Friday, May 16, 2014

Closing a Chapter: The Lewes City Council Election

I had the following letter to the editor published in the Cape Gazette today.

I want to say “thank you” to all those who supported me in the Lewes City Council election. I lost the election, but gained new friends and learned great lessons.

Congratulations to Bonnie Osler and Rob Morgan on their victories. I’m confident our new council will work well with our new Mayor and continue the Lewes tradition of community service. I have no regrets.

I owe particular thanks to Barbara Vaughan, Nadine Wick and Carolyn Quinn for taking me in hand and pushing me when I needed to be pushed. Thanks also to John Mateyko for being so generous with his thoughts. We don’t agree on everything, but we share a passion for the city. And thank you to Marti D’Erasmo for challenging my opinions with a steady, clear-eyed honesty.

Thank you as well to those who wrote letters and hosted my few campaign signs. And thanks to all those whose doors I knocked on for sharing their thoughts, concerns and questions. Thank you to all who voted, no matter for whom. Voting is our most important right.

I look forward to continuing to serve the city on the Planning Commission.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Election Results, Lewes City Council

The bottom line: I was not elected. I lost my race for City Council, but I had an interesting time, learned a great deal, and met some very nice people.

I also got to see my youngest child cast her first vote in an election where I was a candidate. That's pretty cool.

I remain Chair of the Lewes Planning Commission, with some big challenges ahead.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mike Mahaffie: City Council Candidate

Lewes Lighthouse SignWelcome, Lewes voters. Please use this web site to get to know me. I want your vote. You need to know who I am and what I stand for. I wrote here regularly between 2004 and early last year.  There are many thoughts; feel free to browse.

Here is a list of posts directly related to the 2014 Lewes City Council Election:
Then spend some time, if you like, with a collection of links to thoughts about Lewes from the history of this blog.  Particularly, remembrances of former mayors George HP Smith and Al Stango, as well as a memorial to Howard Seymor.  And, you can learn why I've recently changed my look (spoiler: community theater).

Questions? Please leave a comment below or send me an e-mail:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

There are no easy answers, but there is a path forward and a way to find solutions

I've talked with many Lewes residents over the last few weeks. I've heard their concerns and the issues that are most important to them. None of these issues can or should be fixed with simple solutions. To sustain the Lewes we want, we need to work with stakeholders within and outside our borders. We have to find common ground and build solutions together.

I have the knowledge and experience -- and the connections and respect from state and local leaders -- to help Lewes achieve that goal.

Lewes voters watch development in and around the city with concern. They worry about the Lewes Public Library, where and how it will grow, and what will be our role in its future. Voters are concerned about amplified music and the city's noise ordinance. They want to strike a balance between our role as a retail, dining and cultural center and our tradition of quiet nights.

None of these issues are simple. None have a "black and white" solution. There's no single law that controls any of these issues. Each will require City Council members with local and regional experience and connections.

My professional career has prepared me for this role. For most of the last 25 years, I have worked at the center of diverse groups of agencies and levels of government, looking for common ground and goals. I know how to work with all stakeholders. I know how to understand their needs, balance their concerns, and bring them together.

My 15 years on the Planning Commission has prepared me to hear all sides of issues in Lewes. I know where we have been, and I have learned the lessons of mistakes and successes in our past. I understand what we can accomplish using our ordinances, and where we must work harder to solve problems before they come before a body such as the planning commission.

I can make a real difference on City Council. I have the knowledge and experience you need. All I need is your vote.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Basic Issues in the Lewes City Council Election

The Cape Gazette posed a set of issue-related questions to me and my opponents in preparation for the May 10 Lewes City Council election. The answers are published in the May 2, 2014 edition of the Cape Gazette and on the paper's web site.

I've republished my answers, as submitted to the paper, in a series of issue-specific blog posts:
  • Educational and work background - My training and work experience in government in Delaware make me the right person, at this time, for Lewes. I know land use planning. I know the governments and agencies with whom we must partner to meet the challenges ahead.
  • Should Lewes hire a planner? - We should certainly try out the services of a planning professional and seek a staff planner if it works well. I am the right person to bring that planner on board and support her in her duties. 
  • What should be the City's role with the Lewes Public Library? - We host the library. Our community identity is closely tied to it. We must always be a partner, and I have the experience to carry on that partnership and make it work for the city. I will make sure that we don't carry the load - financial or otherwise - alone.
  • How would you solve the Lewes Beach Parking Problem? - There's no quick-fix. We will have to be innovative and we will have to do a very good job of communicating with the residents of the beach and those who want to visit the beach. Most of my professional career has been spent in coordination and communication.
  • What makes Lewes such a special place? - Our people and the history we share with each other and with the generations that went before combine to make Lewes the special place that she is. We can maintain that spirit, if we work together and respect and value each others' contributions.
Here's the bottom line. The main issues that face the city of Lewes now and into the future all require a strong knowledge of the city, the county and the state. They require experience in bringing together leaders in Delaware to work towards common goals.

I have that knowledge, based on my nearly three decades as a Lewes resident and homeowner and my 15 years in the Lewes Planning Commission. And I have that experience as well, having worked in intergovernmental coordination involving state agencies, all three counties, and the 57 municipalities in Delaware.

Cape Gazette Questions Series: Lewes is a Special Place

The Cape Gazette sent a series of questions to each of the candidates for Lewes City Council for publication in the May 2 edition.

What makes Lewes such a special place?

Lewes is a city of bustle and change, yet it maintains a quiet, historic charm. We’ve maintained our relationship to the ocean and the bay. We have active days, yet our nights are peaceful.

Our retail sector includes independent shops and restaurants that are becoming too rare elsewhere. Second Street is home to innovative entrepreneurs and restaurateurs.

As the oldest city in this state, we have inherited a unique mix of housing styles. Our neighborhoods range from compact colonial grid-style to modern suburban communities.

The people of Lewes have an energy that combines wide life-experience with a strong interest in community. You need only attend a meeting of the Council, the Planning Commission, or other city committee to see the engagement of Lewes' people.

Cape Gazette Questions Series: Parking on Lewes Beach

The Cape Gazette sent a series of questions to each of the candidates for Lewes City Council for publication in the May 2 edition.

How would you solve the parking problem on Lewes Beach?

It will be a challenge to develop new parking areas to serve the beach. There's not room for new large-scale parking lots. But we can look for opportunities to create a collection of smaller parking areas.

It's time to revisit the layout and right-of-way of the streets on the beach side. We can find more parking space within the right-of-way that we now have.

At the same time, we have to manage our street parking to balance the needs of our visitors with the rights of property-owners.

I believe it is possible, through improved communication and an honest debate, to find that balance. And we should continue to look for innovative solutions such as a shuttle.

Cape Gazette Questions Series: Future Growth in and Around Lewes

The Cape Gazette sent a series of questions to each of the candidates for Lewes City Council for publication in the May 2 edition.

The proposed Highland Heights and Point Farm communities are very controversial among residents. What is your vision for future growth in and around Lewes?

We know we cannot stop growth. People want to be here. We wanted to be here. We have to remember why we found Lewes so attractive and work to guide future development into a similar pattern.

This means supporting a mixture of different residential densities, low-level industry, open space, and local-scale retail and restaurants.

We can allow for growth where it is appropriate. We can use our city codes to minimize environmental, traffic, flooding and other risks.

 We will work with developers to maintain the intimate scale of the City and encourage pedestrian and bicycle connections. This will require regular updates of city codes and a willingness to seek out advice and input where ever we can find it.

Cape Gazette Questions Series: The Lewes Public Library

The Cape Gazette sent a series of questions to each of the candidates for Lewes City Council for publication in the May 2 edition.

As planning and fundraising for the new library continues, what do you think the city's role should be once the new facility is complete?

The City should always be a partner with the Lewes Public Library. Though the library serves a “Greater Lewes” region, our city is physical and cultural host to the library. And the library is a key component of Lewes’ character and civic life.

 On City Council, I will find ways to support the library and ensure that it remains a viable part of our community. The library should continue to be a focal point around which we build our relationship with people who live in the Lewes region.

But we can't carry the load alone. I will ensure that it s always a well-balanced partnership.

Cape Gazette Questions Series: Should Lewes Hire a Planner?

The Cape Gazette sent a series of questions to each of the candidates for Lewes City Council for publication in the May 2 edition.

Where do you stand on hiring a planner, whether full time or on a consulting basis? How will this individual affect Lewes?

I support the Council’s decision to bring in a planner to help manage the complex issues we face. It is wise to start with an “on-call” planner. This will let us learn how a planner will best work with city staff and our governmental structure.

If this approach shows promise, I believe we should continue to move towards a full-time planner.

It is important to remember, though, that having a planner on staff will not immediately solve any of the issues we face. A well-trained planning professional will be a valuable asset to the city, but will only be part of a larger team. We have to continue to work on improving our management of this city.

Cape Gazette Questions Series: Educational and Work Background

The Cape Gazette sent a series of questions to each of the candidates for Lewes City Council for publication in the May 2 edition.

Please tell us about yourself, including age, educational background and work experience as it relates to the position of city councilperson.

I was born 52 years ago in Washington DC and educated in Montgomery Co., Maryland, public schools. I earned a BA (English) from Colby College, in Maine.

I've built a career around sharing information, using data well, and enhancing intergovernmental coordination. I have won service and achievement awards from my peers in state and national professional organizations. I've won the highest award given by the US Geological Survey.

I have long-established relationships with the leaders of state agencies important to Lewes. I have relationships with county and municipal leaders as well. I have the knowledge and experience to help Lewes work more with its neighbors, with the County and with the state.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Past Accomplishments, Future Plans

Several voters have asked for a short list of the things I accomplished while on the Lewes Planning Commission and some of what I plan to accomplish on City Council.  So I have pulled together a few thoughts:

I have served for 15 years on the Planning Commission, the last five years as Chair.
  • I helped write the 2005 Lewes Comprehensive Plan (PDF) and led efforts to review and suggest interim updates of the plan.
  • I led the effort to update the Zoning Ordinance and the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance, based on the 2005 Comprehensive Plan. This included doing the technical digital mapping work to create the current Lewes Zoning map (PDF).
  • I led the Planning Commission through reviews of a series of complex and controversial development proposals, achieving concessions from developers and improving the resulting developments.
  • I instituted a regular practice of "roundtable reviews" of the recent activities of city committees, to help keep Planning Commission members up to date on issues in the city.
On Lewes City Council I will draw upon my long experience and detailed knowledge of Lewes and state government operations.
  • I will ensure that Lewes gets the most value out of our contract-planner and work towards a goal of eventually adding a full-time planner to help city staff and our boards and commissions.
  • I will work with the state, county and our neighboring cities to make Cape region cooperation, and planning, a reality.
  • I will find opportunities to preserve options in housing and mobility for seniors.
I have the knowledge and experience needed on Lewes City Council at this point in our history.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Time as Delaware's Geospatial Data Coordinator

Speaking about my work experience during the recent Lewes Candidates' Forum, I mentioned my time as "Geospatial Data Coordinator."  I've since been asked for a bit more information about what that means.

There's a class of database management tools known as Geographic Information Systems - GIS - that combines mapping (where things are) with databases (what things are) in a way that makes it easier to understand just what's going on.

If we map data about ground elevation, add historical information about where floods have occurred, overlay that with a map of the roads, then add the locations of all the people in the community with mobility issues, we can do a much more meaningful job of planning for evacuation should we get hit with a Sandy-sized coastal storm.

GIS, Geospatial Data and You a presentation to the Delaware Academy of Lifelong Learning (2010).

A Geospatial Data Coordinator works among all levels of government to coordinate the use and sharing of digital mapping data, information, and tools.

Back in 1998, when I joined the Office of State Planning Coordination, state agencies and local governments had started using GIS. But when they presented their data to the public, it often didn't match. It's hard to coordinate planning among different levels of government if they can't agree on the landscape.

I was hired to try to bring some order to that chaos. I created and led a group called the Delaware Geographic Data Committee (DGDC).  We created data standards and got the state and local governments to agree to work together and share their data. We found funds for, and managed, major statewide data-creation projects, including regular updates to the aerial photographs and elevation data at the heart of GIS systems.

I also served as GIS technical lead for the Office and led the efforts to create the maps that make up the heart of the State Strategies for Policies and Spending.  I was involved in three different iterations of the Strategies Maps.

In 2002, I led a team of DGDC members that created a web-based mapping system called the Data Mapping and Integration Laboratory (DataMIL) which was intended to present the collected GIS data of the state and local governments, online, and provide tools for people to point out errors and suggest improvements.  It was eventually overshadowed by Google Maps, (and later others) which did the same thing at a national level, and was retired last year.

DataMIL made a bit of a splash, though. It was featured in a national trade journal (PDF) and earned our team the 2003 John Wesley Powell Award from the USGS.  In 2005, I was given the first Delaware Geographic Community Service Award by the DGDC.

I also began to represent Delaware on a national GIS data coordination group called the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC).  I served on the Board of Directors of NSGIC and was the chair of the group's Communications Committee.  In 2008, I was given a NSGIC Outstanding Service Award.  After I moved to my present job, and resigned from NSGIC, they were kind enough to present me with their 2011 Lifetime Service Award (PDF).

I'm proud to say that the DGDC continues to serve the state.  My position has been filled by the able and dedicated Miriam Pomilio, long a colleague and friend. She's carried forward what I started and made great improvements.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Remarks from the Lewes Homeowners Association Candidates' Forum

This evening, I took part in a candidates' forum presented by the Lewes Homeowners Association.  It was held in the fellowship hall of the Lewes Presbyterian Church. Nice room. Good crowd.

I read my opening remarks. We had just four minutes, and I wanted to hit a number of points. I think I delivered them well.

Wave/Coast Press reporter Rachael Pacella tweeted a picture of the four speakers for the evening (Left to right: Mayor-elect Ted Becker, Rob Morgan, me, and Council-person Bonnie Osler). She caught us all clapping. Politely, of course.

After opening remarks, we took questions from the audience. Topics included:
  • Voter registration in Lewes
  • Parking issues
  • Stormwater problems
  • The new natural gas offerings in town
  • FEMA Flood Insurance rates
  • A plan to hire a planner for Lewes
  • The update of the Lewes Comprehensive Plan
  • The noise ordinance and outdoor speakers
  • Affordable housing
It was a good discussion. 

Letter to the Editor: Asking for Votes

The following is a letter to the editor I had published in the Cape Gazette today.

This is a time of change for the city of Lewes.  We’re thanking an outgoing mayor and welcoming a new one.  We’re adding a new member to City Council. We will soon add a city planner.  We face some serious challenges.  At this time of change, I’m asking the voters of Lewes to put me on City Council to help meet those challenges.

I’ve spent 15 years on the Lewes Planning Commission.  I’ve had an advisory role in crafting city policy. It’s time for me to step up to the next level and become a strong voice on Council guiding policy and connecting Lewes with its neighbors, with the county and the with the state.

I’ve lived in Lewes for 27 years. I raised my family here. I know this city. I’ve worked for 25 years for the state in roles that let me work with leaders of other Delaware cities, with county governments, and with the state agencies that are important to our future in Lewes.  I have the knowledge and experience to help integrate a new city planner into our community and into the larger community we must work with for the future of Lewes.

The issues and challenges facing Lewes are not just within our municipal boundaries. What happens around us will impact life in Lewes, for good and ill.  We must have a presence and a voice in Georgetown and in Dover. We must be a partner with the state and county, and with our neighboring cities and towns.

My long experience as a resident and volunteer in this town, and my professional experience in inter-agency and intergovernmental coordination at the state level, make me the right person to help us expand our partnerships.

Please vote for me on May 10.

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Elevator Pitch

Hello. My name is Mike Mahaffie. I'm running for Lewes City Council.

I’ve lived in Lewes for 27 years, more than half my life. This is my home. I want to serve this city and its people.

I’ve served on the planning commission since 1999, and as its chair since 2009. I’ve worked on the Comprehensive Plan, the Zoning Ordinance, the Subdivision Ordinance, and more. I know the land use issues of Lewes.

I’ve spent 25 years working in Delaware state government. I've worked with the leaders of State Planning, DelDOT, DNREC, Agriculture, and other agencies important to Lewes. I offer a comprehensive knowledge of how the state, its cities, and its counties work together.

I bring wide experience, local knowledge, and an analytical and curious mind. I practice kindness and respect for all opinions.

Please vote for for me in the Lewes City Council election on May 10.

Friday, April 4, 2014

If I Appear in a Leg Cast Tomorrow, I Think You'll Know Why

Tonight the Possum Point Players production of South Pacific opens for its gala two-weekend run in Georgetown.  I'm making my triumphant return to the Possum stage in a small role as a flunky to that show's main comic-relief character, Luther Billis.  I'm "The Professor."

I used to perform and work backstage for Possum shows in the late 80s and early 90s. I played small roles and did a bit of technical work. Karen played in orchestras for the musicals. We made many great friends.

We both took a break to raise the girls. But with the nest starting to empty out, we're dipping our toes back into the water.

Karen played in the Orchestra last year for Les Miserables.  I did a tiny walk-on a few years back as a favor to a friend who was directing.  For South Pacific, I'm back in the mix of a large pool of talented actors, singers and dancers.

If nothing else, I can project my voice and am comfortable on-stage.

So. If you are curious about how I look now that I'm "face-bald," grab some tickets and come see the show.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wait... Why Did He Shave and Change His Hair Color?

I am a middle-aged man, with an appropriate mixture of grey in my hair. And I have worn some form of facial hair almost continuously since I was first able to grow a scraggly beard. But, for the moment, I have changed my look.

This has nothing to do with running for Lewes city council and everything to do with playing a small role as a navy seaman in the Possum Point Players production of South Pacific. We open on April 4, get your tickets!

The directors have asked me to shave and remove the grey from my hair and I have done so. This is the first time I've been clean-shaven since March of 1988, when I played a Russian soldier in the Possum's Fiddler on the Roof. And I've had some sort of hair-color camouflage applied to hide the grey.

I have mixed feelings. I'm not without vanity and the idea of being younger is appealing. But I'm also a realist: I know that I am not a young man. And, The Lovely Karen has pointed out that I have a baby-face. That's a major reason for the beard in the first place. As a couple, we've always been proud to own our grey (and blame it on our kids).

So both the grey hair and likely the facial hair will return after the play is done. The hair color will fade (luckily, it doesn't have to grow out). And I expect I'll grow some sort of facial hair again. Exactly what will be decided in consultation with my wife and daughters. After all, they have to look at this face.

Bonus irony: Those of us old enough to remember TV commercials in the 1970s will recall the Clairol commercial which turned the Song "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair" into "I'm Gonna Wash That Grey Right Out of My Hair."

Friday, March 28, 2014

Hey, Lewes Folks, Please Vote for Me

Today I filed paperwork to run for Lewes City Council. The election is Saturday, May 10.  I hope you will vote for me.

I have lived in Lewes since 1987. This is where the Lovely Karen and I started married life. She's proved her patience and good humor for more than 25 years.  Together we've raised two lovely young women who will always call Lewes their home town.

I have served on the Lewes Planning Commission since 1999. I've had the honor of serving as Chair of the Commission since 2009. Over these years I've learned a great deal about the city and how it functions. I've helped in the drafting of updates of the City Comprehensive Plan, the City Zoning Map, the Zoning Ordinance and the Subdivision Ordinance. And I've been involved in making recommendations to Mayor and Council on some wonderfully complex and controversial proposals.

I was born just over 52 years ago in Washington DC and grew up in the Maryland suburbs of that city.  In 1984, I graduated from Colby College, in Waterville, Maine, with a Bachelor of Arts. I was an English major.  I learned how to learn.  And I've had great fun doing just that, ever since.

I first moved to eastern Sussex County, in 1986, for a job at WGMD radio. In 1989 I began a career with state government that has included working as a public information officer, a business research director, a data coordinator, Governor's Liaison to the Census Bureau for the 2000 and 2010 Census counts, and (most recently) as Acting Director of the Delaware Government Information Center. I have worked at DNREC, DEDO, the Office of State Planning Coordination and the Department of State.

As a by-product of the jobs I've held, and because of the intimate size of the state of Delaware, I've worked closely with the leaders of many of the major state agencies that interact with Lewes.  My jobs have brought me into close contact with many legislative leaders and our last four governors (and probably some of the next few, if my guesses are correct). I can offer a comprehensive knowledge of how Delaware works, at the municipal, county and state levels.

You are reading this (shameless) autobiographical sketch on a blog I started in 2004 as a place to exercise my writing muscles. I haven't regularly updated this site for several years. My writing and photographic urges have shifted to facebook, twitter, flickr and instagram. But there's record here of what I was thinking here that you may find useful.

Many of my posts have been about Lewes.  I've done no pruning, so you'll find a representative slice of what I was thinking at various times.

And I hope you will consider voting for me.