LETTER TO THE EDITOR: More checks and balances needed in Dover city government

Changes with respect to the form and type of (Dover) city government, together with its operational methodology, are long overdue.

The long-term lack of citizen interest in local government is undeniably indicative of a serious lack of understanding of the appropriate functions and need for sound governance. The consequences of inefficient governance are significantly higher costs for services and operations which are evident in taxes and fees. Examples of government missteps are as follows:

1. Negative consequences of governmental inefficiencies are readily evidenced in a review of the Schutte Park fiasco.

You may recall the original costly plan was presented to the voters for their approval or rejection. The voters rejected the grandiose and costly Schutte Park Recreation Plan. The city retained the recreational plan; however, it was scaled down somewhat and approved without any voter input. The new plan was renamed “John Pitts Recreation Center” and built. This event completely ignores the broader need for recreational services in the city which was evidenced by the public outcry for the White Oak Park recreational facility.

2. The Dover Public Library fiasco was a cause for voters to remove some elected officials and an appointed city official. The citizens had no input in the planning process, and neither was there a comprehensive review made of the size and requirements for the library. To date, many citizens state that library exceeded the needs for the city and was much too costly.

3. Dover property owners are obligated to pay property taxes to Capital School District, Kent County and the city of Dover. On the face of this triple obligation, one can see that property owners are hit unnecessarily hard each time one of the taxing entities choose to raise property taxes, as occurred with Capital School District’s new high school.

You may recall that Dover property owners were hit twice to raise funds for the costly new high school.

4. Distressed neighborhoods exist in Dover with little action on the part of the local government to properly and effectively address the problem. Distressed neighborhoods are often communities that experience higher levels of criminal behaviors and problems with police brutality. While distressed neighborhoods were originally established for the purposes of providing affordable homes for those persons with limited incomes, they became eyesores and areas of high crime activity.

Some cities have stopped erecting such communities for obvious reasons. The failure for the project approach had been predicted many years ago prior to the first project being established in the United States. The reasons why this approach would fail were also predicted in detail. Examples of distressed communities are evidenced in Capital Park, Capital Green, Simon Circle, trailer parks and some mobile-home developments.

5. The more-recent demise of the Dover Human Relations Committee is glaring evidence of a city in need of sound and equitable governance. The heavy-handed handling of the committee completely ignored the need for such a committee while the council insulted the citizens of Dover without explaining its actions.

Solutions to the aforementioned examples and many others can be better addressed by developing a form of local governance that recognizes the need for a system with built-in checks and balances. Such a system, with the appropriate powers and authority, if organized appropriately, would provide the necessary attention and thoughtfulness required for all major undertakings and problem identification and solving.

I highly recommend that a governing body be organized which will embody the principles required for a sound check-and-balance system of governance. Such a system would embody the three primary branches of an effective and efficient governing body. Those branches would, of necessity, be the legislative, administrative and legal. Each branch should have sufficient authority and power to perform appropriately and in the best interest of the public they serve.

The mayor, of necessity, should be an elected official and executive officer of the administrative branch of city government. City council should be elected by the citizens of Dover and have full responsibility to develop and vote on legislation. The legal branch of the local government should be appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council. The mayor and council should agree on the duties, powers and responsibilities of the legal officer.

In order to achieve an ideal form of government in Dover, a panel of knowledgeable individuals should be appointed to study the current situation and submit their report within a reasonable time frame. There are numerous persons with the knowledge, experience and willingness here in metropolitan Dover to carry out the task.

The area colleges are major sources for qualified persons to be appointed to the panel. There are also numerous civic-minded persons, as well as business persons, who could perform admirably on the panel. It will be in Dover’s best interest, economically, socially and racially, to take the appropriate steps to lead Dover toward becoming the proud capital city of Delaware.

Frederick Tolbert

Editor’s note: Dover property owners also are obligated to pay property taxes to the Polytech School District.

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