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Cape Issues member Peter Jespersen.

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The Cape Issues team was established in 2008 as a non-partisan volunteer group to advocate for the betterment of life in Cape May County, a very broad goal. 

We have met monthly since, and been fortunate to have the support of the Cape May County Herald from the beginning. An early, informal survey revealed the number one issue in the county was the burden of municipal, county, state and education taxes. 

In 2014, we prepared our "Vision for Cape May County - 2020" that sought to address not only taxes, but also economic development and public safety.  

Now, we want to present a small number of issues we feel should be the emphasis for improvement of the county in 2020 and beyond.

Economic Development – While nothing will ever challenge the number one position tourism occupies in leading our economy, there needs to be economic development designed to support other existing businesses and attract new ones, especially those that provide year-round employment at a living wage. 

With its beauty and relaxed lifestyle, why shouldn’t it be promoted as a great place to live if you can work from home? Why shouldn’t there be, for example, call centers providing hundreds of good jobs at the industrial parks at our two airports?

Education – Cape May County has 16 public school districts serving about 12,500 students. 

Recent rankings show the best public high school in the county ranks 154 in New Jersey. The rankings need to improve for all of our schools. 

This is further emphasized by the fact that more than 60% of incoming Atlantic Cape Community College students require one or more remedial education classes. 

If college is not the students' preferred career path, they should have an equal opportunity to pursue skills in the arts, industry and the trades while in school. The county education community should get behind the idea and explore the options of school district coordination or consolidation to address cost and curriculum issues.  

This may be the number one issue since the State’s school funding formula has not been kind to our districts.

Government Spending – As with school districts, there are opportunities for cost containment in shared services and consolidation, a perfect example being the county’s decision to implement a central dispatch system. We hope more municipalities will opt for the county’s solution this year. 

As with schools, do we need 16 municipal governments? If municipalities can’t see the wisdom of combining along sensible geographic boundaries, perhaps they could see the benefit of merged emergency medical services, fire, police and public works departments.

Infrastructure – Cape Issues met with the county, in November 2019, and was told there is a county solution for the maintenance/reconstruction of the county-owned bridges connecting the barrier islands and the mainland. This needs to be fast-tracked and negotiated with the state and federal government to ensure the county is recognized and reimbursed for the tourism taxes it sends to Trenton. 

Likewise, we need to pressure our state and federal representatives to work with the county’s political and economic leaders to move ahead with the long-debated completion of Route 55, in a way that overcomes objections of environmental groups, if possible. 

At some point, they need to acknowledge that two-thirds of the area of Cape May County is already preserved, and that the public safety and economic development needs of the county’s residents, second homeowners and visitors need to be prioritized.

These four broad issues encompass many more specific items, like affordable housing, coastal protection, health care, worker protection and all the things that support our tourism economy. We ask for your support and input on the options we know we have and those not yet proposed to make Cape May County an even better place to be.

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