The five candidates for Hampstead's three open council seats agree on a lot.
Two challengers and three incumbents, they all list Main Street revitalization as the town's top priority, they all say the council must vigilantly lobby the state for a Route 30 bypass and they all want to avoid tax increases.
So why, a person might ask, do the incumbents face opposition in Tuesday's election?
Challenger C. Donald Warner said he's running because the current council, despite having the correct priorities, has been ineffective in pushing the town's interests. "I hold them responsible for years of delay and feet-dragging on projects like the bypass," he said.
Warner, 56, has lived in Hampstead for three years and finds himself perpetually frustrated by the political feuding between Carroll County's Republican government and the Democrat-dominated state government. The retired Realtor and auto salesman envisions leading a citizen committee that would pressure the county to compromise with powerful Democrats such as Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
"Things remain undone, and somebody has to accept responsibility," he said. "It's time to stop the wishful thinking that we'll have anything other than a Democrat in the governor's office."
Glendening has delayed funding the bypass because of concerns about its environmental impact. The project, which would alleviate heavy traffic along Route 30, tops the list of $110 million in state road projects planned in Carroll for the next six years, state highway officials said in the fall.
Nearly 25,000 vehicles a day, many of them tractor-trailers, travel Route 30 through Hampstead, according to state highway statistics. A bypass would divert much of that traffic from Main Street. The 5.8-mile road would cost about $35 million. It has been on the drawing board for 30 years but has not been designed. The state would have to purchase easements and figure out a way to preserve the endangered bog turtles that live along the proposed route.
Many of the improvements listed in the council's 1999 revitalization plan depend on the proposed bypass. But some, such as new sidewalks connecting all of Hampstead to downtown, new bicycle paths and underground wiring, can proceed during the next several years, incumbents said.
"We have unfinished business," said incumbent Haven N. Shoemaker Jr. "We've worked hard to come up with this plan, and now we have to work to implement it."
Shoemaker, 36, has lived in Hampstead for seven years and served on the council since 1997. A lawyer, he listed beefing up recreational programs and keeping taxes low as other priorities.
The council has earned the right to see its work to fruition, said incumbent Vincent J. Corsaro, who has served 18 months of an appointed term.
"Whatever differences there are, everyone seems pretty committed to making the town better," he said. "We work pretty darn well together."
Corsaro, 39, has lived in town for 12 years and said it's a relief to see the bypass seemingly on the verge of construction. The town's new police station and new water sources show that the incumbent government can handle big projects, he said.
Incumbent Wayne H. Thomas, 50, ran for the council eight years ago because he felt ignored at town meetings he attended. Now, he said, he's proud of the council's plans for a better downtown.
"There's still plenty of work to do, and I want to see it completed," he said.
A systems design engineer for Hathaway Industrial Automation, he has lived in Hampstead 10 years.
The town must fight a growing drug problem, he added. Thomas said the Police Department needs more money to hire officers. He also said he'd support programs to educate residents about crime linked to drugs and the dangers of abuse.
Challenger Warner also said fighting drugs should be a priority.
"We need programs in prevention and treatment, and I haven't seen this council squarely behind that," he said.
The other challenger, Myron H. Diehl Jr., expressed no problems with the current council. "I just think I have a lot of life experience to offer," he said.
The 50-year-old engineer has served for six years on the town's board of zoning appeals. He's interested in downtown revitalization but worries that Hampstead's budget relies on state grants that will dry up during the next several years.
"We just need to take a hard look at the budget, so we don't end up facing tax increases," he said.
Of the bypass, he said, "Of course it's important, but we can't just sit around and wait for it. There's so much we can do now."