Week in Review

Freak Storm
A freak storm wreaked havoc along the East Coast this week. Atlantic City Electric reports that most power will be restored by July 6. Until, the outages disrupt family plans and create uncomfortable living conditions as we simultaneously see a heat wave coupled with extreme humidity. There is, it appears, no rest for the weary. Emergency services in Millville an Vineland seemed to have coped with the situation admirably, from what I have witnessed.

Holly Ridge
The Freeholders unanimously (sans Tony Surace) approved a resolution calling for the Planning board to include Holly Ridge into the county sewer plan. Surace displayed  amazing integrity by abstaining from this vote. Why amazing? Democrat Freeholders have rarely ever abstained from a vote due to conflicts of interest unless those abstentions served them politically while ensuring their resolution passed. Surace is an employee of Salmon Ventures, Ltd., a shadowy organization that advocates political policy behind the scenes.

While personally I am opposed to the Holly Ridge project for several reasons – as are many reasonable people as well as unreasonable activists – I believe the Freeholders made the correct vote in this case.  Their vote is not mandating the clear-cutting of protected wilderness, or even advocating for the big evil developer. Thei vote was simply to ensure fairness to a business that has to date invested a lot of money into a project, and current rules say the project is legal and passes environmental muster.

In fairness, the developer must be allowed to see the process through. And, those that have valid opposition to this project also have the opportunity to organize and voice their concerns.

My concerns are manifold. The ratables chase is a fraud. Adding residential units in the hopes of increased ratables is a pipe dream – in the end the cost of providing services increases exponentially beyond any increased ratable income.  Schools are stressed with more children – and this is a ratable game that cannot be won. It costs approximately $14,000 per year to educate a child. This number is the last I heard, and may be differently today, but it is ballpark. We know that no matter how nice the houses that are built, we will not be receiving $14,000 a year in property tax payments.

If the units are taxed at the average rate in Millville, we can imagine what – $6,000 a year in property tax income? $6,000 a year is unconscionable and insane. And the city sees a loss of $8,000 a year towards education alone assuming one child per household, for twelve years. This money has to be subsidized by other property owners.

Okay – the proponents of this project will quickly point out that it is a senior-only housing project. Until when? Until a New jersey court rules senior-only housing projects unconstitutional? Until the Millville Planning Board makes an unwise decision and opens the project up to anybody – this happened with the other 0ver-55 project on the Maurice River.

Which brings e to another point. Something like 25% of the houses in Center City Millville and the Third Ward are vacant. Housing values have plummeted. There is no demand for new housing – the Maurice River Project (what a wildly successful venture that has been, so far) has still not seen a tradesman on premises despite the Planning Board allowing them to sell to anyone. We do not need new residential units in this city.

I am sure that I will get feedback both pro and con about this one. The important issue is fairness to all parties to see the process through, and hopefully common sense will reign. It has happened before in Cumberland County, once or twice.

Cumberland County Clown  hosts Triad
Our idiot Sheriff Bob Austino hosted the quarterly meeting of Triad, whatever that is. I am sure their objectives are admirable, but they lost any credibility by allowing a liar to host their program. You have to remember that Austino claimed that nobody deserved to earn more than $75,000 a year – and recently stabbed every taxpayer in the back by demanding $102,000 a year. The Democrat Freeholders all applauded him by remaining silent. Republicans displayed a decided lack of backbone by also remaining mute. At the very least, the incompetent sheriff should have received a vote of no confidence by all parties. They had no problem doing that for Gordon Dahl, despite the fact that he is not even a county person.

Shuttle Service Shuffle
The county recently leased an empty parcel of land for five months for courthouse parking. This was an aside in one of the local newspapers, but deserved more attention. The courthouse parking lot is inaccessible due to construction of a parking garage – but business must go on. The city hired a bus service to ferry courthouse employees and jurors from a distant county owned lot at a cost of $7,600 per month. This deal in acquiring use of a lot down the block from the courthouse for $3,200 a month is a significant savings for this one line item. Kudos.  Now if they can apply the same logic to every other line item in the budget, looking for similar cost-cutting measures we might actually see substantial savings across the board. I doubt anyone of the current Freeholders has the stamina for such an undertaking. Unfortunate.

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One Response to Week in Review

  1. Calhoun says:

    Yeah, that sure was a freak storm. I have still not finished raking up all the Tom Thumbs, Pinheads, Joe-Joe the Dog-Faced Boys, Bearded Ladys, Half-Man-Half-Womans, Living Torsos, Pop-Eyed Perrys, etc. that rained down in my yard. (May catch hell for that one.)

    Re the Holly Ridge vote. There’s one thing I don’t get. Some of the same development interests are also heavily pursuing an over-55 development in Upper Deerfield, and I believe another development in Vineland. As Carl points out, why the push for such massive new home building effort in the county (not limited to this Millville proposal) in the County? It doesn’t make sense. Even if you buy the most cynical position — and I do — which is that many elected leaders simply pay lip service to our inner cities and are willing to see them die in exchange for new development in the outskirts of town, is there still a market for this housing even when you write off trying to fill the houses in the inner cities (with anything other than Section Eight)? I don’t think so. Something else is at work here that we have yet to figure out. The fact that Salmon is (and always has been) pushing this one is enough for me to oppose it. No one has cashed in more on his public service than Salmon and this shows that even as it moves toward 70 he is not done. Also Kirstein is somewhat close to Salmon, the two working together on the Bridgeton stadium project, Kirstein getting his picture occasionally in SVL’s newsletters. Other Rs having also kissed Salmon’s ring, including Porreca who was associated with SVL at one time.

    Carl, I wouldn’t be so quick to heap praise on Surace for abstaining. He made sure to endorse this project during the work session, so his abstention the following week was a bit after the fact.

    There is also something I don’t understand: what is the policy for elected officials in NJ when they are faced with a conflict of interest?

    In Millville, when Quinn is conflicted he can’t just abstain, but rather has to recuse himself (i.e., he leaves the chambers and does not take part in the discussioon or vote). I find this overkill, as it is disruptive to the meeting — one of the voting elected officials having to leave and then possibly come back for later parts of the meeting.

    Yet, when Freeholder Surace is conflicted, he can still partake in the discussion during the work session, give it a two thumbs up and then just avoid voting during the formal roll call vote when the deed is already done.Whereas, the treatment of Quinn is overkill, to me, Surace is allowed to do too much.

    A more reasonable approach would be to allow those conflicted to remain present but to also be silent during the discusions (inlcuding work sessions) and refrain from voting. In any case, the inconsistent approaches seem odd and not readily explainable by the fact that one is county and one is local, since the laws on these matters are state ones.

    As for Triad. Is this the same Triad run by Zumpino who is close to Salmon? It is indeed most curious how Whelan and the Ds let Austino off Scot free when he flip-flopped, yet went ballistic on Rainear when he did the same thing. Whelan was all over Rainear yet has said nothing about Austino. This is very curious. Maybe it has to do with the fact that he was not facing re-election when Austino did his dirty deed. Of course, it is even more pathetic that the Rs let all the Ds off the hook with regards to their blatant hypocrisy.

    Re the shuttle service for the County Courthouse, I don’t know why the county has to do anything, be it a shuttle service or parking lot rental. Last year I had jury duty. Every day I drove to Bridgeton and parked on the east side of the Cohansey River, where public parking was easy to find. I would then walk (all 601 lbs. of me) over the river and up the hill to the courthouse for the day. It would take me maybe ten minutes tops (including a stop at Weber’s — before it closed — to fill up on dark chocolate peanut clusters). People need to get off their fat backsides and walk to where they need to go. No excuses. I am sick and tired of seeing one parking space after another be annexed by a Handicap Parking sign, the space only to be used by some overweight person (or self-important state legislator!) who ambles into the Wawa to buy a box of Tastykakes. Handicap Parking spaces and TastyKakes (and other junk food)– a vicious cycle that needs to be broken.

    This country is being taken over — one stall at a time — by handicap parking spaces. Can you imagine the outcry if these spaces had a sign with a French flag on them, the space reserved for French nationals. There would be a national outcry. The National Guard would be called out to protect us from this invasion. But yet one space after another is reserved for the handicap and nothing is said. In a decade or so, if I have yet to secure a handicap sticker, I fully expect to be parking miles away from my home, all the other nearby spaces being handicapped spaces. (May catch hell for that one too.)

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