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Freedom For Me, But Not For Thee

So the Doherty administration wants to loosen some of the laws restricting life and politics in Belmar.  As a libertarian I should be pleased, especially since it was I who had publicly questioned the need for one of the laws slated for repeal, the ban on sandcastle building. 

But I’m not pleased.  The laws that Doherty & Co wish to repeal (the sandcastle ban not withstanding) are precisely the ones that have caused them so much difficulty and embarrassment over the past few weeks.  (And Matt has admitted to breaking the sandcastle law.  He just didn’t get in trouble for it.)

The law that caused the most problems is the one that forbids the three members of last year’s Democratic ticket from voting on taxi licenses and parking permits after accepting a campaign contribution from the holder of a liquor license (in this episode, the Barclay).  At borough attorney Karl Kemm’s suggestion they invoked the “doctrine of necessity” to give them the excuse to ignore that law and vote on the matters in question anyway.  (If the three conflicted members recused themselves they would lack a quorum and would not be able to hold the votes.)  Now they are talking about again employing the “doctrine of necessity” in order to vote to repeal the very law they stand accused of violating!  This is not a “potential” conflict of interest or a “perceived” conflict of interest.  This is a real conflict of interest and should not be permitted.

The Democrats, over Republican Richard Wright’s objections, also plan to end Belmar’s restrictions on a practice called “wheeling” in which funds donated to a local party are used to promote specific candidates, thus skirting the reporting requirements.  This is another law they have been accused of violating and again they should not be allowed to use the “doctrine of necessity” in order to be able to vote to repeal it.

I suggested at last night’s meeting that one way to resolve the problem would be for one of the conflicted Democrats to resign and be replaced by somebody who didn’t have the conflict.  This way on the affected votes the two remaining conflicted parties could recuse themselves, and Mr. Wright, Ms. Nicolay and the new person would constitute a quorum and could vote.  This would be a much simpler solution than repeatedly having to invoke the doctrine of necessity.  Borough attorney Karl Kemm agreed that that would end the problem.  Needless to say, my suggestion was not greeted with much enthusiasm among our council Democrats.

They also panned Councilman Wright’s suggestion that they repeal Belmar’s onerous campaign finance “sunshine” law.  This is the requirement that all donations, even as little as one dollar, be reported for publication on Belmar’s website.  Mr. Wright is absolutely correct in his assertion that this requirement intimidates those who might wish to contribute to the opposition.  I have been quite vocal in my opposition to this law, which in my view protects incumbents and inhibits free speech.  It was gratifying to see Wright agree, but of course that law, like our trio of conflicted Democrats, is not going away any time soon.

I’m glad Mayor Doherty plans to end the ban on sandcastles.  I say live and let live.  Let Mr. Doherty and the other beach goers build their sandcastles if that’s what they enjoy.  I don’t object.  But I find happiness in other ways, such as sitting with my family at the water’s edge and enjoying an occasional cigarette, never littering, and always being respectful of nearby non-smokers.  Doesn’t my happiness matter?  No, as a matter of fact, it doesn’t.

Like I said at the top, it’s “freedom for me, but not for thee”.

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