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Millions in Aid Could Ride on Your Assembly Votes Tuesday

first_imgAssembly Candidate: Erik SimonsenAge: 50Political Experience: Republican Mayor of Lower Township, Former Ward 2 and Ward 3 Councilman Hometown: Lower TownshipOccupation: Athletic Director Lower Cape May Regional School District, former Assistant Principal, RMT Middle School, Special Education teacher, 18 yearsOrganizations and Activities: Past Vice President of the Cape May County NAACP; former Wrestling Head Coach at Lower Cape May Regional High School Education: Master’s Degree in Education Administration, University of Scranton. Bachelor’s Degree, The College of New Jersey, Special Education Degree, Rutgers University Church membership: Ordained Deacon at Macedonia Baptist Church, Cape MayFamily: Wife, Anna, and daughters Katya, 18, and Viktoria, 14 Lower Township Mayor Erik Simonsen, left, and Ocean City Councilman Antwan McClellan are the Republican Assembly candidates in the First Legislative District. By DONALD WITTKOWSKIAntwan McClellan and Erik Simonsen, the Republican Assembly candidates in the First Legislative District, are already intimately familiar with the critical issues faced by the beach and bayside towns at the Jersey Shore.If elected to the Assembly on Tuesday, they are promising to use the experience they have gained while serving in local government at the shore to help coastal communities secure more funding, improve their infrastructure and boost tourism.McClellan, an Ocean City councilman, and Simonsen, the mayor of Lower Township, said, as assemblyman, they will push for Cape May County and Cumberland County to get their fair share of state and federal funds for bridge, road and tourism projects.“The bridges and the beaches are the lifeblood of our shore towns, especially both in Sea Isle and Ocean City, and we have to do what we can to protect that,” McClellan said.They want to use Ocean City’s ambitious capital improvement program – the largest in the city’s history – as an example of how to properly upgrade the roads, bridges and beaches throughout the First Legislative District, and even other parts of the state. “That’s one of the things that we’ve done as a Council, as a mayor and as an administration, we’ve been able to be innovative,” McClellan said. “So, we see problems and we’ve been able to get out in front of them and fix them early, as opposed to waiting until they’re a very poor or bad situation and then we’re out there begging and pleading for help from somebody else.”“So we’ve been very forthcoming with that, and I think that’s a great opportunity that we can take and spread through Trenton to help the rest of Cape May County and parts of Cumberland County,” McClellan said.McClellan explained that Ocean City has been able to save tax dollars by working in partnership with the utility companies for road and drainage projects.“Since 2012, when a new administration came in and I’ve been on Council with the other six members, we’ve done more roads and drainage than anybody else in the history of Ocean City,” he said. “We’ve had an opportunity to work with all of the utility companies and the gas companies coming in and the water company to do any type of work we do. We piggyback on what they’re doing to fix our roads and pave them.”In recent years, Ocean City has also worked with the county, state and federal governments for the new Route 52 Causeway, the construction of the Ocean City-Longport Bridge and the rehabilitation of the 34th Street Bridge.“So transportation-wise, I think we’re good,” McClellan said of Ocean City. “But there are some things we can do better as far as to try to bring people in.”Locally, McClellan praised Ocean City for its jitney service that links the southern end of town with the downtown shops, restaurants, Boardwalk and beaches.However, at the state level, Simonsen believes Cape May County is shortchanged in the amount of money it receives from New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund, which finances road, bridge and mass transit projects.He also wants Cape May County to get more money back from the state for the tourism tax revenue generated by the county. Cape May County sends close to $550 million in tourism tax revenue annually to the state, but gets only $1 million in return.“We both feel that we’re not getting our fair share,” Simonsen said. “Of all the tourism dollars we send up to Trenton, we get very little back.”Simonsen and McClellan are running with Senate candidate Michael Testa, a Vineland attorney, on the Republican ticket. They were part of a strategy session with former Congressman Frank LoBiondo, a fellow Republican, to discuss key issues in the First Legislative District. The district’s transportation needs were part of their discussion.“The major thing that former Congressman LoBiondo is trying to get across is that we have to continue to bring attention to the needs of South Jersey, to Legislative District One,” McClellan said. “If they’re not being consistently talked about or brought up by our legislators, then it’s just not going to happen.”Assembly candidate Antwan McClellan speaks during a meeting with local supporters in Ocean City.The two Assembly candidates are pushing for the extension of the Route 55 corridor from Cumberland County to Cape May County to expand the region’s transportation network. The highway’s proposed extension has been discussed for years, but has run into environmental hurdles.Route 55, if extended, would link the industrial hubs of both counties and serve as a catalyst for jobs and economic development, they said. One area that could benefit is the Cape May County Airport and the “tech village” that is being developed there to attract new companies, Simonsen said.“As we start to look at growing our businesses, one of the things you need for businesses to grow is obviously a major artery,” Simonsen said of Route 55. “Whether it’s manufacturing goods, whether it’s things for sale, you need access to and from where you’re going to produce those goods. And right now, we just don’t have it.”Simonsen noted that Lower Township and other communities are creating “opportunity zones” to stimulate jobs and attract new industry. Better highway access, including Route 55’s extension, is critical for developing those zones, he explained.Both candidates also believe that Route 55’s extension would create a new evacuation route during severe coastal storms. They cited studies that have ranked the current evacuation routes from the shore as the sixth worst in the country. That alone is reason enough for Route 55’s extension, they said.“So we all know it needs to be done, but we just want to make sure that the people are fighting to try to get it done,” McClellan said.McClellan and Simonsen also believe that Route 55’s extension would serve as a gateway for more tourism to Cape May and Cumberland counties.Both McClellan and Simonsen see opportunities, as assemblyman, to work with the Chambers of Commerce in the First Legislative District to promote tourism. McClellan cited Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian and Sea Isle City Mayor Leonard Desiderio as examples of how local elected officials can partner with the Chambers of Commerce on tourism initiatives.“Fortunately, Mayor Desiderio does that and Mayor Gillian also does that, and our Chambers of Commerce work together very well along with the county Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “We need to continue to do that and to think of more innovative ways to bring people in from different states and other countries.”Assembly candidate Erik Simonsen addresses a Republican rally outside the Historic Cape May County Court House.In Cape May County, the beaches are the heart of the tourism industry and must be protected, McClellan and Simonsen stressed.“Why do people come here? It’s for the beaches and the boardwalks,” Simonsen said. “You have to make sure that your beaches are maintained. We do get a lot of erosion here. We have to make sure our boardwalks are maintained.”Simonsen was critical of Gov. Phil Murphy’s recent decision not to use millions of dollars in state funding to repair damage to Wildwood’s Boardwalk.“Getting millions of dollars cut from our boardwalks, like we did in Wildwood, does not help,” he said of efforts to promote tourism at the shore.Ocean City, Sea Isle and Strathmere will soon undergo a $31.5 million beach replenishment project to add 2.4 million cubic yards of fresh sand to the storm-damaged shoreline.According to initial figures, Ocean City will receive 800,000 cubic yards of sand to replenish the beaches in the north end of town from Seaview Road to 13th Street. Another 455,000 cubic yards of sand will help restore the beaches in the southern end from 49th to 59th streets.The project is scheduled to get underway this fall and be completed in time for the 2020 summer tourism season.McClellan and Simonsen said the knowledge they have gained from the beach replenishment projects in Ocean City and Lower Township would help them in the Assembly to focus on coastal protection.“We need to continue to evaluate everything every year,” Simonsen said. “I know from experience in Lower Township, because we have the bayside and the seashore side, we have dune replenishment. They’re actually building a berm on the ocean side from Lower Township up to North Wildwood to help with another storm such as Superstorm Sandy.”McClellan and Simonsen say beach replenishment is critical for the shore’s tourism market.Bayside communities in both Cape May County and Cumberland County should not be overlooked for shore protection projects, Simonsen added.“Especially with a town like Ocean City, Sea Isle and obviously where I’m at, and even when you go up in Cumberland County, a lot of times the bayside communities get forgotten about by our legislators,” he said. “There’s a lot of erosion on the bayside, and whether it’s fishing, water sports, etc., they’re valuable also and sometimes that gets lost.”“A lot of our towns here in Cape May County have both an ocean side and a bayside. A lot of times the bayside gets lost in the shuffle,” Simonsen continued. “We need to make sure we maintain our bayside as much as anything because it’s valuable, not only as property, but it’s also a valuable natural resource. People go there to the beach on the bayside for fishing and water sports.”McClellan pointed out that Ocean City has undertaken a major local dredging program to keep the bayfront lagoons and channels clear of mud and sediment. Overall, it is a five-year dredging plan costing $20 million.“We were able to come to an agreement with the administration and state DEP on a tip-to-tip dredging program that’s allowing us to dredge our back bays and find spots for the dredge materials,” McClellan said of the Council members. “It also allows us to do planning and maintenance on an annual basis.”In October, Ocean City’s Council introduced a bond ordinance that includes $3 million in funding for beach replenishment. The funding package also calls for the installation of a new geotube, essentially a large, synthetic sock filled with sand, to help protect an area of the dunes that is vulnerable to erosion.“We just recently approved a new geotube to be installed on our beaches along with the beach replenishment program. So we’ve been consistent with everything here for our beach replenishment program in this city,” McClellan said. “We’re doing it tip to tip and we’re going to continue to do that to protect the homes on the beach, protect our beaches and protect our Boardwalk.”“I know they’ve been working with the DEP in Lower Township to also do the same thing. So Erik and I are on the forefront of that, and we want to make sure we continue that throughout our shore district here and to work with our friends in the federal government,” McClellan added. Bios:Assembly Candidate: Antwan McClellanAge: 45Political Experience: Ocean City Councilman in Ward 2 for seven years; Former School Board member, three yearsHometown: Ocean CityOccupation: Public Information Officer and Confidential Aide to Cape May County Sheriff Bob NolanOrganizations and Activities: Manager/Coach Field of Dreams Baseball, three years; Coach Girls Junior High School Basketball, nine years, Member Cape May County NAACP, Volunteer Ocean City Historical MuseumEducation: Ocean City High School graduate in Class of 1993; Virginia State University; Old Dominion UniversityChurch membership: Shiloh Baptist Church, Ocean CityFamily: Engaged to Angela Masonlast_img read more

Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal: Relentless Magpies downed by Giroud double

first_imgOlivier Giroud scored two goals in four minutes as Arsenal beat Newcastle to continue their pursuit of second-placed Manchester City.After City beat West Brom, the Gunners kept a point behind their rivals with a sixth successive win but they hung on as Newcastle improved after half-time.Giroud poked in from Santi Cazorla’s free-kick before heading in a corner.Moussa Sissoko’s finish sparked a response but Arsenal held on after David Ospina saved Remy Cabella’s shot.Key notes:* Arsenal hold on for sixth consecutive league win* Gunners remain one point behind Man City* Olivier Giroud scores ninth goal in nine games* Newcastle 10 points above relegation zone –last_img read more