WHYY debate highlights different approaches, priorities among candidates for Wilmington Mayor

    They are members of the same party, but the five Democrats for Mayor of Wilmington express different solutions for tackling the city’s problems at a WHYY debate.

    Candidates addressed questions Tuesday posed by citizens who attended three forums sponsored by WHYY earlier in the summer.

    Crime and policing

    State Representative Dennis Williams, a former police officer, said he would conduct a nationwide search for a police chief in his administration.  “We’re going to go right after violent offenders.  We’re going to deal with this issue.  We’re not going to keep making excuses,” Williams said. 

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    City Councilman Kevin Kelley and longtime Baker administration Chief of Staff Bill Montgomery said they would look at experience, education and leadership qualities.  As for the city’s crime problem, Scott Spencer, a transportation consultant, outlined an approach using technology, a reward fund for leads into murder arrests, and the creation of a special homicide unit in the police force.  Robert Bovell, a bail bondsman, also said reducing the crime rate could be accomplished by getting more people to work and reducing unemployment.

    Taxes and financial challenges

    The candidates expressed different approaches to deailing with Wilmington’s financial problems.  Williams said it could be done without raising taxes. “We’re already losing businesses,” Williams said.  “People who are stable and that can pay their taxes are saying they’re ready to leave the city of Wilmington because they’re very frustrated.”

    Montgomery said he was the only candidate willing to say that taxes would have to go – by about 15-percent.  “You have to cut jobs if you’re going to do the kind of cuts these guys are taking about,” Montgomery said, referring to his opponents.  “They’ve got ten-cent solutions for multi-million dollar problems.”

    Kelley said there is room to make further cuts in city spending, and that there are opportunities to look for new sources of revenue.  “Health insurance is a challenge.  Pensions are a challenge.  But, the tax system itself is challenging because you have to remember we have almost 40-percent of our properties tax exempt,” Kelley said.

    Bovell said the city overspends heavily, while Spencer said Wilmington was on an unsustainable path.

    Questions on who are these candidate:

    First hosts Mark Eichmann and Shirley Minn asked questions of the candidates.  The debate featured a series of questions composed by WHYY, but selected by the candidates are random.  Dennis Williams was asked about a lesson learned from a failure in life.  He said he learned the benefit of hard work after failing a test for a safety patrol position he wanted.  Kevin Kelley was asked about his favorite hang out in Wilmington.  He said the city parks and playing basketball was the best.  Bill Montgomery said that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter was a leader he admires and would like to model his administration.  Scott Spencer when asked who of those he faced would he add to his administration. He said Dennis Williams.  Williams later said he would include Spencer in his administration as well.  Robert Bovell’s question was to name one thing he wanted people to know about him that they didn’t already know.  He said he would sing a concert to the city if elected.

    What’s at stake

    The Delaware primary is September 11th. The winner will face Republican Kevin Melloy, a realtor, in the November election.

    You can watch the WHYY candidates’ debate, a special presentation of “First,” this Friday  at 5:00 p.m., Sunday at 11:00 a.m., and Monday at 5:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. on WHYY-TV 12.



    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal