(Jesse Kurtz) Thank you Mike, for agreeing to answer some questions for The Atlantic City Scoop. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
(Michael Toland) I am a 1968 Atlantic City High School graduate, who has resided on the island for 53 years, I have resided in Chelsea Heights since 1978.
I am a 1976 Richard Stockton College graduate with a BA in Urban Studies.
I am a United States Army veteran, serving from September 23, 1970 until March 25, 1972. I was honorably discharged as a Specialist Fourth Class, I received the Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. I had overseas service in Korea for 8 plus months.
I am married to the former Janet Sardella from Ventnor, we have been married since 1969, I have one daughter, and two grandchildren. My wife and daughter both serve the Community as Registered Nurses at ARMC – City Division in MICU and the Trauma Unit respectively.
I have 30 plus years experience working in Atlantic City government, starting in 1977, I have worked in the Departments of Planning and Development and Public Works. I have also interfaced closely with the Department of Revenue and Finance, the Police Department and Fire Department. I served six Mayors.
I was elected to the Atlantic City Board of Education four times, and served on that Board from 1986 until 1996. I was Vice President for four years, and President for two years.
(JK) During your debates with the other candidates for Councilman At-Large you commented on the topic of tax abatements. Can you please outline your position on the subject?
(MT) Tax abatements and Payment In Lieu Of Tax (PILOT) programs are wonderful economic development tools for distressed areas. Atlantic City hardly qualifies as a distressed community. Real Estate values in the Atlantic City SMSA are in positive territory in 2007, while values Nationally are falling in 2007. The Redevelopment Ordinance approved during the Callaway regime should be rescinded, the document is tainted due to the origin of the document. I cannot and will not support tax abatements while the resident/homeowner taxpayers continue to see increases in their Municipal Tax bills.
(JK) Why will you be a better Councilman At-Large, than George Tibbitt and Ernest Coursey?
(MT) Regarding both my opponents, I have more education and actual government experience than both of them combined.
For that reason, I believe that the people will be better served by me, rather than by them.
Do not misconstrue my statement that I am demeaning either one of my opponents, that is not the case at all. I simply feel I am the best candidate at this time for this position. On November 6th, the voters will decide who is best, in their view, and I am totally comfortable with the decision they will make.
(JK) Today, in Atlantic City politics, every person, regardless of which faction they belong to, is addicted to the phrase, “moving Atlantic City forward.” Do you employ the phrase? What does it mean? Are you as sick of the phrase as I am?
(MT) I rarely use the phrase “moving Atlantic City forward”, I prefer to use the phrase, “I have a vision for Atlantic City”. I am not sick of the phrase nor have I ever thought much about what it means.
(JK) What do you advocate should happen to Badar Field?
(MT) Bader Field has unlimited possibilities and potential. I’d prefer not to make a snap judgement on its future while the Master Plan and existing Zoning Laws are under review. Subsequent to that review, the City should proceed very cautiously, and explore all options regarding Bader Field redevelopment. The longer the City waits on liquidating that asset, the more valuable it will be insofar as city revenue may be concerned. Some say Bader Field is worth $1 billion dollars today, if we wait until 2011 or 2012, the property may be worth over $1.25 billion dollars. If the City were to receive $1.25 billion dollars for the property, and invest those funds wisely, the annual interest on that type investment could be as high as $70 million dollars. That interest could be used annually to reduce the amount to raised by taxation in the annual city budget, which would mean significantly lower taxes annually for every property owner in Atlantic City, and this could be done every year ad infintium as long as the prinicipal/original investment is not drawn down.
(JK) What ideas do you have to lower taxes for Atlantic City residents?
(MT) Regarding the lowering of taxes, the aforementioned paragraph on Bader Field would solve the tax problems. In the interim, I think the spending side of the budget has to be reviewed. Since Salaries, Wages and Fringe Benefits constitute a very, very large percentage of the budget, that is the area that must be closely examined.
(JK) What are your thoughts on the current Mayoral situation?
(MT) As an elected Councilman, I would strongly encourage the Mayor to institute a hiring freeze for all non-public safety positions, in other words, in the event of a retirement, I would leave that position vacant for a minimum of 3-6 months, and during that period City Administration should evaluate the need for that position or could they re-deploy existing employees to perform the function previously performed by the retiree.
I also will not accept a city car or a city cell phone, that may be a minor expense but every little bit helps.
Regarding city cars, there are an estimated 650 city cars for an estimated city hall workforce of an estimated 1,500 employees, thats 2.3 employees for each car, that seems to be a very low number. If we could reduce the cars, we could reduce the consumption of gasoline, that reduction can help lower taxes.
The demise of Bob Levy is a sad story. I am sure if Bob had a do-over he would politely decline the offer to run for Mayor. I sincerely hope Bob takes care of himself, and returns to his normal self so that he may enjoy his wife, children and grandchildren. The old adage,”be careful what you wish for, you might just get it” is very applicable in Bob’s former situation.
(JK) Who do you think should fill the rest of Mayor Levy’s term?
(MT) Mayor Marsh is Mayor Marsh until a replacement is named, I wish him well. Mayor Marsh was an Atlantic City Board of Education employee prior to, and during my tenure on the Atlantic City Board of Education. I always had a very good relationship with Mayor Marsh.
Since I do not sit on the Atlantic City Democratic Committee, I don’t have a horse in that race, so, I’ll just sit back and watch the proceedings, besides, my focus right now is on November 6th, and crossing that finish line first.
(JK) There are many people, reading this blog, who are interested in political theory. What is your idea of the proper role of city government?
(MT) City government should supply basic services to its residents/taxpayers in the most cost-effective fashion. While providing these basic services, city government should promote economic development which in turn will provide jobs for its residents, and enhance the quality of life in the City.
(JK) Why should Atlantic City voters, an overwhelmingly Democratic group, vote for you, a Republican?
(MT) I have been elected city-wide four times prior to this election. I was elected in 1987, 1988, 1991 and 1994 in a citywide School Board election. I was the top vote-getter in each election. I can assume that some of these voters who supported me in the past were life-long Democrats. These Democrats, as well as Republicans, know me, know my abilities, know my family, and have confidence in me.
I know we live in a two party system, but I think people should vote for the candidate, not the party label; besides, it is a fact that Independents outnumber Democrats and Republicans combined in Atlantic City.
(JK) How do you characterize the way that the media has covered your campaign?
(MT) The print media has been consumed by the Atlantic City Mayor situation in the middle of this Council campaign, so the spotlight has been shining elsewhere. Additionally, the County Executive and State Senate races have been covered more prominently.
The talk shows have been very receptive, as is their nature.