DOVER - In the Dover City Council 3rd District, current Councilman David L. Bonar faces Howard Q. Earle.
Polls in the Tuesday election will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and for the 3rd district, are located at Dover Park's and Recreation Center, 1210 White Oak Road.
Name: David L. Bonar
Group or civic organizations affiliated with: Member Kent County Regional Planning Commission, Life Member Dover Fire Department, Member NARUC Consumer Affairs SubCommittee, Member Del. Vets, Member American Legion, Former Member Delaware Board of Pharmacy
Publicly elected position currently and/or previously held (please include dates):
City Councilman 2010-Present
Name: Howard Earle
Occupation: I am a Pastor at Helping Force Ministries and a full-time student at Wilmington University.
Group or civic organizations affiliated with: Co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Helping Force Kent County Inc.
Publicly elected position currently and/or previously held (please include dates): None
What are the three most important issues motivating your run for Dover City Council? How can progress be made on these issues?
BONAR: My primary motivation is to continue to serve the residents of the 3rd District and city of Dover as we work to improve our ability to provide services to Dover. There is a lot of work that's been done in the last two years and a lot remains. We've initiated a complete study of our electric system and are working to bring new and more efficient electric power to the PJM grid, as well as the residents and businesses of Dover and Delaware. We've continued to work on improved public safety and done it with no new taxes. Our long neglected water and sewer system is being upgraded and we need to continue doing that. We've initiated a reorganization of the leadership in city administration saving taxpayers more than $200,000 in expenditures. Working with state and county legislators, we have secured $1.3 million to modernize and improve the downtown area via the planned Streetscape Project.
EARLE: A. Economic Growth - I will strive to make Dover friendlier to businesses that are not finding our area very attractive. We must diligently consider incentives that will give business reasons for wanting to come here. If we look at Middletown and Smyrna there is growth. In Camden there is growth as well. For some reason Dover has stalled. I feel very strongly that we have stopped investing in jobs. We must not look to yesterday's solutions for today's problems.
B. Transparency of city hall - I feel the 3rd District tax payers have lost touch with city hall, and if elected I will hold public forums in various locations to stay in touch with my constituents concerns. The very core of being a representative is to represent the people. They must be informed as the representative is informed to the tax payers concerns.
C. Reduction of crime - Looking at the rise in crime we must not wait any longer for this thing to grow. One proposal relates to my first is economic growth. It is understood that economic growth lowers crime. Jobs in the place of guns will have a direct impact on our neighborhoods throughout all districts of Dover. We cannot isolate any neighborhood writing it off as "ghetto", since we are all residents of Dover. There are good people in all districts. If the hand is hurt it affects the whole body.
Given Gov. Jack Markell's State-of-the-State address where he basically said that municipalities who supply electric need to find ways to lower rates, what can the city do for its rates?
BONAR: We were working to improve electricity rates long before Governor Markell noted his concerns in his State of the State Address. We continue to have the most reliable and efficient distribution system in Delaware, and have given modest rate reductions during the last two years. We are currently working to bring a new, state of the art power generator to Dover. Calpine's plan to build a 309 megawatt generator on the Garrison Farm will add value to that property, which has remained vacant until the last two years with the addition of the Solar Park. When the construction of the power plant is completed, it will have pumped some $300 million into the Delaware economy from temporary jobs. Once this project is completed, Dover will realize about $2.3 million a year in new revenues from property tax and the sale of water and electricity to serve the facility. We've initiated a rate study to determine whether we can further reduce our electricity rates for all classes of customers and another study to determine whether we really NEED to be in the business of owning our own power company. It has served us well by keeping our property taxes low, but we need huge infrastructure investment in order to maintain our aging power plant by replacing generators that are decades old. These are questions that can't just be decided by saying it's the way we've always done it. In order to make those decisions we must use outside consultants and experts to give us the information we need. We are doing just that.
EARLE: We don't want to sell our electric company to a third party. It will only raise rates. We must encourage responsible usage in all areas, from businesses to people at the residential level by making the electric usage known. If there is a spike in usage, the citizens will be given notice. If they are saving money they will also receive notice. These notices will be included on their monthly statements so as not to create more consumption. We should also look at usage in our transportation systems. City buses are riding around in buses built for 30 to 50 people with only five passengers. The city might consider targeting smaller transportation vehicles, according to their routes. If certain routes need larger buses they will be provided. In doing this fuel consumption will go down and we can expand service to areas not covered. We must take full advantage of the solar park that we have set up on White Oak Road. We must educate the tax payers about our solar park investment in ways we can use it to its fullest potential. For too long the 3rd District has become disconnected with its representatives. New ideas, hope and a sense of progress will stimulate a positive district. Not only a sense but real economic growth is acceptable at a time such as this. I am working with a leading Wilmington University economist in ways to serve our citizens, and will continue with all my being to do so.
The city is currently in contract negotiations with all three unions - Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 15; International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried Machine and Furniture Workers/Communication Workers of America (IUE-CWA); and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union 1238. How should the city proceed? What adjustments should be made to salary and benefits? Is it possible to make the unions happy without giving the raises of some sort?
BONAR: Labor negotiations are very difficult, given our economy in Dover. We were forced to give our police officers a 2% wage hike through arbitration. I believe the seniority of our labor force will be reduced through retirements over the next couple of years. The challenge will be to negotiate with all of our unions in a manner that will reduce our post employment benefits and health care costs, both of which have skyrocketed. I believe our union workers must realize we can't continue to fully fund these benefits without their increased cooperation and contribution. Taxpayers will simply not be able to continue to foot this burden in the future.
EARLE: There are certain dynamics included in deciding the outcome of the negotiation and what is fair. I am running for city council and I have heard my constituent continuously repeat that the 70 percent of the union workers do not live in the city of Dover. We must elect someone who will consider our taxpayers and the overall health of our city in a more personal and progressive way. I've spoken with hundreds of taxpayers in the 3rd District and they are not happy with the across the board cost of living raises. They find them to be unsubstantiated and unacceptable. We must bring our conviction, morals and common sense to these negotiations. Not wavering on our principle but standing on firm understanding that Dover must thrive. I feel that I will be a valuable part of these negotiations. They will be difficult but must take place. And as I previously stated, I will bring the taxpayers voices to the table. The workers are a valuable part of the city and are to be commended for their service. But their pay raises must be considered. The recession must be considered along with some other obvious dynamics. Please remember that we have a projected $3.4 million deficit.
Was it a good idea to lengthen city council term limits from two years to four years?
BONAR: I supported the change, but have mixed feelings. On the one hand, residents will have to pay far closer attention to how their elected officials represent them in the performance of our duties. It's perplexing that more residents in Dover don't come out to vote. I'd like to see us move our election dates to more align themselves with the general elections. Having someone sworn in during the first week of May and expecting them to intelligently vote on a budget they have had little input to, is not a good way to do business. Working on council takes me, personally, about 20-30 hours a week in reading and researching the different issues, and while staff is extremely helpful, it still takes a year or more on council before one begins to understand the full complexity of running city government. Anyone who thinks you can just step in and begin to understand it all, is sorely ill-informed.
EARLE: Yes and no. Yes, because it will save tax dollars. The yearly elections were costly. We must continue to look for new ideas in growth for our city. A dollar saved is a dollar earned. No, because if the 3rd District continues to think stagnantly, the chance of valuable time being lost and representation.
Specific District 3 question: The proposed Calpine power plant would go up in your district. What are the issues (positive and negative) you see with the project?
BONAR: Calpine's project is a huge investment by a well-known and respected power generating firm. They will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in this project and it will give us a chance to lower electric rates while providing additional reliability to the entire Delmarva Peninsula. It's something that will have far reaching effects. There are those who complain it's too close to their housing development, but I believe they are in the minority and concerns about its environmental effect are ill-informed. A combined cycle natural gas generator is the cleanest available with today's technology, other than nuclear and building a nuclear plant in Delaware is out of the question due to many of our regulations and a general lack of understanding of it's benefits. Calpine has been a good citizen by keeping everyone interested in their project well informed and giving all a chance to have input. Once this is complete, it will give the City a chance to attract other businesses and technology to a tract of land that's sat vacant and unproductive for more than a decade. That translates into new jobs and additional tax revenues when we need them most.
EARLE: I've spoken with hundreds of taxpayers in the 3rd District in regards to the Calpine project, and I must say that this is a very touchy subject. This project will directly impact some individuals more than others. It will drastically change the 3rd District in certain areas. A few areas I am specifically concerned about are the residents of Wild Meadows, White Oak Farms, Persimmons Tree and Town Point. I will represent the 3rd District as a whole. We must remember that the Calpine is projected to create a number of temporary and residual jobs. How many is not known as of yet. How many that will be given to residents of the 3rd District and city is also not yet known. I will be monitoring, considering and following the events surrounding the outcome of the Calpine project. We must remember there is residual revenue for the city of Dover. And I will again reiterate my position if elected as a representative to be just that, a representative.
What issues should Dover address to continue to make it a good place to live and work?
BONAR: Dover is a good place to live and work. We have low taxes, adequate facilities for shopping and are close to recreational opportunities. What we lack is a concerted effort by everyone to sell that to businesses who want to relocate. While some efforts are underway, we are too fractured in our approach and must consolidate our work to make sure we find and attract the right types of business who will bring new residents here to expand our tax base. If we remain stagnant, we will die as a community. Remember, when the economy is suffering, you have to be smarter, faster and stronger to grow. I want to see us make it easier for someone to come here and do business, not just say "it's been this way forever". Change is inevitable, but it's our responsibility to make sure change comes in an efficient and organized manner.
EARLE: You should consider electing Howard Earle as 3rd District representative. Really folks, Dover has some good, hardworking and caring residents. The problems we face are very difficult but it is not too late. I will work diligently applying the solutions of tomorrow for today's problems. I will focus on Dover's economy, the crime rate, school bullying and education as a whole. These areas will directly affect the crime rate in Dover. I will also focus on creating jobs. I have devoted my life to the education and understand of my fellow man and my family here in Dover. Dover has a lot of potential, and I encourage us all to rise at this moment to be heard. We cannot wait any longer.