City Election Preview: Four vie for seat in newly created District 2


Salisbury voters go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 3.  In District 2, Keyvan Aarabi, Marvin Ames, Muir Boda and Justin Gregoli are seeking the seat.

Keyvan Aarabi

“Nobody,” said an animated Keyvan Aarabi, “wants this job more than I do. I really want this job.”

The native of Iran, who’s an American citizen with a doctorate, has some definite ideas about improving Salisbury. He teaches world history and related classes at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Wor-Wic Community College, but also works in retail, and regularly hears co-workers talk about their financial struggles, their need for better-paying positions.

He worries about businesses like Labinal closing and jobs being lost.

To attract large businesses, he said, “you can’t rely on Annapolis or Washington. They don’t have any money.” Instead, solutions are in the hands of leaders in the city, with its limited budget.

He’d like to see empty houses occupied, so they don’t reduce property values. The homeless situation “is a huge problem,” he said. Shelters are overflowing. Maybe some of those vacant homes could be transformed into affordable residences for the homeless.

Many outsiders have the impression Salisbury is run-down, he said, especially since some business are closed.

“The MO of the city council is to invest all our capital in the downtown. Downtown is important, but you’re not seeing a diversity of all people coming there,” he said.

Some people aren’t even aware there are shops there. Others can’t afford to visit coffee shops and buy expensive pastries .

“Downtown is important, but it’s not the whole situation for the town.  You need to make the job situation and industry the No. 1 priority,” he said.

To reduce crime, Aarabi would like to see police patrolling on foot, one of the oldest ways officers have kept peace in this country.

“Nobody is born a criminal. You have to have the police walk the neighborhoods, so people will give more information to police, because they have built a relationship and they know the police. It’s important to stop racial profiling,” he said.

A first-time candidate, the 33-year-old Aarabi suggested that appealing architecture would draw crowds to  downtown, infusing new life.

Children, and those with intellectual  curiosity, will regularly visit nicely staffed, well-stocked libraries, he said, encouraging upgrades to the Wicomico County Library.

Other priorities including helping the homeless, bringing industry to town as well as more jobs, offering job training and improving relationships between police and residents.

Every year, about 1,200 students graduate from Salisbury University, and many leave to return to their hometowns or move to cities where they can find secure, good-paying jobs. Robi said more students will settle down in Salisbury, working here and offering their knowledge, if more internships are offered, as is done in other cities.

An American citizen who has lived in Salisbury since 2012, Aarabi said he wants to serve on the City Council to help those who feel overwhelmed or need better jobs.

His goals are drawing businesses to the city, lowering taxes, easing regulations, developing a more friendly government and offering training opportunities, “so skills aren’t wasted,” he said.

His goal is to add 8,000 jobs, and not just minimum wage positions.

“We are hemorrhaging too many jobs. About one-third of the people in Salisbury are living at the poverty level or below,” he said.

“It would be a privilege and honor to be elected,” he said.

Marvin Ames

As constituents have heard repeatedly during this election season, city leaders want to see the downtown thrive. But how can that be achieved?

“Foot traffic,” said Marvin Ames.

“If you have business in the downtown Salisbury area and you don’t have foot traffic, you will not make money,” he said.

At a recent candidates’ forum, he pitched another fresh idea: bring an Amtrak train to Salisbury from outlying cities. Start a pilot program here, and, meantime, increase bus service.

A native Wicomico County who grew up in Salisbury, the 45-year-old is maintenance supervisor at the Wicomico County Civic Center.

“My job is to be invisible but to be professional. We have a very good low failure rate. If I fail, everybody in the county knows. No matter what it takes … I’ll work as hard for the  city and the people of Salisbury as I do for the county right now,” he said.

Among his concerns is juvenile crime. Often, teens are on the street because their parents are busy working more than one job instead of being at home, and keeping their children there, too. If they had better paying jobs, they might be able to be at home more, he reasoned.

Ames, widowed when his wife died from sickle cell anemia and now the father of a 2-month-old son, wants to see more jobs in Salisbury, maybe a new Wal-Mart build distribution center, and incentives to attract businesses. Citizens don’t want to be unemployed or collect welfare, he said, and they need help.

City leaders can apply for grants and work with legislators to increase industry, he said.

 “We are producing the leaders who are going to be leading this nation, so that’s where we need to go to get the money,” he said.

 “It’s about leadership. Salisbury needs to have new, fresh blood for ideas to move the city forward. I’m not saying the leaders now are bad, but times have changed enough and the city has to mature,” he said.

Ames would like to see police officers and city residents “more engaged with each other” and officers who regularly patrol, who are familiar with residents.

Community policing is important, he said, adding he talked to  Chief Barbara Duncan about it when he attended a forum to discuss implementing a curfew. He’d like to see officers stay on a beat long enough to become familiar with a neighborhood, and not quickly rotate from one area of town to another.

He believes more money should be invested to guide at-risk students and that middle school students should be bolstered, so they excel in high school.

Muir Boda

His is a familiar name.

Muir Boda has run for office before, habitually, some might say, but he’s a man of determination, eager to put into motion ideas for working closely with legislators and the governor’s office to bring jobs to Salisbury.

He’d also collaborate with Salisbury University and Wor-Wic Community College to provide job training, he said.

He supports the city’s master plan and has a vision, that downtown will become the destination point of the Lower Shore. That means quality housing, culture, extinguishing the flame of heroin sales and abuse.

“Addiction is a disease. We cannot arrest our way out of this problem,” he said at a recent candidates’ forum, to rousing applause.

He was motivated to run for City Council because of his love for the city he made his home 10 years ago. He wants make improvements, determine what laws are best for citizens.

Every piece of legislation must be constitutional, he stressed, and Mayor Jim Ireton’s recently proposed law to control rent costs, which failed to get support from the City Council,  might have been unconstitutional, he said.

“Stuff like that has to be really scrutinized. Only four states allow rent control. There are a significant number of states that have outlawed it, that don’t allow it … there are some concerns there,” he said.

Just as Gov. Larry Hogan has said Maryland is open for business, Boda wants to see Salisbury open for business.

“Look at what’s going on at Wallops. Should we be doing some stuff here to train our people?” he said.

Concerning juvenile crime, he believes city leaders have options other than implementing a curfew.

“That stuff puts a stigma on a city. There are people who won’t even invest in a city with that kind of stuff going on,” he said.

Kids who are involved in sports and activities, who stay busy, generally don’t need a curfew, he said. “There are some good things we can do when we have children who are at risk. I’d like to see scholarship programs. Get these kids involved in some good organizations … like Boy Scouts … I’m in favor of stuff like that. It’s not something City Council is going to solve. We can’t legislate our way out of this problem. There has to be a community involvement, he said.

He’d like to see police on bike patrol, out in the community, talking to residents.

And, of course, he wants a lively downtown.

“I was for downtown revitalization before it was cool, when I was hearing it was dead,” he said. Now events like 3rd Friday and First Saturday are gaining popularity and boosting business.

“We need a strong core, a strong center. It defines the culture of who we are as a city,” he said.

Justin Gregoli

Gregoli could not be reached for comment.

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