Make no mistake, Mayor David Mayer is extremely proud of the direction he’s taking Gloucester Township.
In a recent interview with Patch, Mayer discussed some of the latest projects, addressed rumors and criticisms, and unveiled a new program he feels puts the township at the forefront of public access among New Jersey towns.
The development endeavor currently receiving big buzz around town is the brand new baseball complex being built on the old Nike missile base in the southern end of town, near Cross Keys Road.
Mayer pointedly addressed the rumor that Ripken Design is no longer involved with the project.
“They’re wrong," he bluntly replied. "I just saw Joe Barth (the Hit Doctor) last night. He’s designing a first-class destination attraction that’s going to bring thousands of people to Gloucester Township."
The mayor also discussed the Hit Doctor project's PILOT figure of $75,000 per year, which some critics have said is too low for such a large property.
“That only covers the field,” he said. “Phases two and three—the hotel and restaurant—are still to come. There will be more taxes from those two phases.”
The township's new Internet project, GT CitizensAccess, will connect citizens with Mayer, the Township Council and the local political process in an innovative way.
Set to kick off at Monday's Council meeting, it will first and foremost offer live streaming of council meetings. Residents can click on the link glotwp.com/live/index.html during a meeting to view the live stream.
Access to elected officials during council meetings through eGov is the second component of the plan. As they watch the video, citizens can e-mail in their questions or concerns. Ten minutes of each council meeting will be allocated for government officials to answer these queries.
Some have voiced concern that airing the meetings via the township's website (glotwp.com) instead of TV will alienate senior citizens.
Mayer does not share this concern.
“They must not know the seniors I know who e-mail me,” he said dryly.
Part three, InfoAgenda, will allow residents to view ordinances and resolutions that will be up for vote by the Friday before council meetings, essentially giving the average citizen the opportunity to be as prepared for a meeting as a council member.
Those three elements are part of a greater EnviroInitiative. The township is going paperless at public meetings to reduce costs and benefit the environment. Agendas for members will be available on laptops donated from the Black Horse Pike Regional School District.
Mayer is very proud of how cost-effective this initiative is.
“The in-house cost is $60 for a digital camera. That’s it. I don’t want to spend taxpayers’ money to have council meetings. We’re going to form a committee to generate sponsorships from the private sector, from businesses, to cover any broadcasting cost,” he said.
“(This program) makes Gloucester Township the most accessible municipal government in New Jersey,” he boasted.
Mayer conducted a survey of all the towns in Camden County. The Township Council has a minimum of four meetings with public participation each month, more than any other community.
“We provide public forums for people to comment, and now we’re allowing even greater access by allowing them to get online,” he said.
Mayer enjoys being on the vanguard in terms of using technology to run government.
“As far as this e-mail portion, we’re really the first in the state to partner this with live streaming,” he noted.
Clearly someone in touch with technology, Mayer has no issue with Republicans who refer to him as “Mayor BlackBerry.”
“I think you can use modern technology to be effective and improve taxpayers’ lives. Whether it’s a BlackBerry or a computer, you can respond to concerns on any given day," he said. "I’m very proud of how we’re running Gloucester Township. If my BlackBerry is what they’re talking about, we’re doing a great job."