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.
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.
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.
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.