District Six delegation delivers legislative agenda to constituents at town hall
- By Patrick Taylor -
Leading up to the start of the 2018 General Assembly in Annapolis, which kicked off Wednesday, Jan. 10, the Sixth District delegation held a town hall at the North Point Library in Dundalk to give a pre-session update.
Delegates Robin Grammer, Ric Metzgar and Bob Long, as well as State Senator Johnny Ray Salling, met with dozens of constituents for two-plus hours, discussing topics ranging from infrastructure and taxes to crime and redevelopment.
Delegate Long spent his opening remarks focusing on tax issues. He told the gathered crowd that he planned to submit legislation that would bump up the Homeowner Propert Tax Supplement from a $62,000 joint income threshold up to $72,000, which accounts for inflation since the credit was approved in the early 1990s.
Long noted that he is going to focus on lowering the Homestead Property Tax, which limits the increase in taxable assessments each year to a fixed percentage, from 4 percent to 3 percent. He also plans to create a first-time homeowner tax incentive, which he contends would be beneficial in combatting Section 8.
“This is a great way to get families back into these neighborhoods,” he said.
While Long was focused on taxes, Salling made it clear from the outset that jobs were his main concern, especially at Tradepoint Atlantic.
“I think the biggest thing we’re looking into is manufacturing, and we’re looking into windmills,” he said. “If you really think about what windmills could bring here, building them at [Tradepoint Atlantic]...it’s the greatest opportunity we have in this area. We have the skillset here already and we’ve been promoting that.”
While the individual members of the group each spent about five minutes outlining their agenda for the session, most of the evening was dedicated to hearing from constituents. As local residents filed into the library, they filled out a card with a question that would later be posed to the delegation.
The first question posed to the delegation dealt with the topic of redevelopment at Fort Howard. Grammer noted that redevelopment under the current developer who holds the lease is unlikely.
“The thought is if the current developer was to proceed with any kind of project he’d need to bring in help,” said Grammer. “There was another developer who looked into it and I met him once and I asked him to show me what he had, and he didn’t even have a traffic study. That kind of describes where that is. I don’t see development at Ft. Howard going anywhere right now.”
Grammer added that he would like to see a congressman propose a bill that would see the property fall into possession of the State of Maryland should the current lease expire. Metzgar and Long echoed that sentiment, with Metzgar pointing to redevelopment aimed at helping veterans in Perryville and promising to address the issue with Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2).
On the subject of potential marijuana legalization - which Grammer believes will be put on the ballot for referendum in November in order to draw a large voter turnout - he told the crowd the biggest problem he sees is a lack of communication between the state and local jurisdictions.
“What needs to happen right now is local law enforcement needs to understand what state laws are. They need to understand the process of how a person comes to be given access to these products. One of the bills I’m putting forward this year is to require training for local and state law enforcement for what is essentially a new industry in a unique time,” Grammer said.
Long pointed out that in discussions about legalization last year, the subjects of drug education and treatment were rarely discussed, if at all. He added that, should a legalization initiative reach the floor, he would add an amendment that would see funding generated from taxes shifted to drug education and treatment.
“We have to make sure our younger children are prepared and know the consequences,” Long said.
On infrastructure, the delegation tackled a few issues. Salling lamented the state of sidewalks - or lack thereof - in Sparrows Point and on North Point Road, noting the delegation has spoken to the County Council and others about how they can rectify the situation. Grammer added that a lot of those issues, when they are not handled at the local level, are handled at the discretion of state agencies like the Maryland Department of Transportation or the State Highway Association, which essentially leaves state-level representatives powerless.
From there the conversation jumped to traffic issues in the Turner Station area. Grammer again took the lead, telling the crowd that truck drivers often try to avoid getting hit with the Broening Highway toll and end up on the local roads.
“If you live in old Dundalk you can’t get on a state road without paying a toll,” he said. “It’s harming Turner Station and St. Helena. We’re still looking at it and that battle is going to come back up.”
Turner Station resident Linwood Jackson added that truck driver GPS devices also often get Main Street in Turner Station and Broening Highway confused.
“Every time a truck comes down they tear down our cable lines and electric lines,” Jackson said.
Jackson added that he believes Turner Station is a “target” due to its positioning between Tradepoint Atlantic and the Port of Baltimore. He urged the members of the delegation to meet with the residents of Turner Station and tour the community.
“We can’t keep going hours or days without power because of these trucks,” he concluded.
Salling added that a big issue is truck drivers going back and forth from the Port or Tradepoint do not want to keep getting hit with a toll when they are not using the Key Bridge. He promised that the delegation was working to fix the issue.
After the event, Metzgar commented that he was excited about the turnout and dialogue.
“This was one of the best town hall’s we’ve ever had,” said Metzgar. “And we’re going to do everything we can this session to make sure these issues are dealt with.”