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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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The Wrap: Lowering Requirements, Two New Climate Change Initiatives, Daily Marijuana Use

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By Herald Staff

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May 20-26

Lowering Requirements

Over the last two years, more than 20 states have expanded access to state employment by reassessing and often removing requirements for a college degree. New Jersey joined that movement in 2023 when Gov. Phil Murphy issued Executive Order 327, mandating that the Civil Service Commission identify where state job classifications that require a four-year degree can be equally well-served by an emphasis on experience or skills training.

According to Murphy, “Every American should have the ability to attain a good-paying job with growth opportunities,” including those who do not have a college degree. One goal is to provide a state workforce that, according to the Brookings Institution, “reflects the community it services” and supports diversity in state employment.

This is not the only time the state has turned to the strategy of altering requirements to achieve workforce goals. Last November Murphy signed a bill waiving requirements for new teachers to have to pass Praxis Core tests as a condition of certification. The bill created an alternative form of certification.

The Praxis tests measure reading, writing and mathematics skills as well as content knowledge for those entering teaching as a profession.

Foregoing basic skills testing for new teachers, the logic goes, will help resolve the teacher shortage problem that is endangering New Jersey’s best-in-the-nation public education system, as Murphy calls it. Not everyone agrees that removing the testing requirement puts more qualified teachers in the classroom. The conservative group Parents Defending Education has criticized the strategy.

The powerful teachers union is all for the change, calling the skills testing of those who have their four-year education degree “redundant.” Of course if the tests where truly redundant everyone would pass them.

Now, a bill barring the requirement for basic skills testing for teachers who seek a traditional certification cleared the state Senate 34-2. Getting a body in the classroom is the goal. Changing the requirement for certification is easier than dealing with the problems that have led to ever lower retention rates for existing teachers.

Two New Climate Change Initiatives

The state has launched a series of public hearings and briefings connected to two new initiatives aimed at confronting the threats posed by climate change.

In one initiative, led by the state’s Board of Public Utilities, New Jersey will produce and adopt a new climate master plan. BPU President Christine Guhl-Sadovy opened the first public hearing on the new planning process by saying that this plan would not be a refreshing of the existing 2019 plan. It would, she said, be “a revamped plan” that takes into account the changed circumstances since 2019.

A major goal of the new planning effort is to address the most often leveled criticism of the early plan, a lack of understanding of the costs. Murphy is responding to that criticism by saying, “The 2024 Energy Master Plan will seek to better capture economic costs and benefits, as well as ratepayer impacts, throughout our journey toward a clean energy future.”

The second initiative launched in May comes from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The agency filed a new thousand-page rulebook for New Jersey’s coastal zone. This will appear in the New Jersey Register in July. The state then has one year to adopt it.

In April, 31 environmental groups wrote Murphy urging faster action on new regulations impacting coastal development, stormwater management and wetland protections. One of the reasons speed is of the essence is the length of time the process of adopting new regulations takes. If all goes well, this broad umbrella of new regulations will be adopted in July 2025, with the election of a new governor on the ballot that November.

The Herald will be following both of these new initiatives closely and unpacking the many ways in which they will influence Cape May County.

Daily Marijuana Use

In research published this month by the peer-reviewed journal Addiction, more people in the United States say they are using marijuana daily or near daily than others say they are using alcohol that frequently. In 2022, roughly 17.7 million Americans reported daily or near-daily use of marijuana compared to 14.7 million who said they imbibed alcohol at that same frequency.

More people drink than use marijuana, the study said, but high-frequency drinking is less common than daily use of marijuana, the report said.

Changing trends in cannabis use are occurring as liberalization of restrictions increases. The report stops short of saying there is a causal link between policy and increased use, but 38 states have approved medical marijuana programs and 24 have legalized recreational use. In addition, the federal government is moving toward easing restrictions on cannabis possession and use.

The Yale School of Medicine warns that the evidence is not yet in on the impact of frequent marijuana use. The school’s site notes that “the marijuana and cannabis products your grandparents may have used are very different than what is out there right now.”

Yale physicians warn of growing evidence that points to potentially severe side effects of frequent cannabis use. A more potent drug with increased accessibility and acceptance can be a danger, a Yale Medicine news report says.

In New Jersey, the public has spoken in a referendum, and recreational cannabis sales totaled more than $200 million in taxable dollars in the first quarter of 2024. In Cape May County, one adult-use cannabis retailer is open, and others are planned.

Happenings

Lower Township Planning Board granted preliminary approval for a 217-unit housing development catering to seniors, despite concerns from neighboring residents about traffic and proximity to property lines. Final approval is pending coordination with multiple agencies.

Middle Township Committee appointed Capt. Tracey Super, an 18-year police veteran, as the new chief of police effective July 1, succeeding retiring Chief Jennifer Pooler. Super’s extensive experience and community involvement earned praise from local officials and residents.

Lower Township Police Department secured its fifth accreditation, ranking in the top 3.6% statewide. Chief Kevin Lewis outlined plans for enhancements, including technology adoption and adherence to updated licensing standards.

A project to pump sand onto North Wildwood’s beaches is getting underway, with dredging starting in June. The project’s budget could potentially total $17 million, with North Wildwood planning to contribute up to $7 million.

National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration predicts an 85% chance of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season for 2024, expecting 17 to 25 named storms. Enhanced communications and new forecasting tools aim to improve preparedness and response efforts.

Lower Township Police Capt. Michael Majane was promoted during a ceremony officiated by Mayor Frank Sippel. Starting as a class II officer in Wildwood, Majane progressed through various roles, culminating in his recent promotion to captain on May 6.

At the May 21 North Wildwood City Council meeting, the city promoted four police officers: Sgt. Justin Melo, Lt. Bryan Skill, Lt. Brian Harkins, and Capt. Adam McGraw. Melo, a dedicated member since 2009, was promoted alongside Skill, Harkins, and McGraw, each bringing years of service and commitment to their new roles.

Holiday House on Hughes Street in Cape May, a Christian-based retreat, adapts to modern times by offering affordable summer housing to J-1 visa students, and is seeking community support through a GoFundMe campaign to sustain its operations.

An 18-year-old driver from Pitman who evaded police in Wildwood was later apprehended on foot in North Wildwood, facing charges of second-degree eluding and various traffic offenses.

The merger between Cape Regional Health System and Cooper University Health System is postponed to July 1 due to a court scheduling delay, finalizing the formation of Cooper University Hospital Cape Regional.

The Wildwood Fire Department quickly contained a blaze in a two-family dwelling on East Roberts Avenue, rescuing a dog and a cat. The accidental fire, caused by roofing work, resulted in $50,000 in damages, with neighboring fire departments and emergency services providing assistance.

Ocean City’s Third Ward councilman, Jody Levchuk, won reelection by just two votes over challenger Amie Vaules, with a final tally of 402-400.

Wildwood Crest residents received an update on the $6 million Bayside Bulkhead Replacement and Flood Mitigation Improvement Project, addressing concerns about potential flooding, private property bulkheads, and dock access at the May 22 Board of Commissioners meeting.

A stranded bottlenose dolphin in Skeeter Island Creek died during a rescue attempt despite efforts by responders. The Marine Mammal Stranding Center conducted a necropsy to determine the cause of death, highlighting the challenges of rescuing marine mammals out of their habitat.

Cape May County’s tourism director highlighted a successful year for tourism, with $7.7 billion in direct spending in 2023. Emphasis is placed on shorter trips and catering to pet owners, despite challenges such as limited state funding and economic uncertainties.

Cape May County gears up for contested Republican primaries in Upper Township and the U.S. Senate race, while Democrats focus on the national level with contested primaries for Senate and House seats. Local Democratic races remain uncontested.

Shore towns experienced disturbances over Memorial Day weekend, prompting police shutdowns and curfews due to fights and a stabbing, igniting discussions on law enforcement strategies and community safety measures.

Spout Off of the Week

Lower Township – Now more open space will be destroyed along Fulling Mill Road for hundreds of new homes, which will inevitably raise our taxes while the developer gets richer. No piece of land is safe. More & more land disappears under new houses and asphalt every year. All of CMC has become so overdeveloped. It’s not “progress”. All of our woods, fields, & farms are being destroyed. What’s point of having a planning and zoning board when they automatically approve any development presented to them! There’s nothing they won’t approve.

Read more spouts at spoutoff.capemaycountyherald.com. 

Spout Off

Sea Isle City – I have grave concerns over the Sea Isle fire company. We called when our alarms were sounding and it took them nearly 20 minutes to arrive. Now hearing rumours the chief was removed by the city….

Read More

Villas – I found out most spouters do not want to hear any positive things, when I put or other spouters spout nice spouts no one responds. There are good things that happen here why not say something…

Read More

Cape May – PLEASE respect the signs on the Cape May bridge and do not ride your bikes over it with ongoing traffic. There are 4 signs that say "Walk bikes over". You are risking your life and others…

Read More

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