The Democratic candidates for Delaware County Council issued a host of plans Wednesday that they intend to implement if they prevail in the Nov. 5 General Election.
“Under decades of Republican rule, Delaware County has lagged behind neighboring counties in attracting new businesses and creating job opportunities for our residents,” said Christine Reuther, who is running with Elaine Paul Schaefer and Monica Taylor against Republicans Kelly D. Colvin, Mike Morgan and James Raith for three open council seats that could determine control of the county government.
“Delco has one of the lowest number of high-tech jobs relative to counties in the region, and one of the highest unemployment rates,” said Reuther. “Our residents deserve a government that works proactively to attract new businesses and create jobs.”
The release states the Democrats would invest more in county economic and workforce development programs, as well as open space natural resources and recreational facilities; engage labor unions, industry leaders, small businesses and community leaders to increase public-private partnerships; strengthen job training programs and work to connect high school and college graduates to jobs; and use a relative new Opportunity Zone program to harness state and federal investments in underserved communities.
Taylor, a member of the Upper Darby School Board, stressed the importance of having robust economic and workforce development programs available to graduates.
“Sadly, we are far behind,” she said. “We need to better connect our graduates with the training needed to start a career where they can earn a family-sustaining wage.”
Schaefer added that Delaware County government has failed to prioritize economic development.
“Our neighbors in Chester County have a smaller population than we do here in Delaware County, but they have a far more robust and better funded economic development department that yields tangible and impressive results,” she said. “One of our top priorities on county council will be enhancing the business and work environment for residents.”
“It sounds like our playbook from 2011,” said Republican County Council Chairman John McBlain, who is term limited and exits the post in January.
McBlain said the county has already invested heavily in green space with an initial $10 million grant program that he expects council will begin awarding to municipalities at an upcoming council meeting.
He added that John Daly, director of the county’s Office of Workforce Development, has been working diligently to ensure employees laid off from the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery are aware of the resources available to them.
Commerce Director Pat Killion has also been “out front” and working with stakeholders in designated Opportunity Zone areas like Clifton Heights and the Chester waterfront to attract new investments, McBlain said.
“We did a forum on Opportunity Zones that was hosted at the soccer stadium for officials and business folk and property owners in those areas,” said McBlain. “So the economic development piece still continues. I think the strength of that is seen where the state has reached out to Pat’s shop to do programs, because of their successes in the past.”
Cody Bright, a spokesman for the three GOP candidates, also pointed to a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article indicating Delaware County and Philadelphia saw a combined 5 percent gain in professional, scientific, and technical services within the last year.
“Delaware County has the lowest core budget per capita than all the other surrounding counties in Southeast PA,” he wrote in an emailed statement. “The Republicans governing in Delaware County have not raised property taxes in over 5 years. The Democrats, once again, play fast and loose with budget numbers, using the total pass through budget figures that includes our residents who qualify for both state and federal aid and programs that pass through the county budget.”
Bright also said the GOP candidates were “flattered” because most of the same ideas were contained in a similar release they put out more than a month prior, but additionally claimed the Democrats would institute “job killing taxes” if elected.
All six candidates are expected to attend a debate being held tonight at Villanova Univeristy by the Delaware County League of Women Voters. The debate begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Connelly Center Cinema and will be the first of three scheduled debates ahead of the election.