Some critical issues as we head toward Election Day
It’s less than a month to the election.
Here are some of the critical issues facing our municipality and our school district.
The economy. Anyone who follows the stock market knows the news has not been good for several weeks now. In addition, inflation is up, interest rates are up, gas prices are up … you notice the trend? The only thing down are stocks and bonds. Some will tell you that those markets are down from highs that were “too high”—that’s cold comfort to the people looking at their portfolios or 401Ks.
Did I mention that if the economy sours, it makes it awfully difficult to fund government programs that we need, much less some of the stuff we’re blowing taxpayer money on locally now? Can local government leaders tighten their belts and make good decisions? These are the same people who recently made the decisions to build a tv studio in town hall we don’t need and a hideous solar array at the school we don’t need.
Infrastructure projects. The way the town awarded three projects to the same company—Think Pavers—and how the three projects (Valley Avenue, School House Lane/Vine Street and Cpt. Gerard V. Palma Playground at Hammonton Lake Park) have been worked on this year have led to many questions. I won’t list all those questions here, but it is critical that infrastructure projects be completed in a timely and effective manner by contractors who receive large sums of taxpayer money. It is up to the town and its professionals to oversee these projects. Scapegoating the contractor alone does not show leadership.
Revitalization projects. Maintaining and growing Hammonton’s ratable base shouldn’t just be job one for the town council and, to a lesser degree, the school board. It should be jobs one through five, at least. The downtown, uptown, Little Italy, business park and airport commercial districts must continue to be filled with businesses. When a business leaves, such as Wells Fargo bank, the work to replace it should already be happening and the empty building should be filled as soon as possible. That way, our town’s ratable base stays strong and the tax burden is lifted off homeowners. Fill that bank building, and the former Whitehall, and the former Kessler Factory, and every empty commercial building in town. Then make them pay their fair share in taxes. That’s how you keep the local economy strong—tax ratables filled with jobs.
School curriculum. The purpose of the school district is to educate the children of Hammonton, Waterford Twp. and Folsom so they become productive and contributing citizens. This goal is accomplished first and foremost by having teachers educate the children using a strong curriculum. Everything else—turf fields, athletics, extra-curricular activities—is secondary, but not necessarily less important. Now that the students and staff have returned to school, positive socialization is more important than ever. Which brings me to…
…Student safety. An SRO (School Resource Officer) has been added at the Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School and the Hammonton Early Childhood Education Center. That is a good development. The school district and the Hammonton Police Department know they must cooperate and have a free flow of information at all times about any student that may need the attention of law enforcement. Nothing is more important than the safety of our students while they are in the care of the school district during the school day or at after-hours activities. We are sure the same level of security that was brought to the procession on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel by local law enforcement will be brought to the school district, every day.
Fairness. What people want from local government is a feeling that everyone is being treated equally. There should not be any horseshoes around special interests. One person or group of people should not be favored ahead of anyone else based on their political affiliations, businesses connections or familial ties. Those types of arrangements only cause people to feel like there are two Hammontons: one for the people inside the favored circle, and another for those of us outside of it. It’s wrong, it’s unfair, and it needs to stop immediately.
Those are some of my thoughts as we head toward Election Day—some people have voted already, so it’s certainly never too early to think about these topics and others before you vote for candidates for council and school board.
Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.