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Edward Lea  

Atlantic City vs St. Augustine the first half high school basketball at St. Augustine High School Tuesday Feb 11, 2020. Edward Lea Staff Photographer / Press of Atlantic City


Local
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EHT gets $2.5 million to buy, demolish 4 Black Horse Pike motels

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Four motels along the Black Horse Pike in the West Atlantic City section will be bought, demolished and turned into open space with a $2.45 million federal grant intended to mitigate flooding, U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker said Tuesday.

The owners of the Bay Point Inn, Hi-Ho Motel, Destiny Inn and Budget Motel have agreed to sell to the township for the properties’ assessed values, Township Administrator Peter Miller said.

About $2 million of the grant is for purchase, while the other $454,000 is for demolition, engineering and legal costs.

The area has long been criticized as blighted, hampering the reputation of one of three main entryways to Atlantic City.

The land on each side of the road is narrow and surrounded by wetlands, so the road floods during many high tides that coincide with full moons, and during heavy rainfall.

The state is working on a plan to raise a one-mile stretch of the road 2.5 feet, but that would not address property flooding. That project is expected to start in 2021, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency grant is for removing structures that have had repetitive flood insurance losses greater than the value of the properties, Miller said.

The four motels have had a total of 56 flooding claims that paid out $3.8 million over the past 10 years, and experts have predicted that flooding dangers will only increase over time.

This project and the 2015 demolition of six other blighted motels will leave the township with just two motels along the stretch of Route 40 that leads into Atlantic City from the mainland, Miller said.

He said the township is committed to removing all vestiges of the motels, including parking lots and cement pads.

“Our application was to remove everything and preserving the land as open space, with no future buildings,” Miller said.

The 2015 demolition used $3 million from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. One of the motels in that project, the Golden Key, was dubbed the “motel from hell” after four women were found murdered behind it nearly 14 years ago. The killings made national headlines.

On the 2015 properties, the cement pads were left to preserve the right to build on them, Miller said. Now, the township is considering turning all of the properties over to open space for a greenway along the highway.

The Economy Inn has refused to sell to the township, so it will be left in the middle of the empty properties, Miller said.

And while the Sea Breeze motel, located in a higher section of West Atlantic City, agreed to sell to the city, it did not qualify for the grant because it has not had the necessary repetitive losses.

“Storms like Superstorm Sandy have wreaked havoc on the flood-prone areas of our state, and we need to ensure that we are prepared when the next storm hits,” Menendez said in a news release. “This federal funding will help with the robust mitigation and resiliency project that the township has planned, and it will help enhance the gateway into Atlantic City.”

“Many New Jerseyans face repeated threats to their land and property as a result of flooding,” Booker said. “These federal resources will ensure that Egg Harbor Township is better prepared for the dangers posed by repeating flood events and help limit the damage they cause.”

Last year, Menendez introduced the National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2019. Menendez said the bill “tackles systemic problems with flood insurance, puts it back on solid fiscal ground and reframes the nation’s entire disaster paradigm to one that focuses more on prevention and mitigation to spare the high cost of rebuilding after flood disasters.”


News
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Sea Isle recongizes first responders that delivered first baby born in Sea Isle since 70s

SEA ISLE CITY — EMTs Kris Lynch and D.J. Fancher had just stopped for lunch at an ACME on Jan. 27 at 3:42 p.m. when they got the call. Static obscured the full message, but they heard someone was having abdominal pain.

About 10 blocks away, Jeanne Golato, 30, was experiencing contractions every 30 seconds. She could barely talk but told her husband to call an ambulance. 

Lynch and Fancher arrived at the same time as Sgt. Shawn Lesniewski and Patrolman Steve Jankowski to find a tense scene. Golato was in labor in her bedroom, and the baby was coming out feet first.

"When I came in it was imminent," said Lynch, 50. "It was imminent that it was gonna happen so I just dropped down and did what I had to do."

The umbilical cord had wrapped around the baby twice, but by 3:52 p.m. — 10 minutes after the initial call — Jeanne was holding Luciana Golato, the first baby born on the island since 1977, according to city records.

Lynch, Fancher, 30, Lesniewski, 31, and Jankowski, 36, were recognized for their work Tuesday morning at a City Council meeting. They accepted lapel pins with an image of a stork and posed for pictures with the Golatos. Luciana's 3-year-old sister, Briella, accepted a key to the city from the mayor, recognition of the historical circumstances that brought her little sister into the world. 

Police Chief Thomas McQuillen praised everyone involved for quick work and their calm under pressure.

"Just an amazing job by the EMTs, the officers that were there, the dispatchers, mom and dad being as calm as you could be in such a situation," said McQuillen. "We're just really proud and happy for everybody. We all can hear about the bad things that happen but this was truly a miracle that happened."

Mayor Leonard Desiderio called it an example of the quality of response services in Sea Isle.

"As you've heard me say many, many times, here in Sea Isle City we an have excellent police department, fire department and emergency medical squad," he said. "And this just shows what we do have here. They went above and beyond the call of duty."

Joe Golato, 35, thanked the officers and EMTs, as he held tight a photo of his newborn daughter.

"They were flawless and I can't thank them enough. They got my baby girl in the world safely," he said.

Lynch, a Sea Isle native who has been an EMT since 1992, described a methodical approach to what would have otherwise been chaos. 

"We took care of the complications, made sure the baby was viable and breathing well enough," Lynch said, "and then I gave her to mom and then we moved."

The EMTs took Jeanne to Shore Memorial Hospital. Though Lynch said the complications made the birth dangerous for the mother and child, Jeanne found the first responders to be a calming presence throughout.

"It happened so quick," said Jeanne, 30. "They did amazing work ... They helped save my life; they helped save my baby's life."


Politics
AP
Sanders seeks NH win as Democrats cull presidential field

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Fiery progressive Bernie Sanders fought for Democratic front-runner status Tuesday night as New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary began to cull the crowded field, bringing at least some clarity to a presidential nomination fight marred so far by dysfunction and doubt.

As Sanders predicted victory, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg hoped to seize the backing of his party’s establishment with a strong finish. Joe Biden just wanted to avert political disaster after leaving the state hours before the final polls closed.

New Hampshire began narrowing the Democrats’ unwieldy 2020 class even before the final results were known. Political newcomer Andrew Yang, having attracted a small but loyal following over the past year, was suspending his campaign. He was one of just three ethnic minorities left in the race.

Also out: Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who ran as a just-the-facts moderate in a race in which liberal candidates grabbed the headlines.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, among the front-runners for months, was doing poorly in early results but told cheering supporters, “Our campaign is built for the long haul, and we are just getting started.”

She said Sanders and Buttigieg are “both great candidates” and congratulated “my friend and colleague” Amy Klobuchar, who was having her strongest night so far.

Still, nine candidates remained in the competition for the chance to take on President Donald Trump this fall. Tuesday’s contest comes just eight days after the Iowa caucuses injected chaos into the race and failed to report a clear winner.

While the action was on the Democratic side, Trump easily won New Hampshire’s Republican primary. He was facing token opposition from former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.

New Hampshire Democrats headed into Tuesday’s primary with a focus on matters of fairness.

Just over 1 in 10 said they were “very confident” their party’s process for choosing a presidential nominee was fair, according to a wide-ranging AP VoteCast survey. At the same time, nearly 8 in 10 also viewed the economy as unfair, although there was little consensus on which candidate would do the best job of stewarding the world’s largest economy.

For Sanders, the New Hampshire primary was an opportunity to build on his dominance of the party’s left flank. A repeat of his strong showing in Iowa could severely damage progressive rival Warren, who faced the prospect of an embarrassing defeat in a state that borders her home of Massachusetts.

While Sanders marches forward, moderates are struggling to unite behind a candidate. After essentially tying with Sanders for first place in Iowa, Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, began his day as the centrist front-runner. But Klobuchar was mounting a spirited bid for the same voters.

Having already predicted he would “take a hit” in New Hampshire after a distant fourth-place finish in Iowa, Biden was essentially ceding the state. He was traveling to South Carolina Tuesday as he bet his candidacy on a strong showing there later this month boosted by support from black voters.

More than a year after Democrats began announcing their presidential candidacies, the party is struggling to coalesce behind a message or a messenger in its desperate quest to defeat Trump. That raised the stakes of the New Hampshire primary as voters weighed whether candidates were too liberal, too moderate or too inexperienced — vulnerabilities that could play to Trump’s advantage in the fall.

Some candidates sought to undercut the importance of the New Hampshire election, but history suggested otherwise. No Democrat has ever become the party’s presidential nominee without finishing first or second in New Hampshire.

Democrats were closely monitoring how many people showed up for Tuesday’s contest. New Hampshire’s secretary of state predicated record-high turnout, but if that failed to materialize, Democrats would confront the prospect of waning enthusiasm following a relatively weak showing in Iowa last week and Trump’s rising poll numbers.

Trump, campaigning in New Hampshire on Monday night, sought to inject chaos in the process. The Republican president suggested conservative-leaning voters could affect the state’s Democratic primary results, though only registered Democrats and voters not registered with either party can participate in New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary.

“I hear a lot of Republicans tomorrow will vote for the weakest candidate possible of the Democrats,” Trump said Monday. “My only problem is I’m trying to figure out who is their weakest candidate. I think they’re all weak.”

Trump also attacked Michael Bloomberg, who was showing signs of strength in polling around the country but wasn’t on the New Hampshire ballot. The president highlighted Bloomberg’s comments during a 2015 appearance at the Aspen Institute in which he said the way to bring down murder rates was to “put a lot of cops” in minority neighborhoods because that’s where “all the crime is.”

Biden — and the Democratic Party’s establishment wing — may have the most to lose in New Hampshire should the former two-term vice president underperform in a second consecutive primary election. Biden has earned the overwhelming share of endorsements from elected officials across the nation as party leaders seek a relatively “safe” nominee to run against Trump.

Biden’s campaign sought to cast New Hampshire as one small step in the path to the presidential nomination, with contests coming up in more diverse states that award more delegates including Nevada and South Carolina, where Biden hopes to retain his advantage among minority voters.

“Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, we plan to move forward,” Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders said.

The stakes were dire for Warren as well in a contest set just next door to her Massachusetts home. She has positioned herself as a mainstream alternative to Bernie Sanders but is suddenly looking up at him and Buttigieg as Klobuchar fights to peel away female support.

Warren released an afternoon memo seeking to downplay New Hampshire’s results. Campaign manager Roger Lau outlined a “path to victory” through 30-plus states where the campaign has paid staff on the ground as he highlighted alleged weaknesses in Warren’s Democratic rivals.

Buttigieg, young and with no governing experience beyond the mayor’s office, is trying to emerge as the leading Biden alternative for his party’s moderate wing. He has aggressively courted moderate Democrats, independents and what he calls “future former Republicans” as he tries to cobble together a winning coalition, just as he did in Iowa, where he finished in a near tie with Sanders for the lead.

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s primary, Buttigieg has come under increasing attack from Biden and Klobuchar, who seized on his lack of experience. And from the left, Sanders attacked Buttigieg’s reliance on big-dollar donors, which sparked jeers of “Wall Street Pete” from Sanders’ supporters.

After New Hampshire, the political spotlight shifts to Nevada, where Democrats will hold caucuses on Feb. 22. But several candidates, including Warren and Sanders, plan to visit states in the coming days that vote on Super Tuesday, signaling they are in the race for the long haul.

———

Steve Peoples reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Will Weissert, Holly Ramer and Thomas Beaumont contributed from New Hampshire.

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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”


Local
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Court challenge filed to stop Atlantic City change of government

ATLANTIC CITY — Opponents of the effort to change the city’s form of government are making a legal challenge to prevent the special election from happening.

A request for an injunction to stop the March 31 special election and dismissal of the submitted petition that forced the ballot referendum was filed Tuesday in Atlantic County Superior Court on behalf of the Atlantic City Democratic Committee.

ACDC special election complaint

The three-count complaint, filed by attorney Samuel Lashman, of Margate, alleges the petition is deficient, that certain signatures were fraudulently obtained and that the proposed form of government would violate residents’ civil rights. The complaint contains allegations of using minors and non-registered voters to circulate petitions, voter disenfranchisement and phony signatures.

Lashman could not provide a timetable for when the matter may be considered by the court but requested an expedited hearing in his filing’s cover letter.

The complaint names the political action committee behind the referendum effort — Atlantic City Residents for Good Government — as a defendant, as well as unnamed petition committees, the Atlantic City clerk and unknown circulators, listed as John Does.

Atlantic City Council, mayor clash over recreation, senior services

ATLANTIC CITY — At a time when city leaders are calling for unity against an effort to change the form of government and to fight what they describe as a takeover by outsiders, divisions between members of City Council and the administration are becoming more evident.

Bob McDevitt, chairman of the PAC and president of Unite Here Local 54, the casino workers union, said the complaint was “absurd beyond belief.”

“We’ll defend (our position) in court, and we’ll prevail,” he said. “This (legal action) is just a way to string this out, because, in the end, 3,000 people signed a petition and we have no doubt that all the petty claims in this complaint” are fabricated.

McDevitt, Resorts Casino Hotel owner Morris Bailey, Resorts President/CEO Mark Giannantonio and former state Sen. Ray Lesniak have all supported the referendum effort.

Lesniak described the lawsuit as “totally false allegations which defame the thousands of petition signers and those who circulated the petitions” and predicted it would be “dismissed by the court.”

Gwen Callaway-Lewis, chairwoman of the Atlantic City Democratic Committee, did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment.

Atlantic City Residents for Good Government has proposed a council-manager form of government, as opposed to the current mayor-council form. The change would eliminate a directly elected mayor as the city’s chief executive and reduce the number of City Council members from nine to five. A city manager, appointed by the five at-large council members, would be the city’s chief executive and responsible for its day-to-day operations.

All 10 of Atlantic City’s elected officials — the mayor and the nine members of council — oppose the proposed change in the form of government, as do the Civic Associations of Atlantic City United, Atlantic County Freeholder Ernest Coursey (who represents the city on the county board and serves as Mayor Marty Small Sr.’s chief of staff) and the NAACP Atlantic City Chapter.

The complaint states there were multiple “deficiencies, irregularities and illegalities” with the petition submitted to the Atlantic City Clerk’s Office in December. In some instances, the complaint alleges, minors and non-registered voters were employed as petition circulators, which would void petition pages containing signatures obtained by those individuals. Additionally, the complaint alleges more than one petition format was circulated when a uniform style is required.

The petition contained 3,033 signatures but needed just 935 to be certified. After an initial rejection by the City Clerk’s Office, the petition was accepted and a special election was scheduled for March 31.

As to the allegation of fraud, the complaint states that “the entire petition-gathering process was so replete with errors, intentional misconduct, concealment, misrepresentations and other malconduct that the entire petition is void.” As examples, the complaint cites the collection of “illegal” and “improper” signatures, false affidavits, fictional names and addresses, and forged signatures.

The elimination of ward representation under the proposed form of government would violate the civil rights of minority communities in Atlantic City, according to the complaint. The NAACP Atlantic City Chapter adopted a resolution in January opposing the change of government and citing similar concerns that it would “limit the voter and representation strength of African-Americans” in the city.

McDevitt said the violation-of-civil rights count was particularly offensive and characterized it as an “insult to anyone who has worked on behalf of civil rights for people.”