Ben Forest and the surrender to cynicism in Red Bank

Ben photoOnly when it’s in the public interest do we publish triCityNews content on line. It’s a rarity. Done it a handful of times in over twenty years. But right now it’s time that people stand the f— up in Red Bank. It’s getting ridiculous up there. So we publish this week’s “Message from the Publisher” from the current triCityNews of August 6: 

This Publisher loves highlighting community leaders and government officials with a progressive and creative bent. They’re so important to further the transformation of the triCity region of eastern Monmouth into a suburban area like no other. A place where the creative, progressive and alternative are ascendant.

Red Bank’s Ben Forest, a progressive Democrat, is a long-time environmentalist and community leader (he’s on the board of education up there), as well as a beloved figure because of his integrity, decency and humility. His should be a name you should read about in these pages all the time. But you don’t.

That’s because Ben doesn’t give us the opportunity to make that happen. And this column is to kick him in the ass. Hey, someone has to be the bad guy here, and — as usual — it’s this Publisher.

So here’s our message to Ben Forest: Fulfill your potential and stop getting manipulated by politicians in Red Bank. Enough already. It’s embarrassing.

Ben Forest should be the most prominent independent Democrat in Red Bank to support political reform to end the ridiculous domination by a small — and small-minded — Democratic political machine there.

He should be supporting what everyone knows is the best system of government for a municipality — non-partisan elections where everyone runs in one column with no party affiliation. That way anyone has an equal shot at winning, just like Asbury Park and Long Branch have. Just like what Democratic Senator Vin Gopal told this newspaper is what every municipality in New Jersey should have.

But Ben Forest won’t take that stand. Instead, he takes the wrong stand at the wrong time at the wrong place. And after that’s inevitably unsuccessful, he pledges his fealty to the machine. Makes this Publisher want to puke. This has got to stop.

Earlier this week, Forest ran again Red Bank Democratic Chairman (and councilman) Ed Zipprich for the top Democratic Party post. The Democratic chair is selected by 18 party apparatchiks known as Democratic county committee members. Those are the same people, led by Zipprich, who pretty much decide who gets the Democratic nomination for Mayor and Council. In overwhelmingly Democratic Red Bank, they almost always win. Yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds. This little group basically decides who runs the Red Bank government.

This absurd situation has denied Red Bank the best of its citizens to serve as elected officials – including Ben Forest, who once previously attempted to kiss the ring of the machine to run, and was rebuffed. So now he decides to run against Zipprich with predictable results — he lost by a vote of 11-6.

Even worse, in a Facebook post, Forest announced that he will now give “our chairman Ed Zipprich my full support” and apologized for putting Zip through an “unpleasant week.”

You can imagine the upheaval in the stomach of this strong-willed Publisher at this point. I lost it with Ben’s next paragraph:

“The worst part of running is letting my supporters down. I really am heartbroken about it. Many Red Bank Dems approached me and recruited me to run, risking the wrath of a party chair. Sticking their necks out campaigning for me in a -—crazy — long shot challenge. Thank you for honoring me with this task — knowing that I am ok with getting into ‘good trouble’.”

That’s not “good trouble” – a reference to the fight by civil rights leaders like John Lewis. What Forest just did is a waste of time. “Good trouble” would be taking a stand for political reform in Red Bank. Those supporters who approached Forest to run against Zipprich ought to all be pushing for non-partisan elections. Instead, they’ve all surrendered to cynicism in Red Bank — accepting a stacked deck for a political machine with rigged partisan elections — that no one can defend.

There’s many ways to change this status quo. For example, the town’s strategic plan — commissioned by the Democrats — called for a Charter Study Commission to examine Red Bank’s antiquated form of government.

That charter study commission could then recommend changes to Red Bank voters that could include a switch to non-partisan elections. But the all-Democratic Mayor and Council — what a shock — have ignored that recommendation and refuse to consider an ordinance to ask voters to establish a charter study commission.

But the public can take matters into their own hands, and circulate a petition that, if enough signatures are obtained, bypasses the self-interested elected officials and asks voters if they want to start the charter study process. Forest could support that and work with Republicans and Independents — bringing his supporters with him — to make that good government reform happen.

Or he and his supporters could join an effort now led by Republican Scott Broschart — an independent-minded guy — who’s circulating a petition that bypasses the charter study process and gets a referendum on the ballot that asks voters point-blank if they want non-partisan government. Ben could support that.

Here’s what I think Ben Forest should do: Team up with Broschart if he’ll change his petition slightly to have non-partisan elections in November instead of May, and to have run-off elections if candidates don’t get a majority, which is common in non-partisan elections. I’m not going into why — too technical to explain here — but that approach achieves non-partisan political reform for the Red Bank mayor and council elections, while actually helping the Democratic Party boost turnout for other elections on the rest of the ballot. So a Democrat like Ben Forest can advocate for that.

Here’s an interesting story. When a disgruntled political faction in Asbury Park a couple years ago got enough signatures to get a ridiculous question on the ballot to switch Asbury Park from non-partisan to partisan elections, the Asbury Park Democratic Chairman and Vice-Chairwoman immediately opposed it! That’s because they knew it was bad for the city, and we’re better off with non-partisan. And these are active Democratic party officials. The Asbury Dem chairman is Guiseppe “Joe” Grillo who was once the Executive Director of the Monmouth County Democratic Party and also a Democratic candidate for Monmouth County Freeholder. The vice-chairwoman is Angela Abez-Anderson who is currently the Democratic candidate for County Clerk. Perhaps Ben Forest and his supporters ought to think about that.

To know Ben Forest is to love him. He’s wonderful. And everyone else who knows him thinks so. He’s a former journalist. He was active for years with the Clearwater Foundation. He’s a member of the Red Bank Board of Education. He and his wife Amy Goldsmith — who’s as community-oriented as Ben — have been progressive pioneers in Red Bank’s West Side. Ben Forest is a beloved and respected figure, who’d make a wonderful councilman. In a non-partisan system he’d have been elected by now.

But reforming Red Bank’s ridiculously stagnant political system —especially in the middle of this pandemic when you need the best people in office — is too important for this Publisher to play nice and pretend Ben Forest is achieving something by his hopeless run for Red Bank Democratic Chairman.

The supportive comments reacting to his Facebook post announcing he’d lost the chairmanship made me sick. Not because people aren’t right to praise the character of Ben Forest, but because they’re all getting played and conned and manipulated to surrender to cynicism in Red Bank, as they all roll over and let the machine roll on.

 

Baby Boomers and cannabis, maternal journaling, poets like Springsteen…it’s just another week at words! bookstore

Baby Boomers and cannabis, maternal journaling, poets like Springsteen…it’s just another week at words! bookstore

Over at the TriCityNews, we’ve been writing a lot about the transition of the popular Words! bookstore on Cookman Avenue into the community-owned Asbury Book Cooperative. That’s scheduled to begin in May.

Independent local bookstores in vibrant progressive areas serve an integral role in the community beyond just selling books. They become civic gathering places, where people come together face-to-face. That means they’ll be more civilized than their encounters in the virtual jungle of social media.

A big part of the local bookstore is the programs and events they offer. Words! has become known for theirs and the Asbury Book Cooperative will expand even beyond that. Liza Minno Bloom, currently the manager at Words! (above left with words! co-owner Jan Sparrow), is heading up the project to transition to the Asbury Book Cooperative. Yesterday, she sent us a list of four events scheduled for next week at words! starting on Sunday, Jan. 12.

They include a discussion of baby boomers and cannabis, maternal journaling and writing Bruce Springsteen-inspired poetry. And that’s just one week of programs. More descriptions and times for the events are listed below. Words! is located at 623 Cookman Avenue.

But first allow us a quick plug for the Asbury Book Cooperative!

Asbury Book Cooperative members will be buy membership shares in the cooperative ranging from $50 to $250 per year. The various levels of membership come with all different types of discounts and benefits. Join now to help them get going. The discounts and benefits offered will with membership be honored now at words! until the Asbury Book Cooperative launches in May. Your membership share will start at that launch.

In only two months, 125 people have signed up for memberships — a great early sign of community support as the goal is 400 members. Click here for more information about the Asbury Book Cooperative.

Ok, that concludes our public service message for the Asbury Book Cooperative! Here’s the list of upcoming events at words!:

Story Time for Kids at words! with Stephanie Sommerlad-Bello Author of Trinket — Sunday 1/12 11am-12pm

All kids are welcome with a caretaker. Free! Books for sale. Content geared towards kids under 5.

Click here for more information about this event.

Conversation on Boomers and Cannabis w/ Patricia Patton — Monday 1/13 6pm-8pm

According to some data sources, U.S. cannabis sales from consumers 55 years or older increased by 50% since 2015. Among this consumer group, baby boomers account for 29% of medical marijuana sales and a quarter of all sales.

The impact of medical marijuana use on the health of aging adults is not widely discussed, partly because much is unknown and partly because of the stigmas associated with the plant.

Join us for an open discussion about medical cannabis no matter whether you consider yourself a midlifer, baby boomer, senior, elder or simply an ally.

Event is free but please RSVP to cannaboomer@gmail.com. Click here for more information about this event.

Maternal Journal at words! — Tuesday 1/14 7pm-9pm

Local doula Mary Sefcheck will host a Maternal Journal group at words! the second Tuesday of each month. The group holds space for new parents and pregnant people to create art together and process the experiences of birth/parenthood. Invite your friends! $10 suggested donation. No one turned away for lack of funds. All supplies will be provided. There will be snacks. Email philomenabirth@gmail.com with questions.

Click here for more information about this event

Tunnel of Love Poetry Workshop — Thursday 1/16 6pm-8pm

A workshop led by Poet BJ Ward and sponsored by The Monmouth County Historical Association.  Join us for this workshop and write your own Bruce Springsteen inspired poetry! This is a unique workshop where you get to bring your inner creativity out for the night and become a poet for the evening.

Click here for more information about this event.

—————————————————————————–

Asbury Overheard and the Asbury Park Sun are affiliated with the triCityNews newspaper.

Follow the Asbury Park Sun on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Follow Asbury Overheard on Facebook.

 

 

Coaster newspaper: Vote NO on all three Asbury ballot questions

Coaster newspaper: Vote NO on all three Asbury ballot questions

The Coaster newspaper is calling for a NO vote on all three Asbury Park ballot questions.

An editorial in the paper’s November 1 edition opposes the ballot questions to split the city into three wards, change elections to partisan and allow investors to buy the city’s housing stock to use solely for short-term airbnb-type rentals. (Resident homeowners are currently allowed to do such rentals. Investors are not.)

In opposing the ballot question to split the city into three wards with a councilperson representing each, the Coaster editorial stated:

“We believe the city is too small for a ward system. Such a system would pit neighborhood against neighborhood. It would create a divisive atmosphere in the city and would make it difficult for decision-making for the good of the entire city. We urge residents to vote no.”

In opposing the ballot question to switch the city’s elections from non-partisan to partisan, the Coaster editorial stated:

“Currently candidates run for council seats without party affiliation. Changing to a partisan form would allow for members of the major parties in other sections of the state to possibly influence who runs for office in the city. There is no place for partisan politics in local government. We urge residents to vote no.”

The third ballot question, which the paper also opposes, would allow investors to buy the city’s housing stock and convert properties solely into short-term airbnb-type rentals. The city currently allows residents and grandfathered-in second homeowners to do such short term rentals. The current ordinance, however, bans investor-owned short term airbnb-type rentals. The third ballot question would give the green light to investors to do so. In opposing this ballot question, the Coaster editorial stated: “We believe this proposal would take away much of the sense of community by allowing a revolving door of tenants instead of year round homeowners.”

The Coaster editorial also endorsed Mayor John Moor and Councilman Jesse Kendle for reelection.

 

Asbury Park nightmare: Divisive wards, machine politics and investor-owned airbnb housing run amok.

(The following appeared in the Nov. 1 issue of the triCityNews in Dan Jacobson’s Message from the Publisher):

There are three ridiculous questions on the ballot in Asbury Park, and if they pass it could be a nightmare for our city.

I don’t even know where to begin.

How about picturing what happens if they all pass:

Our city will be ripped apart into three wards, with a council person each, which means no incentive for unity or broad policymaking whatsoever. Only two council members will be elected citywide. I’ve never seen such a thing in a town as small as ours. Oh, by the way, if this passes the whole council has to run again next year — the real motivation of the political faction who got this on the ballot. They’ve lost 13 of the last 13 council seats they’ve contested.

In addition, the council elections will become partisan with the Democratic Party nominating the candidates who will win in overwhelmingly Democratic Asbury Park. That’s the definition of machine politics. Currently, council candidates run in one column with no party affiliation. Instead, a handful of people in our local Democratic Party will decide who runs Asbury Park, meaning vicious fights will break out for control of the party — and thus control of our city.

Even current Asbury Park Democratic Chairman Joe Grillo thinks it’s nuts. This ballot question is brought to you by the same crew behind the ward ballot question. Publicly, they say wards will enfranchise people. What phonies — there’s nothing more disenfranchising than machine politics, which this group obviously sees as their way to power since they can’t win an election the old-fashioned way: by getting a majority of their fellow citizens to vote for them.

Stop the nightmare! Vote NO!

Stop the nightmare! Vote NO!

And in the midst of this chaos, a different group got enough signatures on a petition for a ballot question giving the green light for investors to come into Asbury Park, buy up homes and rental properties, and convert them solely into airbnb-type short term rentals. No one benefits from that — except the investors themselves.

That’s completely different from a resident doing airbnb-type rentals in their home to make some extra money. Everyone supports that, and it’s allowed. Instead, this ballot question will dump a huge problem on Asbury Park — investors buying up properties solely for these short-term rentals, a problem cities worldwide are combatting. Right now that’s banned in Asbury Park.

Rents and housing prices are on the rise in Asbury Park. Pushing them up even higher by opening the floodgates to investors to buy housing solely for airbnb-type rentals is absurd. There is no public policy justification for this — absolutely none. Those in favor trying to claim some noble purpose have a lot of nerve.

Investor-owned airbnb housing takes away year round rentals for residents, drives up housing costs, changes the character of neighborhoods, and increases the risk of rowdiness by those staying in these places for a few days since the investors don’t live there themselves. What’s the upside of that?

This is about making money. Period. Let’s call it for what it is. Sure, there’s nothing illegal about that in this country. But let’s not act like this investor-owned airbnb ballot question is about anything else. It’s not.

Oh, I’ve heard those in favor say the current ban on investor-owned airbnb housing is a violation of property rights. They sound like the Koch brothers. I’d love to change the zoning where these born-again property rights advocates live in a way that would allow something nearby that would make them go ballistic — let’s see how their sudden zeal for property rights holds up then.

Widespread investor-owned airbnb housing is not a problem today in Asbury Park — thank God — because the city council took action before it happened. Other cities around the world aren’t so lucky. They’re now battling this scourge. This ballot question wants to allow it in Asbury Park.

Again, Asbury Park residents can do airbnb-type rental in their own residences. No one has ever been against that. And second homeowners who were doing such short term rentals were grandfathered in last year. The status quo on this issue is excellent and in balance. There are few complaints in Asbury Park today from anyone who says they can’t do airbnb-type rentals. And the city council can make adjustments to the ordinance as needed to accommodate any small issues.

What this ballot question does, if passed, is destroy this balanced status quo. Even worse, the council cannot modify or change what the ballot question does for three years. That’s the law. By then in a booming Asbury Park investors will have had plenty of time to buy up what they want. And our elected officials will be helpless to do anything about it. In addition, if this ballot question causes other unanticipated problems, we can’t do anything about it for three years. Boy, that sounds just great.

I say the only way investors win their ballot question is if voters get confused on the wording, or on the issue in general. No resident should be voting yes on this question. The status quo should be preserved.

God, imagine if all three of these ballot questions pass. That will be massive change in Asbury Park — for the worse.

But, man, will there be a ton of stuff for the triCityNews to write about! So, yes, it would be good for business. But just being about the bottom line is not what we’re about.

After all, we’re the triCityNews. We’re here to help.

 

Vote NO on all three Asbury ballot questions, says Quinn in LGBT column

Amy Quinn is a member of the Asbury Park City Council. She was guest columnist in this week’s LGBT Rainbow Room in the triCityNews. The following is her commentary: 

Luanne Peterpaul has kindly offered me her column this week to communicate about two of my favorite topics, gays and Asbury Park!

Asbury Park has one of the most diverse city councils in Monmouth County, and also a majority of women. That’s no accident. Before we sat together up on that council dais we created a ticket and campaigned together, walking door to door and engaging voters about their concerns. We spelled out clear goals and priorities that we would pursue as the council. The voters approved of us and our priorities and elected us by 2 to 1 margins in both 2014 and 2016. We have since worked tirelessly every day to fulfill our promises and raise this city up.

Asbury Park’s long and rich history with the gay community goes back decades. Whether it was the gay and lesbian bars in the early years, the annual Jersey Pride event, or our local officials risking jail time to marry gays way back in 2004, this city has been not only inclusive of the gay community, but downright welcoming.

When putting together tickets for City Council, we consciously assembled a group that would represent our various communities, i.e. gay, African American, old time Asbury, music, arts, etc… We only have 5 people to try to do this. Maintaining such diversity around a unified vision is why I am asking you to vote NO on all three municipal ballot questions on November 6th. Because the ballot questions amount to a recall of both our council and its priorities.

Ballot question #1 proposes dividing the City up into wards. Presumably the Petitioners believe a ward system would benefit the southwest of the city with one council seat beholden only to that part of the city. But I believe a ward system would be disastrous both for the southwest and the city as a whole. The current council takes all parts of the city into consideration before making every decision. A ward system would splinter the basic attitude of the council. Elections would become more divisive than ever, as there’d be little incentive for ward candidates to pursue or declare a united vision for the whole city’s future.

Ballot question #2 proposes partisan elections. This proposal is so strikingly wrong for our city that I hardly know what to say. Of all the things we need it certainly isn’t local issues getting mixed up with party loyalties and our perennial national bickering. What we have now is candidates for office getting rewarded for agendas that unite rather than divide. Partisan elections would disenfranchise independent voters (nearly 3000 of them) and hand our future over to the two party system. So wrong for Asbury Park.

Ballot question #3 proposes a complete rejection of the council’s painstaking approach to short-term rentals. We got out in front of this issue after noticing next to no yearly rentals and our planning department getting weekly calls from out-of-town developers looking to buy up properties for the SOLE purpose of short-term rentals. Our ordinance strikes a careful balance between locals making some extra income and preserving the character of our neighborhoods. We did a lot of homework and reaching out before arriving at a reasonable framework. You can short-term rent your primary residence, a room in your home, a multi-dwelling unit where you live next door, or if you previously got a short-term rental license. We did this to ensure you live next to neighbors and not frat houses. The ordinance is not yet perfect and we plan further tweaks. But overturning it altogether would be a huge mistake. It would create a free-for-all of unlicensed hotels

Our city council has looked to create a climate which helps flourish Asbury Park’s uniqueness and diversity. We are asking you, Asbury Park, to vote “No” on the ballot questions. Let us continue on the journey of making Asbury Park the best, most inclusive city it can be for everyone. We are just getting started.

 

Quinn in LGBT guest column: Vote NO on all three Asbury ballot questions

(Editor’s Note: Amy Quinn is a member of the Asbury Park City Council. She was the guest columnist in this week’s LGBT Rainbow Room column in the triCityNews.)

Luanne Peterpaul has kindly offered me her column this week to communicate about two of my favorite topics: gays and Asbury Park!

Asbury Park has one of the most diverse city councils in Monmouth County, with a majority of women. That’s no accident. Before we sat together up on that council dais we created a ticket and campaigned together, walking door to door and engaging voters about their concerns. We spelled out clear goals and priorities that we would pursue as the council. The voters approved of us and our priorities and elected us by 2 to 1 margins in both 2014 and 2016. We have since worked tirelessly every day to fulfill our promises and raise this city up. 

Asbury Park’s long and rich history with the gay community goes back decades. Whether it was the gay and lesbian bars in the early years, the annual Jersey Pride event, or our local officials risking jail time to marry gays way back in 2004, this city has been not only inclusive of the gay community, but downright welcoming.  

When putting together tickets for City Council, we consciously assembled a group that would represent our various communities, i.e. gay, African American, old time Asbury, music, arts, etc… We only have 5 people to try to do this. Maintaining such diversity around a unified vision is why Asbury Park should vote no on all three municipal ballot questions on November 6th. Because the ballot questions amount to a recall of both our council and its priorities. 

Ballot question #1 proposes dividing the City up into wards. Presumably the Petitioners believe a ward system would benefit the southwest of the city with one council seat beholden only to that part of the city. But a ward system would be disastrous both for the southwest and the city as a whole. The current council takes all parts of the city into consideration before making every decision. A ward system would splinter the basic attitude of the council. Elections would become more divisive than ever, as there’d be little incentive for ward candidates to pursue or declare a united vision for the whole city’s future. 

Ballot question #2 proposes partisan elections. This proposal is so strikingly wrong for our city that I hardly know what to say. Of all the things we need it certainly isn’t local issues getting mixed up with party loyalties and our perennial national bickering. What we have now is candidates for office getting rewarded for agendas that unite rather than divide. Partisan elections would disenfranchise independent voters (nearly 3000 of them) and hand our future over to the two party system. So wrong for Asbury Park. 

Ballot question #3 proposes a complete rejection of the council’s painstaking approach to short-term rentals (commonly arranged through websites such as airbnb). We got out in front of this issue after noticing next to no yearly rentals and our planning department getting weekly calls from out-of-town developers looking to buy up properties for the SOLE purpose of short-term rentals. Our ordinance strikes a careful balance between locals making some extra income and preserving the character of our neighborhoods. 

We did a lot of homework and reached out to many before arriving at a reasonable framework. You can short-term rent your primary residence, a room in your home, a multi-dwelling unit where you live next door, or if you previously got a short-term rental license. We did this to ensure you live next to neighbors and not frat houses. The ordinance is not yet perfect and we plan further tweaks. But overturning it altogether would be a huge mistake. It would create a free-for-all of unlicensed hotels 

Our city council has looked to create a climate which helps flourish Asbury Park’s uniqueness and diversity. That’s why the full city council is asking Asbury Park to vote no on the ballot questions. Let us continue on the journey of making Asbury Park the best, most inclusive city it can be for everyone. We are just getting started. 

 

Threat to Asbury Park! Democratic leadership steps up against divisive and dangerous ballot questions

While Asbury continues to move forward in most ways, there are three ballot questions facing city voters this November that could have catastrophic consequences if passed. If you give a shit about our city, this should alarm you.

One ballot question would divisively divide our little city into three wards, with a council person representing each. Another would change our non-partisan elections to partisan, which is an invitation to machine politics. And the third would repeal the current ban on outside investors coming into Asbury Park to buy up housing for use as airbnb-style short-term rentals — a problem cities around the world are moving to stop.

Two different groups got enough signatures on petitions to get these divisive and dangerous questions on the ballot. Fortunately, civic and political leaders are stepping forward to oppose this typically Asbury Park political chaos. All five council members have announced their opposition. And now so has the leadership of the city’s Democratic organization.

Dem Chair Joe Grillo

Dem Chair Joe Grillo

Democratic Chairperson Joe Grillo, Vice-Chair Angela Ahbez-Anderson and Chair of the Young Democrats Jess Alaimo all say they’re opposing the three ballot questions. Grillo already issued a statement last week against wards, and Ahbez-Anderson and Alaimo plan to take on the partisan and airbnb ballot questions with statements in opposition in the coming weeks.

These are serious people. Grillo and Ahbez-Anderson are experienced members of the Asbury Park Board of Education. (Ahbez-Anderson is president of the board.) Alaimo is an up-and-coming progressive activist. Together they represent the diversity of Asbury Park: gay and straight, African-American and white, female and male.

I’ll let them do their own talking against the three ballot questions because this Publisher sometimes gets a bit out-of-control when I see threats like these to our beloved little city. This week I’ll attempt to be somewhat sane in explaining why these ballot questions would be a disaster for Asbury Park. Here goes.

With the ward ballot question, the city would be split into three wards with a council person representing each. Only the remaining two council members would be elected citywide. It’s madness. The city is way too small for this, and it would rip us apart. You’d have three of five council members just interested in their own little section of the city. I can’t think of any other municipality this small who does this. Meanwhile, every city with a ward system I’ve seen has a strong directly elected Mayor who runs the city day-to-day, and like a President or Governor, theoretically looks out for the interests of the city as a whole. A council with wards serves as the check-and-balance to such a strong mayor as the legislative branch of government. Asbury Park is nothing like that, with a five member council which includes the mayor as an equal member. Our council sets policy and oversees a professional city manager who runs the city. The council should continue to be elected citywide so there’s unity in Asbury Park.

If approved, the ward ballot question would also cut short the four year terms of the current council members, and make them all run next year. More madness. Obviously, this is a recall election in disguise — and that’s what I suspect is the real motivation of the political faction behind this, who’ve been unsuccessful in winning elections the old-fashioned way: by convincing a majority of their fellow citizens to elect their candidates.

The same political faction is behind the ballot question to make our city’s elections partisan. Right now, candidates all run in one column without party affiliation. But in a partisan system, they’d run as Democrats and Republicans. In overwhelming Democratic Asbury Park, the Democrats would always win, which means a handful of Democratic politicians who control the nominating process will control the city — the very definition of machine politics. Talk about disenfranchising. That the Democratic leadership in place right now opposes this tells you something: they’d initially be the power brokers. But they know that partisan elections are bad for the city, and eventually the faction behind this ballot question will start waging bitter and divisive battles for control of the city’s Democratic Party.

Here’s the mysterious part to this whole thing. There’s a five-member “committee of petitioners” listed on the one petition that got both the ward and partisan questions on the ballot. Yet two of the five say they oppose partisan government — even though they’re sponsors of this petition that got it on the ballot! Don’t expect the other three to tell me whether they also oppose the partisan ballot question they sponsored. So where is this partisan nonsense coming from? You got me. So excuse me for doubting the sincerity of those behind all this as partisan machine politics is about as disenfranchising as it gets.

A completely different group got the question on the ballot that would allow outside investors to come into the city, buy up existing rental housing and single-family homes and use them for short-term airbnb-style rentals. This is now a problem around the world, and the city council property responded to it. They enacted an ordinance limiting airbnb-style short term rentals to the homes of residents who live here — which was the original intent of airbnb. The council also grandfathered in all second homeowners who had been doing short-term rentals so they wouldn’t get hurt.

This ballot question would repeal the city’s short-term rental ordinance, which is meant to protect us from investors coming in and converting our housing stock into short-term airbnb-style rentals. The problems with such investor-owned airbnb housing are obvious.

First, it takes existing year-round rentals off the market, making rentals scarcer and thus drives up rents. Anyone concerned with affordable housing should vote no on this ballot question. Same with young residents who want to continue to rent here. The more that investor-owned airbnb housing takes rentals off the market, the less options there will be for current renters to stay.

And as a quality of life issue, residents should be against this ballot question. Outside investors using a house for just airbnb-type rentals takes away what makes a neighborhood — neighbors. Plus, this is an invitation to rowdy behavior as investors seeking a financial return are going to have less of an interest in who uses their short-term rental than a resident, who’d likely want to keep their home in good shape and have good relations with their neighbors.

The ordinance regulating airbnb-type short-term rentals in Asbury Park is now working. Residents and grandfathered-in second homeowners can use their properties for short-term airbnb-style rentals. We hear few complaints from homeowners that the restrictions are excessive. We hear few complaints about bad behavior from neighbors.

I say this ballot question making Asbury wide open to investor-owned airbnb housing only passes if there’s confusion among voters — the only people for it would be those who’d directly benefit from it financially, few if any of whom are Asbury Park voters. It’s inconceivable to me why most any Asbury voter would support this.

So that’s this Publisher’s sane take this week on the potential mess of all three ballot questions getting approved. Asbury voters should vote no on all three, and everyone else who cares about our city should hope they all go down.