Since December of 2014, Allan H. Kittleman has served as Howard County Executive. A Republican in a largely Democratic county, Kittleman, 59, is running for re-election on what he views as his bipartisan leadership. He is a native of Olney and lives in West Friendship.

Kittleman is being challenged by Dr. Calvin B. Ball III, a Democrat from the 2nd District who has served as a member of the Howard County Council since 2006. Ball, 42, is a Catonsville native and Columbia resident who has worked in higher education since 1999.

Due to its affluence, quality of life, diversity, jobs growth and highly regarded schools system, Howard County is frequently cited in the national media as one of the best places to live in the United States. With a general population of 313,000, Howard has one of the fastest growing Jewish communities in the nation. According to the 2010 Jewish Community Study of Howard County, an estimated 17,200 Jews reside in 7,500 households in the county.

Jmore recently spoke with both Kittleman and Ball separately about their visions for Howard County.

Jmore: Why should you be re-elected?

Howard Co. Exec Allan Kittleman

Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman: “I believe in tackling intolerance head-on.” (Handout photo from Flickr, courtesy Howard County Government)

Kittleman: My administration has demonstrated that we are willing to tackle the tough issues that others have refused to take on.  By putting partisan politics aside and bringing people together, we have been able to strengthen our development laws, create a community resources campus for our human service providers and preserve the Harriet Tubman School.

However, there is more to do, including establishing the Gateway Innovation District, building the 13th high school [in the county], developing a more dependable transportation system and rewriting our zoning code. Howard County has a bright future because when you bring people together, awesome things happen.

How can you help to decrease anti-Semitism and racism in Howard County?

I believe in tackling intolerance head-on.  For example, when certain incidents in the county raised racial tensions in 2016, I immediately started a community conversation.  What began as a town hall for residents to relay fears and frustrations has evolved into the #OneHoward initiative that creates space and opportunity for important conversations regarding tolerance and inclusivity. When there were attacks at synagogues in other areas of the county, I had our police department increase patrols around our local synagogues to help relieve anxiety within the community.

What needs to be done to diversify and increase the tax base?

We must have a diversified and strong commercial tax base in order to provide the services our residents need, such as an excellent school system and a wonderful quality of life.  Increasing our commercial tax base by only 1 or 2 percent would yield enormous fiscal benefits. That’s why my administration worked so hard to address the planning issues surrounding downtown Columbia, which will result in $2 billion being invested in our community. Couple that with a reinvigorated Gateway Innovation District and Maple Lawn, and Howard County will be a regional powerhouse for technological, health care and cyber industries.  The county is well on its path to unparalleled financial security.

How can Ellicott City be protected from future flooding? 

Ellicott City has suffered many significant floods over the last 200-plus years.  After the 2016 flood, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of the watershed, which resulted in recommendations for flood mitigation.  After the second “one-in a-thousand” flood in 2018, my administration continued to work closely with [Howard County] Councilperson Jon Weinstein to bring a transformative vision to Ellicott City.

We must build/expand retention ponds and increase the capacity of the streams that flow down through Ellicott City.  I will continue to work with the community to ensure that Ellicott City coexists with the water instead of fighting it. The actions we will take in the coming months and years will ensure that Ellicott City becomes stronger, safer and smarter.

How can schools be improved?

To relieve school overcrowding, I accelerated the construction of the 13th high school. To address the achievement gap, my administration has funded critical services for vulnerable children and families through the Achieve 24/7 initiative, which addresses barriers to school success. My administration is also addressing both existing and new school safety concerns.  And since the new superintendent [Dr. Michael J. Martirano] was   appointed, we have jointly proposed several new safety measures, including new resources to improve security at high schools and additional school resource officers for our middle schools.

Jmore: Why should you be elected Howard County Executive?

Dr. Calvin Ball III: “As our next county executive, I will be the champion for moving all of our communities, villages, farms and businesses forward with innovative, transparent, proactive and sensible leadership that remains rooted in the values and quality of life we cherish.” (Provided photo)

Ball: I am an educator, certified mediator and leader of the Howard County Council. I have worked with others to address the problems facing our county while encouraging rigorous debate with the civility which recognizes that our first priority must always be the promotion of good government for the people of Howard County.

As our next county executive, I will be the champion for moving all of our communities, villages, farms and businesses forward with innovative, transparent, proactive and sensible leadership that remains rooted in the values and quality of life we cherish. I will build the best community, fostering opportunity for all.

How will you combat anti-Semitism and racism in the county?

Anti-Semitism and racism have no place here in Howard County. Our community should be a model for celebrating diversity and inclusion. It’s important for us to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for all our residents. I am opposed to policies which increase fear from our neighbors, regardless of their religion.

I feel strongly about combating anti-Semitism in Howard County. In February of 2017, I sent letters to several of our Jewish leaders condemning anti-Semitism and publicly reaffirming my unwavering support for our Jewish neighbors.

What needs to be done to diversify and increase the tax base?

One way we can start to diversify and increase our tax base is by ensuring the efficient and responsible use of our residents’ taxpayer dollars. The growth of private sector jobs is important because that will provide a living wage which will help to diversify our base. We also need to support small businesses that help to sustain our community.

How can Ellicott City be protected from future flooding?

We can no longer avoid the subject of climate change under the auspices of “not being climatologists.” All leaders across the world must accept the new paradigm and be prepared to make the difficult choices that are now before us. While we cannot predict what day these high-intensity storms may come through our area, we cannot deny climate change and we cannot stand down from the challenge to rebuild.

I want to ensure that our community is safe by investing more into flood mitigation and storm water remediation to make Ellicott City more sustainable for today and tomorrow.

How can county schools be improved?

We can improve schools in Howard County by increasing funding while addressing current budget shortfalls, including the $50 million school deficit in the health and dental fund as well as almost half a billion dollars in deferred maintenance.

We need to ensure our schools are adequately funded to help create a more education-fostering environment for our kids. Our schools can be improved when we alleviate overcrowding by responsible community planning while working to ensure our class sizes don’t increase again, as they have in recent years.

Peter Arnold is an Olney, Md.-based freelance writer.