BY BRYNA ZUMER, firstname.lastname@example.org
4:34 PM EDT, September 13, 2012
Edgewood's community council is trying to get out the vote by addressing the low turnout Edgewood typically has in elections and inviting elected officials to discuss the issue.
"One of the reasons we don't get the attention we need to get is we don't vote. We don't get the people registered to vote and we don't vote," council leader Jansen Robinson said Wednesday.
"This is 2012. Perhaps the middle of next year and on you will see more and more elected officials attending these meetings because they want the few votes that we've got."
"A lot of our problems have to do with our, the community's, complacency, and failure to actually get involved in something that deals with them personally," he said, pointing at the room of seven to 10 actual area residents.
"Look at the attendance at this meeting tonight," he said. "A lot of these folks don't even live here. They have shown more interest in Edgewood than people who live here."
Robinson explained Tuesday night would feature "Democratic-leaning" officials while the next meeting in October would have "Republican-leaning" ones.
The discussions, however, were not meant to be partisan but just to discuss how to empower the Edgewood vote.
"If we lived up to our potential we would never have to ask elected officials for anything. They would come to us… because they want our vote," Robinson said. "My attempt is not to talk about candidacy but to talk about us."
Former state senator Art Helton said the upper part of the county, such as Fallston, had a voting turnout of about 65 percent in the 2010 election, while the Edgewood precinct had 40 percent.
"Empowerment will get you what you need from your elected officials," Helton said. "The numbers, if you're an elected official representing you, indicate that this community can be ignored without much harm or fear or respect."
Part of the problem, he noted, is the vast majority of the voters in 2010 took part in early voting, but that polling site was only in Bel Air, making it potentially hard for Edgewood residents to reach.
Helton said getting the voting numbers up may not guarantee Edgewood will get the candidates it wants, but "at least you're not automatically defeated by the sheer numbers of the mass."
Bob Frisch, a board of education member, said he thinks voting registration and turnout is a function of how involved people are in the community at large.
"I see a direct correlation between people's involvement and community organizations and their involvement in the election process and I believe everybody who can vote should vote," he said.
In his experience with the board, community concern "is driven by the PTA. They're the ones driving that issue."
"A lot of times I don't think people see the connection between the PTA and their elected officials," he said.
Councilman Dion Guthrie, who represents the Edgewood area, agreed with that, pointing out that the PTA was the one that called him and asked him to testify before the school board Monday on behalf of Joppatowne High School.
Guthrie said the county has been able to get a new Edgewood High School and Deerfield Elementary School and renovations to Joppatowne Elementary School, but he also said Harford County Executive David Craig is the main one in charge.
"The county executive has that thumb, no matter what the county council does, no matter what the school board does," Guthrie said, making reference to Havre de Grace High School, whose renovation Craig has been pushing.
"The county executive has a lot of power in this county," he said.
Helton said he was not sure it made sense to invest in Havre de Grace High because more than 65 percent of the school is not more than 30 years old.
He told Frisch it could be hard to get support for putting 75 percent of the capital funding into a school that is mostly less than 30 years old.
"That school, other than the ones you just did, is the newest high school in the county," Helton said, adding he lived in Havre de Grace for years.
Andrew Mallinoff, regional field director for the Maryland Coordinated Campaign for the Democratic party, said the campaign plans to make more than 1 million live calls to voters statewide and is focused on winning the 6th and 1st Congressional district.
The First District, which mostly covers the Eastern Shore, also includes the central part of Harford County.
The campaign will also be contacting 38,156 total Harford residents, including 12,213 who were redistricted since the last election and pushing early voting.
"We know that when people vote early, they vote for Democrats," Mallinoff said. "Democrats dominate early voting and we are trying to grow early voting."
Guthrie also noted Kohl's warehouse will hold another job fair shortly as they start holiday hiring. He said they will ultimately be up to about 1,200 employees there after they complete their planned expansion.