Here is the third and final interview with Democrat mayoral candidates. Still to come is the lone Republican, John McQueen. Independent candidates will be featured after the June primary.
Jesse O. Kurtz: WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHER MAYORAL CANDIDATES?
Dominic Cappella: I’m different from the other candidates because I represent common sense from a private industry point of view, not as a career government employee. Government jobs are necessary, but after a while you start to loose [sic] track of what’s important to the people. I may not be the most successful business owner in the City but I know what its like to meet a payroll and I think I understand better than the other candidates the difference between what the government wants for the City and what it needs. City Officials don’t always make the difference clear when they tell us what they want for the City and what the City really needs. I have experience with the daily operations of City Hall as the former Business Administrator of two distinctly different municipalities but it’s not my first and only career. The biggest difference between my opponents and me, I still think like a CEO and not a career government employee.
2. HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE ATLANTIC CITY TO PEOPLE NOT FAMILIAR WITH THE CITY?
DC: “You’ve got to see this place!” Atlantic City is on the verge of being a world-class gaming/resort destination. Can you imagine a City roughly four square miles that has 33 million visitors annually? It is amazing and it’s only getting better. There is nearly $10 billion in construction announced already with more to come. Beautiful beaches and great shows, outlet shopping and the best casinos east of Vegas… bring the family and have some fun.
3. WHAT DOES THE MAYOR OF ATLANTIC CITY DO?
DC: The Mayor of any City, and especially Atlantic City, is the Chief Executive Officer. Just like any other CEO, the Mayor is the highest-ranking “corporate” officer, administrator, and executive in charge of total management of a City. The Mayor and the “Board of Directors” (City Council) report to the shareholders, the owners of the company… the citizens. The Mayor’s responsibilities therefore, include the proper management of the City, both financial and operational. The Mayor is also the most visible representative of the City; a role which requires communication skills and unwavering nerve as an ambassador for the City and emissary in the search for investors and developers.
4. WHAT DOES THE TERM “MOVING THE CITY FORWARD” MEAN?
DC: “Moving the City Forward” can mean several things to several people. To me, the phrase is like the end of a page. You have a decision to make; do you revisit what has already been done and try to continue business as usual – or – do you take the next step? “Moving the City Forward” is a declaration that opportunity has presented itself and courage is needed to take a leap toward a future brightly defined by the people who have a vision for prosperity. In my mind, moving Atlantic City forward means promoting future development, streamlining City Hall, and making sure the people of Atlantic City are not left in the dust, mired with doubt and the allegations of corrupt leaders. It’s time to move this City forward!
5. WHAT WILL YOU ADD TO CITY GOVERNMENT?
DC: I don’t want to ADD to City Government, I want to reduce City Government. I will do that by making it more responsible to the taxpayers.
6. WHAT WILL YOU ELIMINATE FROM CITY GOVERNMENT?
DC: I will eliminate from Atlantic City government exactly what has given it a bad name… wasteful spending, patronage jobs, nepotism, sweet-heart contract giveaways, and the general status quo of pay to play politics. This is a good city with great employees. People who work hard that deserve to have an administration they can count on to support them and their work with sound fiscal policies and fair hiring and promotion practices.
7. DO YOU SUPPORT AN ORDINANCE BANNING SMOKING IN CASINOS?
DC: I support a law from Trenton or Washington that would ban smoking in casinos, not a municipal ordinance. To have any City Council, not just Atlantic City, feel as though they have the right to regulate the daily operations of a private business is a dangerous precedent to set. Who else can they tell how to run their business? Or maybe your household… I don’t want City Council telling me how I should run my home. The State of New Jersey decided it was going to outlaw smoking in public places. I was under the impression a casino was a public place, but no, Trenton made an exception and created a huge mess for the people and casino employees of Atlantic City. The Mayor should be standing in Trenton, shoulder to shoulder with his constituents, demanding equal enforcement of the smoking ban. Likewise, he should be supporting federal legislation in Washington that would ban smoking in all casinos. Why should Atlantic City have a disadvantage competing with casinos in nearby states?
8. SHOULD CASINO EMPLOYEES BE ELIGIBLE TO RUN FOR POLITICAL OFFICE?
9. DO YOU PREFER A LARGER LEGAL DEPARTMENT THAT DOES LESS CONTRACTING OF ATTORNEYS, OR A SMALLER LEGAL DEPARTMENT WITH MORE CONTRACTING OF ATTORNEYS?
DC: I would prefer a larger, knowledgeable and experienced Law Department with much fewer contracted lawyers because we all have justified suspicions about how contracts are awarded, who has influence over those contracts, and whether or not the City is actually getting what it pays for by the time the contracts expire. I understand there are some necessary exceptions such as clear conflicts of interest in which outside attorneys are necessary but these rare occasions that do not justify the number of existing legal contracts we are all paying for now. When I was the Business Administrator I proved this can work. I did not approve any new contracts for the law department.
10. DO YOU SUPPORT THE CITY’S EMPLOYMENT OF LOBBYISTS?
DC: No. It is the Mayor’s job, along with his staff, to represent the City at political functions and personally appear on behalf of the City in County, State, and Federal legislators’ offices and committee hearings. The City should not need to find someone else to represent itself through another six-figure contract.
11. ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE CITY’S PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION REGULATIONS?
DC: No. There will always be ways to improve transportation in Atlantic City, especially as we look to future development and a higher influx of guests and employees. Any Administration should be looking at ways to help the taxicab and jitney industry improve their services. One direction of traffic on Pacific Avenue is an excellent way to eliminate congestion during peak hours and special events.
12. WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES FOR UPGRADING CITY INFRASTRUCTURE?
DC: I see three immediate concerns.
First, the City should focus on its roads. Some parts of Pacific Avenue can be pretty uncomfortable for passengers. Additionally, proper crossing paths, turning lanes and parking spaces should be inspected, realigned and repainted.
Second, the City’s traffic control system is in need of upgrading or reprogramming. With better synchronization and timing flexibility, traffic can be controlled more precisely to eliminate backups and promote a smoother flow into, around, and out of the City.
Third, the City should promote the purchase and redevelopment of vacant lots and tenements throughout the City. I believe this can be done by combining lots into larger, more desirable plots of land. In some cases this may require the City to purchase land in the middle of two lots, or on the edge of other such properties, in order to combine them with the surrounding lots to accomplish the goal of a property sale. There is plenty of land the City owns that it doesn’t need and even more property that the City may be able to promote the sale of if an aggressive strategic plan and promotion can be established.
13. WILL YOU PROMOTE MORE, LESS, OR THE SAME AMOUNT OF PUBLIC HOUSING?
DC: I will promote less public housing. I believe it is more worth while for the City to promote home ownership than public housing. Home ownership is a stepping stone to financial independence. If the City can put a person or family that is struggling into a position of ownership instead of reliance, then I believe that person or family is much more likely to achieve stability and prosperity in the future.
14. ARE THERE TOO MANY, NOT ENOUGH, OR JUST THE RIGHT NUMBER OF CITY EMPLOYEES, VEHICLES, AND CELL PHONE PLANS?
DC: There are too many employees, most of which are at the top of the pay scale.
There is no reason that this City should have as many cars as it does. The first thing I would eliminate is the “take-home” policy for non-emergency personnel. If you work for the City in a non-emergency capacity, it is no different from any other job in the private sector. Regular employers don’t provide cars to and from work, why should the City? If you have to travel on official business, the City should provide a car pool from which you can sign a car in and out on an hourly basis.
As far as cell phones, as Business Administrator I had already identified the City’s cell phones as a problem. Previously, three different carriers provided three different programs with three different plans, active on carrier-specific phone models. I changed that to one carrier, with one plan, with more negotiating leverage and phones that are now interchangeable because they all work on the same network. This is the type of examination required to streamline the City and eliminate wasteful spending.
15. IS THERE ENOUGH ENFORCEMENT OF DRUG, PROSTITUTION, AND OVERCROWDING LAWS?
DC: No. Our police and fire departments do an excellent job on a daily basis but they are limited by the resources they have. If there are any drugs, any prostitutes and any crowding, then there isn’t enough enforcement. It’s as simple as that. It should be a priority of any administration to ensure the best qualified people in the ranks are promoted to leadership positions in the police and fire departments and then listen to what they say they need as far as resources to enforce the laws of this city to the best of their abilities. These men and women know what to do and how to do it, the Mayor should be able to provide them with the resources they need to be successful.
16. DOES THE CITY HAVE A ROLE IN ENFORCING IMMIGRATION LAWS?
DC: As I understand it now, it is not legal for the police to ask an individual his current citizenship status. This not a policy I agree with and if there are procedures municipal authorities have available to them in order [to] combat this growing issue, the City should explore it. Local police and other law enforcement agencies are the first line of defense against this silent invasion. There are legal ways to become a productive member of society and a citizen of this great country and it is still a crime to bypass those laws.
17. DO YOU SUPPORT THE NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAM?
DC: Yes. The program may not be an ideal situation but it does help the problem. Unless illegal drugs can be miraculously eliminated all together, people will continue to use them. The government can address one of the side effects of drug use, namely the transmission of HIV, hepatitis and other blood borne viruses through contaminated needles. Needle exchange programs not only stop the transmission of disease by providing addicts with otherwise difficult-to-obtain sterile needles, but these programs provide support and information that can lead addicts into treatment.
18. HOW WILL YOU AVOID SCANDAL AND BUILD A MORE POSITIVE REPUTATION FOR ATLANTIC CITY?
DC: Aside from my previously mentioned intentions of eliminating contracts, the Pay-to-Play mentality and push for fair hiring and promotion procedures, I would like to see the Ethics Board properly funded, staffed, and populated with non-partisan members whose reputations are beyond reproach. I also think the City should look at expanding drug testing to ALL City Hall employees, including the seventh floor. My best answer though is easy, vote for me. I have no political baggage, I don’t owe anybody any favors, I’m not beholden to any special interests, and I have never been under investigation or indicted for any crimes. I’m an honest, plain-spoken guy and I intend to surround myself with people who meet or exceed the same level of personal conduct and moral fiber.