The Essex Middle River Civic Council hosted a forum between candidates for Dundalk’s District 7 County Council seat at Mount Carmel High School.Beginning at 6:30 p.m., Democratic challenger Justin Holliday and Libertarian Doug Stanley took their seats in front of dozens in attendance.
Republican incumbent Todd Crandell was not able to attend the forum, as it was announced he tested positive for COVID-19 moments before the event began.
The topics discussed had a wide variety concerning residential infrastructure, section 8 housing, overcrowding of local schools and the opioid crisis disproportionately affecting Dundalk.
According to Holliday, who is a current special education teacher at Dundalk High School, he decided to run for the District 7 seat after seeing the affects overcrowding in local school has had on education and how the opioid epidemic has ravaged through Dundalk.
“I’m trying to be an advocate for change,” Holliday said.
Stanley, who is an infrastructure engineer at National Geographic, says his experience with working with the government as a community activist gives him an understanding of where “stress points” are for the people.
“I want to work to protect the people,” Stanley said.
Though both candidates virtually agreed on their stances of improving infrastructure and lessening the burden of overcrowding schools, Holliday and Stanley had strong opinions for what needs to be done in Dundalk.
Holliday says overdevelopment and overcrowding in schools are intertwined as root causes for beaten infrastructure in the area, as he talked about lessening leases in certain areas.
“Limiting the amount of new leases on areas — I have no doubt in my district behind the Giant [grocery store] on Merritt Boulevard there’s an apartment complex and they’re trying to expand that, as well,” Holliday said. “A lot of these areas where you see these developments, they’re not putting the correct infrastructure to accommodate the traffic congestion that associated with it.”
Stanley concurred with Holliday’s notion that overdevelopment “bleeds over” into infrastructure. The Libertarian candidate said the infrastructure is not built “to handle all the development.”
Stanley said that the infrastructure around the Sparrows Point development of Tradepoint Atlantic was “not going to be adequate.”
The Libertarian candidate also noted how the new schools being built in the area need to adhere to the current local student population. Stanley called for “fundamental processes” that will make newly renovated schools like Dundalk High School to be built on growth periods for up to 10 years.
“It’s hard to not have overcrowding in schools — when they build a new school, they cannot build it for future growth, they have to build it for what the growth is right now,” Stanley said.
When the topic of Section 8 housing was brought onto the floor, Holliday touted the progress that the county has already made in providing affordable homes but stressed the need to evenly divide Section 8 placement between communities.
The Democratic challenger said that “condensing poor people into one area is not going to advance anyone.”
“Any bill that comes before the Council, I’ll vote to ensure that it distributes Section 8 vouchers evenly across the county,” Holliday said. “It doesn’t help people that are poor, it doesn’t help that it’s in poor communities when you start condensing those people into one area.”
Stanley described efforts to move Section 8 vouchers around the county by big developers “was not a good thing” that led to District 7 having a disproportionate amount of vouchers compared to the rest of Baltimore County.
The Libertarian candidate pressed on the need for opportunities in the areas surrounding District 7 that will see Section 8 vouchers “get out of the systems.”
“In retrospect, we need to make sure that every community will take their fair share of vouchers,” Stanley said.
Finally, the opioid epidemic in Dundalk was one of the last remaining issues brought before the two candidates.
Both candidates emphasized the need for immediate solutions to remedy the drug crisis that overtakes Dundalk compared to every community in the County.
Stanley said how the war of drugs have failed communities, and even called for ending such war. The Libertarian challenger also mentioned how reducing the stigma can help encourage drug users to seek treatment.
“I think we need to end the war on drugs and we need to regulate the drugs within the government and we need to move forward and get people treatment,” Stanley said.
Holliday spoke on how this particular issue remains close to him after losing his dad to opioid addiction in 2016. The Democratic candidate says there needs to be a continuity of a targeted, coordinated approach to provide individualize services to those affected by opioid addiction.
“We use the term addicts but at the end of the day these are our neighbors, our brothers, our sisters and our friends with real problems and I do believe there’s a path to recovery,” Holliday said.