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11/3/2009
NCC GOP out to rebuild: Weiner supports County GOP's collaborative approach to work for new solutions - News Journal

Dem. County Party Schramm questioned where the two Republican council members -- Robert Weiner and Bill Tansey -- fall in GOP County Party Chairman Fleming's call for increased transparency.

Weiner, who maintains his own Web site filled with news about his district, said Monday he would be open to the idea of streaming council meetings live on the Web. But it has not been brought up by anyone in council for discussion or a vote, he said.

Weiner praised the re-emergence of the county Republicans, saying he's glad to see them take a collaborative approach.

"I'm pleased to see the New Castle County Republican Committee has morphed into an organ that is more reflective of my personal philosophy, which is to come together in a bipartisan way to work for new solutions."


New Castle County GOP out to rebuild
'We want to let people know what we stand for'
BY ANGIE BASIOUNY • THE NEWS JOURNAL • NOVEMBER 3, 2009

Determined to be a louder voice in local politics, the New Castle County Republican  Committee on Monday unveiled a collection of ideas to transform county government through better ethics, improved transparency and cost-savings.

The committee also is promising to field a candidate for every county office that comes up in 2010. A single Republican ran for County Council in the 2008 election cycle, and Democrats hold 16 of 18 seats in the county.

"We want to let people know what we stand for and let people know we're alive and kicking," said Michael Fleming, new chairman for the county Republicans. "Voters deserve a choice. Clearly, one-party rule has not been good for the county."

The revitalization of the county Republicans mirrors what's happening on the national and state level. At its annual convention in May, the Delaware Republican Party focused on shoring up its strength, recruiting more voters and putting up more candidates. And the appointment of the outspoken Michael Steele as the chairman of the Republican National Committee  earlier this year grabbed headlines.

Fleming said his group is working hard to rebuild the party and establish a platform that will attract residents and show they are serious about governing.

"We've got real, systemic issues we need to address," said Fleming, 42, a pharmaceutical executive who once worked as a legislative aide for Sen. Bill Roth, R-Del.

Some of the ideas included in the new Republican platform:
•Consolidate government services across all layers to decrease duplication and spending.
•Depoliticize elected county row offices -- register of wills, recorder of deeds, sheriff and clerk of the peace -- by making the positions appointed and nonpartisan.
•Support pending legislation by Rep. Michael Ramone, R-Middle Run Valley, to decrease the size of council from 13 members to seven, in order to shrink costs.
•Realign compensation of county employees with the private sector by basing pay on performance. A majority of the roughly 1,500 county employees are unionized and paid according to terms negotiated in labor contracts.
•Review all non-vital services, such as parks and libraries, to consider whether the money spent on them should be diverted toward other needs.

Many of the ideas are not new -- consolidation has been bandied about by politicians and residents for years -- but Fleming said the county's structural budget deficit, which is projected at $76 million in five years, demands change now. He points to the county's three property tax increases  in the last four years, including this year's 25 percent increase.

"We've had Democrats running the state, the county and the city, and they've not been addressing these issues," Fleming said. "These deficits have been a long time coming."

Erik Schramm, chairman for the New Castle County Democratic Committee, said he's glad to see the Republicans re-enter the fray and "welcomes them back to the debate." But Schramm is less than impressed with their platform.

When County Executive Chris Coons proposed his 25 percent tax increase in March, the Republican party  was silent on the issue until the council vote in May, he said.

"I kind of wondered where the Republican party was with their suggestions at that point," he said. "We have always invited them to join us in governing, but this is just another stunt in politics."

Schramm said he reviewed the platform and noted the Republicans didn't detail how to pay for things on the list, such as expanded rail service.

Fleming said all the other ideas come with the goal of cost-savings, which would allow the county and state to free up money for different items.

"You've got to look at implementing some of these in the near term," he said. "In the medium-term, you've got to consider much more transformative changes."

Fleming also criticized the county for delaying recent appointments to its Ethics Commission, refusing to post audio recordings of meetings on the Web and not expanding the office of County Auditor Robert Wasserbach, who has one part-time employee.

"I think the auditor plays an absolutely critical role in the county, and the [department's size] is not commensurate with other jurisdictions," he said.

Schramm questioned where the two Republican council members -- Robert Weiner and Bill Tansey -- fall in Fleming's call for increased transparency.

Weiner, who maintains his own Web site filled with news about his district, said Monday he would be open to the idea of streaming council meetings live on the Web. But it has not been brought up by anyone in council for discussion or a vote, he said.

Weiner praised the re-emergence of the county Republicans, saying he's glad to see them take a collaborative approach.

"I'm pleased to see the New Castle County Republican Committee has morphed into an organ that is more reflective of my personal philosophy, which is to come together in a bipartisan way to work for new solutions."

 

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