Former Alderwoman Shelley Aloi is a Republican candidate for mayor.
1. The mayor is responsible for putting together the city’s fiscal budget each year. What do you believe are the three biggest budget priorities? Are there any places where you would insist on more or less spending?
Top budget priorities are public safety, including adequate infrastructure, safe streets and support for law enforcement in reducing crime, i.e., Mullinix Park; fiscal responsibility in providing city services, reducing debt and addressing issues of long-term sustainability; support for education, the arts and culture that make Frederick’s quality of life unique. Reduce overspending on projects like the Westside Regional Park. Though a nice idea, this plan requires a legacy donor rather than the current drain on city resources. Residents continue to request the return of bulk trash. I’ll work with citizens to make the entire budget a win-win.
2. Now that the proposed downtown hotel and conference center is in the design phase, with public dollars not slated for construction or operation of the buildings, what are your thoughts on the city investing in the project?
The city has invested in various projects over the years including the Weinberg, Clustered Spires Golf Course and Carroll Creek Linear Park. Some have considered the hotel and conference center to be a similar type investment. The significant difference with this project is that public funding is being used to support private enterprise. Specifically, up until now, developers have been required to contribute funds for road improvements, utilities and other infrastructure required by their projects. In this case, government partners are assuming the burden of funding that infrastructure. To set such a precedent is concerning. Perhaps there is another solution.
2A. Yes or no: Do you support demolition of the historic Birely Tannery building for development of the hotel and conference center?
This is an interesting debate since the tannery building has been ignored for decades and has been considered by some to be a part of the city’s blight problem. It is also interesting that the push for preservation continues even though the original building was destroyed by fire and replaced by the current structure such that the original components no longer exist. It is time the city finds a place of balance between historic preservation, economic feasibility and progress. Document the site, save any existing historic artifacts for a museum, and allow the property owner to demolish the building. Yes.
3. Talks of a downtown grocery store have been circulating for years and recently the owners of Common Market said they were eyeing the former Carmack-Jay’s site on North Market Street for a potential expansion. Is this something you think would be beneficial for downtown Frederick? If so, how would you help bring a grocery store downtown?
Yes, a grocery store would be beneficial for downtown Frederick. Renting or purchasing the site is contingent upon successful negotiation between the potential tenant and the property owner. Though the city has no control over rental pricing or negotiations, as mayor I’ll help the process by ensuring that Economic Development staff advise and assist with existing tax incentives or other programs. In addition, it is time for a serious discussion about disincentives for long-term vacancies. Frederick properties should not be a continuing tax write-offs for these property owners. This is detrimental to the entire community and reduces adjacent property values.
4. There have been ongoing complaints about code enforcement in the city. Some parts of the city are blanketed in citations, others decay into blight. Specific properties are persistent eyesores. What do you plan to do to address these issues?
To address these issues, I will listen and take action. In the strong mayor form of government, this begins with leading by example and directing staff such that code enforcement is even-handed and implemented consistently across the city. For ongoing violations, receivership legislation is in place. It can and should be used to address problem properties. I’ll direct staff to follow through. And as mentioned above, it is also time for a serious discussion regarding disincentives for long-term vacancies. Finally, balance is important. Through community partnerships, I’ll ensure there is a safety net for seniors who need help with compliance.
5. The lack of affordable housing in the city of Frederick is a common complaint among residents. How would you help address the issue?
This issue is multifaceted and community collaboration is key. While some families are fine, others are not. The ever increasing tax burden is driving out seniors and many young adults are unable to stay because of the lack of affordable housing. As mayor, I’ll take the lead to lower taxes, working with staff to diversify the tax base, reduce debt and re-examine unfunded liabilities. Together we’ll re-visit tax differential and senior tax credits. We’ll take a look at the livability code to allow for the possibility of smaller dwelling spaces and work together with other stakeholders to make housing affordable.