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Dogs Lose By A Whisker

In one of the more crowded and contentious public hearings in recent memory, one that lasted close to two hours, Belmar’s dogs suffered a “howling” defeat in their owners’ attempt to create a park of their very own.  I have to say that Matt did an excellent job in moderating the hearing, allowing the pros and antis to alternately state their cases in three minute segments and making sure each side was able to use the entire three minutes even if it required asking for someone to finish the three minutes if the first speaker didn’t use up the entire allotted time.  Nobody can claim the subject didn’t receive a fair hearing. 

There were some compelling arguments made on both sides and even someone as “dog”matic as myself would have had a difficult time in deciding if we should go ahead on the project.   When the time came for the council to opine on what they heard, Brian reluctantly opposed the plan, saying that he feared the park’s promoters might become less enthusiastic about maintaining it after a few years and that the town would get stuck with the job.  Claire and Richard supported giving the park a try, and Jennifer, admitting that it was her toughest moment so far in her short tenure as a councilwoman, mentioned some of the arguments on both sides and then ended her comments without making a decision.  I think she was hoping Matt would vote yes so her vote wouldn’t matter.   Unfortunately for her, Matt decided to oppose the park, saying, correctly in my opinion, that even though many people wanted it, there was just too much opposition and the town would not be justified doing something that so many people were against.  (I recall there was a similar amount of opposition when the smoking ban was proposed a few years ago, but Matt and the rest of them ignored it and voted to install Belmar’s own version of apartheid anyway.)  

Rich then called for the official vote to take place, forcing Jennifer to make her decision and break the tie.  She hesitated for a moment that must have seemed like an eternity for her, then blurted “no” with no further explanation and it was over. 

I hope Belmar’s dogs get their day but I would have opposed this particular plan for a different reason than Matt or Brian.  (I am not sure about Jennifer’s reason because she never made it clear).   Setting aside a public resource for use by a particular minority (in this case, dog owners) violates the principle of equal protection.  In my governing philosophy, the power of government must not be used to benefit certain individuals or groups.  Doing so always leads to a free-for-all of competing claims for government help as we are seeing nationally and in Trenton.  There is no end to possible uses of other people’s money.  (I make an exception for playgrounds for children, as this is a centuries old tradition, but even this spending should be tempered.) 

I like dogs.  I used to have a dog.  If the dog people want to get together and buy a parcel of land for their dogs, I’m all for it.  But public parks should be for the use of all people, not just dog owners.

             My dear departed doggie, Bessie

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