Town council elections in Dewey Beach are just eight weeks away. No candidates have yet filed to run, but three seats are up for election: Mayor Diane Hanson and commissioners Anna Legates and Joy Howell.
Hanson said she plans to run for re-election and hopes to remain town mayor. She was first elected in 2007 and has served as mayor for the last three years. “There’s a lot of things I feel I need to continue to work on,” she said.
In particular, Hanson said, she feels businesses need to contribute more to fund town operations. “The town has spent a lot of money on cameras, barricades, a parking system,” Hanson said. “Primarily for the businesses.”
Hanson, Legates and Commissioner Gary Mauler recently cast votes to oppose a gross receipts tax on businesses. Commissioner Courtney Riordan, who spearheaded the proposal, and Howell voted in favor of the tax.
Hanson said she wants to give businesses an opportunity to come up with an alternative proposal. If no alternative is presented by March, she said, the gross receipts proposal is back on the table.
Volunteer group Citizens to Preserve Dewey issued a July 24 statement accusing Town Manager Marc Appelbaum of lobbying against the tax. “Our town manager lobbied the council to cancel Friday night’s vote completely, and that action along with others he has taken in concert with the business community cause us grave concern about his involvement in the politics and policies of the town,” CPD stated. Budget and finance committee member Joan Claybrook, who lobbied for the tax, is on the CPD steering committee.
Appelbaum said it is his duty as town manager to defend the town, and a vote to establish a gross receipts tax would have been legally challenged by in-town businesses. “I want to avoid costly lawsuits, especially ones where we are uncertain of the outcome,” he said.
Hanson said she also wanted to avoid lawsuits the tax could bring; the current plan allows businesses to weigh in on new revenue streams.
Hanson also said the business community has been cooperative in the town’s attempts to lower noise. In the next two years, she said, she would like to continue to address noise issues, increase recycling services in town, improve landscaping and control litter. “We’ve accomplished a lot,” she said. “That progress needs to continue.”
Hanson said she is hoping the election will not be as contentious as previous years. “I’m hoping we’ve turned a corner in being more cooperative,” she said. “It’ll be nice to have a situation where you can govern without all the conflict with a competent town manager.”
Commissioner Joy Howell, who supported putting the gross receipts tax to a referendum vote, said she was disappointed Hanson, Legates and Mauler voted against the measure.
“It is disturbing to see that a vote of the people could be voted down by this council. That makes me want to run again,” she said.
Howell, a CPD co-founder, ran for her first term in 2011, shortly after the town signed an agreement to allow the construction of Ruddertowne in excess of the 35-foot height limit in exchange for certain town amenities.
CPD was vehemently opposed to the agreement and endorsed Hanson, Howell and Legates in 2011 for speaking out against it. Legates and Howell replaced two commissioners who voted in favor of the agreement.
Of the gross receipts tax vote, Howell asked, “Does this signal a pro-business tilt on Dewey Beach Town Council again?”
Howell said she has not yet decided whether she will run for re-election. “It’s been really interesting, and I’ve enjoyed it,” she said.
Howell said she needs time to decide whether she has time to balance her obligation on council with her business – Washington, D.C., based Cambridge Strategic Partners. “I’m not retired,” she said.
Legates also ran for her first term in 2011 and received more votes than any other candidate. She said she plans to run for re-election to help facilitate harmony within Dewey Beach.
“Fortunately, only four months ago, council approved the town manager’s annual budget with a $200,000 surplus,” Legates said in an email. “I want to ensure that an improved economy has a positive effect on Dewey’s quality of life.”
Appelbaum said no one has officially filed to run in the Saturday, Sept. 21 race. “We’re poised, we’re set, we’re ready for an election,” he said.
Eligible candidates have until 5 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 22, to file.