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A “Stringed” Bean?

A nutty comment that came in yesterday on the PolitickerNJ story:

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BTW, do you think that’s the same Janet that was the Magovern/Blackburn campaign treasurer last year and this year was on the “Rebuild Belmar Pavilions” committee and is currently treasurer for the Belmar Democratic Committee?

Naw, I doubt it.

The Week

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A “Beer Hall”?

I noticed this in today’s Wall Street Journal story, “Rebuilt Jersey Shore Sees Summer Rebound”.  Subscribers can see it here.  The rest of you will just have to believe me.

In many places, life seemed back to normal.

In Belmar, only about a dozen families haven’t returned home, said Mayor Matt Doherty. A new beer hall is opening near the boardwalk, and beachfront homes are under construction down many streets.

A “beer hall”?

I’m hoping this is just a case of a journalist not really paying attention and that Matt actually said that a new beer brewery is opening far from the boardwalk.  Still, maybe somebody should ask him next time they see him.

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Coming to the boardwalk?

Maser Consulting Political Contributions, 2013

Even if none of this went to Belmar, these guys are out there spending a ton of money doing favors for politicians.  Do you really think it’s a good idea to have as our borough engineering firm a company that engages in the activity we see below?   If they were just out there giving everybody the best price on engineering services would they need to do this?

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And don’t forget the letter they sent out trying to influence our bond referendum.  I really think these guys need to go.  As Jim Bean recently said, we should just hire a good engineer as a full time borough employee and be done with it.

VS Borough Of Belmar

 

Case Title DEROUVILLE VS BOROUGH OF BELMAR
County Monmouth
Case Type CONTRACT-OTHER
Docket # L-005044-13
Year Filed 2013
Date Filed 2013-12-12
First Answer Date 01/30/14
Last Proceeding Date 04/21/14
Proceeding Type CSE MNG CF
Date Disposed
Disposition Type
Stay Indication

De Rouville signed a $100,000 and then a second $165,000 contract to grind up and remove the remains of the old boardwalk.  They were proceeding with the work when they were suddenly and unceremoniously dumped and replaced with AshBritt.  Full story here.

Case Title BROADCO VS BOROUGH OF BELMAR
County Monmouth
Case Type OTHER INSURANCE
Docket # L-001851-14
Year Filed 2014
Date Filed 2014-05-09
First Answer Date 06/13/14
Last Proceeding Date 07/29/14
Proceeding Type CSE MNG CF
Date Disposed
Disposition Type
Stay Indication

Broadco was also dumped soon after starting work on the cleanup.  Their work was split between Moran client Ashbritt and J.H. Reid.  Story here.

Pringle: Maybe In The Godfather, But Not Here!

 

This thing of ours is featured in the widely read PolitickerNJ:

 

Belmar mayor’s race: a wave of post-Sandy project politics stirs up seaside Monmouth borough

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……………..Doherty was also irked that Pringle mentioned his wife, Maggie Moran, in the letter, noting her former role as an employee of Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) as well as her public relation firm’s ongoing representation of the powerful statewide union. Pringle inferred in the letter that these relationships represent “conflict issues.”

Moran is a force all her own in New Jersey politics. An adjunct professor at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics and former senior staffer for Gov. Jon Corzine, she is one of the lead organizers of the Ready for Hillary political action committee that is laying the ground work for former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s potential 2016 Democratic presidential nomination bid.

Doherty told PolitickerNJ that while he has accepted personal political donations from LIUNA leader Ray Pocino, Belmar’s pay-to-play ordinance forbids any candidate committee from accepting any political action committee donations, including those sponsored by unions.

“We are compelled by state law to award projects to the lowest bidder,” Doherty said. “In this case, the lowest bidder happened to be a unionized firm.”

As for his wife, Doherty was direct.

“[Pringle] brought up my wife in a political attack piece. Most politicians know that wives and children are off limits when it comes to attacks,” Doherty said. “It doesn’t matter who my wife is.”

“That’s ridiculous. I think he’s thinking about the Mafia,” Pringle replied. “He’s a sitting mayor that is deciding issues that have a direct benefit to a client of his wife. Is he arguing that you get a pass if the person you are benefiting is your wife? That’s the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever heard. That’s from The Godfather, not from the state’s municipal ethics law, that you can’t raise an issue about someone’s wife.”

While the internecine strife between Democrats Doherty and Pringle continues unabated, there is a Republican candidate looking to take out Doherty: Belmar Councilman Jim Bean.

Bean, the sole GOP member of the five-member borough council and who filed ethics complaints against Doherty last year, politely declined a request from PolitickerNJ for an interview, then issued a statement.

“I understand your ambition to inform your readership of the happenings in Belmar, but it is my desire to just speak to the people of Belmar directly about local issues affecting their lives and about what I can do to help. I don’t believe discussing this under the spotlight of large, statewide media would be helpful to the people I wish to serve,” the statement read. “Thank you for understanding.”

Pringle served as Belmar’s mayor for 20 years, from 1990 to 2010. After he said that “if I wanted to [run against Doherty], I would,” Pringle showed support for Bean.

“Jim is courageous – he sticks by tough positions despite the fact that he gets battered four to one on every issue,” Pringle said. “He legitimately only cares about Belmar. He doesn’t care about county or statewide politics. He has no ambitions beyond doing what’s right by his community.”…………………….

What do you say, Vito?  Wives or no wives?

Restriction Could Have Suppressed Bidding

In today’s Coast Star story, Mayor Doherty dismisses claims by Councilman Bean and former mayor Pringle that the provision in our bidding laws that requires bidders to participate in a state approved union apprenticeship program or pay journeyman’s wages was a factor in the 70% drop in the number of bidders on the second set of pavilion plans:

The responsible bidder language had no effect on the pavilion bidding process, according to Mayor Doherty.

The only thing that restricted what contractors would offer to bid, the mayor said, was the project labor agreement [PLA].

He noted that the final passage of the responsible bidder ordinance was passed on Feb. 18, he said, and the bids were received on Feb. 4. Furthermore, according to Mayor Doherty, the ordinance did not go into effect until March 10 — 20 days later.

“Basically, FEMA and state law requires that you pay a prevailing wage on projects using their money,” Mayor Doherty said. “What applied was the project labor agreement.”

“On both the boardwalk and the pavilions, in the bid specs, we put in something called a project labor agreement,” the mayor said.

The PLA requires contractors to guarantee they will pay a prevailing wage, the mayor said, which effectively “weeds out unscrupulous contractors.” It does so, according to the mayor, by guaranteeing contractors cannot bid low on a project, and then use cheap labor to cut costs.

First of all, Doherty says that the bids were received February 4th but that the offending ordinance wasn’t passed until February 18th.  But the ordinance’s introduction and first reading was on January 28th.  At that meeting I raised a big stink about it which the Coast Star reported on the following Thursday.  And actually that meeting was originally scheduled for January 21st.  (I don’t think a single meeting this year was held on the date it was originally supposed to be.)  I first was made aware of this ordinance when the agenda for that original meeting was made public on January 19th.  And some contractors may have heard rumors even earlier.

Also note that the clause allowing bidders to pay journeyman’s wages in lieu of supporting an apprenticeship program wasn’t added on until the evening the ordinance was passed.  So it’s possible that contractors may have had bids ready but decided not to send them because they weren’t part of an apprenticeship program and were not aware there would be another option.

Doherty attempts to shift the blame for the dearth of bidders on the latest plans to the Project Labor Agreement he enacted immediately after the storm.  That was a bunch of BS too, but it doesn’t explain why we got only three bids this time around when we got more than three times as many the first time we put this project out to bid.  The PLA was already in effect then.

Personally I think a lot of bidders are starting to think the Belmar pavilion project has become radioactive and they would just as soon not be involved with it.

What Does That have To Do With It?

The mayor’s defense, published in today’s Coast Star, of the requirement that contractors participate in a union apprenticeship program or pay “journeyman’s” wages, which are higher than the required “prevailing” wages:

The language modification came about, according to Mayor Doherty, after a contractor turned in payroll records that did not match those kept by the borough.

Without the language, contractors would effectively be able to bid at lower rates, promise to pay the prevailing wage and then not follow through, in order to maximize profits.

Who is he fooling?  One thing has nothing to do with the other.  Doing that, if it really happened, is fraud and is already illegal. The clause everyone is objecting to has nothing to do with it.

We need to get rid of this rule and just get the job done at the lowest expense possible under state law.  If anyone in Belmar thinks the LIUNA should get more support for their apprenticeship and training program they can make a private donation to it.  And if they think the workers aren’t being paid enough, nobody is going to stop them from going down to the construction site and giving the guys some cash out of their own pocket.

Cheap Money Causes Bad Investments

Adherents of the Austrian school of economic thought, such as myself, have been saying for some time that we’re in a stock market bubble and that when it pops there will be a lot of pain.  Now some in the mainstream are starting to say the same thing, even on CNBC:

I don’t know if it will be 60%.  I think the Fed will not allow that to happen and instead will print enough money and funnel it into the market to keep it from falling off a cliff.

The Keynesians who are running the show right now think that they can smooth out the business cycle by juicing the markets with printed money and low interest rates when there’s downturns, which seem to happen every five to seven years.  The problem we face today is that they never stopped juicing from the last downturn so when the next one happens it’s going to have to open up the fire hoses to make any difference at all.  Look for sharply rising consumer prices next year or maybe in 2016.  And if they try to tame the inflation by raising interest rates then the market will tank.  They’re stuck.

There’s a lot of bad investments and a lot of bad debt out there that need to be liquidated.  It’s going to happen one way or another.

The culprit is low interest rates.

When you’re investing money that you paid 6% or 7% to borrow, you have to be very careful.  You have to do your homework.  What ever it is needs to produce that kind of return just to break even.  But when you’re investing free money, or almost free money, just about any return at all is profit.  So investment flows into some pretty marginal enterprises.

It’s not that low interest rates turn investors into fools.  It’s, as economist and (my) stockbroker Peter Schiff says, low interest rates turn fools into investors.  Market-based interest rates would keep the amateurs out and prevent a lot of malinvestment and a lot of pain.

Bean/Seebeck Media Release

I guess they consider me to be part of the media:

 

BELMAR RESIDENTS VOTED AND NOW WANT ACTION

 
Last week the voters of Belmar soundly defeated a plan to borrow 7 million dollars to fund construction of a public safety pavilion at 10th Ave and a new Taylor pavilion at 5th Ave. It’s important to remember that the referendum was not about whether to build or what to build. It was about the 7 million dollars and the voters made absolutely clear in that special election that they don’t want to spend that much money on pavilion construction. Honestly, most constituents I’ve spoken with who voted “no” were not opposed so much to the plans as they were to the cost.

I’ve maintained all along that we can build those pavilions, or similar pavilions, at a much lower cost. We need to look at why the cost seems so much higher than it should be.

Of course the $1 million fee that Maser Consultants is charging us needs to be examined. There is no way that engineering costs should contribute that much to the cost of a project this size.

But the bigger problem, as I see it, is the anti-competitive language added to our municipal code earlier this year by ordinance 2014-01. The requirements made of any company bidding for a public construction project in Belmar now include this paragraph:

The provision of satisfactory evidence by the bidding entity, is that it provides or participates in an apprenticeship and training program approved and registered with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Apprenticeship & Training, as well as a benefit configuration being no less than required under the New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act, or the bidder certifies that they will not pay any less than the journeymans rate as defined by the New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act, are minimally required to demonstrate that a bidding entity is “responsible.”

Companies that bid for work in Belmar, now, by statute, must either be a participant in an approved union apprenticeship and training program or pay a wage higher than the going rate.

We can see how this law has affected the competitive environment for public projects in Belmar. When the previous pavilion design – the one that included a two-story Taylor Pavilion – was put out to bid last year, this clause was not part of our code and ten companies bid for that work. But when the current plan was put out to bid this year, with that language now part of our code, only three companies sent in bids. This is not the way to get the best price.

I don’t understand why the mayor and majority of council members would pass laws that drive up the costs of public projects in their jurisdiction, costs that will be passed on to their constituents. We should not enact laws that mandate additional benefits or higher pay for workers when they work in Belmar than they get for the same work in other towns. Bear in mind that this law is not only about the pavilions. It will drive up the cost of all projects in Belmar including the major improvements to the Lake Como outflow system currently being planned.

This is grossly unfair to Belmar’s taxpayers and I respectfully, but strongly, call on Mayor Doherty and members of the Council to immediately remove this language from Belmar’s bidding requirements.

In order to resolve all the controversies surrounding the pavilion plans and start building as quickly as possible, I would like to see a first reading to amend this language from Ordinance 2014-01 at the next Borough Council meeting scheduled to be held September 9th and a second reading, public hearing and vote on the matter at the following meeting, which is currently scheduled for October 7th.

This is an absolutely necessary first step in moving forward on pavilion construction that the taxpayers of Belmar can afford.

If the mayor does not respond to this request, I consider it another affront to taxpayers and will take other actions to force the mayor to hear their voices.

Contact Information

Councilman Jim Bean
jbean@betterbelmar.com
732-620-0526