Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. on Thursday announced details for the last in a series of town halls focused on the budget and fiscal climate that he’s hosted around the county.
The town hall in District 1 — which stretches from Baltimore Highlands to Woodlawn, and includes Arbutus, Catonsville and Halethorpe — will take place on Wednesday, March 6, at 6:30 p.m. on the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus. The town hall had been postponed because of inclement weather last week.
Olszewski announced a series of town halls early in his administration to hear from residents concerning Baltimore County’s fiscal climate and other concerns. He’s so far held one each in six of the county’s seven council districts, each time joined by the council member for that district.
Council Chairman Tom Quirk, an Oella Democrat who is the District 1 representative, will be at the meeting. Quirk said he’s “genuinely excited” to hear from constituents in the town hall format.
Johnny Olszewski Jr. delivered an upbeat message on the campaign trail, promising a fresh approach to governing as Baltimore County executive. Now in office and facing a budget shortfall, he is traveling around the county telling a more sobering story.
“I hear from all walks of life that value local government, and want more local government,” Quirk said. People “want to have better schools without crowding, and want to make sure air conditioning issues are fixed completely. People want a police force, and they value our firefighters and community colleges and having paved roads.”
The issue then becomes paying for those services. It’s been decades since Baltimore County has raised property taxes, and Quirk said he expects to hear thoughts from residents about how to make cuts — or raise revenues.
“Quite frankly, our overall debt capacity is fairly constrained now, and we have to make some tough decisions. If we want things, we have to pay for them. If we don’t want to pay for them, we have to make some cuts,” Quirk said.
County officials said over 1,200 residents have attended the six town hall meetings across Baltimore County. In a statement, Olszewski said he’s “seen overwhelmingly” that people want to dialogue directly with their government.
County officials also announced the date of two community forum events concerning public safety as a part of Baltimore County’s ongoing search for a new police chief. The search was announced in December, the week Olszewski was sworn in to office.
A town hall for Tuesday, Feb. 26, is scheduled in Dundalk, at the Sollers Point Multi-Purpose Center, and a town hall for Thursday, Feb. 28, is scheduled on the western side of the county at Milford Mill Academy.
Officials said the forums are meant to be a space where residents can give input on the qualities they’d like to see in a police chief. The Olszewski administration expects to have a new police chief in place by June.