With Frederick's general election less than a month away, several candidates attended events Thursday to answer questions from voters.
Republican aldermen candidates Michelle Shay and Robert Fischer took questions at an event Thursday evening at the Frederick Elks Lodge.
In the more than three years since she's lived in the city, Shay said, she's grown concerned about public safety, rising taxes, and responsible and sustainable growth and development, Shay said.
Fischer, who's lived in the city for about 24 years, said he's seen the city and county “slowly go down the drain” over the years, until he was pushed by friends to stop complaining and run for something.
The city's Neighborhood Advisory Councils are underused, and can be utilized more to get more residents involved in city issues, Shay and Fischer said.
Both also called for aldermen to be elected by districts rather than in the city at large, and Fischer said he believes the city's elections should be held in the same years as state and congressional elections, rather than off-years.
He would like to see more police foot patrols downtown to address residents' concerns about safety.
“Now, you walk down the street and you have to look over your shoulder,” he said.
Shay said the city's current rate of dense, irresponsible growth is overwhelming its current infrastructure, citing traffic and the fact that the county only has one hospital to serve its residents.
Meanwhile, Mayor Michael O'Connor met with the Frederick County Association of Realtors Thursday morning for a discussion. Republican nominee Steven Hammrick had been scheduled to attend, but canceled because of a change of plans, organizers said.
Association members questioned O'Connor about issues including the city's comprehensive plan, dealing with vacant properties, and property rights.
The rights of property owners have to be respected, but they can't be allowed to interfere with the rights of neighbors and nearby properties, O'Connor said when asked about whether property rights extended to accessory dwelling units and short-term rental properties.
Government has a role to step in when those rights conflict, he said.
The city approved a registry for vacant properties earlier this year, and O'Connor cited some of the same principles applied to that area.
The rights of vacant property owners can'd be allowed to impede on the property rights of people who live nearby, he said. O'Connor said there's only a small number of city property owners who are a problem.
“But they're very good at being bad,” he said.
On a potential bill requiring registration of rental properties that could be introduced by Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak, O'Connor said there needs to be a more systematic process of reporting problem properties in the city.
Relying on code enforcement rather than registration means a complaint-driven process, which often isn't an equitable approach, he said.
This year's general election is Nov. 2.