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Running as an Independent
Eric is the president of Great Valley Industries in Downingtown. Eric is invested in the downtown by way of sharing ownership of two downtown rental properties with his brother. He has served as the chairman and on the boards of the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce, the West Chester Area Economic Development Corporation, and the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau. He has also served on borough council and on the government study commission.
Presently, he serves as Vice-Chairman of the Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center and as an honorary member of the Barclay Ground Preservation Alliance, which he helped found.
- Do you think our main street/downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?All things considered, yes. Several new restaurants have opened, which is especially encouraging given how hard that segment was affected.
- How would you rate the borough’s support of small businesses? What else can be done to help promote our locally owned small businesses?My experience has been that borough government makes a genuine effort to assist new businesses getting started, and with property owners who want to make renovations. The borough also provides $85,000 annually to supplement the BID’s 3.00 mill assessments on benefiting properties. The HARB may be seen as an obstacle to some, but many property owners appreciate the suggestions made during the review process on how to adhere to the historic district design standards. We all benefit from having an attractive streetscape, and West Chester’s distinguished architecture pleases residents and visitors alike.
- How do you feel about the transportation options currently available in our city? Do we have enough options? If not, what will you do to increase those?Once upon a time, West Chester had street trolleys which connected to Downingtown, Kennett Square and 69th Street, as well as two rail lines which connected to Frazer and Media. Today, public transit competes with private automobiles for riders. West Chester is well served by SEPTA bus routes 92 and 104, along with the Krapf “A” bus and SCCOOT. For inner-city transportation, it would be cool to have scooter rentals like Washington, DC has.
- One topic that is always of concern to small businesses is parking. Do you think the borough has challenges with parking? How would you mitigate those concerns or change the situation?With the three downtown parking garages, West Chester now has an ample supply of parking spaces. Informing visitors where the garages and surface lots are located is a challenge that requires efforts by both merchants and the borough.
- If you could change one thing in our zoning code, what would it be and why?
- How do you plan to involve small business owners in the decision-making process in our town?Through better communications between the borough and all residents and businesses, using emailed newsletters such as weekly emails the BID now sends.
- If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.) how would you evaluate whether that project was worth implementing?Cost versus benefit. Assuming the idea passed that test, it would then be added to the borough’s five-year capital plan which is required by the Home Rule Charter.
- If elected, what three steps would you take to put our borough on a firmer financial footing?First, have the internally prepared financial statements use the same accounting basis as the statements published in the annual audit. In recent years, what was announced at year-end as a surplus turned into a deficit during the audit. Second, stop making short-term decisions to avoid tax increases. The underfunded pension plans which threatened the borough’s credit rating were the result of multiple years of short paying the required annual contribution. Third, reduce reliance on parking revenue for funding operating expenses.
- If you received a $1 million grant to use for the borough any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?It would be tempting to spend it on something new and shiny, but until the underfunded pension plans are stabilized, it should go there.
- What would be your expectation and commitment regarding engagement and communication with the BID, through its Board and/or members?I am a big believer in clear and honest communication, which includes reaching the BID and its members.
- How might we work together to help optimize the BID as a municipal authority of the Borough, such as through grant opportunities, strategic planning and goal development, initiative prioritization?I would work together through the sharing of key metrics such as the monthly parking reports, which are a good indicator of downtown activity.
- How can businesses and police department work together to help control “nuisance” issues in the downtown? How can business owners assist the borough in keeping West Chester as a safe environment?All residents and businesses should call the police whenever there is a problem, including “non-emergencies”. Chronic offenders, be they individuals or businesses, should be targeted for enhanced enforcement. As Mayor, I would work with the BID board in addressing specific problems.