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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.


Grillo: Wards will bring political instability and chaos back to Asbury

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Joe Grillo wrote this column which appears in the Oct. 4 issue of triCityNews. Grillo is the chairperson of the Asbury Park Democratic Organization.)

We know how important these midterm elections are for our country, our state and our region. We have the opportunity to vote in a Democratic bulwark against a White House whose disposition and politics build walls to further divide us. As Democratic municipal chair in Asbury Park, I’m committed to electing Democrats up and down the line to resist Trumpism in all of its forms.

But I’m also asking Asbury Park to fight back locally against permanent divisions that threaten us via three questions for city voters on this year’s ballot. I’m voting no on all three. But I’m most concerned with Municipal Question No.1, which looks to dissolve the current city council and draw up wards each represented by a single councilperson who would run in another (another!) city wide council election next year.

A vote for Municipal Question No. 1 is a vote to bring the political instability and chaos of the past back into Asbury Park.

In theory, the arguments for a ward system are supremely valid, and rooted in genuine and tragically real grievances. It goes like this: With the influx of new residents, rising living costs, and seemingly unfettered gentrification, the historically African-American quadrant in the southwest of the city is shrinking, its community is slowly being pushed out and thus, the argument goes, its political voice must be protected, conserved, and empowered by creating wards. In theory, a ward system would provide institutional representative equity by forcing the city to have a seat on the council just for that quadrant. It’s a valid argument. But creating wards does nothing to address the grievances that threaten the west side, and would create permanent divisions in a city struggling to create unity.

The reality is this: when you look at cities throughout New Jersey, wards become like little fiefdoms. Like Mafia territories. Mini-political bosses emerge. And residents are compelled to kiss the boss’s ring in order to get things done.

You want that pothole fixed? Go see your ward councilman. And, be nice, because if you get on their bad side, good luck with that pothole.

Because other ward councilpersons don’t represent your particular ward, they are less apt to concern themselves with your problems. Over time, wards create permanent divisions between different neighborhoods. Wards are the exact opposite of what we are trying to accomplish in Asbury Park, which is political unity, civic empowerment and social equity.

The second reason I am voting no is because there has always been council representation from the southwest. On every single winning ticket in the past two generations, whether it was Mayor Butch Saunders, Mayor Kevin Sanders, Mayor Myra Campbell or Councilwoman Yvonne Clayton.

I’ll go even further: a ticket without African-American representation from the southwest cannot, and should not, win in Asbury Park. Period.

So let’s keep it real – this is essentially a recall election. And the reason the petitioners are looking to recall the current city council is not because there isn’t enough “west side” representation on the council – it’s because Yvonne Clayton and Jesse Kendle don’t take orders from the petitioners’ small clique, who, in turn, take orders from power bases outside of the city and the county.

The third reason I am voting No is that neither Asbury Park, nor the petitioners, have control over how these wards are going to be drawn up. The county draws up those lines. Wards are drawn based on voter population. Because of low voter turnout in the southwest over the years, its proposed ward will surely also encompass other parts of the city. What happens if the county draws up a ward that includes both the southwest quadrant and parts of the northwest quadrant? How about a south ward that encompasses both the downtown central business district and the southwest quadrant? Not only is that possible, it’s probable. There is absolutely no guarantee that the petitioners looking for permanent representation from a shrinking demographic will get that with a ward system — we have little to no control over how these wards are drawn up.

The final and most important reason I’m voting no is because creating wards does not address or resolve the specific grievances that the petitioners, and the rest of us, are concerned about: comprehensive affordable housing, equitable workforce development, common-sense controls on unfettered gentrification and greater representation from people of color on the city’s numerous committees, boards and commissions.

I support representative equity, which is what a ward system attempts to address but fails miserably. Creating wards does not create equity. Not by burning the whole house down. The way to do it is to support city council tickets that best reflect our growing diversity and then push those representatives to go deeper in identifying and resolving the city’s clear, present and urgent issues of inequity.

These municipal questions are an attempted power grab. Plain and simple.

As both Americans, and as residents of one of the most progressive small cities in America, I believe that we are all tired of political divisions. We’ve come a long way in Asbury Park, and still have a long way to go. But we go it together, not divided.

Instead of building more walls to divide us, let’s keep Asbury Park united.

Vote “NO” on Municipal Question No. 1.

Former Jersey City adminstrator expected to be named Asbury Park City Manager

Former Jersey City adminstrator expected to be named Asbury Park City Manager

Word on the  street is that the next Asbury Park City Manager will be Jack Kelly, who held the Business Adminstrator’s post in Jersey City from 2010 to July of last year.

Asbury Overheard is overhearing it all over the place.

The City Council [above] is scheduled to meet Wednesday night. A discussion of hiring a new city manager is on both the open and closed session agendas. Good chance Kelly could be hired during that meeting.

Kelly lost his gig in Jersey City when a new Mayor was elected in the city’s May non-partisan election. That led to his resignation this past summer, as new Mayor Steve Fulop had his own ideas for the post. Kelly had been appointed by outgoing Mayor Jeremiah Healy.

Asbury also had a May election which resulted in a majority of new council members. That new majority chose not to reappoint Terry Reidy, who had served as city manager for a decade.

According to an article on nj.com, Kelly is a 33 year public employee who will be due a pension of about $94,000. He also worked as a part-time tax assessor for Caldwell and finance director for the City of Orange, while serving as Jersey City administrator, according to nj.com.


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Take three: ‘Bank on Mattison’ bar and restaurant to take Trinity and the Pope space

Take three: ‘Bank on Mattison’ bar and restaurant to take Trinity and the Pope space

Ok, it’s time for the third try at a restaurant and bar at the landmark building on Mattison Avenue that last housed Trinity and the Pope — and was once home to a daily newspaper in the late 1940s known as the Asbury Park Sun.

The brown paper is up over the windows. A “coming soon” sign advises the new place will be called “Bank on Mattison” bar and restaurant.

Before Trinity and the Pope, the building housed a bar called Mattison Park. In prior decades, the space was originally a bank, as well as a law office. It had been vacant for years before its rehabilitation, which included the installation of a kitchen and bar, when Mattison Park took its shot about seven years ago.

Asbury Overheard has seen lots of activity for several weeks in the building, with people working inside getting the place ready. No one there is commenting on the record, however.

bank on mattison SIGN resized for oveheardOh well. We’ll just go by what we’ve overheard.

Based on sources outside those involved in the building — like everyone in downtown Asbury who knows anything — the new  group renting the space include managers and staff who once worked at Old Man Rafferty’s in the old Steinbachs building.

Also overheard is that this group left on very good terms with Old Man Rafferty’s owner Mark Jakuboski. So no problems there.

We wish them luck. The original Asbury Park Sun lasted only about two years in that building. It was founded by theater mogul Walter Reade to compete with the Asbury Park Press, then located on the same block.

Our sister site, Asburyparksun.com — named after Walter Reade’s Sun newspaper that took its shot at the Press — seems to be doing a lot better than Reade’s media outlet. The Sun is kicking the Press’s ass, regularly beating it to stories and giving more in-depth coverage to the greater Asbury Park  area than its owners the Gannett Corporation would ever think of giving.

But we digress. No doubt Asburyparksun.com will have the full story when the new owners of “Bank on Mattison” decide to open their mouths and talk about their plans. Like when will they open exactly? What will they serve? What’s the theme? What’s their favorite color, etc.?

Our advice?

Don’t be so coy with the media. Your sign is up. Everyone knows you’re coming. So tell us what’s up.

Or the story will be told elsewhere for you by others — as lots can be overheard in Asbury Park, as we like to say.


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Sorensen’s miraculous guitar makes triumphant return to Asbury boardwalk

Sorensen’s miraculous guitar makes triumphant return to Asbury boardwalk

Stringbean’s magical 1958 Gretsch hollow body guitar made its triumphant return to the Asbury Park boardwalk tonight.

Kenny “Stringbean” Sorensen and his band the Stalkers had their usual Monday night appearance outside Langosta Lounge, a gig they’ve played for the past five summers. Read More

Garden State Film Festival may skip Asbury for A.C.

Garden State Film Festival may skip Asbury for A.C.

The word is out that the Garden State Film Festival is looking to leave Asbury Park and move down to Atlantic City. Apparently, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority [CRDA] in the gambling mecca has been courting the festival.

“We’re exploring possibilities with other municipalities,” Diane Raver, executive director of the Garden State Film Festival, told the Asbury Park Press about moving down to Atlantic City. “They’re inviting us to come their way and we feel very fortunate that they see the event value in our event.” Read More

Report: Stringbean’s vintage guitar and amp recovered

The Asbury Park Sun website, a sister site of Asbury Overheard, reported today that the vintage guitar and amplifier stolen in Asbury Park from area musician Kenny “Stringbean” Sorensen has been recovered in Ocean Township.

Still missing is Sorensen’s van which was also stolen and contained the equipment. Also not recovered are harmonicas and various cords. Read More