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Vancil, Renna square off up north
The incumbent and challenger clash over credentials, ongoing ordinance debates.
Incumbent councilwoman Debbie Vancil and challenger Frank Renna sharply disagree.
But its not over the issues.
I agree with everything my opponent says about whats important, said Vancil, who is hoping for a second four-year term representing the North Ward. The distinction is that Ive had 26 years of civic experience on this island. (Renna) hasnt had that opportunity yet. Hes been in New Jersey.
Renna, who moved to the island seven years ago, believes he has a strong handle on what residents value most: managing growth, protecting the environment and maintaining the islands quality of life.
While he knows Vancil has also put these issues at the forefront of her campaign, Renna believes hes more qualified to carry them out.
Theres a lot of disharmony on the City Council right now, and it needs my leadership to get on the right track, the retired general manager of a Newark, N.J. electric and gas company said. I have a lot of experience developing long-range plans to meet rapid growth while protecting the environment and addressing the divergent concerns of business, the neighborhoods and the unions.
Renna blames council discord on the prolonged update of the citys Critical Areas Ordinance, which protects wetlands, streams and other environmentally sensitive areas.
Look at the Critical Areas Ordinance, which has fallen into a quagmire and and is a process thats broken down, he said. A couple of selfish interests have sabotaged the ordinance with proposed measures that would allow greater development density near wetlands and compensate landowners for protecting fragile pieces of our environment.
While not specifically faulting Vancil, Renna said he is better suited to develop win-win situations between divergent parties and speed the ordinances implementation.
Vancil disagrees with Rennas characterization of the ordinances 14-month update process.
Unfortunately, it has become the tar-baby of issues during the campaign, she said. The CAO affects every parcel on the island. So why wouldnt we want to take a little extra time to do the best we could?
She said criticisms of the update lack credibility and are a distortion of the facts, while saying that the finished CAO will be an excellent document that truly protects critical areas.
Both candidates also expressed strong support for the citys Comprehensive Plan, which sets guidelines for growth, but again disagreed over who can best manifest its values.
The Comprehensive Plan is an essential ingredient, Renna said, in protecting the island from further developments like Island Crossing on High School Road, which he said is aesthetically and proportionally out-of-sync with the islands values.
Vancil has stationed the Comprehensive Plan at the forefront of her campaign.
Lets pull it all into action is the slogan of my campaign, she said. Theres a lot of talk about how we need to manage growth.
Well, now we have a plan. We dont want to be Anywhere USA. We have our own values and our own vision for the future expressed in the plan.
Vancil said nobody on the council knows the plan as well as she does. She spent seven years on the Planning Commission and four years on the council developing the plan.
I helped craft all parts of it, she said. I understand where things link together and why parts were created.
But Renna believes the council will need his negotiating skills to successfully navigate the plan and many tenets of the Winslow Tomorrow project past diverging interests.
We need more harmonious collaboration on the council, he said. Without it, theres a good chance the plan and Winslow Tomorrow wont look anything like the way we want it to.
Vancil isnt so sure Rennas motives for running are fully vested in the communitys interest.
She points to Rennas quick withdrawal from the race after he learned advertising professional Jeannie McMacken had entered, necessitating a primary election.
Renna re-entered the race shortly after learning he had come in second in the race and could advance to Novembers general election.
Hes not very consistent, she said. Most people, when they run, are running because theyre committed to a set of values. But he changed his mind. And then he changed his mind again. Maybe its more about winning for him.
Renna said he initially withdrew because he planned to spend much of the primary season in New Jersey and would not be able to run an effective campaign leading up to the September election.
He said he honestly withdrew and was surprised that he advanced. Counter to Vancils assessment of his motives, Renna insists he is driven by a desire to improve the council and manage growth.
I think running is benefiting the island and is well worth it, he said. Its clear were getting the issues out there and, even if I dont win, if it leads to more harmonious leadership on the council, it will be good for the town.