Ideas, idle gossip, and occasionally important odds ‘n’ ends
Part of me doesn’t even want to write any more about the biggest issue facing Cape May – that’s right, Convention Hall. I rue the day that Mayor Ed Mahaney and the city council promised that the process for deciding on a new center would be a thoroughly democratic, transparent one.
What followed was, indeed, a very democratic process. So much so that I wonder why we even bothered to have a city council. Why not just ask every single taxpayer what THEY would like to see built on the beachfront. It could hardly have been any more prolonged or tortuous had we actually done that.
And now, three whole seasons after the original building was deemed unsafe and closed down, we are still without a center, and we all know that it will be at least another two more summers before a new one is ready.
I have argued right from the start that the plan drawn up by the architects, Kimmel-Bogrette, and which was approved by a majority of two-to-one in a referendum two years ago, is a good one. And I continued to argue that even when the city announced that it would cost about $3 million more than they bargained for to build that design, due primarily to the fact that the building would have had to be moved 24 feet forward, meaning that the promenade would have to be redone.
Do you all remember the presentation the city made a few months ago? It demonstrated that even with the increased cost of the plan that taxpayers would only be paying about $50 a year extra. It was a very impressive and persuasive argument. I thought that would be the end of it, but the three new members of council (all of whom were endorsed by Exit Zero, it has to be said) voted the plan down.
Ever since then I have watched with increasing frustration and sadness as the plan for a building that would further enhance Cape May’s tourism pedigree was chipped away until now it looks like we are going to get something that’s little better than the souped-up cowshed that stands there now.
We elect politicians to make decisions on behalf of the people. So what makes some folks think that it’s okay for them to constantly meddle and cause delays which are hurting businesses in the city and denigrating the Cape May tourism experience? If you feel so strongly about getting involved in city business, then stand for election. Wait, one of the most persistent meddlers did that and finished well behind in the voting.
And if you think that your job as a city council member is ONLY to listen to your constituents without having a strong view of your own, having had more access to information than the typical member of the public, then I’m sorry, that makes you a mouthpiece, not a spirited, useful public servant.
It’s a mess and the city brought this upon themselves. They should have shown stronger leadership, instead of letting every Tom, Dick and Harry, and their cats, vent their opinion.
Now we also have two former mayors chiming in with letters to a local newspaper, saying how THEY would have it done. This is what happens when people sense there’s a power vacuum. Seriously, it’s turned to farce.
It’s already claimed one victim. Henry’s on the Beach, which has been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner on the promenade for 12 years, closed after Labor Day and won’t be re-opening. Owner Ed Henry blamed the delay on the new hall. “We just can’t wait any longer for Conventon Hall. It hurt our business so badly. In the spring and fall, especially, people just aren’t going to that part of town because there are no events,” Ed told me.
Henry’s on the Beach employed 50 people, most of them locals. They were not the only business to hurt. Both Oasis and Tisha’s Fine Dining would have stayed another year on the promenade, but had to leave because the city had scheduled demolition before the beginning of this summer season. That’s a lot of lost rental income for the city.
I could go on but, truly, I’m just about sick of writing about this subject, and you may well feel the same way about reading it.
Speaking of which, you won’t have to listen to my voice (in solo form) any longer. As of next week, the Ramblings column will have a different feel. I will still be contributing, but so will others, primarily my colleagues Dan Mathers and Jon Roth. The column will have a fancy new title – Ramblings from the Editors. Subtle, huh? The new column will be a mixture of gossip, observations serious and otherwise.
And in the spirit of shaking things up, we have introduced a new What’s On guide (see pages four and five), and we have a couple new features coming in the next few weeks.
Please enjoy, dear reader.