Cordial Candidate Forum in Kensington

A trusted correspondent sent in this report on last night’s candidates’ forum in Kensington.

Fireworks, there were none.

The three candidates for two Kensington Town Council seats spent a rather cordial hour last night, largely agreeing on issues such as traffic enforcement, development, and pay increases for Town staff.

They gathered at a moderated candidates’ forum on a stage at Town Hall, a program two weeks before the town’s nonpartisan election.

The two-term incumbent, Darin Bartram, advocated status quo, saying that in the four years he’s served, “We’ve had a very good dynamic on the Council.” He declared himself “a voice of reason or moderation” on the four-person panel.

Tom Rodriguez, who is seeking a second term, emphasized his leadership on the Town’s parks and events committees. He also noted that his hometown in Florida has been overrun by development and traffic — a scenario he vowed not to allow in Kensington, a town of about 2,300 people that is bisected by heavily traveled Connecticut Avenue.

The challenger, Conor Crimmins, acknowledged that he and his opponents are “not very different in how we look at Kensington.” But he said he wants to move matters more quickly through Town committees and to stimulate citizen participation in Town governance. Voting in the town election can be a start, he said. “Let’s see voter turnout skyrocket” on June 5.

Two years ago, Bartram and Rodriguez won election in a three-way race with a little more than 150 votes, a fraction of the Town’s registered voters.

None of the candidates expressed opposition to the 4 percent pay increases proposed in fiscal 2018 for top Town staff. “We ought to be a leader in Montgomery County in what we pay” staff, Rodriguez said.

He and Bartram said they would support lowering the minimum voting age in Town elections to 16. Crimmins offered no position on that question, which was one of a dozen or so raised by the 40 people attending the program. They wrote questions on index cards and submitted them to a moderator, who sometimes combined the queries in posing them to the candidates.

There were no missteps or gaffes, although Bartram at one point said, “I love getting new ideas from people — and me.”

Crimmins pledged to be “extremely approachable” and vowed courtesy and respect in dealings with Townspeople. Rodriguez called for stepped up enforcement of traffic laws and said the planned bicycle patrols by county police promise to be “a fantastic innovation.”