LIST OF ISSUES
I believe we are stronger when everyone has a seat at the table. We are better when we are inclusive. Our County government should be as diverse as the people who live here. Opportunity should be available for everyone willing to put in a hard day’s work and not just for those born to wealth and privilege. Atlantic County will be a welcoming community where the safety, security and productivity of all of our residents will be paramount.
Atlantic County needs to implement a comprehensive plan to address climate change. We pride ourselves on our beaches and our green spaces; We must take deliberate action to ensure their preservation. I will work to reduce waste, remove (not reduce) our carbon footprint and save taxpayer dollars. We can talk about banning the release of balloons, plastic bags or plastic straws but we need to talk about a greater plan. We need to think about connecting the efforts and information in each our municipalities. As County Executive, I will lead a Countywide effort to protect our environment. Inherent in that effort is the responsibility to make sure that our municipalities are communicating with each other and with the County. We need a Countywide strategy to address climate change, and being more aggressive in our thinking and in our coordination is essential.
We need to make sure that our schools are in compliance with the State of New Jersey’s Department of Education’s Health and Safety Evaluation of School Buildings Checklist. Eliminating the horrific levels of lead in our children’s blood is mandatory.
Whether we are talking about the safety of our drinking water, what would happen to our shore towns with only a 1.5 degree Celsius increase, the preservation of our ocean or any of the myriad of issues threatening our planet, we need to move the topic of our environment to the forefront of the conversation. We deserve a County Executive who cares about what we are leaving for our children and knows that we must act, and act now, to address climate change.
Shortly after the people of Northfield elected me to sit on City Council, we had a snowstorm. I noticed many of the sidewalks and driveways were not shoveled. I became concerned that these homes may belong to Senior Citizens who were not able to shovel their walks. I immediately got to work recruiting volunteers, both kids and adults (myself included of course), and connecting them with Senior Citizens who need their sidewalks shoveled. Both our volunteers and our Seniors love this program. I have met with our Sheriff and we will take this program Countywide.
Providing housing for our Seniors is a priority as is making sure our Seniors have safe, reliable transportation to and from their medical appointments.
Every month, Northfield’s Senior Citizens meet for lunch at our Library, and I have rarely missed a meeting. I attend these meetings because I made a promise when I was running for City Council that I would not be the type of politician who only shows up around election time. I attend these meetings because they allow me to keep my finger on the pulse of what is going on in the world of our Seniors. I attend these meetings because I now have friends there, some of whom attended my 50th birthday party and some who have reached into their pockets to support my campaign for County Executive. I would give just about anything to have my grandparents here, and I wish I had taken better notes while they were here. For now, listening to and taking care of our Seniors will have to do.
One of the first events I attended was an event sponsored by a wonderful organization which provides mentorship for young girls. The event was a mock election where middle school-age girls each gave a campaign speech. Without exception, every girl promised to end gun violence. To clarify, we are discussing gun violence and not gun ownership. We can protect the Second Amendment and protect our children at the same time. One of the girls in this “election” said that she wished there was a way for kids to anonymously report another kid with a gun. We have something like that in Northfield. I immediately got to work and found out that it is an app where kids can anonymously report anything from bullying to another kid with a gun. The cost is nominal and insurance covers the app. I will put that app on every kid’s phone in Atlantic County. Will it solve gun violence? Of course not. But it is a start. We know we need to provide more for our young residents, such as jobs, activities before and after school, before and after school child care, mentorship, and opportunities for kids to experience life outside of their immediate experience. We get that an app on a phone is just a beginning. The point is that a child shared that idea in a room I chose to be in because I care. The point is that I heard her after I had only been campaigning for five (5) minutes. Imagine what we can do with four (4) years.
Women in Atlantic County are not being paid equal pay for equal work. According to the Report on Status of Women in Atlantic County 2015 (prepared by Stockton University – 2015), compared to all other counties in New Jersey, Atlantic County has the lowest median wage for women working full-time, year-round ($36,727) and the third largest wage gap (27.9%) between men and women in the State of New Jersey. This will be addressed when I am our County Executive.
You and I have paid $260,000 as a result of our current County Counsel’s serial sexual harassment. My opponent handpicked County Counsel for the job. The $260,000 does not include the money paid to the lawyers in an unsuccessful effort to defend such behavior. Each of the women claimed that they reported the harassment and no one in the current administration took them seriously. As a result, you and I paid over a quarter of a million dollars and more likely closer to a half million taking into consideration the legal fees paid to settle these lawsuits. Whether or not insurance paid, we, the taxpayers, paid. My opponent selected this individual in 2003 and has referred to him as one possessing, “…the utmost integrity and ethical standards.” (atlantic-county.org). Despite the County settling these lawsuits in 2014, we have paid and continue to pay County Counsel’s six (6) figure salary each year. As a private attorney, I would have been disbarred or, at the very least, suspended for such conduct. This tells you everything you need to know about my opponent and how he views women and all of the taxpayers of Atlantic County. This ends on Day 1. Not only will I terminate our current County Counsel, I will foster a climate of respect and accountability.
Atlantic County is a haven for sex trafficking and we need a County Executive who is going to work with law enforcement to tackle this crime head on. Sex trafficking is not just scary men snatching homeless girls from the bus stop. All of our children are at risk for sex traffickers. They are contacting our children online and outside of schools. Our plan will include increasing awareness, coordinating law enforcement efforts, implementing stricter punishments for sex traffickers and going after the offenders on line before they meet up with our children. Ramping up our cybersecurity efforts will be an integral part of our attack. Atlantic County will no longer be a safe haven for these criminals. We can and we will protect our children.
I believe in running an efficient operation to make a profit but the profit is irrelevant if we are not providing services. We need to pay our County workers what they deserve. Atlantic County has among the lowest paid workers in the State. (2018 County Employment and Wages in New Jersey – Fourth Quarter 2018 at bls.gov). A significant number of our County employees are receiving government assistance such as SNAP, TANF, GA etc. despite working full-time. It remains the ultimate irony in “politics as usual” that those at the top of the payscale never seem to do without. The days of nepotism and patronage end on my watch.
Atlantic County residents who walk into a County building for services will be treated with dignity and respect. I will personally meet with every department and develop a game plan to provide services in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. All of Atlantic County will reap the rewards of a more efficient government.
Healthcare should be a basic right and not a privilege afforded to the select few. The infant mortality rate in Atlantic City far exceeds the New Jersey average. That will end on my watch. I will get to work on Day 1 to implement a comprehensive plan to improve the health of our communities currently being neglected. Our solution must include a multifaceted approach where we will address issues such as access to healthcare, the quality of prenatal care, education, the safety of the community, the availability of healthy foods, and the impact of bias and stressors particular to those living in minority communities.
For those with a vehicle and money, transportation may not be a concern but for many women, transportation can be an insurmountable obstacle. We need a mobile unit to provide OB and GYN services to our women.
We need doulas. The State has implemented a pilot program to train and hire doulas throughout the areas of New Jersey with the highest infant mortality rates. Atlantic City is one of the towns which will benefit but the program will not be sufficient by itself. We need to do our own work in the County to recruit, train and employ doulas full-time.
In conjunction with the foregoing, we need to have female-focused healthcare advocates who will act as liaisons in our hospitals. We know that African American women and other women of color are not listened to once they make it to the doctor. Just like the Patient’s Bill of Rights, every woman should have the right to a liaison to ensure that she is being heard. Creating the position of liaison will address this inequity. And we need to have consequences for repeat offenders ie. providers who continue to receive a low score regarding efficiency in correcting any inequity in treatment. Of course, there are plenty of wonderful providers out there who go above and beyond to take care of our women and children. Rest assured, our plan is something we will do with our medical providers and not to them.
We need to provide more healthy and affordable food options. Atlantic City will soon have a supermarket which should obviously help. Additionally, we need to increase the number of, and visibility of, farmers markets. CROPS has a great start with community vegetable gardens in Atlantic City. There are places for more community vegetable gardens in Atlantic City. We also need a place where our residents can go year-round and not just with the weather permits to shop for local produce. Philadelphia has the Reading Terminal Market and we can implement a similar concept in Atlantic City with local vendors. Such will benefit our small business owners and help provide our residents with healthier food choices.
We have a problem in Atlantic County with a lack of resources for our mentally ill. Having unhealthy people without access to resources leads to a plethora of problems from homelessness to unemployment to simple personal hygiene. Law enforcement is burdened unfairly when we require a police officer to interact with an individual who a trained psychiatrist would have difficulty managing. We will improve and expand the resources currently available to our mentally ill residents and their accessibility to those resources.
We need to make sure our Senior Citizens have access to medical providers. Transportation can be problematic. We need to expand and improve our County services to make sure that our Seniors are able to travel to their doctor appointments. We will also improve our outreach so that we know every resident is aware of the services being provided.
We deserve a County Executive who is going to prioritize the physical and mental health of all of our residents.
I currently have two (2) four (4)-legged children (some say “dogs”), both of whom I rescued. Cocoa a/k/a The Bean was fifteen (15) years-old when he and his sister were abandoned by two people who were not worthy of them. We adopted both Bean and his sister who we have since lost. Our other child, Copi, is a border collie mix who came from an out of State rescue. I have the utmost respect for those who work and volunteer their time with animals. Accordingly, I will prioritize ensuring that the Atlantic County Animal Shelter is run smoothly and with compassion, integrity and accountability. The shelter needs to be accountable for the care and well-being of all of its four-legged residents.
As County Executive, I will create an Animal Shelter Oversight Committee to review current Animal Shelter policies and procedures, make recommendations and report any issues. The Committee will work to make the County Shelter more efficient, and investigate any issues brought to the Committee’s attention by the public or Shelter volunteers. An independent veterinarian, vet tech or veterinary assistant may or may not officially be on the Committee but, in either event, will make random inspections of the Shelter and report to the Committee.
I credit our current Atlantic County Freeholder Caren Fitzpatrick for the aforementioned plans and look forward to working with her as we make Atlantic County a safe and happy place for all of our four-legged friends.
Increasing access to quality housing benefits all of us both morally and economically. We need to collect property taxes to provide services for the community but we cannot simply rely on the same old game of continuing to increase property taxes year after year. No one, especially our Senior Citizens and Veterans, should be taxed out of their home. Atlantic County has consistently led the country in foreclosures. We will help those paying their mortgage to work with the banks and make sure every effort is exhausted to keep our residents in their home. If foreclosure is the only option, we need to hold banks accountable for selling the properties and, moreover taking care of the properties in the interim.
We will get to work building good quality, affordable housing with preference for our Seniors and Veterans. Those who are working to support their families or who who have worked all of their lives should not have to worry about having a roof over their heads.
Everyone in Atlantic County should have access to a quality education. All of our children deserve the best education we can provide, and every one of our kids deserve to feel safe in our schools. I will work to insure that your zip code does not determine the quality of your learning experience.
If I could have run on a “Can We Please Just Fix Our Roads” ticket, I would have. I rarely go to an event where someone does not come up and ask why it is so difficult to simply fix our roads. The same streets have been flooding and/or in need of maintenance for years. We each have an expectation when we pay our taxes that our tax dollars will go to repair our roads and bridges. We need to make that happen.