Tag Archives: Shannon

Mayor Shannon Is Wrong in Criticism

Today the local newspaper reported what I did yesterday; The Levoy Theatre may lose its historic designation.

Mayor Shannon stated:

I just feel bad they are trying to remove this distinction after Joey Pierce Jr. put so much time and effort into this application in the 1990s. That was one of the many legacies he left of the work he did on the project.

Of course, that has nothing to do with anything. Fourteen years ago this man did this work. Twelve years ago this man died. The theatre collapsed more than a year ago. Those events are unrelated. That he worked hard to preserve a theatre is to be commended. Removing the title because 11 years after he died the theatre collapsed does not diminish his work. It is not a slap in the face.

But hey, politics and a sound bite are better than the truth.

Chatting with Mayor Shannon

Here is an e-mail exchange with Mayor Shannon today.

Mayor Shannon,

I’ve been trying to understand the public money Millville has
contributed to the construction of the Levoy Theatre. Reading through City Commission meeting minutes has proved confusing.

I am sure as mayor you have a document that clearly details the money you approved for the project. I am looking for something along the lines of:

3/16/2004 30,000 Resolution No. A— 4608
1/20/2009 250,000 grant Resolution No.
A-6376 UEZ #09-82
9/15/2009 675,000 loan Resolution No. A-6641
11/16/2009 450,000 grant Resolution No. A-6683
12/15/2009 1,000,000 forgivable loan, loan Resolution No. A-6734

I imagine I need to file an OPRA request for this. Will you kindly
inform me what the name of the document is so I can ask for the
correct item?

I appreciate your assistance. with this.

All the best,
Robert Owens
Millville, NJ

Mr. Owens- all this info can be obtained with an OPRA request. You can go to the municipal building 3rd floor, ask any of the ladies at the counter for the form. Ask for financial information pertaining to all funds for the Levoy project. I hope this is helpful.

Mayor Shannon,

Thank you for responding. Just to be clear, your e-mail confirms
there is a document that lists all grants/loans the City Commission
has approved for the Levoy?

What is the name and date of this document? I want to make certain I request the correct item.

Thank you kindly for your assistance,
Robert Owens

All money for this project was passed at a meeting…and I am very sorry that I don’t remember all the dates of those meetings. Everything is documented and on file at city hall.

Millville Taxes Too High

The Millville City Commission has some explaining to do.

All year we heard about a zero-increase budget. Such a budget passed. Then the state changed the amount municipalities are responsible to pay into the pension fund. The shiftless City Commission decided there was nothing it could do but to raise taxes to cover that cost. The extra amount was $108,000. That resulted in a “slight increase”. There were analogies to boxes of Girl Scout cookies and the like all to get the taxpayer to fork over more money.

Today’s news is that everything has changed once again. The pension payment is still needed, but energy savings will offset the proposed tax increase.

That’s good, Bob. Why the hell are you ranting today?

If $108,000 was needed for pension payments and $375,000 is saved via energy savings, where is the extra $267,000 going?

This is why taxes always go up. That money should not sit in the city’s bank account; rather, it should be returned to the taxpayers.

Instead of a zero-tax increase this year, Millville should be proposing a two-box Girl Scout cookies return to the taxpayers. It isn’t much, but it will be appreciated.

Don’t let this money sit idly because we know it won’t. That quarter of a million dollars will be spent. There are no line items for it, so don’t let the city snowball us. Demand they return the extra.

This is how government is supposed to work. As it becomes more efficient, the public benefits. There is no public benefit to having these politicians have extra money sitting around.

What do you think their response will be when asked about this?

A Deal for Whom?

The Daily Journal is reporting that a deal has been reached between NJMP and the Millville City Commission. It appears that NJMP will be able to build a noisy ATV track on land closer to my home. The city will get nothing. What kind of deal is that?

Oh, NJMP will change the direction of its loud speakers and turn them off during the club races. That is not the noise I hear at my house. NJMP will change the start times for some races. Again, that does not affect the noise I hear at my house.

Finally, NJMP

also agreed to make a “good faith effort” with clubs to reduce noise emissions.

What? This means nothing.

NJMP co-owner Joe Savaro stated:

We do have noise that disturbs some folks, but it’s minor compared to the benefit we’ve brought in.

Translation: We don’t care about you.

Commissioner Finch and the rest of the “Noise Committee” were out-negotiated. This is what happens when amateurs run things. The city conceded to what NJMP wanted. The city got nothing in return. Nothing!

My solution? Right now each and every City Commissioner is a “Hell No” for re-election. Each one. They are unfit to represent the residents of Millville.

I can’t wait to see these politicians explain once again how they will monitor the noise and look after us. It is clear that Finch, Quinn, Derella, Vanaman, and Shannon are incompetent.

Quid Pro Quo But for Whom?

Quid pro quo is an exchange that is supposed to be even. “I’ll do this for you if you do that for me.” In the political world that has taken on pejorative connotations. Politicians are not supposed to work in that fashion, although I certainly see a place for it at times.

There’s a case of it happening right here in Millville. Protecting their investment, the Millville City Commission is negotiating with the New Jersey Motorsports Park. That’s probably backwards; NJMP wants something and is leading the city politicians around by the nose.

An agreement that was going to revolutionize the ratable base in town, put people to work, and generally lift Millville up to heaven brought a racing track to town. That agreement had the owners of the track being able to option a piece of land from the city to build an ATV track.

NJMP has not been successful thus far. It is hemorrhaging money. It is so bad that it needed the taxpayers to float $400,000 for operating expenses this year. Never heard about that? Yeah, the local papers aren’t much on reporting bad news about NJMP since it advertises so heavily.

In an effort to bolster its revenue sources, NJMP has decided that if it could build the ATV track on land it already has, it can save the million dollars or so it would need to spend to buy the land in the agreement. So it decided to go back to the lap dog City Commission to get permission.

While bringing no tax benefits to the city, it has brought plenty of noise. What was hailed as a low din that wouldn’t be noticed, has been an in-your-face noise generator. It culminated a few weeks ago with its racing to midnight. That even got some of the fence sitters ticked to the point of complaining. Ticked off taxpayers complain to the City Commission.

Politicians know they sometimes actually have to do something. It can’t all be about themselves as they can’t be re-elected if they don’t occasionally do something. The noise issue has been enough of an issue that commissioning a couple reports and stonewalling hasn’t been enough to appease those whom they need votes from. They actually formed a committee!

Unfortunately, that committee is more of pushing things around on the table kind than anything with teeth. The local paper reported on the quid pro quo that the committee has put forth.

Finch [Millville City Commissioner Dale Finch] stated the committee would ask how NJMP officials would be willing to address resident complaints if the commission decides to reopen the development agreement to allow the ATV track.

There you go. Do something about the noise to get the taxpayers voters off our backs and we’ll grant you the right to build the ATV track on the land you already own.

Of course, Millville loses in this deal. We won’t get the money from the sale of land that was already agreed to. That land was further away from the town’s residences.

And what faith can taxpayers/voters have that this committee will negotiate anything good? The first round got us a track that has negatively affected our homes. Local politicians are no match for the corporate track owners and their lawyers.

The committee formed is filled with many of the same folks who were on board when NJMP first came. The rest are politicians. Only Commissioner Vanaman lives in an area affected by the track. No one from the public was part of negotiating team.

When Commissioner Quinn and Mayor Shannon have to abstain from votes regarding NJMP because they are so entrenched with them, that leaves but 60% of the City Commission to do the people’s business. Dale Finch, career politician with huge Democratic ties to others who are on the Green Flag Committee at NJMP, may not have our interests front and center. Commissioner Vanaman has a horse in this race, but I am not convinced he has the clout to steer the committee. He didn’t get the general public involved, did he?

Consider me skeptical with the prospects that a good deal was negotiated on behalf of those affected.

Symposium 2010: Removing the Road to Jericho

10-07-01 Symposium 2010: Removing the Road to Jericho

Last evening there was a program to address some of the issues Millville is facing. Hosted at In His Presence Worship Center, a panel that included Millville Commissioner Finch, Pastor Ennis, Pastor Wilkins, Prosecutor Webb-McCrae, Bridgeton Councilman Surrency, Freeholder Thompson, and Millville Housing Authority Executive Director Dice. The panel was moderated by Jill Lombardo-Melchiore of Cumberland County College.

Mayor Shannon and Commissioner Vanaman also addressed the audience. Commissioner Derella was in attendance.

The symposium was billed as addressing the quality of life in the city. It remained positive, but nothing was resolved. Nothing was planned.

Mr. Dice spoke well about Section 8 housing. There are but 16 Section 8 housing vouchers in the Third Ward and about 45 in Center City. But that doesn’t really tell the whole story. Those are only Millville’s vouchers. Vouchers from other communities or states could populate the rest of the residences and Mr. Dice would have absolutely no idea. He said 20-some of Millville’s vouchers are in Laurel Lake. He can only track Millville’s vouchers. It seems to me that some agency/system should be able to spit out a list of how vouchers in all reside in Center Center. Shouldn’t HUD be able to produce that list?

Melissa spoke intelligently about being a recipient of a Section 8 voucher. A former drug addict and mother of nine recently wrote a letter to ask to be removed from the program. She is now self-sufficient.

Millville’s problems are multi-faceted. Many of those issues were discussed last evening. It was interesting to see where each member of the panel stood. I did not agree with all that was spoken, but I do believe each is sincere in his point of view.

The following is the entire evening’s discussion. Discussion isn’t the right word as there was little discussion. Bloviating is too loaded of a word. How about: the following is what happened. You decide the merits.

Bad Politics

For a few years I left the classroom to be a technology coordinator for my school district. It was a job I enjoyed and at which I excelled. All the while, I knew my position was always tenuous. It’s not that my work wasn’t appreciated, it was that funds to pay for the position came from the state via the Abbott decision. Any reasonable person could see that those funds would dry up at some point. When they did, the position would be eliminated. When money began drying up with flat funding from Trenton a number years ago, out I went.

For years municipalities have funded police and fire employee salaries with Urban Enterprise Zone funds. Districts are created that permit businesses with more than 20 employees to charge half the state income tax on purchases and services. The sales tax is then kept in the community. That money is then used to help businesses. I wrote about UEZ four years ago.

Millville has been using some of those UEZ funds ($500,000 annually) to fund police and fire officers. Now that funds are tight (UEZ funds have been commandeered for the balance of the year by state government), Millville is faced with how to pay these officers.

With no UEZ funds available for the salaries, the only other “revenue” Millville has is the general fund. That fund has been promised to be flat this year by the City Commission. No one wants to raise taxes in this climate. Indeed, it would be political suicide.

So, Millville is faced with losing nine police employees. The police union is understandably not pleased:

“We’re willing to work with the city,” he said. “They’re putting the deficit all on the city employees. I don’t want to see the department go down the drain.”

That is certainly not fair! Reasonable people could see that if these funds ever dried up so would the salaries. It is that time.

Who is responsible for funding the salaries through UEZ?

No one desires reducing our public safety. The number of shootings in town just this week gives residents pause.

The thing is, raising taxes to make up for the bad politics that created this situation is not a reasonable solution. Funding salaries out of UEZ money may have been legal and expedient, but it wasn’t smart. The town is now in a bind. It is wrong to frame the issue as an either/or scenario even if that is how it is played out.

Again, who created this situation?

Last spring Commissioners Quinn and Derella touted their 12 year legacy as to why they should be re-elected. Likewise, Mayor Shannon spoke of his eight years in office. Together, the “Three Js” represented incumbency. Guys, if you want the accolades for what you did, you need to take the heat when it fails. Funneling UEZ funds for salaries has now caught up with you. I agree with your no tax increase stance. The flip side, however, is that you cannot take credit for the increased public safety force since it will decrease.

Perhaps these decisions reach back to when Mr. Finch was previously a commissioner. Does anyone know?

Unfortunately for Millville, Commissioner Vanaman, who up until now was perceived to be the fiscally responsible member, has come out in favor of at least a 6.5¢ tax increase to rectify the bad politics of his colleagues. As much as we desire all our police and firefighters, there is no justification for raising property taxes this year. This stance of his hurts his credibility in my eyes.

I want a strong police force and fire department. Funds should be permanent to support those departments. Making decisions to use tax “revenue” specially designed to generate business is not smart. This isn’t a new issue; we have all seen this coming.

Hold the decision-makers responsible.

Millville, Noise, A School & Politics

As if Millville didn’t already have enough political strife, there’s another issue that is rumbling through town. The location of the new high school Millville Public Schools wants is beginning to be the NIMBY issue du jour.

I sympathize. Two of the preferred sites are near me, one even within walking distance. Just last week I spoke with someone nearby about the project. Our area hasn’t organized anything.

The Smith Road residents, on the other hand, have become vocal. Interestingly, Commissioner Derella is in that neighborhood as is Millville Parks and Public Property Superintendent Liz Nicke. Derella has stated he is “adamantly against” the Smith Road location. It sounds as though the state really likes the area as there is room for growth and the area is projected for commercial growth. The current problem, notwithstanding the vocal “prominent” residents, is that there is not adequate sewer and water connections at the site. The state does not pay for the infrastructure for new schools. The City Commission has vowed not to pay a dime extra for the cost of the school. I do applaud the tenacity.

So other sites are being looked at.

Commissioner Derella shared last month that a new site was found by some guy sitting in the parking lot of the Wawa on Wade Boulevard. Many like this location as it is already in a trafficked area, near the current high school, and back away from residents as the entry to the professional park. The problem with the site is that there is a rail line nearby and hazardous materials are transported along that line.

That brings us to the two on Cedar Road. One is the farm across from the airport. I believe this is Ingraldi’s property, but am not certain. I walk by here frequently on my geogolf courses. According to Jason Laday’s article in The News:

A downside there includes added construction costs toward soundproofing against noise from the municipal airport and the New Jersey Motorsports Park.

Huh?

The state thinks it’s too noisy at this location for a regular school. If it were to build a school there, it would have to invest in soundproofing materials. The reasons cited are the airport and the motorsports park.

Millville passed a noise ordinance prior to the construction of the motorsports park. To be in violation, sounds at 80db or higher need to be sustained for 20 minutes, otherwise life is peaceful. The City Commission has stated the readings have never reached 80db for 20 minutes.

So, if life is so peaceful along Cedar Road, why would the state need to soundproof a building it is considering building?

If the school requires soundproofing, then how can the City Commission deny there is a noise problem? Note that Commissioner Finch as well as Mayor Shannon are members of the Green Flag Committee at the racetrack.

The Green Flag Committee works to inform the general public of the features and benefits of NJMP and related Millville Airport tourism centers as anchor projects for revenue enhanced tourism, and to provide operational support for NJMP charitable events and related social and public affairs. In addition, the Green Flag Committee works in close partnership with regional non-profit organizations, chambers of commerce, and public schools.

According to some, the noise is only on the weekends in the afternoon. School is not in session at that time. Why would the soundproofing be needed then?

Up until now those who have voiced concerns about the noise have been told they are complainers. Read the comments to this post of Mark Krull’s. Here is Carl Johnson’s take on those who are bothered by the noise.

I wonder if these folks, and the others who populate The Daily Journal’s site, will stand up to the state. Will the commissioners share NJMP’s report that there are no noise violations at the site? Will someone remind the state that Millville’s noise ordinance is illegal, and the state has exempted racetracks from any noise violations?

Hmmm . . .

I cannot see how the state can soundproof a school here and have the Millville City Commission deny there is a noise problem. Of course, we’re dealing with government so anything’s possible.

The Secret to My Success

Yesterday morning The Daily Journal printed a letter from Paul Porreca. Mr. Porreca asks, “What is its [Millville city government] definition of success?”

It’s a good question. Businesses and government alike set measurable goals. A plan is enacted. Then some sort of review is done to measure whether the goal is met.

Mr. Porreca wants government to define success of the downtown revitalization project.

Commissioner Derella has stated the city has spent $24 million so far on fixing up downtown. There is another $4.5 (or more) million committed to the Levoy Theatre, which has been described as the “linchpin” of the entire project.

It would seem a natural question at this point (or far earlier even) for government to establish what “success” for this project will be. No one in business spends $30 million without crafting a measurable goal. Shoot, as a public school teacher I create measurable goals for each of my lessons to determine success. When success is not met, remediation takes place. Surely the City Commission can answer the question.

I was astounded when a local forwarded me a link to the article and quipped about Mr. Porreca and Millville First. Porreca garners hatred from some locals. These folks cannot put aside their disdain for Porreca and actually deal with issues. Heck, sometimes issues that really have nothing to do with him has folks dragging him into the fray. It’s cheap debate tactics that serve nothing but to detract from the issue at hand. One local even admitted that Porreca’s question was fair . . . and then prevailed to rail against Porreca for several more paragraphs.

If it is a fair question, and I concur that is, then it should be answered. Millville has invested a lot of money into revitalizing the downtown. High Street looks pretty good. Next summer we’ll have a real theatre anchoring the arts community. How will the community learn whether this $30 million has been considered successful by government?

What are the criteria of success? There is no reason to dodge the question, even if it does come from Mr. Porreca.