The General Election will be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 with candidates vying for local, state and federal offices. Jim Purcell is challenging Representative Dave Wilson for the Senate District 18 seat which was vacated when Senator Gary Simpson announced his retirement earlier this year. Questions that are on the minds of voters were asked of both candidates with Purcell’s responses below.
Jim Purcell has over 25 years experience in the public and private sector working in education, public policy and human services. He came to Sussex County in the 1970s when his family moved there after his father completed two tours in Vietnam. After receiving his Master sin Public Administration from the University of Delaware, Purcell worked for elected officials and candidates like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Joe Biden, Tom Carper, Jack Markell and local candidates. He was the Executive Director for the Delaware Democratic Party from 1997-2001. Purcell has worked at the American Red Cross and as State Director for Communities and Schools in Delaware. He is a member of the College of Education and Public Policy Alumni Association at the University of Delaware. He was appointed to the Delaware Humanities Forum in 2009 as well as the Delaware Mentoring Council in 2010. He serves ont he Behavioral Health Consortium. He lives in Milford with his daughter, McKenna, where he is very active in the community.
Q: There have been many efforts to repeal or adjust the prevailing wage rules in Delaware. Do you support the repeal of prevailing wage or would you like to see it continued in its current format? What are your reasons for supporting or repealing prevailing wage? How do you feel prevailing wage helps or hurts trades in the area?
A: The prevailing wage law needs to simply be updated and modernized to reflect the true nature of our economy. The purpose of prevailing wages isn’t to inflate construction costs and disallow competition. Like all social and labor standard laws that were created during the Great Depression it was to protect workers from run-amuck corporate interests. The prevailing wage laws were crafted to increase wages for skilled labor, provide apprenticeship programs, promote safety and the general welfare for workers as well insure quality workmanship. I would support a review of the current prevailing wage law to increase fair and just competition for public work projects. We need sensible laws that will protect and encourage good wages, benefits, safety and quality. I would propose easing special privileges on monopoly bargaining of work projects and requirements that only union companies can bid on working on state funded projects. Strong standards and regulations should be in place to support the worker and develop skilled trades in our state and employers either need to take the initiative to provide this for their workers or risk losing out on potential contracts that go to unionized workforces which have these standards and protections in place for the worker and the public good.
Q: Bayhealth’s new Sussex campus is expected to be completed in 2019. This new campus is expected to bring significant growth to the area. What growth do you support in the area and how would you, as a state legislator, assist Milford and Sussex County in guiding that growth?
A: First of all we need to adhere and stick to the plans that have been set out by the county and local municipalities for economic growth. These plans need to be reviewed on occasion and adapted as reasonable growth takes place. The new Bayhealth campus will no doubt be an asset to southern Kent and northern Sussex County. Secondly, we need to continue to work across governmental entities and the private sector to support the growth. We need more public and private partnerships to support and anticipate growth. I would propose forming a local development corporation like the Wilmington Riverfront has to manage, advocate and coordinate the economic and social growth of this region. We have the opportunity to transform the region by bringing in new clean and productive industries and business. In order to do this, we need to capitalize on the Sussex Campus and continue to work for stronger and better schools and local infrastructure to attract business and families to the area. Lastly, we want to make sure we preserve our rural, small town, agricultural and open spaces that we love so much in southern Delaware.
Q: One of the biggest issues facing the Milford area is mid-to-high level jobs. What would you like to see happen at the state level to bring more of these types of jobs to Delaware?
A: I know that nothing is more important than creating good-paying jobs that can support a middle-class life—from nurses, firefighters, and teachers to construction workers, factory workers, and small business owners. That is why I am committed to doing everything I can to build a full-employment economy, where everyone has a job that pays enough to raise a family and live in dignity with a sense of purpose. I know that when Delawareans can come together as a state and see the importance of southern Delaware in job creation. In the last century, our leaders came together across the aisle to put Delaware on the map as a business friendly state. We can do that again by relishing our natural resources, investing in our people, supporting small and mid-size business and attracting 21st century jobs to Delaware like in the fields of medicine, science, communications, and technology. When we are bold and ambitious, we can do big things and make our economy stronger for decades to come.
Q: There is a strong push in Delaware to legalize recreational marijuana. Do you support legalization or oppose it? Please give your reasons for either supporting or opposing the legislation.
A: We as society, nation and state have always battled the issues of controlled substances. We regulate and tax alcohol and tobacco, and through this, we also educate the public as to the harmful effects of using these recreational substances. I believe we have reached a tipping point as it relates to recreational marijuana, and it’s time to seriously look at how we can regulate, control and tax this recreational substance. We have decriminalized marijuana usage, we have recognized and approved the medical use of marijuana for medical purposes, and we have launched studies on the social, policy and fiscal impact of what legalizing marijuana, so why not take the next step? I would support a pathway to legalizing recreational marijuana, making sure that we have strong laws to regulate and prosecute misuse, and also provide education to the general public especially youth on the harmful effects of any controlled substance.
Q: With some areas near Milford dealing with unsafe water quality, what ideas do you plan to bring to the state to address unsafe water? How do you think the state can better protect water quality throughout the area?
A: Clean water is paramount for people in southern Delaware. We need a strong stance and enforcement for the Department of Natural Resources to monitor, test and mitigate this unsafe water issue. I believe the safest way to achieve this work is to promote public water systems in densely populated areas. A public system and adequate treatment centers will help to control some of the problems we are having with failing well systems. For unincorporated areas, including major sub-divisions, the cost of providing good quality water systems should fall on the developers and new home owners. For those living in rural areas, we need to carefully monitor and support them by providing state assistance and grants to mitigate poor drainage areas and also enforce laws and penalties against those who might contaminant water supplies both purposely and accidentally.
Q: In addition to drinking water quality, many of the waterways in the Milford area, including the Mispillion River, do not meet Clean Water Act standards. What are your plans, if elected, to begin cleaning up the waterways in our area?
A: I believe the solution lies in controlling run off from our neighborhoods, farms and major road areas. We need to make sure that storm water runoff is adequately taken care of and treated if necessary. Other ways to mitigate these issues is to work with state and Federal resources to bring in grants and additional resources to help protect our water ways. It will require a public and private ownership of the issue and willingness to make changes in our treatment of our water ways.
Q: With growth comes the need for more housing. Currently, there is a clash between the need for additional housing and the need to preserve agricultural lands. How should the state assist in balancing the need for housing with the need for agriculture? What ideas do you have to help balance these needs?
A: I will work with contractors and developers to combat the affordable housing crisis and skyrocketing rents in many parts of our state, which is leading too many families and workers to be pushed out of communities where they work.
I will preserve and increase the supply of affordable rental housing by expanding incentives to ease local barriers to building new affordable rental housing developments in areas of economic opportunity. I will work with the state and local government to substantially increase funding to repair, construct, preserve, and rehabilitate thousands of affordable housing rental units. Not only will this help address the affordable housing crisis, it will also create good-paying jobs in the process. I believe that we should, with our non-profit and faith community, provide more resources to the people struggling most with unaffordable housing: low-income families, people with disabilities, veterans, and the elderly.
And I will fight for robust funding to end homelessness in our community once and for all, through targeted investments to provide the necessary outreach, social services, and housing options for all populations experiencing homelessness. We must make sure that everyone has a fair shot at homeownership.
Q: Roads and infrastructure are in need of repair due to significant growth. How would you address funding these repairs? Would you support an increase in the motor fuel tax or another type of mileage-based tax to fund the repairs? Please explain why you would or would not support this type of funding.
We must continue to support infrastructure in the area to support the significant growth of the area. I would look intently at diverse streams of new revenue, while creating cost saving solutions with Del Dot, the municipalities and counties. Any new growth in the area will require public and private investment in infrastructure. Any new developments or business moving into the area should help share the burden, and anyone using public infrastructure should help pay for the use of these services. We also must look at the bidding process for public projects and make sure that we get the best services and work for the best price taking into account quality, safety and routine maintenance over time.
Q: Local residents have demonstrated that they are unwilling or unable to support tax increases to build new schools in Milford, despite overcrowding in classrooms. What changes would you like to see made regarding school funding at the state level that may address class sizes above 25? What state regulations would you like to change to help districts better plan for growth?
A: I believe we must have the best-educated population and workforce in the country to attract business and opportunity to our state. That means making early childhood education and universal preschool a priority, especially in light of new research showing how much early learning can impact life-long success. I will invest in early childhood programs like Early Head Start and provide every family in Delaware with access to high-quality childcare and high-quality preschool programs. I support efforts to raise wages for childcare workers, and to ensure that early childhood educators are experienced and high-quality.
I support democratically governed, great neighborhood public schools and high-quality public charter schools. I believe that high-quality public charter schools should provide options for parents, but should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools. Charter schools must reflect their communities, and thus must accept and retain proportionate numbers of students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners in relation to their neighborhood public schools. I support charter schools that are part of a state plan to improve and hold accountable all schools in Delaware.
Finally, we need to reform the current school finance laws of our state which are nearly 80 years old. We need to reduce the burden of referendums on local communities, especially communities that don’t have the tax base to support major school projects. Many of the inequities in our school finance system is that they don’t account for community needs, socio-economic status and students with learning disabilities. We need a system which provides additional funds to schools with higher need students. On the other side we need a away to award schools, teachers and students who are excelling. Therefore I would support a needs-based and performance-based funding system that would incentivize schools.
Q: People are becoming more active, walking and using bicycles as methods of transportation. If elected, how would you work to add more bike and pedestrian lanes on local roads to encourage more people to use this type of transportation? What obstacles do you see to create more multimodal infrastructure? How would you try to overcome these obstacles?
A: To be efficient and fair, a transportation system must serve diverse demands. Physically, economically and socially disadvantaged people in particular need diverse mobility options: walking and cycling for local travel, public transit for longer trips, and automobiles (ridesharing, chauffeuring and taxi travel) when necessary. As a result, to be efficient and fair, transportation must be multimodal. The best way to prepare for these demands and to set up systems that will support multimodal methods is to plan for them in future development. Housing and business developments should think carefully about how to support workers with an efficient transportation system, but also support recreational modes of transportation when developing in the area. The obstacles will remain to be a lack of vision and willingness to invest in other modes of transportation. Programs, funding and plans encouraging multimodal transportation should be encouraged, incentivized and required in some instances to adhere to state and local planning. I will support multimodal transportation systems and also support safe recreational bike paths, lanes throughout the area.
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