Dems concerned with taxes, growth of county

Democratic Ocean County freeholder candidates run against incumbents


Staff Writer

Democratic challengers for three open seats on the Ocean County Board of Freeholders in the Nov. 2 general elections say it is high time for change in the way the all-Republican board has been doing business for years.

Despite a 5-cent decrease in the county tax rate this year, the Democrats insist the county is spending too much money. They said they believe the lower tax is misleading because the county is spending increasingly more money each year.

Democrats Gregory S. Kavanagh, 41, Brick, and Judith C. Platt, Seaside Heights, are running against longtime Republican incumbents John P. Kelly, 53, Eaglewood Township, and James F. Lacey, 50, Brick Township, for two three-year seats on the board.

Democrat Deborah C. Whitcraft, 49, current mayor of Beach Haven, will challenge incumbent Republican Gerry P. Little, 50, Surf City, for a two-year unexpired portion of a term. Little was appointed to replace Republican James Mancini, who died in November 2003.

Kavanagh, a Brick councilman since 1998 — his current term is up in 2005, said he believes the current freeholders are spending far too much money, even though the tax rate continues to decrease.

“I think the current freeholders have gone unchecked too long,” said Kavanagh, an electrician and union member. “If I am elected, I will work hard to give the taxpayers real tax relief. The tax rate decreases sound good, but that’s not really the case. It’s difficult to explain to the people, but their tax bills are really increasing. The tax rate decreases are actually the result of increased property valuations.

“I strongly believe in reducing the overspending of county government,” Kavanagh continued. “Our tax bills continue to rise as a result of rampant spending. If we control spending, we can stabilize the tax burden. The taxpayers are footing the bill for a lot of backroom deals and sweetheart jobs. When you have one-party rule, you don’t cut your own people and that costs money. I will oppose this practice.”

Kavanagh and his wife, Diane, have four children.

Platt, who ran unsuccessfully for freeholder last year, is a former North Plainsfield Borough councilwoman from 1996 to 2002. The mother of two children, she has lived in Seaside Heights for the last two years, and professionally has 17 years’ experience in the financial services area, from sales assistant, to operations manager to financial consultant.

“I think it is time for a change on the board because it must take more responsibility, both financially and environmentally,” said Platt, who is mother of two children. “We have to address such issues as pay-to-play and nepotism, which are costing the people a lot of money. Just because the tax rate is going down, that doesn’t mean our tax bills are going down. The board has been spending millions of dollars more in the last four years, causing increases in our tax bills.”

Whitcraft, who has been Beach Haven’s mayor since 2002, has held various public service positions for more than 20 years. She has been the owner of Beach Haven Fishing Centre since 1984 and has been the president of Black Whale Inc. since 1974.

Whitcraft, who is married to James C. Vogel, said she will bring “accessibility” to the board if she is elected.

“I simply don’t subscribe to any method of ‘cushioning’ the politician from those who depend on their elected officials to address their concerns and provide answers to their questions,” Whitcraft said. “The American people deserve far better representation than they are getting from their elected municipal, county, state and federal officials.”

The Democratic candidates agree that open space and the environment are important issues in this year’s election.

“Preserving open space in the county will continue to be a critical issue,” Kavanagh said. “Every acre we preserve means fewer homes and less stress on an already overburdened infrastructure. Traffic, drinking water safety and property tax safety all result from open space preservation.”

The Democratic candidates do agree that the proposed Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex (MOM) passenger rail line is a must for commuters from Ocean County who travel daily to New York City and other points.

One proposed route for the line would run from central Ocean County through western Monmouth County and into South Brunswick, Middlesex County. There, the MOM line would connect with the Northeast Corridor for service south to Trenton and Philadelphia, and north to New York City.

“I think the MOM rail line is a great idea and deserves all the support from us that it can get,” Platt said. “It is something that is desperately needed here in Ocean County. The county is not as sleepy as it was years ago. We have too many cars, and the rail line would give us relief. It has gotten a lot of support here, but there could be more.”