With the primary behind us, many people are asking if, and how, The Talbot Integrity Project intends to participate in the general election for Talbot County Council. We do intend to play an active role, because TIP is serious in its quest to change the Council’s views on uncontrolled growth, from backing development at every turn to a much greater fidelity to our Comp Plan. We can have sustainable prosperity without sacrificing Talbot’s rural character and quality of life.
The Lakeside battle over the last two years shows Council members get locked into their allegiances. So, to change course means we must transform the makeup of our Council, see that it is not controlled by those with pro-development-at-any-costs views. Here is TIP’s action plan.
In the recent Primary election TIP’s non-partisan ad hoc panel of five undertook to interview all the candidates for County Council concerning the Comp Plan, Lakeside, and land use issues in general. We then publicly identified nine candidates who appeared to have a sound attitude on land use issues–three Republicans and six Democrats. Seven of those nine advanced in the Primary, including two Republicans.
Here is how we are going to proceed.
First, we are going to enlarge TIP’s ad hoc candidate evaluation panel from five to eleven members, adding two Republicans, two Democrats, and two Independents. Everyone on the panel, by definition, will be advocates for TIP’s view on controlled and sustainable development at a pace, scale, and manner that does not jeopardize Talbot’s rural character. Beyond that shared core commitment, we are shooting for diversity within that small group, enlisting folks from various parts of the County, men and women, “from here’s and come here’s,” people from our villages, towns, and countryside.
Second, as adults, we all know there’s more to it than just having your heart in the right place. Divvying up the tasks, panel members will undertake a more robust inquiry, speaking with folks who know or have worked with candidates in various capacities over the years; talking in more depth with candidates on fresh issues (including with those who declined conversation earlier, if they are open to it); reading from and listening to whatever sources might provide useful information on these individuals.
We also hope to learn more from forums that might be sponsored by others (League of Women’s Voters, or environmental groups perhaps). We’ll be looking for evidence more than words.
Third, while “land use and the Comp Plan” is our core concern, we will hone TIP’s criteria beyond attitude alone. For example, where does this issue really stack up among a candidate’s priorities? Does a candidate actually know how Talbot’s land use approval process works, or would a great deal of on-the-job-training be involved? How effective is a candidate likely to be in working with others, not just basic decorum, but participating in the give-and-take of compromise to shape effective legislation? Who has new ideas, and is bold enough to put them forward effectively? Who can we rely on for transparency, instead of a wink-and-a-nod approach to decision making?
Our endpoint is not just to elect candidates who strongly share TIP’s objectives, but to elect those five who are most likely to prove most effective as legislators committed to action to achieve those goals.
After the enlarged panel has refined its criteria and done its homework, we expect the TIP panel will make whatever endorsements or recommendations it feels appropriate, hopefully by mid- to late September. And then, in pursuit of our policy objectives, TIP will go to bat for the candidates it does support.
Of course, other groups have other issues and will be advocating for their own favorite candidates too. And the job of each political party is simply to push for everyone on its own roster, period. But remember that land use is the wolf that never leaves our doorstep; month in, month out, those decisions are key to Talbot’s future.
If protecting the rural character and quality of life of Talbot County is an important issue to you, we hope you will weigh the results of TIP’s effort come November.
Steve Harris and Dirck Bartlett
The Talbot Integrity Project