—– By: Ann Costantino —–
A group of concerned Baltimore County citizens, who call themselves Save Baltimore County 2018, have taken it upon themselves to research county executive candidate and current Baltimore County councilwoman, Vicki Almond.
Stating in a recent write-up about the group’s stance on three Democratic candidates and its distaste for recent attack ads lodged against Democratic candidate Jim Brochin by Almond’s allies, the group stated,“If you believe the scurrilous flyers and TV ads (which cite multiple useless links and unsubstantiated sources) and compare Brochin and Johnny O on their voting records on progressive legislation in Annapolis, here’s the facts we found.”
The group then asks voters to look at Brochin and Johnny Olszewski, Jr.’s voting records, , also linking to a chart it created titled,“Vicki Almond on the issues – Where’s the vision.”
The group of community members and activists say it wants a better government in Baltimore County. And members say they have found insufficient answers to questions Almond has given while on the campaign trail.
“After viewing several candidate forums and debates, Save Baltimore County 2018 observed a pattern of avoidance in Vicki Almond’s discussion of the issues. The following chart includes her complete verbatim answers to questions asked on a variety of issues. Video of the forums can be viewed on the YouTube Channel ‘Save Baltimore County 2018.'”
Creating a color-coded chart of transcribed questions and answers, the concerned community members cataloged the exchanges from about 20 talks and interviews in which Ms. Almond participated since March.
Among the topics are development, public schools, storm water tax, heath care, fraud, waste and abuse, economic development and the opioid crisis.
One question and answer segment, under the heading of Better Government which the group transcribed, was from a March 19 WYPR Midday radio interview in which Ms. Almond was asked on the program, “How will you reduce or eliminate fraud, waste and abuse?”
She answered, “I think there are a lot of ways that we can be more efficient and more effective. And that to me, when we’re looking at communities and underserved communities, you know, there are ways to…Baltimore County government is all about quality of life issues. It’s about picking up the trash and having good schools and plowing the snow and having public safety. Those are all things that community people need and want and deserve quite frankly, they’re paying taxes for that. And I think that we have to look at Baltimore County as a whole. We have to get out of our little bubble and take a look at all parts of Baltimore County and how regionally we’re being affected by other counties and by the city itself. So it’s going to take a lot of discussion and a lot of work, but I do think we can get there.”
The advocate group categorized Ms. Almond’s roughly 20 answers into four categories:
- Restating the obvious (wants, needs and problems);
- Defending the status quo;
- One-size-fits all solution: Identify partners and stakeholders; then sit down at the table and talk; and
- Inaccuracies or misrepresentations.
The group encourages undecided or disenchanted Democrats to support Democratic candidate, Jim Brochin, and caution that a vote for third-place candidate Johnny O. could mean an unintended win for Almond. A poll conducted earlier this month by the University of Baltimore and The Baltimore Sun showed Almond trailing front-runner, Brochin.
On a second chart prepared by Save Baltimore County 2018, titled, Vicki Almond – The disconnect between campaign rhetoric and actions.” the group compared Almond’s record as county councilperson with answers she has given in public forums and interviews.
From the same March 19 WYPR appearance on the Midday program, the group transcribed a question and answer segment about campaign contributions. A caller into the show asked Almond, “Should the amount of campaign contributions have any bearing whatsoever on so called ‘access’ to politicians and if not, why did you make a statement that it does?”
Almond had made a statement in a November interview with The Towson Flyer that, “Developers give you money, and the reason they give you money is not to make you do what they want you to do — I’m sure some of them are hopeful — they give you money to have access.”
Ms. Almond responded to the WYPR question, “I would like to start off by saying that everyone has access to me now as the councilperson and they would have access to me as the county executive.”
Almond and other Baltimore County elected officials have been criticized for accepting campaign contributions from Towson-based developer, Caves Valley Partners, while in turn voting to assist the developer with aspects of its development endeavors, such as its Towson Row and Towson Gateway projects.
To date, Almond has received at least $13,250 in campaign contributions since 2010 from Caves Valley Partners and its affiliates. The amount, however, does not include money donated to a super PAC in support of Almond’s campaign.
Mark Reutter from The Baltimore Brew reported late last week that three Caves Valley partners – Steven Sibel, Arsh Mirmiran and Arthur Adler – donated $18,000 to the super PAC just over one week ago.
The Brew reported that the money came in one day before $31,912 was sent to a mailing service company located in Nashville, Tennessee. Brochin has been the target of attack ads by a slate campaign created by former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith. Smith’s slate is also in support of Almond.
Almond was not immediately available for comment, but has been invited by The Baltimore Post to respond.
This story will be updated.