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Editorial | For Bucks Commissioner, Democratic Primary

Two who favor smart growth

The Democratic Party is resurgent in Bucks County, giving hope to the faithful that it could win control of the three-member county commission for the first time since the mid-1980s.

Voters in the May 15 Democratic primary will choose two nominees among four well-qualified candidates.

The Inquirer endorses the team of Diane Marseglia, a Middletown Township supervisor, and Steve Santarsiero, a Lower Makefield Township supervisor.

Marseglia, 46, is a school social worker employed by the Bucks County Intermediate Unit and a part-time instructor in criminal justice at the College of New Jersey.

She believes the county needs to be more assertive in limiting development, and also is pushing for more openness in county government, including televised commissioners' meetings.

In light of the county's plans to build a new $100-million-plus courthouse in Doylestown, Marseglia wants to explore moving some courtrooms to locations in the northern and southern portions of the county for easier access.

Having served in the minority on the local level, Marseglia understands that this role calls for speaking out at times to keep the majority from becoming complacent. That's an attitude lacking sometimes at Bucks commission meetings.

A former environmental lawyer, Santarsiero now teaches social studies at Bensalem High School. He's the first-ever Democratic chairman of the Lower Makefield supervisors, and has used his environmental background effectively on smart-growth and flood-control issues in the township.

Santarsiero, 42, wants the county to consider purchasing "blue space" to limit development in flood-prone areas. He believes overdevelopment in the county is the leading cause of property-tax increases. "We do have the power to control these problems," said Santarsiero.

The winners in November will oversee an annual budget that has grown to about $448 million to serve the county's 620,000 residents.

Incumbent Commissioner Sandra Miller, 62, of Lower Makefield, has been on the board 16 years, paying special attention to social services, tourism and historical preservation.

While she is a serious public servant, Miller too often acquiesces to the GOP majority on the commission. She says she is simply judicious about picking her battles. The county Democratic Party apparently disagreed with Miller, declining to endorse the incumbent.

Andy Warren, 64, of Middletown Township, is a former Republican who's still trying to convince people he embraces his new party. He has experience, serving four terms as a commissioner ably in the 1980s and '90s. But he isn't offering much of a vision for how he would lead now.