The City of Rehoboth Beach is a small community in Sussex County, the southernmost county in Delaware. Thousands like me first got to know it as a summer vacation destination. Today, it is home to a small group of 1,624 actual voters, those who own property within the city limits and are eligible to vote. If you are one of the lucky ones who owns property in the city, you need to register to vote by the deadline which is on or before July 13.
As a property owner you are eligible to vote even if you don’t live there full time. By law you can vote in Rehoboth Beach elections even if you normally vote in Maryland, Virginia, D.C., Philadelphia or somewhere else. You can also register and request an absentee ballot if you won’t be in town on Aug. 12. With such a small number of voters you have an even greater responsibility to do your civic duty. You can vote by absentee ballot. An affidavit must be completed. Affidavits may be downloaded from the city’s website or by calling City Hall at 302-227-6181 to request an affidavit be mailed to you
Many don’t realize the Rehoboth Beach zip code, 19971, includes thousands whose homes and businesses include the address Rehoboth Beach but who live outside the approximately one mile boundaries of the actual city and aren’t eligible to vote in the Aug. 12 election for mayor and City Commission. But what happens in the City of Rehoboth impacts their lives and property values so it makes the 1,624 voters even more important.
For the past 30 years, the denizens of the City of Rehoboth have elected the same mayor. A mayor who over the years has made homophobic remarks; who apparently doesn’t really understand, or want to acknowledge, how the business community in the city drives tourism; who often conducts the business of the city in secret; who was born into wealth owning a large compound in the city and has a personal interest in keeping property taxes low and finding ways to tax everyone else to pay the bills.
His latest, and hopefully the last, incompetent decision was to build the new City Hall complex currently going up on Rehoboth Avenue. Because of poor planning and the mayor making many decisions on the project in secret, the unsightly edifice known to many as Cooper’s Palace (Sam Cooper being the name of the current mayor) is millions of dollars over budget and way behind schedule. In a recent letter to the Cape Gazette, a resident of the city said he and his wife “Recently walked down Rehoboth Avenue and passed our new (unfinished) $22,000,000 City Hall.” He added “what impressed me the most was the cost of the $22,000,000 building worked out to over $13,500 for each of the 1,624 registered Rehoboth voters.” Many voters in the city who I have talked to hope this obscenity is the final act for this mayor and that the majority of voters will have reached a point where they will no longer tolerate incompetent leadership.
The voters are lucky because this year there is a great alternative who has tossed his hat into the ring. His name is Paul Kuhns and he currently serves on the Board of Commissioners. Kuhns is a longtime resident of Rehoboth and a businessman in the city. He has a comprehensive understanding of budgets and reality. He has been speaking to voters and explaining, “There are critical financial, environmental and quality of life issues that require a studied long view, with a contemporary vision. It’s time to let the sun shine on all city activities, be totally accountable to the citizens, and be proactive in every area of our government.”
Kuhns added, “As mayor, I want to work with all of the commissioners to discuss ideas and form solutions. I want to be a part of great team rather than try to be the only one on the field. We are a substantial tourist destination as well as a great place to live. We must be able to balance tourism with a high quality of life for our residents. We need to encourage close relationships with our local, county and state peers in order to work on issues that continue to affect us all. Under the current mayor, those relationships do not exist today. I will work to ensure there is complete community outreach because I understand there are many more people in the 19971 zip code that are impacted by what we do in our one square mile city.”
The current mayor clearly sees himself as an entity unto himself. He likes working alone, having secret meetings with city staff and contractors, keeping elected commissioners in the dark. If you take the time to look at the City of Rehoboth website you might not even know that a City Board of Commissioners exists. Paul Kuhns will change that.
On Aug. 12, the 1,624 voters in the City of Rehoboth can make a real difference in their town. Electing Paul Kuhns as mayor will see Rehoboth Beach grow in positive ways over the next decades. So voters can either reelect a mayor who doesn’t believe in, or understand, long-term capital planning and who chooses to run the city on a day-to-day basis; or they can elect Kuhns who has promised that among other things he will focus on process. He said “Our city government lacks formal policies and procedures that should be inherent in any orderly city government. Our policies must be much more proactive. Currently, the city is only reactive after continued complaints. This may have worked in the 80’s when we were a sleepy little town outside of the summer season, but it is not responsible management today.”
Those like myself who have been coming to Rehoboth Beach for decades love that it is still in some ways the town we first fell in love with. At the same time we understand for the city to prosper and grow the person elected mayor must understand the world as it is today and not govern like the current mayor who appears to be living in the past — building a city hall palace without any regard for the people of the town who have to pay for it.
If you have questions for Paul Kuhns he has shared his email and phone number with the people of the City of Rehoboth Beach, which is a clear indication of the kind of hands-on and transparent mayor he will be. He can be reached at [email protected], or at 302-430-8484 and is happy to answer any specific questions you may have. You should also plan to attend the candidate forum at CAMP on Friday, July 28 at 6 p.m., 37 Baltimore Ave. in Rehoboth Beach. You can hear for yourself why Paul Kuhns will make a great mayor for the City of Rehoboth Beach.
For questions or other information regarding elections, registration to vote and absentee ballots contact Donna Moore at 302-227-6181, ext. 108, or email [email protected].
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.