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CNBNews Opinion:

Who Will Be Gloucester City's New Mayor?

UPDATED/CORRECTION

Correction: Joe Gorman, is the father-in-law of Councilman Johnson, not Fran Gorman. Also, Bowie's brother-in-law is not former mayor, Bob Gorman.  Bob Gorman is the son of  Fran Gorman and nephew of Joe Gorman. Lastly, Bob Gorman and Kate Gorman are cousins.

 

William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNews

Screen Shot 2021-05-31 at 18.59.29Come out, come out, whoever you are...

 

GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ (May 20, 2021)--We had our fingers crossed that Dan Spencer who replaced former Gloucester City Mayor William James was going to be the answer to the development of the city's waterfront. Spencer's four-year term began on January 6, 2019 and was to expire in 2023. 

Early into his term Mayor Spencer said in an interview that it might be time to move away from building a waterfront restaurant, and, maybe put condos on the Freedom Pier property instead. Long ago, many of us who lived here our entire life thought it was time to give the restaurant idea up.

The simple reason being is the city has been sitting on valuable waterfront property for 50 years or more, waiting for a developer to come along and invest millions into constructing a building on the property that they wouldn't own. The city wanted to maintain ownership and lease it to the developer. They also wanted control over the design of the building, and in one case they wanted to tell a potential investor what kind of decorations he should have inside his restaurant. Negotiations with several investors fell through because of the city's micromanagement involvement. 

To the surprise of many, Spencer made a surprise announcement on April 26 that he was resigning from the office effective June 1, 2021.  His resignation was made on his personal Facebook page. Not on the City's website where it belonged. He gave no precise reason why he was quitting although he did say,  "It is with a heavy heart that I must do what is best for me and my family at this time."

We had heard, but could not confirm that the mayor was tired of hearing criticism about the city's high taxes, dirty streets, abandoned properties, and lack of progress with riverfront development and other development plans. But Spencer has been involved in Gloucester City and Camden County politics since the 8o's. It is very doubtful that he is resigning because of taxpayers complaints. 

Chuck Billingham, elected in the mid-90s did the same thing. He resigned half way into his term and Bob Gorman was named mayor. 

A few days ago we asked Spencer if a replacement for his job had been named and his answer was no. 

We asked him again on May 30 and he said No!

Nothing unusual with Spencer's response. Other Gloucester City politicians act the same. Years ago we asked Spencer a question pertaining to city business and his response, "I'm not allowed to talk to you." At the time we were trying to find out information about something the public had a right to know. 

That is another thing that irks residents the lack of communication between those who are elected and the people they are supposed to be serving. It is almost like they are saying "What they don't know can't hurt them." Or, "We can do what we want; who is going to stop us!"

On the same day we asked Spencer about his replacement, we asked City Administrator Brian Morrell, who is also the city police chief, and he gave us this answer, "I actually have not. I thought they would have said something at the last council meeting, but it was not discussed."

We heard that Second-Ward Councilman Bowie Johnson (photo courtesy of the City of Gloucester City) is going to Bowiejohnsonpic2013-wpcf_150x175 be the new mayor. But, we can't confirm that gossip. Johnson's father-in-law was Fran Gorman (deceased)a state assemblyman and city treasurer.

Johnson's brother-in-law is former mayor Bob Gorman. He retired from his position of head of the Gloucester Public Works Department sometime ago. He was also head of the City Democratic Club at one time. His wife Kate (nee Gorman) also retired many years ago from her position as Gloucester City court clerk.

 

And so the story goes...

Screen Shot 2021-05-30 at 20.27.03

AERIAL VIEW--The arrow on the left is pointing at Freedom Pier, the other arrow points to Holt Logistics corporate headquarters located on the Delaware River, King and Cumberland Streets, Gloucester City, NJ. Plans for a restaurant and marina for that area were first proposed in the 1980s. In 1991 the City obtained the deed to the Freedom Pier site from the federal government for $1 which included what was then the Coast Guard Building now Holt's offices. The city signed a 99-year lease with Holt for that building in 1996. (photo source Internet)

Screen Shot 2021-05-19 at 22.5.15
The Freedom Pier Dedication Plaque dated Sept. 17, 2011 (CNBNews photo-

As for the waterfront, under the James administration, in office for 12 years, over $1 million-plus was spent on improving the pier's infrastructure. Another $500,000 plus spent on a brick promenade, tabletop lanterns, an iron railing that blocks the view of the river when sitting down on the benches, and floating docks that just sit on the ground wasting away.

As far as the actual restaurant that got no further than a giant billboard with fancy pictures that never came to fruition.  

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Residents keep asking themselves how come neighboring towns can make giant improvements to their waterfront but all Gloucester City officials do is talk about it. There was Hollywood East, followed by the King Street Corridor, followed by the Gloucester City Vista at Freedom Pier. The last proposal for Southport was in 2010 and that was a medical waste to compost plant. Whenever we asked about that project we are told it takes time to get the permits for it. In 2019 or there about city officials met with several medical marijuana businesses who were looking for a place to open in South Jersey. Gloucester City's Southport was one of the places they were considering.

A compost plant and a medical marijuana operation are a far cry from the grandiose plans we have been hearing about since the 80s. 

Millions of dollars were spent on one study after the other. Boxes containing those plans sit at the top of the municipal building gathering dust. Nobody ever said anything about how they were going to put all those new homes, marinas, and shops in an area that was known to flood whenever there was heavy rain or an extreme hide tide. The infrastructure was not in place. Neither did the politicians tell us about the dangerous chemicals that were buried in that ground. It wasn't until 2008 that we were told that it would take 20 years to clean it up. 

The Coast Guard Base was given to the city for $1 by the federal government in 1991. The top floor of the Coast Guard building was perfect for a restaurant, all it needed was some modern renovations but the incompetent city fathers let that slip away. How that happened is explained in the two columns below.  

And so the story goes...

P.S. Good luck Dan, we wish you well. We have known you and your parents for a long time, one of us is getting old, and although we didn't agree with each other all the time, I still considered you a friend. And, I hope you feel the same.

You told Connie and I at Rexy's when you were getting near retirement that once you retired from the county you were going to move on to something else. Hopefully this time you find that something else and leave the political arena behind you for good. ~Warmest regards, Bill and Connie 

 

RELATED: 

Gloucester City Announces Plans to Develop a Section of the Broadway Corridor  2020

Three Medical Marijuana Businesses Meet with Gloucester City Officials  2019

     WHAT'S UP AT GLOUCESTER CITY'S SOUTHPORT?  .... 2014

The Tale of Holt, the Coast Guard Base, and the City of Gloucester City (2nd Part)

FIRST PART: The Tale of Holt, the UDAG, and the City of Gloucester City 

 

 

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