NJ must stop confiscating SS benefits of kids in foster care, Sea Isle grandmother says
My 35-year-old son died in May 2022. As a result, his 10-year-old son became eligible for Social Security survivor benefits. His mom was named payee and the monthly check helps support my grandson’s needs. That was so until late February when an incident led to the NJ Division of Child Protection and Permanency removing my grandson and placing him in my home as a “kinship placement.” Fortunately, his mom worked very hard at her reunification requirements and they were reunited in June.
During that brief kinship placement, unknown to me or his mom, the New Jersey applied for Representative Payee of his survivor benefits. The state collected three months of my grandson’s benefits – more than $2,100 – without any notification to my grandson, his mom, or me. About a month after removal, my grandson’s mom received a notice from SSA that she could no longer be payee and she should nominate a replacement. She asked me and I immediately went to the Social Security office to apply. That’s when we found out New Jersey was already collecting his benefit.
This confiscation resulted in my grandson paying 78% of his own foster care kinship cost. Essentially, my grandson was forced without his approval or family knowledge to pay for the large majority of New Jersey’s federally required support for his care.
It was shocking to realize that the state had surreptitiously taken my grandson’s benefit. As I researched the situation, I found out the following:
- Thirty-six states are grabbing federal benefit funds to substitute for state funds. This practice started in New Jersey in 2013. Although not currently illegal, it is being done without transparency or due process. We never received any notification that the State applied for payee. We have no information as to how these funds were utilized for my grandson’s benefit. He did not receive any additional services or support than usual. In 2018 alone, $3.27 million was reported taken from New Jersey foster children. Of that amount, 47% came from foster children’s Supplemental Security Income disability benefits, and 53% came from foster children’s Social Security and Veteran survivor’s benefits. (NJ takes funds from foster care kids).
- The Social Security Administration has a preferred ranking for representative payee with grandparents (like me) ranked after parents, and the State or other organizations ranked after family members. (SSA Chart of Preference). There was no outreach done by the State to see if anyone in our family could be payee even though my grandson was placed with me the same day he was removed from his home.
- This is a state issue being addressed in other states, but not yet in New Jersey. Many other states have already stopped this practice but New Jersey continues this money grab. (States stopping SS grab).
- Foster care children are damaged by this practice. There are recent case studies documenting the damage done to foster care children who are eligible for federal benefits in states which confiscat them. I cringe to think of how my grandson could have been financially damaged if he remained in foster care longer or until he aged out. When calculated until age 18, nearly $70,0000 might have been rerouted into New Jersey’s general fund. This practice is the epitome of penny-wise and pound foolish since data on those who age out of foster care documents that so many wind up on social service rolls and in poverty.
- This practice is discriminatory. About 5-10% of foster care children are eligible for federal benefits. These children are “paying for their foster care” while 90-95% of foster care children are not.
The bottom line is New Jersey’s practice of confiscating the federal benefits of children in foster care is fiscally irresponsible, discriminatory and puts our most at-risk and traumatized children in a further damaging situation. New Jersey’s legislature needs to act now to stop this practice.
Dr. Patricia A. Gentile
Sea Isle City
(Dr. Gentile is a retired community college president who adopted two brothers from the New Jersey DYFS in 1995, one of whom died on May 20, 2022, at the age of 35. She is a longtime advocate for women and children and has volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate.)
Polistina calls for end of hyper-partisan rhetoric on wind energy
Earlier this month, the Democratic state Senate repsident and Democratic speaker of the state Assembly released a joint statement echoing our calls for a pause on offshore wind development until more research could be done.
Their statements read, in part: “There are still many unanswered questions about the economic impact these projects will have on ratepayers as well as potential impacts to one of our state’s largest economic drivers, tourism at the shore.”
A reasonable and rational statement one would expect from their elected officials. In doing so, the Democratic legislative leaders joined non-partisan, concerned citizens groups like Clean Ocean Action, Defend Brigantine Beach, Save LBI and others, who have called for a pause in the project. For the record, I released my own statement urging Gov. Phil Murphy to suspend the project all the way back in February – calling for a moratorium until scientists could be ascertain what was causing the unusual number of whale and dolphin deaths plaguing our region.
Shortly after I released my statement, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conceded that New Jersey’s offshore wind farm development “is likely to adversely affect” whales and other marine mammals, while stopping short of solely blaming it for the deaths – copping to something many of us had long-since concluded based on the tragic scenes we had witnessed throughout the late winter and early spring.
So, while people across the political spectrum and across New Jersey are all coming to the same conclusion – that a pause for more scientific review is warranted – there has been one outlier – Atlantic County Commissioner and recently announced state Senate candidate Caren Fitzpatrick.
Commissioner Fitzpatrick not only wants the state to move full-steam ahead with construction of these massive, three-football-field-high, offshore wind turbines, but she doubled-down in a recent radio interview, stating that she would have voted to approve a billion-dollar bailout for Ørsted, the foreign corporation behind the project.
For those who haven’t followed it, that billion dollars was supposed to reimburse ratepayers – like you – to offset rising utility costs. Yet, when Ørsted threatened to abandon their offshore wind project unless they got the bailout, a majority of Trenton politicians buckled. I voted against it, as did Assemblyman Don Guardian and Assemblywoman Claire Swift. A week after that bailout, Ørsted announced that their first quarter operating profit was $1.02 billion.
Then, as if siding with a foreign corporation over Atlantic County’s working families and retirees wasn’t enough, Commissioner Fitzpatrick penned a recent op-ed in The Press of Atlantic City attacking concerned grassroots citizen and environmental groups as tools of “big oil” – insulting the thousands of men and women across the political spectrum who have organized and rallied against offshore wind turbines due to economic and environmental concerns.
Commissioner Fitzpatrick alleged – without proof – that these well-intentioned, passionate citizens in Atlantic County and elsewhere were “shadow groups” doing the bidding of others to stop offshore wind. Furthermore, she slammed the local citizen groups as supporters of “extreme right politicians” – even though countless members of these groups are, in fact, lifelong Democrats and committed liberals.
Frankly, Commissioner Fitzpatrick’s reckless and over-the-top attacks, which one could argue are defamatory, are at minimum offensive coming from an elected official who currently represents our county and is now running against me to represent us in the state Senate.
Unfortunately, hyper-partisan rhetoric and a penchant for letting her far-left ideology get in the way of bipartisan, commonsense dialogue is par-for-the-course with Commissioner Fitzpatrick.
I think we need less of that in Trenton.
NJ Sen. Vince Polistina
Egg Harbor Township
Levinson touts prosecutor’s success
Democrats, Republicans and Independents have continually referred to Atlantic County as the finest run county in the state, and now the county is being recognized as the toughest on crime with a 48.9% detention rate, more than twice the 18.1% statewide average, Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said in a release.
Levinson credits the extraordinary work of Atlantic County Prosecutor William Reynolds and his team who have made it a priority to get criminals off the streets and behind bars.
“Finally, we have a prosecutor who gets it,” Levinson said. “For years I have asked for stricter enforcement of our laws. Prosecutor Reynolds is doing just that and realizing significant results with the highest detention rate in the state. He understands that without enforcement our laws are ineffective.”
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, nearly 500 defendants are currently detained pending trial with the county justice facility nearly filled to capacity, Levinson said.
“I am pleased to see that protecting the safety of our residents and the communities in which they live, work and recreate is a top priority of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office,” he said. “I applaud their commitment and ongoing efforts.”
Longport mayor on offshore wind, whale deaths
Is there a nexus or connection between the deaths of whales and the early stages of the offshore windmill project?
From the conclusions that I have read from our governmental agencies the answer is clearly “no.” Gleaned from the research and academic data that I have read, there appears to be absolutely no connection. So, what causes whales to die?
There are several main reasons, and these include disease, infections from open wounds, ship strikes, entanglements from fishing nets and ingestion of waste products generated by humans. There is a movement afoot that is attempting to create a nexus or connection between the deaths of whales and the initial phase of building windmills as a clean energy source. I cannot support this conclusion until our marine experts substantiate that theory.
The death of whales phenomenon to the ocean windmill project is a very dangerous analogy and precedent. Drawing a connection or blaming an outcome on an event, or series of events, when there is absolutely no evidence, academic documentation, peer reviewed studies, or unbiased conclusions is acutely dangerous. Our state and federal agencies can proffer no connection and neither can third party expertise such as the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
What if law enforcement agencies did this? Could you imagine having a loved one suspected of a crime solely from Facebook postings? One would ask, where is the unbiased evidence, the sworn testimony or the academic facts or science behind the allegations? From all the information that I have gleaned, individuals are accepting an emotional series of events, i.e. whales dying, and trying to show a nexus with a form of alternative energy that they obviously oppose.
If individuals oppose alternative energy such as solar, electric batteries, wind turbines and hydroelectric power, just come out say it. If you support coal and gasoline and the continued use of fossil fuels just say it. If you don’t believe there is climate change and global warming just say it.
The whale situation has certainly taken a life of its own mainly from social media. We are living in an age where people can post their opinions and right, wrong, or indifferent, once that posting is made, the proverbial “genie is out of the bottle” and it is impossible to get it back inside. There is an obvious inherent danger here.
Who doesn’t remember the plumes of black smoke gushing from the coal at the Beasley Point power station? Who hasn’t read or saw the results of the powerful storms in the western United States? Who hasn’t seen the results of the Ohio train car derailment involving tanker cars carrying petroleum related chemicals? How about the mid-March deaths of millions of fish in Australia due to warming of the waters, or the red algae in Florida, or deaths of the 29 manatees in Florida, or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch cleanup? This Garbage Patch is affecting over 1 million seabirds and up to 100,000 marine mammals. And this was absolutely created by humans.
What we do know is that there is a climate change. We are making a slow progress, and I am optimistic since the March 5, 2023 United Nations agreement on protecting marine biodiversity in International Waters was adopted. These talks lasted almost 20 years, and this is the first agreement since 1981 to protect specific ocean areas. Currently 1.2% is protected, and by 2030, to attempt to protect almost 30% of the lands, inland waterways, marine areas and coastal areas should become a realization.
We can’t keep doing the same things and hoping for a different result. Let’s support alternative energy sources to replace our reliance on traditional fossil fuels and not get distracted by a whale dying phenomenon that is not even remotely connected to the offshore wind projects. My intention is to not try and change anyone’s mind. Practically speaking, that will be impossible. I just want to be clear regarding my position.
Nicholas Russo, Ed.D.
Mayor, Borough of Longport
Levinson to State: Enough is enough, stop our taxpayers’ suffering
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson is proud of his employees. So when union members recently attended a county commissioners’ meeting to complain about having difficulties making ends meet, he grew more frustrated with the State of New Jersey for the harm it is inflicting on county taxpayers by refusing to honor its Pilot payment obligations.
“The majority of our county employees are Atlantic County taxpayers who are currently owed nearly $10 million in PILOT payments from the state. The state continues to appeal the rulings by two Superior Court judges that it must honor the Consent Order for Settlement. By doing so, it is hindering the county’s ability to provide the same level of programs to help seniors and those in need in addition to the ability to negotiate better wages for the county employees,” Levinson stated. “It’s time for the state to stop turning its back on Atlantic County taxpayers. The governor represents all state residents and should do the right thing. It is unconscionable what has been allowed to occur.”
Since 2017, Atlantic County has had to fight to receive its fair share of the property taxes paid by the casinos. At least half a dozen times, the state’s own Superior Court judges have ruled against the state and in favor of the county. Yet the state persists in holding back the money it owes by filing appeal after appeal and using taxpayer money to do so.
“How many times does the state have to lose its case in court before it honors its obligations,” questioned Levinson. “And why did the state pay outside counsel when it has its own staff of 1,000 or more attorneys? How much are we all paying for that?”
According to Levinson, the county has been working to raise starting salaries and provide increases to help keep up with the rapidly increasing cost of living. The county is currently involved in negotiations with some of the 23 bargaining units. In addition to their salaries, which average $56,000 for union members as well as management employees, county employees receive a benefits package valued at $36,000 for a family of four of which they contribute a graduated percentage based on their salary. Benefits include paid holidays, sick time, health benefits and a pension.
The county executive acknowledged that the highest inflation in 40 years and the unprecedented increase in state health benefits makes it increasingly challenging for many county employees to keep up. In 2023 county employees will experience a 24% rate increase in state health benefits while state union employees will see only a 3% increase for the same benefits.
“Why should county employees have to be subjected to an increase eight times larger than their state counterparts?
“My job is to look out for the best interests of all county residents which includes our county workforce,” explained Levinson. “That is why I have fought so hard for what is rightfully ours. It is the State of New Jersey that has shown a lack of concern by refusing to speak with us let alone negotiate. Aren’t Atlantic County residents also state residents? Why should we be the only county in the state to bear this burden when all 21 counties benefit from casinos?”
Levinson noted that the 2021 Pilot amendment was promoted as being needed to prevent four casinos from closing and to help all nine casinos recover from the pandemic.
“We now know that was not true, but even if it were, what about all the other businesses that needed help? What was the state willing to do for them? How many businesses closed and never reopened? How many of those employees ended up on the bread lines? No other industry benefited from legislation written specifically for them, if not by them.”
“The Pilot Amendment was the first bill in the history of the New Jersey Legislature to have its own sponsor remove his name and vote against it,” he added. “That certainly has to make you wonder about its merits.”
Levinson concluded by saying he understands his employees’ frustration with having little left after paying rent and bills. What he can’t understand and finds perplexing is why one county commissioner said she was “astounded and embarrassed” to learn of these salaries when she is a member of the commissioners’ budget task force and has been for several years.
“Our employees work hard and deserve better. Enough is enough,” he exclaimed. “Given the state’s $10 billion budget surplus, it’s time to pay Atlantic County what it is owed and prevent any further suffering among the taxpayers and dedicated public employees who help keep the state and county running.
Don’t delay progress toward a safer planet
We’re on the verge of a new clean, renewable energy industry that will generate thousands of union jobs and training, create prosperity for our environmental injustice communities, improve our health, and help protect our coastlines — including our whales. It’s time to invigorate our support for offshore wind and the environmental justice communities that will have jobs because of it, not get sidetracked by falsehoods.
I understand how upset the people of the shore communities are. I am one of them. It’s crushing to see a whale washed ashore. Yet, tragically, it’s not unusual. Similar beachings have been documented by scientists since 2016. The difference this time is that they have brewed a tempest of false information. The ensuing over-sensationalized social media storm and accompanying headlines irrationally, and without any evidence, blamed their deaths on the development of wind turbines off the coast — despite there being no evidence.
NJ businesses, community groups, labor unions, and environmental groups all want to see offshore wind developed equitably and responsibly. Rumors blaming offshore wind survey ships as the cause of their deaths have been put to rest by NOAA and BOEM.
The best way to help whales flourish is for humans to stop using fossil fuels that fuel global warming and endanger the whales’ habitat and food source. Offshore wind powers clean energy that will diminish our dependency on fossil fuels, and help stop ocean temperature rise.
Atlantic City sees flooding all year from sea level rise. High tides are cruel. Our children are forced to stay home from school for “flood days.” Combating the climate crisis head on with offshore wind clean energy developments will give our families hope, jobs and security.
Whales are majestic beings who represent our future living in harmony with nature. Offshore wind is a big part of that future balance — a future where our children have the right to a healthy life free of pollution that causes asthma and other chronic ailments.
We should question the validity of intrusive oil company operations that add to the climate crisis, not demonize clean renewable offshore wind.
The whales’ primary feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine have been warming faster than nearly any other body of water on earth. Since 2010, water temperatures have been above average 92% of the time, and have led to dramatic declines in the whales’ main source of food. In search of nourishment, they have been migrating north into fishing and shipping areas. Since 2016, out of the 178 whale deaths 40% were because whales were struck by ships. That’s what officials say happened to many of the whales this winter.
Federal regulations include stringent requirements for vessels conducting offshore wind activities that are designed to look for marine mammals. An observer must be aboard during daylight hours and two at night using night vision equipment. Additionally, the offshore wind surveying equipment is smaller, and quieter than the intrusive, noisy, environmental damaging equipment used by oil and gas exploitation.
Yet the oil industry has drilled, polluted and has been responsible for major spills endangering and killing mammals, including whales. According to BOEM, oil and gas companies regularly use high impact seismic surveys to map the ocean floor causing blasts so loud and disruptive to the sea bead the results have been similar to the explosions of munitions left over from the early 20th century.
I’m responsible for the health and safety of the people I represent. The climate crisis is a clear and present danger which we must take aggressive action to mitigate. I’m proud to have signed a letter of support for offshore with over 115 New Jersey elected officials from across the state.
The threats of fossil fuel exploration, increased shipping, and the danger that thousands of oil platforms present need to be exposed, not rumors generated by fossil fuel interest from out-of-state that are funding shadow organizations to delay New Jersey’s transition to clean renewable energy.
And fourth quarter reports for the top five oil giants show a combined profit of nearly $200 billion.
Offshore wind is critically important to meet the state’s economic development, public health, and environmental justice goals. It has already set the state economy on a higher growth trajectory by driving workforce development, economic prosperity and job creation.
New Jersey’s goal of 11 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2040 is exciting. We can’t let out of state interests delay our progress towards a safer planet for all. Please, stand with offshore wind development for our children’s future.
Atlantic County Commissioner
Richard Deaney pens letter to Margate employees
Fellow Margate Employees:
I wondered how to address this message and my first thought was “Fellow cast members.” I guess I thought of this because in a way we together have created this production for the past 11 years. It could be a documentary, one which would be familiar to us, but only familiar in a final version to others because there is much that has happened through planning, writing, rescripting, and editing along the way. We should be pleased with the story in whatever form it is told.
We have helped Margate in this decade of its history by preserving the small-town values it has become known for and by providing superior services in a cost-effective manner. We have been financially responsible as measured by level tax rates and outstanding bond ratings. We have looked after the environment by respecting our sources of drinking water and the infrastructure that gets it to our homes, and by respecting the sea and its power to enhance our way of life and the power to cause harm through storm surge and flooding.
Most of all, we have learned to respect ourselves and our self-worth and in turn to respect others, our fellow workers, our neighbors within the community and our visitors who come occasionally to enjoy our special piece of the planet. We are truly a team; a team of diverse individuals with diverse skills who have come together to provide an enhanced way of life for so many.
This is my last “City Manager” position after serving 52 years since February 1971 as a full-time city manager/administrator in three municipalities over 35 years (Newton, Medford, and Ocean City) as well as part-time administrator in four municipalities over 17 years (Sea Isle City, North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Margate.
I am fortunate to be able to continue to assist Margate in a limited special project consulting capacity for the remainder of the year, with an emphasis on developing a longer-range capital project and financing plan.
I thank the Board of Commissioners and all of you for the opportunity to have been on board for this documentary and mostly for being part of the journey that took us to this point. Continue to wear the mantle of pride in your life’s work as you press forward with new visions for Margate but always with the historic values that got us to this place in its history.
By THOMAS DELLANE, President New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police
New Jersey is experiencing a rash of car thefts not experienced since the 1980s, when vehicles were easily hotwired and sent off to chop shops for cash windfalls.
Today, with the enormous advancement in anti-theft technology, including keyless ignition and engine immobilizers, one would assume that it would be near impossible to steal a car these days. Yet we are facing this enormous, and unexpected, spike in crime.
And why? In many cases, motorists are mindlessly dropping their key fob in the cupholder or the glove compartment, or leave their cars running untended while they do errands. Some cars can even be started if the key is just nearby.
The New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police (NJSACOP) asks motorists to be more vigilant in safeguarding their vehicles from theft. Our message is remarkably simple, but important: please lock your doors and take your key fob with you. But, sadly, we are still seeing that more than 14,300 vehicles have been stolen in New Jersey through November 2022 – an increase of 9% from last year and a jump of 41% from 2020, when there was a record low.
The trend is not just in our state. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) Hot Spots Report, vehicle theft continues to skyrocket in many areas of the United States. Nationwide, 932,329 vehicles were reported stolen to law enforcement in 2021, a 6% increase over 2020 and a 17% increase since 2019.
Police departments – especially smaller ones – have become overwhelmed with car theft cases. It is an enormous burden for local detectives, especially because most of the cases involve joy rides in which the vehicle remain intact. We shouldn’t expect police to be consumed by this trend; it diverts manpower from protecting the public from more significant crime.
With input from the NJSACOP, there has been a growing movement in New Jersey to protect vehicles. For example, various law enforcement agencies are sharing more information than ever. The attorney general has relaxed rules for police chases, allowing us more latitude to seek and apprehend car thieves. New Jersey has also invested in license plate readers, giving patrol officers an advantage in discovering stolen cars.
But, despite so much momentum and focus, the NJSACOP believes there needs to be tighter penalties for people who steal cars. That is why our organization is voicing support for proposed legislation in Trenton that would create further deterrents.
Five bills are now working through the state Legislature with NJSACOP’s strong support.
One bill, A2210/S249, requires scrap metal businesses to keep information about any seller of catalytic converters not connected to a vehicle, while another, A4930/S3390, stiffens penalties for suspects who illegally use a vehicle’s master key.
Two other bills should also be signed: One, A4931/S3389, establishes car thievery and receiving a stolen car as their own offenses, while extending sentences for repeat offenders. The other, A3666/S2283 increases fines and suspensions for carjacking and car theft.
There is also S3006/A4595, which increases penalties for repeat convictions of certain motor vehicle related crimes and increases penalties for leaders of auto theft rings.
While we hope that state lawmakers will act swiftly on these bills, as well as other legislation that is designed to fairly curb car theft, we cannot rely solely on Trenton to fix the problem.
Local police departments must continue to spread the message about ways in which people can protect their cars, such as parking in well-lit areas, closing the windows, not leaving an idling car unattended and, of course, not leaving the key fob in the cup holder.
New Jerseyans should also play an active role, keeping a closer eye on the neighborhood and promptly sharing information in social media groups. For areas with high rates of car theft, we’ve seen community members form citizen watch groups, posting photos of suspicious vehicles with out-of-state tags and coordinating local meetings with law enforcement.
On May 4, New Jersey became the ninth state to ban certain single use plastic items. Although New Jersey is not the first, the ban is unique in that it is the most restrictive – prohibiting single use plastic carryout bags, polystyrene foam foodservice products, and limiting plastic straws to “by request only.” The law will also ban paper bags at large grocery stores. Food banks and pantries will be given a six month extension along with some state funding to transition away from single use plastic bags. The law is part of a larger effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the state.
According to estimates, 100 billion single use plastic carryout bags and 25 billion styrofoam coffee cups are discarded each year in the United States. New Jerseyans alone use 4.4 billion plastic bags each year, most of which are only used for an average of 12 minutes. Plastic bags become litter, which can lead to clogged storm drains, costing municipalities thousands of dollars in cleanup costs. Perhaps even worse is the cost to human health when plastic is sent to landfills or burned by the ton in incinerators, releasing harmful chemicals into the air. The ban is expected to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the state by millions of pounds each year helping to mitigate its harmful impacts on people and the environment.
Plastic pollution is a global problem. Plastic harms the environment and people throughout its entire life cycle: from the extraction of fossil fuels that takes place in Environmental Justice communities within the U.S. and throughout the world, through the production process in “ethane crackers” happening in chemical corridors, all the way to disposal.
At this end stage, when plastic is not entering our waterways it is being landfilled or incinerated, harming nearby communities who are more often than not Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), immigrant, low-income, and working class. In New Jersey, the three largest operating incinerators are located in Newark, Camden and Rahway. Incinerators not only burn plastics but all other waste that is not recycled or composted, which emits toxins into the air. These communities bear the weight of the waste produced by our consumerism. Collectively, we can support environmental justice communities in New Jersey and throughout the nation in their efforts to enact policies to reduce pollution, and avoid false solutions to the plastic pollution crisis.
New Jersey’s bag ban is also good news for ocean conservation. An estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the ocean each year. Every sea turtle in the Pacific Garbage Patch has plastic in its stomach, as do 90% of examined seabirds. The annual 2020 BeachSweeps discovered that plastic and other foam plastic items made up 79.2% of all litter collected. Plastic pieces, plastic caps, and food candy wrappers/bags were the most frequently found debris. A recent study also showed that the Delaware River may be the worst in the nation in terms of carrying plastic debris to the ocean.
Unfortunately, single-use disposable plastic has become a part of our daily lives and it isn’t always up to the consumer. Cheap single use plastic production driven by fossil fuel extraction ends up causing plastic products to be the most economically feasible and convenient option for businesses and consumers, even when they might prefer more environmentally friendly options.
New Jersey’s ban is a step in the right direction, but there’s more we can do to protect our communities, our neighbors, and the environment from plastic pollution. This is a collective and collaborative effort, and there are a variety of ways we can all do our part. We can start by refusing, reducing, reusing, repairing, and repurposing single-use plastics to prevent them from entering the waste stream. Improving recycling systems is an option, however, not all plastic can be recycled. Globally, less than 10% of plastics are recycled. Non-recyclable and non-compostable plastics continue to be burnt at incinerators in EJ communities. Therefore, we also have to take collective steps toward eliminating incineration as a waste management tool.
Another action communities can take right now is to help local food pantries prepare to eliminate plastic bags. To support food pantries in this transition, reach out to your local food pantry, faith group, church, community center, or mutual aid group and see if they need your extra reusable bags.
Zero Waste Organizer & Development Assistant
Clean Water Action & Clean Water Fund, and
New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance
Corporations should work to reduce plastic pollution
By ATLANTIC COUNTY COMMISSIONER CAREN FITZPATRICK
Those of us who live and work in Atlantic County may come from different backgrounds, and not always share the same beliefs, but there are some basic values on which I hope we can all agree.
At the end of the day, we all want our community to be safe, we want our beaches and shared public spaces to be clean and beautiful, and we want our children to grow up in a healthy environment with clean air, food, and drinking water.
Achieving these goals will take all of us working together to do our part — while acknowledging that those with the biggest environmental footprints have the greatest responsibility, and must be held accountable.
That’s one reason why I welcome New Jersey’s new law limiting most single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam containers — some of the most damaging, unnecessary, and infuriating forms of pollution that various industries have allowed to become far too common.
I know the transition away from these familiar receptacles might be hard, even frustrating, for some of our residents and businesses at first, but it’s necessary. Millions of plastic bags end up choking our waterways and polluting our landfills every year, with disastrous consequences not just for our wildlife and ecosystems, but even our own bodies. Plastic breaks down over time, and the resulting particles of microplastic will end up in everyone’s air, water, and food. How much, you might ask? It’s been estimated that right now the average person digests a credit card worth of plastic every week
It’s important to recognize that we are not all equally to blame for the problem of plastic pollution. I know as much as anyone that it’s virtually impossible to check out of a grocery store today without plastic somewhere in your order. The simple truth is there are not always alternatives to plastic for the items we need, and we can’t blame each other for this failure. Instead, it’s the fault of industries that continue to manufacture — and profit from — plastics. As much as our individual actions to reduce plastic use can make a difference, we will never truly solve the plastic pollution crisis without addressing plastic production.
But while the rest of society is working to wean ourselves off plastics, chemical and fossil fuel corporations are planning to produce even more. More plastic that is produced and sold means more that will end up in our landfills, rivers, oceans, the air our children breathe, the food we all eat. In Atlantic County, without an expansion, our landfill will soon run out of space for all this trash.
We can’t recycle our way out of this problem, either. A measly 9 percent of all the plastic ever manufactured has ever been recycled, and according to a PBS/NPR investigation, the oil and gas companies that produce plastics knew all along that most plastics would never be recycled. But they tricked us, through misleading ads and PR, into thinking they would be.
“The industry sold the public on an idea it knew wouldn’t work — that the majority of plastic could be, and would be, recycled — all while making billions of dollars selling the world new plastic,” according to their report.
These are the same oil and gas companies, by the way, that also lied to the public for decades about catastrophic climate damage — from rising seas to stronger storms — that they knew their fossil fuel products would cause for coastal communities like ours.
These corporate polluters use their money and their lobbying muscle to block policies that would address climate change and shift away from fossil fuels, and they are now doing the same thing now to protect their plastic business. Countries from across the world are exploring a global treaty to limit plastic production, but it’s been reported that lobbyists for groups like Shell and ExxonMobil are doing everything in their power to block it — and keep flooding our communities with their plastic pollution.
That’s not a reason to stop acting locally — it’s a reason to do more. New Jersey’s single-use plastics ban is an important step. Making smart consumer choices, voting with your dollar, and investing in more eco-friendly products and companies are some others.
But while we all do our part to make Atlantic County cleaner and safer for everyone, it’s time for more corporations to step up and do their part. And if some still insist on blocking solutions, it’ll be time for public officials to do our part to hold them accountable.
Levinson: Show us the money for implementing NJ’s Early Voting Bill
If approved and signed into law, New Jersey’s Early Voting bill will require the availability of early voting by machines up to 10 days prior to primary and general elections. But the burden of implementing this state-mandate will fall to the state’s 21 counties. Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson wants assurance that the counties will not be left to foot the bills.
“This is not the time to be incurring additional expenses as we continue to struggle to contain costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Levinson. “In the state with the highest taxes in the country, we should be looking for ways to cut rather than add to our tax burden.”
The Early Voting bill will require Atlantic County to purchase new optical-scan voting machines and electronic poll books in addition to creating a security plan for five early voting locations, hiring and training workers, investing in new technology for communications, and providing security, storage and maintenance of machines.
Voting machines would have to be in place four days prior to a non-presidential primary election day, six days prior to a presidential primary election day and 10 days prior to a general election day, according to the bill.
“The State of New Jersey is mandating this so it needs to provide the money up front, not as a promised reimbursement after the fact. We can’t afford for history to repeat itself. The state failed to make its pension contributions while Atlantic County never missed a payment. It also failed to honor its full funding commitment for our vocational schools and community colleges. The state cannot continue to kick the can down the road and expect the counties and municipalities to bear the financial burden.”
The New Jersey Association of Counties noted that the bill only includes funding for printing ballots on demand, not the purchase of new voting machines and electronic poll books as required. Some have questioned the constitutionality of such an “unfunded” mandate.
“My job is to protect the Atlantic County taxpayers, especially during these uncertain times,” said Levinson. “Whatever happened to state mandates, state pays?”
Atlantic County Executive
Is development causing Margate to lose its tree canopy?
To the Editor:
I think most of us would agree that climate change is happening. All the worries that those of us who were around for the first Earth Day in 1970 had are here. And yet, there is so much we can still do locally to stave off some of the crises we are experiencing here on Absecon Island.
In Margate, we are experiencing flooding in places that never flooded before. We are also experiencing a construction boom like never before. Some beautiful old trees are being lost to demolition.
Trees provide shade, offset flooding through their root systems, absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere. Naturally, flooding occurs when there is little permeability and no place for water to be absorbed. Have we really “paved paradise to put up a parking lot?”
Globally, 27 football fields of trees are cut down around the world every minute (Jane Goodall). With global deforestation, along with local deforestation, I suggest we “think globally and act locally.”
Sustainable Margate, the city’s green team, is currently working on a forestry plan for the city to submit to the Planning Board. Some of Margate’s trees may even be considered historic and subject to preservation from that perspective. In an effort to preserve old growth trees, perhaps an ordinance prohibiting cutting down trees without a permit is in order.
I’m sincerely hoping that all of Margate take this issue seriously, people of all ages. Trees can improve our mental health and provide habitat for wildlife. It’s nature’s circle of life, which we should not be disturbing. Perhaps a re-read of Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees” is in order?
Virginia A. Gormley
Van Drew appeals for in-person voting on Nov. 3
MAYS LANDING – Congressman Jeff Van Drew (Rep. 2nd) appealed to Gov. Phil Murphy in a letter Monday, Sept. 7 to allow in-person voting in voting booths.
“As we await the results of the pending lawsuit, I am personally appealing one more time to Governor Murphy to allow in-person voting in voting booths.
I have faith in our communities to safely make the choice that is right for them, and we can do both in-person and vote-by-mail this November. We must ensure the integrity of our elections.
Please see the attached letter I sent to Governor Murphy.
Congressman Jeff Van Drew
School reopening plans attempt to eliminate risk, not prevent transmission
School administrators have the unenviable decision to certify that their district can reopen safely. Teams of education shareholders have worked tirelessly and diligently in the development of plans to ensure a safe return to school. These plans, though well-intentioned, are simply not realistic. Many lack clear guidelines and detailed protocols for monitoring, contact tracing, reporting and notification. Waivers, contracts of responsibility, and COVID-19 disclaimers are either mentioned or noted as in development. HVAC systems and ventilation in buildings aren’t fully addressed in some plans, nor are what is considered appropriate levels of PPE and disinfectant supplies outlined. These are vague details that require a measure of specificity.
These plans have been written based on ever-changing guidelines as more is learned about the science of the virus. And these plans are what our superintendents and boards of education must approve and certify.
For clarification, most school reopening plans here in Atlantic County have some form of in-person instruction. While the plans have addressed steps taken to eliminate risks, none guarantee the prevention of transmission of COVID-19 in our public schools. This does not mean our schools should be shuttered “forever.” It does mean that when we can guarantee safety through realistic plans, and have all the resources we need in place, then we can step back into our buildings.
The only way to “prevent transmission” is to have our students and staff remain at home, and instruct/support and learn from home. Instruction will occur despite our school buildings being closed. The virus can’t transmit if it is kept isolated.
The most valuable resource we have are our children. The distance of children remaining home, in addition to wearing face coverings and frequent hand washing, is what must be done to protect them and their families and school employees.
Only when transmission has been prevented, and data supports the evidence, can a return to a safe working and learning environment be considered, and plans that re-stage opening our buildings for in-person instruction Be implemented.”
Atlantic County Council of Education Associations
Atlantic County Republicans offer a ‘Blueprint for Success’ in the 2020 election
Republicans from throughout New Jersey will convene in Atlantic County March 6-7 for two days of training and socializing along the ocean. What Republicans learn and discuss during the annual Statewide Republican Leadership Summit can dictate our party’s success in the years ahead.
With two Democratic U.S. Senators, a majority of the congressional delegation in Democrat hands and a Democratic governor and legislature, the task ahead is a daunting one.
But if we focus on supporting solid candidates who are electable, we can take advantage of a splintered New Jersey Democratic Party to elect more Republicans in the Garden State this and next year, restoring our party’s relevance with solid conservative policies.
Republicans’ efforts in Atlantic County can offer the state a blueprint for success.
Despite having thousands of more Democratic than Republican voters in Atlantic County, we have a Republican County Executive, Republican Surrogate, a majority on the Freeholder Board and Republican majorities in two-thirds of our townships, cities and boroughs. In last year’s election alone, 84% of the Republicans running in all races in Atlantic County were elected.
This is what we have done:
Take redistricting seriously and plan ahead. Unlike most counties, Atlantic County has five freeholder districts. Despite the Chief Justice choosing a registered Democrat to break the tie on our redistricting commission, with the help of minority communities who thought they were being disenfranchised by their own Democratic Party, we were able to convince the tie-breaker (a respected retired judge, not a professor) to choose our Republican map.
Hold the Democrats accountable for ballot harvesting. The Democrats know they can’t win at the polls, so they have resorted to harvesting vote by mail ballots by paying bounties on votes turned in by canvassers. We have hired private investigators and placed challengers at the Board of Elections to make sure that every vote is an honest one.
Run Republicans everywhere. No town is written off from receiving support. In Atlantic City, which has a 10-1 Democrat to Republican voter advantage, we supported former Atlantic City Republican Mayor Don Guardian in his successful election. And Councilman Jesse Kurtz was just reelected for another term in the 6th Ward.
Diversity matters. It is critical for us as a party to encourage and support, both organizationally and financially, women and persons of color who want to run as Republicans. Last year, Freeholder Amy Gatto was chosen as the first female chair of our Freeholder Board. And this year Andrew Parker, an African-American Committee member from Egg Harbor Township, is running for Freeholder. His incumbent opponent has already dropped out of the race.
Hold open conventions to discourage divisive primaries. In Atlantic County, we have an annual convention with elected officials and party activists – the grassroots. No screening committees. This has led to our county having the most fair and transparent convention process in the state. As a result, candidates feel that they are treated with respect and it discourages costly primaries where Republicans beat up Republicans.
As Republicans meet in Atlantic City this week, let’s take some of our successes in Atlantic County and apply them statewide with these ideas:
- Establish a voter integrity arm within the state party to stop the nefarious practice of ballot harvesting, threatening the integrity of our elections. While we encourage voters to vote by mail, let’s make sure every vote is cast by an eligible voter.
- Frontload our county conventions in 2021 to coalesce around an electable gubernatorial candidate early. Phil Murphy is not Jon Corzine. We need every advantage to win back the governorship. An expensive primary hurts our chances. Let’s have a January 31 convention deadline in 2021 to give our nominee a head start.
- Work with like-minded Democrats to advance our principles. Let’s pick some issues where we can work with Democrats to get things done. State Senator Chris Brown and Assemblyman Ryan Peters have introduced bipartisan legislation to expand the Open Public Records Act to cover the legislature. The Democrats in Trenton should adhere to the same rules they impose on every other level of government. Governor Murphy supports the idea. Let’s put together a majority of Democrats and Republicans to get this passed and pull back the curtain on how the state legislature does the public’s business.
- Pick a dozen county and municipal races throughout the state, currently held by Democrats, and plow in resources. The Democrats are much better at this than we are. We can’t build a state party unless we have more Republicans holding office at the local level – especially with diverse backgrounds. If all our resources go into friendly territory, we will continue to be stuck in neutral – or worse, reverse.
With unity and discipline, we can have more competitive elections in New Jersey and yes, elect more Republicans to federal, state, county and municipal offices. The future trends of our state are dismal under continued Democratic control. It’s up to us to make sure voters have an alternative to take our state in a different direction.
Atlantic County Republican Chairman
Economic Alliance works to build a better Atlantic County in 2020
By Lauren H. Moore, Jr.
It has been more than five years since five Atlantic City casino hotels closed and left more than 10,000 people unemployed or underemployed. Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson and the Board of Freeholders responded by creating the Atlantic County Economic Alliance, which serves as the lead economic development agency for the county.
ACEA is working hard to develop new industries, attract new businesses, and create sustainable jobs. One of the highlights of 2019 was the ribbon cutting for the 66,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art first building at the National Aviation Research and Technology Park. Nine tenants occupy space in the building and will employee as many as 300 professionals. Interest in the park continues to grow with ongoing planning and financing discussions for buildings two and three.
In 2019, the ACEA was awarded a $1.7 million i6 Challenge grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to create the Smart Airport and Aviation Partnership. More than 180 organizations applied for grant funds but the ACEA was one of only 23 successful applicants nationwide, which also included Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University, and the Mayo Clinic. As part of this grant, the ACEA is partnering with Cape May County to promote development of technology related to the “Airport of the Future.”
Industry has taken notice. Boeing has shown interest in Atlantic City International Airport (ACY) for unmanned cargo aircraft testing. Other companies are interested in our facilities for drone/anti-drone research, which could present a new frontier in aviation research.
The ACEA currently is working to attract Elevate Jet, a charter airline and aviation maintenance company, to ACY. If successful, this project could bring 180 new, high-paying jobs to the region within the next several years.
To help strengthen our workforce, the ACEA is partnering with the Atlantic County Executive Superintendent of Schools and high school superintendents to implement an aviation science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) program in our schools. The Atlantic County Institute of Technology was the first to offer the program, developed by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s leading aviation research university based in Daytona, Florida. Three additional high schools in Atlantic County are expected to offer aviation STEM classes this fall. Successful student participants can earn a full semester of college credits and industry certifications prior to their high school graduation.
In 2020, the ACEA will seek a $4 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to construct an aviation maintenance and technical academy at ACY. Plans call for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to operate the academy in conjunction with Atlantic Cape Community College.
The ACEA is encouraging the growth of other industries as well. We continue to support Orsted’s plans for a 1,100 megawatt wind farm off Atlantic City’s coastline. We also are working with EDF Renewables and Shell New Energies to locate a joint office in Atlantic City.
The ACEA is working with Atlantic City to transform the city into a 21st century gaming destination through eSports. In 2019, Atlantic City hosted three big eSports events: the Collegiate Star League Grand Finals; the ESports Travel Summit; and the Halo Classic. These efforts have yielded further business development with the establishment a data center by Continent 8 to support eSports.
To help us identify businesses in need of assistance, we will be reaching out to local officials around Atlantic County in 2020 to be additional eyes and ears on the business community. We want to ensure the ACEA is doing everything possible to retain local businesses and help them realize their growth potential.
This past year was one of great accomplishment for the Atlantic County Economic Alliance. The ACEA has established itself as a highly capable organization among local, regional and national government, industry and academic leaders. We have every reason to believe 2020 will bring continued success and prosperity. We look forward to working with the residents and business of Atlantic County as we move into 2020 and a new decade of economic transformation.
Lauren H. Moore, Jr. is executive director of the Atlantic County Economic Alliance
To the Editor:
(Regarding a story in the Press of Atlantic City Tuesday, Oct. 15)
“First nor’easter brings severe beach erosion,” is this suppose to be something new or even newsworthy? The only people who benefit from the inevitable replenishment projects are the politically connected dredging companies.
Ventnor should join Margate and Longport to lobby Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers for a one time, fixed cost master jetty at the end of Longport. A 5,000-foot master jetty results in 3,000 feet of new and permanent beach, plus prevents the dangerous silting up of the Little Egg Harbor Inlet.
Let’s do what needs to be done and done right, right now.
Korngut’s ‘systemic racism’ comment ‘erroneus’ Atlantic County administrator says
Letter to the Editor:
At the recent candidates forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women featuring County Executive Dennis Levinson and challenger Susan Korngut, an accusation was made that cannot be left unanswered.
Ms. Korngut asked County Executive Levinson, “What if anything have you done to address the systemic racism and institutional bias which existed and continues to exist under your administration?”
Nothing could be more offensive and further from the truth without any factual basis. As the county administrator, I am compelled to address this inflammatory and erroneous statement.
Women and minorities account for more than half of the county workforce. Of our eight county departments, three are headed by women and two by African Americans.
In the 25 years I have served as county administrator and deputy county administrator, no one has spewed such hateful venom.
GERALD DEL ROSSO
Marijuana legislation not the cure-all New Jersey needs, Sen. Chris Brown says
Do you believe a girl can transform into an ape right before your eyes? As a boy going to the Atlantic City boardwalk in the 70s, I watched unsuspecting families part with their money after listening to carneys guaranteeing them a once in a lifetime opportunity. The best one was on the old Million Dollar Pier where carneys promised, if you just hand over your money, you will see a girl turn into a real live ape. But as I learned at an early age, thanks to smoke, mirrors, and a second-hand gorilla suit, the carneys were selling an empty bag of goods.
Today, the carney-like promises we should just hand over our vote and legalize marijuana because it’s harmless, there’ll be an endless flow of cash to solve all of our problems, parents won’t have to worry because large marijuana companies won’t market to kids as they put drug dealers out of business, sounds great from outside the tent. The question is, are these promises real or simply smoke and mirrors designed to get you into the tent?
So, before we enter the tent on a leap of faith to see if a girl can truly turn into an ape or if legalizing marijuana can live up to its promises, we should learn what’s happening in States where recreational marijuana is already legal.
When we peek under the tent, we quickly see experts found out the hard way marijuana is not as harmless as promised. In Colorado they’re experiencing a dramatic rise in marijuana related emergency room visits due to both inhalation and edible use while almost half of the children born at St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center had THC in their bloodstreams at birth. Moreover, marijuana-related traffic deaths rose 62% while law enforcement found increasingly potent levels of marijuana in positive-testing drivers who died in crashes. In Washington, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported fatal crashes involving marijuana doubled after legalization.
Researchers at Harvard and Northwestern found recreational marijuana smokers exhibited abnormalities in the shape, volume, and density of certain areas of the brain. Other research shows chronic users are 60% less likely to complete high school, exhibit more negative moods, are at higher risk of heroin and alcohol addiction, and are seven times more likely to commit suicide. It’s scary to learn the most thorough study to date confirmed smoking high-potency marijuana increases the risk of psychosis.
Citing this research every major medical association in New Jersey to include- the Medical Society, Nurses Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, the Mental Health Association, and American Heart Association – looked under the tent and concluded, “With the data on roadway dangers, negative effects on adolescent brain development and fetal development, risk of respiratory diseases and risk of other health conditions, we are compelled to oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana due to overwhelming public health concerns.”
Once the NJ Association of Chiefs of Police peeked under the tent, they found the black market still thrives across the country because it’s cheaper to buy marijuana from a dealer who doesn’t charge that pesky sales tax, and since dispensaries have limited hours and locations, users buy from dealers who deliver anytime, anywhere. While others who work as school bus drivers, security guards, and public safety workers often choose not to register at a legal dispensary in order to remain anonymous to keep their jobs.
With this discovery, the NJ Association of Chiefs of Police concluded legalization of marijuana is not the answer for New Jersey because it “will further burden our public health care system, increase organized criminal activity, and affect the welfare of our most vulnerable – our youth and adolescent population.”
As for the promise of an endless flow of cash, Massachusetts and California have the misfortune of missing their revenue projections after legalization by over a half a billion dollars. According to studies, taxes on recreational marijuana are neither a reliable nor a stable source of revenue.
With these overwhelming questions regarding our families’ health and safety combined with poor tax revenue raised in other states and the informed conclusions by medical and law enforcement experts in New Jersey, it’s lucky for us the vote for recreational marijuana was cancelled last month. Without an open and honest conversation considering all of the facts, entering the tent based on a carney’s promise may be tempting, but it’s important to remember it may just be someone in a second-hand gorilla suit.
NJ Sen. Chris Brown
Open Letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Amazon HQ2 may not have been embraced by New York City, but you’ll find that is far from the case just two hours south in Atlantic County, New Jersey.
Atlantic County is ideally located within a short distance of the major metropolitan east coast hubs of Philadelphia, New York and Washington, DC, with easy access by air, car and rail. The Atlantic City International Airport, designated the airport of the future, is equipped with one of the country’s longest runways and is currently underutilized. It is located next to the nation’s premier air transportation laboratories at the Federal Aviation Administration’s William J. Hughes Technical Center as well as the new National Aviation Research and Technology Park. These assets comprise a developing aviation innovation hub with a focus on air cargo and maintenance and repair operations. We are also home to one of six national test sites for unmanned aircraft systems that complement your Prime Air drone delivery service project.
Atlantic County is the center point of an emerging aviation industry in New Jersey. We have developed strategic partnerships with major aviation companies and institutions including Boeing, Lockheed, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Joint Base McGuire-Ft. Dix-Lakehurst, the National Institute of Aviation, General Dynamics and Thunderbolt Software. A new STEM initiative, in cooperation with Embry-Riddle, will help improve the skills of our local workforce and make it more attractive to potential employers.
Atlantic County also has access to more than 3 million workers within 50 miles to help support your labor needs.
We are a leader in the use of clean, renewable energy sources. The Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm, the first coastal wind farm in the U.S., is located here and operated by the Atlantic County Utilities Authority. And Orsted, one of the world’s largest offshore wind companies, recently opened its first New Jersey office in Atlantic City with plans to develop the state’s first offshore wind farm.
Additionally, we offer an outstanding quality of life. We are the entertainment capital of New Jersey with nine casinos featuring world class dining, shopping, live concerts and performances. Combined with our 14 miles of pristine beaches, we attract millions of visitors and second homeowners each year. Our affordable housing and cost of living, low labor costs and available areas for redevelopment help make us an ideal candidate for your project.
Atlantic County is fiscally strong and solvent. Our Aa2 and AA credit ratings rank among the top 18% of counties in the country. And our net debt is less than 0.457% of our total debt capacity. We have received 19 perfect audits in as many years.
I encourage you to take another look at Atlantic County. I believe you’ll like what you see and will agree that we have much to offer you and Amazon HQ2.
Atlantic County Executive
This editorial was originally published Sept. 21, 1897 in the New York Sun after 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to editor Francis Pharcellus Church asking if there is a Santa Claus. It has become the most published editorial of all time. It is republished here courtesy of newseum.org.
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
On Sept. 11, I attended the Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting that was held in Ventnor to advocate for better flood management planning by the county, and addressed the board regarding the chronic flooding problem along Wellington/West End Avenue. I reminded the freeholders that Wellington/West End Avenue was recently re-paved, but the flooding continues and that spending millions for repaving every few years is not addressing the problem of flood mitigation.
Ventnor Commissioner and Director of Planning and Development for CRDA Lance Landgraf, was also in attendance and concurred with me that this flooding is a major concern for the Downbeach communities.
While the freeholders acknowledged my concern, they also clearly expressed that it is not a priority issue for the board. There is so much economic development taking place in Ventnor and Atlantic City, if people cannot get here, especially with the closure of the Amtrak line into Atlantic City, it is defeating the purpose.
The Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged at its Sept. 12 meeting regarding back-bay flooding that no actual mitigation will begin for at least 10 years.
The citizens living in the backbay region of this county cannot afford to wait 10 years. It is time that the freeholder board makes this a priority and looks into alternative solutions, such as concrete seawalls, a living shoreline or raising the road, possibly with new paving materials designed for flood-prone areas.
As a candidate for freeholder in District 2, which comprises the Downbeach and back bay communities, I can assure you this issue will be a priority and I will ask that a flood mitigation committee be formed to seriously and actively find solutions to this problem.
Freeholder Candidate, Atlantic County District 2
Statewide bill in New Jersey to reduce plastic bags misses the mark
By JOHN WEBER
After years of having a number of bills in the New Jersey Legislature attempting to reduce single-use plastic bag pollution, one has finally moved but it is not the exact bill that Surfrider initially advocated for.
A bill putting a 5-cent fee on both paper and plastic bags statewide passed both houses of our legislature in late June. One cent of the fee goes to the merchant, and 4 cents goes into a state fund designed to remove lead paint from older housing.
Though it is encouraging that the NJ legislature has gotten serious about plastic pollution and is considering what could be the nation’s second statewide policy on plastic bags, good policy is what makes the difference in our fight against plastic.
Surfrider prefers a ban/fee hybrid model of statewide plastic bag policies. The hybrid model means a ban on the thin checkout-style plastic bags and a fee on paper and other bags. Also, like the successful California bag law, a fee of 10 cents would incentivize the use of reusable bags.
A concerning part of the New Jersey bill is state preemption of local bag laws. Under the state law, any action that a municipality has taken to reduce plastic bag pollution would be nullified and replaced by the state law. Therefore, any city that might have a stronger bill to protect their area from plastic pollution would be forced to comply with this law.
This is a critical moment in time for states to pass good policies on plastic bags on the East Coast. New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey are all considering plastic bag ordinances which is a positive sign that grassroots activism has taken root at the state level. However, all three of these state bills have serious flaws that may lead to unintended consequences.
With the passage of the statewide policy in California in 2014 (and confirmed by voter referendum in 2016), we now have an example showing that a ban on plastic bags and a fee on paper and reusable bags is the best policy to truly reduce single use plastic bag pollution.
Though Surfrider would like to believe that the New Jersey legislature is concerned about plastic pollution and protecting our ocean, it is more likely they passed the bill due to the fees that generate income. New Jersey has a new governor with ambitious goals and a wish list of programs. In all likelihood, the legislature found this bill as a way to pay for some of the ambitious programs rather than taking a hard look at what plastic bag policy would disincentivize the use of plastic bags and make New Jersey a leader in the fight against plastic bags.
The governor has yet to sign the bill and the deadline for him to take action is Sept. 4. The Surfrider Foundation and other environmental groups are unified in our desire to have five changes made to this bill. If that happens by having the governor veto the bill and having the legislature pass a new bill with these items, or if the governor issues a conditional veto that the legislature then concurs with, either way we get a much stronger bill.
The (Surfrider) Chapters of NJ are actively encouraging the public to contact the governor and ask for these changes. Still no word from the governor’s office if he will sign, veto, or conditionally veto the bill.
John Weber is a member of the Surfrider Foundation South Jersey Chapter and lives in Bradley Beach.
By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
In 1978, I was a green chip, a pioneer, a South Philly transplant sucked into the intoxicating world of casino gaming and the glitzy nightlife of America’s Favorite Playground.
Following years of a sluggish economy and increased competition, the Atlantic City Alliance will spend $20 million this year to project a young and vibrant image of the ever-evolving casino city. With the official opening of the new $2.4 billion Revel this Memorial Day and a “Do AC!” tagline, city officials and casino executives are hoping to generate the kind of excitement casino gaming created in the city more than 30 years ago.
Their efforts won’t compare with the summer of 1978, when Resorts International Hotel Casino was the only game in town. It was quite a spectacular year, not only for the soon-to-be mega-millionaires who took a chance on getting gaming legalized and opened the first American casino outside of Las Vegas, but also for the dealers, bartenders, waiters and waitresses, who greased the wheels of the money machine.
As thousands of people lined up on the Boardwalk in evening wear and sport coats, hoping for a chance to win it big at the tables or slots, the cocktail servers at the Superstar Theater were working hard for their tips.
Entertainers Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme may have had the privilege of throwing the first dice to ever roll legally in an Atlantic City casino, but they didn’t draw people to the theater, where older servers who had paid their dues during the meager Haddon Hall days paced the floor, staring at empty seats.
“Don’t worry,” maitre d’ Jack Bradley assured us. “The fascination in the casino will eventually fade, and this will be a good job.”
For some unknown reason, whoever made the opening night schedule decided that “LoBianco” should serve the head table. I had never served a banquet in my life, and, of course, there was no training program. Management was too busy figuring out how it was going to count all that money. In fact, it took several years before it even knew there were other facilities in the grand dame of Atlantic City that needed supervision. Former Gov. Brendan Byrne is still waiting for his dessert.
A week later, we were reveling in the dough. So were the owners. We called it the wild, wild West, where the money flowed as if a trainload of megamillionaires pulled into the Atlantic City station knowing the world would soon end and the only place worth living their final days in was the city by the sea.
The whales eventually found their way to the showroom with an attitude that shouted, “Entertain me!” As customers sipped complimentary bottles of Cristal, the superstars delivered. Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, Johnny Carson, Jackie Gleason and Don Rickles all signed multi-engagement contracts and drew the best tippers.
I would end my Friday-night shift with $500 in my pocket and energy to spare. Exiting through the casino, I’d drop a $25 green chip on black or red before heading for the Boardwalk, where two blocks away the music of Evelyn “Champagne” King beckoned. The Chez disco rivaled New York’s Studio 54. It’s where I danced the night away with coworkers, casino executives and celebrities. When Donna Summer’s voice blared that it was my last chance for romance, I’d put on my sunglasses and stumble to the bank, where I deposited what was left of my tips.
This scenario repeated itself for months before things slowed down in September. I had earned enough over the summer for a big down payment on a brand new Fiat Spider 2000, a British racing green and tan ragtop that did 0-60 in 10 seconds flat. Although my tan started to fade, the cooler weather allowed me to recuperate somewhat, but the fun didn’t end.
The B-list performers entertained through autumn. That was the year Tina Turner made her big comeback after dumping Ike. She rolled on the river with her backup girls twice a night for 10 days, bringing down the house. Steve Martin was just starting to be a “wild and crazy guy” when he headlined on New Year’s Eve. Hearing “Auld Lang Syne,” I approached the service bar, ordered a tray of complimentary cocktails for the casino’s highest high rollers and a glass of Dom Perignon for myself.
Memories of those days will be etched in my mind forever. They were the days I made the most money I ever would, fell in and out of love several times, and met the man I would eventually marry.
La dolce vita lasted for seven years, until the shine of the casino industry started to tarnish. I traded in the sports car for a sedan and settled down to a quiet life far from the madness and glitz. After more than 2,500 shifts and 5,000 performances, I became quite jaded about entertainers and the price of a ticket.
Now, as I see the new television commercials and hear the radio spots beckoning the 20- and 30-somethings to Do AC!, I recall the late-night partying of my heydays in show business. Thoughts of those years bring a smile and I see myself dancing to the music in my mind.
This piece first appeared as a guest column in the Press of Atlantic City April 29, 2012.
By Glen Klotz
The battle with the State of New Jersey about Margate’s beach is over. Today, Margate finds itself with a new beach design decidedly not of our choosing. Sadly, there’s not much the citizens of Margate can do about it. That being the case, we need to find a silver lining in this onerous situation.
It’s been said, If life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Here’s my suggestion on how Margate can make the best of this unwanted beach situation, and do it with style.
Margate once had a boardwalk
As seen in the picture above, a boardwalk in Margate isn’t a new idea. It’s been 56 years since Margate had a still standing portion of its once citywide boardwalk. The infamous Ash Wednesday Nor’easter Storm of 1962 took care of that last remaining section of boardwalk that extended south from the Margate Pier. Since then, Margate has been without a boardwalk or any walkway along the beach.
Back when the Margate boardwalk existed in the early 20th century Margate’s beaches were admittedly too narrow to accommodate it and subsequently with no protection it was eventually swept away by large storms.
A lot has changed since then. For one thing, with periodic replenishment of Absecon Island’s beaches over the past 100 years, our beaches have widened dramatically, especially in Margate today. Hopefully, they’ll stay that way for a long time to come. We learned from our mistakes. We now build much better boardwalks and we know how to protect them.
A new era of boardwalk reconstruction on Absecon Island
Today, a boardwalk still extends from Absecon Inlet to Margate. There’s even a reconstructed section along Absecon Inlet just completed by the Army Corp of Engineers. Considering we’re in a new era of boardwalk reconstruction, I propose that Margate reconstruct its citywide boardwalk extending from Ventnor at Fredericksburg Avenue all the way to Longport.
This new boardwalk would be built in the dead, empty beach zone directly behind the newly built dune/berm. We should build it high enough to be above the dune/berm line so our boardwalk would give us the view and the sea breeze as it exists in much of Ventnor’s boardwalk today and parts of Atlantic City as well.
The current situation on Margate’s beaches is more than just annoying. It’s unreasonable and it’s harmful for many. Too much of the beach is now, unusable. The remaining areas near the ocean are hard to access for many. The solution for this is a new boardwalk built as a replacement for the one Margate once had.
Advantages of a new Margate boardwalk
Advantage #1: Margate would regain much of the lost sea view and breezes, now cut off by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers/NJDEP beach project.
Advantage #2: Better access to the ocean. A system of ramps from the street ends, like in Ventnor and Atlantic City. These ramps would make beach access easier for everyone, especially families with kids, seniors, and those with limited or no ability to walk.
Advantage #3: How about the simple pleasure of walking along and above the useless dead zone? A sit down on boardwalk benches? Bike riding, pushing baby strollers, roller-skating?
A new boardwalk would dramatically convert a now useless part of the beach – more than 50 percent of it in many areas – into a wonderfully useful public space.
Popularity of the boardwalk in Ventnor and Atlantic City
Today, if I want to see the ocean and horizon, I go to Ventnor’s boardwalk. Walking down to a street-end bulkhead in Margate is no longer an option. There’s nothing to see from the beach blocks in Margate, except for a mountain of sand. We need our Margate boardwalk back. This would remedy our degraded views and access to the ocean, beach and horizon. All of which are primary attractions for residents and guests.
We need to change with the times and move forward
Margate didn’t ask for the beach project and the changes we’ve endured over the past 18 months. However, we know they’re pretty much here to stay, barring a super-severe storm or accelerated erosion. So, instead of complaining, maybe it’s best to move forward and take advantage of the situation.
Present reactions to this story online are a clear indication that I’ve hit a nerve. At Margate’s next Board of Commissioners meeting 4 p.m. Thursday, April 5, this article will be presented, and early reports are that a group of locals are planning to attend to support the idea.
A new Margate Boardwalk would enhance our beachscape. It would create a valuable new asset for Margate’s residents and property owners. It would be a wonderful new attraction for our visitors. It’s an idea whose time has come…again.