Ken Kiler bests Dave Reese in Finksburg candidate forum
But his performance was not blemish free
On Thursday, the Finksburg Planning and Citizen’s Council hosted a forum featuring Carroll County’s District 2 Commissioner candidates Ken Kiler and Dave Reese.
Though the in person audience at the public library in Finksburg seemed to lean marginally pro Reese, it was Kiler who would win the day, by noticeably differentiating himself with his closing statement.
Throughout the forum, Reese mentioned a handful of times all the organizations and people he’s received endorsements from, including the Carroll County Education Association, Carroll’s Fraternal Order of Police, Carroll’s chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Sheriff Jim DeWees, Commissioner Richard Weaver, and so on.
But in his concluding remarks Kiler seemed to nullify and one-up all of that, by stating plainly that he was in pursuit of votes and not endorsements, so that his candidacy and eventually his official post will be free of the entanglements that come from being indebted to special interest groups.
In an election cycle that has been hitherto defined by who has what endorsement and who belongs to this or that clique, it was both refreshing and admirable to see a candidate willing to stand all on his own.
But that is not to say that Kiler’s performance was blemish free. It wasn’t.
One question submitted from the audience, which may well have come from sitting Commissioner and now District 5 state Delegate candidate Dennis Frazier who was in attendance, asked candidates how they would retain Carroll’s fleeing teachers and foster a culturally diverse staff – where “culturally diverse” is presumably nothing more than a euphemism for skin color.
Kiler was quick to correct the misconception that Carroll is losing its teachers, by confirming that Carroll actually gains more teachers from other counties than it loses. In fact, administrators in those neighboring counties often ask Kiler what Carroll’s secret is.
But regarding the retention of a “culturally diverse” staff, Kiler fell into that all too familiar progressive trap, saying that hiring for diversity in Carroll is tough, and that he doesn’t fully understand why the diversity of Carroll’s teachers doesn’t match that of its students.
But why does it matter at all what teachers look like or where they come from?
The appropriate response need only be this: the goal is to hire the best teachers possible who are most equipped to help our students learn and succeed. That’s it.
Granting the diversity premise will always be a losing battle in the long run. Concede an inch today and tomorrow the demand will be for a mile.
Reese responded to the same question by stating that Carroll’s teachers aren’t leaving just because of comparatively lower pay, the reason most often cited, but he did not clarify what the other reasons might be, before wondering aloud where all the money that gets sent to the Board of Education goes.
Kiler clarified by saying how the overwhelming majority of the BoE’s budget goes directly to salary and benefits, and he described how the state’s Kirwan funding model punishes Carroll because its schools do so well and its property values remain so high.
Another curious response came when the candidates were asked about their vision for development in the county.
Kiler argued for controlled growth, and shared his belief that the next generation doesn’t really want an acre and a half plot of land, and would rather spend their time going to the beach than tending to a piece of property. In his view, the model would be something like three houses per acre.
Now, as someone who lived in high density housing in Howard County saving money and accruing home equity for seven years always with the intention of moving to the more rural county to finally get the acre and single family home my wife, children, and I now enjoy – I disagree.
Sure, tightly coiled McNeighborhoods are well and good and affordable and necessary. But if that is the defining vision for Carroll’s residential future, it sounds a lot to me like Harford County, the now overpopulated suburbia I grew up in and chose not to return to precisely because of its overdevelopment.
And I hate the beach. I would rather mow my lawn while watching my kids play on the far side of the yard than play family frogger across coastal highway and pick cigarettes out of the Ocean City sand.
Maybe that’s just me.
But broadly speaking, Reese positioned himself as the insider, saying multiple times he knows who all the county government players are because he has been employed by it and related organizations for years and years, while Kiler placed more emphasis on his competence and diversity of experience.
The forum was respectful and the candidates shook hands after, and you could see how on another day they might be hanging out together sharing a beer or something.
But in every competition, friendly or otherwise, someone’s hand must be raised, and on this day, that hand is Kiler’s.