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Sept. 25-Oct. 1
Offshore wind continues to be an issue that animates residents and visitors in Cape May County. This week the state Department of Environmental Protection issued a draft Climate Action Plan for public comment. The plan calls for aggressive pursuit of offshore wind as a renewable source of electric power. Meanwhile, Cape May County officials issued a press release condemning the Danish wind farm developer Ørsted for actions at “union busting” exemplified in protests by the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) claiming that Ørsted has infringed on their work jurisdiction in New London, Connecticut.
A new poll from Stockton University confirmed earlier results of a Monmouth University poll, with both showing eroding support for the state’s offshore wind initiative. The opposition to the state’s wind farm strategy was even on display at the Middle Township Chamber of Commerce Meet the Candidates event where First Legislative District candidates made sure to underscore their desire to halt the wind initiative.
Indictments and Office Holding
In New Jersey, a constitutional amendment is being formulated by Assembly Republican Leader John DiMaio (R-23rd) that would force any elected official to be suspended from office once they have been indicted for a crime. The driving force behind the effort was the Sept. 22 indictment of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and his wife Nadine Menendez on federal bribery charges. Democrats and Republicans in the Garden State have called on Menendez to step down. He has so far refused to do so.
Closer to home, Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron resigned his position when faced with an effort by the state attorney general to force him from office following his guilty pleas to federal tax evasion. Byron remains under indictment, along with sitting Wildwood Commissioner Steve Mikulski, for allegedly fraudulently accepting state health benefits. Wildwood is currently without a mayor, with Deputy Mayor Krista Fitzsimons assuming most of the mayor’s duties. Byron, however, remains on the ballot for reelection in November.
The disruptions caused by the state indictments and Byron’s guilty plea on federal charges have produced a large candidate field in Wildwood for a seat on the commission. There are 14 candidates, including Byron.
DiMaio says he will introduce his amendment when the Legislature reconvenes in November.
Federal Shutdown Avoided
A threatened shutdown of the federal government was avoided with only hours to spare when a bipartisan vote allowed a 45-day funding bill to pass in the Congress and gain the president’s signature. This may seem like an issue of far off Washington but a federal shutdown, if it had occurred, would have had significant consequences in the county.
In 2018, the federal government shutdown from midnight Dec. 22, 2018, to Jan. 25, 2019. The 35-day closure of the government was the longest such in U.S. history. All shutdowns of the government are likely to be different since Congress will sometimes pass bills to protect specific areas of government service. However, the 2018 experience can serve as a guide to some of the vulnerabilities in Cape May County if a shutdown is again facing the nation in November.
This shutdown had it happened would have disrupted the National Flood Insurance Program, denying the Federal Emergency Management Agency the ability to issue new policies and renew existing ones. Predictions were that about 1,300 real estate transactions a day would be unable to close nationwide. In a county with a heavy dependence on the flood insurance program the impact here could have been significant.
TheU.S. Coast Guard would have been another major worry given the Coast Guard’s major presence in the county. In 2018, many members of the Coast Guard were forced to work without pay, placing strains on local agencies that tried to provide support for Coast Guard families.
While the expectation was that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would all continue to operate, the furloughing of tens of thousands of federal workers would have had an impact on service. One analysis showed Medicaid, a program with a sizable county enrollment, running into financial difficulties in a prolonged shutdown.
Safety net programs, again heavily enrolled in the county, would run into various problems both financial and staff based. These would range from the federal supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children, known as WIC, to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, which almost ran out of funds in 2018, to Head Start and others.
Air traffic controllers would work as essential personnel but without pay. A building “sick out” by controllers in 2018 was ended when a funding bill passed.
Grant funding could be impacted in an extended shutdown as agencies work with skeletal staff. Predictions were that 42% of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 80% of National Institutes of Health, 50% of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 25% of the Food and Drug Administration would be furloughed. Federal workers in the county would be among those potentially facing furloughs.
In 2018, food banks were among the nonprofits heavily impacted by federal furloughs.
The list could go on. What it should tell us is that a federal shutdown could have real consequences within county communities.
Cape May voted to support a memorial bench replacement program and then quickly postponed any action given public response to the plan.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2nd) pressed Interior Secretary Pete Buttigieg about any Federal Aviation Administration involvement in a proposed use of the Atlantic City Airport for housing migrants.
An elevated house under development continues to stir controversy in Stone Harbor as the council lifts a moratorium on new permits imposed two weeks earlier.
A task force report recommends that the City of Cape May use the old library building as a community center once the library branch moves to the historic Franklin Street School.
Sea Isle City increased the 2024 beach tag prices, citing the high cost of beach maintenance and summer season staffing.
The minimum wage in New Jersey has passed the $15 per hour rate that caused so much controversy when the state began to phase in the new rate. The rate now stands at $15.16.
Stone Harbor introduced a new side yard setback ordinance that expands the setback as the lot frontage grows.
The New Jersey Historic Trust announced $14 million in grant recommendations to save and promote historic sites.
A 45-day comment period is open on several Open Space projects, including the Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church renovations in Cape May, a dog park in Sea Isle City and the Wildwood Crest Arts Pavilion Park.
The county held a public comment meeting on the navigational issues surrounding the replacement of the moveable span of the 96th Street Bridge.
A Sept. 20 event kicked off the next 100 years of the century-old Flanders Hotel in Ocean City. The building opened in 1923 and still operates as a lodging destination.
Middle Township Chamber of Commerce held a Meet the Candidates night at the Shore Club. Fourteen candidates on the township ballot attended.
The B.L. England smokestack demolition is set for Oct. 26. One of the visible landmarks as visitors enter Cape May County will be taken down by the same company that imploded the boilers in April.
Spout Off of the Week
Wildwood – The institution lives on, not the people. People die. But when the institution needs repair the people, the workers do the repairs. Let’s work to repair Democracy not destroy it for personal gain.
Read more spouts at spoutoff.capemaycountyherald.com.