Election 2013: Candidates debate at forum in Yeadon

YEADON — The candidates for Delaware County Council took shots at each other over issues ranging from economic development to taxes during a candidates’ forum hosted by Fellowship of the Doers in Yeadon Borough Hall Wednesday night.

Republicans county council incumbents Mario Civera and Dave White are running against Upper Providence Democrat Bill Clinton and Chester Democrat Patricia Worrell in the Nov. 5 election. Civera, of Upper Darby, and White, of Ridley Township, were quick to highlight a 10-year local economic development strategy that the county unveiled last week. 

Civera said the plan would help communities in Delaware County, including those in the eastern end like Yeadon. He said the plan will help enhance communication levels between county council and municipalities. White said Yeadon will be one of the first communities the county reaches out to as part of this plan.

Worrell, chairwoman of the Chester Zoning Hearing Board, said the county taxes have been a significant issue. 

The all-Republican county council has raised taxes by 22.5 percent in the past six years. Republicans have said main reason they have needed to increase taxes in recent years are because of changes in funding formulas for the Fair Acres Geriatric Center and the 911 Center, both in Middletown. 

Yeadon resident Jacquelynn Puriefoy-Brinkley, one of the Fellowship of the Doers members, said municipalities in the eastern end of the county often have a limited tax base, declining infrastructure and declining schools. She said state and federal policies that don’t pay sufficient attention to the decline of these suburbs. 

White, a former Ridley Township commissioner, and Civera, a former longtime state legislator and former Upper Darby councilman, said they toured the business district in Yeadon a few weeks ago and have asked borough officials to help them create a revitalization plan for the borough’s commercial and industrial zones.

Clinton, an Upper Providence councilman, criticized the county’s economic plan, saying he believed there was not enough public input on the process. 

“What strikes me is (the plan is) coming from a government that operates in a very closed way,” Clinton said. “A government that keeps those not affiliated with the Republican Party at an arm’s length.” 

Clinton said his alternative to an economic development plan would be to first establish relationships with other county council members and then review county government as a whole. 

“The economic development plan, while it looks good in terms of its process, is flawed in terms of the support that’s there to implement it,” he said. 

White fired back at the Democrats, saying the plan is already being implemented. He said it will address the needs of vocational-technical students among other things. 

“They have no plan,” White said, referring to the Democrats. “They just told us that they have no plan. Mr. Clinton also stated our plan lacks a sense of urgency. If our plan lacks a sense of urgency and they don’t have a plan, then we are in trouble.”

Worrell argued that the plan does not put the needs of the people first. 

“To come here tonight and criticize a one-party system because they feel that’s the advantage they have, is wrong,” Civera argued. “And who loses by (those) kind of remarks? The people.”

Puriefoy-Brinkley jumped in at that point and encouraged the incumbent county council members to listen to all perspectives. 

Civera stated that he worked with Democrats while he was in Harrisburg for 30 years. 

Later, Clinton made reference to his ability to work with his Republican colleagues in Upper Providence. He was the first ever Democrat elected to the township council. 

Clinton said while he believed Civera worked effectively in Harrisburg with Democrats, he believes the Republican county council in Delaware County has kept Democrats at an arm’s length. 

There were 13 candidates there total. In addition to the four people running for county council, two other candidates running on the Democratic slate attended the forum, including controller candidate David Boonin and register of wills candidate Frank Daly. 

Boonin, a Swarthmore resident and registered Independent, said he is running for controller because he wants to be a fiscal watchdog for the taxpayers. He said he wants to confront waste at the county level. His opponent, Marple Republican incumbent Conroller Ed O’Lone, was not present at the forum. 

Frank Daly, an attorney and former Media mayor and former borough councilman, noted that earlier this year, a former chief deputy of the county’s Register of Wills department was charged with stealing more than $160,000 from the office over a period of five years. He also noted that for the first time in the county’s history, the Democrats have an edge in voter registration over the county Republican Party. His Republican opponent, Thornbury Republican Jennifer Holsten Maddaloni, an attorney, was not present at the forum. 

There were also Yeadon Borough Council candidates and William Penn School Board candidates at the forum who talked about their visions for the borough. Four Democrats for council, including Sharon Council, Learin Johnson, Delores McCabe and Clara Johnson, were all present at the forum. There are two Republicans running for council: Eileen Beoethy and Moses Kpoyea. Beoethy was not present at the forum. 

School board candidate Rafi Cave was present at the forum, but his Republican opponent, Donald Fraser, was not there. Mayoral candidate Rohan Hepkins also participated in the forum. Hepkin, a Democrat, is running unopposed in the election.

Most of the local candidates said they wanted to stop tax increases, increase communication for residents, revitalize industrial areas in the borough and create a recreation center for children.