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.