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Gift Cards Give Us A Lesson

The most recent public squabble between Councilman Jim Bean and Mayor Matt Doherty is over Mr. Bean’s OPRA request for information on the collection and distribution of donated gift cards.  I would have hoped that the administration would have cheerfully complied with Mr. Bean’s request.  After all, Bean was willing to donate his spare time, which I’m sure he has precious little of, to review the records and ensure that the cards all went to the people that the donors would have wanted them to.  I don’t see anything wrong with that.

Well the mayor does.  He and his supporters reacted with total indignation that anyone would even be the slightest bit curious about what is going on.  He expects us to want the government to run the whole operation in complete secrecy.  Well secrecy does not protect the interests of the donors or the recipients.  It only protects the interests of those running the program.  If the government is running it then nobody involved, not the donors, not the recipients and not the government, can have any expectation of privacy.  There should be nothing private about anything the government does.  Government is public.  It’s the opposite of private.

But this program had a fatal flaw right from the start and it is that the government is a terrible vehicle to use to distribute charity.  It can’t help but be political.  Every single action the people in it take is political and is designed to win the next election.  And because of that, the spending is almost always about getting votes and almost never about actually getting positive results.  Even when they do the right thing their actions are viewed with suspicion.  It goes with the territory.

So I think this administration needs to be a little more humble and understand that even though they are the most fantastic and wonderful people that ever lived, except for that Jim Bean of course, that there are some tasks that are actually best left to OTHER PEOPLE.

What they should have done right from the start was turn those gift cards over to the type of organization that is beholden to donors, not voters.  As a matter of fact, they should have refused to even accept them in the first place and instead told the donors to give them directly to either the Salvation Army, or Catholic Charities, or the St. Vincent de Paul Society, or even the Belmar Women’s Club.  These groups have unimpeachable records of distributing aid in a manner that will do the most good and get the best results for their supporters.  We know we can trust them.  We would have one less thing to fight over.

And poor Jim Bean would be able to spend a little more time with his kids and a little less time poring over gift card records.


  1. Tom Burke wrote:

    Give me a “D” give me a “A” …….Go David. Absolutely on target.

    Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 6:43 am | Permalink
  2. chazman wrote:

    I do not agree. I think that giving money to a larger national charity would have resulted in much less money being distributed to citizens of Belmar. The local government officials were trying to maximize contributions to the people of Belmar. Give to the Salvation Army and I bet most of it goes to citizens of other towns. I think that even private charities align themselves politically…

    Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  3. admin wrote:

    Well if you wanted to be certain your donation went to a Belmar resident then the Belmar Women’s Club would have been a very good choice.

    Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink
  4. chazman wrote:

    Does the Belmar Women’s club receive any Belmar tax dollars? If not, then great. I will donate to them next time (although I didn’t notice them organizing any sort of charity campaign for Sandy victims).

    Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 10:14 pm | Permalink
  5. admin wrote:

    I’m pretty sure the BWC doesn’t get any money from the municipality but I will find out for sure.

    The problem is the local gov’t put itself right out in front and center as the vehicle to use for local donations. Matt should have immediately from the start found out which reputable charities would want to administer the aid, and there are others aside from the examples I gave, and just asked people to send their donations there. Even those big charities have local groups that I think could keep your donation in Belmar. Especially if they geared up for it because they were told that they were going to be recommended by the town.

    I just think that there’s too much emotion tied up in an issue like this for the gov’t to handle it in a way that will keep everybody happy. In the gov’t they fight over everything.

    Monday, January 7, 2013 at 3:51 am | Permalink

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