- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Old-timers claim that the town of Chesapeake Beach just experienced the ugliest election in the town’s history. Finally, at the Jan. 17 town council meeting, everything became crystal clear as to why it was ugly. What we watched until 11:45 p.m. was the culmination of a long-calculated campaign by the big-money interest in and around Chesapeake Beach to develop the hell out of our town.
To add massive development in and around the Chesapeake Bay, you have to have sewage capacity. What we watched was a full court press by Mayor Bruce Wahl, councilmen Bob Carpenter and Stewart Cumbo, the town attorney and the sewer plant manager to get approval to upgrade the plant and secure 900 new sewer taps at a town cost of $8 million. This all started when the town took over the management of the sewer plant from the county, claiming it would save the town $65,000 a year. Wow. In just 123 years, we should break even.
Now, it is clear that what they really wanted was a way to expand the plant. The plant manager works at the pleasure of the mayor and claimed he needed the extra capacity to manage the sewage flow. That is like me claiming I need to add four bedrooms to my house so I can paint the family room. The mayor was willing to stay there all night to get his third vote so he could break the tie. It was the ultimate “Chicken Little,” like the world would end that night if they did not pass this. He finally got his way. The fire sale approach was necessary because things didn’t quite work out the way the mayor had planned. This issue and the town water rates should have been voted on last summer, but were delayed until after the election when the mayor probably figured he would have his slate elected. It is also clear why Bob Carpenter and Stewart Cumbo joined with Mayor Wahl and refused to approve campaign finance reporting. They ran a massive, high-dollar attack campaign targeting any incumbent who had ever disagreed with them. They went after incumbents Valerie Beaudin, Pat Mahoney and Julie Spano. The toxic mailings and the “Vote for Bob” mailings all shared the same mailing permit number. No surprise there. The final piece of the plan became clear when the high-dollar postcard with Mayor Wahl’s choice of running mates arrived. Not a single one of the attacked candidates was endorsed by the mayor after years of working with them on the council, and not a single female was on his slate.
We could see that the closer the council meetings got to Election Day, the more vocal and vicious the attacks became. Even the candidate forum had a different feel to it. There was a mean spirit from the Wahl slate that was not part of the election four years ago. When Bob Carpenter’s large signs started to appear outside the town limits and in North Beach, and then his postcards started arriving in the mail, we knew big money must have been fueling the election. Let me remind you that council seats do not pay one cent. Why would anyone spend thousands and thousands of dollars for a council seat? You will not see any big changes in the next few years, but trust me, the stage is set to turn Chesapeake Beach into a combination of Waldorf and Ocean City. This election was about getting the 900 extra taps, and the next election will be about using them.
We now know who Bruce Wahl, Bob Carpenter and Stewart Cumbo represent, but we may never know who funded them. It is simple. You do not go to war to add 900 new connections unless you plan to use them.
Joe Johnson, Chesapeake Beach