Questions from the Dorchester Chamber
Recently, the Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce submitted questions from their Members to the various candidates for City offices. Here are my responses in full:
1) Please tell us about your background, experience, involvement in the Community and what knowledge and strengths you would bring to the office.
I grew up on my father’s farm on the Little Blackwater River and graduated from CSDHS where I was Junior and Senior Class President and captain of the soccer team among other things. During high school I worked on the farm and in several restaurants in town. I graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor’s in Secondary Education & English and taught for several years before attending University of Baltimore School of Law. I focused in the areas of Business Organizations, Land Use and Environmental Law. I practiced law throughout the State of Maryland from offices based on the Shore, primarily in the areas of real estate, land use, corporations, zoning, and wealth preservation and planning before joining a National Banking Corporation. During this time I focused efforts on volunteering for many boards and committees. I have served on the Chamber Board, have served as President of the Dorchester County Bar Association, Vice-President of the Mid-Shore Pro Bono Association, and as President of Cambridge Main Street for many years. I have also served for 20 years on the board of Sailwinds, Inc. which maintains the vision for the waterfront from Governor’s Hall to the Visitor’s Center. As a result of that, I founded and have been the organizer of the annual Kite Festival at Sailwinds Park which brings hundreds of people to our waterfront. At the State level, I have served as the President of the Board of Directors of the Maryland Alzheimer’s Association and have also served as Chairman of the annual March of Dimes gala at the Hyatt. As an attorney and in the furtherance of growth in this County, I created and drafted a zoning amendment to allow for farm wineries, thus enabling the creation of Layton’s Chance Winery. On a pro-bono basis I assisted the Friends of the Stanley Institute with legal work relating to property purchases at Christ's Rock. I recently spearheaded the effort to rename great Marsh Park after the late, great Gerry Boyle.
I am currently the Senior Fiduciary Advisor and Vice President with PNC Bank Wealth Management working from several offices on the Shore as well as Lewes, DE. I also teach the capstone course in financial planning and Trusts and Estates on an adjunct basis at the Purdue School of Business at Salisbury University.
I feel that my knowledge of the community coupled with a passion for its betterment and improvement, as well as my background, education, and support of the business and professional community has prepared me for this opportunity.
2) If elected, what would be your first priorities?
To bring clarity to the initiatives surrounding the redevelopment of our waterfront, making sure that any efforts there work in harmony with our historic downtown.
3) What are your priorities for the next 4 years?
I want a top to bottom examination of the budget, and to repair the relationship between the city and county to make sure that we are not duplicating efforts unnecessarily. I want to get the city council out of the business of micromanaging details that the city manager should be empowered to focus on. And most importantly I want to stop saying we are “business friendly” and actually enact business friendly measures that reduce the burdens and red tape on businesses, and redevelopment.
4) What characteristics or skills are needed most in a leader to move the city towards vitality?
I have always been optimistic about the City of Cambridge, even when faced with what at times have seemed to be insurmountable challenges. The City Council and its members should focus on the big picture and vision for Cambridge, and look at every new proposal through the lens of existing plans and economic studies rather than commissioning new ones.
5) What do you believe are key assets of our community that would cause a business to decide to locate or not locate here?
Our quality of life is the most obvious answer, as well as the other comparative advantages that we have over other communities such as the water and maritime cultures, agriculture and aquaculture, and a unique and largely welcoming community. I also feel that with the changes brought about by COVID, more businesses will be moving away from the large corporate office model in the big cities, and will be looking for opportunities to locate to some place more cost effective with all of those same quality of life enhancements.
6) List two strategies you believe would help existing businesses to expand and explain why?
Businesses don’t mind playing by the rules so long as the rules don’t keep changing. We need to have our economic development offices in the city and county work very closely with the Chamber to understand the hurdles and road blocks that businesses are experiencing and seek to remedy them. Additionally, the planning and zoning approval and permitting process takes far too long, simply based on their meeting schedules. I would like to explore ways to make the entire process more efficient, as every lost month is lost dollars to that business.
7) What should the city and county be working on collaboratively to benefit the entire community?
Any areas of redundancy should be combined or eliminated to better effectuate a more streamlined budget in both places. The County should always be mindful of decisions they make that adversely affect the City. And we as a City should always be advocating towards sensible decision-making from the Board of Education, and supporting every effort that is for the betterment of our schools.
8) In what ways should key staff be accountable and how would you utilize their experience, expertise and knowledge?
In the past, the hiring process for the City has been fraught with difficulties and to be honest, potentially subject to litigation and human resources violations because of the constant hands-on and micro-managing approach by the City Council. We have a City Manager for a reason, and if that person serving in that role is capable and qualified to do their job, most of the business and hiring decisions should be left to them.
9) How would you build and leverage relationships with influential state agencies/programs to maximize opportunities for the community?
Cambridge maintains a good relationship with MHCD and other state agencies and I would seek to maintain that, and also look to actively have our staff seek out every grant opportunity so long as it doesn’t saddle us with debt or substantial financial liabilities. As a result of serving on various Boards and Committees throughout the state I am very familiar with many of the people in those agencies as well as many in our Shore delegation.
10) How will you work with Cambridge Mainstreet to ensure that the City of Cambridge partners with them to make Downtown Cambridge a popular destination place, encourage start-up businesses and support the continued growth of the downtown area?
I think my long history with Main Street and Downtown Cambridge speaks for itself in this regard and I don’t want to belabor the issue for you. Most of my life in Cambridge has centered on making Cambridge a popular destination and I will support every effort to do so, long after I am gone from City Council.
11) How are you going to grow business in Cambridge, not only in the downtown, but throughout the City?
I want to explore options that expand growth in both our downtown and City as a whole. For example, under state law we are empowered to created specific taxation districts (not to be confused with new taxes) that allows for a portion of the taxes already received in some areas (such as our highway commercial district) to be set aside specifically for use and enhancements of our downtown historic district. This is a win-win for both areas. Moreover, we have a unique opportunity with the redevelopment of the packing house as well as our new hospital center to incubate and support the growth of a variety of businesses that serve Cambridge’s needs – and possibly needs we didn’t even know we had.
12) Describe your understanding of affordable workforce housing and how you will support additional development and incentives for the creation and/or re-development of affordable workforce housing?
Brian Roche, Ward 1 Candidate, and I both worked together on a statement regarding this extremely important issue that memorializes our shared vision: Affordable workforce housing means that workers can afford to own or rent quality housing where they live. We have a large percentage of vacant homes that need to be filled and dilapidated homes renovated. We need to invest in quality housing and promote home ownership within the core of the city and support initiatives that create demand for people to locate in the city. Safe streets, parks, access to the waterfront, a vibrant downtown within safe walking distance of many of these neighborhoods will go a long way in incentivizing improved housing stock. The legacy federal policies of concentrated public housing have been deemed a failure by most experts and unsustainable financially, so we need to consider more progressive zoning policies that promote a variety of quality housing types within a community. Inclusionary zoning, form based zoning, and creating land banks are examples of those housing policies seeing a measure of success in many cities . The entire goal being to make us more financially self-sustaining.
13) How do you see yourself as a defender of property rights, why should the Mid-Shore Board of Realtors support you?
As a son of a farmer and an attorney who has specialized with and focused his entire life on Real Estate and Land Use and related issues, I believe I bring a unique skill set to the City Council. I have even served on some committees for the Mid-Shore Board when I was focusing my practice area on real estate settlements and title work. When you own a home or a piece of real estate, you have a special stake in the community. You are naturally incentivized to make it better and we should make every effort and provide every opportunity, tax or otherwise, to encourage home ownership.
14) Can you explain your approach to having a council that works together for the benefit of the City?
Big and inclusive vision – smartly and efficiently executed by a city staff that is empowered to do their jobs to make for ONE Cambridge. And overall, less of a focus on Wards and a better focus on what is better for the city as a whole.
15) What is your vision for waterfront development from the fishing pier to the Creek?
We as a city and I, personally, have spent decades on this topic. We have had multiple studies and years of public input and discussions and we need to look no further than those plans – the vision is already there. If a proposed component or project there doesn’t align with that vision, it should be dismissed outright unless there is a very compelling reason to consider it. We have a unique opportunity over the next few years to capitalize on these opportunities, and as a City we must all work together in the furtherance of those objectives.
16) Describe the value of tourism for the City. -
Tourism is perhaps the most significant part of a solid foundation for our entire economy. I have worked closely with our Tourism department for decades in a variety of capacities because I firmly believe that tourism leads to hundreds of ancillary benefits. People decide to pull off the highway and stop to check out our downtown – perhaps they’ve seen an article promoting the Hyatt or one of our festivals, and they go in to the Visitor’s Center and obtain further information. They head downtown and experience the friendly atmosphere of one of our great restaurants, and take a stroll along historic High Street down to the water. They see our gorgeous marina and many of the houses in the west-end and decide that this would be a great place to retire to and keep their sailboat here during the summer. Soon they are living here full time, volunteering at those festivals, and inviting their friends and families to come visit and enjoy Cambridge for themselves. And the cycle continues.