Community concerns addressed at town hall in Milford

Paul Williamson asks Gov. John Carney a question during the State of the State town
hall meeting in Milford on Monday. (Delaware State News/Jennifer Antonik)

MILFORD — Education, health care and safety were on the tips of the tongues of community members after listening to a state of the state town hall address by Delaware’s Gov. John Carney Monday night in Milford.

A 30-minute overview of the budget passed in June for 2019 was followed by a slew of questions answered by the governor himself along with members of his cabinet.

Paul Williamson, a “homegrown Delawarean since 1936,” was the first to offer a comment to the governor.

“One thing that’s going on that I do not like and I’m scared to death — Delaware is one of the worst places to drive in the United States,” he said. “I thought the speed limit signs would be so that people are safe when driving. Maryland has gone to speed lights. So has DC. For example, DC collected over $100 million in revenue in 2016. And Maryland, in the past three years, has collected $188 million. . . $30 million for one year is what it cost them. When I drive through Maryland now, I can see the difference.”

Gov. Carney acknowledged the problem, saying they do, in fact, do it differently in Maryland. He added that he also received “some things in the mail” from Maryland during his time in Congress.

“I’m not particularly fond for using speed and the like for a revenue matter. It should be about safety,” he argued.

Delaware’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Robert Coupe said, “Every year, someone in the General Assembly often brings up this topic and there is dialogue. … But I will tell you it’s very divided. It is something we want to improve.”

Eric Rauch spoke of his high schooler, senior Samuel Rauch, who is caught in the middle of a solid path forward and a search for help from the state he loves.

“He’s in a six-way tie for valedictorian at Milford High School. He wants to become an engineer. He wants to stay, live in Delaware and contribute. He wants to become a productive citizen in Delaware. Unfortunately, other offers made it more attractive to leave the state,” Mr. Rauch said.

“He wants to redo Route 113. Then, he wants to work on the Mispillion Riverwalk. And, he wants to retire by replenishing the beaches.”

Samuel has been accepted to three of the five schools he applied to thus far — University of Delaware, Rutgers University and Penn State University. He is still waiting to hear back from Carnegie Mellon University and Yale University.

“Right now, the university of Delaware is the least amount of scholarships that’s being offered to Sam,” Mr. Rauch added. “He wants to stay in Delaware. But, unfortunately, if he goes out of state, I’m afraid he’s not coming back.”

He went on to explain that Delaware currently ranks third in the country for high student debt, a statistic published by LendEDU. His family hopes Samuel doesn’t get lumped in with such staggering numbers.

“That’s the portrait of what we want in all these investments,” Gov. Carney said as he pointed back to the presentation.

“College tuition costs over the last 30 years have been more than health care cost inflation. … We’re working on that, to support Delaware students. … You may have read in the paper that the president (University of Delaware) came to legislators to ask for significant increase in student aid. There’s got to be some skin in the game. We’re trying to find where that sweet spot is. The University of Delaware is sitting on a $2 billion endowment. It’s not me paying for the whole thing; it’s us paying for the whole thing. So, what I say is, ‘Let’s find a reasonable path forward. . .’ The sad part about that is, I hope we don’t miss your son.”

Ethan Lang, also a senior from Milford High School and the student body president, was at the event Monday night and brought health care concerns to the crowd.

“Delaware is the third highest amount [spending] per capita and not even in the top ten for quality,” he began. “How can you assure that the correlation between health care quality and spending maintains consistency?”

“You’ve got some incredible young people down here. It bodes well for our state,” Gov. Carney started to respond. “We spend, on a per person basis, significantly more than in other states. Part of that is demographics; we have an older population.”

The other part, he added is because of higher hospital costs.

More preventative care would benefit the state, he maintained, as would more transparency relating to the cost of hospital stays, procedures and related expenses.

“It’s going to be a long-term effort to try to flatten those things out,” he said.

Gov. Carney also boasted about the opening of the new Bayhealth Sussex Campus to the south of Milford, highlighting the health care effort and increase in employment opportunities for those in the Greater Milford area.

“I was glad to get a dialogue moving and get the ball rolling. I want to make something of our state,” Mr. Lang said after his experience at the town hall event.

Mr. Rauch said it was a great opportunity to try to have a conversation that would impact his family. He even made some connections afterwards he didn’t know were options.

“I have a business card from the National Guard who said they can never get enough people to go into engineering. And tuition would be 100 percent paid at the University of Delaware. There’s so much information out there, I didn’t know that was a possibility.”

Three more opportunities to catch a State of the State town hall meeting with Gov. Carney and legislators remain:

•9:30 a.m. – Feb. 19 – Crossroads Restaurant, Kirkwood Hwy., with Sen. Anthony Delcollo, Rep. Michael Ramone, and Rep. Michael Smith

•6 p.m. – Feb. 28 – Brandywine Hundred Library, Wilmington, with Sen. Harris McDowell, Rep. Debra Heffernan and Rep. Sean Matthews

•7 p.m. – March 7 – Talleyville Fire Company, Wilmington, with Sen. Laura Sturgeon, Rep. Krista Griffith and Rep. Raymond Seigfried

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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