As the sun sets on summer, the approach of fall can mean only one thing - Politics
Here in Delaware County, there are heated races for three seats up for grabs on Delaware County Council, as well as a tussle to be the county’s top law enforcer, sitting in the district attorney’s chair.
The campaigns already are in full gear with a debate scheduled and calls for ethics reform, ending patronage jobs and economic plans put forth by the slates of both parties, with both sides prepared to fight for the positions.
In the race for Delaware County Council, Democrats Christine Reuther, Elaine Paul Schaefer and Dr. Monica Taylor face Republicans Jim Raith, Mike Morgan and Kelly Colvin. The winners of that contest will fill spaces being vacated by county Council Chairman John McBlain and Vice Chairwoman Colleen Morrone, who are bound by term limits, and county Councilman Mike Culp, who has decided not to seek re-election.
Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland, a Republican, will face off with Democrat Jack Stollsteimer in the county’s other high profile race.
Democrats are looking to build on the big gains they made in the last election, claiming their first two seats on council in decades and sweeping all three county row offices on the ballot. They are now backed by superior voter registration numbers, a far cry from what was once a 3-1 GOP edge in county voter registration.
The summer has been anything but quiet for the county council contenders.
Twelve hours after the polls closed for the Primary Election, the first press release was issued. Republicans unveiled their “Transparency and Progress for Delaware County” plan, calling for weekly, live-streamed meetings throughout the county with half being held at night. County Democratic Chairwoman Colleen Guiney called the efforts “laughable,” saying they’re part of the “Republican machine, who have run the county behind closed doors for decades.”
That was quickly followed by a call for debates, which was repeated recently. In May, Republicans called for five debates and Democrats said they’d do them, but the locations and terms needed to be negotiated. Recently, Democrats said they would be unable to participate in the two scheduled for September - Sept. 10 and Sept. 22 - but would be at the Oct. 10 debate, hosted by the Delaware County League of Women Voters at Villanova University in Radnor. The Oct. 15 and Oct. 26 debates remained up in the air, with the Democratic candidates’ campaign manager, Trevor Maloney, saying those details needed to be negotiated.
As of Friday, another debate had been added, as agreed by representatives from both parties, to be held 6 to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25 at the Springfield Township building at 50 Powell Road in Springfield. Delaware County Daily Times Executive Editor Phil Heron has been asked to moderate.
GOP candidates also offered a plan to take the county’s stray animals to the George Hill Correctional Facility and signed a “No Sale” pledge for the Fair Acres Geriatric Center, while launching a “49 Towns, 1 Delco tour.” They also announced a Seniors’ Commission to focus on the needs of the aging population, as well as a 20-bed, in-patient Crisis Care Facility for those at risk of harming themselves or another person.
The Republicans also accused Democrats of hiring a Philippines-based organization fronting as a doctor’s office to present misleading questions to voters.
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats called on DELCORA Executive Director Bob Willert to “end his ‘secret talks’” with Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater.
On July 16, DELCORA entered into a due diligence period with Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater that ends Oct. 1 to consider the possibility of a merger or sale.
At the time, Taylor said, “Republican Party insiders so fear losing power this November that they are willing to sell off a public asset with little to no public input. Sadly, this kind of secrecy in the public affairs of our county government is commonplace under Republican leadership.”
The Dem slate also penned an open letter that they signed calling on their opponents to have a campaign focused on issues while being civil in public discourse, treating each other with respect and abstaining from ad hominem attacks.
Both sides received nods from the Delaware County AFL-CIO with Raith, Schaefer and Taylor receiving endorsements from the organization as well as Stollsteimer for district attorney.
This week, the Democrats called for a sweeping ethics reform plan that they say would eliminate the appearance of favoritism and ethical lapses in county government.
“For decades, Republican politicians have given out county jobs, no-bid contracts and expensive perks to their friends and donors while sticking the taxpayers with the bill,” Reuther said. “As a result, Delco residents pay significantly more in taxes than our neighbors in surrounding counties, yet we get fewer services. It’s time to end this culture of corruption and reform county government.”
The Dems noted that 39 percent of all registered voters in Delaware County are registered Republicans, however, they make up 90 percent of county employees and department heads. And, they claimed, county contracts are continually awarded to Republican campaign donors without an open or transparent bidding process.
“County jobs are given out on the basis of who you know and where you live, not what you know or what you can do,” Maloney said.
The Democrats’ reform plan would end the practice of awarding no-show and part-time jobs to unqualified political insiders; professionalize the county’s Personnel Department and post all jobs publicly; require full disclosure of campaign contributions by entities bidding for country contracts; impose a gift ban eliminating any gifts from a person or business that sought legislative or administrative action from Delaware County in the former 12 months; end the practice of forcing county employees to support a particular political party or work for a particular party during elections; prohibit county employees from engaging in political activity while on county duty; publish the full budget, with every expenditure, for every county fund; hold more public meetings and schedule more in the evenings; and, publish the agendas and supporting documents for all public meetings at least three days prior to the relevant meeting.
“Republicans treat our government like it’s a branch of their party, doing whatever they want with little to no public input,” Schaefer said. “The proposed sale of DELCORA is the perfect illustration of this. Without any independent analysis at all and without first demonstrating a sale to be necessary or prudent, Republican insiders have entered secret talks to sell off a valuable public asset.”
Reuther said the county belongs to all of its citizens.
“Delaware County doesn’t belong to the Republican Party, or any political party - it belongs to our hardworking residents and taxpayers,” she said, adding, “Our anti-corruption plan aims to crack down on corruption, cut waste and focus tax dollars on improving the quality of life for Delco residents.”
Delaware County Republican Chairman Thomas McGarrigle offered his perspective.
“Just days after pledging to run a civil campaign, the Democrats smear hardworking families,” he said. “This comes on the heels of their criminal ‘Hate Hoax’ and outsourcing their campaign to foreign workers. How low can these guys go?”
His reference of a ‘Hate Hoax’ is tied to a press conference where Reuther stood next to Stollsteimer at a press conference calling for an investigation involving what turned out to be fake racist emails allegeldly linked to county employees. The emails allegedly were the work of a Marple man, Nikolaos Tzima Hatziefstathiou, posing as a Delaware County Adult Probation and Parole officer. He now faces charges in the scam.
“Unlike our political opponents, we are meeting voters as opposed to hiding from them,” McGarrigle said. “(Thursday marked) the 100 Day Anniversary of Taylor, Schaefer and Reuther avoiding debates. Is hiding in silence how they intend to govern?”
The Republican chairman also noted Delaware County’s past financial health.
“Under Republican government, there has not been a tax increase in nearly half a decade,” he said. “Taylor, Schaefer and Reuther have proven time and again that their default policy is to raise taxes. People just can’t afford their tax hikes.”
The Republican county council candidates this week released their Economic Development plan, which they said was the culmination of meetings this summer with workers, business leaders, non-profits and government officials.
Highlights include creating a land bank to turn vacant properties into tax-generating hubs; a block grant program for facade improvements, street scapes and pocket parks; expanding trades-oriented businesses and leading a program with the region’s leading venture capital firms to support high-growth opportunities in Delaware County. The focus would be on revitalizing mature communities, maximizing the waterfront and bolstering small business.
“Our more mature communities are one of our county’s best assets, but are challenged with vacant properties,” Raith said. “We will create a centralized land bank to turn vacant properties into prosperous land parcels to jump start smart development.”
Colvin spoke about how the block grant program would work.
“Smart growth in our walkable communities alleviates traffic and reduces pressure on open space,” she said.
Morgan said the GOP candidates want tradespeople to start their own small businesses. “Our ‘Trades CEO’ program will train tradespeople in accounting and business essentials to put them on a path to creating additional family-sustaining careers,” he said.
For Raith, the result of their plan is clear.
“More jobs with better pay,” Raith said. “That’s what we want for Delaware County. Together with our Delco attitude, we can build on our successes.”
The Democrats had their own opinion.
“The only jobs Delco Republicans seem to be able to create are no-show jobs for Republican insiders at the taxpayers’ expense,” Maloney said. “Talk is cheap. Republicans have had decades to improve the county’s workforce and economic development infrastructure. But instead, they’ve loaded up the county budget with political favors for their friends. If elected to county council, Democrats will do more than talk, they will act to expand opportunity for all Delco residents regardless of their party affiliation.”
And, the race goes on.
For anyone not yet registered to select their picks at the ballot box this upcoming election have until Tuesday, Oct. 7 to do so. To vote, a person must be an American citizen who will be 18-years-old or older by the Nov. 5 General Election.
They can register to vote at the county Voter Registration Commission in the lobby of the Government Center adjacent to the courthouse at 201 W. Front St. in Media from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
They can also register online at https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/VoterRegistrationApplication.aspx.
Voter registration forms are also available at all municipal buildings, libraries and Wine and Spirit stores throughout Delaware County.
To find out if you are already registered, please visit votespa.com.
County residents with questions are welcome to contact the Voter Registration Commission at 610-891-4659. Hearing impaired residents can call the TDD line at 610-891-4306.