Land-use decisions and government transparency were the prevailing themes at a town hall Saturday afternoon sponsored by state Sen. Allan Kittleman, a West Friendship Republican running for Howard County executive.
About 30 people attended the town hall, held at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center in Columbia.
In response to comments from the audience that they felt county zoning decisions were currently not transparent enough, Kittleman said he would work to put more documents and decisions from the Department of Planning and Zoning online if he were elected.
"My goal is to put as much online as possible," he said.
He also said he'd consider requiring developers who would like a zoning change on a particular piece of land to file a notice of intention to allow the public 30 days to talk to Zoning Board members about the proposal before an official request is submitted and they are banned from discussing the project.
And he said it's time for the county to revisit the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, which was designed to ensure that infrastructure, including new roads and schools, keeps pace with development.
"We need to look at what's working and what we can do to make it better," he said, pointing to under-attended schools in the western county and overcrowded ones in the east as a sign that the guidelines, in his view, need to be refined.
Kittleman said his priorities would also include expanding access to pre-K classes as a means of closing the achievement gap and fortifying public transportation in the county.
And he said, "On Day 1 [as county executive], I would no longer have a police officer driving me around, unless I have a very confirmed threat on my life."
Kittleman also spoke about state bills, touching upon why he didn't support the minimum wage bill in its current form -- he said he's concerned that it could do harm to small businesses -- and his unsuccessful efforts to introduce bills overhauling the redistricting process and barring legislators who live less than 50 miles from Annapolis to use state money to stay in nearby hotels during the General Assembly's 90-day session.
And he said a recent bill that would effectively require more counties to pay union wages to construction workers on county projects that receive state funding would unnecessarily raise budget costs.
"Why would anybody want us to pay more for our schools?" he said.
Kittleman said he was optimistic about his chances for election.
"There are times when you sense something's happening," he said. "I sense a similar thing right now -- people want to be able to trust their government and I think that they don't have that right now."