“I’m frustrated! This is a frustrating meeting.”
“What’s wrong, Tom?” Actually nobody said that, or had to ask Tom what he meant when he expressed his frustration toward the end of our October meeting. The dozen-plus dedicated non-partisan citizen members of the Cape Issues group have been meeting monthly at 7 a.m. for over 10 years to do what we can to help improve lives for the people of Cape May County. Frustration arises because progress on the major issues of our county is so very hard to achieve.
I have to hand it to my colleagues, they stay on task. Why? That is who Americans are. It’s our country, and when we see things that need to be done, Americans do them.
On with the frustrations.
Why not finish Route 55? We are only 20 miles short of having a four-lane, controlled access divided highway between Philadelphia and the Cape May County shore communities, … and we can't get the job completed… after DECADES of waiting. A high percentage of the year-round residents of Cape May County are failing to thrive. Given that modern roads bring prosperity, we need this road completed to help us to prosper, halting our population decline, including the departure of our youth. It will also bring greater security when major storms hit. Well -- we talk to the powers that be until we are blue in the face – but still no road.
And what about our public schools and college? Many new methods of thoroughly and efficiently instructing students have been developed over the last number of decades, such as the academies in Bergen County, but we have stuck to traditional ways. Also, as a recent Thomas B. Fordham Institute examination of the success of charter schools demonstrates, newer methods achieve enhanced results, especially for minority students, without “creaming” the best students. (Oct. 4 Wall Street Journal, WSJ). This is not an indictment of teachers, rather the “Sad reality is that teacher unions run the public schools for themselves, not for the students.” (ibid., WSJ)
A further failure is that of government and school administrations at the state level. The county executive superintendent of schools has not provided that leadership to this point, but hopefully will do so going forward.
What about economic development? We need it. Oh boy, do we need it, but do we have a county economic development plan and a trained professional driving it? No and no. We need an authoritative person who knows the industrial leaders of the county, be it in tourism, fishing, boatbuilding, healthcare, finance, wind-power generation, dredging, etc., who knows what they need to grow their businesses and empowers them to do so. Currently, we can’t even hold on to our start-up businesses, which get their start in Cape May County, and then move out, such as Hank Sauce and Yank Marine shipbuilding.
It is not all frustration. The county investigated central dispatching of police and fire departments in years past. At Cape Issues encouragement, or on their own, who knows, county-wide central dispatching is becoming a reality.
Another bright spot -- we are a county blessed with a lot of water. This requires bridges. Many, if not most, of our bridges were built by the federal government going back to the Great Depression years. They are now in need of replacement; the burden of doing so is probably too much for us to bear. We need to get the state to take ownership of them and replace them with new bridges built to current specification. Fortunately, our county government is taking steps toward their repair or replacement.
Frustration? Yes. Life has its frustrations, but also its rewards. Together America’s people have built a nation which is the envy of the world. It took a lot of investment and sacrifice of so many to create what we now have. The frustration is gladly born.