Candidates for Brigantine's City Council: change needed in Republican-controlled city

OCT 28 2011

In a special election for the seat representing Brigantine‘s 4th Ward, the Democratic candidate has been critical of the Republican-controlled City Council, while the Republican candidate … has been critical of the Republican-controlled City Council.

In a city that saw Democrats increase their margin on council to three out of seven seats, “New Republican” Tom Milhous defeated the Regular Republican candidate John Johnson in the June primary, while Democrat Rick DeLucry is running to fill the remainder of the seat which has been held by fellow Democrat Tony Pullella, now an at-large councilman, and Ken Schaffer, who dropped out of the race for personal and business reasons.

DeLucry credited Pullella and fellow Democratic Councilman Frank Kern for “a lot of progress made over the past year,” including greater transparency, a better bidding process and pressing the need for a professional search for a new city manager.

“The biggest problem Brigantine had is (being) a one-party town. No matter what the party is, you’re going to have stagnation, a drying up of good ideas.”

He called the split between the regular and New Republicans as “a small group of powerbrokers competing over the brand. But they’ve been putting out a lousy product. … If I were a (voter), I would have serious misgivings about the stated goals of the New Republicans, with the people at the top being the same people who created the need for reform.”

That said, he believed he could work well with the current council.

“I’m not running against any of the guys up there,” he said. “Even good people in office, when they’re part of the system for so long, just fall into it. … That’s not an excuse, but nevertheless, my job would be to persuade them.”

DeLucry said that council should make use of all resources available to find a qualified city manager, adding that “most importantly, a city manager has got to be nonpartisan. … Jim Barber was a political hire and a political creature, and that’s how he ran things.”

DeLucry criticized Barber for his handling of the sexual harassment investigation into former police chief Jim Frugoli — “An abomination,” he said, “so many things were done wrong” — and said that council also had to take the “long view” when it came to looking at positions that could be consolidated or low-paying positions that still place someone in the pension system.

He also called for maintaining the protection of the dune barrier and preventing the door from being opened to development there.

Milhous said he was running because “I felt there’s divisions within City Council that are counterproductive and disruptive to the community. City Council hasn’t stopped overspending or increasing taxes.”

Milhous criticized the construction of the new community center in “austere economic times, when the money would have been better spent handling the infrastructure issues in the community.”

He also pointed to positions that he believed were unnecessary, such as the coordinator between police and fire chiefs, and said that professionals should not also have pensionable positions.

Regarding Barber — whom Milhous criticized for his handling of the Frugoli situation during the primary — Milhous said that now that he was retired, “There’s no need to pile on. But what I’m hoping is when we do get a qualified candidate, they should not be given that position with a long-term contract. Ideally no contract, because they’re supposed to be serving at the will of the council, but a maximum of two years.”

He added that Brigantine “needs to be a viable resort community. … When more businesses are viable, they (generate) more taxes, and it’s less of a burden on taxpayers in the community.”

Milhous said that city council doesn’t have a long-term plan but rather “works with very near-term issues as each problem pops up, instead of developing a strategic plan.”

He said that as someone who has managed budgets of up to $400 million in his business, and the fact that he is retired, “I can give City Council personal coverage 24/7 as opposed to everyone else.”

Milhous also proposed a summit of 4th Ward residents to deal with the parking problem in the Cove area.

“We have high usage of the Cove area with four-wheel drive vehicles,” he said. “Because the Cove is so overcrowded, there’s a major parking problem with people parking in driveways of residents.”

The election is Nov. 8.

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