On June 6, the citizens of Cambridge will participate in a special election to choose new City Commissioners for Wards One and Five. This was necessitated by the fact that the current members, Brian Roche (Ward 1) and Chad Malkus (Ward 5), moved into each other’s ward. Both men are hoping to remain on the Council, but they face challengers for the seats. Roche will face Cleveland Rippons and Robert Aaron while Malkus competes with Laurel Atkiss. Below is information on each candidate.
Candidate (Ward 5): Robert Aaron
Background: From Madison. Grew up working class. Attended Easton High School.
Experience: Attends City Council meetings.
On Moving YMCA: Should stay where it is.
On Housing: Code enforcers not doing their job. Inconsistent enforcement. All property owners deserve a second chance.
On Hearn Building: Would be cheaper to tear it down and build something new.
On Sewer Breaches: City says there is much funding, but he hasn’t seen anything done.
On ARPA funds: Doesn’t know any of the funds’ receivers.
On Crime: Offer police officers more money and have them sign contract requiring certain number of years in the city.
Candidate (Ward 1): Laurel Atkiss
Background: Born in Cumberland and educated in Baltimore (earned a BFA). Has lived nearly half of her life on the Eastern Shore, 10 years in Cambridge, 3 years in Ward 1. Previously owned a flower shop.
Experience: Working knowledge of retail, tourism, and service industries as well as non-profit promotions. Involved in community service, fundraising, and event organization.
City Activities: Engaging community through programs with area’s youth and heritage, after-school children’s programs funded by the Dorchester Center for the Arts.
Wants to see: Enthusiasm for the thoughtful development of waterfront; revitalization of neighborhoods to be safer and healthier; more citizens present, involved, and informed on functions of the city; more engagement in reconnection of neighborhoods; youth following a positive path and holding pride in their hometown.
Wants to do: Bring open communication, community connections, and healthy progress to her ward.
On Moving YMCA: Waterfront facility would not benefit the communities that need it most; it should be centrally located for easy access to multiple neighborhoods. The waterfront is valuable property that should draw tax revenue, and a not-for-profit like the Y would not. The ARPA funds that the YMCA organization used on a study of a new facility could have been put to better use.
On Housing: There are seniors living in dilapidated houses who don’t know about available resources. Code enforcement should be equitable and consistent. Neighborhoods held to code are safer, healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable.
On Hearn Building: Don’t tear it down; it is part of Cambridge’s history and charm. Think outside the box, get creative. What has been done before hasn’t worked. Make it multi-use space with market-rate housing, workforce housing, and retail.
On Sewer Breaches: Because of climate change, flooding and overflow are going to get worse, so Cambridge must be educated on the issue and proactive.
On ARPA funds: Whatever remains should be used on something that will create more income for the city.
On Crime: A holistic approach is needed. Improve economic opportunity and housing. Give youth better opportunities.
Candidate (Ward 1): Chad Malkus
Background: Raised on family farm in Cambridge. Graduated from Cambridge-South Dorchester High School, where he was class president. BA in Secondary Education and English from Clemson University. Juris Doctor from University of Baltimore School of Law. Admitted to the Maryland Bar in 2002. Lived in Ward 1 various times, including in the West End and on Glasgow Street.
Experience: Practiced law for two decades, focusing on land use, corporate, real estate, and environmental as well as trusts and estates. Currently VP and Senior Fiduciary Advisor for national banking corporation. Teaches Trusts & Estates and Financial Planning at Purdue School of Business (Salisbury University). Served as president of Dorchester County Bar Association, acted as attorney for Dorchester County Planning and Zoning. Appointed last year to Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas Commission. Has been City Commissioner for Ward 5 for two years.
City Activities: Part of Cambridge business and professional community, serving on boards and charitable committees. Served on board of Cambridge Main Street, eventually became president. Founder and organizer of Sailwinds Park Kite Festival. Spearheaded effort for new fencing and improvements to Cambridge Cemetery and Cedar Street gateway.
Wants to do: Continue work towards realization of vision for vibrant waterfront district, thriving Main Street, safe community, cutting red tape impacting Cambridge businesses.
On Moving YMCA: Facility at Cambridge Harbor would be “site activator” and draw people. There have been problems with past rehabs of current building. Although waterfront facility would not provide tax revenue, could make up for that with new houses on the old property.
On Housing: New programs like land banking and lead abatement will help. New code enforcement officer in FY 2024. Court is giving too many chances to slumlords, who must be held accountable.
On Sewer Breaches: Will be a headache to replace sewer systems, but it is necessary and has been a top priority of the City Council.
On Crime: Council has revamped salary plans for police officers. Department has invested in new technology like Shot Spotter. Community-oriented policing is important.
Candidate (Ward 5): Cleveland Rippons
Background: Raised on Hooper’s Island. Served in Air Force. BS in Business Administration.
Experience: Financial planner. As Cambridge Mayor (2000-08), learned intricacies of running a city.
Wants to see: Proactive government.
On Moving YMCA: Citizens would lose much if Y moved out of current facility. Need to see Waterfront Committee’s comprehensive plan first. Y is zoned for institutional, waterfront property for commercial; should not second guess zoning board’s work.
On Housing: Some areas of city need far more resources then have been allocated. High percentage of rental properties, not enough code enforcers. Should have discussions with landlords to understand their situations.
On Hearn Building: Renovate and make it mixed use.
On Crime: Need to spend time with residents.
Candidate (Ward 5): Brian Roche
Background: Cambridge native, grew up on Willis Street. Graduated from Cambridge-South Dorchester High School, where he was class president. BA in Biology and Environmental Studies from Swarthmore College. Lived outside Philadelphia for ten years.
Experience: Career in Internet technology, mostly with Bay Country Communications, building broadband to rural and underserved areas. Vice Chair of Maryland Broadband Cooperative. Served on board of directors of Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. Appointed by Governor Hogan to Task Force for Rural Broadband. Managed rental property for nearly 20 years. City Commissioner for Ward 1 for last two years.
City Activities: Served as chair of Historic Preservation Commission. Recognized by Cambridge Main Street as volunteer of the year.
Wants to do: Work with local leadership to focus on urban revitalization initiatives that make Cambridge desirable place to live, work, play, and invest. Emphasize unique history, culture, niche economy.
On Moving YMCA: Sympathetic to both sides. If Y moves to new facility, will work to ensure there is no void at old location.
On Housing: Create inspection and tiered rental licensing program to encourage improved housing. Plan ordinances requiring given share of construction to be affordable by people with low-to-moderate incomes. Subject contractors and property owners to fines if process not followed, but make it cheaper and easier to do right thing.
On Neighborhoods: Create neighborhood investment districts. Provide curbside recycling.
On Hearn Building: It is structurally stable. Must invest in and renovate it into mix of housing for different incomes.
On Sewer Breaches: Need green infrastructure on Cedar and Water Streets to handle storm water naturally while protecting bikers and pedestrians.
On City Council: Term limits for Council members. Must do better job making public meetings available online.
On Traffic: Get rid of unnecessary stoplights. Add stop signs, break up long stretches of city streets so they are not race tracks. Create traffic circle at base of creek bridge. Support downtown street closures for more economic activity.
On Pedestrians: Build public pedestrian promenade that connects from Historic Pine Street through Cannery Way to Cambridge Creek. Path from Long Wharf to Great Marsh Park accessible via bike, walking, and wheelchair.
In person voting on June 6, 2023, will be held at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church at 205 Maryland Avenue between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. This polling station will be the only in-person location for both wards.