Common Sense For Belmar Liberty Begins At Home

August 31, 2010

This Week’s Ad……No More “Curly” Light Bulbs!

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Their Ideas and My Ideas

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A sampling of some of their great ideas:

> A “Special Improvement District” that forces our businesses and commercial property owners to pay extra taxes for “improvements” during a time when many of them are struggling already.

> Joining the New Jersey “Live Where You Work ” program that uses state-backed mortgages to manipulate what town people live in and encourage lower income people to buy houses in Belmar that they might not be able to afford.

> Joining “Transit Village”, a state program designed to manipulate people to live near train stations.  Your state tax money is used to pay Belmar to build it’s downtown the way Trenton wants it built in order to prop up their money-losing railroad.

> “Seaport Village”, a government forced-redevelopment boondoggle that embroiled Belmar in a nasty (and costly) eminent domain battle.  Thousands of dollars spent on planning and on legal fees were lost when the real estate bubble burst and our “partners” pulled out.  Our center of town has been scarred for years now with two vacant lots where an active Chevrolet dealer once stood. 

> Joining “Sustainable Jersey”, a state program that cedes local control to environmental absolutists in Trenton who use state power to force on us their ideas of “environmental justice” and “social equity and fairness”.

> An ordinance waiving permit fees for the installation of solar panels, forcing the taxpayers to provide this service for free.  (While the mayor and council voted for this unanimously, none have announced any plans to install solar panels on their own houses.)

> A smoking ban on the beach that turns thousands of honest and productive citizens into lawbreakers.  If smokers wish to avoid the cost and embarrassment of receiving a summons, they must walk the width of the beach in the hot sun (a tremendous burden for older or handicapped smokers) and bear the indignity of standing in a cage near the boardwalk every time they wish to smoke.  This is one of the most mean-spirited ideas they’ve had, in my opinion.

> A pie in the sky plan to have the state’s first geothermal school building. 

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I’m not so smart, so my ideas are much simpler:

> Personal freedom

> Economic freedom

> Property rights

> Privacy rights

> Limited government

> Local control

> Individual sovereignty, responsibility and dignity

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August 28, 2010

Asbury Park Press? Or The New Black Panthers?

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 4:56 am

From it’s editorial about Glenn Beck’s rally today:

There is no shortage of angry, doughy, white guys in this country who feel shortchanged and cheated and, rather than looking in the mirror, prefer to blame every failure and setback in their lives on those with more melanin than their own pasty selves.

The Asbury Park Press has always been hostile to freedom and true civil rights in this country but this kind of language is way over the top.  If this is what passes for journalism at the APP it might as well be printed on toilet paper.

New Jersey Misses An Opportunity To Blow Even More Money

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From The Heritage Foundation:

Morning Bell: Secretary Duncan’s Race to Waste Your Education Dollars

Posted By Conn Carroll On August 27, 2010

When Education Secretary Arne Duncan first unveiled his Race to the Top (RttT) program in July of last year, he admitted [1]that “when I was superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools, I did not always welcome calls from the U.S. Department of Education. That’s because the department, from its inception in 1980, has traditionally been a compliance-driven agency.” But, he continued, that was all about to change because his RttT program, funded by $4.35 billion of economic stimulus cash, would be a “competition” that scrutinized “state applications for a coordinated and deep-seated commitment to reform.” He later added [2]: “As I have said many times before, this isn’t just about the money — this is about working together and putting the needs of children ahead of everyone else.”

Fast forward to this past Tuesday when Secretary Duncan identified [3]the ten recipients of second round RttT funding that did not include the state of New Jersey, which fell just three points shy of the winners circle. The Newark Star-Ledger [4] then revealed that a clerical error cost the state 4.8 points (out of 500 possible) because New Jersey’s application submitted data comparing the 2010 and 2011 state budgets, not the 2008 and 2009 data that the application required. Wednesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) accepted full responsibility for the error, but also used the incident to launch a trenchant critique of the entire program [5]:

“That’s the stuff that drives people nuts about government and that’s the stuff the Obama administration should answer for. Are you guys just down there checking boxes like mindless drones, or are you thinking? … When the president comes back to New Jersey, he’s going to have to explain to the people of the state of New Jersey why he’s depriving them of $400 million that this application earned because one of his bureaucrats in Washington couldn’t pick up the phone and ask a question, couldn’t go on the Internet and find information.”

Mindless box-checking is just the beginning of RttT’s problems. When Tuesday’s results were announced, the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, was quick to claim [6] that it was Gov. Christie’s failure to get “buy in” [7] from unions on the application that ultimately cost the state millions in federal cash. Specifically, Gov. Christie’s insistence on not caving-in to union demands that he weaken the state’s teacher accountability standards lost him far more points than the clerical error did [6]. And New Jersey was not the only state to lose out because of the Obama administration’s slavish devotion to teacher union votes and cash. Proven education reform leaders like Louisiana and Colorado [8]also lost points and finished out of the money because their state’s chosen reforms threatened union priorities. Meanwhile Hawaii (which the Data Quality Campaign ranked 17th for education data systems, which the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranked 34th for the strength of their charter laws, and which got a D- from the National Council on Teacher Quality) finished third and will receive $75 million. Oh, but they had 100% “buy in” from the unions. So much for Secretary Duncan’s claim that RttT was committed to “putting the needs of children ahead of everyone else.”

As pernicious as teachers union influence has been on RttT, it is merely a symptom of the larger disease that is the top-down government bureaucracy approach to education. Secretary Duncan loves to talk about the “competition” that RttT has inspired among the states. But there is a fundamental difference between the competition for federal government funds and real market competition. When Apple competes for the mobile music industry, it does so by winning over consumers with a better product. When Amazon competes to become the leader in online retail, it does so by serving customers needs better. Not so with RttT.

As Gov. Christie points out, New Jersey’s RttT application was over 1,000 pages long and took thousands of hours to complete. Instead of states spending their money and manpower to improve schools and educate children, the government asks them to put taxpayer dollars toward constructing massive grant applications. The incentives are all flowing in the wrong direction. Instead of focusing on making children and parents happy by devoting resources to make a better education product, states have been devoting resources to make Washington bureaucrats happy with a better grant application product. Filling out grant applications has never educated a single child anywhere ever. But grant applications are what RttT is all about, and they have made RttT the biggest waste of your education dollars ever.

Co-authored by Rachel Sheffield.

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The billions spent by the Dept of Education do not make a dimes difference in how smart our kids are anyway.  Test scores were much higher before we even had a Dept of Education.  This “competition” between the New Jersey education establishment and those of other states for federal money is no different than Somali pirates squabbling over the spoils of one of their raids.  It is entirely inconsequential who wins.  No outcome will benefit the owners of the loot that has just been stolen.  

Want to drastically improve the schools?  Shut down the entire government education establishment.  Put that money under the control of the parents with education vouchers.  Sell all the schools to private education companies and stay out of the way of new ones opening up.  Let free market competition do for schools what it has done for computers, cell phones and everything else that gets better and cheaper every year.

August 24, 2010

This Week’s Ad

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Ed Koch once said that if you agree with him 80% of the time you should vote for him and if you agree with him 100% of the time time you should see a psychiatrist. Maybe our mayor and council should go for group therapy.

Finally Some Movement On Mandates

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As anyone who reads this blog knows, I pin most  (but certainly not all)  of the blame for our astronomical property taxes directly on Trenton.  It’s never ending redistributionist schemes and it’s interference in local affairs has made municipal budgeting close to impossible.  I have outlined the massive amount of state mandates several times, including here.  Even super-progressive mayor Ken Pringle has on several occasions bemoaned the meddling in Belmar’s affairs by his mostly Democratic brethren in Trenton.  

Finally we may see a modicum of relief.  The Assembly’s Environment and Solid Waste Committee is holding a hearing Thursday to look at the mandate problem.  Assembly Committee Chair (and former West Orange mayor) John McKeon says that all state mandates are at risk of being scaled back or eliminated.  Let’s hope he means it.  Personally, I would eliminate every single one of them.  State governments (especially the ongoing train wreck that is our state government) have no business telling the towns what to do or not do.

If you really care about our property tax problem please contact one or all the the committee’s members today or tomorrow.  I plan to call all of them later on today. 

 They are:

McKeon, John F. – Chair 

Gusciora, Reed – Vice-Chair 

Barnes, Peter J.   

Coyle, Denise M.   

Lampitt, Pamela R.   

Mainor, Charles   

Rudder, Scott 

Click on their name for their contact info.

Tell them the best thing they can do about property taxes is to restore sovereignty to local governments.  Our locally elected officials  (even Belmar’s)  know much better what our spending priorities should be than they could possibly know from down the opposite end of Route 195.

P.S. It really wasn’t fair of me to refer to the New Jersey state government as a train wreck.  No train wreck ever resulted in liabilities of over $100 billion.  I apologize to all the train wrecks for my irresponsible comment.

August 20, 2010

New Jersey Cops A Plea

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New Jersey has settled a suit from the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that it misrepresented the health of state pension funds to investors when issuing billions of dollars of state bonds.  They wouldn’t admit to doing anything wrong, but promised to never to do it again.

Christie Duffy will fill you in on the details.

 

New Jersey Education Association spokesman Steve Wollmer said in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that the SEC charges “pull the curtain away and expose the state’s malfeasance over the past 16 years” for failing to make required contributions to the pension fund.  I guess he feels our taxes have not been high enough.  Of course the real malfeasance was in promising such luxurious benefits to our civil servants in the first place.

These are the people that are  running  ruining our state.  They are dishonest and incompetent.  Why on earth do we allow them ever increasing influence over our lives and over Belmar’s affairs?

August 18, 2010

This Week’s Ad

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“Smart Government” Can Be Pretty Dumb (and expensive too)

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I have repeatedly voiced my opposition to government investing in or running business ventures.  It creates all sorts of conflicts of interest, moral hazards, and opportunities for corruption.  It is also manifestly unfair to force private companies, who must get all their funding through voluntary exchange, to compete with an entity that uses force to get it’s funding.  Businesses that use force, such as General Motors or the Mafia (same thing, actually) can run at a loss indefinitely.  They are not competitors.  They are predators.

As unfair as this is to their competitors, it’s the beleaguered taxpayers, the objects of that force, that are hurt the most.  I don’t understand why funding auto companies, banks, casinos, or municipal marinas has to be part of my life.  I never asked for it.  I don’t want it.  It’s not why I work.

When immense, gigantic, humongous, gargantuan entities such as the federal or New Jersey governments lose money on business ventures it is just a small part of their huge, massive, collossal, mountainous budgets.  It is hardly even noticed. Easy come, easy go, right?  When, however, it’s the only somewhat bloated local governments that lose money on business ventures, it gets noticed.  The residents of Buena Vista, Va may soon notice that they no longer have a city hall or police station.

Sometimes “smart government”  does some really stupid things.  Buena Vista Mayor Mike Clements had the “good idea” of constructing a municpal golf course with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Can’t lose, right?  It could.  It did.  Since it opened in 2004 it had one profitible year.  Each and every other year it lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Buena Vista has 6500 residents, roughly the size of Belmar.  How can it’s residents be forced to pay for this?

Here’s the worst part. They financed it with a $9.2 million bond that used their city hall and police station as collateral!  OOPS!

From yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:

Buena Vista, Va., borrowed $9.2 million through a bond offering in 2005 to refinance a municipal golf course. It pledged as collateral, of all things, its City Hall and police station.

Now, amid financial difficulties, the city says it can’t pay its debt, triggering a showdown over these public buildings.

On the other side of the battle is a big New York insurance company, ACA Financial Guaranty Corp., which is obligated to pay bondholders if the city defaults.

“They put up City Hall to finance the golf course,” says Bonnie France, a lawyer for ACA. “It’s collateral, so they could lose it. I’ve worked in public finance for 30 years and never seen this happen.”

And:

Officials projected the course would pay for itself. Plans called for about 70 acres surrounding the property to be dotted with a hotel, homes, small businesses and restaurants. The city took out a loan, then refinanced it by selling bonds.

“Unfortunately, soon after the project was finished, the country fell into the worst recession since the Great Depression,” Mayor Mike Clements told residents at a recent public meeting, reading from a prepared statement. Mr. Clements didn’t return calls seeking comment.

How’s that “smart government” working out for ya, Buena Vista?

Tonight Belmar will be awarding a contract of $508,000 for improvements to the 9th Ave pier at the municipal marina. This is money that was taken by force from the people who earned it. That is on top of the hundreds of thousands of coerced dollars being spent on downtown redevelopment.  But don’t worry.  Belmar’s politicians are much smarter than Buena Vista’s.

August 10, 2010

Sneak Preview!

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This week’s ad.

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