Candidates for Cape Charles Mayor and Town Council gathered at the Palace Theatre for the 2018 candidates forum. This season’s election boasts a series of fresh faces, as well as a slate of highly qualified candidates. The forum was hosted by the Northampton Rotary Club.
The candidates bring solid, yet varied work and life experiences to the table.
The forum began with the Mayoral candidates Smitty Dize and Terry Carney. Each candidate articulated their qualifications, with Dize noting that Cape Charles is a water town, and he has spent his entire life working on or around the water, from commercial crabbing to a stint with the Merchant Marines. Carney countered that his previous career as an FBI agent provided him with the ability to analyze situations, but more importantly to listen to what people are actually saying. While Carney was able to articulate his vision a little better than Dize, Smitty was able to make the case that he has more history here and has a proven track record from his work as harbor master, and now as a manager of the Oyster Farm.
There is a lot to choose from for town council — Chris Bannon and Joan Natali represent current members of the council, David Gay, Tammy Holloway, Nioaka Marshall, Paul and Andrew Follmer are attempting to be first time members. While Natali and Bannon spent some time defending the current status of the town in areas such as the reverse-angle parking and water quality (taste and smell), the new kids on the block attempted to offer counterpoints such as attempting to find answers and alternatives to the current crisis of bad water and wierd parking angles.
After close to 5 hours of debate, the audience was left with the feeling that no matter who wins, there will be good folks occupying the seats.
Critique and Analysis
Can you say Kumbaya? That, in a nutshell, was the approach by all the candidates. There was no snarkiness, no confrontations, no insults or accusations. At one time, it looked as if Mayoral candidates Dize and Carney would actually start making out, right there on the stage. All this collegiality made for a really boring and an altogether waste of a Sunday afternoon. They basically all agreed with each other on just about everything. The only thing we really learned about the candidates is that they are more about slick presentation than being forthright about how they really feel about the state of things, except for saying, “I love this town! I have a passion for this town!” I swear, I think they all said this at one time or another.
Except for Dize and Bannon, everyone else seemed so rehearsed and professional. It seemed inauthentic as if you could have just put a manakin with a prerecorded message in a chair, and there would hardly be a difference. While the candidates may have felt this lent an air of authority and knowledge, it instead came off as, ‘Oh, here’s a bunch of come-heres trying to tell us how they are going to make everything so much better’. How’s that been working out for you?
Annoyingly, many of the candidates kept bringing up their former jobs as if that somehow gave them credibility and prepared them for a role in local government. We’re glad you all had great careers, really we are, but let it go. None of that really matters, and the fallacy that it does is what is destroying this place.
These people never seem satisfied, and just can’t leave this place be. All afternoon, we kept hearing how the town had to “step up its game” or “take it the next level” or whatever. Here’s the scary part: after acknowledging that there is no commercial property left in Cape Charles for the town to “grow into”, the word “Annexation”, which until now has only been muttered and whispered behind closed doors, was actually said out loud. Grab your wallets people…they are coming for you.
Another point of contention was that the questions were so stupid and inane, especially those supplied by the higher intellect of the Rotary Club. Questions were posed to the Mayoral candidates such as “what do you plan to do about the water in Cape Charles?” Let’s see, how about nothing? Or, “How would you make sure there is a balance of full-time residents versus vacation rentals?” Let’s see, how about nothing? It is what it is now, right? Oh, and then this one, “What do you plan to do to provide more affordable housing in Cape Charles?” Let’s see, how about nothing? Come on, man…so it goes.
Oddly, and I can’t believe I am writing this, but the only real-world, accurate and knowledgeable statements came from Chris Bannon. Such as the water; while other candidates were quick to throw the system under the bus, he freely admitted that he has been drinking the water since 1991 (I have been drinking since I got here too…I call it good old Cape Charles water). It’s one of those it is what it is things, that is unless you are wealthy enough to install a reverse osmosis filtration system. While other candidates were blathering on about business growth, Main Street or stepping up the game, Bannon, like a parent chiding children, noted that “there is no commercial property left in town to grow into.”
While the forum was an exercise in futility, and apropos of nothing, the good news is that all the candidates are good, quality individuals that really do care about Cape Charles. No vote is a wrong vote here. Each candidate brings something unique to the table: Bannon and Natali bring years of experience in town government and volunteer services, Paul Grossman brings management and technical expertise as a former nuclear engineer, Nioka Marshal has worked in town and has just completed her business degree, Andrew Follmer brings management expertise from his time at the World Bank, and as an entrepreneur with businesses here, Tammy Holloway not only runs the successful Bay Haven Inn B&B, but also is leading the Community Enhancement initiative, David Gay has been an integral part of the Historic District Review Board for many years, Terry Carney owns a business in town, and has a wealth of experience as a former FBI agent, and Smitty Dize has for thirteen years been one of the top performers both at the town harbor and now at the Oyster Farm.
There is a level of homogenization and pasteurization, but in a way, that is kind of what Cape Charles has become, so why would you expect anything different? So put on a blindfold and whack the piñata.