Councilman Joe Smith

Havre de Grace City Councilman Joe Smith, center, is all smiles after hearing the results of the May election in Havre de Grace, which put him on the city council. Smith, who is gay, supports passage of Maryland's same sex marriage law which will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. (PHOTO BY MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF / October 16, 2012)

Questions on the ballot for the upcoming election, specifically the ones dealing with same-sex marriage and county charter amendments, brought out some opinions at Havre de Grace's council meeting Monday.

Councilman Joe Smith, who said earlier he would address several of the ballot topics, focused instead on just same-sex marriage and tried to counter some of the opposition to that legislation.

He said many residents in Havre de Grace and throughout Maryland are looking for legal recognition of their relationships, without which they are subject to penalties and discrimination.

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Same-sex couples simply want to live "knowing they have equal rights under the law" and while marriage might be seen as religious by some, the ballot question prevents people from being forced to perform ceremonies or provide services that run counter to their religious beliefs, he said.

"I have heard from some that this issue is not appropriate for comment from this dais," Smith said, but noted that other ballot issues have been addressed in a similar venue.

"For the numerous same-sex couples residing in Havre de Grace, it's a matter of love. It's a matter of fairness," he said before wishing a happy anniversary to his partner.

Smith got some applause from supporters in the audience, and from Councilwoman Barbara Wagner.

"I applaud you for that," Wagner said, noting his relationship of 25 years and joking that she has yet to be in a relationship for that long.

Joe Kochenderfer, who has long been involved in city government, also spoke against two ballot questions that apply to the county charter.

One would require the county council to fill a vacant county executive position with a voter of the same political party. The other would allow council members to apply for employment with county government immediately after they leave office.

The first amendment would leave the county in "a quandary" should an unaffiliated voter somehow become elected and then leave office, Kochenderfer said. In such a situation, the person could not be replaced by a member of their party.

While the county has only "two viable parties" currently, Kochenderfer said, "there are many voters who would not be identified with either party if there were reasonable alternatives."

He pointed out that independent voters essentially face "taxation without representation" because they also help pay for primary elections in which they are not allowed to participate.

Regarding the second amendment, Kochenderfer said he did not think people should be eligible for county employment immediately after leaving the council, as they would have "certain insider knowledge" and would be "at a distinct advantage over someone with no such connections."

He said the amendment would veer too close to "self-promotion and nepotism."

Also during the meeting, the council introduced budget transfers totaling $1.1 million. The projects include a $100,000 federal grant for Lilly Run, a $126,400 state grant for basketball and tennis court lighting at Juniata Street, an additional $75,000 for opera house restoration, $75,000 for David Craig Park improvements and $23,400 for water treatment plant facade improvement.

Another budget transfer also would move $43,000 toward promotional activity for the War of 1812 bicentennial celebration.

Emily Caron, a senior from Havre de Grace High School, served as mayor for the day and used her comments period to make a pitch for a new high school.

"Although I will never attend the new school, I plan to live in Havre de Grace after college," Emily said.