Will NextGen be the next boondoggle?
By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
(Reprinted from February 17, 2010 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, http://www.shorenewstoday.com/news.php?id=7341)
WOODBINE, CAPE MAY COUNTY: “A $3 million sewage-treatment plant paid for with tax dollars has not treated any sewage since it was built nearly four years ago. Woodbine built the plant at the municipal airport in early 2006 to lure companies to a proposed business park there. But no developers have come.” ? The Press of Atlantic City, Dec. 2, 2009.
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, ATLANTIC COUNTY: “Utility and road work at the Next Generation Aviation Research and Technology Park has begun in Egg Harbor Township at a 55-acre site. ? More than 200 area business people and government leaders learned of the project’s progress at a sold-out update breakfast.” ? The Press of Atlantic City, Feb. 9, 2010
Common sense and 400 years of American history tell us why “partnerships” between government and a few selected private businesses are wrong and usually do more harm than good. If they worked, Haiti, Mexico, Venezuela and Zimbabwe would have the strongest economies and best-paying jobs in the world.
The Woodbine Airport project failed for the same reason you see an empty building or vacant lot that was once a thriving business whenever you drive more than five miles on almost any road in this state: Government in New Jersey is too unfair, complicated, unpredictable, corrupt and expensive. It is too hard for honest people to succeed here with talent, good ideas and hard work. When a handful of them make it anyway, we quickly chase them away with high taxes on their incomes, real estate, land transfers and even their deaths.
What exactly is Next Generation Park Aviation Park in Atlantic County? How is it different from the Woodbine Airport Business Park?
NextGen is a private “nonprofit” corporation run by politicians, ex-politicians and government employees that now owns 55 acres of prime land by the Atlantic City Airport. Its directors include Republican Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, CRDA head Tom Carver and Caren Franzini of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. The NJEDA borrowed billions of dollars through junk bonds issued without voter approval during the past 10 years to fund pet projects for politicians around the state. Another director is Ed Salmon, who collects several government pensions, is a professional lobbyist and director of Sun Bank, and was a well-known “pay to play” career politician in Cumberland County until he was thrown out by angry voters.
Then there is Herman Saatkamp, president of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Stockton is very useful to politicians. It routinely raises tuition and “student activity fees” to bail out off-campus political boondoggles like the Carnegie Library in Atlantic City, the Ponderlodge in Lower Township in Cape May County, and the Noyes Museum in Galloway Township. Then it tells students they need to lobby for more government money for the college. Meanwhile, people like me who want more liberty and less government are shut out.
The South Jersey Transportation Authority will pay for part of the project with Atlantic City Expressway tolls and high parking fees from airport customers. The airport itself is now run with higher-than-needed tolls on the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
With so many different government agencies involved, nobody knows who is doing what or paying what ? which is why it is set up this way. Does anyone know how much Ronald Esposito, the new executive director, is paid? Or what taxes or fees pay his salary? Will the new buildings pay any Egg Harbor Township school taxes?
The key player is Republican Congressman Frank LoBiondo. His job is to “persuade” high-tech aviation companies to come to this Field of Dreams. Two weeks ago LoBiondo bragged in this paper how he persuaded Boeing to upgrade Chinook helicopters for the U.S. Army at the Millville Airport.
Congress is now considering legislation that would provide more than $13 billion for private aviation. By writing earmarks into that legislation, LoBiondo can force some of that money to be spent here.
But to do that, he must support similar earmarks for the pet projects of hundreds of other congressmen. While in Trenton last week, I heard northern New Jersey politicians and union leaders praise LoBiondo for helping get federal funds for the Bayonne Bridge! And of course, LoBiondo must vote for things like Cap and Trade, No Secret Ballot for Union Elections and Cash for Clunkers whenever Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi says so.
That is why most of LoBiondo?s $3,881,815 campaign fund came from outside of South Jersey. For details see http://maplight.org/map/us/legislator/344.
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears live on WVLT-92.1FM heard throughout South Jersey 8-9 a.m. every Saturday. For information see www.libertyandprosperity.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Athena Diner, 1515 New Road, Northfield.