Millville City Commission Candidates Forum

09-04-30 Millville City Commission Candidates Forum

Last evening I attended the Candidates Forum hosted by the Millville Chamber of Commerce. There are 15 candidates vying for the five Commission seats.

The current commissioners are Mayor Quinn, Tim Shannon, Joe Derella, Dave Vanaman, and Jim Parent. Parent is not seeking re-election. Quinn, Derella, and Shannon have been staples on the commission for the last 12 years (Has Shannon been on that long? He may have a term less.). They take great pride in the rejuvenation of High Street, the motorsports park, and Union Lake Crossing. Vanaman is a more recent addition. He is not as part of the team as the others. He has jostled with them over abatements and the noise at the park.

Challengers
Challenging the incumbents are Ian Roberts, Emil Van Hook, Jim Hertig, Charles Flickinger, Joseph Sooy, Dale Finch, Robert Tesoroni, Mike Wydra, Rev. Ennis, Robert McQuade, and Dick Marshall.

Roberts sounds like a politician . . . in the bad way. He has that comforting voice that sounds good until you listen to what he has to say. He stated he loved the question How will you work with your rivals and others outside your assigned department? Only a politician would love that question.

Van Hook has raised the ire of some locals partly because of his involvement with Millville First. He has been part of the Commission in the past, as well as a school board member. The current knock against him is that he is against what the current commissioners are doing, but he has offered nothing that he would do other than roll back abatements. Van Hook pitched a nine-member, walking police group armed with K-9s to patrol the Third Ward. He also discussed how his Commission was responsible for bringing Durand Glass to Millville, without abatements. That is a strong point, although I suspect folks will contend the business climate has changed since then.

Jim Hertig is pretty much a non-candidate for me. His platform is speaking of how senior housing projects are a godsend that should be pursued. I wholeheartedly disagree with that position. Seniors, while being easy on the school system, often are living on fixed incomes. Coming from Cape May, the model Glasstown is using, I can equivocally state that Victorian Towers did not end up as a boon to the local economy. We have the Four Seasons trailer park senior housing development plopped down at Buckshutem and Hogbin. There’s the eyesore on Wheaton Avenue. And the city sold the waterfront property that housed two of my shutterspots to a group that will build senior condos on prime real estate. Recruiting more senior housing isn’t the windfall Millville needs. Hertig also spoke about educating the youth with respect lessons. Feelgood legislation isn’t going to win me over. Finally, when it came time to discuss how he would deal with a $5 million cut, Hertig did not explain what he would do. He just said cuts would need to be made.

Charles Flickinger served Millville eight years as a school board member. He is the former owner of Flick’s Cafe on 2nd Street. I liked that joint. Anyhow, Flickinger seems more into wanting to be involved than having any specific goal to work towards or skill he can offer. He did mention looking at energy savings as a way to deal with a cut in funds, but he did not elaborate and there is no reason to believe he has any unique ability than anyone else to bring about those savings.

Sooy sounds like a Millville First candidate. He spoke against RAD, crime, the noise at the racetrack, and the Levoy Theatre. I did not hear anything horrible from him, but I did not get overwhelming inspiration from him either. He did speak forcibly against eminent domain, noting seizing property for private business is a cardinal no-no. I agree.

Finch has a lot of signs about the city. He appears to be well-organized. He stated he has experience in reorganizing taxes at the municipal level. That is good. He spoke about fighting crime in a manner no one prior to him had; namely, code enforcement goes a long way to cleaning up neighborhoods. I agree. Aggressive enforcement should be at the top of the list of any commissioner.

Tesoroni impressed me at the Millville First forum a couple weeks ago. He was less effective in this venue. He champions the escalating debt using a figure of $60 million. That number was disputed by Derella and Quinn, who put the debt at $47 million, which is about $3 million more than when they came into office a dozen years ago. That does not make the candidate look good. Covering a $5 million cut in funds with looking at consultant fees displays an amateur’s view of the problem. While I am appalled with some of the consultants that have been hired (like the one we did for Wawa), there is not $5 million of consultant fees. Frankly, those fees should be cut regardless of cuts. He did correctly point out that those of us who are complaining about noise at the racetrack are not against the track; we are against the noise. There is a difference.

Wydra is frustrating. He means well, and for that, I respect his candidacy. Unfortunately, “Millville Mike”, who has lived here for 53 years and loves to fish, just doesn’t have the skills for City Commission. Dismiss him.

Rev. Ennis is an interesting candidate. He has the respect of most of the candidates with whom he is running. It sounds as though he has done good things for Millville through his ministry. He is a doer. Unfortunately, politically, he doesn’t seem to have the goods. He spoke of teaching the dysfunctional. I suspect a minister would. That, however, is not the role of the municipal government. He provided no answer to what he would do to a cut in municipal aid. A windfall, however, would find Ennis sending checks to the senior citizens of the town. Grrr . . . There is no political reason to vote for Ennis.

McQuade made it clear that he wants Parent’s empty seat. He praised the current commissioners over and over. He spoke about living downtown and not liking the crime. No one likes the crime in town. Other than that, he seemed not to have a handle on things. He said, “I understand we have a noise problem, but it is an asset.” I understand he didn’t mean the problem was an asset, but that is what he said. He seemed not to take the issue seriously.

Marshall was involved in getting UEZ designation for Millville. He has a business background. He joined the rest of the candidates in most issues, including money for the Levoy Theatre and debt reduction, should there be a windfall given to Millville. He gave a nondescript cuts response to a funding cut.

Incumbents
Vanaman left me disappointed this evening. I have generally liked his positions since he joined the Commission. I really like that there is a counter to the “team”. He spoke of a respect program for the city’s children. That is not what municipal government is supposed to be involved in. He did not have an adequate answer of what he would cut, if needed, only stating what he wouldn’t cut. Vanaman did reiterate his opposition to abatements and reminded the audience that he has challenged the other commissioners on this issue. Further, he noted the noise issue at the racetrack and correctly pointed out neighbors were misled about how loud it would be.

Derella is impressive. I recall liking him the first time I attended a city Commission meeting that I actually introduced myself to him. I rarely do that. He has the facts. His presentation demonstrates why incumbents have an advantage as he has a record to run on. There is a master plan for the waterfront, taxes have stabilized, and ratables are up.

Shannon heads the Parks and Recreation Department. We have been impressed with the events the city has hosted over the years. We would encourage even more. Shannon is personable and really does seem to care for the town, not that the others don’t. Unfortunately, Shannon has not impressed me in either forum leading up to the election. He touted the litany of accomplishments of the Commission. He rightfully gets to share in the glory. He did not speak about what his department has done. Rather, he reminded the audience about “unfinished business”, then he talked about the vacancies at the airport industrial park. That’s a negative and not one that Shannon should be heralding. He also then went off on how Millville needs to become a green city. I note this was just nine days after the city recommended purchases of some Ford 350s. Duplicity at its best.

Mayor Quinn echoed the Commission’s good work. He indicated he was sincere about finding a resolution to the noise problem at the racetrack. He keeps thumping the need to build the ratable base of the city. Quinn was the first candidate to indicate that he would fulfill the Levoy Theatre’s restoration if a windfall came to the city. He spoke about attrition as a way of covering funding cuts. He’s an incumbent and has a handle on the city’s business.

Endorsements
I looked longingly at the candidates before the session ended. I asked myself who would get my vote. Unfortunately, I do not have five definites.

It is easier to list who I can dismiss. Those are: Roberts, Hertig, Flickinger, Wydra, Ennis, and McQuade.

That leaves the following in the running for me: Vanaman, Van Hook, Derella, Shannon, Sooy, Finch, Tesoroni, Quinn, and Marshall.

Vanaman, Van Hook, and Derella are likely. Shannon probably is as well (I just do not like how he is campaigning).

I am not a Quinn fan. I would welcome shaking the Commission up (How there can be consensus on issue after issue, year after year, is beyond me.). Perhaps Van Hook’s election would be enough even if Quinn were to remain. If Tesoroni, Van Hook, and Vanaman were all on the Commssion together, it may be too drastic of an about-face. Sooy, Finch, or Marshall replacing Quinn would probably create a balanced Commission that would address the racetrack noise, re-visit abatements/RAD, but keep growth in the city moving along with the waterfront development. While Quinn sounded believable on the noise issue, he has done nothing to date despite the cacophony of complaints. Since he exudes politician to me, I discount his concern on this.

I am still open for whom I will vote. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way for citizens to learn more about the candidates.

Also blogged on this date . . .

15 thoughts on “Millville City Commission Candidates Forum”

  1. Great analysis of the meeting! My conclusions pretty much mirror yours with three exceptions — Derella, Finch, Shannon.

    Finch is an easy no for me. Back in the 1980s he was arrested for a DUI. I could let that be in the past, but the police report and the newspaper account at the time clearly indicated that he tried to intimidate the arresting officer using his position as a Commissioner. That sinks Finch for me. Just like gambling on baseball gets you a lifetime ban from the Hall, using your elected position to bully gets you a lifetime of no support from me. I will try and dig out the article before the election.

    Derella is smart enough, but he clearly is in the pocket of the motorsports park when it comes to the noise issue. The 80 decibel ordinance he supported provides no protection to one’s quality of life.

    Shannon just does not seem engaged at the Commission meetings.

    Besides Vanaman and Van Hook, I am looking at Tesoroni. I have my concerns, but, right now, I am inclined to support those who have come out strongly against the noise, irrpespective of their ties with MF, with which I am not involved. I know that’s pretty one dimensional but the situation is terrible.

  2. I keep hearing about Finch’s DUI. This is the first I have heard of his using his position. I wasn’t around here then so I have no knowledge of it. I would definitely appreciate an article.

    It’s fair to ask why Derella gets a pass that Quinn does not. I am not against voting Derella off, but I think he actually has useful skills. Quinn’s skill is smooth talking. While that may get things done, it reeks of shadiness. Neither has addressed the noise problem adequately.

    As I said, Shannon’s department has impressed me, his campaigning has not. I liken it to a student who does well on everything but tests. Problematic, but the test may not be tell the whole story. The jury is still out, but I am leaning toward him.

    Thanks for stopping by. Participation is always welcomed.

  3. You comment on Joe Sooy being against the Levoy Theatre. You might want to ask him his opinion. He is certainly not against the theater. I know, because he told me.

    Joe is a level-headed guy, good friend, and while we don’t agree on everything, at least Joe is a person that can discuss it reasonably.

    Now before you go say something like “why don’t you act like that?” I do. However, you have never “spoken” to me.

    If you are going to participate in an online sort of debate, you need to have a thick skin and understand that the printed medium is hampered by an inability to portray nuances of emotion to clue one in to sarcasm, humor, etc. So not everything that sounds like an insult, actually is an insult.

  4. The word choice I used to describe Sooy has left you with the impression that he is against the Levoy. That was not the intention of that sentence, but it was poorly constructed. I in fact was saying Sooy was in favor of the Levoy restoration.

    As for your condescension and schooling about online debate, keep it to yourself, please. I am adequately thick-skinned. I just happen to regard reasoned discourse far more highly than the low-brow, multiple pseudonym accounts you are known for. Your “parody” is juvenile and obfuscates discourse.

    Your site is not a forum for discussion, it’s an avenue for you to rail against those who wish to participate. You have made a mockery out of the Daily Journal fora to the point that there is no meaningful dialogue there. You can hide behind your “nuances of emotion to clue one in to sarcasm, humor, etc.” line all you like, but it does nothing to further discussion, rather it erects barriers. That is on you, sir.

  5. However, you have never “spoken” to me.

    Just because you say it, does not make it so.

    You and I have spoken face-to-face. I sat at the Oar House bar either last summer or in 2007 waiting for my crab cake sandwich when you approached me hawking your newspaper, Inferno (I do plug you). We chatted for about 10 minutes.

    I gather the conversation was not as memorable from your end.

  6. I agree with you choices of Vanaman and Derella. I do not agree with your supporting Email Van Hook and Robert Tesoroni. Seems to me Emil wants the job for himself and he seems to grandstand. I think both take legitmate concerns like the racetrack and use it for their political advantage. I live in Center City and we just opened a small art gallery in our home. I want folks who will support investment in the downtown and the arts district in general. Sooy is a nice fellow and seems smart. He is AGAINST the RAD and that is not acceptable for a center city resident. He accused ME last night of saying he was against the LEVOY and told him it was not me and he chilled out. I read the DJ forums and many folks are nasty since they hide behind fake names. Dale Finch has experience and selling Millville is not easy but Quinn is good at and I think you need a “salesman”. Did you see my report on the Track Racket meeting. Go to http://www.mkrull.blogspot.com
    My email is mkrullrt55@gmail.com. Have a good weekend

  7. I like this breakdown…and I pretty much agree with it. I was at the MHS forum and although it wasn’t perfect, it did give some insight into each candidates ideas (or lack thereof).

    I would dismiss all of the same as you, but add to the list Tesoroni. Tesoroni for his inability to think about the ‘big picture’ and not realizing that the municipal budget is much more than the glamorous headlines of “Consultant Hired.” I don’t think he is very intelligent…impassioned, but not quite sharp enough to be leading anyone. This is why he ends up acting the puppet for his former organization. He carries a gun on him at all public meetings which makes me feel like he is either 1. compensating for some inadequacy, or 2. crazy and going to use it eventually!

    So I would dismiss him as well, and leave the same lot as you. I think I will vote for who I feel really has a vision for the future of the City.

  8. I read the DJ forums and many folks are nasty since they hide behind fake names.

    This was written by someone who posts on The Daily Journal’s site using a fake name.

  9. I am first to admit that I don’t know everything about every candidate. I know most about the incumbents and the members of Millville First, who have become a fixture at commission meetings.

    My problem with the Millville First candidates is, well, Millville First. You say Carl has multiple names he posts with on the daily journal forums, but I can guarantee that you are mistaken. I know several of the dissenters that are often called “carl.” Instead of debating, Millville First members tell anonymous strangers to go pay their child support and stop being drunk.

    You yourself seem to think you know that Carl has multiple names. How do you know this, because someone told you? I participate on the DJ forums and on Mark Krull’s blog, am I Carl Johnson?

    Aside from the forums, which are full of idiots in general, my reservations about Van Hook and Tesoroni come from what I’ve seen at commission meetings.

    Tesoroni’s comments always seem very rehearsed, in my opinion. There are things he has challenged, like where Vineland is in relation to Millville, and the very popular and loved Block Parties that have been challenged by the commission. I have not seem him be able to go off script for anything.

    Van Hook knows his way around the podium, but often times he rails against the same things he supported as mayor. Why is he against tax abatements for the track but wasn’t against them for T-Fal?

    Why is he against businesses getting UEZ grants/loans, when he got a nice chunk of grant money as a facade grant?

    As I’ve said earlier, I also cannot support a landlord. Seeing what has become of center city, this is a problem. Speaking with center city groups like AHOME, who attribute the problem almost 100-percent to lack of homeownership, I see a problem here.

    You’re right, Quinn is a smooth talker. He’s been very popular here in Millville because of that but he does seem to be out of the loop when it comes to the average person. However, I do not think anyone can champion the city to developers like he can. People might take issue with sprawl (I do, especially for projects like the now defunct housing development by union lake) but a project like the NJMP has been immense for the people working there. Additional development of that site will create more jobs, if they can survive the tough economy.

    Derella is very good at the finance side of the commission, which I think is the hardest job on the commission. Shannon is OK, but I think he deflects a lot of criticism because, frankly, parks and recreation is the least important department, in my opinion.

    I like Vanaman. I like that he is a different voice. I like that he really does look out for the city. With majority votes already secured he could have voted against funding for the demolition of Millville Gardens and restoration funds for the Levoy. He could have said no, even knowing that they would have passed anyway, to save face with his constituents (Millville First).

    He did not, and that speaks volumes.

    Sorry for being verbose, and sorry about likely grammatical mistakes (I’m cutting and running) in my post. I just felt it was necessary to voice my opinion and to defend Carl. Yes, he is a trouble maker, but the hate that’s been directed to him is 10 fold compared to what he’s doled out.

  10. Nice comments Boner Boy. Yes I use slappythedoorman but they KNOW who I am anyway.
    Just today Mr. VanHook expressed that he wanted a school at the Millville Gardens site. This is despite the fact he was TOLD at a City Comission meeting that the Board of Ed was NOT interested in the site. I agree with the fact that Tesoroni’s comments are rehearsed. I have sat though many Commission meetings and can attest to this.Have you notices that most of the letters supporting the Millville First Candidates are written by the same 3 people and one case Husband Wife and Daughter??
    What are you doing election night?

  11. Nice comments Boner Boy. Yes I use slappythedoorman but they KNOW who I am anyway.
    Just today Mr. VanHook expressed that he wanted a school at the Millville Gardens site. This is despite the fact he was TOLD at a City Comission meeting that the Board of Ed was NOT interested in the site. I agree with the fact that Tesoroni’s comments are rehearsed. I have sat though many Commission meetings and can attest to this.Have you notices that most of the letters supporting the Millville First Candidates are written by the same 3 people and one case Husband Wife and Daughter??
    What are you doing election night? Check out my lastest blog entry at http://www.mkrull.blogspot.com
    Bye,

  12. Bob – I have posted two comments on the DJ forums in 2009, and both were last week. One was about The $10K donation to the Levoy from Danna Lutz, Pirate Don’s fiance’. Don was one of my best friends. Danna is a good friend, and that was an admirable move.

    The other was to reply to Emil’s lie about me lying in a letter to the editor – I have documentation, he has nothing but innuendo.

    Your problem with my website is that I respond, maybe not always politely, but always with respect to those with an opposing point of view. I relish open debate.

    It should be known that Emil van Hook, Bob Tesoroni and Paul Porreca all supported Michelle Post and Track Racket in the illegal moves at the “public meeting” at the library when she attempted to first not allow people with dissenting opinions in the door, then after that move failed, they effectively shut off the “public” from speaking after her 25 minute tirade.

    There are three sides to every story, your side, my side, and somewhere in between lies the truth. But cutting off dissenting opinions does justice to nobody.

  13. Yes I use slappythedoorman but they KNOW who I am anyway.

    You are mistaken. I did not know you were the Slappy guy until you told me yourself. Readers are not necessarily ones who post. Your comments are made under a pseudonym, the same thing you criticize others for. That is hypocrisy.

    Spin it any way you like, it is what it is.

  14. You say Carl has multiple names he posts with on the daily journal forums, but I can guarantee that you are mistaken.

    How about we start off with this: What handle do you say Carl Johnson posts under? We’ll take it from there.

  15. Your problem with my website is that I respond, maybe not always politely, but always with respect to those with an opposing point of view.

    This is a major issue when it comes to your online persona, Mr. Johnson. You are telling me on my own site what my problems are with your web site. Yet, you totally missed what the problem is. I’ll let my post of 13 February speak for itself.

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