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Jim Lee: Input sought on community priorities

As the election season heats up and candidates for various offices are stumping around the county, it will be important for voters to present them with a clear and consistent vision of community priorities and what we expect from them.

Historically, protecting our rural heritage, investing in our youth, growing businesses and ensuring that residential growth doesn't outpace our ability to provide services have been among the top priorities for voters in Carroll as they decided whom to support in the county commissioner race.

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A little over a decade ago, when leaders in our county government ignored concurrency management, opened the floodgates to unchecked residential development and severely hampered the county's abilities to provide basic services such as schools, water or emergency services, voters showed up at the polls in force to usher in change. Subsequently, the county put more effort into reasonable, controlled residential growth and committed resources to those basic services that had been hampered by years of neglect. That pattern continued up until the last election, when a change in government brought a change in voting patterns, and the first five-commissioner board of commissioners was elected.

Previously, the three commissioners faced elections countywide. But the switch to five commissioners, each representing a small district, meant that it would take fewer votes for someone to win an election as voters were limited to voting only for a commissioner in their district.

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From the beginning, the priorities for this board have been to roll back restrictions on development, an effort that continues even today. In some cases, they can legitimately argue that previous boards went too far in imposing restrictions, and that the restrictive nature prompted some businesses to go elsewhere.

Of course, we were also suffering the aftermath of the worst recession in recent history.

The board also has spent considerable time pushing back against the state. Sustainability became a dirty word, and other priorities have included fighting off a United Nations takeover of the world, ensuring that English is the "official" language of Carroll, opposing regulations designed to protect the environment for future generations, defunding the public school system as much as legally possible (while creating a taxpayer supported slush fund for private and home schoolers) and opposing gun laws.

Considering all the state-level fights this board has picked, you have to wonder where our state delegation stands. Generally, they are right there nodding their heads in agreement, but they too will face a big change in the coming election because of the gerrymandering of districts passed by Democrats controlling the legislature.

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On paper, Carroll will have more delegates in the General Assembly. In practicality, however, Carroll voters will have almost no say in who gets elected in the districts that fall mainly in other counties. We'll have three delegates elected within Carroll by Carroll voters, and already opponents are lining up for the chance to take on the incumbents.

The races, at all levels, will likely again be decided in the primaries by the hardcore Republican base that comes out faithfully each election to vote. Sometimes the winner is reflective of the party as a whole; other times it isn't. But no matter who gets the nod in the primary, as we have seen time and again in the past the Republicans who turn out to vote in November will elect a bad Republican before they would vote for someone with better credentials from a different party. Just ask any one of the many people in office now who ran and lost as Democrats, but later ran and won as Republicans. The results speak for themselves.

Knowing all of this, it makes it all the more important that we, as voters, define for the candidates what our priorities are and what we expect of them. What are your priorities? What do you want the winners in the next election to focus on?

Go online to this column and post your thoughts. Let's start the discussion about what we are looking for in our leaders, and what we need to do to ensure they get elected.

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