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Janet Grosshandler’s Letter

Janet Grosshandler, a member of the committee to stick Belmar with $7 million more debt, wrote a letter to the Star which was published today.  Ms. Grosshandler was the treasurer for the Magovern-Blackburn campaign last year and lived in Wall at the time.  She has since moved to an apartment in Belmar.  To my knowledge she has never seen a Belmar property tax bill with her name on it and if she registered to vote in Belmar she did so only very recently.

Here is her letter with my comments in red italics.

 

I’m clarifying what happened at our meeting last week to promote passing Belmar’s public question to rebuild the pavilions. Here is information I believe as truth instead of innuendos that a handful of people promote. I am a member of the Rebuild Belmar Pavilions [RBP] committee and we are tired of what I feel is misinformation that a small group pushes around Belmar.  (The mayor, the Democrats on the Council, the administrator and borough attorney are a small group.  She must be talking about them.)

Mostly spread by word-of-mouth, (and an email “inviting all”) our RBP committee meeting was held to get information out to dispel the insinuations that this Belmar recovery opposition is trying to feed people. There were Democrats, Republicans and Independents present, in other words, (hand selected) Belmar townspeople and business owners who care about our town and want to move forward.  (BTW, every time these people say “recovery” think “debtor’s prison”)

Of course RBP asked the mayor and supporting council members to come to tell us the process that created the Pavilions plan- like the 11-member (Democrat campaign-contributor) committee that met for months, including members of police, first aid, lifeguards, water rescue team, to clarify the needs. We are people who care about Belmar and its pavilions. There was no “violation of the law” as printed in a recent Coast Star article about this meeting. It was a private meeting.  (“All are invited”)

As to the claim that a Jim Bean was “not allowed” into the meeting [also a quote from last week’s article], I believe that this was just another planned grandstanding ploy from Jim Bean. I believe he stood there yelling to get attention and then stormed out, perhaps having The Coast Star’s reporter on speed dial to get his name in the paper.  (Jim Bean was not allowed into the meeting.)

As to DeSanctis’ (Her name is Joy, Grosshandler!) comment in the same Coast Star article that the mayor “using his position to pick sides,” duh. The public question is to say “yes” to the mayor and council’s hard work to complete Belmar’s recovery (debtor’s prison). The mayor and council (following orders) already said “yes” to this vote. The Aug. 19 vote is to pass the council approved bond ordinance. Hundreds of us are on “this side” and over 55 residents attended our meeting about voting “yes” on Aug. 19.  (I don’t know where she gets her “hundreds” from.  Did they do a vote already?  One thing we do know is that over 300 people signed the petitions calling for the referendum.  And this time, Gene Murray didn’t “accidentally” sign.)

Belmar residents, we need these pavilions. (Please drop the “we”.  You haven’t even been living here a year.  And while pavilions will be nice, the beach does seem to be thriving without them.)  They have been scaled down to being functional to meet Belmar’s needs. (And why were they “scaled down?  Because the ones originally presented to us were completely ridiculous.)  There are no frills here. We are replacing and rebuilding what was there. (If only that were so.)  In order to make it ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant, FEMA approved so we can get reimbursement and built to comply with V zone construction requirements, it is going to cost money.  (The issue is, for the umpteenth time, how much money?)

When I hear someone say, “vote this down so we can build it cheaper,” I cringe. I believe that starting over again can only mean more money down the line. Delaying this for months will not serve Belmar. Build one pavilion at a time? I think that would cost more. Send it out for other bids? I believe that there’s a very strong chance a new lowest bid will be more than what we have now.  (That’s what you believe.  I believe that a different mayor will get these pavilions built for a lot less money.)

The Rebuild Belmar Pavilions committee wants you to vote “yes” on Aug. 19. We are on the side of moving Belmar forward, of rebuilding what we have lost and completing our recovery (debtor’s prison.). Do you want this tiny group to keep holding us back? (Tiny? Over 300 people signed the petition.) The “nay-sayers” will not stop us who want Belmar to thrive. Vote

yes!  (Vote no.)

Belmar In The News

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They Won’t Even Tell The State

That it’s about the $7 Million

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Madeline And Pepito Grow Up?

When I read yesterday that “French youth” had gone on a rampage over what is going on in Gaza, I couldn’t believe it.  When I think of French youth I think maybe of cute little red-haired Madeline and her friend Pepito.

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I didn’t think they would really care about Gaza so I Googled images from the rampage to see for myself:

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Wow.  They sure have changed!

Actually, according to the AP report it was the Jews’ fault anyway:

Tension mounted as scores of Jewish youth, some armed with iron bars, encircled a synagogue to “protect” it.

Why the quotes around the word “protect”?  Maybe the reporter is a “French youth” too.

The Checks Are In The Mail

Or are they?

One important factor you must consider when deciding how to vote August 19th is whether we can be certain that the $3.6 million the mayor says FEMA will pay towards the new pavilions will ever materialize.  What if it doesn’t?  Then what do we do?

Many of us had questions during the post-Sandy spending binge and were repeatedly told not to worry, that FEMA was covering at least 75% and maybe 90% of storm related expenditures.  But now, over a year and a half later, how much of that was actually paid?  How much of it even made it onto FEMA project work sheets?

Let’s start with the boardwalk:

At the November 21, 2012 meeting the mayor announced that our engineering firm had estimated the cost to build a new boardwalk as $17 million.  The council, adding another $3 million for beach clean up costs, passed a $20 million bond (2012-15) shortly thereafter.  Although the winning bid to rebuild the boardwalk came in at only $6.6 million, with a later change order of approximately $2 million bringing it to a total of a little under $9 million, the whole $20 million that was bonded was spent.  So how much of that $20 million – minus the $3 million for the cleanup – was reimbursed by FEMA?

$9.25 million, or 54.4% of the $17 million that was supposedly 90% reimbursable.

But it gets worse…..

Lets look at the two bonds passed at the April 17th, 2013 meeting.  One, 2012-05 for $1.64 million, was for the funding of the capital portions of prior emergency appropriations.  The other, 2012-06 for $1.86 million was to fund the non-capital portion of previous emergency appropriations.  We were told at the time that in the worst case FEMA would reimburse 75% of the $3.5 million total and 90% in the best case.  These expenses were all what FEMA calls “Category B”, which is non-debris related storm costs.

In response to an OPRA request to find out what actual expenditures were being funded by the bonds, the OPRA requester received a “two foot high” pile of paid invoices which included everything from Chevy Tahoes to wet suits to wedding rings.  He compiled them into a ledger:

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Because the total was only $1.8 million, he looked on-line for additional expenses from bill-pay lists that were categorized by the borough as Sandy-related.

He found these:

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I don’t know why the borough called non-overtime payroll Sandy-related, but the total spending that the borough claimed was for category B-type hurricane expenses, came to over $3.7 million!

So how much of that was actually ever paid for by FEMA?

Well, for some reason it turns out that only $390,256.94 ever made it to the sole category B project worksheet that was submitted to FEMA by the borough.  And the only payment we ever received from FEMA for the over $3,500,000.00 we spent was a measly $146,346.36!

So lets see……$3,700,000.00 in expenses.  $146,346.36 paid by FEMA.  That’s under 4%!  What happened?  If this isn’t accurate, please, somebody let me know!

Now here’s the really bad part.  Belmar wanted 12 years to pay off the two bonds that totaled $3.5 million.  But when the town asked the Local Finance Board for a waiver on the down payment, the Board granted the waiver but gave us only 3 years to pay off the bonds.  That means we have less than 2 years left before these two bonds need to be paid off in full.  And the only source of funding, my friends, is you and I.  How on earth can we avoid a big tax increase in the very near furure?

*****WARNING!*****DANGER!*****CONJECTURE AHEAD!*****

 

Many of us, including some people much more expert in these things than I am, believe those pavilions can be built for $4 million, or even less.  Could it be that Doherty believes that too and plans to spend only about $4 million on them, leaving $3 million available to pay off the two bonds that are coming due soon?  Remember, the $7 million pavilion bond is for 20 years.  That’s plenty of time!  And this administration has a history of always spending every cent of every bond ever taken out.

Am I crazy?  Is this just another “small town conspiracy theory”?

You decide.

 

The Week

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Appropriately Held In A Back Room

Violation of Open Public Meetings Act?

Taxpayer resources used for “political event”?

SID an arm of Democratic machine?

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Reprinted with the permission of Coast Star newspapers:

Private meeting leads residents to question mayor

By Patrick Farrell

BELMAR — A meeting held Tuesday night in the back room of Connolly Station has left some residents concerned with Mayor Matt Doherty’s actions in his campaign to win the Aug. 19 special election for the $7 million beachfront pavilions.

The meeting was announced by the Belmar Business Partnership in a July 10 email that stated, “Mayor Doherty will host a meeting n [sic] Tuesday, July 15, 2014 to discuss the pavillions. The meeting will take place in the back area of Connolly Station beginning at 6 p.m. All are encouraged and welcome to attend.”

Prior to the meeting, there were discrepancies as to who was hosting the meeting, and what the meeting would pertain to.

Sal Marchese, president of the Belmar Business Partnership, said the meeting was hosted by Mayor Doherty, and that it was for “informing people on what benefit [the pavilions] will be for Belmar.”

Mr. Marchese also noted that the BBP had nothing to do with the meeting, despite sending out the email invitation.

According to Mayor Doherty, he was not hosting the meeting.

The mayor said that a group of people in town who collectively want the Aug. 19 vote to pass, allowing the pavilions to be built, organized the meeting and invited him to speak.

“It’s not a town meeting, not a public meeting … I’m going to be there, but there’s no town business being conducted,” the mayor said Tuesday afternoon.

Despite the invitation inviting all to attend, several residents, as well as one councilman, were not allowed into the meeting.

“Mayor Doherty told me I was not allowed in … that it was a political event, and that he wouldn’t come to a Republican event so he didn’t want me there,” Councilman Jim Bean said.

Councilman Bean is the lone Republican on the Belmar Council.

“The major concern I have is that the Belmar Business Partnership sent out emails to everyone … said everyone was invited … and then when we got there, they picked and chose who they let in so they had no dissenters,” Councilman Bean said. “There were Democrats who got rejected … I’m a councilman and I got rejected … they are using town resources to push political agendas.”

Councilman Bean was the only member of the council not in attendance, which means a quorum was present at the private meeting. A quorum is formed when the majority of the governing body is present.

The New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act, commonly known as the Sunshine Law, requires that adequate notice be given for a meeting where a quorum of a public body will be hosting a discussion of public business.

By that accord, whether or not Mayor Doherty and the remainder of the council were in violation of the law would boil down to whether or not the subject of the meeting would provide exemption for the council, according to Thomas Cafferty, general counsel of the New Jersey Press Association.

“Clearly we had a quorum present, and clearly this was public business,” Mr. Cafferty said.

According to Mr. Cafferty, the meeting would be exempt if the mayor could prove that it was a political caucus meeting.

“It appears to me that this meeting would not prevail — that this was not a political caucus, presumably they didn’t verify that those remaining were members of the political party,” Mr. Cafferty said.

According to the mayor, the announcement from the Belmar Business Partnership was miscommunicated, and it was not intended to be an informational meeting, rather a meeting of political strategy.

“It was political business to a win a campaign in August,” the mayor said.

“It was not a government meeting … no government business was done,” Mayor Doherty said. “It was a private meeting, held by a group of people who want to see the ballot initiative passed.”

Those critical of the mayor’s action argue otherwise, citing the meeting announcement’s phrasing, which stated it was a meeting to discuss the pavilions — and open to all residents.

At the meeting, glossy handouts, printed by the borough, were distributed, raising further concerns for residents such as Joy DeSanctis.

“I’m concerned about the mayor using his position to pick a side,” Mrs. DeSanctis said.

Mrs. DeSanctis said the handouts, stamped with Belmar’s logo and the borough address, “are terribly misleading.”.

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I Thought They Wanted Higher Prices

Can anyone explain why anti-trust regulators are forcing Reynolds American tobacco to spin off Lorillard’s Kool and Salem brands before completing its purchase of Lorillard?  Are they worried that there might not be enough competition in the cigarette industry?  Do they think prices might go up?  Isn’t that what the government wants?

I guess they’re concerned that if there are fewer tobacco competitors, and prices do rise, that more people will quit smoking and that revenue from taxes (that were imposed, supposedly, to encourage quitting) will decline.

Of course if it were up to me I would end all antitrust regulations.  In a free market, the only time a monopoly would occur is when a company is so good at something that no other company can compete.  You see, the objective of antitrust rules is not to foster competition, but to keep prices low.  Competition does push prices down of course, but if a certain company is so efficient at something that no other company can beat its prices, why is that a problem?  Just let them do it and put the resources that would have gone into competing with them to some other use.  If they raise their prices to a point where other companies can do it cheaper, then other companies will do it cheaper.

Really, the only parts of the economy where we see monopolies keeping prices high is where those monopolies are enforced by the gun.  Some examples might be public utilities, neighborhood drug gangs and the Post Office.

From The Belmar Bonders

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“All Are Encouraged And Welcomed To Attend”

(If the mayor likes you.)

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The pavilion information session at Connolly Station that took place tonight unexpectedly turned into a “private party” as anyone, including BBP members, who were deemed likely to vote against the $7 million bond were refused entry.  There was, apparently, no other criteria.  Some Democrats were let in but not others.  Some Republicans were let in but not others.  People who had absolutely nothing to do with the SID attended, but Jim Bean, a sitting councilman, was refused entry.  It reminded me of the Studio 54 “dictatorship at the door”.

In my opinion, the BBP/SID should be disbanded and de-funded immediately.  This evening made it clear that it is simply an arm of the political machine that runs this town.

In a normal town this behavior would be considered outrageous.  But Belmar is not a normal town and this sort of thing is something I guess we’re all going to have to get used to.