Referendum not ready for prime time

August 23, 2013

In a letter published by Commissioner Joy Howell in your Aug. 19 edition, she asked Mayor Diane Hanson to act on her Aug. 9 request to schedule a meeting Aug. 23 or 24. The purpose of the meeting is to re-vote on a non-binding referendum on a gross receipts tax on Dewey businesses. This matter was tabled by a majority of commissioners last month.

Publicity about the GRT referendum recently elicited the following from constituents. These questions and concerns may be helpful to the Cape Gazette as you report on this topic:

• Your July 16 article indicates the GRT excludes alcohol and tobacco sales. See Dewey stakeholders debate establishing gross receipts tax by Kara Nuzback. The budget committee reported that alcohol sales can be taxed under certain conditions. Citizens are asking exactly what can and cannot be taxed. This can be confirmed by the town manager and solicitor. An interpretation of Title 4, Section 584, in layperson terms would be helpful in educating the public.

• Binding or non-binding, how can the electorate be educated on a referendum only a week prior to absentee balloting?

• Two members of the budget committee published viewpoints in the Cape Gazette opposing the recommendations of the committee. When will the budget committee’s meeting minutes, summarizing their recommendations, be ratified? That record will serve a useful public purpose. Will the opposing viewpoints be debated at a future meeting?

• Will the differential between a projected $300,000 budget deficit and a $200,000 surplus, reported in the press, be reconciled?

Oral arguments regarding the town’s authority to tax will be heard next month in Chancery Court with an expected outcome as early as November. The majority vote to delay a referendum was consistent with legal advice. Why invite additional legal challenges and pad attorneys’ pockets with monies that can benefit the town?

The mayor and commissioners agree that the voice of the people is welcomed and appreciated. We agree the businesses should pay more. We simply tabled the matter while the businesses agreed to Commissioner Gary Mauler’s proposal to work with the town manager. The plan has a timeline.

I respect the will of the people. I won’t permit the fast tracking of a political agenda to trump transparency, accountability, and good governance.

Anna Legates

Dewey Beach commissioner

Candidate for re-election

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