Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Last Night’s Forum

Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, October 12, 2006

This is the first General Election forum I got to attend.   Good thing too because there may not be many more.  Of all the forums I could have attended I am happy I attended this one.  It was a GOP night.

The LWV kept things moving along.  Everyone had 1 minute to respond.  One would think that not a lot can be said in 1 minute, but you would be surprised.

Anyway, County Executive race.  Steve Wallis, comes off as a distinguished looking man, but I think he is in over his head.  On every question he kept saying he would study it, build on his partnerships, review the budget.  He never provided any real concrete ideas on the issues.  I honestly expected him to come out realy well on education – his strong spot.  Even then I was disappointed.

I think that Mr. Wallis will end up being the spoiler and not the decider in this election.

Merdon has said he was going to create the position of Director of Education.  I think Mr. Wallis would do well in that position.  He should consider approaching the Merdon campaign.  Look at it this way.  Merdon has made a lot of commitments to education.  Who better to hold his feet to the fire than Mr. Wallis.

Merdon was right on message.  Despite what was thrown at him he didn’t take the bait.  When asked why people should vote for him he differentiated himself from Ulman and Wallis by telling people why they should vote for him.  Unlike Mr. Ulman and Mr. Wallis who gave a mixed answer “I am better and the other guys are evil”.  I was also pleased that Merdon didn’t come dressed for a GQ convention.  He dresses very well, but I think it is a distraction sometimes.  I know this isn’t a fashion blog, but at this point appearances make a difference.

Mr. Ulman needs to remember that over 50% of the people that live in Howard County were not born in Howard County.  He keeps reminding people that he was born and raised here.  That is great, but it does not matter to 50.1% of the voters.  He also kept saying he has a record he is proud of.  Fine.  He didn’t define it.  He kept trying to define Merdon and absolutely ignored Wallis.

Merdon = A
Ulman = C+
Wallis = B-

County Council

This was fun.  I did feel bad for the candidates because they were crammed at one long table.  They could have extended the table a bit for them.

I think the award for best in show goes to Tom D’Asto.  He was awesome.  Right on the money.  When asked what would be the first thing he would do he said “Support Chris Merdon in putting a moratorium on the Charette process”.  Mary Kay Sigitay said she wanted height restrictions.  Tom said I agree, but it is only part of the issue.  “Twenty 10-story buildings are as bad as ten 20-story buildings.”  He said that 5,500 additional residential units needs to be carefully planned and that the process was being rushed.

What I thought was notable was that every single republican candidate mentioned how they were aligned with Chris Merdon on one issue or another.  Like D’Asto above.  Thewes on not making Route 1 a dumping ground for affordable housing and that affordable housing should be thoughtful and not rushed either.  If Route 1 is the right place for it then great – but don’t assume that it is.

One democratic candidate mentioned Ken Ulman’s name and only mentioned it once,  Calvin Ball.  Not one other candidate mentioned their party affiliation except Jen Terrasa who said she was the Democratic Candidate.  She said it proudly.  Good for her.  No one else did.  If you are proud of your party affiliation then say so.  In fact Courtney Watson said she was aligned with Chris Merdon on growth and development so many times that I thought she and Tony Salazar were running in the GOP primary.  Too bad for Courtney that Chris Merdon supports Tony Salazar.  Tony made a good point about comprehensive review of the zoning issues in context of a new Howard County plan.  We should not make the mistake of planning for Laurel separately from Columbia and separately from Ellicott City or Elkridge.  It needs to be done in context of the Master Plan.  Each area is unique and has it’s own issues, but if we don’t consider these in context of a Master Plan the unintended consequences are likely to make things worse.


Now we only had one applause line last night.  It came from Calvin Ball (btw: after 6 months on the council he is the only experienced candidate running for office). Shortly after calling Chris Merdon a partisan and a bad candidate he railed against Gina Ellrich saying “She is the handpicked candidate of Chris Merdon, Bob Ehrlich, and George Bush”.  Ok.  Well a group of us were kind of stunned “George Bush?  Wow!  We had no idea the President of the United States was so interested in the County Council race”.  We could not help ourselves and broke out in spontaneous applause.  Then Courtney Watson shot a look at us that came right out of Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events”.   Seriously, if looks could kill. (click on the picture above).  In the confusion some people thought we were applauding Calivn, then it became apparent we were applauding Gina for doing so well in garnishing so many endorsements.  Is that Calvin’s strategy?  Anyway, Gina hit Calvin really hard on his proposed legislation CB75-2006 (my previous post on the topic).  Calvin has claimed that he proposed the legislation on behalf of someone else (my lord).  Regardless, Gina said that Calvin can’t be a champion of an open zoning process and then propose legislation that completely shuts out citizens from the zoning process and increases density at the same time.  Calvin didn’t reply.  For the only “experienced” candidate out there that was a big error on his part.  He didn’t think that through and I am surprised that Ulman and Guzzone were not looking over his shoulder (maybe they were). 

Don Dunn seems like a very nice man with a great deal of experience.  However, I don’t think he is running a serious campaign.  He is funny and charming, has a good grasp of the issues, but comes across as not very serious.  I don’t know if it is because he figures he doesn’t have a chance in district 5.  Unlike Jim Adams, who is working for Don now, I think Greg did well given the format.  He clarified a mis-statement by Don Dunn regarding a referendum item on binding arbitration.  He spoke knowledgeably about green building technology (his business).

All in all (given my biais) the Republicans looked united, spoke from the same page, were supportive of their County Executive Candidate, played off one another well.  The Democrats looked like 5 individuals.  The only one who seemed to support his party’s candidate for County Executive is Calvin Ball.

One big dissappointment.  When asked if anyone would vote to raise taxes only Don Dunn answered the question.  Nine others chickened out.  Maybe it was the TV cameras.


39 Responses to “Last Night’s Forum”

  1. Jim Adams said

    David, I consider you my superior in writing skills, intelligence, skills of observation,and analysis. You would master me in all academic areas.

    Is this why I fell different than you about Don, is this why I don’t see Greg as you do.

    I need you help, was it Greg’s silence at the forum, was it his answer on arbitration, rejected by the other candidates. Maybe we should sit down one night during the rebroadcast, you and I, and a couple cold beers, and look at this again.

    Or maybe we should organize a debate between Don and Greg.

  2. voter said

    with regard to Wallis and Director of Education, good point. Merdon should call Steve and offer him the job.

  3. hocomd said

    Voter, do you have any reason to believe that Mr. Wallis would be interested?

  4. Freemarket said

    I live in district 5, and I have not seen too many Dunn signs, whereas I see Fox signs everywhere. I thought Dunn’s answers to the online forum questions were on the casual side. One of his responses was “Seems like a waste of money but OK.” However, it sounds like Dunn is able to go toe-to-toe with Fox in real time based on the comments of Jim Adams. I need to peel myself away from the computer and start attending these kinds of public forums.

  5. Jim Adams said

    Thanks Freemarket, our votes are wasted when they are not educated decisions. We well see what can be done about the signs.

    Don’t forget, the forum from last night will be rebroadcast.

  6. tim said

    Ellrich did well last night as did Thewes. Salazar is like a ball and chain around Merdon’s leg. It was he who kept spouting an affiliation with Merdon. Every time Salazar says Merdon supports him – Merdon loses votes. And what is up with Salazar secretly taking photos of Watson on his cell phone? Merdon needs Watson a whole lot more than the reverse. Too bad our party cannot get Merdon to appear more bipartisan. We should be focusing on the District 3 race where we have the best chance to hold on to a seat for the Republicans and helping Merdon appear less Republican.

  7. jen said

    Who says that Merdon supports Salazar or endorses him? Have you heard HIM say that- or just Salazar?

  8. hocomd said

    I have heard Chris Merdon say exactly these words. “I strongly support Tony Salazar”. He said it right to me.

  9. MJ said

    Mr. Adams, I was at the forum last night, and Don Dunn was going to be the biggest joke on the stage until Calvin Ball stole that distinction from him in the final moments. I haven’t seen a performance like Mr. Dunn’s since Admiral James Stockdale’s performance in the 1992 Vice Presidential debate. Mr. Dunn was very entertaining, but that is not a compliment. For all of his spunk, he had trouble stringing together a complete and coherent thought. Mr. Dunn would best serve Howard County by continuing his other very worthy activities outside of the political arena.

  10. hocomd said


  11. Freemarket said

    I think it is interesting that Merdon, on the online forum, ducked the question about his largest supporter, because I heard from a little bird that his largest supporter is developer Chip Lundy, who is relying on Merdon to come through for him on the development of the Belmont property in Elkridge. I am the first to admit I don’t know any details about this developer or property, so this could be Ulman propaganda, but I do know that Merdon ducked the question about his largest supporter with some crazy answer about grassroots volunteers. Does anyone have any input on this?

  12. hocomd said

    Freemarket, if you really are interested in learning who his contributors are you can find out yourself by going to the campaign finance database. It is searchable.

    I don’t like little birds myself, I would rather look into the matter a little before quoting sources.

    If you search you will note that his single largest contribution came from the Howard County Republican Party.

    You can download it and do all the math you want.

  13. Freemarket said

    Thanks for that link. That’s why I like you, you are so darn helpful. It looks like Lundy Family Partners donated $4,000.00 which is only $239 less than the Republican Party gave. Very interesting…

  14. Jim Adams said

    MJ you are embrassed for Greg Fox, as well as the Republican Club, but you comments are a poor why to deal with your feeling.

    I do appreciate one thing about your negative comments, those who read what you have written will now be more interested in watching the rebroadcast.

  15. Jim Adams said

    By the way MJ are you still writing the material for one of the Republican candidates.

  16. hocomd said

    Was that in one lump sum or over the past 8 years. Who else has Chip Lundy donated to?

  17. Jim Adams said

    MJ, while you and the guys are playing cards, ask Greg if he wouldn’t mind a debate with Don. A little one on one, couldn’t hurt anyone, unless you want to play dirty.

  18. MJ said

    Mr. Adams, you must have me confused with someone else. I don’t work for any candidate. I have never met Greg Fox. The forum was the first time I was in the same room as most of the candidates. So whoever you think I am, you are wrong, and you’ve made yourself look silly.

  19. Jim Adams said

    Good try.

  20. mark J said

    Jim Adams, you have seriously confused me with MJ, I don’t appreciate your judgement or assessment even if I did share MJ’s views. Maybe MJ will further identify himself as not me.

  21. MJ said

    MJ is also known as Matt. I am not Mark J – but MJ is a handle I commonly use online. I am a relatively new reader of this blog, and my original post about Wednesday’s forum was the first comment I’ve ever made here. To avoid any further confusion, if I post again I will use all three of my initials: MJT. Mark J, my apologies that you were dragged into this.

    Furthermore, Mr. Adams, I know nothing about you except that you were briefly running for the D5 council seat. I can assure you that I have never met you. My comments about Don Dunn were made as a spectator at the forum. I do not live in D5, have not previously supported or endorsed a candidate in that race, and know nothing about whatever drama you are trying to stir up. However, my advice as a neutral third party is that you should really reflect about whether Don Dunn’s candidacy is worth burning whatever bridges you may have just set ablaze.

  22. Jim Adams said

    Your telling too much, you will soon get caught in your on web.

    The issue should be Dunn and Fox, a debate or two.

  23. MJ said

    Jim Adams said, “Your telling too much, you will soon get caught in your on web.”

    What in the world does that mean? Is that some kind of veiled threat? Or are you really so paranoid that you need to verify my social security number before believing that I’m not someone you know?

    Jim Adams said, “The issue should be Dunn and Fox, a debate or two.”

    Go and re-read my previous posts slowly and carefully. What do you not understand about me having nothing at all to do with these campaigns? Talk to them about it, don’t make a scene here.

  24. tom berkhouse said


    If you are trying to figure out which candidate is “in the pockets” of developers, you have it wrong. Check out Ken Ulman’s campaign contribution list. He got 4 or 5 $4000 contributions from a Baltimore County-based developer/builder via several family members and LLC’s that he has formed (I printed the whole list out but can’t find it right now or I’d specify the name). Ulman is getting TONS of cash from out-of-County developers, builders, and lawyers in the development/zoning field. They are all probably angling to get a piece of the development activity that will occur in Town Center Columbia if Ulman can grease the charette plan through the system. Ulman is also receiving cash from the Chairwoman of the Planning Board, Tammy Citara-Manis (who will be voting on the Charette Plan), and also from the County Solicitor, Barbara Cook, who was obivuosly too bust writing checks to Ulman to notice the ILLEGALITIES of the COMP LITE fiasco.

    Chris Merdon has said NO to developers when it was right to do so. Ken Ulman has never said no to any developer.

  25. Jim Adams said

    You protest too much MJ, have a good weekend.

  26. Hayduke said

    Barbara Cook was too busy writing one $25 check to Ken “to notice the ILLEGALITIES of the COMP LITE fiasco”? Must have been one of those really big checks.

    $95 from Tammy Citra-Manis — one of Ulman’s neighbors in River Hill — over the course of three years certainly does seem fishy? One $20 check, one for $25 and one for $50 is clearly how one is assured a seat at the table for the new administration.

    Since you managed to describe the contributions from these two individuals in such restrained tones, I’m sure your statements about developers’ money are similarly lacking in hyperbole.

  27. hocomd said

    Ok, things are getting heated. Tone it down. I think I am just going to delete the entire blog. It would probably be considered an act of contrition.

  28. Fran said

    Wait, not yet!

    Didn’t Lundy also contribute to Sigaty? Maybe Ball, too… If Watson is in there, then that’s the 3 the Town Center plan needs to get it passed…

    I miss Mary Smith.

  29. Hayduke said

    I miss Mary Smith

    I was just thinking that myself. Where’d she go?

  30. Ann said

    I think she has a new handle, now Seldom Seen Smith, the writing is the same a Mary’s. Check the “Ken Ulman is in Trouble” response by Seldom Seen Smith. And Mary Smith has recently been “Seldom Seen.”

  31. Freemarket said

    tom berkhouse- I noticed the contributions Ulman received that you mentioned. I was actually going to post something about it, but you beat me to it. There were four total contributions of $4,000 each, three of which occurred on the same day, one was a month and half prior. The four contributors share the same Baltimore County address and three were business entities that have “Preston” in the name. That looks suspicious as heck to me. I agree with hayduke that the other examples you pointed out are insignificant. However, should we believe that a Baltimore County business that contributes $16,000 to a Howard County campaign expects no special favors?

  32. Hayduke said

    Ann: There’s no way Seldom Seen Smith is Mary Smith. Seldom’s post defended Ulman, something Mary never did. Say what you will about her, but she was as close to an equal opportunity offender as we’ve ever seen on these here blogs.

    Freemarket: I think it’s safe to assume those contributions came from the same place. Development interests financing campaigns is certainly unseemly, but I don’t think there’s anything necessarily suspicious about them. After all, everything’s publicily available. It would be interesting to see an unbiased, side by side look the contributions from developers, land use attorneys, and other development interests for both candidates. My gut tells me you won’t see much of a difference, but as is abundantly clear, I’m biased.

    More generally, I think the outcome of these contributions is not how much growth, but who gets it.

  33. Tom Berkhouse said


    AS usual, you miss the point, don’t address the point, and then try to spin a lame defense. I didn’t make any issue of the SIZE of the contributions from Ms. Citara-Manis or Ms. Cook. I simply indicated that they made contributions to Ulman. And, in my opinion, it is inappropriate to have done so. If Ulman supports some plan that has to get legal approval, or get Planning Board approval, how can either of those people be involved? They would/should have to recuse themselves, just the way a judge would have to recuse themself if a campaign contributor ended up in his/her courtroom. It just smacks of rottenness that with all of the questionable things that Ken Ulman has done, and the Planning Board has done (see postings about the Plaza Towers site plan that was approved by the Planning Board), Ulman is taking donations, whatever the amount, from people in positions of influence within the County heirarchy. For example, why has the Planning Board been so supportive of the Charette Plan. Ken Ulman supports it (he initiated the whole thing after all) and Ms. Citara Manis is the Chairperson of the Planning Board, which has significant input into the plan (Council has the final say). So how do we think Ms. Citara Manis will handle the Plan when it comes time to make a decision? Will she follow good zoning practice or do whatever Ken wants her to do? Or, how did Ms. Cook let the Comp Lite Bill, which DID violate County laws, get passed and signed, which just happened to give rezoning approval to one of Ken Ulman’s close personal friends (Sang Oh, and the Bethel Korean Church). I did like how at the recent COPE forum, Ken tried to defend his rezoning of the Bethel Church by saying he also rezoned the First Baptist Church of Guilford. GREAT! So that’s 2 illegal “spot zonings” that Ken has approved. By rezoning the churches, they no longer have to go through the public hearing process, YET Ken is constantly talking about how he wants an “open process”, and that he will listen to “every voice”. Well, if there’s no public hearing, he just silenced a whole lot of voices. How does Ken talk out of both sides of his mouth so well? Maybe Hayduke can elaborate.

  34. Eric said

    Merdon ought to endorse Watson or noone. Salazar just hands votes right to Ulman. I can not count the number of yards with Merdon and Watson signs. Showing, either Merdon is taking Democrat votes or Watson is taking Republican votes. Probbably a little of both.

  35. Eric said

    In reply to comment number 7: Salazar has four 4×8 signs on Merdon’s property. That should tell you something.

  36. mary smith said

    Why Fran, I’m…..I’m humbled by the sentiment and my re-entry is modified from the planned extravaganza wherein I likened you and Ann to matching gargoyles, hunched gray sentry guarding this blog. As it turns out, there is only one gargoyle and she is wrong, as usual; wrong about dual aliases this time. Oh Ann.

    I guess David won’t confess having a list. David? No chiming in regarding IP addresses linked to names (which I would store if I were you)?

    And Hayduke! Of course you’re the reason I’ve returned believing honest, multi-faceted discourse is valued in some quarters.

    Soon, however, you’ll all be calling for me to disappear again which, be forewarned, will only encourage me further. My marathon of sorts is over for now and I’m somewhat available.

    The first plan of action is to let everyone know that when David begins to moderate discussion, we move to the Hayduke site. (Already Hayduke is sorry I’m back….)

    The second plan of action is to ‘stir up controversy’ by saying that some love democracy and others love power. Do you know where your candidates reside? What’s your evidence? Let’s talk about similarities between Calvin Ball and Greg Fox as they contrast with similarities between Schrader and Bobo. Unless of course, it’s all about being a loyal partisan….(voters? what voters?).

  37. hocomd said


    You have returned and in great form as you comments suggest.

    Welcome back!

  38. Ann said

    It’s you! It was wishful thinking on my part about Seldom Seen Smith. We are glad the real Mary is back. Hopefully, tan rested and ready to go!

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