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The Pringle Solution

The fledgling Doherty administration got a timely and welcomed assist from former mayor Ken Pringle at Wednesday evening’s city council meeting when Mr. Pringle made his first appearance there since his retirement to suggest a different way out of the campaign finance morass that has entangled every elected member of our council.  As one of the primary authors of the law that has so screwed up the last election, Pringle must have felt rather uncomfortable with the prospect of Doherty and crew having to resort to using a legal sledgehammer called “principle of necessity” to get past the conflict of interest involved in removing the clause in that law that has caused them so much trouble.  His suggestion was the keep the law in place, at least for now, and amend it to allow a longer period for the kind of donations that trigger the law to be returned.  After the Democrats pay the Barclay $1000 for use of their facility and Republican Richard Wright scrapes together $40 to return to donor David Kinsel, the freshly unconflicted council can then turn it’s attention to fixing the law.  The $100 Kinsel donation Mr. Wright recieved in 2008 and his subsequent conflicted votes will be ignored since even if he had abstained each time it wouldn’t have affected any of the outcomes.  Actually, to my great disapointment, Wright almost always votes with the Democrats on everything anyway. 

I’m still not convinced that the council wouldn’t be just as conflicted in amending the law as it would be in removing it, but now that both sides have been caught up in this problem there is little stopping them from just making it go away.

City attorney Karl Kemm admitted the inherent conflict in having our council writing the laws that govern the behaviour of the very members writing it. He said there is really no way around it.  I have a way around it to suggest: don’t allow the council to do it.  Don’t have campaign laws specific to Belmar.  Every candidate already has to follow state and county rules.  That should be enough.  I know first hand that the state laws already make running for office a big pain in the neck and Belmar should not be further discouraging political involvment by making things even more complicated.  And there is no question each side will try to make the laws benefit themselves and hurt the other side and both sides will try to keep independents out. 

I have to say, and I hope they will forgive me if I’m wrong, but Pringle’s appearance, and the council’s response to it, seemed entirely scripted and planned in advance.  I guess if he had just called Karl Kemm with his idea, and Kemm notified the council of that option, it would not have carried the credibility that it did by having Pringle there personally suggesting it.  It seemed pretty obvious to me that we were witnessing a little bit of Broadway in Belmar and my suggestion to the players is “don’t quit your day jobs”.   Anyway, I could be wrong and I apologize if I am, and it was nice to see Kenny and I hope he read the books I gave him.

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