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Governors, Mayors And Ayatollahs

Former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean used to like to brag about his constitutional powers to his fellow state chief executives. This is what governors do for fun. As he reeled off his ability to appoint thousands of loyal supporters to juicy political jobs, to interpret how laws would be implemented and to virtually shut down key sectors of the Garden State economy to get his way, other governors, some of whom lacked even the simplest veto power, would shake their heads in wonder. “They couldn’t believe it,” recalled Kean, a Republican who ran the state from 1982 to 1990. “They nicknamed me the `Ayatollah.'”

That’s from a 2001 Chicago Tribune story about a UNC political professor who named New Jersey one of the three states with the most powerful governorships.  So to me it’s little wonder that so many of our governors end up running into trouble.  And while Kean used to joke about having the powers of a dictator he was, to my recollection, a fairly benign dictator.  Christie, on the other hand, acts like an ayatollah.  Just ask Dawn Zimmer.  Or Mark Sokolich.  Or Ben Barlyn.  Or even, ironically, Tom Kean Jr.

Belmar has an ayatollah problem too.  For not only does the mayor of Belmar have all the powers of a chief executive, including the power to appoint all public officials and all members of all boards and committees except the school board, he or she also acts as the de facto municipal version of a senate president and assembly speaker.  Currently all law in Belmar comes from the Mayor and is rubber stamped by the Council.  No other borough in the area and very few in the state have such a powerful mayor, indeed in most the mayor doesn’t even have a council vote. Add to that the fact that the present mayor wishes to put the entire downtown under redevelopment law, with all the extraordinary powers that redevelopment law puts in the hands of a government that he completely controls, and it looks like we may have a real problem. Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.47.31 AM We’ll be taking a closer look at this situation and how we got here in future postings but in the meantime all comments, suggestions and attacks are welcome.


  1. callmecynical wrote:

    Possible new Belmar law to be imposed: Mandatory alcoholism for permanent residents and a commitment by visitors regarding alcohol consumption: no fewer than four beers or glasses of wine to be consumed per day. Each visitor will be given a card to be punched or stamped by a local bar or restaurant and relinquished at the time one exits the town to newly appointed Borough employees. Not enough drinks, a fine will be imposed. Credit cards accepted. New source of revenue for the Borough and more jobs created in town to administer the new rule. Details to be worked out.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 11:50 am | Permalink
  2. Just Passing Through wrote:

    I’ll drink to that!

    Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 1:15 pm | Permalink
  3. Undecided wrote:

    rubber stamped by the Council
    We’re between a rock and a hard place with this. Theoretically, we want Council members who can think, but then, looking at this particular quartet, do we really want them to think?

    Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 1:54 pm | Permalink
  4. Big Fan wrote:

    Just when I think this blogster can’t outdo himself…Well written, original and very timely. Thank you.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

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