Dewey Beach Civic League held its annual candidates’ forum even though there is no election this year.
The Dewey Beach municipal election was cancelled Aug. 22 after only three candidates filed for three open seats on town council. But Mayor Diane Hanson, Commissioner Anna Legates and property owner Ellen Danaher still used the forum to voice their views on townwide issues, from parking to a property tax.
Danaher – the only newcomer – said she has worked for many years as a citizen activist, and now she would like to help the town from a position on council.
Legates said she would like to see more coordination between Dewey Beach and the county and state government. Hanson said she would like to exercise more local control, including establishing a Dewey Beach Ethics Board.
About 40 people attended the Aug. 24 forum, at the Lions Club on McKinley Avenue. Moderator and Civic League President Rob Marshall asked how each candidate would rein in legal fees.
Danaher said council should take advantage of town committees and allow them to vet proposals more thoroughly so less legal advice is needed.
Legates said commissioners should ask legal questions through Town Manager Marc Appelbaum to save the attorneys’ time and cut down on expenses.
Hanson said she has tried to hold shorter meetings and plan meeting agendas so the town attorney can leave early. She also said she hopes to work more cooperatively with the business community so lawsuits can be avoided.
Hanson said one of her goals in the next two years is to create harmony among different factions in town, which is why she voted to table a proposed gross receipts tax on businesses.
Hanson, Legates and Commissioner Gary Mauler voted instead to allow businesses six months to work with the town manager to come up with another way to create revenue for the town. “I think the businesses are coming forward in good faith and we are as well,” Hanson said.
The gross receipts tax proposal was spearheaded by Commissioner Courtney Riordan, who is also chairman of the budget and finance committee. Marshall asked if the candidates thought it was a conflict of interest for a commissioner to serve as a committee chair.
Legates said commissioners have served a committee chairman a number of times over the years. “I guess it’s something to review,” she said.
Danaher said Dewey Beach is a small town, and it should take advantage of anyone willing to volunteer their time. “I don’t see any reason to stop it,” she said.
Hanson said allowing a commissioner to serve as a committee chairman is not a conflict of interest. “But it’s not a good idea,” she said.
Marshall asked how each candidate felt about raising town revenue by creating a property tax.
Hanson said she would not personally oppose paying a property tax, but she does not think it would ever pass a referendum vote.
Legates said a proposal to establish a property tax failed to pass referendum in the past because year-round residents are not the ones who need to pay more to fund the town.
Danaher said she opposed a property tax because Appelbaum has the budget under control. “I don’t see any reason to consider it,” she said. “I don’t think we have the information that says we need one.”
Marshall also asked about parking issues in town. Officials are currently considering eliminating metered spots in the center of Dickinson Avenue.
Danaher said she is concerned with public safety on roads with center-street parking. Hanson said Dickinson Avenue is unsafe for pedestrians and center-street parking should be eliminated.
Legates said when Allen Quillen was on town council – in the 1980s – officials tried center-street parking and later did away with the idea. “It was a disaster. It did not work,” she said.
All the candidates said they favored keeping the town’s current policy of free parking on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, when families attend movies and bonfires on the beach. Hanson said she has noticed more families in Dewey Beach this summer than ever before.
Hanson, Legates and Danaher are scheduled to be sworn in Saturday, Sept. 28.