Meet the Candidates:  James Burk


James Burk and John Bechtold are vying for an open seat in Ward 2 for Milford City Council. The election will be held on Saturday, April 22 from 12 Noon until 8 PM. 

Q.  With a projected $350 million budget shortfall in the state budget, how do you think this will effect the City of Milford budget? What areas do you feel could be affected and what ideas do you have to resolve these concerns?

A.  I was even more concerned when the state’s deficit number was increased to over $380 million.  I have attended two of the Governor’s Budget Reset presentations at the Delaware League of Local Governments meeting and again at the Carlisle Fire Department.  The importance of attending these meetings is to learn all I could.  I have read Governor Carney’s proposed 2018 budget and there are proposed: increases in income tax, reduction in senior property tax credit, and a decrease in funding for school districts.  In addition to the reduction in school district funding, there is a proposed ability for school districts to recoup lost funding without going to referendum.  With this in mind, I believe the City needs to be aware of these tax increases during this year’s budget hearings.  As a member of the Finance Committee, I’ve expressed my concerns to Chairman Morrow and the Mayor.  I feel this year we need to set a goal to pass a balanced budget without a tax increase.

Q. Milford is expected to experience growth over the next several years. What do you believe that growth should look like and what role should the City play?

A. I believe the growth should be smart growth that keeps in mind the need to preserve Milford’s unique character.  I encourage the citizens of Milford to attend Planning Commission meetings and educate themselves on new development.

Q. The City has developed a Downtown Master Plan and been selected as a Downtown Development District by the State of Delaware. How do you view downtown and its role in the future of Milford?

A. I was extremely excited when Milford was selected as a Downtown Development District.  This designation has already enticed renovation of historic buildings downtown and increased interest in Milford.  I believe redevelopment of the downtown will be the catalyst that leads to reinvestment well beyond the Downtown Development District.

Q. How do you view the current local economy and how would you propose preserving and attracting quality jobs?

A. I believe the local economy is strong and with announcements like the purchase of the existing Milford Memorial Hospital and the creation of 300+ full time jobs, I feel the local economy will only grow stronger.

Q. Do you believe current recreation needs of local families are being met and how can they be improved?

A. I am extremely pleased with the programs provided by Milford’s Parks and Recreation department.  I’ve had the pleasure of coaching youth soccer and my children have participated in soccer, basketball, and love the Easter Egg Hunt.

Q. How available is quality and affordable housing in Milford? Is there a need for more affordable housing?
A. The issue of quality, affordable housing is a national issue not unique to Milford.  I was excited to hear the recent announcement that the Milford Housing Development Corporation will receive a $500,000 to build 10 new homes in neighborhoods surrounding downtown.  Statewide, the $5.5 million awarded is projected to spur $15 million in additional funding from private sources.

Q. Code enforcement is a problem in many cities today. How would you address code enforcement in the City and what areas do you see as needing better enforcement?

A. As a Code Official, I am well aware of code enforcement issues and was pleased when the City Manager recently addressed the City’s code enforcement plan.  I believe the citizens need to be involved as well.  If you see a potential violation, please contact City Hall.  As a member of the Community Affairs Committee, I have provided Chairwoman Peel with feedback from my experiences in code enforcement.

Q. How do you see Bayhealth’s new campus and the purchase of the Clarke Avenue campus by Nationwide affecting Milford over the next five years?

A.  I was pleased when I heard the announcement.  The addition of 300+ full time career based healthcare jobs is a game changer for Milford.  This announcement will have a ripple effect across the local real estate market, retail industry, and service industry.

Q. The Planning Commission is currently working on the 2018 Comprehensive Plan. What are your feelings on how the plan should be updated, if at all?

A. As a member of the Planning Commission for over 8 years and its past chairman, I am aware of the comp plan process and have the utmost faith that the Commission will update the plan as needed.  Since the committee is a recommending body to City Council, I do not want to weigh in with my personal  feelings.

Q. The Mispillion River is a valuable asset to the City. What ways do you think the City can promote the river as an attraction, improve growth along the river but continue to promote conservation and protection of natural habitats along the river?

A. The City has already begun this process.  The Parks and Recreation department director presented a proposal last year during the budget hearings for a new floating dock for the Mispillion River.  Recently, Senator Simpson awarded Milford the funds to bring this concept to fruition.  Events like the Shipbuilder’s Race also utilize the river as a resource to promote the City.

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