Our picks for the Laurel City Council elections [Endorsements]

The federal shutdown this fall was a tough lesson in how coming to agreement is important to getting things done. When the five City Council incumbents answered questions at the Laurel Board of Trade's public candidates forum last week, their answers were nearly always made in agreement with one another. And while it would have been nice to hear what they didn't agree on, they have found enough common ground to effectively govern the city as a council in the last two years.

The council successfully attracted a developer to replace the nearly empty Laurel Mall; enhanced pedestrian safety through improving crosswalks such as the one for residents of Selbourn House; has worked with the business community and created incentives for new business to come to Main Street; and has proposed lowering property taxes as the city receives expected new revenue from developments that are in the works.

This is why we have chosen to endorse incumbents Michael Leszcz for at-large; Valerie Nicholas and H. Edward Ricks for Ward 1; and Donna Crary and Frederick Smalls for Ward 2.

While Laurel's city elections are nonpartisan, candidates this year divided into two informal parties, the incumbents and three challengers who campaigned together on a ticket calling for change.

Change can be good, but challengers Thomas Matthews in Ward 2, Adrian Rousseau as at-large and John Mathew Smith in Ward 1 haven't defined for us what change is needed.

Both Rousseau and Matthews championed serving Laurel's youth during their campaigns, which is certainly an important undertaking and one Rousseau pursues as a volunteer with youth athletics. And Matthews ventures beyond youth in declaring his commitment to the well-being of the city's seniors.

But none of the three challengers have given us any reason to think they could do a better job of governing than the council members already in place.

The incumbents have promised to continue their efforts toward improving public safety, maintaining city parks and programs and working to attract new business and revenue to the city.

Something missing from both the incumbents and challengers is emerging initiatives to reach Laurel's growing Latino community, which is underrepresented in the city government but increasing in numbers among city residents.

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