and David G. Lenhart, who elected not to run -- the race seems even more wide-open than usual.
The field includes a Green Party candidate trying to become the first person from that party to hold elective office in the city, a former Democratic Party candidate now running as a Republican, a well-known city activist and a Republican Mormon church leader.
Growth, rising tax burdens, water shortages and traffic-clogged streets have dominated the debate in interviews and candidate forums.
Among the Democrats, incumbents Marcia Hall and Donna Kuzemchak Ramsburg hope to be returned to the board.
Hall supports the strict water-allocation ordinance passed in response to the 2001-02 drought -- "I think we should have it forever," she said in an interview -- and believes the city also should pass an adequate public facilities ordinance that scrutinizes new development to ensure that there is infrastructure to support it.
Hall, who has served on a task force for the redevelopment of Carroll Creek, said she believes the current administration was wise to create the Department of Economic Development and a private-public alliance with the nonprofit Downtown Frederick Partnership.
A former librarian, Hall, 59, has lived in Frederick 22 years; she was the top vote-getter in the Sept. 5 primary and placed fourth in 2001.
Ramsburg, 45, is seeking a third term. A substitute teacher, she entered politics after becoming active in the schools. She has invited voters to scrutinize her record, which for years has included backing an adequate public facilities ordinance.
"I have proven that I can reach goals with administrations with whom I agree and those I disagree," she told a recent forum, referring to former mayor Dougherty and James S. Grimes, respectively.
Kenneth Berlin, 56, said he would reduce taxpayers' burden by introducing a land-value tax that would, he argued, reduce speculation and assess a financial burden based on the value of the land, not the buildings on it. A computer technician at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, he also would sell naming rights to Harry Grove Stadium and said he has identified $750,000 in cuts in the city's budget.
David "Kip" Koontz, 42, has run for alderman previously. He has emphasized renewing efforts to forge an agreement with the county to secure the city's future water supply. He says taxes are too high. He supports adoption of an adequate public facilities ordinance but believes that fire and police should be included in the list of infrastructure that should be reviewed before new development is approved. Koontz works as an account executive at Adelphia Media Services.
Thomas G. Slater, 61, who served six terms on the Frederick County Democratic Central Committee, said he hopes to reduce the city's tax rate while striking the right balance of growth and pushing for an adequate public facilities ordinance.
"I've said many times, when it comes to growth, I consider myself a raging moderate," Slater said. Slater, who is a lawyer specializing in child welfare cases, said he would like the city to encourage the creation of a theater to add to the redevelopment of Carroll Creek.
Joanne Ivancic, the Green Party candidate, would explore ways to save money and help the environment. She said the city should encourage builders to make more environmentally friendly buildings and investigate installing solar panels on such public buildings as parking decks.
To manage growth, she said she would call for a building moratorium until all questions were resolved about the city's ability to handle development, particularly concerning its water supply.
Ivancic, 51, works for Frederick and Montgomery county mediation offices.
Among the Republicans, Samie Conyers has said he would address the city's rising cost of living. An Army Signal Corps veteran and now a pastor at Grace Pentecostal Worship Center, Conyers, 50, has stressed affordable housing and education in his campaign, saying that Frederick has become too expensive for people who have lived there their entire lives, particularly minorities and blue-collar workers.
"They're struggling to exist, and that's no way to enjoy the American dream," Conyers said.
Alan E. Imhoff, 58, a retired manager for AT&T who in past elections has run for mayor and alderman as a Democrat, said he shares the Republican "fiscal vision" and wants to roll back steady increases in the property tax rate, which has climbed from 62 cents to 69 cents per $100 of assessed value over the past four years.
"Personally, I'd like to see it go down to as close to 60 cents as possible," said Imhoff, who has served as vice chairman of the city's Planning Commission for five years.
Fellow candidate James C. Joyce said he would help residents by freezing the assessed value on property owned by retirees until they died or sold their homes.
"It's a crying shame that they live here 50 years and can't afford it," Joyce, 45, a sales manager for Rentals Unlimited, said at a recent candidates' forum.
Though Joyce is a political newcomer, he said he would know what to do as an alderman because, in his business, he handles a budget half the size of the city's.
Randy A. McClement, the owner of Market Bagel and Deli for the past seven years, said the key to managing growth would be to broaden the tax base by attracting more business and generating new revenue -- for example, by boosting tourism to the area, which would be a boon to small businesses such as his.
"Tourism money is easy money," McClement, 48, said at a candidates' forum last week. "They come, they leave their money, and they go home to their own infrastructure problems."
C. Paul Smith, a lawyer and Mormon bishop, said growth was the biggest issue facing the city. Smith, 54, said he would lobby for the creation of a bypass road to the east of the city to relieve pressure on Interstate 270 and Route 15. Within the city, he said he would encourage residents to use the bus system.