Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Meet Mike Krill, Candidate for Mayor of Easton

The tag line for Mike Krill's mayorial campaign is "Residents First"

Posted by: Noël Jones

I met Mike Krill, Republican candidate for Mayor, last week to get a sense for why he's running for office, and what his vision is for the City of Easton. Krill is a firefighter, an employee of the city, "which is a little unusual, I know, because it's kind of like running against your boss." Krill goes on to explain that he has worked on a lot of campaigns--for Republicans and Democrats--specifically the campaigns of  Mayor Goldsmith (R), Mayor Mittman (R), and--believe it or not--Mayor Panto (D). He also worked on the campaigns of City Controller Tony Basil (first an R, then a D), and Justice Dan Coppora (D). But with each of the mayorial candidates he helped get into office, he ended up disappointed with their performance. Goldsmith had a complete disregard for the neighborhoods, according to Krill. Mittman shared that disregard, and made a bad choice in appointing a police chief that eventually led to the Jesse Sollman shooting and a $20 million lawsuit for the city. And where does he feel that Mayor Panto has gone wrong?

"They've all made the same mistake really. We're never going to solve Easton's problems by focusing on mega-projects in our downtown. And it doesn't help to make all these KOZ's downtown. Investors have been buying properties, not paying taxes, not doing any work to improve the buildings, and just waiting for the market to go up again so they can sell them for a profit. These mayors, over the last 20 years, quickly slip into 'economic development' mode as soon as they get into office." And what's wrong with economic development? "What we need first, before economic development can take hold, is community development. We need to focus on neighborhoods. We need economic diversity. We need to roll up our sleeves and do the non-glamorous work that needs to be done in the neighborhoods...if you ignore the

neighborhoods, the need for services increases as the ability to pay for those services decreases. It's not gentrification--it's balance. All of our efforts in this city in the last 20 years have been to fill downtown spaces on the first floor. We have to stop with this 'if you build it, they will come' approach. Business follows people, not the other way around."

Krill sites, as an example of how he feels the city lacks a serious strategic plan for attracting residents back into Easton, the Mayor's recent proposal of a Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) for downtown residents. Because of recent funding cuts, the city can no longer afford to pay for the Easton Ambassadors (the people in red shirts who regularly clean up downtown streets and sidewalks). So the city has proposed--without any public input according to Krill--raising taxes on downtown residents 30% to cover the costs of keeping the Ambassadors on. "How is that going to attract new property owners downtown?"

So how does Krill propose keeping the downtown clean? "In my opinion, we should have never been paying  an outside company $417,000 to clean up owners should get together and chip in. We need, as a community, to put some sweat equity into this city."

In much the same fashion, he is not happy to see $35,000 being spent on a dog park, as he would rather see the city reach out to dog-owning residents and local pet stores to chip in to build a simple dog park together.

But his biggest issue with Mayor Panto's current plan by far is the proposed intermodal facility featuring a high school hall of fame. He feels it's unrealistic to think that residents would pay to park at the facility when free park-and-ride lots already exist in our area. "The new parking deck is going to cost almost $50k per parking spot to build, and it's going to be expensive to park there. What we need, is more free parking downtown. We need to remove meters in residential areas of downtown. 26,000 tickets were issued last year. If you subtract the cost of enforcement from the revenue brought in, you're not talking about a lot of net revenue, and it hurts the residents." More free parking could be achieved, he says, by not building the new intermodal facility, paving over the old Perkins and majestic lots, and allowing people to park there until a private investor puts up the money to build there. Krill says the number of new parking spaces created would be roughly the same, and we wouldn't have to drop $10 million on a new intermodal facility, because what really needs to happen, he says, is "to improve the way we deliver services--especially bus service. Christie (Governor of New Jersey) is never going to allow the train to be built while he's in office, so in the meantime, we need to re-examine our bus service to make sure that the routes maximize bus service in the city."

And doesn't he think the high school sports hall of fame would attract significant tourism to our city? "No. And the reason is two words: South Bend." South Bend, Indiana is where the College Sports Hall of Fame was built a few years ago, according to Krill. "The first year they projected 312,000 visitors--they got 115,000. The second year they got 60,000. Now they sold it and it's moving to Atlanta...and the collateral spending at downtown businesses is totally exaggerated."

Mike Krill is a South Side resident, originally from the town of Northampton, PA. His wife Donna is a life-long Eastonian. As a firefighter, Krill says he gets the opportunity to know all neighborhoods in the city well, being on the streets and in homes, talking to residents wherever he goes. His work on various campaigns has also afforded him the opportunity to meet residents face-to-face, to hear their concerns as well as their ideas. So what's his plan for community development as opposed to economic development? First off, he says he would like to involved more public input. Secondly, "Community Block Grant Development (CDBG) grant money should be used for improving neighborhoods, not our downtown." Krill would focus on key areas of the neighborhoods that  are blighted, to make the neighborhoods more attractive to prospective homebuyers. If more middle-class home buyers move into these neighborhoods, especially the West Ward, downtown businesses will enjoy the benefits of new regular customers for their businesses, and the city will enjoy the benefit to the tax base.

Krill has some interesting ideas with regard to cutting spending in the city's budget. "For the last 25 years we have been cutting feet on the street--we've outsourced water, sewer and garbage services, and we've cut Public Works. I think we need to cut some middle management." In fact, Krill intends to propose, if elected, the elimination of his position altogether. "We currently, under Home Rule Charter, have both a City Manager and a Mayor--we don't need to be paying for both. We should put it to the residents for a vote via referendum. I'd like to make the Mayor's position part-time, and limit the role to President of City Council."

Krill admits that he has no executive experience, but adds that he does have management experience from 10 years as a Lieutenant in the Fire Department, the Administrator of the Northampton County Emergency Services Program, and as Chairman of the first 911 task force.

Does he have a tag line for his campaign? "Residents First," Krill answers. Ironically, he says, Mayor Panto's slogan of "Clean and Safe" was actually one that he and fellow firefighter Terrence Hand came up with when they were running the neighborhood blog Easton Undressed, which recorded and posted City Council meetings for residents for years. They gave Panto permission to use the slogan when they were working on his campaign. 

So now it will be Neighbors First vs. Clean and Safe. Since Mayor Panto, a Democrat, is the incumbent, and Krill is the only Republican running, we already have our choice in November laid out before us. But that shouldn't stop us from casting our vote of confidence in the primary--Tuesday, May 17th. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to hear Panto and Krill in a candidates' forum before the general election--it should be interesting!


Anonymous said...

Wow, he helped Panto in his campaign, he gave permission to Panto to use the Clean and Safe slogan, let alone all of the other distorted facts he mentions and is printed. I was actively involved in the Panto campaign and he was never at any of the meetings nor sis I see himn at any events. What I do know is that he saw the writing on the wall and jumped on the band wagon in the end.
There are also so many distorted statements about where our city is going and the positive path we are on it's rediculous for this man to make these statements. To say Sal hasn't done anything in neighborhoods is totally wrong. Street sweeping program, crime is down three years in a row, housing rehab programs, HOME programs, offering an incentive for de-conversions, park upgrades, street paving, new street lights throughout the city, and the list goes on and on.
His biggest distortion printed here is the intermodal. The total price tag of the parking garage is $9 million with 370 spaces. My Easton High School math tells me that the cost per space is $24,300 per space. And oh, he forgot to tell you that we are getting more than $9million in state and federal grants.

Lastly, why not ask a veteran firefighter why he is no longer a Lieutenant. Or ask about his removal from the county 911 task force. I didn't realize there was more stress in a fire Lieutenant than in being the mayor of a small city with big city problems.

Sal has it all over this guy and this is no time to change ships. I haven't been involved in Sal's campaign yet this time but I will be signing up for sure now.

David Caines said...

not a supper star, still voting for panto. I wonder if they told this guy he was going to lose when they hired him?
Don't worry Mike, it builds Charachter.

Jon Geeting said...

"We have to stop with this 'if you build it, they will come' approach. Business follows people, not the other way around.'"

That's exactly wrong, and it's arguably the basis for why none of his other ideas make sense. The attractions downtown are where the city gets the revenue to improve the neighborhoods.

Turning the Perkins site into an ugly surface parking lot, sheesh!

noel jones said...

I get the impression after talking to Krill, that he is very focused on curing blight in the neighborhoods. One could argue that the city is helping to cure blight with the green rehabs they are doing in the West Ward and on South Side. I think Krill's plan to to focus those sorts of rehabs one block at a time to help raise property values and encourage middle-class home-buyers.

Anonymous said...

Going one block at a time doesn't help motivate the private sector into doing more on their own. Rehabbing one on Ferry Street has spurred interest on other properties by private developers. The city doesn't have the money to do it all.

Dr. Phil said...

Jon -
"The attractions downtown are where the city gets the revenue to improve the neighborhoods."

And how is that working for you?
Trickle-down doesn't work at the local level...imho.

"it's arguably the basis for why none of his other ideas make sense."

Your use of "arguably" is the only thing that makes that sentence make sense. How about some back-up explanation?

Anonymous said...

It's like this. If it weren't for the tourists he is saying he is against there would be no business in downtown. If businesses in Easton don't do well they don't pay the business taxes therefore residential taxes go up and up. He doesn't get it. My understanding is that business taxes in Easton are up the last two years. Very simply that is one reason the mayor has been able to hold the line on residential taxes. It's not rocket science. Without a vibrant business center you have to raise residential taxes.

Now for the big issue. A parking lot????? OMG this guy has no clue. We finally have a real historic district and a good zoning code to stop thjis type of unwanted development in our city and he wants to take us back to the late seventies.

Lastly, he needs to get off this thing about neighborhoods being neglected. That is far far from the truth and Panto will just list the hundreds of good things going on in our neighborhoods, especially the WW.

Randy Galiotto said...

It's funny how I was Mayor Panto's campaign manager and do not recall Firefighter Krill being a part of our campaign or the author of Clean & Safe. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Interesting strategy in trying to attach himself to success but at the price of personal Integrity?

noel jones said...

Randy, Jon, David and Dr. Phil--thanks for posting your names, or at least choosing monikers that allow readers to follow your threads of response!

Anonymous said...

Is this guy for real? Or is he just running to get on his proverbial soap box? I remember how he bashed council and Mayor Mitman with his ideaological thinking that had no practical implementation. Our city is moving in the right direction, ley's not buy into campaign rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

panto has not done half of what he said, know the west ward is going to have a rehab/grocery. have u ever been to NYC. these places turn into sh*T holes with drugs and other non working morons hanging out and fing up the city. panto has been good at getting paid and not cleaning up any of the areas he said he would. the Perkins is still abandoned, Easton does not have a tourist base. anyone who thinks so is smoking some good weed. things are not going to change until the rents get raised really high, the crappy buildings are condemned and the popo actually starts using the booking center instead of sleeping in their cars and making excuses as to why a crime has not been committed because they don't want to right the report.