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What We Should Expect from Local Government

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By Cape Issues

When a county commissioner told one of our members that we expect too much of the Board of County Commissioners, we were taken aback and thought, “If not you, then who?”  

Cape May County updated its Hazard Mitigation Plan last year and just completed its required revision of the County Comprehensive Plan. These two documents contain a wealth of information about current conditions in Cape May County and are designed to enable local government action to improve day to day conditions and mitigate the hazards that have been identified by each municipal government.  

With the exception of its Comprehensive Bridge Replacement and Improvement Plan, and the Wildwood entrance and Pacific Avenue projects, the snag is the county has no strategic plan to implement the goals of these plans.   

We fear this situation reflects the laissez faire approach the commissioners seem to take when dealing with other than mandated responsibilities and other endeavors mentioned above. We also believe they should be proactive, not reactive, in their approach to governing.  

We need visionaries. The current dearth of information and leadership from the county about what is going to happen to make the infrastructure in Cape May County more resilient as we face the expected sea level rise is an example of their leadership style.  

Our commissioners should be providing a clear vision of what our county will look like in 10, 20 and 30 years based on what specifically they want to do now to “promote and guide new development and redevelopment, while ensuring that the special character of the county that makes it an attractive and desirable place to live, work and play is preserved.”  

The specifics we think are needed to go beyond the three projects featured in the Comprehensive Plan, i.e., the Airport Tech Hangars, the Creative Placemaking Plan, and the bike path. The goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan are based on words like encourage, enhance, ensure, minimize, prioritize, promote, and support, but the plan does not include any specifics of what will be done, how it will be done, and by what date.   

The commissioners leadership is needed on issues like affordable housing; when working-class people cannot afford to live here, what are the implications for our economy and our desirability as a place to live and visit?  

Additional issues are economic development, education, shared services, and transparency in government. We are all stakeholders, and it should be easy for taxpayers to find out what our elected representatives are doing, why and how they are doing it, who is responsible, how it’s being funded, etc., without having to file an official Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request.  

With current technology, this open-government approach is relatively easy to do, but it needs to be promoted by government with cooperation from the public, nonprofit, and business entities. 

The Board of County Commissionersis transitioning to new leadership after the election. This affords the board an opening, which must not be missed, to energetically rethink our challenges and opportunities.  

 What do you expect of our county leaders? Please give us your thoughts: Write CapeIssues@CMCHerald.com. 

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