Too often we underestimate the power of listening. Whether it is a friendly conversation at a local barbecue, a passionate phone call or a simple chat on a door step, I am listening to the hardworking families of Atlantic County. Time and time again, our families make it clear that the biggest issue affecting our district is whether or not they can afford to live here.
As a councilman in Brigantine, I listened to my community, saw what needed fixing and got to work. Together, we cut local property taxes by a million dollars. We put an end to partisan fighting — the kind that lets egos and political games lead to state government shutdowns. We helped those in power remember that the people’s interests are our interests.
As a father of two little girls, my biggest priority is ensuring they have the same, if not better, opportunities that I had. Throughout my life, I’ve always been lucky to call Atlantic County home. I was born in Atlantic City, where my grandparents owned the Venice Restaurant. I saw how important small businesses were to the community and how vibrant Atlantic City's — and all of Atlantic County's — economy could be.
Growing up I was a proud member of the Brigantine Beach Patrol for 19 years. I had the chance to help keep our beach community, an important economic driver, a safe and fun place for our families and retirees. But during this time, and later as a teacher at Oakcrest High School, I saw and felt the struggles of our local families.
I understand the challenges we face today across Atlantic County. We need a more affordable place to live and create opportunities for our children. As many of us feel in our wallets, New Jersey has the highest cost-of-living, property taxes and foreclosure rate in the country. It doesn’t help when Atlantic County has an unemployment rate above the state average.
These circumstances make it difficult to confront other problems. For example, too many schools in Atlantic County are underfunded and leave our children with far less than they deserve. Schools like Egg Harbor Township receive money after being shortchanged for years. However, there are no guarantees these schools will be funded the same next year.
This isn’t good enough. As a taxpayer and a father, I know we need to come up with a better way to ensure proper funding to our schools. Developing a longterm school funding plan that is fair and affordable is an absolute priority.
We can’t continue to just talk about these problems. This November we need to ask, who do we want to listen? Who is going to listen with not just the intent to reply, but the intent to understand and the willingness to take action.
I chose to run for the Assembly because I want to create better opportunities for all families throughout Atlantic County. Local families are frustrated when they see photos of Governor Christie sitting on the beach while the state shuts down. We deserve better from Trenton. I am proud to be on the Chris Brown Team with Chris Brown for state Senate and Brenda Taube for Assembly. Together, we will fight for Atlantic County families and retirees.
Again, we know that the only way we can achieve real results is if we listen to our families. While we can all agree that there is a need for a countywide tax assessment, we need leaders who understand that a plan for Gloucester County isn’t best for Atlantic County, especially when that plan will cost property tax payers over 8 million dollars. We need people who are committed to protecting our jobs and fighting against North Jersey casinos.
Our future is bright but we need words to be put into action. During a time where politicians like to hear themselves talk, I promise to always listen and work for solutions that help our Atlantic County families.
Vince Sera is an Assembly candidate for the 2nd Legislative District.