Ocean View District 3 Councilman Perry Mitchell is running for reelection. Since first running for a seat in 2008, Mitchell has been a strong proponent for zero tax increases for property owners.
“I want to continue to pursue the financial issues of the budget and the taxes. I want to lower taxes as much as possible, get them down to no new taxes, which I think is within reality if people want to do that,” said Mitchell of his decision to run.
Mitchell said he will be campaigning to make difficult budget reductions in the police department.
“To reduce the budget further, we have to go where the money is. The public safety department, which is about 54 percent of the budget, has to be reduced. I think we can go at least one more officer and still have 24-7 [coverage]. In fact, I think we could go as low as five officers and have 24-7, but that would mean the chief would have to work; he’d have to be on patrol.”
The approved 2012-fiscal-year budget has 8.5 police positions budgeted for the year. Officer Marlon Miller, who was injured in the line of duty, is on disability, bringing the actual number of working officers to 7.5.
Mitchell said that he would like to reduce the number by one more position, to gain more savings.
“We have to go beyond that and drop it down to 6.5. That would be one officer, and that would be $400,000 in savings over five years,” he said. “The police department is not going to like me, but this is where we need to go to get the savings. The people of this town do not want additional taxes. I did an e-mail poll about two weeks ago, and it came back 6-1 against new taxes.”
Mitchell also said that, as a last resort, the town could reduce the scheduled replacement of police vehicles of two over the next five years to one over five years, saving the town $60,000.
“If I’m reelected, I will continue to fight to get out taxes reduced. There are things in the budget that we have to move in that direction. I don’t think people really have the heart to reduce public safety, but we have to do that because – the way I look at it – that police station over there was built with $2.8 million or more and gave us the financial problems we have today. Expanding the police department to where we are is giving us financial problems.”
Mitchell said he believes the town could find additional savings of close to $1 million, which would eliminate the need for tax increases.
“We can cut the growth in health insurance further than what the council has recommended. Maybe have where the employee pays 80 percent and the town pays 20 percent. There’s also an item called ‘to be determined capital expenses.’ We can take some money out of that — $75,000 in savings.”
Mitchell said he would like to see the business community thrive and that he welcomes businesses into town.
“I would like to see the town grow economically. There is room for economic development. I don’t think a lot of businesses want to come into Ocean View and develop, but there is room. Maybe somehow we can promote that,” he suggested. “I think there are reasons why we don’t need big-box stores or hideous pieces of architecture in town, but in town, smaller economic development. I welcome smaller economic development.”
Mitchell also said he’d like to see the town’s resources and amenities, such as John West Park and the Assawoman Canal trail, improved.
Door-to-door campaigning and direct mailings speaking to his platform are a couple of the ways Mitchell is trying to promote himself. He also has signs that say, “No new taxes” and “Smaller government.”
“When I go and knock on doors, that’s what people tell me. They don’t want their taxes increased,” he said.
As for the town’s mayoral race, Mitchell said he’s supporting George Pickrell.
“George is a bright guy, and he’s a quick learner. I think he’ll be a good mayor. He’s a retired police officer, and the mayor has to supervise the police department, and I think it’s better to have someone in there that knows police procedures, what the police do. So when the chief comes up with a proposal the mayor can say, ‘Well, that’s not going to fly.’”
Mitchell hopes that, with so many candidates running for election – three for mayor and two for town council – the buzz will spark the public’s interest to go out and vote on Election Day.
“Only 46 percent of the voters turned out in 2010, the last election we had. In 2008, we had 74 percent turnout, so there’s another 30 percent still sitting at home. We need to get those voters out. Having three candidates for mayor, I hope, will excite the people in town enough to turn out to vote. That’d be a good thing. People have a lot of choices.”
“I’m hoping that the people get out there and vote they kind of rebel and say, ‘We don’t want new taxes.’ If the people elect George Pickrell and myself, that’ll be sending a clear message to the council that, ‘You better watch yourselves. We don’t want these new taxes.’”