By Donald Wittkowski
John Flood is promising voters that he will have a transparent government, a stronger partnership with City Council and an open-door policy with the public in his campaign to become Ocean City’s next mayor.
Born and raised in Ocean City, the 65-year-old Flood is stressing his family’s longtime ties to the resort town, his business experience and his years of public service as a former councilman and former member of the Library Board of Directors.
In the weeks leading up to the May 8 mayoral election, he will discuss key issues and his campaign platform in a series of stories published in OCNJDaily.com.
In this introductory story, he explains why he is running for mayor, changes he would make in City Hall if elected and his plan to build a friendlier relationship between local government and the public.
Why are you running for mayor?
Like most of the people, I’m very satisfied with the basic services our government provides us. Our town is a clean and safe community, with many sports and cultural opportunities for all ages. Our trash is collected and our Public Works employees do an excellent job. When someone calls 911, the police, fire or rescue personnel arrive quickly and are very professional. This praise should be attributed directly to the hard-working men and women of the city. Ocean City is truly a great place to live.
However, I became complacent and lost touch with the way our government makes decisions. So, I began to look at how that decision-making process works and how our government is functioning and spending our tax dollars. I became concerned, and as I looked deeper, that concern grew.
I’m running to inform the public of how our government makes those decisions and spends our money. It’s not working the way it was designed. All of the decisions should not be done by one person and then rubber-stamped by the City Council. You would be hard-pressed to find anything the mayor has taken to Council that wasn’t passed by a unanimous vote, let alone voted down. This lack of notice and transparency has to change.
What have you learned while speaking to the public during your campaign?
They say all politics are local. In the short time I have been talking to voters, many issues are neighborhood-specific. If you live in a flood-prone area, that’s the big issue. If your alley or street hasn’t been paved in years, that may be the one for that neighborhood.
But many people seem to be frustrated with the lack of true transparency and getting answers to their concerns. Whether it’s not consulting the downtown merchants about the sidewalks on Asbury Avenue, the chopping down of the trees and growth on 52nd Street, or any other number of projects, people want to be informed beforehand. They want to be asked their opinion rather than being told this is how it’s going to be done.
I’ve also heard from people who say, basically, eight years is enough.
By far the most disturbing thing I’ve heard on the campaign trail – and I’ve gotten this from quite a few people – is their fear of retaliation if they don’t support the mayor. I heard this a lot from getting people to sign my petition or to put up my campaign signs.
One person feared signing my petition would mean their son wouldn’t get a summer job with the city. A business owner said he didn’t sign it because he would lose business from some of the developers. It shouldn’t be that way.
My only hope is that when people get into the privacy of the polling booth, they vote for fairness over fear. I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said, “When people fear their government, that’s tyranny. When the government fears the people, that’s liberty.”
How would your administration be different than the current one?
I’d want our city to treat all of the businesses and anybody who has business with the city the same, equally, and with respect. I would not take City Council, and their opinion, for granted. I would look for them to be a partner and allow them to do their job.
I would also look to find new ways to use technology to better inform the people about future projects and current projects and to get their opinions prior to making a decision. One possibility is using the city website to post initiatives.
There shouldn’t be any reason that we shouldn’t be able to post on our website that, within 30 days, an ordinance is going to be put up for consideration. This would be done by the administration.
We’d post the ordinance online before presenting it to Council, giving people the ability to send in their comments. We can take those comments and potentially tweak the ordinance before it goes to Council, as opposed to the way it is now: The ordinance comes up for first reading and on second reading, somebody stands up and says something about it. Then the ordinance is either tabled or doesn’t get changed, or gets changed at the last minute without a thoughtful process about how that change would affect it.
John Flood’s background:
- He was born and raised in Ocean City. He graduated from St. Augustine’s Grammar School in Ocean City and Ocean City High School. He has a bachelor’s degree in business from Jacksonville University.
- He and his wife, Cathy, have been married for 37 years. They have two grown children, Justin and Katie.
- He was a member of City Council from 1988 to 1996, representing the Third Ward. He served as Council president during three of those years. From 1997 to 2008, he served on the Library Board of Directors. As the board’s president, he oversaw major renovations to Ocean City Free Public Library and the Ocean City Community Center.
- His family roots in Ocean City date back about 100 years. His grandparents started Palmer Chevrolet and Oldsmobile in 1933. His parents started the Wash Bowl Coin-Op Laundry in 1959, which Flood later operated, as well as the 16th Street Car Wash.
- As a commercial real estate developer, Flood owns and manages properties that include offices for doctors, dentists and accountants. The CVS store on 16th Street, the Bacharach Ocean City Therapy Center, a car wash and a seasonal seafood restaurant are among the tenants in his development portfolio.