A political newcomer, Democrat Hunter Hastings of Seaford has filed to run against Republican Mike Vincent of Seaford for the Sussex County Council District 1 seat.
A lifelong county resident who is married, Hastings, 25, has a BA in behavioral science, and is a substance abuse counselor and a freelance business consultant. He has also volunteered for nonprofits, focusing on homelessness, and also served on several community and political boards.
Hastings said the council has not been responsive, which is proven by a recent court ruling requiring property values reassessment. In Sussex County, the last reassessment was conducted in 1974.
“The assessed valuation data needs to be updated on a gradual basis. Since increasing assessed valuation will lead to higher tax bills, tax rates must be reduced to avoid a tax increase. If assessed valuation was closer to where it should have been, we would have had lower tax rates for most of the 40-plus years since 1974 and would not need significant adjustments now,” he said.
“Since assessed valuation is inaccurate, leading to a lawsuit, what else is not working optimally that the county council is partially responsible for?” Hastings asked.
Hastings said the county depends on the state to enlarge current roads or add new roads. While the county cannot expect to be given full authority for all roads, officials can pursue having the authority to create or approve county routes, he said.
“These routes would be wider, handle heavier vehicles, be the first to be plowed and be prioritized by police/fire departments. Also, regions without adequate routes experience bottlenecks, not only during rush hour, but also during natural disasters like floods. The county council needs to be more proactive,” he said.
An issue that needs attention, Hastings said, is abandoned buildings, which lead to increased utility, police and fire calls, and decrease surrounding property values. He said the county should consider purchasing some of the buildings and either offering them for public sale or at reduced cost to nonprofits.
Hastings said the county should also consider a major change to its emergency medical services system. Currently, county paramedics treat patients at the scene, but victims are transported by private or fire department ambulance crews. “This can create challenges regarding ambulance availability, having as many vehicles as personnel at a scene, and a lack of continuity of care,” he said.
He suggests the county replace the current fleet of paramedic vehicles and obtain used or surplus ambulances so paramedics can also transport patients to hospitals.
Hastings said the county budget is unnecessarily complex. Similar expenditures are reflected in multiple sections, which may minimize the true expense of purchases and initiatives, he said.
For example, he said, it is extremely challenging to identify what the county spends on administrative costs, office supplies and staff discretionary spending.
“Having longtime incumbents has cost us dearly in the areas of governance, public safety and procurement. Some councilmen seem to pursue an incumbent protection program by doing just enough to appear effective. Yet, when council meetings occur at 10 a.m. and meeting minutes are not immediately available, we cannot tell if they are acting on our behalf,” he said.
“Because of where I grew up, my career path and volunteer pursuits, I am used to interacting with and helping neighbors, and not exclusively the connected and affluent. You have been left out of key decisions and need an engaged voice. That is what I will provide,” he said.
District 1 includes the area in and around Seaford, Laurel, Bethel, Blades and Bridgeville.