Q&A: 36th Representative District candidates address issues

Name: Donald Allan Jr.
Party: Democratic Party
Office seeking: 36th district state representative
Age: 37
Occupation: Carpenter
Family: Wife of five years, Carrie, with a 4-year-old daughter, Josie.
Elective experience: As a fulll-time member of the working class, I will bring a different perspective to our state’s government, that of the working people of our state. I look forward to using the same common-sense, hard-working mentality to solve the issues that are facing our state.

Name: Bryan Shupe
Party: Republican
Office seeking: State House of Representatives
Age: 34
Occupation: Small-business owner of Fur-Baby Dog Store and MilfordLIVE.com
Family: Wife, Sherry, and 2-year-old daughter, Evelyn
Elective experience: Two-term mayor of Milford, longtime volunteer for Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club, Downtown Milford Inc. and Milford School District

Why are you running for this office?

DA: I’m running to put a focus on working families, clean up Sussex County’s water quality issues, and equalize education funding throughout our state.

BS: I am running to represent you in the Delaware Legislature because I believe that the 36th district will play a pivotal role in the future of our state. As policymakers prepare to take on the challenges of our evolving economy, population growth and demand on our natural resources, the 36th district can lead the way by demonstrating that innovative solutions will come from a partnership between business, government and the community.

As the owner of two small businesses in the 36th district, two-term mayor for the city of Milford and a member of several nonprofit boards, I have a proven record of strengthening our local economy, rebuilding our infrastructure and transportation systems and advancing our quality of life. As important, I have a track record of building partnerships between communities, businesses and government that involves everyone. I believe divisive politics is hurting our communities and the people of our district deserve a candidate who has worked alongside individuals from all political parties and parts of our communities to work towards a better quality of life for all.

What would be your top priority if elected?

DA: My top priority would be to ease the tax burden on working and middle-class families and work to raise their wages. The income gap between the top 1 percent and the average worker in our state is at unsustainable levels, and trickle-down economics never trickle down. We need to put the focus back on the true drivers of our economy, the working people of our state.

BS: One of the most critical investments we can make in the lives of our local families is creating an environment for economic growth. With quality employment, our families can be self-reliant and control their own future. In Milford, the investments made by Bayhealth Sussex Campus, Nemours Pediatric & Senior Care and Nationwide Health Services are all part of a collective effort to grow the local economy. A concern repeated across all sectors and sizes of business is the availability of a growing, strong workforce with the opportunity for continued education.

In addition to increasing the quality of our great local public schools, we need to focus on vocation education and training, providing opportunities for our local residents to compete in this evolving economy. Enhancing the quality of our education system must come from a culture of investing in the resources that really matter, great people. Although Milford has less money than other districts, Milford teachers, support professionals and administrators have built a successful culture that recently led to Milford High School being rated in the top five in the state by US News.

We should not turn over funding of our schools to the same state government that performs so poorly across so many measures but instead give our schools the ability to adapt to local needs within each school district. Directing that money to local school districts must also be coupled with the ability for those local school districts to make decisions on where that money is spent. This will allow more local control by individuals who understand the unique challenges of their communities and allow the public more oversight of where that money is spent.

State mandates like state testing are taking valuable time and resources from the teachers and making it difficult for them to educate our children in a way that prepares them for life after high school. We need to make policy decisions on education funding that allow Delaware, not the federal government, to make decisions on the future of our education system.

If you could change one state policy or law, what would it be?

DA: I would direct more of the state’s education budget to schools with a high level of kids that are English Language Learners and at povery levels. These are the schools that struggle with resources the most, and they tend not to receive the same levels of support from their local tax base as schools in more affluent areas. These are the kids and schools that need the most funding, and they tend to get the least. The harder we work and the more resources we can direct at these children, the better off they will be, and in the long run, the better off our state will be. We have to stop the cycle that currently keeps the children of adults on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale at the bottom and work to raise them up.

BS: I would change the culture of reactionary spending and the philosophy held by many lawmakers that our large challenges will be solved by throwing more money at problems. Some members of the General Assembly believe that through additional revenue from taxpayers they can create new programs and departments to deal with our challenges of growing our economy, rebuilding our infrastructure and enhancing education.

As a father, a longtime community volunteer, a business owner and the former mayor of Milford I have learned that more money does not mean more solutions. This is especially true when money is thrown at a problem before the issue is evaluated, discussed and fixed from within. My mindset, and the mindset of many other Delawareans, is that our large issues involving the economy, infrastructure and education can be solved through building partnerships between communities, businesses and government that involves everyone.

The state of Delaware is already one of the highest-spending states per capita, and as you may have seen, our results are less than impressive. The culture in Dover and by some candidates for office to throw more taxpayer money at our challenges has been a losing strategy for years. We can grow our economy and create high-quality, lasting jobs, rebuild our aging infrastructure and transportation systems and enhance public education and vocational training, but only through partnerships between government, businesses and our communities.

What are your plans to boost economic development?

DA: A focus on working and middle-class families. The more income those in the middle have, the more customers business owners will have and the more opportunities those towards the bottom of the economic scale will have. We have focused our economic policies on the wealthy for too long. It’s time to re-focus on the middle class, ease the tax burden on them and work to raise their wages and increase the opportunities available to them.

BS: While I was the chair of the Economic Development Committee for Milford and ultimately mayor of Milford, I was fortunate enough to play a role in the Sussex Bayhealth Campus. As the original plan called for constructing two stories on top of the Milford Memorial Hospital, the leadership team at Bayhealth approached the city to help facilitate a plan that would create a new hospital that could serve all of Kent and Sussex counties, enhance the quality of health care in southern Delaware and act as a catalyst for economic growth for additional sectors of our economy.

We have already experienced economic growth from this effort, as Nemours Pediatric and Senior care will expand their specialty health care services in a second building on site. Also, Nationwide Health Services will rehabilitate the current hospital on Clarke Avenue as a wellness village for senior care.

To prepare for the growing economy, we need to create opportunities for our residents for continued education and vocational training. As our businesses look for employees, we can make sure that local families have what they need to compete for high-quality jobs. The great thing about education and training is that they will develop skills that no one can take away from them. As the number of jobs grow we want employers opportunities to be competing for our residents for those opportunities.

As a state representative, I will continue to support economic growth as we work alongside our current employers to meet their needs for expanding their workforce and seek new employers to bring quality jobs to our communities. As a state representative, I will work closely with residents, local municipalities, businesses and the Department of Transportation to rebuild and reimagine our infrastructure and transportation systems to handle the positive growth. When I was mayor, we worked with DART to ensure a new public bus route that includes an inner loop for residents. I will work to expand these routes to connect our local neighborhoods with Bayhealth Sussex Campus. I will also look at ways to create safer roads for the 36th distirct as we expect residential and commercial growth to continue.

What, if anything, should be done to increase revenue for the state or cut spending?

DA: Every tax dollar we spend should be scrutinized and spent with the utmost respect for where those dollars came from — hard-working Delawareans up and down our state. We should look for creative revenue sources in order to ease the tax burden on working and middle class families, such as legalizing marijuana, instituting a homestead tax on those that own homes in the state but don’t reside here and creating new top end tax brackets on those individuals making well into the six figures.

BS: Delaware is already one of the highest-spending states per capita, and as you may have seen, our results are less than impressive. The culture in Dover and by some candidates for office to throw more taxpayer money at our challenges has been a losing strategy for years. Our financial problems in the state of Delaware do not come from a revenue problem but a lack of leadership to create long-term fiscal policies to steady resources in a moving economy.

In 2017 lawmakers cut 20 percent of critical services like local volunteer fire companies and senior centers while increasing taxes. This was done as a “sky is falling” scenario played out in Dover over a loss of $400 million in state revenue. This year the state generated an additional $800 million just months after the “state of the economy” was used as a political move to cut our local programs and raise taxes on all Delawareans. This could have been prevented with long-term, smart fiscal policies.

The biggest effort in 2018 was the development of Treasurer Ken Simpler’s budget smoothing reforms. It’s simple: Tie the growth in government to personal income, inflation and the economy. When times are good, we save the extra money and when times are bad, we spend the savings so that important services continue to be provided. It’s amazing how controversial that idea became until you realize that there are those in the General Assembly who want to spend as much as they can and create as many new government programs as possible.

Despite the endorsement of Go. John Carney, Treasurer Simpler and more than half of the Legislature, the big spenders were able to block the measure. I am convinced that future generations of Delawareans will thank us for these innovative reforms.

Do you support the legalization of marijuana? Why or why not?

DA: I support the legalization and regulation of marijuana. Our state’s current policy accomplishes nothing but keeping money on the black market. By regulating marijuana, we are creating small business opportunities in the form of dispensaries, offering a cash crop for our farmers to grow, creating a new revenue stream for the state and increasing our citizen’s freedoms.

BS: I am open to considering this issue, and have studied the impact of legalization in Colorado, Washington and other places. In my opinion, House Bill 110’s lack of a field test for sobriety, which prevents the police from ensuring the safety of motorists and denies employers the ability to determine whether employees are under the influence of marijuana at any given time, especially those who employ truck drivers, delivery drivers or other automotive-based jobs, will need to be addressed before legalization of recreational marijuana is passed by the General Assembly.

What, if any, gun laws would you change?

DA: We need to continue to ensure that we are keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and to study the best ways to combat gun violence. I also think we need to look at taking the process of background checks out of the hands of a nationwide data base and more into local law enforcement hands. Local law enforcement is familiar with the homes and people they are constantly in contact with due to domestic disputes and similar calls. They may be in a better position to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous and mentally ill people.

BS: Many of the gun bills proposed during the last general assembly were reactionary measures so that lawmakers could tell their constituents they were doing something about gun violence. These measures failed to address the serious mental health crisis in our state that will be a needed component for safer schools and streets.

Would you vote for legislation reinstating the death penalty? Why or why not?

DA: No. I do not believe in the death penalty. The death penalty is disproportionately used against the poor and minorities. Humans are not perfect, and the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated, and the death penalty has also not proven to be an effective deterrent when it comes to committing crimes.

BS: Yes, I would vote for legislation reinstating the death penalty. Taxpayers should not be paying to house criminals that have been convicted of hideous crimes like murder.

Do changes need to be made to the state’s employee health care structure? Why or why not?

DA: Our state’s workers have shouldered an unfair burden when it comes to shouldering the cuts needed to make our budget work. I do not support cuts to their benefits or salary. These public servants work to ensure our safety, our health and our state’s general wellbeing. I will stand with them.

BS: We have seen health care costs for middle-class families skyrocket after the introduction of the federal health care act. As the mayor of Milford, I took the health care of the city’s employees very seriously and through pragmatic financial planning, we were able to absorb the increased costs while keeping the same quality of benefits, without raising taxes on our residents. I believe the same can be done of the state level with smart, long-term fiscal planning.

What should be done to combat Delaware’s drug crisis?

DA: There needs to be a focus on rehabilitation, and less focus on punishment for addicts. We need to remove the stigma associated with addiction and work to move recovered addicts into productive jobs. We also need to make drug use screening a standard of health care and increase the affordability, availability and access to drug treatment programs.

BS: This crisis impacts not only local families but our communities as a whole. As we look to help local families, we should focus on individuals that want to receive help, and the state should focus on making sure that the rehabilitation and counseling centers in Delaware are certified and have trained professionals that can help families and individuals with this difficult issue. Across the country we have seen companies and nonprofits take advantage of people searching for help and this must not be done in Delaware.

Delaware was recently part of a suit against Big Pharma for overprescribing opiods and I believe that money can be used wisely to invest in our rehabilitations, counseling and prevention programs. Education and connecting local families with resources will be key to making improvements in our state. We must encourage members of our communities, through partnerships between local faith based organizations, nonprofits, and government, that if they need help we will connect them with the resources to move forward in their lives.

Is there anything else you think is pertinent?

DA: Another major part of my platform is combatting the water quality issues we have in Sussex County and throughout Delaware. We need to work to expand public water districts, penalize chronic polluters by putting teeth into the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s repeat offender program and increase the awareness of the problem by requiring that all homes with private wells that are sold or leased be accompanied by a water test.

BS: Clean water is a necessary part of life. Everyone should have clean water, and as your state representative, I will work tirelessly to see that any water issues in the rural areas of the 36th district are resolved. As mayor of Milford, I worked with other stakeholders to improve Milford’s infrastructure to supply clean water to over 10,000 residents. Understanding that aging infrastructure and proposed growth were both challenges to the water and sewer systems, our team developed a plan to rebuild and rehabilitate the existing wells, treatment facilities and water towers and used allocated reserves to build new pump stations and a water tower in the projected growth areas.

In addition, we helped create a new smart grid that allows the city to proactively monitor water quality and quantity daily. We built a financial plan that ensures new growth pays for future demands they place on the system, and we facilitated a new semi-annual flushing program of the entire system.

The growing challenges with our water supply in the rural areas of the 36th district are not due to underfunded agencies, but simply that DNREC has not done its job to protect the residents of Sussex County. DNREC has a $100 million-plus annual budget, more than $60 million a year for the Office of Environmental Protection and millions just for water protection alone, but the agency has failed to perform its core mission: environmental protection. Only after residents and the media took a stand for the protection of their own water sources did the agency begin to move forward on its responsibilities as an oversight agency. This is wrong, and I will strive to see that it is corrected.

I have a record as the mayor of Milford of ensuring that residents are protected when there is a threat to their safety or quality of life. Our team took on the challenge of unsafe and hazardous rental properties in our town and created a system to enforce the laws that are in the City Municipal Code without raising taxes. Working alongside community members, landlords and renters, our city has seen major investments in the safety and quality of our housing stock through the work of the planning department, private investment and grant programs. I will bring the same approach to the water issue in Sussex County.

As your representative, I will be a voice for our community to demand clean water and ensure that DNREC enforces the laws that are in place. When people violate the laws protecting our water supply, they need to be held accountable. I will hold DNREC accountable to the residents of the 36th district and work with all stakeholders to develop a plan for future water protection as development and growth continue. A focus on prevention is needed as we expect to see continued growth in our district.

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