Letter: October 20, 2006

Hocker responds to previous letter-writer

A letter to the editor recently appeared in your paper which contained so many misleading statements and inaccuracies and regarding my action in the State House of Representatives that I needed to respond to set the record straight.

The letter incorrectly states that a bill (SB 146) which sought to create a statewide health insurance purchasing pool was “killed” in a committee on which I sit. The bill would have established a new state bureaucracy that supporters believed would have allowed individuals and small businesses to obtain health insurance at a reduced cost.

While I didn’t support the flawed legislation, I never acted against it. In fact, SB 146 was released from the House Economic Development, Banking and Insurance Committee without a dissenting vote.

What the letter fails to mention is that this program, had it been approved, would have likely cost taxpayers millions of dollars annually. A smarter alternative would have been a bill I co-sponsored (House Bill 66) that would have given small businesses and self-employed people the opportunity to buy into the state healthcare plan.

By allowing individuals to take advantage of the reduced rates offered to large groups, I believe HB 66 would have expanded health insurance coverage to many that cannot currently afford it. The charm of HB 66 is that it would not have cost taxpayers a dime. The bill failed to clear the General Assembly before the end of session, but I plan to support its reintroduction.

As a small businessman, I have a firsthand understanding of the high cost of health insurance. I am well-motivated to do whatever I can as a legislator to make health coverage more affordable for all Delawareans.

The letter-writer also complained that not enough was being done to address our transportation needs. It’s true that we face some challenges to fully fund the transportation infrastructure our rapidly-growing area requires. Even though transportation projects around the state are being temporarily delayed due to funding, I am committed to see that these projects are completed.

On the brighter side, one of the largest transportation projects of its kind in Delaware history is currently under way in the 38th District. Phase I of the replacement for the Indian River Inlet Bridge should be done shortly, with work on the phase of the new 1,000-foot span beginning early next year.

I hope that clears up any misconceptions inspired by the letter-writer’s errors and omissions. I want to emphasize that I welcome all of my constituents to my regular “Coffee’s On Me” where I address “the pressing concerns of most families and individuals in our district.” Please feel free to attend the next scheduled “Coffee’s On Me” on Tuesday, Oct. 24, at 8:30 a.m. at Hocker’s Grocery & Deli.

As always, if anyone has any questions they can contact me at my home (539-4140) or office (537-6016).

State Rep. Gerald Hocker
R-38th District

Atkins responds to Lifflander supporter

In response to last week’s letter from Les Aaron-Friedlieb of Lewes, I too am concerned about the exploding growth which has taken place across Sussex County.

Every elected senator and representative in Dover, whether Democrat or Republican, shares the concern that the impact of rapid growth has had on our quality of life. But as the writer properly noted, County Council bears much of the responsibility for approving the development. State government is then forced to bear the costs of building roads, schools and other infrastructure needs related to it.

Mr. Friedlieb is not a constituent and lives quite a distance from our Millsboro-centered 41st district. However, he shares a great admiration for my opponent, Ms. Barbara Lifflander. It makes no sense that he keeps referencing that she will fight for “us” when the author actually lives a couple districts away in the 37th district.

Ms. Lifflander has consistently refused to debate me this year on the multitude of issues important to the community. She has refused offers from various hosts on WGMD radio and my repeated requests to debate in open forums throughout the district. I find it ironic that Ms. Lifflander wants to go to Dover to represent nearly 20,000 citizens, but absolutely refuses to make her real positions known to the voters.

It is often the incumbent who refuses debates with challengers, not wanting to give them the opportunity to gain media attention and name recognition. But this year, Ms. Lifflander has opted for a stealth strategy of lying like a sniper in the weeds, having either herself or her surrogates fire off shots at my positions without coming out to face me like a legitimate challenger. This strategy deprives the voters of the 41st District an opportunity to hear a real debate on the issues so they can make an informed choice on Nov. 7.

Since day one, I have made my positions on all state issues well-known. I am proud to have been endorsed this year by the National Rifle Association for my strong defense of 2nd Amendment rights and hunting rights. I have been endorsed again by the Delaware State Education Association and the local Indian River Education Association for my support of public education and improving our schools.

I am very honored to have the support of the Correctional Officers and the State Fraternal Order of Police. As chairman of the House Corrections Committee and vice-chairman of the Public Safety Committee, I have fought hard to ensure these working men and women are properly compensated and well protected for putting their lives on the line for the community every day.

I proudly voted against the state budget this year because it was too bloated with spending and had a legislative pay raise snuck in at the 11th hour, tied the House opposition to Gov. Minner’s $1.5 million needle exchange pilot program, which threatens Delaware’s youth and enables drug addicts to continue their often deadly heroin addictions.

I will be there next month in Milford to christen the new State Veterans Home, a project many legislators worked diligently to fund and bring to reality. I have worked to be available and accessible to all the citizens of the district through town meetings, ice cream socials and district surveys from the very first day I took office.

Putting politics aside, I am very proud of a concerted effort to outreach to the young people in the district. Whether taking a local Boys and Girls Club to a Delmarva Shorebirds game or hosting a Youth Leadership Banquet with a New York Jet football player and Blue Hen football stars, I have tried to motivate and inspire our youth and empower them to work hard, study hard and become solid citizens.

I am honored to represent the citizens of the 41st District, and look forward to debate my opponent before Nov. 7.

State Rep. John Atkins
41st District

Dental professional supports Hocker

I am writing in support of the reelection of Rep. Gerald Hocker.

Mr. Hocker has been working hard for the non-profit I helped to start and run. It is called Sussex Smiles Dental Care Inc. Since March of 2003, our faith-based office has been attempting to bring general dental care to low-income adult residents of Sussex County.

A few dentists and myself, as the hygienist, volunteer to treat patients. However, organized dentistry, the Delaware State Dental Society leadership, has not given us their support.

Due to a paucity of dentists and the increasing demand for our services, our advisory board contacted Rep. Hocker about the situation. He promptly toured the office and was most eager to help.

For the last two legislative sessions Rep. Hocker has introduced a charity dental license bill that would credential out-of-state, retiring dentists who are relocating in Delaware. This would enable relocating retired dentists to volunteer once or twice a month or week, or whatever their schedule allowed.

There are several in the St. Ann’s community who have come to see the office and are willing to help. Presently, the dental code requires that anyone who wishes to practice dentistry in Delaware has to take the test administered by the Delaware Board of Dental Examiners. Delaware is one of only nine states that does not belong to a regional board. Not surprisingly, no veteran dentist has signed up to take the test.

It is not easy to write health care legislation that is pleasing to everyone; but improving the health of the most vulnerable citizens of Delaware should be and will be the end result. That is why we have gone to Dover two years in a row.

After witnessing all the fuss over what I think should be a no-brainer, we have not gotten a bill out of the health care policy committee much less the whole legislature. I really am amazed anything gets accomplished at the Delaware legislature.

If Rep. Hocker is reelected the citizens of Sussex County can rest assured that he will be back in there again fighting for this virtually-no-cost-to-the-taxpayer solution to a very real, very painful problem that does not go away on its own.

In the year 2000, there were 10,000 adult medical assistance recipients in Sussex County. Today there are 25,000. No dental care is covered for adults over age 20 in Delaware’s medical assistance program — not even crisis care. Sussex Smiles Dental Care Inc. is the only ray of hope for persons who cannot afford private-practice dentist’s fees.

Please re-elect Rep. Hocker so that he can continue to work for this legislation. I am confident Rep. Hocker will be successful this third time around.

Anne E. Green, Executive Director
Sussex Smiles Dental Care Inc.

Former county sheriff backs Swanson

I was proud to serve as sheriff of Sussex County from 1994 to 1998, doing the job for which I was elected — that is, serving court papers, conducting sheriff sales, transporting prisoners and, in general, as an officer of the courts.

My deputies, staff and I cooperated in every way with the courts, the county council, all law enforcement agencies, and the legislators for the benefit of the people of our county.

I have watched and listened to the present sheriff’s demands, to his discontent with the job he was elected to do, to his total lack of cooperation with the county council and law enforcement agencies.

He constantly spreads rumors that cause insecurity and downright fear in the hearts and minds of the people in the county with his tales of gangs and crime. It is time for this to stop.

The sheriff’s office should be held in esteem; a reliable and dignified and professional person must be selected to conduct the traditional and very important and necessary work of the Sussex County sheriff. We need a sheriff that will work with everybody and will achieve positive results, to give us back a feeling of security and pride in that office once more.

That is why I am wholeheartedly endorsing Eric Swanson, the Democrat candidate for Sussex County sheriff. He has all the qualifications to do the job and to do it as it is meant to be.

As a retired Delaware State Police officer, he knows we need more police in our county. But, he believes, as I do, that the State Police have the training in place, with the proper testing, the infrastructure, and a history of fine service to do the job better than anyone else.

Eric Swanson will work with our county Council and all our law enforcement agencies to do the job we elect our sheriffs to do here. He knows that cooperation is the key when you want to get a job done. He is the man for the job.

I am asking all of you to support Eric Swanson for Sussex County sheriff when you vote on Nov. 7. Thank you.

Charles P. Spicer Jr.
Fenwick Island

Reader backs Wharton for attorney general

The campaigns for attorney general show us three things about Beau Biden and Ferris Wharton that are key to how we need to vote to fill that important post. Politics and personality should not enter into the selection, as this is a key position of legal judgment that must be filled by the one more competent in all aspects of law.

We have to judge who is better educated: we learned hat Wharton passed the bar on his first test; Biden failed three times before he passed. Wharton has 20-odd years in all aspects of law; Biden has four years of experience in one segment of law.

Wharton is primarily a professional in practice of law; Biden shows that even though he is relatively inexperienced and new at law he still aspires to high legal office, i.e. he is primarily a politician. Further, a politician is one who uses an elected position to further his personal agenda; a professional uses his elected position to serve the duties of that position.

New residents are pouring into our state, which is being rapidly overdeveloped, and legal problems are also not only multiplying but more complex. It is not a time for nice-guy politics; it is a time for serious consideration of what is best for our interests as citizens of Delaware.

We need and deserve all of the competence we can get in the position of attorney general, not just another political football. We have too many of those already.

You don’t take a guy who just got his driver’s license after failing the test three times and put him into a NASCAR race.

Charles N. Valenti
Rehoboth Beach

Reader: Spivack is a great candidate

Everyone I know who has heard Dennis Spivack speak has been impressed with him. He is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Congress and is the real article — passionate and committed to the role government should play, namely to do for people what they cannot do for themselves, and surely not decrease tax revenues in a time of war.

Sometimes Spivack’s passion gets the best of him, which amuses his audiences. Despite these moments, what comes across is his commitment, sincerity, and, yes, knowledge of the issues that concern me, as well as others.

Spivack has been eloquent about solving the health care crisis, which he has experienced firsthand, having nurtured his wife through three bouts of cancer, almost going bankrupt in the process despite having health care coverage. He cannot imagine what it is like for the 45.5 million people who have no health insurance.

Moreover, he understands that the inability of small business to provide health coverage to employees makes it difficult if not impossible for them to find and keep qualified workers.

And Spivack also realizes that this is not just about health care but also about job creation and retention. For example, little attention bas been paid to the fact that Toyota decided to locate a new plant in Canada because of Canada’s health care system. As for the Iraq war, be stands four-square with the American public. It is a war that should not have been initiated and he condemns the incompetence of the administration in handling the war and its aftermath. He believes the solution is political – not military.

On this he is in agreement with Sen. Joe Biden.

Many may not have had the opportunity to hear Mr. Spivack. That is unfortunate. He is campaigning against a 14-yeur incumbent who has built up a significant war chest over the years when he had no opponent and when he did not have to defend his record.

Hopefully, more and more Delawareans are aware that the incumbent been a total rubber stamp for the administration, supporting its deficit budgets, cuts in Medicaid, increased interests on student loans. He does not deserve re-election.

On Nov. 7, we have a chance to vote for reform — to vote against incompetence, corruption and the influence of lobbyists who have reached the point of owning Congress. I for one am voting for Dennis Spivack to be the next congressman from Delaware. He has the people’s interests at heart.

Pat O’Brien

Candidate expresses his beliefs for position

Many people have expressed a growing need for major change in Sussex County as they are fed up with a closed-door, boss-hog, politics-as-usual County Council that cares more about the short-term interests of major developers instead of the long-term best interests of Sussex Countians.

In a time of breakneck suburban sprawl due to poor land-use planning with resulting strained emergency services, clogged roads, deficient infrastructure and environmental degradation, we must take stock of our future. What has your county councilman done for you lately? As the Democratic Party has failed to offer you a choice to the multi-term Republican incumbent in the 4th District, I offer you these principles:

• Support our sheriff — The constitutional role of the sheriff as elected chief county law enforcement officer was intended as a vital check and balance to political corruption and tyranny. For every state trooper currently funded by the County Council, Sheriff Reed can field two equivalent deputies, giving us greater protection and shorter response times at the same cost and he deserves our support. My opponent opposes our sheriff and his plan to protect the public.

• Reform county government — As all power ultimately derives from the People, we have the basic responsibility to direct our county government. We should have the power of initiative to propose laws, ordinances and regulations, vote on them in a referendum and recall officials for just cause if a majority determines that they are no longer worthy of office. We should be empowered to elect our county administrator, finance director and Planning and Zoning Commission and create an Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Commission. We should also be given the opportunity to decide to create two additional at-large County Council seats or keep the present five-district system. In an effort to solve our common problems, we should empanel citizens’ commissions. My opponent mocks meaningful reform of our county government. Can we afford to go on like this?

• Advance a sustainable economy and quality of life — We will all be poorer in the end if we allow farmland to disappear in a sea of suburban sprawl, as over-development will raise your taxes and lower your property values. We must restructure our land-use plan and development towards a sustainable agricultural, energy, information and technical economy, in contrast to a low-paying service-sector economy and more accurately incorporate environmental impact, natural carrying capacity and a better quality-of-life models for all Sussex Countians. I am the man that the insiders don’t want you to elect. My opponent talks a good environmental game but turns around and sells lots and houses in the developments he voted against the day after they’re approved.

The People of Sussex County deserve a better County Council. That’s why I’m running. The choice is clear: noisy rhetoric or a new approach to public service, arrogance of power or openness in government, conflict of interest or an innovative perspective, continuation of an ingrained dynasty or a new voice in office, the same old Cole or clean-burning alternative energy.

The future of Sussex County depends on you. On Nov. 7, declare your independence from politics as usual. Vote for Wolfgang von Baumgart and the Independent Party of Delaware for the future of the 4th District.

Wolfgang von Baumgart

Medicare Part D: A donut hole?

When our elderly reach the “initial coverage limit” of the Medicare Part D prescription plan, falling into a “donut hole” is an understatement. Falling into an abyss is a more accurate comparison. Keep in mind that deciphering the introduction to Medicare Part D was absolutely impossible for this college-educated person.

My mother, who is almost 87, lives with me. I am her caretaker and have responsibility for her medical care and for her personal needs. Mother receives Social Security benefits. I am a retired educator. My income is also fixed.

We are in the early stages of a travesty regarding care of subscribers to Medicare Part D. I will share my experience:

Two weeks ago, I submitted prescription refills for Mother, including a payment, as I always do. When the refills arrived in the mail last week, I checked the paperwork, as I always do. Let me give you the compact version.

Mother requires eight prescription drugs for treatment of osteoporosis, chronic peripheral vascular disease, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and a heart murmur. For her regular refills, I submitted a check for $291.67. When I received the refills, a balance of $234.04 was outstanding.

I called Sterling Retiree Rx for clarification. It was then that I was told that my mother had reached the “initial coverage limit.” Until her out-of-pocket expenses reach $3,600, she will be charged full price for all of her medications. She had reached her out-of-pocket expense of $2,250. This figure included her out-of-pocket expense and the contributions from the plan.

This is the bottom line: Previous cost of five medications was $285.68 New cost of same five medications was $861.72 — an increase of $576.

Three additional refills are on hold at Walgreens. They wanted to allow me a chance to reduce some of the cost. How do I do that without eliminating some of her medications?

What really hurts and frustrates me is that I blindly trusted our government and the company from which my mother retired. Not for one second did I ever anticipate that this level of financial despair would be imposed on my family of two. Imagine what happens to our elderly who are alone? Can you believe that this is happening?

Why was Medicare Part D approved? If any member of Congress had explored the possible scenarios of financial devastation, how could they have ever voted for Medicare Part D? If our president had sought a complete understanding of the impact of this plan, how could he have signed it into law?

I am terribly saddened by the prospect that the lobbyists of drug companies and the lobbyists of big businesses with medical coverage for retirees effectively swayed those whom we have elected to represent our best interests.

Based on the debacle that I have described, do all and everything that you can do to save Social Security.

You may not approve of my recommendation but, please, respect my right to offer it. All of the resources that we can muster should be brought back into our own country. We have been duped by the current administration. In my entire life, I never imagined saying that.

We’re spending billions of dollars to fix things in Iraq. We have problems in our own country: education, health care, unemployment, out-sourcing, not supporting our agricultural production, corruption in Congress and in the administration.

For the members of Congress, who strive to be considerate of their constituents, you must be as frustrated as I am.

Carol Hughes
Ocean View