Dorothy Philbin | CNBNews
This week I, as likely most of you, received election fliers from every candidate running for every office under the sun. I sent a letter to "one issue" Donald Norcross explaining that most average people are more concerned about putting gas into our cars, food onto the table, etc. I didn't hear back from Mr. Norcross, but I never really expected a reply.
I also received fliers from our local candidates. They all seemed like very nice people, maybe some more qualified than the others but I didn't see what I was looking for.
Our current mayor boasted that taxes had not been raised during his short tenure. He had a point. When is the last time our taxes hadn't been raised, just because....no of legitimate reason, just because? As poor as our city is, we pay the 30th highest taxes of the state's 589 communities.
What I didn't read from any of the candidates is their visions for the city over the next few years. My specific questions are:
Why has the city stopped looking for a City Administrator? When is the last time they interviewed someone? At one point I read that seven people had been interviewed. What is the city looking for that they can't find in any of seven full-time candidates but can find in a part-time police chief? Is any of these candidates planning to do something about this or are they just going to let the pension clock tick down so Mr. Morrell gets a pension based on two managerial positions rather than just one very lucrative job?
In December 2020, Dan Spencer, left, who was mayor at the time appointed Police Chief Brian Morrell (right) the temporary city administrator. Two years later Morrell is still the temporary administrator and is also the city police chief. His salary is over $200,000.
How is each of these candidates going to make our city government more responsive to our citizens? The police no longer issue weekly reports of police activity. They say it is too much work. Perhaps the reports, which have been issued for the past several decades, wouldn't be so much trouble if there were a full-time Chief of Police. Maybe the Captain, also a Morrell, could do it. I volunteered to do it. I got no response from Mr. Morrell (the Chief of Police, not the Captain) but the answer I got from one of the candidates was like riding around the Brooklawn Circle, while it is flooded, and never getting any where. The story will come out before the election.
Fire reports are no longer issued, the excuse is that the information may be confidential. WHAT? I hear a fire sirens in the vacinity, then I see this big, red truck rushing down the street, I see it go around my corner so I walk around the corner to see what is happening. The firemen get off of the truck and start doing what firemen do. So far, what is confidential? If there should be anything, just redact it and give us the rest of the information. Remember, on the west side of the city a "new" house is any one that was built ater 1900. When one of these houses goes, likely the whole row goes. We have a right to know.
How many city-owned properties are there for which no taxes are being paid? If the houses/properties were acquired through tax sales, that can be a long-term process. It can even take years. That's a given. However, no candidate has acknowledged that there are city-owned properties and the city is doing nothing to make this public.
I did some research and found there are 131 city-owned properties. Several of these are legitimately owned by the city. They are firehouses, playgrounds, office buildings. But many are not. There are at least 24 houses that are owned by the city. Is anyone living in them? Where, in the process of tax sale, are they? Is anyone actively working on the sales? Are the houses being maintained? We don't know because no one issues reports to the tax payers. Maybe, if the city office employees worked five days a week instead of four, they would have time to do this.
Parking, especially between the railroad and the river is tight. I understand that. I grew up on the 500 block of Bergen Street. When we were old enough to own cars, my father would only allow two of our cars on the street and the others had to park in the (library) lot. In addition, Orlando's 500 Bar was at the corner and their patrons took up many of our spots. So, I get it!
When I was looking at the city-owned properties I found most of them to be empty lots which, it appeared, people turned into neighborhood parking lots. Hey, you do what you have to do. At least 48 properties, whether they be a single house which has been demolished or the major lots under the Walt Whitman Bridge and the ship yard, have been turned into parking lots - hap-hazardly. We have a Planning Board, a Mayor and Council. Has no one thought to look at this problem, the solution which is under everyone's noses, and straighten out this mess? Where are the empty lots? What are the needs in that neighborhood (considering businesses, restaurants and bars?) What is planned for that neighborhood? Specifically, the 15 new apartments proposed for the old Gloucester Catholic Boy's building. It is quite probable that they will bring an additional 30 cars into that neighborhood. Where are they going to park?
How are the parking spaces around the former Mary Costello School being used? How about the spaces when the Middle School isn't in session? When I taught in Philadelphia the principal made an agreement with the neighbors that they could use the school's parking lot after 4:00 pm and before 7:30 am. The neighbors complied and everyone was happy. What if the neighbors hadn't left in time? I know that principal, the cars would have been towed by 7:35. It never happened.
What would happen if we identified all the parking lots in the west side of Gloucester City, study the needs, survey the lots to see how many spots are available, tow any unregistered vehicles. Take some of the money which is wasted every year and pave the lots, paint lines for parking spaces. This is just an idea but see if it would be possible to asssign one parking space per household. If more than one car, the others have to park on the street. Maybe we could actually enforce parking regulations. If you are going to leave a vehicle parked for any length of time, park it under the bridge. If a car is broken down, on blocks, or unregistered, tow it. There is no reason for the towing not to be done today.
I have a challenge for our candidates. Each one should pick a topic, research it, and come up with a plan by November 1st. I'll print the responses and the voters will be able to make an informed decision when they go to the polls on November 8th.