OCEAN CITY — The two men who want to be this resort’s next mayor met to debate the issues for the first time since they declared their candidacy two months ago, appearing before about 150 people Wednesday night in the auditorium at Ocean City High School.
Each man answered 20 questions, in addition to delivering a three-minute opening and five-minute closing statement, during the 75-minute event. Voters will elect a mayor and three at-large councilmen next Tuesday.
Although they mentioned their differences— Mayor Jay Gillian said his was leadership, challenger Ed Price said his was looking to the long term — both men were very much alike in their views on many of the points discussed. Almost all of the questions that were asked by the moderators of the co-sponsoring Ocean City Democrat and Republican clubs were repeats of those posed last week during a debate in which the five men running for council participated.
Price, who is making his first run for the mayor’s office, and Gillian, who is seeking re-election to a second four-year term, agreed they wanted roads paved, the downtown shopping district to prosper, Boardwalk repairs to continue, drainage improvements to be implemented, lagoons to be dredged and beaches to be replenished. They want public safety to be maintained at its current high level but at the best cost possible.
One topic on which the candidates differed was that of how to reverse the decline in the town’s year-round population, which dropped by nearly one-quarter between the 2000 and 2010 U.S. censuses.
“The trend can be reversed,” Price said. “One of the first pieces of my platform is fairness. People don’t feel they’re being treated fairly. I hear it over and over again. It’s a repeated theme. We need to make Ocean City more welcoming to people who weren’t born here.”
Gillian said a good school district and the building of more single-family homes were strong attractions, but the lack of employment in the area was the biggest obstacle to growing the population.
“We need industry here,” he said. “The prison is the biggest thing we’ve done in Cape May County. We’ve got to get serious and bring jobs into this area.”
In closing, Gillian asked the voters for another four years so that he can continue with the $5 million capital improvement plan in place and many of the other initiatives his administration has planned. Price asked for the opportunity to “leave Ocean City better at the end of my four years than it was at the beginning.”
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