Published On: Fri, Oct 20th, 2017

VIDEO: New Hope Mayoral Candidates Delevich, Keller Offer Contrasting Visions at Thursday Forum

New Hope mayoral candidates Geri Delevich (D) and Larry Keller offered contrasting visions and values at a meet-the-candidates forum Thursday evening that was not without its moments of unexpected drama.

Hosted by the New Hope Chamber of Commerce at a packed Dubliner on the Delaware, the gathering featured a short presentation by each candidate, along with a brief public question-and-answer session.

Delevich began by highlighting her belief that New Hope’s diversity is its strength, along with what she considers the valuable insight she gained through 33 years of teaching children.

“One of the things you learn about people is that when you have respect for who they are, and when you appreciate their individual talents and uniqueness, the most important thing is what’s in their heart and what’s in their soul and what’s in their mind,” Delevich said in her opening remarks.

The Democratic contender also stressed the importance of community support for school children.

“As mayor, I would like to be at school that first week, shaking kid’s hands as they get off the bus, telling them that we really believe you are our future, and we want you to do the best that you can, and we’re back there supporting you,” she said.

And Delevich underscored her support for local businesses.

“I would like to be the person who can call up Channel 3, 6, or 10, and say ‘I’m the mayor of New Hope, and we’re having a winter festival.'”

During the question-and-answer period, Delevich fielded questions on alleviating traffic congestion at the intersection of Bridge and Main streets, fixing New Hope’s historically uneven sidewalks, addressing the shortage of visitor parking, and getting restaurants to abandon their use of plastic straws.

Local innkeeper Carl Glassman asked the candidate whether she favored merging police departments with Solebury Township as a means of addressing the borough’s burgeoning budget.

“I like the home town feel of our police department,” Delevich responded.

Incumbent Mayor Keller began his presentation by asking audience members to consider his leadership during the natural disasters of recent years, and to look past his Republican party affiliation. Most registered voters in New Hope are Democrats.

“We’ve been through the good times and the bad times in the 20 years I’ve been here,” Keller observed. “We talk about the floods and the power outages, and we all helped each other, and it’s never been for me about party affiliation, and I think it’s important that you all look at me, and not think of whatever my party may be.”

“I want to vow that the last 20 years I’ve served as your mayor, I’ll do another four just like I did,” added Keller.

The mayor wrapped up his opening remarks quickly, and moved on to the question-and-answer portion of his presentation, where he was asked about his views on the biggest challenges facing New Hope.

“I’m concerned about how we’re expanding,” replied the mayor. “Certainly, if and when Odette’s gets done, and the Logan Inn gets built out, and the Playhouse Inn is finished, certainly the challenge is congestion and parking.”

Keller proposed constructing a parking garage to help address the perennial parking issue.

“I think if I were considering [a solution] it would probably be a multi-level garage in the North side of Union Square,” the mayor offered. “We could get 200 spots there. We might have to float a $5 million bond, and maybe do a couple of floors.”

Audience member Charlie Huchet recounted a previous conversation with the mayor during which he said he had asked Keller about “recognizing and honoring” the Latino community, and Keller had said it was was not part of his job description.

Larry Keller (left) fields a question from New Hope resident Charlie Huchet.

“If I asked that same question now, how would you answer it?” Huchet inquired.

“Well, I don’t know, Charlie, exactly what you’re suggesting, because I have a very good relationship with the Latin community here,” Keller replied. “If anybody ever goes to Dunkin’ Donuts in the morning, there are anywhere from four to six of them there — many of them, they know who I am.”

“Lambertville for instance has had a number of community meetings around the issue of how we view our Latin American citizens,” Huchet followed up, again asking Keller to comment on his commitment to addressing the needs of the Latino community.

“I don’t see the problem you’re pointing out,” said Keller. “I know most of the Latin community here. I go to all the restaurants. I go into the kitchens. They all smile. I just don’t know that there’s that gap there.”

New Hope resident Sandy Santello asked Keller if he would continue to perform gay and lesbian weddings should the Supreme Court reverse its decision to allow same-sex marriage.

“As much as I really was annoyed with you for not doing gay and lesbian marriages before it was legal, my biggest concern as part of the gay/lesbian community is that we’re losing our rights,” explained Santello. “Fortunately, right now, Sharyn and I are married. So, if let’s say six months from now they reverse the decision, would you follow it?”

“Yes,” Keller responded. “I’ve sworn an oath to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the United States of America, and that was my position before, and I will not change that.”

Keller concluded his section of the forum by again laying out the challenges facing New Hope and his vision for its future.

“I was here in 1969, and it was much more casual,” Keller said. “And now, it’s robust. Right now we’re at a really high place economically. But we’re getting close to a place where I think we will be challenged.”

“I think with all these restaurants, it’s a lot of food, continued Keller. “And those people have to find a place to park.”

A Free Press online poll conducted between Oct. 10 and 11 using SurveyMonkey showed the two mayoral candidates in a dead heat.

While the mayor’s office is largely ceremonial, its most important role being supervision of the local police force, that hasn’t stopped this year’s contest from becoming the most closely watched in recent memory.

Of course, there are other significant local races taking place on Nov. 7, not the least of which is the competition for Solebury Township Supervisor featuring Democrats Mark Baum Baicker and Robert McEwan vying for power against Republicans Dominic Marano and Mike Spadaccini.

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- “Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy." - Einstein

Displaying 17 Comments
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  1. denicetorres@me.com' DT says:

    “I don’t see the problem you’re pointing out,” said Keller. “I know most of the Latin community here. I go to all the restaurants. I go into the kitchens. They all smile. I just don’t know that there’s that gap there.”

    The gap sir is simple. You just generalized people of Hispanic or Latin descent as those who work in a kitchen and smile. Some may work in a kitchen, and others of us in a boardroom.

    • Mrbobo@yahoo.com' Bobo says:

      Lighten up DT. Most of the Latin community who live here work in restaurant kitchens. And thankfully add to our diverse community. I guess some of them smile when they talk to Larry. Some of them ( just like some of any ethnic group) work as board directors…but very few, which I think DT had in mind, as opposed to him being some kind of horrible racist, as your post implies

  2. Agree with the poster that Geri is a one trick pony (unless you count the anti-straws thing, then it’s two tricks). Keller is the guy, term limits be damned!

  3. jmastrich@comcast.net' Jim Mastrich says:

    Dan – Change for the sake of change can be folly. Larry Keller is very experienced and has been a terrific leader as New Hope’s major. Gender and party affiliation shouldn’t be an issue in this race. I don’t know Geri, and I don’t doubt is a sincere and caring person, however I have known Mayor Larry Keller for 20 plus years. Over that time we have worked on various community service projects together: helping with kids, education, culture, diversity, you name it and Larry stepped up and helped out. Most recently in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Larry once again came through in helping to make Operation Charmin another joint New Hope – Lambertville success story. We ended up sending a tractor-trailer loaded with 35 pallets of donated supplies to Houston.

    Larry Keller is someone I have always been able to turn to when I need help with a community project and I know many others rely on him as well. He is a hard-working and caring advocate for all of his constituents. He is truly a mayor and a leader for everyone. I strong encourage the residents of New Hope to give him your vote.

  4. mband2008@comcast.net' Melvin band says:

    Here’s a question that I would put to Geri. Last year you attended a school board meeting at the district office where there was a big discussionabout transgender student’s rights regarding participation in sports. If a transgender girl( born a born ) tried out for the girl’s volleyball team, made the team and because of “her” skill, size and strength relegated one of the six starting girls to a substitute position, wouild you be okay with this even if the substitute was a lesbian?

  5. jcrilley3@comcast.net' JoeSchmoe says:

    I think Larry has done a good job as mayor, and I hope he is re-elected.

  6. thasluprus@thraml.com' Sandra says:

    Keller responded. “I’ve sworn an oath to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the United States of America, and that was my position before, and I will not change that.” Glad to see someone values taking an oath, making a vow and sticking to it no matter if it is unpopular. Law is law. We do not pick & choose the ones we wish to follow and ignore the rest.

    • Actually Keller does pick and choose which laws he would enforce or ignore: illegal immigrants and gay marriage. Maybe Keller doesn’t understand what a marriage is. Has he ever been married? He sells stuff, not exactly high finance here, so he understands the importance of economic opportunities and open boarders. Sad he doesn’t grasp the importance of marriage equality. I’d love to see a NH mayor declare NH as a sanctuary town.

  7. thasluprus@thraml.com' Sandra says:

    ” . . .and getting restaurants to abandon their use of plastic straws.” Am I missing something? Is this really an issue?

  8. msumi@comcast.net' Mike S says:

    Geri got all the softballs, espoused no substance in an ambiguous diatribe. I want to make your dreams come true ?? How exactly does Geri know what each and every one of us dreams about ?? Please explain to me what Latino community outreach and promotion Geri has done.

    • origin11@comcast.net' JaneAdele... says:

      The question of the Latino community was asked of Larry Keller, not Geri, because the questioner evidently had previously approached him on the subject.

      I do know of Geri’s community outreach in general – she was active in New Hope Cares, which helps those community members in need (food, transportation, flood damage, etc.). I would assume that means anyone in the community.

      Geri was active on Borough Council, and was on the community relations committee. She brought a lot of recognition to New Hope, and was instrumental in planning events such as “Queen for a Day” (very successful fund raiser for the New Hope Visitor Center) and the “Embraceable You” project (movie and book about citizens’ personal experiences living here, and embracing diversity).

      She always has ideas for saving the environment – once proposing that an educational nature center be created in the Borough, so that school kids could walk through and learn about nature and ecology in an outdoor class environment.

      In other words, as mayor, Geri would be terrific at promoting and championing New Hope and all it stands for!

  9. The mayor and council did nothing to help the residents during the several severe storms we had. The school buildings were not open and utilized for the public to eat, shower and sleep. The gym wasn’t opened for kids to play in.
    Keller’s response about the latino community reminds me Mitt Romney’s “Binders Full of Women.” So tune deaf, so out of it.
    A parking garage is much needed, Keller is right about that and the place he suggested for it seems appropriate too.
    Keller will go down in history as the guy who didn’t champion gay marriage. He won’t have your back in the future should this be reversed or challenged in court. He doesn’t have the inner courage and strength to fight for your rights. So if New Hope reelects him, we know where the residents feel about this.

    • Lgreen@yahoo.com' Lester Green says:

      Classic unintentionally funny Pink post. Schools were closed during snowstorms and windstorms…Oh the horror! Terrible mayor (who has zero authority over NH Solebury schools). Yes I remember roving bands of starving and homeless people during recent storms…how did they survive without open schools! Pink, when we have storms the snow gets plowed, and then it melts, and the town survives. Some people even lose power for a week. They don’t need a cot at the school gym. This isn’t a trailer park in Alabama after a tornado. As far as the mayor race, Geri is a one-trick pony, an empty suit spouting substance-free platitudes. Keller is the person for this job.

      • origin11@comcast.net' Janine Witte says:

        Dear Mr. Green –

        The comment referred to recent storms, such as Hurricane Sandy, where residents were without heat and power for almost a week! The fire station was open with sinks, toilets, food, charging stations and heat (THANK YOU!), but I know of several people who were never informed of that, nor did they have a way to get there. Part of the Borough was impassable for days because trees had fallen across the streets and so automobiles were not allowed through.

        I don’t recall anyone affected expressing that Mr Keller had sent out notices to residents or gone door-to-door to inform/update people about the closings, the dangers and the amenities available.

  10. Thanks Charlie – You’ve written an excellent summary of the evening. The Chamber did a nice job organizing it, but as an attendee, I was disappointed by Geri’s supporters/plants with their “gotcha” questions. Larry’s supporters were there to listen to her, not to try to zing her. Anyway, I think the fact that Geri wasn’t able to answer even the canned questions with any facts or numbers was very revealing. Geri is a nice person, but I have to think that voters can see that there’s nothing “there” with her – she just spoons out pablum and panders to her base. Larry knows what the role of Mayor is, has the experience, and has done a great job as New Hope’s Mayor. To switch canoes to someone who has zero business and zero public safety experience would be a big mistake for our residents and our school-age children.

    • Dan, the job of mayor has nothing to do with owning a business. Public safety experience comes with learning it on the job. Keller has nothing to prove that he understands public safety anyway. As for bringing in school-age children, what the heck does that even mean?! It is time for a change. I doubt the world will come to end when a female democrat takes over. It’s time.

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