Introduce yourself to Letters readers and explain why you are running for office.
★ Mark Betchkal: Since October 2007, Rehoboth Beach has been my home: as a resident, a homeowner, and as my domicile. I have been a visitor since 1981. Before moving into the city, from 1996-2007, I rented and then owned just outside the city on the forgotten mile. I am finishing a 30-year career in advertising, specializing in membership development for nonprofit professional societies. In the last 10 years I partnered with others to build six spec homes in the area, three in the city, three outside the city. I was the marketing director of the American Symphony Orchestra League, development director, executive director, and board president of the Reel Affirmations Film Festival in Washington, DC. I am a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Economics. I also have a Master of Science from the University of London, London School of Economics and Political Science. None of this about me is important. What matters are the decisions we make now that will affect the lives of the people who reside here in 2030, 2040, 2050, and beyond. It is important that we get it right. Great towns don’t emerge from bad decisions. Rehoboth looks and feels the way it does today, because the people who came before us made wise decisions. I pledge to work to carry on wise decision making that will leave to future generations a city that is better than the one we enjoy now.
★ Edward Chrzanowski: I am proud to be a resident, property owner, and an engaged member of our community in Rehoboth Beach. I am self-employed and provide consulting services to a number of private equity and hedge funds as well as advice to law firm clients in the areas of human resources, executive compensation, and regulatory compliance for financial services companies and investment advisors.
As president of the revitalized Rehoboth Beach Main Street, I have worked to forge partnerships among residents, businesses, and visitors in order to find common ground and make positive contributions to the well-being of our entire community. I want to draw on my business and personal experience and to contribute my energy, fresh ideas, and solutions to issues to ensure that our community works for everyone.
★ Charlie Garlow: I live on Sussex Street, Rehoboth Beach, at Fifth. I am a retired environmental attorney, living with my wife, Joan Flaherty, who is a retired federal health professional. I am a US Marine Sergeant E-5, having been on active duty during the Vietnam era. I am a graduate of Harvard University (undergraduate college) and West Virginia College of Law. I have hiked 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail and hope to finish the 2,200-mile trail later this year. For fun, I ride a unicycle, juggle, and practice banjo. Our miniature dachshunds walk us around the city.
Joan and I are strong supporters of the Sussex County League of Women Voters, embracing their support of good governance, voting rights, human rights, and environmental protection. We are also pleased to be associated with several other volunteer, public-spirited organizations, including the Delaware Sierra Club, Citizens’ Climate Lobby of Lower Delaware, and GreenDrinks.org. I also support other beneficial groups including Friends of the Rehoboth Beach Public Library, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), the MERR Institute (Marine Education, Research, and Rehabilitation), Surfriders, Oceana, Assateague Coastal Trust, Inland Bays Foundation, the Center for the Inland Bays, the Delaware Nature Society, and several other clean water groups. While I enjoy being an advocate for these worthy causes, running for commissioner allows me the chance to promote solutions to the climate crisis at the local level, door to door.
In addition to helping civic organizations, I am a supporter of downtown Rehoboth Beach businesses, being a small business owner (bike shop in Maryland) myself. We shop and dine downtown whenever possible. During the off season, the Rehoboth Green Drinks effort has monthly meetings in downtown restaurants on Mondays/Tuesdays, as those are slow nights for these businesses. The owners support the effort to bring in customers to have an environmental discussion over food and beverages. Speakers from Plastic Free Delaware, Center for Inland Bays, Delaware Electric Vehicle Association, and Sussex County Cyclists have been featured.
I would like to advance green goals for the city and make it more sustainable/resilient and energy efficient, and bring more nature into the city (natural habitat). For example, greening the infrastructure means planting more trees, greening roofs, and installing bioswales—which all help to absorb, delay, and treat stormwater, and mitigate pollution downstream. Improving the energy efficiency of our buildings can decrease our carbon footprint and save money. Conducting an energy audit would be an important first step, before installing solar on rooftops. We need to work together as a community to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.
While important issues such as parking, development, traffic, and high rents merit the continuing attention of city officials, our city must make time in our thinking for leading the First State in protecting the future of our environment for our children and grandchildren.
I am concerned about climate change which endangers our businesses, homes, and beaches (increased costs associated with beach replenishment). The changing climate also presents a risk to our health and impacts agriculture farther inland (heat, droughts, floods), so I advocate developing a climate action plan for Rehoboth Beach which will bring more clean energy cost saving technologies to our city, such as solar panels, energy efficiencies, and electric cars. We need to develop strong allies with other coastal cities in the ACT, the Association of Coastal Towns, to deliver the transformations needed to create a sustainable, green city of the future.
★ Susan Gay: I have been part of the Rehoboth Beach community for nearly 20 years, and a homeowner for five years. My husband and I live in Country Club Estates; we have two grown children who still consider Rehoboth their favorite vacation spot. I’m proud to be serving the city and its citizens currently as: Vice Chair, Planning Commission; Vice President, Rehoboth Beach Homeowners’ Association; member of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Trees; Board Member, Country Club Estates Property Owners’ Association; and Board Member, Save Our Lakes.
My 30+ year career in the private sector running multi-million-dollar operations in the communications and publishing industry has served me well in my community roles.
I am running for commissioner to put into action years of planning for our city’s future, and I will: Develop cost-effective solutions for parking, traffic, and pedestrian and bicycle safety; Advocate for balanced growth to protect our distinct residential neighborhoods and vibrant business district; Support incentives for green infrastructure and more trees in the city; Promote fairness and fiscal accountability to ensure responsible use of taxpayer dollars; Use a common sense approach and work toward a consensus to address the challenges we face; Be fully transparent.
★ Gary Glass: I have been a homeowner in Rehoboth for almost 20 years. I worked for 30 years in accounting, IT (information technology) services and management, with degrees in accounting and finance. I have been active in the city for a long time, including as a member of the board of the Country Club Estates Property Owners’ Association for more than 10 years, and currently as a member of the city Beach and Boardwalk Committee. I have attended most of the meetings of the mayor and commissioners in recent years, and I have a great deal of knowledge and experience with what is working well and what needs improvement in Rehoboth. I am running for commissioner because I love Rehoboth and I want to help make this an even better place.
★ Suzanne Goode: I have lived in Rehoboth Beach full-time for two years, after vacationing here for many decades before that. My husband and I have owned property in Rehoboth Beach since 2006. Our teenager, the youngest of our four children, attends Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes. My background is in economic analysis, research, editing, and teaching.
I am running for office because recent decisions by the commissioners have placed an unfair financial burden on the city’s residents. I hope to restore some balance on the board, in order to give fair voice to the residents’ needs and concerns. I will work toward a more significant share of the city’s budget for police protection, refuse removal, Boardwalk restrooms and showers, and similar services, coming from the tourists and businesses.
What single issue do you feel defines the 2019 Rehoboth election, and how will you address it?
★ Mark Betchkal: There is no one issue, unless you want to round up all the issues and place them under the heading “the future of Rehoboth Beach.” As when the city lowered commercial building heights in 1970 and 1975, or when the west end of the city was rezoned from commercial to residential to reflect the actual use and character of those neighborhoods, it is again time to rethink our zoning to assure a better future. We should evaluate replacing the current code with form-based zoning. Form-based codes address the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and areas of the city. It determines, in advance of any decision to build, what an area will look like when it is built out. It foresees the specific elements like parking lanes, bike facilities, trees, benches, etc. As a beach resort we also want our code to consider how to protect our beach and boardwalk which are our economic engine.
Citizens and residents need to take control of our built environment: Currently, the city is under no obligation to alert you that a building permit has been issued near or next to your home. After a building permit has been issued you only have 30 days to challenge the decisions made by the office of Building and Licensing related to a permit. But unless you know a permit is under evaluation, or has been issued, you can’t challenge it. There is no mandatory mechanism to inform residents that a building permit is under consideration or has been issued.
You can’t challenge what you do not know. Recently, the residents of Scarborough Extended were denied their rights under the code. They could not challenge the decision to allow the expansion of a nearby business without site review before the Planning Commission, because by the time they knew about the project, the 30-day deadline to challenge a permit had expired. Decisions, kept out of the public eye, should not have an enduring impact on your home and your happiness. As a result, I will advocate for an ordinance that requires notification of permit applications to the surrounding neighbors and notification when a permit has been issued in order that the citizenry can review and challenge decisions made by the office of Building and Licensing.
While you can’t challenge what you do not know, neither can you manage what you can’t measure. I will advocate for data before decisions: I am bewildered by the advocacy for a parking garage in the absence of a city-wide traffic and parking study. With the rapid change in mobility options coming, we may be building a dinosaur’s nest rather than a garage. To highlight the need for data here are some: From 2017 to 2018, parking meter revenue was down $138,000. At the 2018-meter parking fee of $2.00 per hour on Rehoboth Avenue, $138,000 is equivalent to 47 days of not a single car parked in the 122 parking spaces on the ocean block of Rehoboth Avenue. That’s right —47 days of no parking on Rehoboth Avenue. That does not scream “construct a parking garage.” It suggests that parking need and inventory may be out of alignment; we need to study the problem to seek solutions. It does not suggest that now is the time build a structure that will be there for generations. We need data to help us manage our parking inventory better.
TRANSPARENCY. Transparency demands the rule of law, and equality under the law. In the spring of 2018, three properties were issued a building permit. Each was a corner lot with a fence on the property line abutting the sidewalk of the side yard. One house built a fence. But the other two houses, while originally issued a permit for a fence at the same location on the lot as the first house, were denied a fence. Three identical situations, two different outcomes. AND no explanation from the city. Inquiries were made to the city. Initial concerns were voiced by some in city hall. However, as soon as the city solicitor became involved, all communication was shut down. The city chose to cover up its errors rather than confront them. I will not support cover ups of city errors. I will air them in the open for all to see.
To further transparent government, I will push for a new requirement that the official schedules of the mayor, city manager, chief building inspector, chief of police, and commissioners be publicly posted every day and remain posted for 24 months. We should know with whom our elected and non-elected leaders are meeting and the topic of the discussion.
★ Edward Chrzanowski: I believe that approaching governance with the goal to treat everyone fairly as we deal with challenges and to work collaboratively with those affected are the most important ingredients to achieving the best results for everyone in our city. That is how I believe we should resolve matters, including our failing infrastructure, water, wastewater, and stormwater within our city.
★ Charlie Garlow: Climate change. For coastal communities like ours, climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall and storms. We are seeing greater storm surge with hurricanes, and sea-level rise. We need to transition to renewable energy as soon as possible and it’s starting to be done in Rehoboth Beach. Look at Crosswinds Motel and the Oceanus Motel, which have large solar systems. Solar will lower our electricity costs. Ocean City, Maryland, bought solar through a power purchase agreement, no money up front, and is saving $120,000 per year for the next several decades. We should do so, too, and lead our state in the purchase of cheaper and cheaper solar and other renewable energy sources.
★ Susan Gay: This year, fairness has become the watchword. What I hear most often from property owners I speak to, is that finding equitable solutions to our fiscal challenges should be our priority. The solutions have to be borne fairly by residents, businesses, and visitors who use our city and all it has to offer.
I favor implementing the 3 percent hotel tax, so that hotel guests pay their fair share for the use of the city. As it is now, they pay nothing to the city. Our success as a resort community depends heavily on our ability to fund infrastructure maintenance and city services.
I favor a fair and equitable rate structure for water and wastewater that recognizes the seasonal demands placed on our system. The purpose of a peak/non-peak rate structure is fair billing across all user groups. To do otherwise shifts those costs from high users to low users.
Beyond just fiscal responsibility, we must be fair in how we apply our laws and codes, and do so in a transparent manner. Transparency requires open meetings, public involvement, and accountability. Going around our well-established public processes hurts those who wish to do business here as much it breaches the public trust. We still have work to do to be a fully transparent municipal government.
As a city leader, I will always try to make decisions that are in the best interests of our residents, property owners, and small business community.
★ Gary Glass: I think the defining challenge for Rehoboth in 2019 is to work smarter as a city and get our fiscal situation under control, so that we can tackle the major work that is needed on capital infrastructure, especially the stormwater system, the wastewater plant, and city streets. Rehoboth is nearly maxed-out to the legal debt limit of $75 million, but there is a lot of talk about expensive and unrealistic new projects. We need to control spending and prioritize what is realistic and essential. With my background in accounting, finance, and project management, I will keep a close watch on our public money. Of course, there are many important issues in my campaign, including the need for greater transparency and citizen participation in city government, the importance of applying the laws fairly and equally to everyone instead of so many waivers and exceptions for those who threaten lawsuits, and the challenge of uniting our community.
★ Suzanne Goode: The salient issue is the feeling among residents, and among property owners who stay here a moderate amount throughout the year, that we are not given enough consideration in decisions taken by the board of commissioners.
What message do you have for the LGBTQ community in Rehoboth Beach?
★ Mark Betchkal: As I already wrote. TRANSPARENCY. Transparency demands the rule of law, and equality under the law. The LGBTQ community just celebrated 50 years of the pursuit of equality under the law at World Pride last month in New York. I was a participant in the parade. As I marched down Fifth Avenue I was awestruck by the massive crowd. Each side of Fifth Avenue was flanked by supporters of the LBGTQ community 15-20 feet deep. It was a tsunami of support that began as a ripple of outrage 50 years earlier. It was absolute proof that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice! My message is: Stay strong and carry on!
★ Edward Chrzanowski: The LGBTQ community is part of the fabric of Rehoboth. CAMP Rehoboth and our LGBTQ community have been leaders for successful community-led organizations and human rights. With your help, I want Rehoboth Beach to be a model community that other cities across this nation strive to be like—a city that welcomes and fosters our diversity, encourages vibrant residential communities and an economically sound business and commercial sector, a community with a strong focus of the arts, and a sustainable environmentally safe environment for all to enjoy in the future. CAMP Rehoboth and the LGBTQ community have been and remain key to achieving these goals.
★ Charlie Garlow: Human rights. I have been a long-time civil rights campaigner, starting with the farm workers union in the 1970s. I have deep respect for and want to increase support for marginalized communities. I have successfully brought EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) discrimination cases. I agree with those who say that the LGBTQ community has made remarkable, revolutionary strides in standing up for their human rights, but there is much work still to be done to support and include our gay community. Most recently, I attended the Stonewall PAC (political action committee) gathering at the Mariachi Restaurant, celebrating the Stonewall riots. I have family and close friends who are gay and I am pleased to see that they and others are respected, for their skills and accomplishments, and loved by the gay and straight communities.
I am deeply concerned about climate change and its impact on our planet. My campaign is a call to action, starting at the local level. If we do not take decisive action now, climate change will threaten our community’s health, economic security, and future generations. The climate crisis will result in suffering for those, especially in Third World countries, who have done the least to create climate pollution, but who will suffer the most. This is an historic human rights tragedy.
★ Susan Gay: I believe that our inclusive culture, developed and fostered over the years by CAMP Rehoboth, is an important part of our identity. Both of my children were greatly influenced from an early age by the messages of diversity and inclusion, as demonstrated by the LGBTQ community here, which have shaped their attitudes as adults. CAMP Rehoboth should be justifiably proud of its multi-generational reach.
I thank CAMP Rehoboth for its tireless efforts to assure that Rehoboth remains true to its original meaning of “room for all.” Thank you for all you have done to work against prejudice and discrimination. On the national scene, keep up the fight. On the local level, CAMP Rehoboth has played an essential role in making Rehoboth successful, beautiful, and diverse—it’s truly the heart of the community.
★ Gary Glass: There is no doubt that Rehoboth is better and stronger because this city has been such a welcoming place to the LGBTQ community and other communities, in contrast to some places around the country, especially these days. I want the city to be even more open and engaging with everyone, because the issues that the mayor and commissioners are dealing with can have major long-term impacts on our quality of life, and we all benefit from the diversity of experiences, talents, and perspectives that people contribute to these discussions.
★ Suzanne Goode: We’re fortunate to live in an inclusive, tolerant town. I hope Rehoboth Beach can serve as a model for the other parts of the country which continue to discriminate against those who may have different lifestyles than theirs (never mind that it has been against the law for many years). I hope that my efforts to bring some fiscal austerity to Rehoboth Beach will make owning property for everyone, including the LGBTQ community, more affordable.
What sets you apart from the other candidates in this election?
★ Mark Betchkal: At the time I am writing I only have cursory information on each of the other candidates. I can tell you more of what I stand for. I stand for our rights granted to us under the law, including the zoning and building code.
Repeatedly, major projects come before the planning commission non-code compliant. Some have sought and received variances. Others are seeking variances. Others seek or sought wholesale zoning changes. We must have more respect for the code.
And why should developers respect the code when they can walk into the Board of Adjustment and say the magic words “economic hardship.” Then, without so much as spreadsheet to demonstrate economic hardship, the zoning and building code vanishes before the applicant’s very eyes.
It is well known I challenged Clear Space Theater Company’s attempt to build a building that exceeded the FAR (floor area ratio), exceeded the height restrictions, and failed to meet parking requirements. I challenged Clear Space not because I oppose the arts or a theater. I am a former marketing director, development director, executive director, and board president of nonprofit arts organizations in Washington, DC. I did not oppose Clear Space, rather I advocated for our building and zoning code. Our building and zoning code is an agreement that we have made with one another. It tells us what may and may not be built in different neighborhoods. A violation of that code is a violation of the agreement we have made with one another.
If a project developer comes before the planning commissioners with non-code compliant plans, I will encourage them to exhaust the entire regulatory process in an “all-out effort” to become code compliant.
I want to protect our economic lifeline. If one of our biological reaction tanks at our wastewater plant fails, it will require emergency measures to prevent the discharge of contaminated effluent into the ocean. That must not happen. We must make the required maintenance and needed upgrades before the sewage problems make the headlines. But these costs must be distributed fairly. Our water and wastewater systems were designed to meet the peak needs of our summer resort economy. That economic sector must pay its share of the burden to deliver 48 percent of the annual demand on the system that occurs in the three summer months.
I want to make Rehoboth the coolest beach town. The best way to cool things down is to plant more trees. I will advocate to increase the city’s budget to plant more hardwood trees on the public right of way.
The city should set a goal, that within a generation, a pedestrian can walk the length and width of the entire city in the shade of a hardwood canopy. This is an achievable goal if we plant more trees throughout the city’s right of way. The shade of a tree is a priceless asset on a hot summer day. It is good for business, too. Pedestrians comforted under the shade of a tree are more likely to linger on the avenue then persons scorched under a hot sun. It is also good environmental stewardship.
And that brings me back to where I started: stewardship. Great towns do not just happen. They come from wise decisions made now for the future.
★ Edward Chrzanowski: Over the past eight years, I have actively participated in our government—expressing my ideas on issues, voicing my concerns when appropriate, and making suggestions to our city officials on ways to address issues of concern to all of us. In the last couple of years, my time and energy has focused on revitalizing Rehoboth Beach Main Street and forging a partnership of residents and businesses for the betterment of our city. I have devoted substantial time serving on various city committees, task forces, and boards of charitable organizations that support members of our community and enhance our Rehoboth Beach experience. My involvement in these activities provides me with a unique perspective of our community. In short, I’m an energetic, engaged, passionate person that collaborates and facilitates when faced with challenges or opportunities.
★ Charlie Garlow I have experience in being a lawyer, a civil servant, and an advocate for a better environment and equal rights policies.
★ Susan Gay: I am unique among all the candidates this year as the one with the most experience in our city government, and in local community organizations. I have a deep understanding of the issues that we face today, as a result of my work on the planning commission.
In all of my roles in Rehoboth, I interact daily with residents, property owners, business owners, and city staff. This unique combination of experience enables me to view issues from multiple perspectives and find common ground. I’m proactive and I get things done. My extensive knowledge will be put to good use on Day 1 as a commissioner.
★ Gary Glass: Having attended so many meetings of the mayor and commissioners, I am used to standing up for what I believe, speaking my mind about what I see happening in Rehoboth, and really listening to understand other points of view. For example, there have been times when I asked the mayor and some commissioners to recuse themselves from matters when I thought there may be a conflict of interest. Sometimes they did recuse themselves, and sometimes they explained why they did not see any need to recuse. This kind of open and honest discussion is crucial to public trust in our city government. I’ve also filed FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) complaints to ensure compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the open government law. By speaking up and taking a stand, I have been part of positive changes in Rehoboth.
★ Suzanne Goode: I am a full-time resident who is willing to acknowledge that while compromises can be reached in many cases, there is a point at which the residents’ preferences and needs are going to be in stark contrast with those of the business community.
In five words or less, what is your vision for the city of Rehoboth Beach?
★ Mark Betchkal: Citizen Activism Designing Rehoboth’s Future.
★ Edward Chrzanowski: Positive Energy; Collaboration with Everyone
★ Charlie Garlow: Clean energy/water, healthy future.
★ Susan Gay: My vision is to retain “our unique sense of place.”
★ Gary Glass: Charming, diverse, forested seaside village.
★ Suzanne Goode: Vibrant, walkable, diverse small town! ▼