Ensuring connectivity to Frederick's Golden Mile, helping the city's population experiencing homelessness and balancing the needs of downtown residents and visitors are just a few of the issues that the next Board of Aldermen will have to deal with.
These topics and several others were among those tackled by seven Democratic candidates in the city's primary election during a virtual candidates' forum this week.
The candidate field includes incumbent aldermen Donna Kuzemchak, Ben MacShane, Kelly Russell, and Derek Shackelford, along with challengers Katie Nash, Chris Sparks and Robert Van Rens.
Republican candidates Robert A. Fischer and Michelle Shay did not participate in the forum hosted Monday by the Frederick County Democratic Party, United Democrats of Frederick County, the Women's Democratic League of Frederick County and the Young Democrats of Frederick County.
The city's primary is scheduled for Sept. 14.
Sparks proposed a shuttle to connect the Golden Mile with downtown and other parts of the city, while Van Rens and Shackelford talked about the importance of connectivity and infrastructure to make sure that people can get to the area.
Russell said the State Highway Administration is working on a shared-use path along U.S. 40, while Nash called for the progress on the path and other pedestrian improvements to be accelerated.
The Golden Mile, home to a number of vibrant communities, gets a lot of unfair criticism, MacShane said.
Kuzemchak said the area is more vibrant than it's been in years, while the further development of Westside Regional Park is going to bring lots of people to the west side of the city.
On a question about improving public safety in the city, several candidates mentioned programs recently started by the Frederick Police Department — including a crisis car that combines law enforcement, a therapist and a paramedic, and a diversion program to help defendants with mental health, addiction, homelessness and other issues — as positive steps the city has taken.
Making sure the city's police department better reflects the makeup of the city will help improve public safety, said Van Rens, adding that he believes Chief Jason Lando is committed to doing so.
Improving safety requires a holistic approach, including speed enforcement, traffic-calming and improving pedestrian and bike safety, Nash said.
Shackelford mentioned the diversion program as well as equipping all city police officers with body cameras.
One question asked how to balance between the needs of downtown residents and visitors and keeping downtown a viable tourist destination.
Downtown is complicated, with a combination of homes, businesses, offices and industrial areas that creates vibrancy but makes balancing interests hard, MacShane said.
Shackelford warned about too much focus on downtown without talking about other parts of the city.
Everyone wants downtown to be welcoming for residents and visitors, but the entire city is a destination, he said.
Van Rens agreed about the focus on downtown, but said the city needs to look at ways to move some of the traffic out of downtown.
Sparks has advocated for closing off part of Market Street and making it a pedestrian mall in order to create an “experience” downtown.
The aldermen are elected to serve the residents, and downtown wouldn't feel the same without the people who live there, Nash said.
The city needs to look at issues of affordability, such as possibly creating matching funds to help residents who invest in their homes, she said.
Historic preservation is key to creating a city that's both livable and that people want to visit, Kuzemchak added.
She said the connections between downtown and other areas of the city are something she'd like to look at.