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District 42 A candidates cite growth in Towson and resulting traffic as key issues

Incumbent State Del. Stephen Lafferty, a Democrat, is facing challenger Michael McAllister, a Republican, in the upcoming November election for the single delegate seat in the Maryland General Assembly's legislative District 42A.

Thanks to the 2012 redistricting, District 42A is essentially a new district that includes downtown Towson and the neighborhoods that surround it. Geographically smaller and more Towson-centric than the former District 42, its boundaries run from the Baltimore City line to the Baltimore Beltway Interstate 695, and from Charles Street on the west to Loch Raven Boulevard up to Cottage Lane on the east.

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Both Lafferty and McAllister say that the district's key issues are both statewide and local, although they differ on exactly what the key issues are.

On the statewide level, Lafferty points to jobs and the business climate.

A General Assembly-initiated commission is in the process of examining employment needs in the state and linking them to job training programs.

"Maryland has put a lot of money into job training," but the programs' effectiveness in preparing people for the current job market and future jobs must be determined, according to Lafferty, director of special projects for the Howard County Executive, 55, married, and a Stoneleigh resident. He is seeking a third term in the House of Delegates.

The commission is likely to issue its report in December before the start of the 2015 General Assembly. "Its recommendations may lead to legislation," said Lafferty, potentially including changes in regulations and deployment of resources.

Lafferty wants a strong statewide business climate. To that end, he would like to see a more diverse statewide economy with less reliance on federal dollars. On a local level, he points to Towson University's TowsonGlobal Incubator as an example of the entrepreneurial ideas and start-up businesses that can lead to diversity.

McAllister is running for political office for the first time, although he has long followed Maryland politics and would like to make a dent in the prevailing Democratic-dominated system.

He, too, talks about a key issue in the state that has a local impact. McAllister, a prosecutor, 40, married with children, and a Stoneleigh resident, is referring to taxes.

"The biggest concern for people in my district is high taxes that have risen over the past eight years," McAllister said of the Democratic administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Traditionally, the administration submits a budget to the General Assembly for approval. Legislators "need not accept a budget that requires new taxes," said McAllister. "We've raised taxes to meet increased spending. My solution is not to increase spending."

Both Lafferty and McAllister see key issues on the local level as well.

Lafferty points to the growth of Towson University, traffic management once all the proposed Towson development takes place, and redistricting of schools to avoid overcrowding. McAllister talks about an increase in crime and the revitalization of downtown Towson.

About a decade ago, the University System of Maryland Board of Regents designated Towson University a growth institution, encouraging student enrollment and subsequent programmatic and physical changes, says Lafferty.

"It may be time to revisit" that designation, he continued, in light of the impact the burgeoning university has on off-campus housing, traffic and roads and public safety.

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On the issue of boundary changes and school overcrowding, Lafferty says his role as a delegate is to use his influence with Baltimore County Public Schools.

"I want to facilitate neighborhood voices being heard by the superintendent [Dallas Dance] and the school board. I want community people to be at the table when decisions are made," said Lafferty.

McAllister says residents are concerned about an increase in crime, whether real or perceived.

"When I went knocking door-to-door in Rodgers Forge, Knollwood and Wiltondale, people were concerned about crime and about Towson University students renting homes in the neighborhoods," he said.

To that end, McAllister said he would reinforce the role of the existing strong local community associations and neighborhoods' Citizens on Patrol groups. "A delegate can help with funding, with supporting these organizations and getting their word out," he said.

As for Towson itself, McAllister said that "people like the small-town feel Towson used to have."

Whether that feeling can be retained in the face of the redevelopment of downtown is another matter. But one of the immediate issues facing Towson is traffic.

"Realistically, there is no room for new roads so mass transit is the answer," said McAllister, who supports Baltimore County Councilman David Marks' suggestion for a downtown circulator. At the least, he continued, "it's a partial solution to the problem."

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