Cecil County Businesses Rate Commissioners: Broomell Worst, Moore Best, for Business
A new Cecil County Chamber of Commerce survey of its members found that County Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) was deemed the most ââunsatisfactoryâ commissioner while Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) had the highest âexcellentâ ranking.
There were 129 respondents to the Chamber surveyâan admittedly small sample of the countyâs many business operators. But Chamber members tend to be more active and informed on county and state issues. In addition to rankings of the current five-member county Board of Commissioners, the survey also solicited comments on what problems local businesses face in dealing with county government.
The strongest negative reaction in the survey came on the question, âDo you think the Cecil County Commissioners, as a group, are supportive of the Office of Economic Development?â That drew a 74.4 percent âNOâ response, with comments such as, âI guess this is a prank questionâ and âThey got rid of the head of economic development; Vernon (Thompson) did an excellent job.â
A three-member majority of the current Commissionersâ board forced the ouster of Thompson in late August. [SEE previous Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2011/08/cecil-county-commissioners-oust-vernon-thompson-economic-development-chief-smipkins-get-even-for-political-independence/ ]
Thompson, a former deputy Secretary of the state Department of Economic Development, ran afoul of the countyâs state legislative delegation led by Sen. E.J. Pipkin and Del. Michael Smigiel, both R-36, when he backed previous Commissionersâ successful initiatives in Annapolisâwhich the Smipkins strongly opposed– to require developers to pay fees to offset some of the public infrastructure costs of their projects. The âThree Amigosâ faction of the current county commissioners is largely aligned with the Smipkin political machine.
In the recent Chamber survey, Broomell was rated âunsatisfactoryâ by 69.7 percent of the respondents and âfairâ by 12.4 percent, for a total negative score of 82.1 percent. Only 1 person gave her an âexcellentâ ranking and 7 people scored her as âgood.â
Next on the negative scale was newcomer Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3), who usually says nothing at commissioner voting sessions and is a frequent absentee from commissioner issue meetings. The Chamber survey rated him as 65.1 percent âunsatisfactoryâ and 14.7 percent âfair,â for a total negative rating of 79.8 percent.
Commissionersâ Board President James Mullin (R-1) was next in the negative ratings, although with a decidedly more mixed review from business leaders. They ranked him at 50.3 percent âunsatisfactoryâ and 26.3 percent âfair,â for a total negative rating of 76.6 percent. Two people rated Mullin as âexcellentâ and 13 people pegged his job performance as âgood.â
Broomell, Dunn and Mullin constitute what has been dubbed the âThree Amigosâ faction that has controlled the county commissioners board this year.
Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) received a 71.2 percent overall positive rating, including 44.1 percent ranking his job performance as âgoodâ and 27.1 percent giving him an âexcellentâ rating. His negatives totaled 17 percent, with 11.6 percent giving him a âfairâ rating and 5.4 percent finding him âunsatisfactory.â
Moore was at the top of the positive list, tallying 43.4 percent âexcellentâ and 31 percent âgood,â for a total positive rating of 74.4 percent. (Moore is a former executive director of the local Chamber, so some members might have based their ratings on personal dealings with her during her tenure at the Chamber.)
In other findings of the Chamber survey, business leaders said that regulatory burdens, especially permit and inspection requirements, were major obstacles to their operations. Respondents to the survey also said that redevelopment of the Bainbridge property near Port Deposit was a high economic development priority for the county.
The comments supplied by survey participants provided an insight into the concerns of local business leaders and a steady stream of negative views of the current Commissionersâ board majority.
âToo many permits and inspections,â wrote one respondent. âOur clients donât want to develop in Cecil County due to the excessive amount of inspectors and red tape involved in the permitting/entitlement process,â wrote another.
On the Commissioners, one businessperson wrote, âI feel that the commissioners are always divided; they forget that they are working for the taxpayers.â And âthe commissioners are not listening to the publicâŚthe Three Amigos have their own agenda,â another wrote.
During Tuesdayâs commissionersâ worksession, Moore and Hodge noted they had seen a draft version of the Chamber survey and suggested that the Commissioners should have a âsummitâ meeting with local business leaders to listen to their concerns.
Hodge said the Commissioners needed to âchange that perceptionâ that county government is not âbusiness-friendlyâ and Moore said the commissioners and business leaders should work together to overcome âbarriersâ to economic development.
Meanwhile, an advisory panel is scheduled to review ten candidates to replace Thompson as county economic development director. Donna Nichols, the countyâs director of human resources, told the commissioners there were 50 applicants for the job, of whom 10 were considered appropriately qualified for the âinitial cutâ of people to be interviewed by a panel of local business leaders. That group is expected to narrow the field further before the commissioners conduct their own interviews and review of applicants.