By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
The Gates at Somers Point, a 202-unit apartment complex, should be a perfect place to live. The apartments are roomy and well lit. Many have large balconies with excellent views. There is a swimming pool, and plenty of free parking. It is right next to Shore Road with frequent buses to Atlantic City and Ocean City ? and a 5-mile bike path to Northfield. The Wawa across the street is open 24 hours a day. Apartments at The Gates in Somers Point are within walking distance of the Dawes Avenue School, Shore Memorial Hospital, two major shopping centers, three marinas, and many fine restaurants.
Some 30 years ago, the Gates of Somers Point was known as the Atlantis Apartments, and I was there many times. I was a young lawyer starting out in Atlantic City during the casino boom. Several of my friends were young doctors working at Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point. One of them lived at the Atlantis Apartments and we often met him and his wife for dinner there.
The rents were low, and my friend quickly saved enough money for a down payment to buy a beautiful house elsewhere. In the 1980s, the Atlantis Apartments were a pleasant and important part of the American Dream.
Some 15 years later, I moved my law office out of Atlantic City and into Somers Point ? one block away from the Atlantis Apartments, now known as The Gates of Somers Point. By then the apartment complex had become the beat up, high-crime, debris-littered place that it is today. It?s the highest crime area in Somers Point, with 515 calls for police in 2011.
What happened in those 15 years between the early 1980s and mid-1990s to ruin the place? What can we do to fix it?
I need a year to research and write a book to fully answer those questions. I wish some Stockton professor would do it. But since local governments in Somers Point and Hamilton Township (Mays Landing) are busy making and enforcing bad local laws that ignore the real problems and are making things worse, let me offer some brief suggestions.
First, we must understand that high crime, litter, roaches, and bedbugs at the Gates in Somers Point ? and other high-crime apartment complexes in Galloway, Mays Landing, Atlantic City, and Pleasantville ? are national and state problems caused by bad national and state laws and policies.
They started in the early 1990s with Republican President George Bush and a Democratic Congress in Washington, and governors like Republicans Whitman and DeFrancesco, and Democrats like McGreevey, Codey, and Corzine in Trenton. They created problems like these:
1. Too many unskilled, uneducated legal and illegal immigrants. We have 15 to 20 million illegal immigrants in America today. We bring in 2 million legal and countless more illegal immigrants each year. We no longer expect native-born Americans to do unskilled or unpleasant work for the wages we are legally required to pay them.
2. Too many laws that make too many things illegal. When the Titanic sailed, marijuana was legal, and Coca-Cola was made with cocaine. At that time, my grandfather saved enough money working in a textile factory to buy his own sewing machine and start his own business. Today, anyone who sells substances that 20 percent of Americans want is a criminal. My grandfather could never afford the lawyers, licenses and permits needed to start such a business today.
3. Public schools give New Jersey the highest taxes in the country, but fail too many students in the teaching of basic writing, arithmetic, or business skills needed to hold a productive, well-paying job.
4. Our jails and prisons put thousands of dangerous criminals back on our streets each year, not because they are rehabilitated, but because our state politicians spend the tax money elsewhere, where they can buy more votes.
5. We have high taxes and electric bills so that too many people without education or skills can get good housing, food, medical care, utilities, recreation, and even cell phones without having to work at any of the unpleasant jobs now done by immigrants.
Too many Americans with no skills or interest in doing unskilled work end up in apartment complexes like the Gates in Somers Point watching TV and hanging around. They depend on government or crime to give them what they want, including new ?affordable? apartments after they trash the old ones.
You can?t fix this with a local ordinance.
(Reprinted from April 18, 2012 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, http://www.shorenewstoday.com/snt/news/index.php/politics/23576-national-state-policies-gave-us-high-crime-apartment-complexes.html)
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears on 92.1FM 8-9 a.m. Saturday. For information see www.libertyandprosperity.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner on Fire and Tilton roads in Egg Harbor Township.