SALISBURY — A heated contest to see who will be mayor of Salisbury after this spring’s election is already shaping up with current Mayor Jim Ireton announcing his bid for re-election just days before Joe Albero, a local blogger and one of Ireton’s harshest critics, declared his intentions to run.
In this election, Ireton has said that he will be running on the strength of his record. In his announcement, he listed nearly a dozen “highlights” of his first term, including the introduction of a 270-page downtown revitalization plan, a 40-percent reduction in violent crime rates in the last four years and a 20-percent drop over the last decade, $16 million in city surplus funds and the naming of Salisbury as an All-America City.
“When was the last time a politician could look you in the eye and tell you he did exactly what he promised?” asked Ireton in his announcement. “Well, I can and I’m proud of it. I’m proud of the coalitions I’ve built in making Salisbury a great place to do business, an exciting place to visit, and a safer place to live.”
But Albero, who operates the Salisbury News blog, doesn’t agree with Ireton’s assessment of the status of Salisbury or the direction it is headed. He spent a large portion of his announcement for candidacy criticizing the incumbent Ireton for a lack of leadership and claimed that the mayor has been unwilling to work with the City Council on most any issue. Ireton’s clashes with the council majority especially drew reproach from Albero.
“Yes, I know that our current mayor will attempt to lay the blame at the feet of three council members,” Albero said. “Of course, that’s the problem. Rather than sit down with our five council members, whoever they may be, and work out solutions to our problems, the current mayor would rather hold a press conference and attack.”
Albero was also dismissive of Ireton’s claim to have upheld all of his campaign promises. He blasted the mayor for “failing to produce” an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance and for being unable to take part in a “civil debate” on governing, asserting again that Ireton’s often public clashes with the council showcase an inability to compromise.
“Leaders engage in dialogue. They don’t stand on a soap box and smear other elected officials,” said Albero. “Leaders seek ideas and participation from all involved. Leaders are willing to compromise. They don’t take a ‘my way or the highway’ approach. Leaders plan for the future.”
But Ireton wasn’t the sole focus of Albero’s announcement. Looking into the future, Albero promised that if elected, he would focus on revitalizing Salisbury’s struggling downtown by drawing in more business and promoting the city’s Arts and Entertainment district, which he claimed Ireton would not do by reducing parking in the area.
The continued reduction of crime in Salisbury is another point where Albero swore to exceed the work of the current administration, though he was willing to admit that Ireton’s efforts, combined with the council’s, have shown some success. But the infighting and combative atmosphere in the city needs to stop, concluded Albero, and the idea of attracting more business needs to be done based around a strong vision, which he believes Ireton lacks.
When asked if he had a response to Albero’s laundry list of complaints with the current administration, Ireton only said that the people of Salisbury should and will be skeptical regarding Albero’s motives and promises.
“The community knows he doesn’t live here and has no connection to our neighborhoods, our hospital or university, or our history,” claimed Ireton of Albero, who moved to Salisbury last year from Delmar so he could run for mayor this year.
The mayor pointed to the derelict buildings and other signs of blight removed during his first term, including the Thrift Travel Inn and Lines of the Week, along with lower crime rates and a hefty plan for revitalization as a counterargument to Albero’s charges of inefficiency. And while Ireton didn’t refute Albero’s claim that the administration and council sometimes clash, the mayor argued that the city is prospering despite any conflicts.
“For all the times other elected officials have said, ‘no,’ to our citizens, I have said, ‘yes,’ to moving Salisbury forward,” he said.
The primary election for Salisbury will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 26 with the general election following on Tuesday, April 2.