Atkins and Hastings vie for District 41 representative seat


Voter information

To be eligible to vote in the state of Delaware, voters must be United States citizens, residents of Delaware (proof required), 18 or older and mentally competent. The general election is set for Nov. 2. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Polling places include the new Indian River High School, Millville Fire Hall, Lord Baltimore Elementary School, Bethany Beach Fire Hall, Fenwick Island Town Hall, Keenwick Sound Clubhouse, Roxana and Selbyville fire halls, as well as the DOT Transportation Building in Georgetown, Laurel High School, Delmar High School, Delmar Fire Hall, Gumboro Fire Hall, East Millsboro Elementary, Frankford Fire Hall, Dagsboro Fire Hall, Millsboro Fire Hall, Millsboro Civic Center, Indian River Fire Hall, Long Neck Elementary School and Mid-Sussex Rescue Squad.

For more information and address of polling places go to http://electionssc.delaware.gov/forms/Polling%20Places.pdf online.
For more general information on the election, visit the Sussex County Department of Elections at http://electionssc.delaware.gov. For in-depth voter district maps, visit their comprehensive Web site at: http://elections.delaware.gov/information/districtmaps/districtmaps.shtm...

-------------------

This Tuesday, among the choices local voters will have to make at the voting booth is who will represent the state’s 41st Representative District for the next two years. Republican-turned-Democrat and 41st District incumbent Rep. John Atkins is again being challenged by Republican Greg Hastings. Hastings lost to Atkins in the November 2008 election for the same seat. Both candidates ran unopposed in September’s primaries for their parties’ respective nominations.

Atkins served as representative from 2003 until 2006, when he resigned from his position. Hastings won the seat in May of 2007, in a special election held to replace Atkins, in which Atkins nonetheless received 600 votes.

Hastings has served on the General Assembly and is a former Indian River School District school board member. Following his loss in the 2008 election for the 41st District seat, Hastings was appointed to the Millsboro Town Council. Both candidates reside in Millsboro.

The 41st District includes areas in and around Frankford, Millsboro, Dagsboro, Gumboro and Long Neck.

This week, the Coastal Point gave both of the 41st District candidates the opportunity to answer the same set of questions ahead of Tuesday’s voting. Their responses appear below, in alphabetical order.

Q1: What are your thoughts on the four proposed casinos in Sussex County — Millsboro, Georgetown, Delmar and the Indian River Inlet?

John Atkins

A1: I have been in favor of the Del Pointe project because it would add thousands of good jobs immediately to Sussex County. I am in favor of competition and competing proposals. I don’t think the current three-track monopoly should stand.

Greg Hastings

A1: From my understanding, when the General Assembly convenes, it will be one of the first issues that is discussed, and I think there are varied opinions, depending on which party affiliation you talk to, as well as which representative you talk to, how they feel about how the state is going to approach four or five offers for locations. It could be either the state could make a selection, an arbitrary selection to have the state request for a proposal, do it formally, kind of like a contractual arrangement.

I, personally, struggle with the concept with any additional casinos in the state, because I just don’t believe the State needs to finance its budget off more revenue from the state. I believe in generating businesses, supporting businesses that our economy says that revenue is generated without creating a gambling venue.

Q2: What role do you believe the state should take in regard to beach protection and replenishment?

John Atkins

A2: I think the state should work with the congressional delegation to access federal funding to preserve and protect our beaches. The beaches are a great natural resource and economic-development generator for our state.

Greg Hastings

A2: I realize that this is somewhat controversial. Whether to replenish or not to replenish is the question. But tourism is a big part of our economy here in the state. I haven’t been hands-on with the actual discovery of funding, but I do believe that if there is any way possible for us to support the beach replenishment to any degree that we can afford, I believe we need to do it, because it enhances our economy, it enhances the tourism here, as well as I believe we need to continue to protect our environment.

We live here on the eastern shore, and it is just a haven of wildlife and fish, with our inland bays. We need to continue to protect our natural resources and our natural wildlife, and I will continue to support that.

Q3: How involved do you believe the state should be in terms of stimulating the local economy?

John Atkins

A3: The state should be very active with the local economy. It can do its part by keeping taxes low and not passing burdensome regulations on to small business. The state should enact tax credits and incentives for small businesses who hire new workers and create new jobs in this economy. This could be paid for with some cuts in state spending.

Greg Hastings

A3: We have the Department of Economic Development. That’s what their job is to do, is to create or look for potential jobs in the marketplace or bring businesses to Delaware, to keep it simple. I believe that we also need to pare down our government, our criteria that we’ve established for small businesses.

I hear it all the time when I’m out campaigning door-to-door and talking to people. I’m a small-business owner. I can relate to that, that our state government and our agencies have just gotten out of control with the demands and the criteria that they want, and it stifles the opportunity for businesses to either begin or to develop or to grow.

I talked to a gentleman about a month ago. He was from Pennsylvania, and he was looking to establish a potato chip factory in the Milford area. One of the big resources that a potato chip factory needs is water, and when you pump water out to wash potatoes, you have to put water back someplace and with the DNREC that he was having to deal with, he said, ‘Mr. Hastings, it got so overwhelming, so cumbersome, that I just tabled the whole project and I never went any further.’ How many other stories are possibly out there that people would like to start businesses here but found it too difficult?

Q4: What are your thoughts on immigration laws? Should immigration be controlled by the state (i.e., Arizona) and how would you go about regulating our large immigrant population?

John Atkins

A4: I think immigration laws should be strongly enforced, and illegal immigrants should be prosecuted and deported if they commit crimes and break the law here. States and localities are now acting only because the federal government has taken a hands-off approach and not secured the borders. While securing the borders is a federal issue, public health and public safety are state and local issues when immigration issues come into play. So it is not solely a federal issue.

Greg Hastings

A4: It is very, very unfortunate that our federal government isn’t doing what it’s supposed to be doing when it comes to our borders and illegal immigration. I have followed Arizona very closely and, of course, they’re right at the crux of the problem, but I feel like we probably, as legislators, need to look at establishing some piece of legislation for our own protection. We need to look at that, and I would be willing to be working in that direction.

Since our federal government isn’t doing it, unfortunately, I have to say then I feel like our state is going to have to do it to some degree. Now, to what degree, I’m not certain, until we roll up our sleeves and start looking at all the pieces and politicking together and see what develops. But I feel for the people here. I feel for the families. They are very hard-working and they come looking for a better life, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are here illegally.

Q5: What is your plan for teacher accountability in local schools?

John Atkins

A5: I am pleased that the old DSTP has been replaced with a new model. I think our teachers do a great job in Sussex County and must be strongly supported by parents in the education of their children. I am in favor of channeling more resources into the classroom and supporting professional education for our teachers and school administrators. My three boys all attend local public schools, and I am proud to be consistently endorsed by the Indian River Education Association.

Greg Hastings

A5: I haven’t followed this testing piece as close as I did several years ago, when No Child Left Behind was enacted. I will say this: I firmly believe that we have to establish an equitable means of determining how a child progresses. Every child – as I’ve learned in my years of being involved in education – every child learns at a different pace, at a different time in his or her life. So that, in and of itself, makes it difficult to just bundle up of 20 or 22 children and teach them by one teacher or a teacher and an aid. But we’ve got to have a means of addressing how they’re progressing so that we are meeting the goals. Are we meeting the needs of the children? Are they going to be ready to go to the next level? Are they going to be prepared for the real world or graduation or whatever their endeavor is after graduation?

So we’ve got to have that bar and graph so we have a guide. Whether it’s this test or the previous test, there’s always going to be controversy. There’s always going to be people out there. I learned this, too: Not everyone is going to be happy with any piece that’s implemented. I’ve also learned that in education you never get to a point that everything is perfect.

Now, I’m the type of person that likes to fix things and have it function perfectly, and it’s done and you’re on your way. In education, it evolves, it changes. The world, our society, changes and our education system has to change with it. So we’re never quite there. So, I believe that we need to always continue to work in the direction of linking the progression of the students with the teacher, but I can’t say how exactly that may be, because I’m not an educator. That’s left to the powers that be at the Educational Department.

Q6: What’s your position on phasing out the Gross Receipts Tax?

John Atkins

A6: I am in favor of phasing out this tax, which is nothing more than a hidden sales tax. Also, it taxes gross receipts, and not actual profit, so it it’s unfair to some businesses with a low profit margin.

Greg Hastings

A6: The Gross Receipts Tax is obviously a source of revenue. If we eliminate that as a source of revenue in the state, then I would have to look at what would we be able to do to offer businesses the opportunity. If we gave the tax credit, or if we relinquish the Gross Receipts Tax, it would more than likely have to be something that is scaled back in a progressive manner, because of the revenue that it does generate.

So I would say it’s something that would have to be looked at very seriously and cautiously to determine where might the revenue come from to offset what we’ve lost. But, once again, that’s something that the economic department would have their hands on and would have to advise. I know, personally, as a business owner, if I can reduce any tax anywhere, then I would be thrilled to death.

Q7: What are your thoughts on regulating wind farms/solar production facilities in an effort to both support the county’s small part in lessening the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and for local economic development?

John Atkins

A7: Since the windfarms are to be built off our coastline, I think we as a state should have some sort of oversight in this matter, to make sure they are properly built. I also support any means of energy independence that will create jobs for Delawareans.

Greg Hastings

A7: I believe in research and development in any capacity for future endeavors that might promote business, jobs and increase our economy. I believe that if there is the potential there to do it right, to do the project right – and I’m speaking of the wind farm and I was involved in it two years ago; I heard the sales pitch and I heard the specifics of the details – then I am for the exploration of any renewable energy.

I think it’s interesting. If we can get to the point where we can reduce our current energy cost, that’s the ulterior motive, but at the same time, hopefully, as new technology comes on board, comes into play, solar panels, wind… We have geo-thermal systems out there that people used to pooh-pooh, and now practically every new home that is built will have a geothermal heating and air system.

So, it seems like new and inventive projects of things does take a while to grasp onto, but I believe that we need to look in that right direction for alternatives. That being said, I will say this – the caveat to that – I met a representative two years ago from the state of Alaska, and when I found out she was from Alaska, my first question was how she felt people in her state felt about drilling for oil and Enron. She said they are all for it. It adds jobs. It helps the economy. That is revenue to the state, and when you look at the state compared to this one little spot for the drilling, it’s just very miniscule.

So, that’s just another piece of it here, that our federal government is dealing with many issues – that being one of them. I think we’re living in exciting times when it comes to the technology and what we can discover. I hope that it continues.

Q8: What is your opinion on the Inlet Bridge progression?

John Atkins

A8: I think DelDOT should be more open about the cost and past mistakes during this progression. I have confidence that the current Secretary, Ms. Wicks, is a much stronger leader than her predecessor on this project. Safety is paramount, but I would like to see improved cost controls and active communication with legislators on the project.

Greg Hastings

A8: I am affiliated with the construction industry, but nothing to that degree. I know in construction things happen and things can get or fall behind quickly. That being said, I know that there have been some issues more recently that have caused public concern and I don’t know that we have had proper communication between DelDOT and the public. I don’t know that for sure, but it makes me wonder.

When I was there in June, visiting as a member of a municipality, and we were told by the engineers, “Everything is on schedule. Everything is going great. They’re moving forward and the bridge will be done in a year.” Two months later, in August, we hear there are problems and the bridge is four to six months behind. So that gives me pause, but I feel that the bridge will be done with the utmost quality and workmanship, and we’ll be very proud of it. It’s just sad that this bridge, this one bridge, has had many, many tales.”