Calls on taxpayers from Oceanport and neighboring communites to join the fight
“Atlantic City is now a FAILED business model”
Oceanport Councilman Joe Irace’s remarks at the borough’s reorganization meeting today:
2011 marked a year of challenges and changes to our Borough. Oceanport’s future well-being hinges upon two very important issues, the continued viability of Monmouth Park and the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth, neither of which is really within our control. If these two matters aren’t addressed properly, the consequences for Oceanport and our neighboring communities will be devastating..
The more immediate of the two issues is Monmouth Park. 2011 was a year in which uncertainty was the only certainty when it came to Monmouth Park. Was the State going to remain in control, lease or sell the park to private ownership? The decision was made to lease. Then came numerous changes, negotiations, finger-pointing, name calling and, ultimately, a muddled picture as to who is actually in charge. Just last week, the State decided to continue racing in 2012 under the control of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority and rebid the lease in 2012 for the 2013 racing season. For 2012, the current agreement, as we understand it from reading about it in the newspapers, calls for 141 racing days at an average purse of $150,000 per day. To put that number in perspective, we were racing at $1,000,000 a day in 2010 and $400,000 a day in 2011. The projected daily purse of $150,000 is the lowest for any major track in the United States. In fact, at $150,000 a day in purse money, Monmouth Park, the most beautiful and historic racetrack this side of Saratoga, can no longer be considered a major track. 2012 also calls for no stakes races and, more notably, no Haskell. The long term ramifications of this are obvious. Is Trenton determined to undermine and eliminate racing in New Jersey? It sure seems that way.
Trenton’s stated position is that the State of New Jersey can no longer “subsidize” horse racing in New Jersey. And, you know what? I ABSOLUTELY agree with Trenton on that issue. Because the fact of the matter is that the horseracing industry doesn’t have to be subsidized. It just has to be allowed to compete on equal footing with horse racing in New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland. But the big thinkers in Trenton have blinders on when it comes to the realities of horse racing and gambling in today’s world. With the stroke of a pen, our elected officials in Trenton could permit “racinos” in New Jersey, but instead of allowing our state’s horse racing industry to compete with the gaming, racing and casinos that have popped up in New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland, our Trenton brain trust has chosen to invest $250,000,000 of taxpayer money in a stalled Atlantic City casino development.
The Atlantic City business model is outdated. New Jersey no longer has the monopoly on gambling that it had in the 1970s. Indeed, by any reasonable financial analysis, Atlantic City is now a FAILED business model. But our elected officials in Trenton refuse to acknowledge this fact and, instead, have chosen to pour $250,000,000 of taxpayer money into a venture — that private firms won’t touch — in return for a 20% interest in the business. What is 20% of nothing? We need our elected State officials to stop investing in THEIR past and start investing in OUR future.
Monmouth Park is the Borough of Oceanport’s largest tax ratable and one of the jewels of the Jersey Shore. Monmouth Park’s continued viability should be this governing body’s NUMBER ONE priority in the year 2012. Oceanport’s citizens and the citizens of ALL of the Jersey Shore communities should make their voices heard on this issue. We aren’t asking for a handout from the State! We just want New Jersey to be able to compete on equal footing with New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland. We’ve got the infrastructure, we’ve got the people, we’ve got the horses. We just need the tools. The State of New Jersey needs to adopt the Racino business model NOW!
As far as the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth is concerned, this issue will present huge challenges as we head into 2012 and well beyond. Decisions made today will have an impact – one way or another — on Oceanport for the next 25 years and beyond. When we unsuccessfully battled for local control of the 419 acres that are located in Oceanport, we were concerned over what the State would do to our small, family oriented, residential community. Today, rumors abound that our 2nd largest employer, CommVault, which ranks only behind only the embattled Monmouth Park as a source of employment, has been lured to the Tinton Falls section of the Fort Monmouth site. It is believed that this move is premised upon large tax breaks and tax credits being given to CommVault by the people who are charged with the duty of redeveloping the fort while creating jobs. This isn’t job creation, however, it is job poaching. And the Borough of Oceanport loses a business to Tinton Falls under the guise of “job development” at the fort. How can this be a good idea?
I am cynical, at best, about the State of New Jersey’s ability to create jobs at the fort, especially in view of the State’s past record in this area. That is to say, the State of New Jersey doesn’t have a history of creating jobs— other than government jobs. Stated simply, government does not have the ability to create private sector jobs and the historic and profound lack of accountability at the State level is all the more reason why the Oceanport Municipal Council fought long and hard for local control over the fort’s redevelopment. Sadly, we lost that battle. Now it is this governing body’s duty — and the duty of all members who follow us —- to make sure that we don’t lose the war. We must remain vigilant and continue to demand that we have a voice in the redevelopment process, not just a seat at the table. We cannot stand idly by as the bureaucrats and politicians try to fit square pegs into round holes in the name of “job creation” The only thing worse than doing nothing about the redevelopment of the fort is doing something badly, and that’s where I am afraid we are heading. And this isn’t just an Oceanport issue any more. A bungled fort redevelopment will have a devastating financial and social impact on Monmouth Beach, Long Branch, Little Silver, Fair Haven, Rumson and Sea Bright, too. The citizens of those towns should be just as concerned as we are that the fort gets redeveloped properly and organically. If we expect to be heard, then we all have to involve ourselves in the process.
Bureaucrats and politicians have come to expect — and, indeed, thrive on — an apathetic electorate and they have no incentive to do the will of the taxpayer if they have no fear of the taxpayer’s wrath. We, as a governing body, have a duty to educate the people who elected us about what is actually happening at the fort and involve them in the process as much as possible. Those who elected us, however, have to be willing to stand up and be counted by attending and, more importantly, PARTICIPATING in meetings of the Fort Monmouth Economic Redevelopment Authority and the Oceanport Borough Council so that we can fight the good fight for our community.
In closing, we have a lot of work cut out for us. We must continue our fight to protect the Oceanport that we all know and love. All of us who live here and raise our families here know that we have a lot to lose, and we have only ourselves to blame if we let others dictate our destiny. You’ve got a governing body that has proven that it is willing to fight for our right to control our own destiny. None of us have any political aspirations beyond that of serving the people of Oceanport. Help us take the fight to the powers that be. Stand up for yourselves. Get vocal. Stay vocal. Get involved. Stay involved. We need you. We need each other. Let’s work together for a better Oceanport in 2012