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Cecil County Council Dist. 5: Hodge, Crouse Offer Polite, Subtle Differences

September 10, 2012
By Nancy Schwerzler

The two contenders in November’s election for the District 5 Cecil County Council seat agreed on many issues in a candidates’ forum, especially ending the political bloodbaths that have marked the county commissioners’ governing of the county for more than a year. But they offered some subtle, yet significant, differences on how they would bring infrastructure to the growth corridor, handle animal control, and bring jobs to the county.

Incumbent County Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) and Democratic challenger James Crouse, the former mayor of Elkton, spoke before an audience of about 100 people Thursday night in a candidates’ forum sponsored by the Cecil County Patriots, the local “tea party” group.

Hodge has been a frequent opponent of the so-called “Three Amigos” majority faction of the current five-member commissioners board, which will be replaced by a five-member County Council and a County Executive under the new charter form of government that takes effect in December.

Hodge admitted he was “depressed” by some of the actions taken by the current majority, but said he was “not going to give up” and his work for the past four years “in the trenches” of county government proved he had “the right stuff and the experience to be a good councilman.” He also cited his experience as a business owner and vowed to make the county much more “business-friendly” to attract employers and create jobs.

Crouse cited his more than two decades in Elkton town government, as a council member and then mayor, as well as past work for Union Hospital and current employment by NBRS Financial, as his qualifications for office. Crouse also served briefly in the state House of Delegates to fill a vacancy but was defeated for election by Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36) and he has been out of government for a decade.

Both candidates agreed that the current majority of the commissioners had made county government “dysfunctional.” Crouse said the new council must “work together” and he suggested “tear[ing] down the walls” at the county building and forcing elected officials to “learn how to speak to each other.” He drew a laugh from the audience when he declared, “We also need to learn how to hug each other.”

Both candidates took issue with the recently adopted overhaul of the county’s animal control ordinance, which Hodge voted against. The Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. (CCSPCA) terminated its contract to provide services to the county due to the mandates of the new ordinance which its attorney said were costly, unenforceable and in part illegal. The county is currently using a trapper and private kennel to provide emergency-only services dispatched by the 911 emergency center.

A majority of the current commissioners “screwed up,” Hodge said, and the new ordinance is “unenforceable, impractical” and imposes “way too much government intrusion.” Rather than seeking a practical solution for helping animals and resolving animal-human problems in the community, he said, the majority put out 32 pages of regulations that were actually aimed at trying “to penalize the current animal care and control provider.”

“We put the screws to the current provider and they got pissed and walked away,” Hodge said bluntly.

Crouse expressed support for the CCSPCA, saying “they’ve done a tremendous job in the county” in the past and he said there should be “a re-thinking and a re-drafting” of the ordinance. “I hope the SPCA would come back and be a bidder of services,” he said, under a Request for Proposal for animal control services that has been issued by the county. Crouse said he would not support creation of a county government agency to take over animal control duties and instead such services should be rendered by an outside contractor.

Hodge responded that “the SPCA may be doing a good job but there is always room for improvement…I don’t want to imply the SPCA is the best agency in town.”

Both candidates agreed that a key stumbling block to economic development in the county is the lack of water and sewer infrastructure in the county’s Route 40/I-95 growth corridor. Crouse said extension of infrastructure needed to be done “ASAP” but he was vague on how to accomplish the solution that has eluded the county for decades. He suggested charging property owners substantial fees to hook up to services but did not elaborate on how the infrastructure would be built.

“The closest thing to a silver bullet to solve the problems of Cecil County is infrastructure” Hodge said. And he advocated re-opening talks with the private Artesian firm that had signed a contract to provide sewer lines and treatment services in the county—a deal that was terminated by the Three Amigos majority last year.

“They sabotaged the plan we had worked hard on,” Hodge said. The majority of current commissioners “put us backwards for decades.” But election of “new leadership” could re-open the privatization option, he said.

Hodge said that Artesian has built many miles of water pipes in the few months since the Delaware-based company took over water services from the county—the only part of the package that was allowed to proceed—but Artesian could not feasibly put water lines in the crucial growth area because there is no plan for sewer services and business needs both services before locating in the area.

“The county has no plan,” Hodge said, and “the county is going to be the holdup again” to getting needed services to promote business and job growth in the area.

Hodge emphasized the need to bring new employers and business opportunities to the county, with infrastructure services a key element in achieving that goal, along with “keeping taxes low.”

But Crouse said before seeking new business investment, the county should work first with existing businesses to make sure they are “happy.” Crouse suggested the county use its bond authority to pass on low-interest financing opportunities to existing businesses. He also said he supported “adequate and affordable housing” in the county.

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10 Responses to Cecil County Council Dist. 5: Hodge, Crouse Offer Polite, Subtle Differences

  1. Hillary S on September 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Just the simple fact that Mr. Crouse expressed support for the CCSPCA and a re-drafting and re-thinking on animal control is great news. He’s got my vote.

  2. Betty on September 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    If you aske me, it is time to vote out all the standing commssioners and bring in new people. They are all a laughing stock. The current board get nothing, and I mean nothing done.

  3. MikeR on September 11, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Hodge speaks out of both sides of his mouth. When the Smigiel debacle came down, Hodge was the first to suggest/insist on forming a task force to come up with an animal control ordinance, which he was to oversee. This task force took a turn of its own and spinned out of control until all members but one resigned. HE allowed that to happen! The three amigos were not all part of this plan for a task force and Hodge had insufficient management skills to get this group under control. Even though he brags about voting no, he knew that the three broomsticks would carry the majority. I’m not impressed with politicians who sway with the wind.

  4. Too Much Government on September 11, 2012 at 9:38 am

    … I am pleased to hear that Mr. Crouse recognizes that the animal control issue is a serious matter and that he is open to the remaking of this ordinance that will take effect Oct. 1. This ordinance was a cut and paste Pennsylvania legislative piece put together by a few animal rights activists who loathe the CCSPCA. This is a very HOT political issue. If Mr. Hodge thinks he can get away with walking both sides of the fence, he better wake up to reality. November is coming soon.

  5. Patrick Tuer on September 11, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Betty, to say the whole board is a laughing stock is a comment of ignorance. Moore and Hodge have done a fine job. Can you give me specific examples as to what they did wrong? Broomell, Mullin and Dunn are the laughing stock, but your blanket statement is not a fair one. I am a Dem, however I am a realist, and if I agree with how certain Republicans have acted, I am not afraid to say it.

    Party means nothing to me; whoever gets the job done does, regardless of what their political affiliation is. With that being said, I do like Jim Crouse, but wouldn’t be upset in the slightest if Hodge won. I also really like both county exec candidates, but I do support Tari Moore for the seat.

    • 1Citizen on September 12, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      Great, Patrick, vote for Moore and make Broomell Council President for two more years.

      • Patrick Tuer on September 12, 2012 at 10:00 pm

        I post under my real name, and you hide behind a handle. Interesting. Anyway, Moore is the best candidate in my opinion. The rest of the problem will resolve itself and the Council will not have as much power as it currently does.

        • Patrick Tuer on September 13, 2012 at 7:26 pm

          Also, I respect the different opinions that others, including Betty may have. What I don’t respect are blanket statements that are false. The fact is Hodge and Moore have done a good job, especially considering the 3 they have to work with. I am a democrat, but I have no shame in being honest, even if it benefits the other party. As I said before, party means less to me than my town, county, state, country, etc…

        • 1Citizen on September 14, 2012 at 8:17 am

          PT,

          Don’t mean to offend,; I could have phrased that better. I respect your view and credit you with using [your]actual name. I use my identity in other forums, sometimes with repercussions; here it’s fun to express without constraints.

          Moore is good for the Exec. position; just concerned with Smipkin contingent dominating the 5-member council, and Broomell continuing to embarrass the county with her crazy rants and personal attacks on fellow Commisssioners. Hodge and Moore conduct themselves in a professional manner. Mullin fails to conduct meetings with proper decorum; it’s easy to forget he’s president, not Broomell.

          It’s interesting to see if Dunn develops a backbone and sticks with her once her power is diminished. Seems he’s flip-flopping on tier map now that he sees opposition to Broomell’s stance. Who knows, maybe he’s even starting to acquire actual understanding of issues?

  6. madre19 on September 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    To Betty – The answer is not voting out all of the incumbents. Under the charter gov’t, the County Council will lose half its power. Although I like Crouse, I prefer Hodge. Look at his complete voting record. He has supported many good items and voted against many awful ones. Hodge & Moore continue to try & make difference but can’t get past a 3-2 vote.

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OUR CECIL COUNTY DELEGATE DELIVERED (Part 3)

Supporting Our First Responders

*Secured Mobile Command Unit Bus

*Helped obtain land for Perryville Fire Station 16

*Fought for traffic signal devices to aid emergency vehicles

*Hosted security/safety workshop on crude oil transports

And More to Come
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