Frank Cooper’s defense of Mayor Sam Cooper in a recent Blade op-ed came as no surprise to me. As a former candidate for the Board of Commissioners in the past two years and as someone who closely follows the issues and politics of Rehoboth Beach, I, like many others, know Frank Cooper to be an apologist for, and a proponent of, Mayor Sam Cooper and whatever policies the mayor promotes. What is also no surprise to me is that Frank Cooper does not understand that his “half-truths” are no less “fake news” that he claims is now common place in the media. As to Peter Rosenstein’s qualifications to comment on the issues affecting the citizens of Rehoboth Beach, one should know that Rosenstein spends as much time here, if not more time, than a lot of people who actually are property owners and even registered voters in Rehoboth Beach.
Frank Cooper should do some fact checking. Contrary to his assertions that Rosenstein’s article is full of inaccuracies, falsehoods and dangerous innuendo, Frank Cooper’s defense of Mayor Sam Cooper suffers from exactly those deficiencies. For starters, Frank Cooper’s assertion that Paul Kuhns, the person running against Mayor Cooper, served on the City Hall Task Force is absolutely false. Kuhns has never served on the City Hall Task Force. While it is true that the new City Hall was the subject of numerous public hearings and discussion, Mayor Cooper has made numerous decisions on his own without the consent of the commissioners, including most recently approving and paying for cost overruns amounting to millions of dollars – putting the cost of the City Hall project well over the $18 million approved by referendum of the property owners of Rehoboth Beach. Only when called out by certain commissioners has Mayor Cooper begun to involve our elected Board of Commissioners in these decisions. Moreover, the $18 million bond referendum, composed and orchestrated by Mayor Cooper, was clearly based on estimates of cost and contingencies that have proven to be erroneous and wholly inadequate. Today, many “budgeted” costs have been backed out to make it “appear” as though the project is closer to being on budget than it actually is. In fact, even using our limited reserves in the city’s treasury, the city doesn’t even have enough funding to pay for landscaping.
As for Frank Cooper’s claims that businesses, including gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses, thrive because “city leadership allows them to be profitable and flourish” could not be further from the truth. If you talk to business owners and proprietors, you (and Mr. Cooper) would know that they survive in spite of the city leadership’s attitude and lack of interest in helping the business community prosper and survive. While it is not unusual in a resort community for some businesses to come and go, our business community struggles with the indifference and lack of support shown by the city’s leadership and, in particular, that of Mayor Cooper.
I am shocked by Frank Cooper’s assertion that “homophobia” does not exist. To be sure, we have come a long way in overcoming the homophobia that existed for years – but it was not without constant struggle and the hard work and dedication of many who suffered persecution along the way. I found it ironic as I drove down Baltimore Avenue this past Saturday afternoon to see Frank Cooper sitting on the patio of the Aqua Grill, a gay-owned and gay-friendly establishment. Perhaps Frank Cooper has forgotten, conveniently, that the owner of that establishment, as well as two of the owners of the Blue Moon, were once hauled off in handcuffs — one of only many ways in which these establishments and their owners were harassed by Mayor Cooper’s administration policies. These kinds of actions against these businesses and their owners could not have occurred in a community unless they were sanctioned by those in control of its government. And, if Frank Cooper had a real understanding of how the business community feels, he would also know that they suffer in silence for fear of retribution and retaliation. Anyone who is honest will tell you that is a fact. Thankfully, it appears that the business community has had enough and will now stand up and make their voices heard.
As for Frank Cooper’s allegation that Rosenstein’s claims that Mayor Cooper does not have adequate relationships with local, county and state peers, perhaps he should talk with officials of our county, state and federal governments — he will learn something different. While I am not sure what line items Frank Cooper has included in his $35 million of county, state and federal assistance – it is simply untrue that taxpayers are not asked to repay through local taxes some of the amounts the city receives.
Frank Cooper does not spend much time attempting to refute Rosenstein’s accusations of fiscal mismanagement or “incompetent” decision-making. Perhaps the reason for his inability to refute these claims is obvious. The financial mess our city faces, witness the mismanagement of the new City Hall complex, is ample evidence that our city’s finances suffer from lack of financial planning, sound decision-making and project management, and a lack of pure common sense. It is no wonder that Frank Cooper cannot find his own words to claim otherwise. Make no mistake, this is a crisis of financial mismanagement that has persisted for far too long and must be brought to an end. It is time for the taxpayers of Rehoboth Beach to recognize that they will soon be asked to pay the piper. The buck stops at Mayor Cooper.
Richard Perry is a resident of Rehoboth Beach, Del.