The two contenders for Howard County's largest geographical County Council district spent 90 minutes Wednesday night in a Lisbon fire hall answering questions that ranged from deer hunting to downtown Columbia redevelopment.
"This may have been longer than all the forums I've done since 1998 combined," incumbent Councilman Greg Fox, a Republican, told the more than 100 campaign partisans and residents who gathered for the Concerned Citizens of Western Howard County forum. He and Democratic candidate Zaneb Kahn "Zee" Beams were the sole participants, unlike most candidate forums that include the full range of county executive, council and General Assembly candidates.
Beams, a Clarksville physician, said she once rejected government service for medicine, but is seeking public office now as a way to make things better for more people. "I've shown I have the capacity to do that," she said.
The two didn't disagree on much. They're both for deer hunting, they said, because they've both seen the ravages of Lyme disease, which is caused by ticks often carried by deer. Fox said his wife and one of his two children have suffered from the disease, and Beams, a pediatrician and mother of four, has treated patients who have it. They both also agreed that downtown Columbia is a much better place to put new development than in rural Howard. District 5 covers the rural western county but is geographically huge, stretching over some areas east of Route 29 in the southern county.
Fox, of Fulton, drew on his four years of experience in the job to explain how he's sought to make land-use issues more transparent to the public by putting expenses online and making zoning signs coded with big numbers and letters. Beams stuck more to her general promise to preserve and protect the western county from too much development. Deer hunting, she said, "is a part of the culture that needs to be respected," though she conceded, "I didn't always feel that way."
Both also said they don't foresee reductions in property taxes over the next few years, though both vowed to look for ways to save money. "My goal is not to increase property taxes," Fox said, reminding voters he helped defeat an increase in the western share of the county's fire property tax proposed by County Executive Ken Ulman in 2007.
Concerned Citizens was created by Daisy residents to fight a proposed used-car lot on a commercial crossroads in their rural hamlet, which prompted questions about the coming General Plan revision and the uses of commercial property in the west, along with the plan to allow hundreds of new homes at Doughoregan Manor as part of a larger preservation plan. Both candidates said they were uncomfortable with some aspects of the arrangement but approved overall, with safeguards.