Manny Aponte, Republican candidate for an at-large position on the Atlantic County Board of Freeholders, said today that future proposals for the county to assume bonded indebtedness to finance capital construction projects be submitted to the voters in a public referendum.
?As a member of the Board, I will make it a top priority to urge passage of an ordinance requiring the consent of the voters and taxpayers of the county before debt is incurred,? Aponte said.
Aponte?s pledge came on the heels of the Board approval of a $40 million bond ordinance to expand facilities at the Atlantic County Institute of Technology. Aponte was a strong supporter of the project, but advocated it be submitted to a referendum.
?When we deal with long term millions of dollars of bonded debt and hold the taxpayers responsible for its repayment, it should be our duty and responsibility to seek public approval first,? Aponte said. ?If the proposed project is a worthy and desirable one, it should be the responsibility of the Board to make its case to the people and explain the need to go into debt to finance it. It is, in my view, a fundamental basis of our democracy and will increase elected officials responsiveness to the people they represent. ?
Aponte has been critical of one of his Democrat opponents, Freeholder Alisa Cooper, for changing her position on the ACIT project, first supporting a referendum and later opposing it.
?Political considerations were uppermost in her mind and her vote reflected that,? Aponte said.
?Requiring a voter referendum on future projects will eliminate the kind of unseemly political maneuvering Cooper engaged in and establish the merits of the proposal as the determining factor,? Aponte said.
He said his referendum proposal would exempt emergency situations in which rapid action is needed to protect public safety.
?Obviously if a bridge or roadway is crumbling and poses a threat to the people, our immediate responsibility is to undertake whatever spending is necessary to remove that threat,? he said.