Archive for June, 2009

Who will fill Sen. Adams’ shoes?

June 30, 2009

Sussex County Republicans and Democrats are planning to nominate candidates for a special election to be held within 41 days after Sen. Thurman Adams’ death, Tuesday, June 23. Adams – Delaware’s longest serving lawmaker and a conservative Democrat – held the 19th Senatorial District seat since 1972.

Rep. Joe Booth, R-Georgetown, seems to be winning over Republicans, prior to their nomination. Republicans Dave Wilson, a Bridgeville representative, Ruth Briggs King with the Sussex County Association of Realtors, and Eric Bodenweiser of Bodie’s market, have also expressed an interest in the seat.

It appears as if Adams’ daughter Polly Mervine has her eye on the seat for the Dems. Other Democratic candidates could include former Sussex County Councilmen Lynn Rogers and Finley Jones, along with DelDOT employee Jim Westhoff.

Lt. Gov. Matt Denn has yet to set a date for a special election, but is expected to by the end of the week.

DeLuca replaces Adams in the Senate

June 25, 2009
Anthony DeLuca

Anthony DeLuca

Delaware state Senate Democrats named new leadership Wednesday, June 24, following the death on Tuesday, June 23, of Senate President Pro Tempore Thurman Adams. Senate Majority Leader Anthony DeLuca, D-Newark, was named to succeed Adams for a post that was voted on by the entire Senate. The Senate Democratic caucus named Senate Majority Whip Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere, as Senate Majority Leader, and Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington, as majority whip.

Sen. Thurman Adams dies

June 23, 2009
Sen. Thurman Adams

Sen. Thurman Adams

Sen. Thurman Adams, a popular Bridgeville legislator and one of the most powerful leaders in Delaware, died at about 9 a.m., Tuesday, June 23. Adams is also Senate president pro tempore. House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said, “The state has lost and elder statesman, and I lost a friend.

He said Adams’ record speaks for itself. “He was one of the most powerful people in the state of Delaware. We didn’t always agree, but he was straight with me. I could walk into his office anytime and talk about anything. I will always cherish his friendship,” said Schwartzkopf.

Not only has the news shocked many Democratic leaders, it’s also sending the Senate into a tailspin, as legislators scurry to replace its leader.

Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Wilmington, said little information was given about his illness. She also said she believes the Senate will meet today, Tuesday, June 23, to determine a course of action without the Senate’s most senior leader.

“That’s a shock. The Senate leadership was getting conflicting information: he’s doing great; he’s not doing so well,” she said.

“Obviously, it leaves a huge whole. He was a gentleman, but he was a force,” said Peterson. Peterson said she heard Adams was dehydrated and when he was rehydrated, his coumadin levels shot up. She also said Adams had severe stomach problems.

“Here we are in the last four days of session without a pro tempore. For session purposes, the position needs to be filled. You hate to jump in there but we need to decide quickly. I imagine this will be the first order of business on the Senate agenda,” Peterson said. “I’m just shocked. He’s worked in the trenches a long time.”

No pay cuts?

June 21, 2009

I am frustrated with Delaware state employees – and reluctant General Assembly members’ inability to pass state pay cuts at 2.5 percent. As I’ve written before, 34 states have introduced or passed state employee pay cuts. In Hawaii, about 15,000 employees had to accept a 16 percent pay cut and Delaware is looking at 2.5 percent. Would Delaware employees rather have layoffs?

House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said if the pay cuts are not approved, it will result in layoffs for 500 workers. Perhaps that’s the way to go? It’s a heck of a lot easier to anger 500 people rather than 32,000. As House members seek re-election, pay cuts become a central platform – and potential barrier to re-election. Schwartzkopf also pointedout that House members are elected every two years and are less insulated than Senate members, who serve four-year terms, where one-third of Senate members face re-election

In the private sector, pay cuts have been issued, along with layoffs. At the Cape Gazette, employees have not seen pay raises in two years. The paper also laid off six employees last December. Clearly, the news business is facing its own battle with survival. But, I think pay cuts and layoffs are common at other private ventures.

I think state workers need to buck up to the plate.

Castle amendment addresses aliens

June 12, 2009

Mike Castle

Mike Castle

REP. MIKE CASTLE (R-DE) and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) successfully passed on Thursday, June 11, an amendment to the H.R. 2410, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, that addresses the growing number of aliens who are to be deported from the United States, but who are refused or delayed entry by their home country.

The Castle/Dent Amendment requires quarterly reports to U.S. Congress from the Secretary of Homeland Security that publicly lists the countries that refuse or unreasonably delay repatriation. The report also includes the total number of criminal aliens in the United States.

“Incarcerating citizens of foreign nations who have committed crimes in the U.S. is a huge drain on the resources of our local law enforcement officials,” said Castle. “It is my hope that by ‘naming and shaming’ countries which refuse or delay to repatriate convicted criminals, we will put new pressure on them to cooperate and get these individuals off our streets.”

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, eight countries including Laos, Iran, Eritrea, Vietnam, Jamaica, China, India, and Ethiopia are refusing or delaying repatriation of more than 147,000 aliens – increased from 139,000 in February 2008.

U.S. courts have ruled that the U.S. government cannot legally hold criminal aliens in custody for longer than six months following their sentence of imprisonment if their home country refuses or unreasonably delays admitting them back unless the individual is proven to be “especially dangerous.” As a result, more than 17,000 convicted criminals have been released in our communities because their home country refuses or delays repatriation.

H.R. 2410, the FOREIGN RELATIONS AUTHORIZATION ACT, authorizes appropriations for the State Department, Peace Corps and other Foreign Service operations, and sets guidelines for how the United States conducts its foreign relations. Castle and Dent plan to continue to raise the public safety issue in the coming weeks and months.

DelDOT gets an overhaul

June 8, 2009
Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Carolann Wicks, far right, discussed how she is making changes to the state agency at a June 3 end-of-session Legislative brunch. The Committee of 100 Executive Director Beverley V. Baxter, left, stands with Genevieve Marino, Chief Executive Officer with the YWCA Delaware.

Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Carolann Wicks, far right, discussed how she is making changes to the state agency at a June 3 end-of-session Legislative brunch. The Committee of 100 Executive Director Beverley V. Baxter, left, stands with Genevieve Marino, Chief Executive Officer with the YWCA Delaware.

TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY CAROLANN WICKS says the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) needs a revamping.

At the Delaware State Chamber end-of-session Legislative brunch last week, she explained how she is working under Gov. Jack Markell’s administration to improve one of the most visible state agencies with 2,600 employees.

“We’re here today to talk about how to make things better,” said Wicks, at the June 3 luncheon.
She said the agency has been plagued by inconsistency, poor communications and untimely approvals.

“We need an agency that comes together and speaks as one force. We have not done that,” she said.

In recent weeks, she and other DelDOT heads polled agency workers about what they think is working – and not working – inside DelDOT.

“Hot teams” are cross-divisional groups put together inside the agency for better communication among DelDOT departments, she said.

Employees also have an opportunity to divulge their frustrations anonymously without worrying about supervisor retaliation, said Wicks. The agency is seeking input from residents and also has an internal customer survey, she said.

“A lot of it is sitting down with people. I tell them: ‘This is important to me. I’ll be back,’” she said.

SHARE POINTS
Wicks said the agency is also using more and better technology to improve the DelDOT approval-process and increase transparency.

In May, DelDOT launched an online site where DelDOT planners, property developers, engineers and town officials can access site plans and literally be on the same page.

The online pilot site was launched in Sussex County and will be ready statewide in August or September, said Wicks. She said it’s an effort “to continue to get barriers knocked down.”

Share Points is the name of the web-based application used to allow storm water management, traffic blueprints, and other DelDOT plans to be tracked in real time. Applicants submit electronic files that include staff comments in a read-only format, visible to the developer too.

“Everybody knows what each other’s comments are and deadlines,” said Wicks. “All of this is a customer service focus at DelDOT. We have a lot of customers. We’re using a top-down, bottom-up approach,” she said.

The DEL POINTE RESORT & RACINO, a 377-acre family-styled resort and gambling venue proposed for the Millsboro-area is the first project being used as a test case with the Share Points software, said Wicks.

“This cabinet is really working together as a team,” said Wicks.