Government Gone Awry
We’ve been saying for a long time that the city has ventured off course. They’ve not been following the protocol of the council/manager form of government that’s in place here and in 41% of New Jersey municipalities. Under this system, the mayor is supposed to preside over council with no administrative power or executive authority — that’s the bag of City Manager Bruce MacLeod. But Mayor Ed Mahaney, we’ve had more than one member of council tell us, likes being in control, and we’ve got a city manager who doesn’t seem to mind.
We’ve seen it for ourselves. The mayor signs major contracts, like the one between the city and the Philadelphia Pops. He’s the one spearheading important partnerships, like that between the city and Temple University… like the one that was supposed to result in a $53,000 marketing plan for Convention Hall that never came to fruition. He hijacks questions directed to MacLeod at council meetings. We’ve heard stories about him intercepting emails before they reach members of council. And now we’re hearing stories about him nearly driving Marketing Director Mike Whipple to resign with this need to control. “I’ve heard that rumor, too,” council member Bill Murray said, “that Mike was getting exasperated, although it’s hearsay.”
So when Murray said at the August 21 council meeting that there’s been innuendos around town about the city not abiding by the council/manager system, we agreed. Only, we wouldn’t call them innuendos. More like valid accusations, and many of them from us.
Murray went on to introduce a resolution reaffirming the council’s commitment to the current form of government, commonly known as the Faulkner Act. “We’ve been hearing from a number of constituents that the mayor is running things and sidestepping city council,” Murray told us in a later interview, “and I thought this would be one way to put that to bed.”
But saying it and doing it are two different things… council already committed to this system once, and that didn’t stick, so who’s saying this will do the trick? “If people continue to say things aren’t being run according to Faulker,” Murray told us, “I’m going to ask them to come to me and give me the facts behind the assumption. If something is not being done the right way, I will do my best to find out what’s happening to circumvent that.” We asked Murray if all of the complaints are coming from constituents, or if members of council are equally frustrated. “The mayor likes to control things,” he responded.
Every member of council, including the mayor, voted yes on the resolution, except for Terri Swain, who called the gesture “unnecessary,” since this form of government is already in place. She did not, however, have trouble voting yes to a reaffirmation of the New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act, which she called the “more important” of the two resolutions.
We’d argue that being “in place” in theory is a much different thing than being in place in practice, and we’re willing to bet Terri Swain (who wasn’t available for comment) knows that, too. “I was perplexed by her vote,” Murray said. “I can’t imagine voting against that. This is the way the law says it’s supposed to be.” Supposed to be and, hopefully, will be again soon. We’re hoping this reaffirmation becomes in the very near future less a symbolic gesture and more a reality for the city of Cape May.
The Mid-Atlantic $500,000 Fishing tournament hosted by South Jersey Marina is, boat-for-boat, the richest marlin and tuna tournament in the world. “Others might offer more dollars,” says Mark Allen of the marina’s marketing department, “but they have more boats, so the pay-out is less.” If you score big in the Mid-Atlantic by, say, catching the biggest white marlin, you’ll walk with “upwards of $800,000 or $900,000,” Allen told us. Which explains why the entrants — 120 this year — had to cough up $6,000 just to enter.
But it’s not just about the money.
We stopped by the Canyon Club — site of all out-of-water action: weigh-ins, tournament announcements, and imbibing — last Friday, the Mid-Atlantic’s last day, around 7:30pm. The first person we spotted was Robert Zizza, AKA chef Bobby Z of Lucky Bones fame, hanging around the weigh-in station, where 25 workers communicated via very expensive-looking technology with the tournament’s sister location, Ocean City, Maryland. Zizza had heard whispers, he told us, there was still one more boat to come in, a boat that had been struggling with a potentially game-changing marlin. The crew had only an hour-and-a half to dock before deadline… a pretty exciting situation, considering that winning fish have come in “seconds before cut off” in tournaments past. This is why the Friday of Mid-Atlantic week is often referred to as “moving day;” the leaders can change so much throughout the final hours.
Silently rooting for these fishermen we’d never met, we made our way along the water, lit by the soft bulbs of 60-foot yachts in port, to the tournament’s 20,000-square-foot tent, worth $35,000 and occupied by nearly 1,000 people. From a stage on the south wall, came the “British reinvasion” music of the Robert Murdoch band — everything from the Beach Boys to Abbey Road. As we listened, we remembered Mark Allen telling us that some of the musicians had to stay at his house the night before, because there weren’t any vacancies at the hotels in town, largely due to this event. “Roughly $4,000,000 is pumped into Cape May over the course of the week because of the Mid-Atlantic,” he said. “This is huge for the local economy.”
Lining the walls were 150 vendors, selling everything from jewelry to shoes to GPS technology for the serious boater. The guy hawking Garmin, Dave Dunn from North Carolina who wooed your reporter with his charming southern accent, told us this tournament is one of his favorite to work, because the hospitality is unmatched. “And Cape May is great, too,” he said. “I try to get here five times a year.” It’s something Mark Allen had confirmed earlier: “It’s not just a fishing competition. People can bring their wives and their kids without worrying.” We guess fishermen have a reputation for getting a little rowdy elsewhere, but at the Mid-Atlantic “no one is dropping their drawers or doing anything obscene.”
And then there’s the food. Every night of the tournament, there are catered sit-down dinners. This night, it was the Lobster House who provided the food — 900 lobsters and 140 pounds of shrimp were among the offerings dished out at a buffet line manned by thirty. “These guys are hungry when they come in from being on the water all day,” said Banquet Coordinator Bob Morris. “And they’re big guys.”
But, we learned, it’s the camaraderie that unites the fishing community more than the thought of an oversized cardboard check, or the party that comes before the presentation of those large checks. We met fishermen Norman Morris and Ed McMahon, who told us about the times they’ve been invited on board by strangers. “You go to different areas and meet boating friends,” said Morris. “In Key West, someone said, ‘Come on board, have a cocktail.’ It’s a very engaging sport. It’s not all about the money; it’s fun.”
This holds true even for kids who likely have no concept of how much $500,000 is. “I threw up ten times today,” said 11-year-old Megan Frame, who was thrown in the water after catching her first marlin, per fishing tradition. “And it was totally worth it.”
But we wanted to speak with one of the seasoned salty-dog types, too, so we made our way through the crowd. Past Ryan Krill of Cape May Brewery (who was drinking a Miller Lite, we’d like to note), past Toby Craig of the Washington Inn (who told us he hadn’t eaten yet, prompting Mark Allen to joke, “He’s not allowed to eat here; it would be a conflict of interest”), and past some group of fishermen who chastised your reporter for taking too many notes (“You’re wasting trees!”).
Eventually we found two men who looked the part: white cotton T-shirts, long knotty hair, visors, camouflage cargo pants, one earring between them, and sun-burnt noses. “I had a marlin on the line for four-and-a-half hours running today,” said Jay Hynes of the Super Crew boat. “Eventually, I had to cut it off. We were running out of time.” And that’s when we realized: this is the captain of the boat everyone had been waiting for. And this was the potentially game-changing marlin… the one that got away.
So, we wanted to know, isn’t it heart-breaking to lose a fish you’d been depending on? “Eh,” the guys shrugged in unison, “That’s fishing.” So we asked them instead about their long hair… why so many fishermen seem adverse to haircuts. “It has nothing to do with fishing,” Hynes said. “I’m just too cheap to get it cut.”
So no one from Cape May caught the most coveted fish — the largest white marlin of the week. That honor went to the crew of Relentless, which docked in Maryland with a 79-pounder. But it was a successful week, overall. “This has been one of the smoothest tournaments in the twenty-one years we’ve been doing this,” said Director Bob Glover. “Not a glitch, like the hurricane we had last year.”
And the good thing about fishing, everyone agreed, is that there’s always next year. “We’ll work until 2am tonight, breaking down the tent,” Mark Allen told us. “By Monday, this will be a working boat yard again. On Tuesday, we’ll start planning for next year.”
And we’ll start looking forward to it.
Boys Of Summer, On Sale
WE caught up with Sue Lotozo of The Flying Fish Studio at her shop this week, to get the scoop on the Fourth Annual King Neptune Bachelor Auction coming up on September 16. She was gracious enough to speak with us even though we ambushed her without warning on what appeared to be a very busy day. West End Garage had experienced some flooding because of that apocalyptic-style storm on Saturday, and Lotozo, who has a booth there, was busy offering sandwiches to some of the folks dealing with the water damage, and readying some snacks for her daughter’s field hockey team. So thanks for that. And thanks also for giving us some background on the Mermaid Guild, which runs the auction.
This organization, so named because “who wouldn’t want to be a mermaid?”, started four years ago, when Lotozo, Bonnie Mullock of Bath Time, Pat Jackson of Patricia Jackson Jewelers, and Heidi Cummings of Inkwell decided to form a marketing group comprised of women who own local businesses and want to give back to the community. “We figured that, as a group, we could do more than we ever could individually, and do it more cost and time-effectively,” Lotozo told us. By “more,” were talking donating gift baskets worth over than $4,000 to worthy causes, and contributing to charities such as CARA, Big Brother Big Sisters, the Brendan Borek High Tides Memorial Fund, as well as community fundraising events like Cape May Stage and the Center for Community Arts. The mermaids also host the highly anticipated Bachelor Auction, which raises upwards of $20,000 in three hours for the Community Food Bank of South Jersey. “They’re a totally nonpolitical entity,” Sue said, “one that services everyone — all local pantries in Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland Counties. For every dollar you raise for them, they can buy $10 worth of food.”
So how does it work? You show up to the Rusty Nail, enjoy the wine, hors d’oeuvres, and DJ’ing of Officer Tony Genaro, and then bid on the man — or activity — that’s most appealing to you. “Our demographic isn’t all unmarried women,” Sue explained, so some of the bachelors aren’t unmarried, either.” Take Chef Geoff Johnson of Copper Fish restaurant, who wanted to contribute, even though he is married. “His ‘date’ was a private dinner for 12, with a chef’s demonstration,” Lotozo said, “and it went for over $1,000.”
This year, there will be a total of five “restaurant adventures” including a girlfriend’s sleepover party at the Mad Batter that includes dinner for four, two double guest rooms, and a champagne breakfast. And a slew of services will be up for grabs, too, including a half-day of tree grooming donated by Matt Notch of Top Notch Tree Service, a season-long beach cabana courtesy of Steger Beach Services, a sailing trip for four thanks to John Wilsey of Wilsey Realty, beach portraits taken by our own talented photographer Aleksey Moryakov, and tickets and backstage access to the Exit 0 International Jazz Fest run by Michael Kline.
But for those of you who are single and ready to, um, purchase (there are some unattached folk in our fair town, right?), there will still be single guys on stage with fun evenings planned for their highest bidders. (George’s server Nikolas Goutzouris is one, and our staff writer thinks he’s one handsome devil).
“There have been three couples who have gotten together through this auction process and stayed together,” Lotozo said, pointing to Steve Coon and Kelsey Herforth as an example. “Kelsey’s mother Carol, who owns the Island Grill, bought Steve as a gift for her daughter.”
The date was a dinner and a play in Philadelphia, and the transportation was a limo… as long as the bidder could complete Steve’s challenge: catch a wave, catch a fish, and par a hole in a game of golf. Needless to say, Kelsey was successful.
“I would recommend participating in the Bachelor Auction,” Coon told us. “How could I not, seeing how it turned out for me? It’s a great night. I was blown away; the whole place was packed.”
Coon was a man of few words on the phone with us, but Lotozo says this is an okay thing to be as a bachelor. “Shyness is as adorable as extrovertedness,” she told us. “There are all different ways to be extremely cute.”
While the mermaids will help construct a bachelor’s date, what he does on stage is entirely up to him. “We expect nothing more than participation,” Lotozo said. Although, if you strap on a kilt like our own Jack Wright, did in the first auction, you’ll make a big impact. “That’s a top memory,” Lotozo said. “He really embodied the spirit of the event.” And then there’s that guy who wore only a trench coat and a pair of itty-bity yoga shorts… and then lost the coat. Even Mayor Ed Mahaney — and we have to give him props for this — is a former bachelor. He took a group of ladies for a carriage ride and then dinner at the Mad Batter.
“An important thing to remember,” Lotozo told us, “is that we never keep track of who brought in the most or the least. Men are competitive like that, but we aren’t. The way we look at it, none of this would happen if everyone wasn’t willing to be involved.”
So go have a blast, Cape May, whether you’re attached or not, and support all of those brave bachelors in the process. We think a good time is pretty much guaranteed. The event starts at 5pm at the Rusty Nail. For more information, visit The Mermaid Guild of Cape May on Facebook.