Ocean View candidates get last word before election

The Ocean View election will be held on Saturday, April 9, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Ocean View Town Hall.

Three men, incumbent Gordon Wood, and challengers George Pickrell and Lloyd Elling are battling for the mayoral slot. Incumbent Perry Mitchell and challenger Tom Sheeran are campaigning for a town council position.

We gave each candidate a series of questions and are allowing them their say before Saturday’s election. Due to space constraints, we had to cut out a few questions for our print issue, but all the questions and answers appear here on the Web site.

Gordon Wood, Mayoral candidate

Q. What do you see as the responsibilities and duties for your elected position and how do you plan to meet those needs?

A. The first responsibility of the mayor is to understand current and anticipated future issues faced by the town and council. I will continue what you have seen from me at council meetings and workshops: being prepared; meeting agendas which include relevant issues; providing for full citizen input on issues; making sure meetings are orderly and productive; and leading full discussion to develop the right answers.

Remember when meetings included “Citizen Privilege” at the end of meetings, after votes were taken? That was terrible. The mayor must make sure public input is solicited at the beginning of meetings, before votes, during council debate, and at the end of meetings on items not on the agenda. Public participation is a must! If you have attended a workshop or council meeting, you saw that public input is solicited.

Future issues should be handled in a manner similar to the following council budget development process I led:

• First, the town manager and department heads developed a staff budget for council consideration.

• Second, we held an early hearing presided over by the town manager that I attended.

• Third, we held a council workshop and again solicited public input. All line items in the staff budget, the hearing and the first workshop plus council member issues and carry-over issues were compiled on a list of 26 issues prepared by me and the town manager. I reviewed each issue with staff. Then Councilman Lawless and I reviewed each issue again with staff. I discussed their questions individually with Ms. Steffens and Mr. Christ.

• Fourth, council reviewed each issue at our March workshop, where public input was again solicited. The product of the workshop became the ordinance approved by council at our March meeting.

Public participation was solicited in the hearing and during two workshops and at council meetings. Every budget issue, including those from the public, was reviewed at least four times. The final budget reflected the integrated steps and the inclusive process we should always have. This process demonstrates the council-process leadership expected of a mayor.

Q. What are your views on the projected tax increases for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal-year budgets?

A. First, there has never been a council-proposed FY15-and-beyond tax increase. That was off-the-mark campaign rhetoric. If we stick with the Get-Well Program, there won’t be.
I believe our town should stay the course on the five-year “financial Get-Well Program.” It is working! The huge reduction in transfer taxes created a need to balance income and expenditures.

Our town has indicated a desire for 24/7 police response. I believe it has been expressed most clearly. It is a significant expense item.

The recently approved budget reduced expenditures for most components in the staff draft starting point – almost all equal to or exceeding expense-reducing recommendations by other candidates. After making all these cuts, we then looked at income needs for the reduced budget. In order to maintain the Get-Well Program and get us to the end of the five-year program initiated in FY 2010 with a balanced budget, it was apparent that it was necessary to continue the planned tax increases in the five-year program but with a reduced level in FY 14, the last year.

We must get to a balanced budget and will in FY 14. The Get-Well Program is working, and 24/7 police response and adequate reserves are maintained. Simply said, we can’t maintain 24/7 call response and have a balanced budget with a zero tax increase in FY 12 as others erroneously claim. I wish we could, but there is a big difference between our wishes and reality. The price for my proposing a zero-tax budget is too big – my integrity. That plus a full understanding of the budget precludes proposing a real zero-tax-increase budget.

The question refers to projected tax increases for FY 14 and 15. As noted, there has never been a council budget with an increase for FY 15. Never! None will be needed if we keep control on expenses and achieve a balanced budget in FY 14. The FY 14 budget is expected to include a 5 percent increase, which could be reduced to zero after we see where Officer Marlon Miller’s recovery schedule leads us – something we will not know for a while. The get-well program is working. Stay the course!

Q. How do you think the town can be proactive in decreasing the deficit and prevent future deficit spending?

The answer to Question 2 answers most of this question. We will balance the budget in FY 14. To accomplish it earlier would preclude 34/7 call response and put an unfair load on town employees. Think about a young police officer supporting a family on a salary of $40,000 per year. Insurance for this family now costs Ocean View $15,000 per year and it will increase 12 percent this year.

Our new budget will require that officer to pay one half of the increase, or $900. Coupled with the officers’ planned 2 percent salary increase of $800, that officer’s net income will fall by $100 – a reduction. Requiring more would balance the budget on the backs of our employees. We need to be fair, and employees will have to assume a share of their medical insurance costs. A committee is studying this and will have further recommendations late this summer, after we know increased insurance rates.

Q. In regards to public safety, what are your thoughts on reducing the police force and vehicles?

A. This is the crux of budget questions. It takes at least seven officers to maintain 24/7, and that cuts it close. Because of this, I support 7.5 officers. Ocean View experiences a 3- to 4-minute police call response with a trained first-responder, as compared to a State Police response of 20 to 40 minutes – if you are lucky.

Officer Carter provides a half-time capability so important in the summer season and when another officer is not available. Remember, Officer Marlon Miller has not been available for almost 15 months, and we do not know when he will be able to return. Officer Carter receives one-half the salary of an entry-level officer and does not need medical insurance – a bargain for someone so capable and experienced.

Other candidates wrongly justify their zero tax increase by claiming credit for reducing the police force from 8.5 to 7.5 officers over a period of years. The sum they claim is inflated. The council approved a budget item I recommended that keeps the injured Officer Miller on “injured reserve,” as Councilman Lawless describes it, because we do not pay his salary – Workman’s Comp does. We only pay for his personal insurance.

He was injured in the line of duty, chasing an armed suspect – for us. This is only fair, and in good conscience I do not believe we could do anything differently. Mr. Pickrell would separate him on disability now. That’s a decision for the doctors.

Over the last six years, our attrition rate has been just about an officer a year. Over the next two years, the odds are we will lose one officer. I would not replace any such attrition loss, and our budget, therefore, only includes 8.5 officers for one and a half years, assuming Officer Miller returns to duty in 2011, not five, as my opponent claims. By the way, 7.5 is one less than the 8.5 we had when I was elected.

As for vehicles, I am on record that we could operate with fewer cars than officers. There is a difference of opinion between the chief and the consultant we retained to address staffing and car issues. The chief says it will save money by giving each officer a car. I respect his opinion, and it is still an open question. The chief has been charged with preparing a report to the council with the arguments and economics, and the council will make a decision as early as this summer. Meanwhile, the budget retains a car for each officer.

Q. How do you hope to improve the town’s relationship with local businesses?

A. I supported Councilwoman Steffens’ chairing a committee to do just that. She is heading up a meaningful effort. She is the manager of a local business and understands the issues. Meetings have been held. The committee will report with recommendations.

I have three times discussed with heads of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce the possibility of their setting up an Ocean View section of the Chamber. They thought it was a “great” idea. Staff changes have apparently delayed serious consideration. A ready and available cadre of local businesspeople would be an asset to businesses and the town. Communications between our town and businesses would improve. The ball is in the Chamber’s court.

Finally, the Town Web site could be enhanced to list and promote businesses in Ocean View and provide location and telephone and email addresses

Q. Would you be in favor of nonresidential property owners being granted the right to vote in the town’s elections? (Why or why not?)

A. No. I believe the people who live here should determine town policies. I speak from a base of knowledge. Many years ago I was a non-resident commissioner of Bethany Beach. I did not run for a third term because I came to believe from experience that only folks who lived in town should be on the commission. I believe my decision in the 1970s was correct then and still applies now.

Q. Do you feel local business owners should be granted the right to vote in town elections?

A. The term “local business owners” is problematic. Who is an owner? How many are there? An out-of-state bank? Doctors who share facilities and are here one or two days a week? A corporation? These are just a few of the questions. Rather, I support the outreach by the council, which we have started, and an Ocean View section of the Chamber. I encourage the Chamber to set up an Ocean View section to enhance communication.

Q. Do you support the town’s ongoing efforts to receive grants for projects such as the Pedestrian Improvements Project?

A. Yes. Having said that, every grant opportunity must stand on its own feet. We have received a grant for the Phase I sidewalk program. For a town expenditure of well under $200,000, we will be able to install about $750,000 worth of sidewalks on West Avenue. We will review the results of the first phase this fall. Future phases will be decided by the next Council.

Our budgets are tight, but I do know there is significant sentiment for more sidewalks in out town. The grants program makes it possible, and without it I expect years will pass before a similar opportunity is available. A 20-cents-on-a-construction-dollar town share is attractive, but that 20 cents must be funded by our taxpayers. It seems like a pretty good deal.

What can our town expect during a new term as mayor? Staying on the right track for a balanced budget! Leveling always with the town on our finances. Council meetings which are professional and solution oriented. A mayor prepared on the issues. No more mistaken actions, like unauthorized legal expenses of over $20,000 to challenge the police chief’s contract. No issue surprises at council meetings. Continued and meaningful opportunity for public participation in council meetings – before the council votes! No more front-page stories of silly council actions – something which makes Ocean View more attractive to businesses and prospective property owners.

Lloyd Elling, Mayoral candidate

Q. What do you see as the responsibilities and duties for your elected position and how do you plan to meet those needs?

A. “The town Charter that outlines the structure of government for the Town of Ocean View was updated and adopted on July 28, 2010. The Town Charter provides for a council manager form of government. All legislative powers of the Town are vested in a council consisting of a mayor and four councilpersons.

“The Charter specifies the election of the councilpersons and the mayor. Each councilperson, as well as the mayor, is elected by a plurality of all registered town voters. The mayor’s duties include presiding over the council meetings; representing the Town in emergencies; and policy making and administrative oversight duties for the Public Safety Department.

“The mayor and councilpersons are elected to three-year terms and are limited to two consecutive terms in office. The terms of office are staggered so that at least one councilperson is up for election every year. After leaving the mayor’s post or council post, the outgoing mayor and/or councilperson must wait one year before being eligible to seek another term of office.
“This limitation, however, does not apply to a councilperson having completed two consecutive terms from running for mayor and serving in this position for two consecutive terms as would also be the case for a mayor running for a vacating councilperson seat.”

The above descriptions were taken directly from the Town of Ocean View’s Web site. It is quite clear that the mayor presides over council meetings. The mayor will be well served to have a good understanding of parliamentary procedures and have a welcoming voice to all who come in front of the council.

We do have a town solicitor who guides and recommends proper procedures and actions for the town council members. We do have a town manager who can and does provide similar assistance to the town council, but the town solicitor clearly gives council legal advice.

How the mayor represents the town in emergencies is not well defined, but one can reasonably interpret that the mayor will be actively involved in coordination efforts relating primarily to storm events. We do have a town manager, a chief of police and a director of public works who will obviously be active participants, if not providing primary leadership in all emergencies.
All will be required to coordinate completely, and the mayor leads the coordination. Consultation to and input from all the town council members is expected and needed. This is the moment we are fully expected to be a team. We will all fill the necessary demands for the safety of our town’s citizens.

The mayor’s duties include policy making and administrative oversight duties for the Public Safety Department. This essentially means that the chief of police reports directly to the mayor and the mayor meets frequently with the chief of police.

Is it wise of the voters to be concerned in this election with the potential of having a mayor who is a past police officer to have the chief of police report to him? Is it questionable to have two chiefs of police? Is it questionable when the candidate has already expressed anger at the present mayor and the chief of police over police issues and staffing? The voters will be best served with Lloyd as mayor.

The mayor is a single vote member of the town council. The mayor is the spokesperson for the Town of Ocean View in relation to our nearby towns, Sussex County and the State of Delaware. The mayor can be the lead salesperson for the best of our town, promotion of our business community, the bridge between those with differing opinions in our community and the identifier of the successes of our people and communities.

The mayor has a voice to communicate the best of our town to all who come to visit, vacation, shop and buy properties in Ocean View. The mayor should be the lead organizer to welcome to all new residents, property owners and businesses. The mayor needs to be outgoing, energetic and a practical problem-solver.

The mayor can set the tone of civility, listening and cooperation among the Town Council and all the residents of our town. The mayor can be a conduit to the members of our town wanting proposals to be heard by the town council as all council members can be.

We do hear and read comments from members of the council and candidates about working as a team on the town council, and that is a great approach as long as they are listening to all the parts of our town. If the team intent is to move forward with the council member’s personal agendas and ignoring any segment of our community, it will be a serious error in judgment.
All council members are elected at large. Council members represent every person in the town of Ocean View. Voters need to take into serious consideration how we select the members of the next town council. Beware of the slogan of a team working together, for they may be on a self-directed mission and not there to serve everyone.

Respectful disagreements are healthy for all debate on the issues to come before the Town Council – 3-2 votes do indicate that a majority of the concerns of our citizens has been heard and provided a good debate of the issues. When was the last time members of the town council sought out your ideas and preferences? When was the last time you had a town council doing a survey of the opinions of our town’s property tax payers, business community or residents?

We live in an era that electronically allows us to take rapid polls on issues and to communicate by phone to all the citizens of Ocean View simultaneously. Lloyd as mayor will give all in our town access to express your ideas and preferences to the town council. I am an independent person who likes hearing the ideas and interpretations of others. My team participation stops when the team is no longer representing all the people of our town and they have become identical in their decision making. Lloyd as mayor is committed to independence, to decency and order.

Q. What are your views on the projected tax increases for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal-year budgets?

A. I am opposed to further tax increases into the FY13, FY14 and FY15 budgets. We have in the last three years raised our tax rate 24 percent (8 percent a year). It may not be a serious financial challenge to the majority of our residents, but it is a question on the services we receive for the taxes we will be compelled to pay.

Make no mistake, it is a serious financial challenge to a minority of our residents and we have an obligation as a town to protect and not overburden those who are living on the edge of their finances. We cannot have an approach on the town council that creates a 5-0 voting team. It is up to the voters to give the town council balance. Now is the time to seriously consider that frequent change is a very healthy voter exercise in politics.

The present plan by the town council and town manager is a strategy to eliminate our financial dependence/planning on transfer taxes. It is true that our dependence on transfer taxes did cause our town finances to be challenged with the decline in property sales. The instability of those funds has hurt our county and state finances, as well. The housing market fall has hurt the financial investments of our property owners more importantly. It has hurt badly all tied to the housing industry in Ocean View. Transfer taxes are a fund source that cannot be safely projected and should be planned for use on a short-term approach and specific projects to enhance our town.

A simpler staffing and service plan can reduce spending. Sharing staff services with adjoining towns is a means to reduce cost. Contract services may produce a less expensive way to provide services. It is worth comparing. Contracting our services with unincorporated developments within and next to Ocean View may be a saleable cost sharing process that will spread the cost of our town further.

How much in simpler services can we accept from our Town of Ocean View? What services must we provide and which can we reduce or eliminate? It is the annual question to all town councils. The present council has voted for property tax rate increases at 8 percent for three years. Mayor Wood’s team development is to ensure the annual 8 percent increases for another three years. We must have some counterbalance.

My door-to-door engagement in this election process has allowed me to hear a variety of opinions, suggestions and demands. One resident wants to be separated from the Town of Ocean View, as he is so annoyed by the fees for improvements on his home and the tax increases. Several residents do not want the police department to be reduced in size, as safety is their primary expectation of our town. Some residents believe our police force exceeds in number of officers to residents way beyond established guidelines in many towns and cities.

I have heard that we should dissolve the Town of Ocean View and return to Sussex County services. I have heard that we should petition the Town of Bethany Beach to merge with Ocean View, as they have a superior water supply. An Ocean View/Millville merger was suggested a couple of times.

We do have other options beyond annual 8 percent property tax increases. It is going to take some changes on the town council membership to modify the choices we have seen. The first step is to vote in a new mayor. Lloyd as mayor is an active listener and a promoter for our future.

Q. How do you think the town can be proactive in decreasing the deficit and prevent future deficit spending?

A. A balanced budget requirement in the Town Charter would be one very big step. Maintaining reasonable emergency funds in reserve is a responsible practice. Make cuts in expenses within sufficient lead time to projected deficits to meet a proposed Town Charter requirement of a balanced budget. Prioritize cuts in expenses, when each “year to date” budget is approved, in order to respond quickly to deficit challenges.

Area mergers of services with our police department will allow a significant lessening of the costs to the Town Of Ocean View and maintain the quality services we all expect. Contract services are a viable option to compare with our present design of staffing and equipment purchases in the public works and financial departments. Merging with Millville and/or Bethany Beach in multiple avenues is worth exploring. Contracting our police services to developments not within the Town of Ocean View must be explored. Serious evaluation must be practiced on the potential revenue or expenses on new developments. It may be time to stop growing and/or to start merging with border towns in services.

I believe that the Town of Ocean View is way out front on “securing emergency services” from the Millville fire company for the property owners and residents of Ocean View. The Ocean View Emergency Services Enhancement Funding Program makes this possible with the charging of a fee in the applications for building permits issued by the Town of Ocean View, an amount of .25 percent to .5 percent. The Millville fire station has received $160,000 in the last three years, according to Richard Walls, chief, Millville Volunteer Fire Company.

I understand that $5,000 has gone to the Beebe Emergency Services in Millville from the Town of Ocean View. The Town of Millville is about to release $10,000 to the Millville fire company – their first. State and Sussex County funds are also given to the Millville fire company.

It is time for the unincorporated developments taking advantage of Town of Ocean View’s good planning to come aboard financially. The free ride has to end very soon. Millville has to step up and become equal partners with Ocean View. It appears we need a new negotiator to serve as mayor of Ocean View. Lloyd as mayor is a great financial investment.

Q. In regards to public safety, what are your thoughts on reducing the police force and vehicles?

A. My campaign for Lloyd as mayor has given me the opportunity to knock on a significant number of doors. Numerous residents have taken the time to ask questions and to share their thoughts, concerns, expectations and demands for our Town of Ocean View.

The Ocean View police force was a common subject. The majority I spoke to want their town to be safe and expressed no desire to have their police department reduced. Most were happy with the present level of service. A few stated that daily “pass through” by our police in developments was not necessary. Chief Ken McLaughlin is very well thought of by our town residents.

Some residents believe our police force exceeds in number of officers to residents way beyond established guidelines in many towns and cities. That our police officers are much appreciated was expressed by many. Ideas to share our police force cost with Millville were positive. A few residents were willing to pay any cost to give our town the best in police services.
The police vehicle number was of limited concern, relating to the police force. Some were confused over the rationale of the present number of cars. How do we save money or offer better services with eight versus four police cars was a frequent question.

Personally, I am happy with the work of Chief Ken McLaughlin and the present number of police officers. A decision will come when/if our injured police officer returns to work and the police officer hired to cover that position in this time period. The number of police vehicles can be solved by Chief McLaughlin giving a much better financial comparison to the options. I, like many others, was confused with the Tacoma, Wash., police vehicle study information presented at a recent town council meeting.

Q. How do you hope to improve the town’s relationship with local businesses?

A. Yes, this question makes a correct interpretation that the town’s relationship with local business community needs to improve. Presently, our town function with the business community is a very limited. Our connection is a required business license with documentation to show proof of liability insurance, a State of Delaware business license and other licenses that may be required. The Town of Ocean View does not promote our town business community.

Let’s start with the requirement of a business license. I would like to end the fee for a business license to those businesses that pay property taxes to the Town of Ocean View. One’s property taxes should be sufficient to cover the services provided to a business license by the Town of Ocean View.

A highly rated town has an attractive and accessible central business area that can provide basic services and employment opportunities to the town residents. Our primary business community functions from the Assawoman Canal to Lord Baltimore Elementary School on Route 26, on Central Avenue from the Assawoman Canal to the town office and police Department and a short distance from Central Avenue on Daisy Street and connecting at Ocean View Marina. We do have a few “in-home” businesses. Some business development can be seen on West Avenue south.

What can we do as a town and as members of the town council to improve the relationship with the business community? Let’s start with services for a business license. Give our businesses promotion on our town’s Web site, town literature and town events. Let our business community connect their business Web sites to the town Web site. Recognize which businesses have employed Ocean View residents.

Purchase town council meeting food supplies from Town of Ocean View businesses. Focus on town restaurants to set up food tables on our annual Homecoming event, as well as other town events. Communicate to our residents to support our town business community. Encourage or commit to codes on desired designs of building structures for new business construction.
Personally, I like what Taylor Bank presented in their building construction, landscaping and parking. It would be terrific to see the same accomplished on the property to be developed across West Avenue and near them on Route 26. It would be very good to allow/encourage the churches in the center of Ocean View to raise funds by using their extensive parking areas for visitors/tourists to shop and walk in Ocean View five or six days a week. I would love to see the Ocean View post office relocate or establish a service center in the same area near Taylor Bank.

I have been a small-businessman for many years. Yes, I am at the retirement years and slowing down. The good news is that I understand and value business owners. I understand how our multiple and beautiful development communities, our Victorian-style homes, our White’s Creek communities, our Assawoman Canal communities, our business community, our Lord Baltimore School, our churches, our inland bays, our tourist season and our Atlantic Ocean make Ocean View a desirable place to live, play, relax, work and fulfill our pursuit of happiness. I understand how it is all interconnected and interdependent. I understand how this connection improves the values of all our financial investments and lives.

What have I personally done to connect to the Town of Ocean View business community? My family and I have been active supporters and users of the businesses of Ocean View. We have a trail through our back woods that leads to the Ocean View Plaza, where we frequent the UPS Store, Papa John’s pizza and Blockbuster. We have dined in every restaurant in Ocean View.
Taylor Bank granted us the loan to purchase the land and construct our home. All our banking accounts are with Taylor Bank. We have been past members of the World Gym and Curves. Superior Screen & Glass takes care of our doors and windows. CSI Granite and Marble sold to us and installed our Brazilian stone for our kitchen counters and island.

Tidewater Physical Therapy helped restore my daughter and myself from injuries. We use the Coastal Point newspaper for local news, personal ads, searching for services and letters to the editor. Paul Morin’s Floor and Wall Design provided and installed floor coverings in our home. Kitchen Cabinet Corner supplied and installed our kitchen cabinets. Denise Beam & State Farm carry our home insurance.

Bethany Surf Shop sold us our boogie boards, Maria Counts of the Coastal Point interviewed me as a candidate for mayor of Ocean View and awaits the answers to these questions she presented. I have played golf at Bear Trap and used their driving range. I have attended meetings in Bear Trap. We have rented kayaks at the Ocean View Marina. Moon Plumbing installed our entire home plumbing system, connected us to town water and services all our plumbing needs.

The exterior covering of our home was provided and installed by All States Construction. Trees & More designed and planted our home’s landscaping. Hazzard Heating & Cooling installed and service the systems that keep us warm and cool in our home. Wilson’s Electric installed our electrical system. Brennan Electric maintains us. We have begun organizing our youngest daughter’s college fund investment with Manuel Mora of Edward Jones.

We are truly connected to the businesses of Ocean View. Lloyd as mayor will stay connected, supportive and be a promoter.

Q. Would you be in favor of nonresidential property owners being granted the right to vote in the town’s elections? (Why or why not?)

A. “A Constitutional Right to Vote.” The right to vote is the foundation of any democracy. Yet most Americans do not realize that we do not have a constitutionally protected right to vote. While there are amendments to the U.S. Constitution that prohibit discrimination based on race (15th), sex (19th) and age (26th), no affirmative right to vote exists.

The 2000 presidential election was the first time many Americans realized the necessity of a constitutional right to vote. The majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, in Bush v. Gore (2000), wrote, “The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States.” The U.S. is one of only 11 other democracies in the world with no affirmative right to vote enshrined in its constitution.

Because there is no right to vote in the U.S. Constitution, individual states set their own electoral policies and procedures. This leads to confusing and sometimes contradictory policies regarding ballot design, polling hours, voting equipment, voter registration requirements and ex-felon voting rights. As a result, our electoral system is divided into 50 states, more than 3,000 counties and approximately 13,000 voting districts, all separate and unequal.”

I believe that voting rights is the lifeblood of democracy. When we diminish voting by our citizens, we endanger our democracy and our value of “liberty and justice for all.”
Historically, it was preferred that property owners were the ones to be trusted with voting. Historically, we gave only white males the right to vote. Historically, we denied women the right to vote, as they did not have the right traits. Historically, we required a literacy test to vote. Historically, we have tried and tried to limit the vote to only selected/preferred citizens the responsibility of our decision making. Historically, we have been willing to violate voting rights in endless schemes and physical threats. We worry about fraud and vote stealing while we intentionally deny voting opportunities for many.

Where are we today? We, the candidates for the town council of Ocean View are asked if you would be in favor of non-residential property owners being granted the right to vote in town’s elections. Does the Town of Ocean View have the legal authority to grant this right? The answer is yes!

I had a brief conversation with a member of our town council at a town council meeting recently, Michele Steffens, about this very question. Her response was “absolutely not.” She did not want any non-resident deciding her town’s future for the residents of Ocean View.

However, she was more than willing to decide what to do with the property tax dollars paid by those “non-resident” property owners and do so without their vote. She is more than willing to raise their property tax rates without their vote. She is more than willing to imply that she is the selected/ preferred voter.

Who of our present town council and candidates for the town council share Michele Steffens thoughts and actions? Does Mayor Wood? This all sounds very much like the historical attitudes in creating walls to voting rights. Is this a danger to our democracy? Is this the perpetuation of a lie when one states the Pledge of Allegiance….”with liberty and justice for all”?
“For all” is inclusive. Is creating and maintaining self-serving voting barriers another form of segregation? Let’s not divide our town. The town of Ocean View belongs to all of us and it takes all of us for it to prosper.

I want to be the advocate for all in our town of Ocean View as full participants in the positive growth of our town. I want all of us – residents, property owners and business owners in the town of Ocean View – to have the right to vote in all elections. We will be stronger and wiser when all of us have a say in the choices for our town. We will have clearer mandates to follow when all of us participate. I value the words “with liberty and justice for all.”

Presently, the Town of Ocean View has a separate voter registration from the State of Delaware. It is an additional barrier to overcome. Presently, we hold our elections on one day – another barrier. Presently, we pick different years, types of issues to vote on and days for each type of our elections – another barrier. Presently, we have an absentee voter process that requires a sworn statement to a number of reasons for requesting an absentee ballot – another barrier. It is a crime to lie about your reason for an absentee ballot, but it is not a crime to fail to register to vote or vote.

Presently, we use electronic voting machines that require their transportation to selected sites. Presently, we require the training and payment to many workers to oversee the voting process. Presently, we have a myriad of candidate advocates waiting for us a mere 50 feet from the voting location. Presently, we have less than 30/40 percent of eligible voters voting.
Our “democracy” is determined on the votes of less than 40 percent of our citizens who are presently registered to vote. What is the percentage of voters voting if we count those who are not registered to vote and eligible and those U.S. citizens defined to not be eligible to vote?

Why has the foundation (voting) of our democracy never achieved our expectations? Barriers? Is it possible that we intentionally continue to restrict voting to the preferred/selected people? Is it possible that we have created systems of voting to discourage people to vote? Is it possible that we gave the responsibility to define our voting process to the very people who get elected by the system and they “refined” it to serve their own reelections?

Did you know that 30 states in the U.S. have no-excuse absentee voting? Did you know that the State of Oregon has all levels of voting accomplished with Vote By Mail ballots and they have been doing it for 10 years? Did you know that Oregon mails out their ballots 14 to 18 days before their election day? Did you know that in Oregon you can drop your mail-in ballot in lock boxes at State and Town offices of all their departments and not have to pay for a stamp?

Did you know that the State of Oregon has 70/80 percent return on mail in ballots of registered voters? Did you know that Oregon reduced their state wide cost of voting by 30 percent? Did you know that the State of Wyoming does not have registered voters? Bring your ID and vote. Did you know that there are states that have all their State and Town offices/departments providing voter registration assistance?

Why cannot the Town of Ocean View make voting inclusive and convenient? It can, if we elect to do so and we elect candidates who open doors and represent all the citizens of our town. Mail-in ballots is a perfect and secure record of our vote. Mail-in ballots allows the voters extended time to vote. We can significantly improve our voting process. We can re-energize our democracy. We can have a town that is whole and progressing together with Lloyd as mayor.

Q. Do you feel local business owners should be granted the right to vote in town elections?

A. Yes! The definition of a local business owner has to be one that owns or rents their business property in the Town of Ocean View and operates their business from that location. This would be consistent with property owners of homes who do not maintain a permanent local address, but pay property taxes and residents who rent their homes and live here full time.
A few examples might be: Ocean View Family Restaurant, Mary Ann’s Interiors, Atlantic Orthopedics, Rob Ward’s Gale Force Cleaning & Restoration, La Mirage Inc., J.M. Bennett Construction, the Coastal Point, Bierley & Kortvelesy P.A., The Café on 26, Kool Bean Café, Antique Prints, Ocean View Landscaping, Seaside Hobbies, White Orchid Interiors, G.A Hastings & Associates, Gulfstream Development, Wild about Birds, Fulton Bank, Ellen Rice Gallery, DiFebo’s Bistro on the Green and many more.

Not every business owner is established in the Town of Ocean View, but merely has a business license to provide services in our town. They are guest workers and would not be included in my definition to vote in town elections.

Q. Do you support the town’s ongoing efforts to receive grants for projects such as the Pedestrian Improvements Project?

A. Absolutely! It is good financial planning to be active in the pursuit of grants and be competitive for those what will enhance the positive development of our town. Start-up grants that may leave us with a long-term financial obligation must be thoroughly evaluated prior to any agreements. Grant success must not burden our property tax rates and lead us to deficits.
The Pedestrian Improvement Project is an excellent grant secured for the Town of Ocean View. It will give us far better foot and bicycle access to many parts of our town. It will give us access to the beauty of the Assawoman Canal on the Ocean View side.

I expect the State of Delaware expansion plans for Route 26 will include far safer foot and bicycle traffic through Ocean View and a better connection to the Atlantic Ocean. We need to find a way to safely allow our residents of Ocean View to use small electric vehicles to access our town and the beaches as an alternative transportation in order to reduce auto traffic in the tourist season. Our residents with physical challenges that require electric-operated chairs must have safe access throughout our town, and we all know where safety is a serious issue for our neighbors.

Recreational areas at Lord Baltimore Elementary School would be terrific improvement for access by the town citizens. A grant for a town indoor pool, recreation facility and open playgrounds would be of great value to the recreation opportunities for all in our town. It would be wonderful if we could secure a business development grant for the Town of Ocean View. Call the town manager if you have any leads on such a grants!

I am looking for doors to open that will make our town a very desirable location to live, visit, invest in and shop in. I am open to those features of a town that makes it valuable for all the good reasons.

We have wonderfully quiet developments. We have wonderfully pleasant people who live in Ocean View. We have a strong seasonal tourist area. We have beautiful beaches and inland bays. We have much to be proud of, and we can make it even more so. Lloyd as mayor is a terrific three-year grant for the future promotion of our town of Ocean View.

George Pickrell, Mayoral candidate

Q. What do you see as the responsibilities and duties for your elected position and how do you plan to meet those needs?

A. According to the town’s Charter, the mayor is the head of the town government for all ceremonial purposes, and is recognized by the courts for serving civil processes, and by the governor for the purpose of military and emergency law. The mayor’s duties include serving as the presiding officer of the council, and, as a member of the council, the mayor participates with the council members in executing assigned powers to, “adopt ordinances for the protection and preservation of town property, rights and privileges; for the preservation of good order; for securing protection and promotion of health, safety, comfort, convenience, welfare and happiness of the residents of the town.”

To answer this question specifically, the mayor presides over council meetings to ensure that the town’s business is efficiently and effectively addressed, relevant viewpoints are considered, and voting and discussions are conducted according to accepted rules of order. In conducting meetings, it is the mayor’s responsibility to ensure civility and proper decorum of Council members, town staff and meeting attendees.

A unique feature in Ocean View is that the mayor is the head of the Public Safety Department, and reports to the council regarding matters of public safety. The mayor’s responsibilities as head of the Public Safety Department are not assigned by the town Charter but by resolution passed by the council several years ago, conditioned by provisions of the town’s employment contract with the police chief.

I believe I am uniquely qualified to fulfill this responsibility, based on my education and work experience. I have degrees in criminal justice and the administration of justice and 26 years of law-enforcement experience that equips me to effectively oversee the Public Safety Department.

Another important role of the mayor is to attend various meetings with officials of other municipalities in the state and the region. I believe the opportunities to network with colleagues and peers will assist me to learn the best practices of other towns and to achieve economies of scale if we can participate with other towns in a variety of studies, operations and functions.
I do not see the role of mayor to be a micromanager of the town’s personnel. We have a very dedicated and knowledgeable staff charged with and paid to run the daily operations of the Town of Ocean View. I will be available to consult as needed but believe the town staff should be responsible for managing the Town’s operations.

One major role I see that I can fulfill as mayor is to actively solicit input from our citizens and the business community, so that decisions made by the council have the benefit of input from the very people who will be affected by those decisions. I have never received anything from my district council member, asking for my opinion on any issue before the town council, and, in my visits to various communities in Ocean View, I am hearing that residents in other districts are not being asked for their opinions and often cannot get responses when they contact their council representatives.

With the exception of Perry Mitchell, who has a mailing list of constituents which he uses to communicate about issues and solicit input, I do not see a proactive effort being made by the council and mayor to seek out input from the citizens of Ocean View.

I believe the mayor and council should be more proactive to seek input from our citizens, especially in this time of enhanced means of communication. While some valuable input and expression of opinions are presented by interested citizens at the monthly council meetings, my observation is that these meetings are attended by a small number of residents who routinely attend the meetings. If elected, I plan to establish an email system for citizens who want to participate so that I can update them on important issues and offer them the opportunity to share their ideas, concerns and suggestions with the mayor and council.

As I stated in my letter to the citizens of Ocean View, in a letter published in the Coastal Point, “The mayor’s real influence comes from being a part of the town council. The five members of the council are policy makers, and the mayor is just one part of that group.” As mayor, my primary objective will be to listen to and represent the views, concerns and interests of the taxpayers of Ocean View.

Q. What are your views on the projected tax increases for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal-year budgets?

A. I do not agree with or support the proposed 5 percent tax increase for FY 2014. I also do not support the 8 percent increase approved for FY 2012 and 8 percent increase proposed for 2013. While I agree with the proposed 0 percent tax increase for 2015, I am concerned that this goal will be difficult to reach if spending is not significantly curtailed and staffing levels remain the same as in the preceding years.

Gordon Wood has been the mayor of Ocean View for three years. Before his election, he promised, “I will not vote to raise taxes – ever – unless I am personally convinced that there are no acceptable alternatives.” For FY 2010, he voted for an 8 percent tax increase; for FY 2011, he voted for an 8 percent tax increase. He just voted for a five-year plan that includes a tax increase in FY 2012 of 8 percent; a tax increase in FY 2013 of 8 percent; and a tax increase of 5 percent in FY 2014.

This represents five years of tax increases with a compounded 43 percent tax increase overall for the citizens of Ocean View. We also have unfunded capital improvements in significant amounts and will have used $1.5 million of our cash reserves.

Mayor Wood seems to believe he has done all he can do with his “get well plan” and “integrity budgets” and has no other ideas except to tax citizens and deplete our cash reserves. While Mayor Wood apparently sees no alternatives to raising taxes, I see a number of alternatives, which I offered to and discussed with the council during the budget workshops.

In addition, I have a serious problem with council’s basic premise for the proposed budgets. The council is depending on attrition to correct the overstaffing problem of the police department in FY 2014, 2015 and 2016. This may occur, but it is not guaranteed. As budgets tighten in all municipal and state governments, the likelihood one of our police officers finding other job opportunities lessens, and none of our officers are reaching retirement eligibility.

What if this reduction by attrition does not occur? Is the council prepared to terminate the employment of a police officer? It is important to realize that the cost to the town to support that one police officer, if the staffing level remains the same in FY 2014, 2015 and 2016, will be $240,000 ($80,000 per year), which would require an additional 7 percent tax increase beginning in FY 2014.

I promise the taxpayers of Ocean View that I will work diligently to eliminate or drastically reduce these approved and proposed tax increases and to work toward a balanced budget for Ocean View by reducing spending. As I stated during the Candidates’ Forum on March 31, 2011, our town Charter requires us to have a balanced budget. Mayor Wood has failed to ensure compliance with our town Charter while serving as mayor for the last three years, and his “get well plan” and “integrity budget,” if implemented, will not bring us into compliance within the next three years.

If elected, I will immediately seek to establish a citizen committee to review our budgets and determine if the tax increases can be reduced or eliminated. I believe there are a number of cost-savings alternatives that can be considered – for example, reviewing missions and how we accomplish those missions, monitoring and reducing employee overtime and discretionary spending, reviewing priorities for grant and cost sharing projects, scrutinizing and possibly postponing drainage projects or combining them with municipal street repairs. Implementing cost-savings measures – even in small amounts – can add up to savings of thousands of dollars.

Q. How do you think the town can be proactive in decreasing the deficit and prevent future deficit spending?

A. First, if the approved tax increase is implemented, it is imperative that we use the increased tax revenue to offset the deficit rather than to spend it on new projects or incentives, as has been done in previous years.

For example, during the first month of the FY11 fiscal year, less than one month after that budget and a tax increase of 8 percent was implemented, the mayor recommended, and the council approved, a 3 percent average pay increase for the police. This increase was in addition to the 2 percent increase that the operating budget implemented. This increase was approved because one police officer threatened to leave for higher pay. This gratuitous increase was not necessary, and the monies devoted to this pay increase should have been used to offset the deficit, not to add to the deficit.

As I have stated previously, I do not agree with council’s decision to hire an additional police officer in 2010. The report of the study conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) did not identify a compelling reason to hire additional public safety staff, and, now that the proposed arrangement to provide police services to Millville seems to be a dead issue (although Mayor Wood does not seem to think so), the need for an additional police officer is even more questionable.

We are now paying the price for decisions made by previous councils when the economy was flourishing and we were benefitting from enormous income from transfer taxes. Fortunately, before all of the revenues from transfer taxes were indiscriminately spent, some monies were set aside in reserve funds for street repair and replacement, capital improvement/replacement and for emergency reserves. I believe it is important to maintain these reserves, rather than spending them, so that we will have some cushion for that “rainy day” – for example, if we were affected by a serious weather event.

Again, researching ways to reduce our deficit is an area where a committee of town citizens can make valuable and innovative suggestions for cost savings. There are many taxpayers in Ocean View with the knowledge and experience that this town can benefit from tapping, and I want to solicit the views of our citizenry to help us to move forward to balance our budget, eliminate our deficit, and operate the town within the funds that we collect rather than spending more than we collect in revenues.

Q. In regards to public safety, what are your thoughts on reducing the police force and vehicles?

A. First, I want to emphasize what I have said previously – I assure the citizens of Ocean View that any action I take as mayor will maintain 24/7 police coverage and will not in any way compromise the safety of our citizens. I want to make it very clear to Ocean View citizens that, as head of the Public Safety Department, I will ensure that an appropriate complement of Ocean View police officers will be on duty 24 hours every day. There will be no gaps in coverage of the town by our police officers.

This can be and has been accomplished with the 7.5 police officers who are currently providing services to our town. The addition of a police officer, as recommended by the IACP study, will cost the taxpayers more than $400,000 over the next five years. I have read the study and did not find a compelling need to hire an additional officer at this time. The study recommendation of 8.5 police officers is a best-case scenario, but it is also something we cannot afford now. Maybe in the future, if we see a spike in actual crime, we can look at adding additional personnel.

To clarify some misinformation publicized by my opponent and his supporters, my position is that the correct staffing level for the Public Safety Department is 7.5 police officers – not the current level of 8.5 advocated by Mayor Wood and not the 6.5 erroneously attributed to me by a former member of the Ocean View council.

Unlike police forces in major metropolitan areas, our Public Safety Department has a proactive, rather than reactive, police force. We are able to conduct residential checks and welfare checks on elderly and disabled citizens. As indicated in the study conducted by the IACP, we do not have a serious crime problem in Ocean View, and I believe that the appropriate staffing level to maintain good and effective 24/7 police coverage is 7.5 police officers.

I also question why the council rushed to appoint the police officer who is now in the New Castle Police Academy before the study was completed. The council voted to hire the new officer at the July 27, 2010, meeting; the recruit began training at the police academy on Sept. 7, 2010; yet the IACP study was not presented to the council until Oct. 19, 2010.

I believe my comments about the five-year outlook on which the council based their budget decisions – i.e., reducing the police force by one officer by 2014 through attrition – apply to this question also. We cannot presume that the police department will be “right-sized” in future years by attrition, and we should not base budget decisions on such faulty assumptions.

I believe that we only need six police vehicles to conduct the work of the Public Safety Department. I agree with the recommendation of the police study report that we should reduce the current number of vehicles by two. I have received many disparaging comments from Ocean View residents during my visits to our communities about the police vehicles that are parked at headquarters that appear to be unused and unnecessary. I believe we should immediately reduce the number of vehicles by surplusing them, or even seeing if we can sell them to a smaller police department.

Q. How do you hope to improve the town’s relationship with local businesses?

A. I believe it is imperative that Ocean View proactively seek input from our business owners and operators to see what the council and town management can do to attract more business and to enhance our “business friendly” environment for businesses currently operating in the town.

The town is a member of the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce, and I would like to see the town manager and mayor become more active in the Chamber to demonstrate to business owners that the town wants to attract and retain viable businesses in Ocean View.

While Mayor Wood stated at the Candidates’ Forum on March 31 that he had made several attempts to get assistance from the Chamber, without response. I question why he didn’t pursue this more aggressively. I assure voters that I will pursue all sources to secure support and assistance for the town in attracting and retaining the business community.

In addition to ensuring active participation in the Chamber, I plan to establish a committee of business owners and operators to serve as advisors and sounding board for the council to let them know that we want to hear what they have to say.

I would also propose that a separate agenda item be added to every council meeting to provide for businesses to make suggestions and provide input, similar to the current citizens’ privilege agenda item. This way, our citizens can also hear the concerns of our business owners and operators. I believe there are issues that are unique to businesses with which the council should become more familiar.

I would like to establish an atmosphere in which businesses are comfortable and encouraged to approach the council to discuss their unique issues and offer suggestions for improving their efforts to serve our community. As I recall, attempts were made a year or so ago by a council member to establish a business forum, but I am not aware that this attempt was successful in achieving any goals and believe the effort has been abandoned.

This does not reflect well on the town. We need to be sure that the business community gets better support and continuity of effort from the council if we want to attract new businesses and keep the ones we have.

Q. Would you be in favor of nonresidential property owners being granted the right to vote in the town’s elections? (Why or why not?)

A. This is a complex issue which was brought before the council previously and was rejected by the council. I do not see this as a viable initiative at this time. However, I am concerned that we have a large number of property owners in Ocean View who pay a substantial amount – in fact, two thirds – of our tax revenues but who are not given the right to vote in our elections to express their views and preferences.

I believe we can serve the interests of these non-resident property owners well by keeping our taxes low, maintaining our 24/7 police coverage which will protect their properties, as well as the properties of the residents, and maintain our park and amenities so that they can be enjoyed by the non-residents, their guests and tenants.

I would like to afford these non-resident property owners the opportunity to have a voice in expressing their views to the mayor and council. I would be in favor of asking the non-residents to designate a representative to attend our council meetings each month, to report on the concerns and opinions of non-resident taxpayers on any issues before the council so that we have the benefit of their input before we vote on these issues.

If these citizens are not given the privilege to vote, we should at least provide them the opportunity and outlet to express their opinions and provide input from their perspective so that council decisions are well-reasoned and take all relevant information into account.

Q. Do you feel local business owners should be granted the right to vote in town elections?

A. This is another complex issue that I believe would require charter amendment(s). I personally believe that the right to vote should be given to our residents but not to the business operators in Ocean View. However, I believe it is important, as I stated earlier, that we provide an effective means for gathering information from the business community about the potential impact of pending resolutions and ordinances on the town’s businesses. I believe such open communications can establish Ocean View as a “business friendly” town and can, hopefully, provide a less costly alternative to litigation.

It is important to let the business community know that the mayor and council care about them and want to hear from them. Adding a business community “privilege” agenda item and establishing an advisory committee of business owners/operators, if effectively managed and utilized, can achieve a lot of the open communications that should be an acceptable alternative to allowing them to cast votes in our elections.

Q. Do you support the town’s ongoing efforts to receive grants for projects such as the Pedestrian Improvements Project?

A. I support any effort in which the town receives money for projects from other sources than our taxpayers, especially during the current difficult economic situation. However, it is important to assess whether such grants are “free money” or require some matching of funds by the town. We must carefully examine what our budget can and cannot afford, as well as the long-range impact on the town’s budget for upkeep and repair of these projects.

The proposed Pedestrian Improvements Project is an example of something that I believe requires further study. I believe that we should involve citizens in the planning process for these initiatives – for example, to see if the proposed projects are what they want.

While the amount of funding that is being provided by the federal and state grants is impressive, I believe that the amount of money required of the town may be something we cannot afford to pursue at this difficult time when there are so many competing priorities for our limited resources. Installation of sidewalks and correction of some drainage projects may have to necessarily be postponed due to higher priority needs for use of available funds.

While there are many side benefits to pursuing this particular project, e.g., mitigation of some drainage issues on Woodland Avenue, as part of the installation of the walkways, I believe the amount of money that Ocean View has to contribute to this project may be beyond our means, and I am concerned about the future impact of maintenance and repairs on our future budgets if the economy does not improve significantly in the next few years.

In addition, there is no guarantee that the federal grant money will be continued for the future phases of this six-phase project. Where would the town be if we begin this project and then lose the funding and have to abandon the partially completed project?

I believe we also need to consider the ordinance that was introduced at the March council meeting, which will require individual homeowners to be responsible for installation, repair and maintenance of sidewalks “adjacent” to their property. This will not only involve snow removal but will extend to requiring homeowners to pay for repairs and replacement of sidewalks. This proposed ordinance will pass on to homeowners a tremendous financial burden, and I hope that the homeowners of Ocean View will come to the April 12 council meeting to express their opinions on this proposed ordinance.

If elected, I will diligently review the proposed pedestrian improvement project and the proposed sidewalk ordinance to assess the best resolution for the citizens of Ocean View, and I will vote accordingly. I encourage all Ocean View homeowners to voice their opinions also.

I am very concerned about several false and misleading statements made by Mayor Wood at the Ocean View Candidates’ Forum on March 31, 2011. Incorrect and misrepresented information about my position on the issues has also been presented in letters to the local news media in support of Mayor Wood. To those citizens who attended the forum and/or read these misleading endorsements of Mayor Wood – and to all taxpayers of Ocean View – I offer the following clarifying and accurate information for the record.

(1) I am a retired police officer. I, therefore, fully support 24/7 police coverage for Ocean View and will ensure that Ocean View officers are on duty 24 hours every day to maintain the safety and security of our citizens and visitors.

(2) I believe, based on my 26 years of experience and education in law enforcement, that our 24/7 police coverage can be adequately addressed with 7.5 police officers.

(3) I do not have a campaign manager or formal campaign committee. I am independent, and the views I am expressing are my views alone and should not be attributed to other citizens or advisors. My main source of advice regarding campaign issues has been the citizens of Ocean View, whom I have had the pleasure to meet as I have visited the communities of Ocean View. I thank these citizens for sharing their thoughts, suggestions and concerns with me and hope they will have confidence in me to serve as mayor of Ocean View for the next three years.

(4) I will keep my promise to Ocean View citizens to work diligently to eliminate or drastically reduce currently approved and proposed tax increases and to work toward a balanced budget for Ocean View by reducing spending. I will make every effort to secure council cooperation to reduce costs rather than raise taxes.

This election is not about me. It is all about the people of Ocean View and how they want to see their hard-earned tax monies used. To the voters, I repeat what I said at the Candidates’ Forum last week, “Your vote is your voice, and it is critical that you express your opinions and your voice through your vote.”

I ask all eligible voters to please come out to vote on April 9, 2011. If any voters will not be in town on voting day, I ask you to please vote by absentee ballot to ensure that your voice is heard.

If you vote for me, I promise that I will live up to my campaign promises and that I will work diligently to support the views of the people of Ocean View and use their money effectively and wisely.

Perry Mitchell, council candidate

Q. What do you see as the responsibilities and duties for your elected position and how do you plan to meet those needs?

A. I have served on the council for three years and have endeavored to represent my constituents as fairly as possible. I believe that it is a responsibility to answer constituent mail in so far as it is possible.

For example, the editor of the Coastal Point referred an email to me when no one on the council had responded to him. So I listened to him. In some circumstances, that is all often one can do, and that is to listen. I may not agree with some emails or calls, but I listen and I believe that is an important responsibility of a councilman.

One of the important responsibilities of a councilman is to attend council meetings and vote. One of the most important votes is your vote on the budget. That is the life of a councilman; you weigh arguments on both sides and, hopefully, reach a fair and just decision for the residents of Ocean View.

Q. What are your views on the projected tax increases for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal-year budgets?

A. According to the projected five-year budget, there will be a 21 percent increase in the first three years of the plan and zero increase in the last two years. This is not likely to happen, because the council did not provide for a million dollars in drainage projects. Thus, it is likely that we will also have tax increases in those years.

I proposed the following savings to get us to a 1.5 percent tax increase in all five years.

• Town and employee share cost of health care. $200,000 savings;

• Limit expense to the proposed public works building to $150,000. $100,000 savings;

• Find additional savings in overtime. $100,000;

• To be determined. Savings $75,000;

• One police officer – $400,000;

• Cutting public Safety budget – $75,000;

• Reducing professional services further – $20,000;

• Reduce police cars, $30,000;

• Other salary savings, $40,000.

Send a clear message to council that we don’t need increased taxes.

Q. How do you think the town can be proactive in decreasing the deficit and prevent future deficit spending?

A. This council is a tax-and-spend council which will continue to spend your tax money. Doesn’t it make sense to make the expenditure cuts now to reduce the deficit? If my opponent is elected, we may have a 5-0 voting alignment in favor of the mayor’s get-well program, which may make us all sick.

Yet, this council did not include all of the drainage projects in its present five-year budget and so you will see yearly 8 percent tax increases for the next six or seven years to pay for drainage and sidewalks! Watch my prediction come true!

Q. In regards to public safety, what are your thoughts on reducing the police force and vehicles?

A. I voted for increasing the salary of our police officers by 5 percent last year. I believe that our officers’ pay needed to be improved to make our pay competitive with the State Police. If it is not, then we will lose our highly trained officers. I hold our public safety officers in great esteem and believe they are best in Delaware. I also voted for a part-time officer and believe that we should hire more part-time officers, because it is basically cheaper in the long run.

I believe that the town has to face its deficit reality. I voted against the hiring of the new police officer last fall because of our budget constraints and deficit. I will leave it to the voters to decide whether to hold the mayor accountable for the hiring of one more police officer and giving us a 8 percent tax increase this year rather than 2 percent.

There is a myth of what 24/7 coverage means in this town. Right now, the town is doing 24/7 coverage with six officers. We provided 24/7 coverage two years ago using six officers. Why do we need 8.5 officers? The new officer hired last fall was not necessary to our 24/7 coverage. I believe that the council hired the new officer to provide Millville with patrol hours. When the deal with Millville fell through, the mayor had egg on his face and the town had a new officer, which raised our taxes by 6.6 percent for 2012 and succeeding years.

The mayor during the last Thursday’s debate stated that I sent him an email wanting to cut two police officers from budget. My email dated Nov. 16, 2008, which is a long time ago, said: “Gordon, I remember you saying during your campaign that you wanted fewer police officers. You quoted the statistic 2.3 police officers per thousand during the candidate debate. I would like to cut one police officer from the budget now and later cut another police officer from the budget. Since you have been elected, I have not heard anything from you on that issue.”
So my email was sent in the context of testing Gordon Wood on his 2008 debate statement and the promises he made to Councilman Roy Thomas, Dr. Nippes and myself during that 2008 campaign. Roy Thomas supported a joint campaign coffee at Bear Trap for both of us in 2008 because we had an agreement to reduce police growth, which fell apart as soon as Gordon Wood was elected.

Since we can provide 24/7 with six officers, why not get to that level through attrition or otherwise?

Q. How do you hope to improve the town’s relationship with local businesses?

A. The council has appointed a committee chaired by Councilwoman Steffens to attract business to Ocean View.

In general, I welcome new business to come into the town. However, I do not favor so called big-box stores on Atlantic Avenue at this point, but I would favor a referendum to decide the issue. Most of Atlantic Avenue is contiguous to neighborhoods and residential living. Big-box stores disrupt transportation flows and quiet living for those neighborhoods.

The people of West Avenue did not want the public works building in their neighborhood and so the town found a suitable property next to the public safety building. Perhaps we can do the same when a Wal-Mart or a Lowe’s come to our town. Maybe we can find a suitable place outside of Atlantic Avenue area. Also, the town needs to insure that stores on 26 have an appealing architecture and fit with our historical area.

Council members also can go on the speech circuit and talk about welcoming new businesses to Ocean View.

Q. Would you be in favor of nonresidential property owners being granted the right to vote in the town’s elections? (Why or why not?)

A. Not at this time.

Q. Do you feel local business owners should be granted the right to vote in town elections?

A. Probably not.

Q. Do you support the town’s ongoing efforts to receive grants for projects such as the Pedestrian Improvements Project?

A. The Town applied for a community development grant and was awarded $800,000, with a $200,000 cash match, to install sidewalks from the south side of Woodland and 26 to the intersection of Central Avenue and Woodland. This would be the first phase.

In theory, this project is good for the town, but the $200,000 that the town is required to spend to get the $800,000 grant money would adversely impact the budget. This is only the first phase, and additional phases will cost the town more money. There are also issues of who will be responsible for repairing the sidewalks when they are damaged and age. There is no free lunch here.

Tom Sheeran, council candidate

Q. What do you see as the responsibilities and duties for your elected position and how do you plan to meet those needs?

A. First and foremost, I realize that as a councilperson, I represent all of the citizens of Ocean View, so I promise to be accessible and listen to their concerns and their ideas. I understand the function of government is to do for the people that which needs to be done but which they cannot do for themselves.

The Ocean View Town Council is that legislative body which provides these services for all its citizens. I feel my record in the community proves that I am a team player, and therefore I am confident I will be able to work effectively with my fellow council members on all issues to be addressed.

My goals as a council person will be to continue bringing civility, honesty and integrity to the dais, to ensure the funds expended need to be spent, and to develop a strategy to make Ocean View more open to new business without destroying our “small town” image.

Q. What are your views on the projected tax increases for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal-year budgets?

A. John Kenneth Galbraith said, “Economic forecasting was created to make astrology look respectable.” This holds true for forecasting future budgets also. I feel if the town council makes a concerted effort to control all discretionary spending, we can reduce the tax increases planned for FY14 and FY15. All I can truthfully say is that I plan on addressing every item in the budget as it comes up and ensure that every dollar spent needs to be spent at that time. I firmly believe that any tax increase should be the last avenue of choice.

Q. How do you think the town can be proactive in decreasing the deficit and prevent future deficit spending?

A. The first thing the town must do is to put a moratorium on discretionary spending until we remove our structural deficit. This won’t be easy, but it must be done. Grants for town projects, for example, are great, but grants that require the town to provide additional funding should not be sought at this time. In addition, town employees need to begin sharing in the cost of their benefits. I also think, as a council, we have to start thinking out-of-the-box and consider performing a cost/benefit analysis regarding the possibility of outsourcing a portion of town services.

Q. In regards to public safety, what are your thoughts on reducing the police force and vehicles?

A. The police department and lack of crime is the reason my wife and I chose Ocean View for our retirement. I spent most of my career being assigned around the world, and when I arrived in Ocean View, folks heard me say, “I have found my home.”

I strongly feel our 24/7 police coverage is what keeps crime out of our area, but as important are the services provided by the police department and its officers. Shortly after moving to Ocean View, we had a medical reason to call 911. A member of the police department was at our front door before we completed the conversation with the 911 operator, in less than five minutes. A similar occasion at my son’s home in metropolitan Washington, D.C., and the response time was over 25 minutes.

The current authorized strength of the police department is 8.5. This number is correct, according to the recent staffing requirements study completed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which states, “The department was right-sized in 2004, at 8.5 full-time equivalents (FTEs).”

Ideally, we should keep the police department staff at 8.5. However, I feel 24/7 can be accomplished with 7.5 officers, but this requires additional built in overtime, which leads to serious safety, health and family problems. Any number less than 7.5 will seriously jeopardize officer safety and increase the town’s liability.

As for the number of police vehicles, personally, I like the take-home policy. In fact, there are 32 council-approved policies whereby an off-duty officer must be called in to duty. However, to answer the vehicle question, without the take-home policy, I feel we could work with the chief’s and sergeant’s vehicles, plus four other vehicles for patrol officers.

Q. How do you hope to improve the town’s relationship with local businesses?

A. I would work to get the Ocean View businesses involved with the Chamber of Commerce and open lines of communication that run in both directions between the local businesses and town officials In addition, We need to encourage new growth by seeking businesses from other areas such as Wilmington, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and beyond. We need to work with them to facilitate their transition into our town.

We should market the wealth of expertise we have in our area, including all the amenities: the ocean, the beaches, golf courses, great schools for families, low-cost homes and low taxes. Let them know what a great area this is and assist them in creating what will be beneficial for them and for the town.

Q. Would you be in favor of nonresidential property owners being granted the right to vote in the town’s elections? (Why or why not?)

A. I believe the right to vote in this country is an honor and feel it should be authorized only where a person resides permanently. Allowing non-resident property owners to vote would give an unfair advantage to the non-residential property owners.

For instance, in one large development in town, the resident property owners equate to only about 10 percent of the properties. If the remaining 90 percent of property owners, many of which are seasonal rental properties, were allowed to vote on town issues, that lone development could conceivably control the town. Non-resident property owners have a different perspective regarding expenditures – especially public safety. Our town charter does allow all property owners, resident and nonresident, to vote on all property-related issues. As a council member, I will represent residents and nonresidents alike, without distinction.

Q. Do you feel local business owners should be granted the right to vote in town elections?

A. Local business owners have the right to vote in town elections if they are residents. All local business owners have full representation at the town council. Resident and non-resident alike have the right to come before the council to address their concerns. Each member of the council represents all the citizens and business owners in their respective districts, regardless of their ability to vote in town elections.

Q. Do you support the town’s ongoing efforts to receive grants for projects such as the Pedestrian Improvements Project?
A. I do. However, we must be careful, as we now have one sizable grant that requires the town to spend $200,000 in order to obtain the grant. In my opinion, this is an expenditure that the town cannot afford at this time, due to our structural deficit. If I’m elected, I promise to weigh the benefits of any proposed grant with the costs of that grant to the town and its taxpayers.