Saturday, October 06, 2007

Vision for Our City

Many years ago, packaged items were weighed on a balance. On one side was a true standard and the other was the goods you were buying. If short, it was said to be weighed in the balances and found wanting. When I look at city government today, I weigh it by asking are we getting our money’s worth? Is our money well spent? Can we go out for an evening jog or walk in any neighborhood safely? Can our children play safely in our parks while we talk with our friends? Is this a good place to find a good job or start a business? Truthfully, I don’t think we are up to standards. We are better than many places,but if you weigh us by the standard, we are weighed in the balances and found wanting.

Shootings are a regular news event. Drug houses are a neighborhood fixture. The city budget has nearly doubled in 4 years yet our quality of life hasn’t. Two years ago, the city budget was 93 million dollars now it is 150 million dollars. Government administrative salaries have skyrocketed while ours haven’t. Rent, electric, trash, water/sewer fees, and property taxes have all gone up. Some of our water is still brown. It has gotten to point where I joke about bottled water - I am from Dover I don’t trust water I can’t see and smell.
It is time someone took up the cause of the citizen.

It is time we had real problem solvers back in government. I have worked on the outside and on city committees, but I am tired of trying to affect change. I want to bring change.

Three fundamental challenges face us. To improve our quality of life we need to address these; regaining control over city finances,keeping our families safe, and improving the business environment. A fundamental principle is that government should not treat your checkbook like it is a blank check for its use. Our budget has mushroomed. Our general fund has doubled in the last 5 years. Let’shave a performance audit of city government. Let’s find efficiencies which we are over looking. I don’t like this 13.5 million dollar city hall expansion. I was an early opponent of the 10 million dollar building at Schutte Park. I was an early advocate of a steel building for 1/3 of the cost. As part of parks and recreation committee, I helped it to come about with no debt or tax increases.

Frustrated with the expense and time of correcting the brown water, I was among the first to propose at an open session, lining the pipes like the Air Force Base did.

I favored traditional neighborhood design and zoning, and advocated changes which would make it easy to equalize open space requirements with developments. I favor simplifying Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs) so that they can be traded like any other commodity or banked. I would also like to see the city and county cooperate so Dover can be a receiving area. We could use it to revitalize areas of our city.

Crime is a persistent problem. I would like to see a comprehensive approach taken. We need a summit of community leaders representing faith groups, counseling and social services, community action organizations, law enforcement, schools, and neighborhood watch organizations. Dr. Glasser is correct when he advocates a comprehensive public mental health model. We need to take people who are seeking help to the services they need. We can cut off domestic violence and substance abuse before they get out of hand. Faith based groups can help us combat the corruption of our culture which is leading to a no snitching mentality (this only takes us back to the law of the jungle because people who don’t go to the law will get tired of being victimized).

Of course, we need a law enforcement component. We need to put cameras in our parks, utilize homeland security grants to get better video and communication equipment to neighborhood watch organizations, and we need to suspend the rental license of nuisance properties. We need to keep up enforcement of parole violations. What we don’t need is spending endless amounts of money.

Our economic development needs to be different from the crowd as still we keep the tried and true formulas. We should look at what it would take to be a hub for alternative energy. We should take advantage of the new federal incentives and make our own. Why not take advantage of the new energy bill and the President’s competitiveness agenda, which already has 60 senate co-sponsors (assuring its passage) and make our high-tech park (which is nothing but a field) focus on energy. We could start a corporation modeled on our Downtown Development Corporation, which gave us the Blue Hen Corporate Center, to facilitate moving small start-up firms here by finding investment and federal dollars and credits. I would like to see us follow a southern China model of attracting these firms large and small.

Let’s take advantage of export grants from the federal government to help local businesses, but only if the city or a local agency sponsors them. Utilize the local colleges for studies on new trends for job growth, have a 3-year tax break on the expansion portion of existing businesses, and a one-year property tax holiday for new businesses. Give Mainstreet Dover as much power to advance downtown as we do the Historical Society to stop advancement. Encourage home ownership by connecting people with existing programs on financial counseling, saving and getting a mortgage and grants.

This is our city. Let’s make it the best.