Election 2019

Ten Candidates for T/E School Board – Where do they stand on important community issues? Know before you VOTE – Responses to Community Matters questions (plus a question for Easttown Township Supervisor Candidates)

The four Community Matters questions and responses from the eight Tredyffrin Township supervisor candidates are now posted – I appreciate the candidates taking the time to respond and encourage voters to review.

I have been asked by several Easttown Township residents to include their supervisor candidates in the Community Matters Q&A.  Between the eight Tredyffrin supervisor candidates and ten TESD school board candidates (which includes Easttown candidates), the management of these 18 candidate responses has been challenging and I did not think I had time for other candidate races.

However, Easttown residents share the T/E School District with Tredyffrin residents and together we have many of the same issues. I have changed my mind and emailed the Easttown Township supervisor candidates the following question:

In your opinion, what is the single most important issue facing Easttown Township; and what in your background, experience or education prepares you to help with this specific issue?

Easttown Township voters will elect two supervisors on Election Day – The candidates are incumbent Karl Romberger (R),  Alessandra Nicolas (R), Michael Wacey (D) and Beth D’Antonio (D). Due to prior personal commitments, there is short turnaround for the candidates to respond and any responses received will be posted on Community Matters on Tuesday, Oct. 29.

In 10 days, local voters we will go to the polls to select six T/E School Board directors. People bring different backgrounds and qualifications to the job of school board director and as voters; we need to know as much as possible about the candidates to make the right choices on Election Day.

As elected school board directors, residents count on their leadership in overseeing the academic, legal and financial health of the T/E School District.  School boards are nothing less than the governing body of our school district. They are the bosses’ bosses representing the public interest and to this extent, they should serve the diverse values and needs of our community.

Aside from your child’s teacher, principal, and the District’s superintendent, school board members have the greatest influence on your child’s education because they decide on how to spend the District’s public school funds and set its governing policies.

T/E School Board Candidates:

  • Region 1: Incumbents Roberta Hotinski (D) and Todd Kantorczyk (D) are running unopposed.
  • Region 2: Four candidates are seeking two seats. Incumbents Michele Burger (D) and Ed Sweeney (R) are opposed by Doug Anestad (I) and Stacy Stone (D).
  • Region 3: Incumbent Kate Murphy (R) is opposed by candidate Sue Tiede (D). Mary Garrett Itin (D)* is opposed by candidate Nicholas Lee (R).

*Mary Garrett Itin was appointed to the T/E School Board in July 2019 (to fill the seat vacated by Heather Ward) to serve through the December 2, 2019 School Board Reorganization Meeting.

T/E School District Voting Precincts:

  • Region 1: Tredyffrin E-2, E-3, E-4, E-5, M-1, M-2, M-5, M-6, W-3, W-4
  • Region 2: Tredyffrin M-3, M-4, M-7 W-1, W-2, W-5
  • Region 3: Tredyffrin E-1, Easttown 1-7

Some voters may not be aware of a late entry in the school board race – Doug Anestad (I).  As a registered Independent, Anestad was not on the Primary Election ballot and only entered the race in August. He previously ran as a Republican in a highly contentious race against Kyle Boyer (D) in 2017.

Should Anestad win in 2019, he would make history as the first registered Independent to be elected to the T/E School Board. However, the District does have another registered Independent currently serving on the school board — School board president Scott Dorsey was first elected to the Board in 2013 and re-elected in 2017, both times as a Democrat. However, in advance of the upcoming election, Dorsey recently changed his party affiliation from ‘D’ to Independent.

To assist voters in the decision-making process, it is important for the public to know the candidates and where they stand on important community issues. To aid in the process, four questions were sent to the ten school board candidates.

Completely voluntary, the questions were chosen on what I believe are important issues and included public accountability, financial management and participation and input from the community. All ten candidates responded and their responses (in alphabetical order by last name) will appear on Community Matters one question at a time. The public is encouraged to review the responses and comment.

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Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Question #4: Why Should You Be Elected or Re-Elected?

List of candidates running for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors – voters will select one district supervisor from the East, one district supervisor from the West and two At-Large supervisors. See Question #4 and the candidate responses below.

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 1st DISTRICT (EAST) CANDIDATES
Julie Gosse (D)
Raffi Terzian (R)

TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR AT-LARGE CANDIDATES
Mark Freed (D)
Sharon Humble (D)
Gina Mazzulla (R)
Liz Mercogliano (R)

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 3rd DISTRICT (WEST) CANDIDATES
K. S. Bhaskar (D)
Peter DiLullo (R)

____________________________________________________________

  1. What differentiates you from the other candidates and/or board members? Why should you be elected or re-elected?

K. S. Bhaskar Response:

I will bring the perspective of an engineer and computer scientist, different from that of lawyers and real estate developers. I will review storm-water management holistically rather than piecemeal. Frequent flooding and erosion create a mutually-reinforcing spiral. Insufficiently planned development triggers the problems, and the former quarry, now a lake, at Atwater raises a water table which does not respect township borders. Also, I will use my background in mission-critical software used in banking and healthcare to review and strengthen the township’s cyber-defenses because towns in America are being hit with ransomware attacks. Also, while the Internet of Things – such as smart light bulbs that signal when they need replacement, or remote monitors on water and sewage pumps – reduces our costs and makes it easier to provide municipal services, it also increases our potential attack surface, which must be reviewed and protected.

Peter DiLullo Response:

There are three primary reasons that I would make a great addition to the Board of Supervisors.  First and foremost I have three young children utilizing all the services of Tredyffrin – schools, parks, libraries, fields, etc.  With that, I have a very vested interest in keeping Tredyffrin a great place to live.  Second, I spent the first part of my career as a CPA with KPMG and PWC.  I understand budgets and the responsible use of our residents hard earned tax dollars.  The third reason that I would make a great supervisor is that I currently work in commercial real estate giving me a deep understanding of responsible land use, smart growth, and the impact of storm water on our neighborhoods, businesses, and natural resources.

Mark Freed Response:

Experience, responsiveness and transparency. I am in my fifth year as a Township Supervisor, and believe that I have a solid grasp of the operations, finances and priorities of the Township.  My experience as a municipal solicitor and environmental lawyer also helps inform my decisions. I try to be responsive to the questions and concerns of our residents. And, I try to keep interested residents apprised of what the Township is doing and why. Whether dealing with the issues of electronic billboards, commercial or residential development, assisted living facilities, police department and fire company staffing and funding, bond issues, neighborhood noise and nuisance complaints, infrastructure repair and maintenance, stormwater, historic preservation, environmental stewardship or the many other matters that come before the Board, I try to apply my experience and knowledge for the benefit of our residents.

Julie Gosse Response:

I am a scientist, small business owner, and mother. Together, these give me unmatched capabilities and perspective that will benefit Tredyffrin. My scientific background involves breaking down complex systems, thinking hard about cause-effect, and determining actions from a fact-based perspective. Through my science communications firm, I balance client requests with fiscal discipline, and manage growth with sustainability. As a team, much like the Board of Supervisors, we work together to tackle tough problems. I enjoy science because data are dispassionate, and can take the emotion out of arguments. I enjoy client business and being a parent because both reward soft skills and communication. As a Supervisor, I bring these strengths to the Board and better serve our community as a result. Finally, having grown up in Tredyffrin, I have a deep understanding and love of the township and work to represent all residents – children, young adults, working parents, and seniors.

Sharon Humble Response:

I have extensive legal, business, executive, and charitable-board experience. I’m attorney who has spent almost 25 years in private practice as outside legal counsel representing local governments to help them improve their fiscal positions and solve other legal and practical problems. I served as the Managing Partner of my firm’s Philadelphia office. In that role, I handled all the business matters of the office, including client relationships, contracts, budgeting, B2B purchases, insurance, taxes, charitable and promotional participation, governmental affairs, HR matters, etc. I also served on my firm’s national Management Committee for 12 years until my retirement from the firm on January 1, 2018. The national Management Committee oversees and votes on all of the business matters of the firm’s 40+ offices in the U.S. I’d love to bring my years of very successful and high-level business experience to serving on the Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors.

Gina Mazzulla Response:

Well, one differentiator is I am not a lawyer. My educational background is rooted in the social sciences and education and my professional background is executive development, organizational behavior, marketing and communications. My recent “extracurricular” activity is in the area of non-profit management. This background serves as a foundation for leadership built on observation of individual and group dynamics, facilitation of ideas and dialogue, integration of people and processes, and critical thinking and reasoning.

My work on the United Way community impact team has greatly influenced my readiness for the role of Supervisor and informed my framework for decision-making in the role. This includes: How many constituents are affected by the action or decision? What are the positive and negative implications? What are the consequences if we don’t act now? What is the impact on other services and stakeholders? and What are the implications for long-term (financial) sustainability?

Liz Mercogliano Response:

I am different from all the current Supervisors and running candidates. I am a behavioral health RN with hospital and forensic experience. I can run a code and save a life. I know the importance of helping families with addicted love ones. I sponsored the first Tredyffrin Backyard Opioid Event.  I survived breast cancer at age 38.

I was the Chair of Diversity for the T/E Schools because I grew up in a diverse family. I married an immigrant. I was an older student when I attended the Delaware University Law School. I am not in it to climb the political ladder or play party politics. I believe Township issues are bipartisan issues. The citizens of Tredyffrin deserve better and deserve more than red tape and minimal information (after the fact). I bring a willingness to listen and treat others with dignity and respect.

Raffi Terzian Response:

I believe in public service and my focus is on community first and how best to address the needs of our community. I take a collaborative approach in bringing people together and I am a good listener who consistently acts with integrity, accountability and transparency. I am actively involved in the community through a number of activities including my service on the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, as a member of the Township Parks and Recreation Board and through my involvement in my church. I bring a unique skillset to the Board of Supervisors as an Emergency Physician with a background in public health and I have strong leadership, organizational and decision-making skills. I presently work in health advocacy with executive experience and budget responsibility. I am prepared to serve and believe that we, as neighbors, should serve each other with a common interest in seeing our community thrive.  Thank you.

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Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Question #3: Funding Township Infrastructure Improvements

List of candidates running for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors – voters will select one district supervisor from the East, one district supervisor from the West and two At-Large supervisors. See Question #3 and the candidate responses below.

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 1st DISTRICT (EAST) CANDIDATES
Julie Gosse (D)
Raffi Terzian (R)

TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR AT-LARGE CANDIDATES
Mark Freed (D)
Sharon Humble (D)
Gina Mazzulla (R)
Liz Mercogliano (R)

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 3rd DISTRICT (WEST) CANDIDATES
K. S. Bhaskar (D)
Peter DiLullo (R)

___________________________________________________________

  1. Tredyffrin Township has a substantial fund balance yet the infrastructure is deteriorating. How do you propose balancing compensation-driven cost pressure and the need to deliver infrastructure improvements while avoiding or limiting a tax increase?

 K. S. Bhaskar Response:

“Compensation-driven cost pressure” is presumably a euphemism for salaries and benefits for township employees. While we need not be overly generous, if we want our employees to put their best foot forward for the township every day, we need to compensate them appropriately and competitively for our part of the country. As the township also needs rainy-day reserves to deal with emergencies as well as fund capital projects, not all fund balances are available to be tapped for needed infrastructure maintenance resulting from kicking the can down the road for years in the name of low taxes. There comes a time to pay the Piper. While some cost increase is inevitable, I will use an impact-cost-risk analysis to prioritize projects and mitigate and manage costs. There is no magic, and these are techniques I have routinely used in managing a product business at a global Fortune 500 company.

Peter DiLullo Response:

Aging infrastructure is a topic that cannot be ignored.  Assisted by 3rd party engineering reports, projects need to be budgeted, planned and prioritized in an effort to avoid tax increases.  Furthermore, state and federal grant programs need to be researched as a funding source.

Mark Freed Response:

The Township does have a substantial fund balance.  I commend prior Boards for leaving the Township on a sound financial footing.  However, this has come at the cost of significant deferred maintenance on such things as bridges, parks and other Township property.  To address these much-needed repairs without resorting to depleting the reserves or excessive tax increases, the Township has proposed to prudently use reserves along with the issuance of historically low interest bonds.  As we move forward, we must continue to insure that the Township’s expenses are in line with its revenues.  This requires assuring that we properly prioritize needed work and other expenses.  Although excess reserves can be used to help pay for infrastructure, we must assure that they do not become so depleted that they are not available for their intended purposes: downturns in revenue and unanticipated expenses.

Julie Gosse Response:

We can no longer shy away from the critical maintenance of our infrastructure or minimize fixes on our major problems. Our fund balance is strong. We can use a portion of this in a fiscally responsible bond strategy to help meet today’s infrastructure challenges while retaining sufficient reserves to meet our future contingencies. With interest rates at record lows, now is a good time for us to issue bonds to raise money to meet our capital needs. Using this approach gives us an opportunity to fund our long-overdue infrastructure projects – bridges, deteriorating stormwater infrastructure, deferred park and building upgrades – without a significant impact on taxes.

Sharon Humble Response:

Costs for Township personnel compensation are unlikely to go down as Township personnel gain experience, expertise, and tenure with the Township. Personnel costs are typically paid from anticipated revenue as part of any government annual budget. They’re not paid from reserves or special funds created from special taxes or fees. In my opinion, capital improvements in the township should be funded from a bond issue or special funds created to address the particular infrastructure issues.

Gina Mazzulla Response:

The most honest answer I can give is “I don’t know”. I don’t know details of the mandated or contractual obligations of the township (like police pension funding, employee benefits, etc.), I don’t know the scope of needed infrastructure improvements, nor do I know the details of the township’s investment strategy or reserves allocation to make a sound proposal.

I would ask questions like, Can we pool with other municipalities to get better health care rates? Can we increase the employee share of premium costs? Can we renegotiate the terms of (new hire) police contracts away from defined benefit pensions to a 401K model? What are the risks and opportunity costs if we don’t fix infrastructure now? What are the potential consequences of waiting? Do we have the necessary expertise and broad community input to make these decisions?

What I do know is I will make decisions that prioritize resident safety, security and well-being.

Liz Mercogliano Response:

First, the Tredyffrin infrastructure updates are done with the cooperation of Chester County, Pennsylvania, local businesses, local developers and PECO. For example, Chester County does help fund our Mill Road bridges. I suggest infrastructure should be funded by bonds and the capitol project funds. The fund balance should be the last resort. The fact is no one likes tax increases. And no one wants services cut back. However, a minimal tax increase to beautify and renew may be necessary to replace roads and bridges for public safety. As a former School Board Director, I know that once the fund balance is spent down, it is very difficult to replace. The Supervisors should seek professional outside advice to strategize the various ways to fund infrastructure. I also suggest a citizen advisory board.

Raffi Terzian Response:

Addressing gaps in infrastructure should be a key priority for the Board of Supervisors but must be balanced with fiscal responsibility. The fund balance is a by-product of sound fiscal management and has allowed our township to maintain a strong bond rating. Rational and prudent spending must be preserved. It is important to establish priorities for infrastructure improvements in consultation with the township manager, engineer and others in the context of a broader comprehensive plan for the Township. In terms of infrastructure, the issue of stormwater management and development of a strategic plan should be a top priority as it continues to be a significant concern to our community. The recent establishment of the Stormwater Citizen’s Advisory Task Force is a step in the right direction, as it will leverage the collective expertise and guidance of members of our community who recognize this issue as complex and multifaceted.

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