A little more than 12 hours after the polls closed for the Primary Election, Republican candidates for Delaware County Council issued a press release outlining a plan that county Democrats called a "laughable" attempt to emulate them.
Neither party's candidates faced a contest Tuesday. But now the stage is set for three new council seats – and council control – up for grabs.
Republicans Kelly Colvin, Jim Raith and Mike Morgan will face Democrats Christine Reuther, Elaine Paul Schaefer and Monica Taylor. County Council Chairman John McBlain and Vice Chairman Colleen Morrone are barred by term limits from running again and Councilman Michael Culp is not seeking re-election.
The two remaining councilmen, Brian Zidek and Kevin Madden, are Democrats.
On Wednesday, the GOP candidates unveiled their "Transparency and Progress for Delaware County" plan. Democrats welcomed the GOP espousing what they said are Democratic initiatives.
"Right out of the gate, we wanted to share our vision," Raith, a Thornbury supervisor and small-business owner, said in the announcement. "Having never voted to raise taxes, I can tell you that we can accomplish this plan without costing taxpayers more money."
Delaware County Democratic Chairwoman Colleen Guiney said, "It is laughable that the very council candidates now being propped up by the Delaware County Republican machine, who have run the county behind closed doors for decades, are suddenly pitching a 'transparency' plan. The GOP candidates can't fool Delco voters into thinking they are Democrats. The only thing transparent about their plan is that we can see right through it."
Delaware County Republican Chairman Thomas McGarrigle said it's a new day.
"The three Republican candidates nominated by the voters yesterday are a new Republican majority for Delaware County Council, not bound by past councils and not inclined to respond to old Democrat talking points," he said.
Part of the Republican plan include holding weekly meetings, holding them in different locations throughout the county and holding half the meetings at night. They also listed livestreaming the meetings. They also said they'd hold prison board meetings at the courthouse, another item that has not yet occurred but has been a constant theme of Madden and Zidek.
County council meetings used to be held every week until last year, when a motion was made to have the meetings changed to every other week.
"Having served as chair of county council, you can't run county government by meeting only two times a month," McGarrigle said. "Taxpayers deserve better."
Raith continued that sentiment. "After running on transparency, county council Democrats reduced the number of council meetings by half which should not have been agreed to by all," he said. "Eliminating half of the public meetings is the opposite of transparency. Our first motion will be to restore county council meetings to once a week and stream them live. We will also move half of the meetings to the evenings to make it easier for (the public) to attend."
Zidek himself said Morrone and Madden looked at the practices at county-level governments throughout Pennsylvania and determined Delco was the only one having weekly meetings. That, coupled with having the employees sitting in meetings rather than doing their jobs, led to the bi-weekly meetings.
In addition, Zidek said, "Saying it's because of us is just naturally untrue. Nothing happens on county council because Democrats want it. There's three of them and two of us. I'm fine with having meetings every week. These are Republican calls."
The Democratic council candidates, Reuther, Schaefer and Taylor, issued a statement in response.
"Delco Republicans have consistently resisted efforts to make meetings more accessible, which is why there is no livestreaming of the council meetings and why council meetings are not televised on local channels," they said, adding that had been proposed by Zidek and Madden. "Democrats don't just talk about transparency. They made it happen.
"As Democratic candidates for county council, we welcome any calls for greater transparency in government, even when they come from the GOP machine that has operated behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms for generations," they said.
The Republican candidates also spoke of their "IT for Me" initiative in which any service that can be delivered online should be so. Services have been increasingly moving online in the last 18 months since the council became bipartisan.
Zidek retorted this by saying, "The Republican candidates' proposals would be more compelling if it weren't for the fact that the Republican Party of Delaware County is solely responsible for the woeful IT infrastructure in our county government." He said efforts by Madden and him to change it have been "consistently rejected by our Republican colleagues."
And, the GOP candidates say they support zero-based budgeting, in which department heads would have to justify every dollar spent, as well as more competitive bidding, something that has been a crusade of Zidek in particular.
Adding that Zidek and Madden have been working to expose the GOP practices publicly, Guiney saidd, "Quite the opposite of transparent, Republican Party bosses have secretly handed millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to their friends, donors and even members of council for years."
Their plan also advocated for funding for revitalizing older business districts, protecting open space and potentially creating a health department, which is something Republicans on county council have resisted for years.