The League of Women Voters held the Tredyffrin Township supervisor debate last night. Seven candidates are vying for four seats on the board, with incumbents JD DiBuonaventuro (R), Mike Heaberg (R) and Paul Olson (R) trying for another term. Candidates stepping out for the first time include Kristen Mayock (R), Tory Snyder (D), Murph Wysock (D) and Molly Duffy (D). Incumbent DiBuonaventuro is unchallenged in the township’s District 3 race.
The format of the evening was a 2-minute self-introduction by the seven candidates, followed by answers submitted by audience members and ending with closing remarks by. Each candidate was asked the same question, with the initial question rotating through the candidates. The debate was taped but there will be approximately a 24-hr. delay before residents can watch it at home.
So . . . what was my opinion? How did the candidates perform? Was there a theme of the evening?
Buzz phrases of the debate . . .
- Protection of public safety
- Hold the line on taxes
- Economic redevelopment
- Reinvestment in community
- Fiscal responsibility
- Avoid unnecessary spending
If I did not know the party affiliation of the supervisor candidates, there were times during the debate that their responses and choice of words were so similar it was hard to differentiate between the Republicans and the Democrats. Is that an indicator that the politics of Tredyffrin Township fall somewhere in the middle, in the ‘moderate’ range or . . . is it an indicator that the candidates are politically savvy and have figured out what sells to this community? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.
How were their responses similar? On the topic of Earned Income Tax, every candidate was opposed to adding another tax – an opinion offered equally by both Republican and Democratic candidates. What was unclear re EIT . . . were the candidates opposed to the EIT for the school district and the township? Or where they only opposed to the EIT for the township? I submitted a question to the League of Women Voters that was not chosen that might have clarified the candidate’s positions. My question, “If the school district (in the next year or two) were to place an EIT on the ballot, what would be your position on taking the 50% to which the township is entitled by state law?” Would the candidates still be opposed to the EIT under these conditions? Don’t know.
Although all candidates stated they opposed an EIT, Democratic candidate Tory Snyder indirectly referenced the ‘no EIT’ Republican campaign signs. Snyder who has served on the township Planning Commission for the last 10 years and served as chair of the Sidewalk Subcommittee understands the value of volunteer’s time who serves on township boards, committees, etc. So although personally opposed to an EIT, Snyder made a point of the stating her respect for community volunteers serving on the school district’s tax study group, their work and upcoming presentation on the EIT.
All seven candidates repeatedly stated the need for township budget support for police, fire and emergency services. If you recall the 2010 township budget included reduced funding to the fire companies. However, after hearing the very loud public outcry to replace the reduced fire funding in the budget, three supervisors (Warren Kampf, Bob Lamina and Paul Olson) took their appeal to local businesses and residents and was able to recover the funding for the fire companies. If last night was any indication, the local fire companies have nothing to worry about when it comes to township funding support. All supervisor candidates listed public safety as a priority and its funding a necessity.
Several candidates spoke of community engagement in order to best represent the desires of their constituents. Economic revitalization and redevelopment were repeatedly discussed as one question very specifically asked about Chesterbrook and what would the candidates do to improve it. As current township supervisors, DiBuonaventuro and Heaberg both said that it has been difficult to get to the new owner of the Chesterbrook shopping center. (Australian company Centro Properties sold the shopping center to the Blackstone Group earlier this year).
Candidate Molly Duffy offered that the Chester Valley Trail and Patriot’s Trail would be coming through Chesterbrook. Duffy explained that the new sidewalk at Penn Medicine would eventually connect through Chesterbrook offering new revitalization opportunities. As an attorney working in real estate and a current member of the township’s Zoning Board, Republican candidate Kristen Mayock offered that she would be able to help potential developers through the system. Mayock would like to see the township business development process more stream lined and easier to use.
Heaberg discussed the Economic Development Committee that was approved back in April and of his work with the large leasing companies, small business owners and corporate representatives. Heaberg, with supervisors Phil Donahue and Michelle Kichline are interviewing prospective members for the Economic Development Committee with the idea that the committee will be able to offer assistance in township business development and redevelopment.
It was interesting to note that Democratic candidates Murph Wysocki, real estate attorney, Tory Snyder, planning professional and Molly Duffy, attorney and small business owner have all applied to serve on the Economic Development Committee.
From my vantage point, probably the most important question asked during the debate was (1) what the candidates viewed were the priorities for the township and (2) how would they fund these priorities.
Candidate Wysocki responded that money and the township budget was a priority. Wysocki suggested the need to prioritize necessary services to taxpayers but at the same time offering the taxpayers better value. He suggested creatively using grants and pooling purchases as ways to fund the priorities and stated that economic revitalization will broaden the tax base.
DiBuonaventuro stated that there are two priorities facing the township — (1) managing the township budget and (2) reinvestment in the community and township. Duffy listed economic development as her priority and used Paoli and Chesterbrook as examples of areas that need redevelopment. She stated that the Chester Valley Trail will be a way to increase property values and suggested that vision for the future.
Heaberg stated that ‘my priorities are your priorities’, indicating that he believes in following the priority needs of the residents. He stated that residents have indicated public safety and infrastructure needs (sewer, paving roads, snow removal, libraries, maintanence of the 13 township parks) as important priorities. Heaberg believes in addressing priorities in a fiscally responsible way.
Mayock’s list of priorities for the township is two fold; holding the line on taxes and the encouragement of redevelopment. She supports continuing to keep pressure on the Paoli Transportation Center project; offering that she had contacts that can help move this project. Olson stated the health, safety and welfare of residents are his priority plus continuing to support the library. He offered that the township has a $17 million reserve and that was achieved by being fiscally responsible.
Snyder offered that her priority for the township is (1) the management of the $30 million taxpayer’s dollars in the township budget and (2) to bring value to residents for services. However, beyond that, Snyder wants to bring ‘vision’ to the Board of Supervisors — enthusiastically stating that is what planners ‘do’! Snyder cited the township’s comprehensive plan that she worked on and of the plan’s specific steps for implementation. Synder pointed to using qualified professionals who live in the township, as volunteers to help implement the plan, summing up that we “need people that recognize vision”.
As I was leaving the debate, someone commented that it was like a ‘love fest’ among all the candidates. I knew exactly what this person meant. It was refreshing . . . there was no arguing or partisan wrangling; all the candidates (4 Republicans and 3 Democrats) conducted themselves with civility and respect for their fellow candidates.
To all the voters in Tredyffrin Township – let me say, all of these candidates are qualified to serve as your elected officials. Attorneys, planning professional, small business owners, financial experts, community volunteers . . . yes, it was obvious they all have the experience, background and the credentials to serve.
Your supervisor selection is a very personal choice — I encourage you to watch the entire debate and decide for yourself. Personally, I think that one candidate excelled last night and one candidate fell a bit short but it should not be about Pattye Benson’s opinion . . . talk to the candidates and ask them your own questions, watch the debate and then take your decision to the polls on November 8.
Your voice does matter and your vote counts!