• November 12, 2019

Casey, Gould assail incumbents for nepotism, spending, infrastructure - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Casey, Gould assail incumbents for nepotism, spending, infrastructure

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Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2019 10:17 am

Democrats Liz Casey and Joyce Gould, who are challenging incumbent Republican Freeholders Gerald Thornton and E. Marie Hayes in the Nov. 5 general election, say nepotism, spending and infrastructure are problems in Cape May County. 

Casey, 54, has lived in Cape May County since 1995 and resides in the Beesleys Point section of Upper Township. 

Originally from Morris County, Casey graduated from Dickinson College in Carlyle, Pa., and Drew University in Madison. 

She practiced law for Birchmeier & Powell and then Briggs Law Office in Marmora. She served on the Casino Control Commission as senior counsel before establishing her own law practice in Ocean City.

Gould, 76, was born and raised in Oak Park, Ill., and attended the University of Miami. 

She served as former mayor and deputy mayor of Wildwood Crest, and ran unsuccessfully for Cape May County freeholder in 1990, losing by 507 votes against Republican Bill Sturm.

Democrats experienced a shake-up in their campaign, as Lower Township attorney Steve Barry had to withdraw from the race due to health issues. Gould was tapped to replace him. 

“Joyce has been active in government for many years. She knows so many people and has brought a wealth of experience to the ticket,” Casey said.

Casey noted Barry “still remains active with the campaign.” 

“He’s really stepped up to the best of his ability to participate and make the transition as smooth as possible,” Casey said.

 

Nepotism

 

Both Casey and Gould believe nepotism, the practice of hiring relatives, has become an epidemic in Cape May County government. In July, freeholders censured Hayes for allegedly asking for county positions for her son, while Thornton was criticized because his stepson Jeff Lindsay is the county counsel. 

 Casey said nepotism “has no place in our government.” 

“The county is one of the largest employers in the county and every resident needs a fair opportunity to participate in county government as an employee,” Casey said.

As a freeholder, Casey said she would look at formulating hiring practices on a case-by-case basis with safeguards in place to avoid conflicts.

“Our focus is compensating and promoting our county employees based on merit and through the Civil Service process,” Casey said.

Gould said nepotism in county government is “very real” and should be addressed.

“Nepotism is a thing in Cape May County. It seems like everyone is somehow related to somebody else,” Gould said. “What can you do about it? It depends. If the person in office is good at his or her job then there’s no reason to replace them, but if they’re there just to fill up space and take a large salary and they’re not really doing anything, then they most likely should be replaced.” 

 

County spending

 

Casey condemned what she called overspending by the county government.  

“The freeholders talk about the low tax rate but that’s really not the whole story. We have an incredible amount of spending. Because we have such large ratables our tax rate is low, but the spending is high,” Casey said. “The budget has increased $19 million in the last five years. As our population declines, that really hurts new families and the seniors that are here.”

She’s critical of the new $37 million county correctional facility that replaced an older one with less security features and inmate space. 

“That’s something that in light of bail reform and our declining population was money that was poorly spent,” Casey said. 

She said the county should expand shared services and partner with other entities to save taxpayers money. 

“The county should be leading the way on offering shared services without infringing on the local school districts or the local municipalities,” Casey said.

 

Infrastructure

 

Gould noted the county should address its bridges, especially the Middle Thorofare Bridge that connects Wildwood Crest and Cape May, which she said is in serious need of rehabilitation and is in “terrible shape.”

“We know for a fact that firetrucks are not allowed on that bridge. It’s too heavy and they have to come around. In Wildwood Crest we’re the first responders to go into Diamond Beach to make sure everything is contained,” Gould said.

She said the Townsends Inlet Bridge between Avalon and Sea Isle City was closed for nearly a year for structural repairs, before it reopened this past August. 

The bridge’s closure hurt the economy in both towns, Gould said.

“There’s bridges and roads and things that have to be done. I know the freeholders like to keep everything at a low yearly increase and there should be an increase every year but we have so many seniors in this county. The county is basically made up of seniors,” Gould said.

Casey said people she’s spoken to on the campaign trail are concerned about the state of the county’s bridges and roads.

“There are bridges that need to be addressed and we as a county need to be aggressive in partnering with the state and federal government to make sure we can secure the funds to maintain our bridges. Some of our bridges are approaching roughly 100 years in age,” Casey said.

 

Environment 

 

Both Democrats support sustainable measures to help the county maintain its natural features such as the shoreline and wetlands. 

 “We as a county need to be a leader in the state because of our particularly fragile environment as a peninsula,” Casey said. “Climate change affects us not only from a safety standpoint but from an economic standpoint.”

Although climate change has its critics, Casey said local residents who are dealing with increased flooding and storm damage know that climate change is real and has an effect on their lives. 

“I think because we live down here, because we see the flooding, because we see the increased storms, we see the beach erosion on a regular basis, I think the people on the coast are at the forefront of seeing the effects of climate change,” Casey said.

 

Flood prevention 

 

Gould said while people can’t stop the oceans from rising, they could build their homes at higher elevations and raise the roads. 

“Sea Isle was wiped out by Hurricane Sandy. They had to build a new school, they had to build a new administration building, a new police quarters. It’s a scary thing because we don’t ever know what’s going to happen and we don’t even know when the other big one will hit,” Gould said.

Casey said the county should work with the National Flood Insurance Program and support reform for rewarding low-risk properties with lower premiums. She favored lifting causeways and coastal roadways above flood levels and repairing old drainage systems.

 “When the 34th Street bridge in Ocean City was re-decked, we should have elevated 34th Street so not only is the bridge repaired but people can get to it when it floods,” Casey said. “We need to make sure our infrastructure allows our residents and visitors to leave at times when necessary.” 

 

Opioid epidemic 

 

According to the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety, there have been 18 suspected overdose deaths and 41,753 opioid prescriptions dispensed in Cape May County this year.

 In 2018, 47 suspected overdose deaths in the county were reported, a decrease from 59 suspected overdose deaths in 2017. 

“I do not have a unique solution to the opioid crisis, but as a freeholder I would be a voice in joining all the elected officials, law enforcement, health agencies, nonprofits in bringing awareness, prevention and treatment,” Casey said.

Gould noted efforts by Cape May County Prosecutor Jeffrey Sutherland’s Hope One, a van that travels through the county and helps those affected by addiction. The county also has recovery court through which addicts can receive the help they need.

“I’m worried about the opioid situation and the children and adults we’ve lost and education for our kids,” Gould said. “We don’t have a detox center here so I don’t know exactly where the people go but maybe the hospital can look into a detox center.” 

Gould said the opioid epidemic has affected so many people throughout the county. She noted organizations and religious groups are working to curb addiction. 

“It’s very sad when you see this. It’s hundreds and hundreds of people that aren’t with us anymore because of this,” Gould said.

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