Baltimore County Executive Hopefuls Face Off In Debate
Kamenetz, Holt held a civil debate at UMBC.
A mostly civil and polite debate took place between Baltimore County executive candidates Kenneth Holt and Kevin Kamenetz at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Tuesday night.
Often, the candidates agreed more than they disagreed, a stark contrast from the Monday debate between gubernatorial candidates Gov. Martin O'Malley and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
The debate, moderated by Donald F. Norris, chair of the university's department of public policy, was mostly civil, with the most contentious moment occurring early in the evening.
Holt, the Republican candidate, said that 36 to 39 percent of Baltimore County students did not matriculate to college, in response to a question about continuing to move the school system forward.
Kamenetz, the Democrat nominee, said in his rebuttal, "That's just not accurate."
This prompted Holt to interrupt him and add that the students he was talking about graduate from high school, but they don't go to college.
Norris then reminded the candidates of the ground rules and the two did not interrupt each other throughout the rest of the debate.
The candidates fielded questions from four panelists, including journalists and representatives of community organizations, for an hour before taking questions submitted by the audience.
In several areas, Holt and Kamenetz did not present opposing views on issues.
When asked what personal approach they would bring to the county executive office, both talked about having and open and communicative style.
They are also in support of expanding environmental protections in the county, putting as much information online to the public as possible and revitalizing downtown communities such as Arbutus and Owings Mills.
They also overlapped on the question of how members to the Baltimore County Board of Education are selected. Both candidates said they would like to see more local control. The governor currently makes the appointments.
The two candidates differed in other areas, with Holt criticizing county budget practices. He said he could find $80 million in savings, or 3 to 5 percent, to make county government more efficient.
"Within government, we can become very efficient and streamline. That's how we're going to save $80 million off the top," Holt said.
Kamenetz said that Baltimore County has been a model for financial stability, with the county's AAA bond rating and the $10.6 million the county has set aside in rainy day funds, along with a surplus for the current fiscal year.
Each candidate took advantage of the forum to pitch new ideas.
Holt proposesd a baseball field and museum on Liberty Road to honor black baseball players in the Negro leagues. The idea was first promoted by Democratic challenger Joseph Bartenfelder, who lost to Kamenetz in the Democratic primary.
Kamenetz said he thought the idea was a "field of dreams" and instead said redevelopment should include businesses and a connection to jobs at Northwest Hospital.
He also said within the first 100 days he would work make sure that residents could do all of their business with the county online. He also suggested putting real-time data on pothole repairs, snow plow locations and crime statistics.
Holt pitched making Baltimore County more of a center for agri-tourism like Napa Valley, CA or Lancaster, PA.
Both candidates took a positive view of the economic future of the county and the state.
"The future is extremely bright for Baltimore County," said Holt.
Kamenetz said, "What we do offer in Baltimore County is a good quality of life."