Posts Tagged ‘Vance Phillips’

Local election reform way overdue

November 5, 2010

There is a real fine line when it comes to rules and ethics in local elections.

For example, should a candidate accept donations from businesses or organizations that will in all likelihood be involved in a matter requiring that candidate’s vote?

Many times what is accepted is left up to the integrity of the candidate as long as it falls within the limitations allowed by law.

Should a county council candidate accept donations from local Realtors/developers that will, and have had, projects before council?

Many would argue that accepting those donations sets up a candidate for public scrutiny for conflict of interest. Candidates always say they will not let a donation influence their decisions. Even so, the hint of impropriety is always out there.

Should county council members be allowed to work for other candidates at other levels of government?

It’s hard for an elected official to take off his or her council hat and be John Q. Citizen when supporting another candidate. The moniker of being a sitting council member is hard to shake off.

In the District 5 council race, Republican winner Vance Phillips received several donations; most are from Realtors/developers. Although some of the donations are open to scrutiny, he did the right thing with one donation. He returned a $600 donation from planning and zoning commissioner Marty Ross, whom he appointed to the commission.

Kudos to Phillips for taking that action.

The whole issue points to a major flaw in how campaign finances work. Because most candidates will not police themselves, in a perfect world there would be strict campaign regulations in place that disallow donations from anyone in the housing industry in county council races. It only makes sense because the bulk of county revenue and most decisions by council members involve development and land use.

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It will be over soon

October 27, 2010

Soon, those terrible ads will stop. Soon, pundits will stop pointing fingers. Soon, we will be able to answer our phones without fear of taking part in a political survey. Soon, we can get our mail and not filter through the propaganda spouted out by politicians.

It will come to an end Wednesday, Nov. 3, after the mid-term election results are final, or at least most of them.

Political experts are predicting a Republican resurgence that could put the party back in control of the U.S. Senate and House. If that occurs, prepare for a wild ride during the final two years of the Obama administration.

On the local level, two Sussex County Council incumbents, Vance Phillips in District 5 and George Cole in District 4, are hoping they can ride the projected Republican tsunami into another four-year seat. Combined, the two have nearly 40 years of experience on council.

Partisan politics don’t influence as many decisions at the local level in Sussex County. Votes aren’t on party lines and land-use issues, which occupy most of county officials’ time, are not based on party politics. However, the political party of a candidate can matter in the voting booth.

Although the election can come down to a candidates’ party, since county council elections only occur in the candidate’s district, it usually comes down to how popular a candidate is.

Another alternative would be to allow council members to represent their district, but have the entire county vote in their respective elections since the decisions council makes are on a countywide basis.

No one other than someone in the Cole family has held the District 4 seat. George’s father, Charlie, was the first person elected to the position after the county changed from the levy court to the county council system in 1974. His mother, Kitty, finished out the last year of her late husband’s third term when he passed away in 1986.

On the Democrat side, Russ Melrath has a good organization and is working hard to get his name out to the public. He is also working hard to get his views on the issues out there.

Phillips, who has been active in Republican politics since he graduated from college, has run for national office and been a member of council since 1998, being elected president in 2009.

On the Democrat side, county retiree Denny Cordrey is running on the premise that as a former county employee, he knows how the system works.

There is a lot at stake in the council election. Should one of the two incumbents lose, there could be a swing to more anti-development stands by council. Currently, several votes on key projects, zoning changes and conditional use applications have been 3-2 votes. It appears both Melrath and Cordrey lean more to the camp that supports growth in areas with appropriate infrastructure in place.

Both Democrats have an uphill battle against incumbents who have been in office a long time and have a strong base to build on.

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It will be over soon

Soon, those terrible ads will stop. Soon, pundits will stop pointing fingers. Soon, we will be able to answer our phones without fear of taking part in a political survey. Soon, we can get our mail and not filter through the propaganda spouted out by politicians.

It will come to an end Wednesday, Nov. 3, after the mid-term election results are final, or at least most of them.

Political experts are predicting a Republican resurgence that could put the party back in control of the U.S. Senate and House. If that occurs, prepare for a wild ride during the final two years of the Obama administration.

On the local level, two Sussex County Council incumbents, Vance Phillips in District 5 and George Cole in District 4, are hoping they can ride the projected Republican tsunami into another four-year seat. Combined, the two have nearly 40 years of experience on council.

Partisan politics don’t influence as many decisions at the local level in Sussex County. Votes aren’t on party lines and land-use issues, which occupy most of county officials’ time, are not based on party politics. However, the political party of a candidate can matter in the voting booth.

Although the election can come down to a candidates’ party, since county council elections only occur in the candidate’s district, it usually comes down to how popular a candidate is.

Another alternative would be to allow council members to represent their district, but have the entire county vote in their respective elections since the decisions council makes are on a countywide basis.

No one other than someone in the Cole family has held the District 4 seat. George’s father, Charlie, was the first person elected to the position after the county changed from the levy court to the county council system in 1974. His mother, Kitty, finished out the last year of her late husband’s third term when he passed away in 1986.

On the Democrat side, Russ Melrath has a good organization and is working hard to get his name out to the public. He is also working hard to get his views on the issues out there.

Phillips, who has been active in Republican politics since he graduated from college, has run for national office and been a member of council since 1998, being elected president in 2009.

On the Democrat side, county retiree Denny Cordrey is running on the premise that as a former county employee, he knows how the system works.

There is a lot at stake in the council election. Should one of the two incumbents lose, there could be a swing to more anti-development stands by council. Currently, several votes on key projects, zoning changes and conditional use applications have been 3-2 votes. It appears both Melrath and Cordrey lean more to the camp that supports growth in areas with appropriate infrastructure in place.

Both Democrats have an uphill battle against incumbents who have been in office a long time and have a strong base to build on.

Phillips never shies away from controversy

April 22, 2010

Sussex County Council President Vance Phillips has never been one to shy away from controversy, and to his credit, he usually faces it head on, like a sailor in a gale.

This time he has really stepped into it. Critics are coming out of the woodwork asking for Republican Phillips’ resignation from council because of his new part-time, or full-time temporary job, as campaign advisor to Congressional candidate Glen Urquhart of Rehoboth Beach.

Granted, some of the criticism is coming from Democrats who are in feeding-frenzy mode. Phillips has been a leader and activist in the Republican Party for two decades. Discrediting him is also a shot at the party.

He’s also getting grief from some members of his own party.

I’m not crazy enough to jump on either side, but there are two unequivocal facts that no one can hide from:

1. It’s bad timing for Phillips because he is running for a fourth council term. He has come under tough scrutiny for his strong stand on property rights and his pro-development attitude. It may not matter, because most complaints are coming from people outside his district. But, you can bet your bottom dollar that those folks are working hard to find someone who lives in District 5 and shares their views to face Phillips. Now they have a little more fodder for their battle against the incumbent.

The bottom line is this: Phillips does not need this controversy, even if he doesn’t see it as one.

2. Urquhart, who is a successful developer who started with nothing and built up several companies in his lifetime, stands a good chance of never getting another project approved in Sussex County. Phillips has stated on several occasions he will never vote on an Urquhart application. If council stays the way it is today, just about any major development in the Cape region would be a 2-2 vote if Phillips abstains from voting.

This may not matter either. If Urquhart wins, he will have a new career with little time left to devote to developing projects in Sussex County. He may be scaling back that part of his life anyway.

At odds over meetings

September 7, 2009

Maverick Sussex County Councilwoman Joan Deaver is upsetting the tried-and true applecart at every turn. It seems she can’t stay out of the fire or the frying pan or even hot water by putting those good ole boy traditions to the test.
Her newest battle involves one about meetings and which ones, if any, are off limits.

As the councilwoman in the district with some of the most controversial land-use applications, she feels she needs to get out and gather as much information as possible.

That might require attending community meetings, meeting with small groups of constituents or attending planning and zoning commission meetings. She has attended those meetings in the past, including an Aug. 27 planning and zoning meeting and an Aug. 31 community meeting in Lewes.

But according to Council President Vance Phillips, she is walking an extremely fine line. Phillips says there is a long-standing policy that county council members do not attend planning and zoning meetings. And Deaver said county attorney Everett Moore told her it would be better to stay away from community meetings that deal with pending applications.

To date, Phillips has not produced the policy.

He has said several times that by attending planning and zoning meetings, council members could jeopardize their participation in council hearings.
So Deaver says she will continue to attend as many meetings as possible, place land-use matters on her website and keep constituents informed via email. She feels it’s part of her job to keep informed and to inform.

Deaver said a policy restricting council members from attending public meetings would be wrong to begin with.

There is no doubt the two council members do not see eye-to-eye on many topics, and this issue has only helped to widen the divide a little more.

Deaver wants the oft-cited policy brought into the light of day for all to see. Phillips says it’s under review by county legal staff.

Let’s hope there is a quick resolution so council can focus on the important business of running the county.

On The Circle

April 7, 2009

IT’S IN THE SEATING – The biggest question circulating around Sussex County political circles the past few months has been how the new county council will perform. How newcomers Democrat Joan Deaver and Republicans Mike Vincent and Sam Wilson were assigned seats may offer a clue. Facing the audience, Deaver is seated to the far left and Wilson is seated to the far right. If you spend any time with either council member, you will discover quickly that their political persuasions are not too far off the mark from the seating chart. Incumbents George Cole and Vance Phillips, both Republicans, moved a seat to the right, more to the center. Is there any symbolism in that move?

ONLY IN SUSSEX – New Councilman Mike Vincent of Seaford had to relinquish his Seaford council position to take on the new seat in Georgetown. His replacement is Bill Bennett, who is a relative by marriage of Sam Wilson, another new member of county council. The saying is true: You have to be careful whom you talk about in Sussex County. You never know who is related to whom.

EAGER DEAVER – New Councilwoman Joan Deaver is taking the county by storm. She has not only opened the county’s land-use comings and goings to the world with her own website, she has formed a group of ladies (there could be men in the group but I haven’t seen them) who attend all council meetings and advise her on matters. Deaver’s dedicated duchy is keeping a vigilant eye on every move made by the men of Sussex County Council.

WOMEN POWER – Maybe they feel more empowered now that one of their own is sitting in a chair of authority, but women are showing up more and more at county meetings. The Sussex chapter of League of Women Voters has started sending an observation team to every county meeting. And there appears to be a groundswell of other women who are attending meetings and speaking out during public hearings and during the public participation portion of council meetings.

Perhaps they are following in the footsteps of Abigail Adams who said:

“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

And so it goes around The Circle.