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From the Desk of
Town Commissioner Chris Staiger

(Sept, 2010) Well, election season is upon us. I want to thank the Emmitsburg Business and Professional Association for organizing a Candidates’ Forum at the Carriage House Inn on August 25. The event drew more than fifteen county commission candidates to town for a lively and informative evening. Attendance by the public was good and I hope that we can rebroadcast the event on Channel 99. I learned a lot about the candidates and am curious to see who will survive the first cut – the September 14 primaries. Our town elections will follow soon after on Tuesday, September 28, with two sitting commissioners and two challengers running for election.

As you might expect, some main issues at the county candidates’ forum were income versus expenditures, residential and commercial development, and the burden of government on business. I think these have been common themes at a county and municipal level for more than the last four years but have become even more pressing in today’s uncertain economic environment. Those competing in the Town’s election will need to be able to address these issues in our local setting. What impact will weak economic conditions have on our budget (which is on track to shrink for the THIRD year in a row)? How do we balance pressures for residential or commercial development with our limited resources? Can we get on track to actively promote commercial development and reduce the subtle accusation that the town office is unfriendly to business?

That being said, the most important day to day responsibility of a commissioner is to actually listen to constituents and try to help solve any issues when they arise. In our small community, this should be an attainable goal. A commissioner should be your advocate to the town office. Too many of us have a sour feeling when dealing with the town government. While we need to realize that the Town’s employees do genuinely want to help with your inquiries, it is important to understand that they are required to follow the "rules" such as they are. But those of us serving as commissioners are in charge of making those rules. We need to be attentive to their implementation and impact.

The commissioners act as a body to make those big picture decisions such as approving tax rates, water and sewer user fees, budgets, etc. We’ve been lucky to have relatively quiet times lately to conduct our business – with little conflict or confrontation such as the development battles of the not so distant past. That being said, I guess the question is what role should a commissioner play as an individual? What are their interests and goals? In some way there needs to be a division of labor within the team as different commissioners follow their individual priorities and interests. We’ve seen that these can vary from planning issues and development ordinances, to quality of life issues such as park facilities and trails, to how to better integrate citizen input through a new committee. Each of these areas contributes to improving our community and relies on input and oversight by individual commissioners.

So please take an interest in the Tuesday, September 28, Emmitsburg election. Who you elect will have an impact on tax and spending proposals reflected in those quarterly or property tax bills we all love to see. Commissioners have the authority and the responsibility to improve the responsiveness of Town Government. In the absence of a strong, five person Board of Commissioners (where the agreement of three is required at a minimum) decisions tend to default to just ONE person – the Mayor, who is in charge of the day to day administration of the Town. A Board that just rubber stamps the proposals brought before it isn’t one that serves the needs of the community. Please take the time to vote.

Sincerely, Chris Staiger

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