Regarding the Aug 26 editorial, "Set-aside for veterans/What's the issue?":
The issue of whether Atlantic County should establish a program to set aside a portion of taxpayer-funded contracts for companies that are owned by or employ veterans has received much discussion.
Many veterans and their advocates strongly support such a program. I greatly respect their views. But the enabling legislation, S527, has many shortcomings that make it difficult to achieve real, rather than symbolic, gains of jobs and business opportunities for veterans.
Unfortunately, partisan political antics have complicated meaningful discussion of this issue. Atlantic County Democratic Party Chairman Jim Schroeder, who has not been to a freeholder meeting since he lost re-election two years ago, attended the meeting where this was being discussed and rudely interrupted anyone who raised legitimate concerns with the proposal.
If we are to adopt this, it is important that we have realistic expectations and not raise false hopes. It will not create a single, permanent, full-time job for a veteran.
We could no longer guarantee that we have received the lowest price on contracts. The legislation's requirement that all bids be "fair and reasonable" is vague and almost meaningless. It is interesting to note that the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs does not consider S527 enforceable and will not set guidelines and oversight rules
We cannot restrict bidding to Atlantic County vendors only. Eligible veteran firms from outside Atlantic County may compete for and receive contracts for which local non-veteran firms were excluded. Nor can the financial needs of the firm be a factor. An older, financially successful firm, owned by a rich veteran, will receive the same consideration as a struggling start-up founded by a returning Iraq War veteran.
When these and other issues are explained to fair-minded veteran advocates, they then understand that the county administration and some freeholders have legitimate concerns. That the dedication, emotions and hopes of our veterans were exploited for political purposes is shameful and reprehensible to me as both a veteran and an elected official.
Atlantic County Board
of Chosen Freeholders