Municipal Transparency. Can Margate, Ventnor & Longport Learn From Ocean City?

fairness in taxes ocean city nj

With close to 75% of Jersey Shore taxpayers unable to vote, should towns like Margate, Ventnor & Longport at least provide greater levels City government transparency?

While that answer should clearly be yes, there are still some towns that still make big decisions with very little public awareness.

Some in city government claim to be open by suggesting that residents attend council meetings in person. Work schedules and family commitments often make that impossible. Poorly managed websites and declining newspaper coverage also contributes to confusion and ignorance of key city matters.

When you add inexpensive tech to the equation, there’s really no reason why ALL city governments shouldn’t follow what’s happening in towns like Ocean City, NJ.

A group of Ocean City taxpayers just relaunched their ‘Fairness in Taxes‘ website. The FIT website is much like a homeowners association. It keeps an eye on city government. Holds them accountable for their actions.

Watch Video of Ocean City NJ Council Meeting:

Ventnor still lags behind most local shore cities in regard to transparency. Audio & video of key Ventnor meetings are either non-existent or poorly recorded. Attendees have noted that Ventnor Commissioner Lance Landgraf avoids speaking in front of a microphone. This makes his voice difficult to hear and documented for the public record. We’re unsure if that’s accidental or purposeful on Landgraf’s part.

To their credit, Margate does an excellent job with recording and posting audio of both commissioner and planning board meetings. For some reason, Margate school board meetings are not recorded and posted. Maybe that’s why it costs taxpayers $32,000 per student annually?

margate homeowners

Margate taxpayers saw value in forming the Margate Homeowners Association. To date, well over 200 have already joined the organization.

Many were disappointed with how Margate officials dealt with dunes, beach sewer pipes and the not-so-mini golf attraction. These are just a few of the reasons why the MHA was formed.

Will Ventnor Citizens Advisory Committee make commissioners more fiscally responsible?

We can only assume that Ventnor Commissioners Landgraf, Holtzman & Kriebel hope to avoid having a truly independent group of taxpayers holding them accountable. Instead, they hand selected a friendly group of 15 residents to become ‘advisers’. Will these 15 truly poke and prod Ventnor leadership to ‘do the right thing’? We shall see.

The objective of Ventnor’s Citizen Advisory Committee is to advise officials on finance, public works, public safety, economic development, code and construction, recreation and other critical issues.

Ventnor Commissioner Lance Landgraf is also the Planning & Zoning Czar of CRDA.

The Ventnor Citizens Advisory Members have been announced. Scott Bluth, Ed Cahan, Tom Hewett, Kenneth Gordon, Sheri Herman, Peter Kleiner, Rand Snyderman, Christian Bryce, Paul Giegerich, Molly Golubcow, Bob Gross, Jeff Jascol, Beth Kwart, Andy Starer and Kenneth Zucker.

Ventnor Mayor Beth Holtzman: “that’s OK because the people who criticize really have no clue.

Example: The board extended its contract with JPM to provide the services of Acting City Administrator and Deputy Clerk who works for Ventnor on a part-time basis. JPM is paid $110 for every hour Mento works, not to exceed $137,500. For workers comp and insurance purposes, Mento also receives $10 per hour on Ventnor City payroll. Those opposed to this deal see a part time worker potentially getting full-time benefits.

Ventnor commissioners face heat every time this type of contract gets awarded. The City considers this ‘professional services’. They can award the contract without bidding.

When questioned about this controversial move, Ventnor Mayor Beth Holtzman shot back in a local blog: “that’s OK because the people who criticize really have no clue.”



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