I am writing as a Fenwick Island resident, even though I am currently serving my 16th year on the Town Council: I am doing so to endorse the challenger candidates Paul Breger, Janice Bortner, Natalie Magdeburger and Jacque Napolitano.
Why am I doing this? Because over the last few years, I have watched as current council members have either implicitly or directly taken steps to close the Town Hall to the public, as well as ignore the voices from the community. Some of the most revealing incumbent positions/decisions are highlighted below:
• First, according to FOIA-requested emails between Ørsted and DNREC, two of these council incumbents were named as “stakeholders” supporting Ørsted’s plan to bring transmission cables to the nearby wetlands. Only public outcry prevented this. When Candidate Bortner’s son and grandson dropped off “No Ørsted” signs to council members to post in their yards, they were threatened with trespassing charges.
• Next, in early 2020, the town manager, without formal council authority, sent official letters to the ABC Board indicating the Town would not oppose plans for an outdoor bar and sound system at a new hotel. This was done even as the mayor assured me and others that the “Town” did not support the application. The truth is I could not get support for a motion to oppose the ABC application. Indeed, at the FISH forum on Saturday, I learned for the first time that Town officials (?) have again decided Fenwick will not testify at the ABC Board hearing to support its ordinances banning outdoor bars and sound systems.
• Then, Town officials began to control public participation by requiring a reservation deadline, a limited number of speakers and time restrictions. If a resident was in the middle of a sentence, the town manager still pushed the “Off” button. Finally, in September 2020, the council made these regulations official after I protested the arbitrary participation rules, but not before the mayor and other council members inferred that I was a liar.
• Other residents were also labeled as troublemakers when they objected to the proposals from stacked committees where recommendations seem predetermined. As further insurance for outcomes, many members serve on overlapping committees with authority to approve recommendations from another committee.
• Just recently, under the guise of a Town statement, four employees appeared to endorse a letter regarding building height, outdoor bars, outdoor speakers and shuttles. Now, I like the town employees and their dedication, but who gave them the authority to address town regulations, write such a letter and then send it out at taxpayers’ expense in an envelope that just so happened to include voting regulations?
• After decades of sponsoring a candidate forum yearly at the Town Hall, the non-profit Fenwick Island Society of Homeowners (FISH) was denied both the use of the Town Hall and even the marquee to advertise its program. While the “Closed to the Public” sign posted on the Town Hall originally reflected COVID issues, this sign has now become an apt symbol for a government that has taken a wrong turn!
Voters, please protect our town on Aug. 7 by choosing candidates who have promised to listen respectfully and return to a government of, by and for the people of Fenwick.
Vote for Bortner, Breger, Magdeburger and Napolitano! The Aug. 7 election is not a popularity contest — It’s a turning point in Fenwick’s future.