SALISBURY – The two mayoral candidates in next week’s Salisbury election were heard during a debate this week hosted by the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Political Committee in cooperation with Salisbury University’s Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, and held at Salisbury University.
Incumbent Mayor Jim Ireton and businessman Joe Albero, owner of the SBYNews blog, will square off in the highly anticipated matchup.
Here’s a transcription of a few questions posed at the forum:
Q: If elected or re-elected how quickly would you push for the filling of the current temporary fire departments chief position?
Ireton: Given the fact the mayor is the executive of the city, I will send that name when that name is ready to go.
Albero: Immediately, morale is down in at the Salisbury Fire Department and we need to change that immediately. I think it sets a very, very poor example that we haven’t been able to unite the Mayor and Council to bring forth either the current interim chief and/or reaching and finding out whom else has applied and is willing to apply and look at those other options. This has been, in my opinion ridiculous that we have waited this long.
Q: You have publically said on your blog that you would shut down the zoo. Do you understand the economic impact the zoo has on the community and the families? Do you still stand by that statement?
Albero: I don’t know where that statement comes from. I never said it. I don’t recall ever coming close to saying I would shut down the zoo. I have some ideas for the zoo but to be honest with you after my wife has worked there for 18 years, as I stated to some people at the zoo when this popped up, she would kill me. So there is no way in any way shape or form that I would entertain or even think to coming close to shutting down that zoo. It is a great resource.
Q: Are you willing to suspend nearly passed ordinances 2230 and 2233, the false alarm fees and fines, now that it has been realized that they dramatically increase rather than reduce them?
Ireton: Both of those will go back to council for a work session so that the concerns of the business community can be addressed … Let us also remember, I do not have a vote on either one of those things so I can’t just automatically say those things are going to be enforced but I recognize they will come back before the legislative body as soon as the City Council president puts them on the agenda.
Q: With the demise of Urban Salisbury, does the city need a full-time economic development person?
Albero: I have stated since the very first day I announced I was going to run for mayor that I would become the next economic development director of Salisbury.
Absolutely Salisbury does need someone with a professional business background. We have a $51 million a year budget. We have basically a $51 million-a-year corporation being run part-time. No one in this room or watching on PAC 14 can tell me that they can run a $51 million a year business part-time. It cannot be done.
I want to dedicate a day or two per week to travel to the western shore where I moved my manufacturing company and distribution center from to basically base around $16 a square foot there, $3 a square foot here. Salary is much less here. The cost of a house and taxes are a lot less here. We have great, great advantages to encourage businesses to come here but we can’t sit around like our current mayor and former mayor and wait for businesses to fall in our lap.
We have to aggressively go out and market Salisbury. We have everything there is to offer businesses. It is just not being done. We lost 1,900 jobs last year to the year before…we can’t afford to have this anymore…we need help.
Ireton: Anybody who was around when Urban Salisbury was slashed by the Salisbury City Council will tell you that I fought to the nail for that and it was our Salisbury City Council who when Urban Salisbury walked out the door, one member looked to another member and said, “cut them.”
Take a look at what is on the record, that EDU drop of 60 percent, which was very good. My downtown plan, all 275 pages of it, is an EDU free zone, talking about changes in the paving policy, talking about bulk permits for people who work downtown.
What has happened in our city over the last 30 years is we have all these plans and they just sit there because somebody doesn’t want to do them or only wants to do what they want to do. We have waterfront, we have surface parking lots on waterfront that no other thriving city has, and we need to do things differently. The plan is out there, and I believe there does have to be some money spent to make money.
Is there a need to do something downtown? Yes, with some sort of entity and it should have been Urban Salisbury but it was this City Council that has cut them to the bone. Yes, we have to do something and it will be in my budget for 2014.
Q: Give us a 90-second accounting of your platform, as well as your visions for the City of Salisbury in the next five and/or 10 years.
Albero: Bringing businesses here to the Eastern Shore, again, we offer incredible opportunities and we can’t wait for them to fall into our lap. I want to move forward with going to the Western Shore just like I did when I moved here and introduced these packages, houses in comparison to theirs, taxes in comparison to theirs, business expenses compared to theirs, they are going to fall for it in a New York second. The question is, are they ready to move?
So it is going to take time but we have spent 16 years doing nothing internally from the Mayor’s Office and the administrative body to get that done. So that is part of what I want to change in Salisbury. Bring better life for everyone involved paying taxes, and I will not raise taxes.
I do not believe in 500 affordable housing units in downtown Salisbury in empty parking lots. Absolutely not, and when we revitalize downtown Salisbury, which we will do, we are going to need as much parking as humanly possible downtown.
Ireton: There is nobody here that has fought harder for our neighborhoods in the last four years, there is nobody that has fought harder to bring that crime rate down and reinvigorate community policing … nobody that has fought harder to make sure our river is heading towards being the best it can be and more healthy then it is today.
That takes partnerships. That means you have to sit in rooms with groups of people … and get everybody moving in the right direction.
It is the same thing with Safe Streets … it is all the groups that have to come together to move those things forward. It is the same thing with business. It is the same thing with creating jobs because you can’t just go across the bridge and say they’re coming back here. You have to take a Request For Proposal so it is legal, so you have to know what that is to begin with, and you have to know all of the things that go along with redevelopment and the expansion of our economy.
So, I am excited about those partnerships, and I am excited about continuing to move us forward. … I just want you to know I am firmly based in reality.