NOTE: The TE School Board candidate debate and the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors candidate debate are now available on the township website, click here.
The League of Women Voters candidate debate for the Tredyffrin Township supervisor candidates followed the TE School Board candidates debate on Saturday. The format was the same – 2-minute opening statements, audience questions read by LWV moderator and then 2-minute closing statement by candidates. All six candidates participated, Michelle Kichline (R), Trip Lukens (R), Mark Freed (D) and Murph Wysocki (D) for the two At-Large supervisor seats and Laurie Elliott (D) and EJ Richter (R) for the Middle supervisor seat.
Many of the audience members from the school board debate remained for the supervisor debate. Perhaps due to the lateness in scheduling of the school board debate, there appeared to be many more residents attended the supervisor debate. Whereas the focus of many of the audience questions for the school board candidates focused on communication, transparency and trust issue, it was interesting to note that no such questions were posed to the supervisor candidates. Both the TE School Board and the Tredyffrin Township had two incumbents participating in the LWV forum – Kevin Buraks (D) and Rich Brake (R) for the School Board and Michelle Kichline (R) and EJ Richter (R) for the Board of Supervisors. TE School Board president (Buraks) and the Board of Supervisors Chair (Kichline) are both incumbents, seeking reelection.
The supervisor forum quickly became the debate between (1) the accomplishments of the current board versus (2) the criticism from their opponents of what more could have been accomplished. Three of the four At-Large supervisor candidates (Kichline, Freed, and Wysocki) are attorneys; their banter and positioning making the fact obvious. However, with a background in commercial real estate evaluation and six years on the Planning Commission, Trip Lukens, the at-large supervisor candidate (without the legal background) handily held his own. Although currently serving as an at-large supervisor, Chesterbrook resident EJ Richter is seeking election to the middle district seat, her opponent is Laurie Elliott from the Glenhardie section of the township.
Elliott’s message was primarily focused on safety and stormwater. On safety, she supports the police department but due to increase in daytime burglaries, wants to make certain that the department remains fully staffed. As a Glenhardie resident, she is eager to see solutions to the township’s stormwater issue and believes we need action rather than more studies.
Richter focused her statement to her role as ‘taxpayer advocate’ as she did in the 2009 election, claiming that while in office she has never voted for a property tax increase. In addition to her no tax increase stance, Richter offered a couple of accomplishments during her term as supervisor – the creation of ‘Tree-dyffrin’, the planting of trees in Wilson Farm Park for storm water management and working to get township street lights replaced.
In her second year as chair of the Board of Supervisors, Kichline pointed to some of the township achievements including the development of a citizen advisory committee that is working on ideas for keeping Tredyffrin competitive in the commercial development market. Under her leadership, Kichline noted a new township website, new software that improves the planning and zoning process, and named several companies that have relocated to the township, including Auxilium and Teleflex, in addition to Shire’s decision not to leave. Kichline argued that the revitalization is beginning in Paoli and cited the $15 million residential project recently approved the SEPTA plan and the planned relocation of the dangerous N. Valley Bridge to Darby Road.
As a member of the Planning Commission, Lukens spoke of the process to rewrite the commercial zoning ordinance for the township as a vehicle to encourage development in the township. According to Lukens, the rewrite required a ‘looking outside the box’ approach and as an example mentioned the commercial zoning rewrite included increasing building height restrictions and structured parking as a means of better storm water management.
Freed, an environmental attorney, focused his attention on township storm water issues and ‘smart development’, pointing out the ;underused resources in the business parks and shopping centers;. Claiming that he, “knows how to get things done” Freed scoffed at Richter’s suggestion that Tredyffrin is undergoing a Renaissance with new restaurants, retail, etc. saying, “If this is a Renaissance, I’d hate to see what the Dark Ages were like”. As pointed to by Kichline and Richter, a number of new retail stores, restaurants, companies have recently opened in Tredyffrin. Freed dismissed these as individual successes, preferring to focus on empty office buildings, shopping centers and storefronts. According to him, enough with the “plan, plan, plan, study, study, study, money, money, money – we need action”.
With thirty-five years of experience as a commercial real estate lawyer, Wysocki’s focus was similar to Freed on the need for smart commercial redevelopment. However, Wysocki’s particular focus was on the Paoli Transportation Town Center, restating several times that the project has been in the works for 20 years, and there is still no shovel in the ground. His frustration with the project delays was evident; believing that his background and experience can move it forward and that he” knows how to solve problems and get results”. He suggests broadening the tax base with commercial redevelopment projects to increase commercial revenues and as result, residents will enjoy higher property values.
The common thread throughout the 2 hours was the need for economic redevelopment in the township – the question is which candidate can best make that happen. Fifty percent of the supervisor candidates point to change that has occurred, including the updated township website and technology, commercial zoning re-write, new restaurants and retail stores, corporate re-relocations, citizen advisory group, etc. as an indicator of the future while the remaining candidates believe that the redevelopment in the community is not moving quickly enough and that more should be done.
The economic revitalization of Tredyffrin Township is critical to to the future of our community and a topi on which all six candidates agree. The decision for the voter on November 5th is which supervisor candidates are best prepared to make it happen. I encourage you to watch the debates, review the candidate’s websites and speak directly to the candidates — tell them your concerns; ask them your questons. Election Day is Tuesday, November 5!