Our third candidate of four, Mr Tony Bassil, logs in with these answers:
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to answer these questions.
1. Could you give us your goals for the city's neighborhoods?
To create an environment that everyone feels safe and comfortable. To develop neighborhood parks into urban gathering places where children can play safely and adults can enjoy a real sense of community. To make neighborhoods more attractive and pleasing. To keep the streets and sidewalks clean. To improve the quality of life for all citizens of Easton. I want people to look at Easton and say I want to live there; I want to raise my family there. Just as I did; Years ago.
2. What is your recreation plan?
In order to develop a recreation plan we must first find out what our children want our program to be. What children did for recreation in 1980 is not necessarily what children want today. I would ask the school district to conduct a survey to see what the kids would like and then build a plan on it. If you build a new baseball field and no one wants to play baseball, than you have wasted money with no positive result. Today kids want skateboard parks, BMX runs and Kayak trails. The other part is to make sure the parks are kept clean and well maintained. To accomplish this I would encourage the administration to assign parks workers to specific parks and give them responsibility and a chance to instill pride in their work. Give them the tools, equipment and knowledge to make our parks shine.
3. How would you work with the block watch and neighborhood associations?
Their role in our community is extremely important. Their impact on crime prevention is priceless. I would take every opportunity as a councilman to promote participation in this organization. I would also encourage the administration to escalate the community-policing program and to marry these officers with neighborhood block watches to provide focused crime mitigation for high crime areas.
4. What can be done to foster a fair, equitable, and profitable partnership with Lafayette College?
The college is not doing enough; it must take a more active role in improving Easton for its own students and our citizens. Students also need to feel safe and they need to have places to go and things to do beyond what the Lafayette campus provides. In order to accomplish this it must do more than shore up it’s borders. It must reach out into the larger community. Positive change for Easton is positive change for Lafayette. I will go directly to the President to attempt to convince him and the trustees that they need more. I believe together we can identify some projects that they would be willing to move forward
5. If you had to raise a tax today, would you raise a business or a resident tax?
Neither is acceptable. I believe we can find ways to reduce costs without cutting services. Then we need to find alternatives to these taxes like the amusement tax. We need to look at increasing the scale of delivery of services in the form of regionalization. We must stop the bleeding caused by preventable lawsuits. Then we need to rev up our economic development program. The amusement tax will give us some time but we cannot drag are feet.
6. What are your opinions on the Amusement/Mechanical Devices Tax?
Should have imposed it two years ago and we should not have forgiven the loan
7. What are your opinions on our property tax?
Too high, discourage improvement, archaic. Need to find alternatives
8. What are your opinions on the sewer, water, & garbage fees?
We currently use the inflated fees to fund other parts of our budget. We should be using these funds to improve our infrastructure. The City is full of antique under maintained systems that need immediate attention or they will cost us much more when they fail catastrophically. If this would be the case I could tolerate the rates. As far as Garbage we should be looking at a joint collection system with West Easton and Wilson. The private contractors played bait and switch. They gave us a low contract price until we dismantled our system, and then escalated the cost.
9. What are your opinions on the proposed rental inspection ordinance?
May be a good idea, but it must be run effectively. I am not sure the expected results are realistic. Something we can do is enforcing the current ordinances fully and fairly. An example is the Building Maintenance Code of the Uniform Building Code, which provides regulation to assure the exteriors of buildings are properly maintained. This could be enforced quickly at little or no additional cost without entering a single building. This would go a long way to improve the general appearance of the City.
10. Are the city's services sufficient?
No, we have insufficient personnel in the police, fire, parks, and code departments and maybe others. We can also do a better job of delivering these services. Our street sweeper should only stop for maintenance. Run it at least 24/6
11. Do you have any plans that specifically affect city services?
Develop a fiscal plan that will allow us to hire the personnel so that we deliver the highest quality service we can. Service is our selling point. We take service into consideration when we buy a car, we take service into consideration when we go back to a restaurant, we take service into consideration when we buy a computer, and people take service into consideration when they choose a place to live or choose a place to start a business, we just do not know how to sell it. I want better, better, best.
12. What are your plans for the public works?
If you are talking about water and sewer, we need to look at all the options, but we must be sure we protect our loyal employees from damage that could occur with some of these options.
13. What are your plans for the emergency services?
We must look at regionalization, but again with concern for the protection of our loyal employees. Regionalization can stabilize costs while improving the scope and quality of service. It is not just our community that must realize this but also all the communities around us. I will encourage input and ask the administration to look at opportunities and options.
14. Would you be willing to work on the daunting task of regionalizing/combining services? If yes, in what areas?
Garbage, water, fire, police, but only if the personnel issues can be resolved.
15. Would it be fair and/or appropriate to appoint non-residents to city boards/commissions?
No, would these non-resident members want our residents on their boards? The exception would be joint boards involving regionalized assets or services. Then an equitable representation from participating communities would be required.
16. Should the city's directors/top level managers be required to maintain residency?
This is truly a difficult question. My gut feeling is yes. I believe they should be stakeholders in the community. They then could really understand the needs of the community. They could see the positive and negative effects of their work always. Unfortunately is it realistic? Will someone with the qualifications be willing to take the job if they have to move in the City only to have to potentially have to move again in four years when the boss they serve is no longer in office? I do believe the administration needs to do everything it can to hire personnel from the city and provide incentives to keep the personnel living in the city. Living in the city gives us eyes and ears working 24/7.
17. Is a part time city council effective enough?
In its current form I believe it is. But it may not be part time enough, salary and benefits.
Tony E. Bassil