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Dateline April/May 2008:
Election, Ventnor West, Fun Day!

The last Dateline article for March was written shortly after the April 5th “First Saturday” meeting hosted by W♥V.  The gap in writing an April article for Dateline can be explained by the pace of election coverage as well as day-to-day developments related to the “Hot Issue”  dredge spoils facility proposal for 12 acres of Ventnor West.  The Forums provided up-to-date information through two very news-filled months.

ELECTION NEWS & RESULTS

 The highly competitive race for Ventnor Commission in 2008 found the incumbents’ mailings featuring glossy presentations of public works projects undertaken during their terms in office which they believed to best meet the needs of Ventnor residents.  They defended the status of Ventnor’s long-term debt by comparing it to other coastal towns, and also sought to capitalize on   numerous endorsements coming from County-level to Federal-level officials such as the County Executive, Assemblymen, and Congressman Frank LoBiondo.

Meanwhile, the slate of challengers had endorsements from two former Ventnor mayors, and several former Ventnor Commissioners.  Their theme of “Enough is Enough” – centered on taxes and spending -- found their campaign effort reviving the old art of political cartoons. Both slates of candidates made frequent appearances on the Harry Hurley radio program as the election drew closer.  On the Friday just before election day, Hurley hosted a remote broadcast, away from his regular radio studio, in uptown Ventnor at the AAAA Bike Shop.

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The election on May 13th brought about major electoral change in Ventnor, as a new slate of Commissioners was swept into office. Preliminary “very rough rounded numbers” reported in the Forums as the polls closed, then evolved into a tablecloth tally of machine-counted votes, and finally into the official voter tabulations including absentee ballots reported in the press.  

Website visitors who weren’t in town to attend the swearing in ceremonies on May 20th or the Memorial Day event the “Enough” slate hosted at St. James Hall, can still get a sense of the newly elected Ventnor officials through YouTube.  They prepared a short campaign video, which can be reached at this link -   http://www.youtube.com/user/KellyPiattWeintrob08

In addition, in the final week of the campaign, as a live debate proved elusive, W♥Vextended an invitation to both slates for a videotaped interview conducted by local Ventnor radio personality, Barbara Altman.  Questions submitted to the website Forums or raised at “First Saturday” monthly open meetings were provided, in advance, to all the candidates.  The incumbents declined to be interviewed and wanted a live debate, which the challengers spurned. W♥Vhad set up a special “channel” on YouTube, for videotaping either a debate or an interview.  Overnight editing allowed viewing by the next morning, just four days before the election.   That video is linked here – http://www.youtube.com/user/VentnorElection2008

VENTNOR WEST

The CDF/Contained Disposal Facility which was a W♥V“hot issue” in March became a hot issue, among others, during the campaign as well.   Petitions from Ventnor West residents to the DEP prompted the DEP to announce that it would hold a public hearing about the project in Ventnor by middle of June.  The DEP also became aware that there were sharp differences in the approach that the candidates would take toward the proposed use for Ventnor West, in extending municipal “hospitality” for use of the municipally-owned land.  

On the second Saturday of May, a small informational “rally” by a dozen volunteers was staged outside Ventnor’s City Hall and the two street intersections at either end of the block, to distribute flyers about the CDF plans.  That activity had been preceded, earlier in the week, by a group of Ventnor residents attending a County Freeholders’ meeting at Stockton College, to elevate county leaders’ awareness of the issue.   News that the challengers had won election found the most recent e-mail communication from one DEP official, in response to a status inquiry on May 28th from Ventnor Environmental Research Group’s Matt Steinen,  stating the following:

Subject: Coastal Engineering Question
Date: Wed, 28 May 2008 18:26:51
 
Mr. Steinen,

Thank you for your interest in the Ventnor West dredging project. Our office is awaiting the determination from Green Acres regarding the properties disposition on the ROSI register. A public hearing will only be held if the site is removed [from] the register and the municipality still wants to move forward with this project. Please note that this possible future hearing will be run by the Department's Office of Dredging and Sediment Technology as part of the permit review process.

Sincerely,

Ben Keiser
Acting Manager
Bureau of Coastal Engineering

The question of whether the municipality “still wants to move forward” on the project looms large for the DEP, after the election. 

The Audubon Society -- at both the Atlantic County and statewide levels -- weighed in with further communications to the DEP.   The day after the DEP’s Acting Manager for Bureau of Coastal Engineering sent the status advisory to VERG, an Assistant Commissioner at DEP was sent the following letter from Eric Stiles, Vice President of the New Jersey Audubon Society.    

Prior to that letter, there had been some inquiry about designating Ventnor West as an IBA, or Important Bird Area.   However, the letter pointed out that Ventnor West already falls within a larger pre-existing IBA.

Balancing the desire to preserve Ventnor West for its natural habitat value, against the legitimate needs for some dredging of sections of Ventnor’s navigable waterways, requires some investigation of the alternatives for handling dredge spoils.   The June open meeting of W♥V laid plans to do exactly that, with information about a technology that performs simultaneous dewatering of sludge/spoils for prompt removal to final disposal locations – seemingly obviating the need for an interim slow-dewatering CDF. 

BUILDING COMMUNITY SPIRIT

On the Saturday following the election, Ventnor held its first-ever “Tour de Ventnor” bicycle tour of the city – an 8-mile route which started and ended on the Boardwalk, but followed a course on streets along the waterways.

Participants then returned to the C-SURE playground, where a festive opening began at Noon.  The weather was cooperative, and after months of a hotly contested campaign, the Ventnor Family Fun Day event organizers deserve praise for working hard to bring about a community-building series of spirit-boosting activities.