Two men are hoping to snap the 16-year Democratic reign in the Baltimore County Council's District 6 that began when Joseph Bartenfelder unseated incumbent William A. Howard IV, and both candidates are stressing Republican themes of cutting spending, reducing taxes, making government more efficient and making the county more inviting for new business.
District 6 stretches roughly from the Northeast Baltimore line to the Chesapeake Bay, and includes Putty Hill, Middle River and White Marsh. The incumbent Bartenfelder is running for county executive this year.
Primary opponents Andy Peet and Ryan Nawrocki are both new to elective politics, and the two Republicans said they were drawn into the fray by a sense that the county is doing a poor job running its fiscal affairs.
Nawrocki was riled up by news stories early this year on the pension due Councilman Vincent Gardina of the 5th District, who is leaving the panel after a record five, four-year terms. The council voted to cut pensions for future members, but Gardina will collect his full council salary of $54,000.
"That's wrong on so many levels," said Nawrocki, 27, of Rosedale, who works in public relations for LifeBridge Health. "I was concerned about where we're going."
He said the county has to look for ways to save money and give some relief from property taxes, which he argued puts the county at "a competitive disadvantage" in competing for new businesses.
While the county property tax rate — Maryland's second highest after Baltimore City — has not risen for more than two decades, many people are paying more because assessments have risen up to the county cap of 4 percent a year. Nawrocki insists the county should allow no increases at all, and make up the money with a tougher look at where money could be saved in the $2.6 billion budget.
Nawrocki said the county might save money by putting more of its land and permits records online, meaning an employee would not have to retrieve paper records. He suggested deferring capital projects, although he could not cite specific examples. He said he'd end the practice of providing all council members with a county car.
As public school costs comprise about half the budget, Nawrocki said he would support an elected school board as a way to make the school system more accountable to the public and to the council.
Peet, 50, now teaches mathematics and computer science at Towson High School, but he spent 24 years as a management and technology consultant for private industry and government, and he wants to put that experience to work as a councilman.
He argued that the county has to be tougher on spending, cut its payroll through attrition, use technology to make operations more efficient and "work the county budget just like we work our home budget." Although bond rating agencies say the county's debt is low, he remains concerned about the level of borrowing.
Asked where specifically he would cut expenses, he said: "Across the board. I'd cut everybody, that's the only fair way to do it."
The former consultant suggested the county trim the payroll by "using more and more consultants, that's where we have to cut back." He does, however, urge that teachers be paid more to improve the quality of education, and he supports more emphasis on vocational education.
Peet, who installed solar panels on his home in Parkville, also said he would invest more money in equipping county buildings and schools for solar energy, and would urge that $1 million be set aside in each district to help homeowners install solar energy systems.
He said the county has to be more aggressive in developing new businesses. He pointed as an example to the Allison Transmission plant in White Marsh, where truck engines are built. With some incentives from the county, he said that plant could be adapted for newer technologies such as hybrid or electric engines.
"Let's start with hybrid engines," he said. "Let's get the party started."
He criticized the practice of making a career out of holding local office, and said he would support a two-term limit for the council.