Two seats on the five-member Newtown Township Board of Supervisors are up for election on Nov. 5. Incumbent Mike Gallagher and Kyle Davis are running on the Republican ticket; Jen Dix and Judy Norkin are running as Democrats.
To help you get to know the candidates we’ve asked them a series of questions about local issues and, leading up to the election, will publish their answers. (Answers have not been edited and appear as submitted by the candidates.)
This week’s question for the candidates is:
What do you see as the top three challenges facing Newtown and what would you do to solve them?
Mike Gallagher, Republican (incumbent)
Bio: Gallagher is a small businessman and software engineer with an undergraduate degree from DeSales University. He is currently chairman of the Newtown Board of Supervisors. He has served on the board since 2008.
Answer: The number one issue facing all levels of government is providing quality services while still protecting taxpayers. We have worked hard to reduce expenses, eliminate excessive administrative costs, and make government do more with less so we could reduce taxes and protect homeowners from higher taxes. We will continue to do that by going through expenses carefully, reviewing the budget line-by-line, introducing new cost-saving technologies, and challenging our employees to do their jobs as efficiently as possible.Economic growth and job creation is vital to our residents and the strength of Newtown. As our community begins to redevelop existing properties (like the Stockburger Chrysler land, the old ACME building, and the Newtown Swim Club property) we must manage that reuse carefully to preserve our existing quality of life while helping businesses create the jobs our neighbors need.
Vacant parcels of land that aren’t already protected are few and far between now, and we will see more and more proposals for the tear down and reuse of property. That’s one of the reasons we recently completed a study of Sycamore Street and implemented changes to zoning in that area to manage the redevelopment.
Another issue that Newtown Township will need to deal with in the coming years is the rising costs of benefits—a challenge faced by governments and school districts across the state.
Fortunately we saw rising healthcare and other costs coming and have worked with our employees to find reasonable solutions that protect taxpayers and our employees.
That’s why today, we have the only police union in Bucks County that pays a percentage of their medical benefits and we are the first municipality in Bucks to move employees to a defined contribution plan. We are fortunate to have employees that prove outstanding service to our residents and who have been great in working with us as we continue to address this issue.
Kyle Davis, Republican
Bio: Davis is a software engineer who currently serves on the township Technology Committee. He is the vice chairman of Greater Newtown Republican Club. Davis is a Council Rock graduate and former Army reservist.
Answer: Squeezing every penny of value from every tax dollar must be the top priority of all governments today, and it will be my top priority as Supervisor. Quite simply, taxpayers have no more to give and it is the job of elected officials to try and make sure they don't have to.
Our current Board has shown that you can successfully deliver quality services at an affordable cost. As Supervisor, I will continue those efforts by bringing a new eye to every line of our budget to look for efficiencies or savings to protect your money. How can you trust I will do this? Because as Chairman of the Township's Technology Committee, I have already helped save tax dollars and continue to provide cost-saving recommendations to our government.
Hand in hand with the need to protect tax dollars is the desire to help residents have an opportunity to secure good-paying jobs close to home…and that means local economic growth. That would be my second priority.
Here in Newtown, the current Board has successfully led an effort to redevelop abandoned or blighted properties; all of us can agree it is great to see the ACME building destroyed and new growth happening in other areas of the Township. As Supervisor, I will join this effort and work to establish a Business Advisory Group made up of local business owners to further refine and improve our Township's regulations, forms, processes and more to make them more attractive to possible new employers with the goal of filling every vacant retail and commercial space in our community…and the chance for local residents to fill the jobs that would bring to Newtown.
A third issue I would focus on—and one that is related to the base functions of government as well economic development—is infrastructure, particularly our 80-plus miles of roadways. With the federal and state government providing less support for infrastructure, it is imperative that we, as a local government, develop a long-term strategy for maintaining our roads and bridges. This plan would include an analysis of current conditions, prioritization of critical, mid- and long-term needs, estimated costs and – finally – a strategic economic plan to address those needs and meet those costs.
Jen Dix, Democrat
Bio: Dix, a 20-year resident of Newtown Township, is a consulting actuary in the health insurance industry who served on the Township’s Financial Planning Committee in 2006-2007. She is married with two children and serves as the treasurer of a large local church. She has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Messiah College.
Answer: Newtown is a great community but there is plenty room for improvement in how local government services its residents. The top three challenges facing our town are:
1) Lack of sensible leadership with integrity and character
2) Lack of true fiscal responsibility
3) Lack of vision for our community that ensures smart development and respects the unique heritage of Newtown.
Judy Norkin and I have been effective community leaders by putting Newtown first, not personal ambition. To us, character matters. Honesty, bipartisanship and common sense will guide our decision making. We will ensure our local government serves the needs of residents better by improving communication techniques and providing more user-friendly alternatives to gather feedback rather than forcing residents to come to Supervisor meetings to express their concerns.
True fiscal responsibility is something we will make a priority because weak financials cost taxpayers and cause us to miss opportunities. Our goal is to ensure a high quality of life while keeping taxes as low as possible. Financial mismanagement has hurt our community and resulted in a downgraded bond rating, unusable athletic fields, inability to maintain our roads, unnecessary lawsuits, and the sale of assets to cover basic expenses. We have the skills to put our financial house in order and be judicious stewards of our resources. We will also ensure that financial information will be easily accessible to the public in a timely manner.
Judy and I believe in preserving Newtown’s history while also preparing for the future. We’ll seek a reasonable and balanced approach to growth including reviewing and defending zoning, promoting economic vitality, and addressing open space and traffic issues. We feel strongly that future development should strengthen our community and enhance our quality of life. Situations like the recent debacle with swim club property, where high density housing was given away with no benefit in return, won’t happen under our watch.
Judy and I will provide a fresh perspective and bring diversity to the Board of Supervisors. We are long-time residents, business professionals, and moms who love Newtown. We feel Township government should be more open and honest. We will work solely for the best interests of residents and businesses to improve our community. We see it as an honor and privilege to serve as your Supervisors and ask for your support on November 5.
Judy Norkin, Democrat
Bio: Norkin is a 16-year resident of Newtown Township and lives in Cliveden Estates with her husband and two children. She is a former member of the Newtown Township Traffic Committee. Norkin has been a board member of the Cliveden Homeowners’ Association for more than 10 years. She works as a freelance writer and editor and is studying for her masters in Community and Regional Planning at Temple University. She earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from New York University.
Answer: The Patch has already asked candidates to discuss three important issues facing our community: sewer capacity, budget shortfalls, and a swimming or recreational facility. These are obviously big challenges for Newtown Township but there are other challenges as well. We need to restore confidence in our leadership, elect leaders who can articulate a compelling vision for Newtown's future, and establish truly open and honest government. What can you expect from Jen and I?
-Although our opponents tout themselves as “tech-savvy,” nothing has been done to improve our internet communications for years. This is not how to encourage interaction with residents or increase public participation. Jen and I will update and modernize our Township website so it functions as well as others around the nation.
-We will be accessible. To invite greater participation we will schedule small forums around town at convenient times. We hope you will come and talk to us. We welcome and respect varied perspectives and opinions and will always appreciate when you’ve taken the time to see us.
-We will be listening. We will answer your questions and if we don't have answers readily available we'll do our homework and get back to you in a reasonable time frame.
-Whenever possible we'll be ahead of issues by paying attention to what is really going on and working to solve our Township's problems before they erupt and result in late actions and bad decisions.
To conclude, Jen and I won't just be pretend leaders. We
will be the real deal. Rather than being concerned with what political parties in
Doylestown or Harrisburg want, our only purpose will be to work for the best
interests of Newtown Township and for YOU.
Jen and I are both qualified professionals and long-term residents who love this town. We have a track record of service to Newtown Township and have actively worked for years as volunteers on issues like land development, transportation, and finances. We believe change will come to this Township only when we change the people empowered to make decisions on our behalf. It would be an honor and a privilege to be your Supervisors and I hope you will support us both on November 5th.