Asbury Park

No TV on Tuesday! Vote in AP Board of Ed race for Joe Grillo and his running mates

No TV on Tuesday! Vote in AP Board of Ed race for Joe Grillo and his running mates

An election in April? With polls open from noon to 8 pm?

Yup, welcome to the Asbury Park Board of Education. It’s the last vestige of wackiness in Asbury Park, and hopefully we can end that distinction this Tuesday, April 25.

There’s an excellent ticket running for the Board — Joe Grillo (above), Eric Pinckney and Carol Jones. Vote for them on Tuesday.

Grillo is, of course, a liberal voice with his twice-a-month column in the triCityNews. He may also be the most open-minded person in Asbury Park, willing to talk and listen to anyone and everyone. The guy brings people together. He’s a civic leader and small business owner. Grillo is the Chairman of the Asbury Park Democratic Party, as well as a member of the city’s Zoning Board. He’s also the development director for the New Jersey Audubon Society, one of the leading environmental groups in the state.

grillo lawn sign SCALEDPut an alert on your phone. Put notes all over your refrigerator. Whatever it takes. Make sure you get out and vote for Grillo and his running mates Pinckney and Jones on Tuesday. (Did I say polls are open from noon to 8 pm?) These Board of Education elections can be decided by a handful of votes as usually no one turns out. Write down their names as everyone is in one column on the ballot, but all the candidates are mixed together, without a designation of who’s running together.

Grillo’s running mates are also of distinction. Eric Pinckney is a journalist, as well as a leader in the LGBT community. Carol Jones worked for decades in the Asbury school system as a nurse before retiring. She’s a knowledgable incumbent on the Board of Education.

The ticket is also reflective of the diversity of our city: African-American and white, gay and straight, male and female.

If everyone who knows and likes these three gets out to vote, they will win hands down. Don’t blow it and forget to vote because you got sucked into some daytime television. That’s no excuse.

 

On the brink in Asbury Park: A-Team driving toward Council majority, putting city in uncharted territory

On the brink in Asbury Park: A-Team driving toward Council majority, putting city in uncharted territory

(Note from triCityNews Publisher Dan Jacobson: The following commentary written by me appeared in our November 3 issue. We never post content from the paper on-line — unless it’s of critical public interest. That’s certainly the case here.)

So your political organization gets soundly beaten twice, the last time by a 2-1 margin.

What do you do?

The answer is easy: Change your name.

That’s the story of the A-Team slate in this council election. With Asbury Park voters distracted by a train wreck of a Presidential race, they don’t realize that a majority of city council seats are up for grabs on Tuesday. Nor do most know that A-Team candidates are running under a new name this year — and they’re poised to win control of City Hall.

A shift to A-Team control puts us in uncharted territory. In the past two elections, all their council candidates were rejected by voters — people sensed that if they ran the city the way they conducted their campaigns we’ll have complete chaos. These guys have absolutely no idea what they’re doing.

The relative political stability this city has enjoyed for the past 15 years is now taken completely for granted. Political stability may be the second biggest factor in Asbury Park’s remarkable comeback, after the influence of this newspaper. People forget how crazy past city councils could be. Fortunately, through the efforts of the triCityNews, and tons of other concerned citizens throughout the city, the past few elections have gone the right way — but it’s been a hell of an effort and at times a very close call.

So if Asbury Park wakes up the day after this election with the A-Team suddenly in control, don’t say this newspaper didn’t warn you. Of course, we’ll start with a clean slate with them. We’ll judge them on what they actually do. But I say it will be chaos, with legal problems left and right.

The incumbent council members up for election are Amy Quinn, Yvonne Clayton and Eileen Chapman — three progressive, pragmatic and intelligent women. Probably the best council slate I’ve seen in following Asbury politics for over 30 years. Their two council allies — Mayor John Moor and Councilman Jesse Kendle — face reelection in two years.

The A-Team candidates this year are Kenneth Saunders, Jr., who ran on the A-Team council slate in 2014, Stephen Williams, who ran on the A-Team Board of Education slate in 2014, and Dan Harris who ran on the A-Team council slate in 2013.

Hey, I didn’t tell them to run with that organization, yet they’re pissed that I’m calling them the A-Team candidates. They’d rather we all forget. You shouldn’t. This year they’re running under the slogan Citizens for Asbury Park.

Of course, with the A-Team being the A-Team their campaign tried to pull a fast one with that new name. Asbury Park has non-partisan elections, which means you don’t run under a party banner and the name you select to appear on the ballot can’t have a party designation.

In overwhelmingly Democratic Asbury Park, the A-Team in the past two elections have sent out mailers and put up lawn signs falsely making it sound like they’re the candidates of the Democratic Party, which they’re not. Just another one of their underhanded moves in our non-partisan elections. So when it came time to select a new name to put on the ballot this year, they submitted the designation “Democrats for Asbury Park” at the last minute. That’s illegal — what a shock — and just before the city clerk drew the ballot positions for the candidates, they had to change it to “Citizens for Asbury Park.”

My biggest problem with the A-Team is well known, and I’ve been vocal about it since their first run in 2013 — their out-of-control abuse of the absentee ballot system demonstrates to me their lack of restraint with the law. Their campaigns in both 2013 and 2014 literally took custody and control of hundreds of absentee ballots — now known as vote by mail ballots — getting them from the county clerk and bringing them to voters.

In what democracy does a political campaign take control of the ballots? It was crazy. Sure enough, the bipartisan Board of Elections — made up of two Democrats and two Republicans — barred the counting of over 300 of these ballots in each of the last two elections, and they were upheld by a Superior Court Judge both times. Appeals by the A-Team went nowhere.

Like they always do, the A-Team cried racism. They’re like Donald Trump saying everything is rigged when things don’t go his way. But the abuse of these ballots was so bad in Asbury Park that it was a major reason the Democratic-controlled state Senate and Assembly in Trenton voted unanimously — 120 Democrats and Republicans — to dramatically tighten the law so the A-Team could never abuse the absentee ballot process again. When do Democrats and Republicans unanimously agree on anything?

I guess all 120 legislators are racists, if you go by A-Team thinking. The Governor signed the law in 2015 so this year you don’t see the spectacle of A-Team campaign operatives bringing hundreds of vote by mail ballots directly to voters’ doors — an invitation to fraud and coercion that the law never intended.

Sure enough, when I looked at the rejected and unopened A-Team ballots from the 2014 elections, I saw about 70 with my own eyes where the signature of the person filling out the ballot didn’t even come close to matching the signature of the real voter on file with the county. In other words, somebody in the A-Team campaign committed blatant ballot fraud.

Yet the A-Team candidates ignore what was done in their name. They still don’t get it. And this inability to restrain their campaign from ill-advised activity that obviously risks legal trouble — not to mention taint a whole election if it were closer — shows the risk of putting them in office. That’s my big problem with them. I don’t care if they’re white, black, purple, green or polka-dotted. I just don’t think they know what the hell they’re doing.

It’s a shame. Because they actually have valuable insights about the city they could bring into the government, particularly about improving the west side. But that’s more than offset by the antics of their past campaigns.

In fact, I saw a video recently released by Dan Harris, one of the A-Team candidates this year, during which he still complains about the rejection of those vote-by-mail ballots. Harris also was the plaintiff in the lawsuit in the first A-Team election trying to get the rejected A-Team ballots opened. That’s my problem with him. He still doesn’t get it.

Here’s the story: What their campaign would do is approach a voter, tell them they could bring them a ballot and have that voter fill out the form requesting a ballot — but leave blank where you designate the person who’d bring the ballot to you. The A-Team would later fill in that name with one of their operatives — which I say is illegal right there. The law was designed for shut-ins who need someone to bring them a a ballot. Not for a campaign to take custody and control of hundreds of ballots and bring them to voters. It was crazy.

For obvious reasons — like potential fraud and coercion — I say a voter can’t let someone else designate who will bring them a ballot by leaving part of their ballot application blank. And ultimately that’s why no Judge was ever going to let the A-Team have those ballots counted. Yet A-Team candidates — including the three running this year — refuse to accept there was something wrong with what their campaign was doing. Dan Harris in particular continues to defend it to this day, even though the state law was changed to finally settle the matter.

And there’s more. In the 2014 election, when this year’s A-Team candidates Saunders and Williams were on the A-Team slate, their mayoral candidate actually sent out a mailing the weekend before the election with a completely made up statement from U.S. Senator Cory Booker that Booker was supporting him — which the Senator quickly took to Twitter to condemn. Fortunately, both this Publisher and even the idiots at the Asbury Park Press were able to use social media to get the story out — and again demonstrate the lack of restraint by the A-Team. That was the year voters rejected their council candidates by a 2-1 margin.

But the A-Team candidates running this year didn’t disavow the leader of their ticket or ever criticize him for that bullshit with Cory Booker. And they will never accept that perhaps their decision to join that ticket, with a candidate like that leading it, is a poor reflection on them.

A-Team mailer from 2014 with made-up Booker endorsement

Last minute A-Team mailer from 2014 with made-up Booker endorsement (click to enlarge)

So are they suddenly different this year? It sure didn’t look that way from the very beginning when they illegally tried to use the name “Democrats for Asbury Park” as their ballot slogan in this non-partisan election.

I will give them credit for one thing — since their attempted bullshit with that ballot slogan a couple months ago, they and their campaign have not done anything underhanded or ethically-challenged in past A-Team fashion. Of course, after this paper hits the streets I won’t be shocked if their campaign puts out lawn signs and/or campaign literature a day or two before the election falsely making it sound like they’re the Democratic candidates in this non-partisan race, just as the A-Team campaign has done in the past two council races.

Hey, just telling it like it is. After all, we’re the triCityNews. We’re here to help.

Wake up Asbury Park! A-Team candidates on Board of Education ballot this year

Last year, Asbury voters decisively rejected the A-Team slate for Mayor and Council by a landslide 2-1 margin. The repudiation was throughout the city. And it was well deserved. That crew is completely out of control.

Yet on the same ballot, two out of three A-Team candidates for the Board of Education won, giving the A-Team majority control of that board. No wonder it’s completely dysfunctional.

How could they win? It’s simple.

Board of Education candidates don’t have slate designations next to their names. So unlike the mayor and council race, voters didn’t know who was from the A-Team and who wasn’t. If they had, the A-Team board of ed candidates would have been trounced last year by margins as large as their running mates for mayor and council. Instead, they won a majority that now controls the Board of Education.

So don’t be asleep on Tuesday, November 3. There are three A-Team candidates running for Board of Education. Write down their names, and vote against them: Christian Hall, Kenneth Saunders, Jr. and Sheila Etienne.

Their victory — and continued control of the Board of Education — depends on voters not knowing their affiliations and not knowing they’re running. That’s how they won last year. The electorate obviously doesn’t want this group in office, as evidenced by the A-Team’s landslide defeat in the race for mayor and council. [And their defeat in the council race the year before that, for that matter.]

Board of Education candidate Saunders was one of the A-Team council candidates who was defeated last year. That should automatically disqualify him from holding office. Hall is one of their leaders on the Board of Education. I’m not familiar with Etienne, but I’m not impressed with the political company she keeps.

There are only three candidates running against the A-Team seeking the three Board of Education seats. I’m not going to even confuse you with their names. But they seem normal. Well, at least normal as far as Asbury Park standards. I’ll leave it at that. Vote for them.

My problem with the A-Team? Where should I start?

Their campaign violated election law in 2013 and 2014 in how they took custody and control of hundreds of vote by mail ballots through the use of so-called messengers who were A-Team supporters and operatives. A Monmouth County Superior Court Judge agreed with me in each of those two elections, and he refused to open about 300 ballots controlled by their campaign in those years.

It gets even worse. I went out to Freehold and looked at rejected unopened vote by mail ballots controlled by the A-Team from last year’s election and about 70 of them were clearly fraudulent. The signatures of the person completing the ballot and claiming to be the voter clearly did not match the real voter’s signature in the voter registration records. It was absurd. Actually, it was an outrage. What is this? Jersey City in 1933?

Who committed that crime? I don’t know. But I know that someone did it in the name of the A-Team — such as for Saunders last year who now seeks reelection to the Board of Education. Saying you didn’t know about it isn’t good enough. All A-Team candidates should be held responsible for these excesses.

The conduct of the A-Team campaign with these messenger ballots was one reason the state Senate and Assembly voted unanimously [meaning all Demcrats and Republicans from all corners of the state] to change the law to stop campaigns from taking custody and control of large numbers of ballots like the A-Team would do it. As a result, they won’t have that advantage this year. Thank God.

I could go on about the A-Team. Like their completely falsified endorsement by Senator Cory Booker of their mayoral candidate just before last year’s election. Fortunately, this blog was here to blow the whistle on that.

Yeah, I can hear it now. I’m a racist because I oppose the A-Team. That’s all they can say when people criticize them. And I guess so are all the Asbury Park voters — from all over the city — who decisively rejected the A-Team last year in the mayor and council race. They must all be racists too. What else could they be?

Those reading this post should go do their civic duty and defeat the A-Team candidates for Board of Education — Christian Hall, Kenneth Saunders and Sheila Etienne.

Booker condemns A-Team in Asbury Park; slams campaign tactics as “unfortunate”

Booker condemns A-Team in Asbury Park; slams campaign tactics as “unfortunate”

booker endorsement cleaner screen shotDemocratic U.S. Senator Cory Booker condemned the A-Team slate on his Twitter feed on Friday, slamming their campaign tactics as “unfortunate.”

Booker was responding to a mailer [right] falsely stating that he endorsed A-Team mayoral candidate Remond Palmer. No such endorsement has been issued.

When Booker was questioned about the mailer on Twitter, he replied: “That is unfortunate. I did not endorse anyone in this race.” [Booker's Twitter responses are below.]

The disputed mailer says it’s paid for by “Asbury Park Democrats, LLC” with an address at 1104 Asbury Avenue, Asbury Park.

The address for Asbury Park Democrats, LLC. at 1104 Asbury Avenue is the same address listed for Darryl Hammary and Diteko Hammary on filings with the Election Law Enforcement Commission. They are listed as treasurer and chairperson respectively for an independent PAC called “Asbury Now” that supported A-Team candidates in the 2013 city council election.

Joe Grillo, Chairman of the Asbury Park Democratic Executive Committee, said the local party organization has no connection to “Asbury Park Democrats, LLC.” The local party is not endorsing any candidates in the Asbury Park municipal or board of education elections, Grillo said.

The Monmouth County Democratic Organization posted on its Facebook page on Saturday that neither Booker or the county Democrats are making endorsements in the Asbury Park elections:

Please note that Senator Cory Booker nor the Monmouth County Democrats have made an endorsement in the race for Mayor or City Council in Asbury Park. Asbury Park is a nonpartisan race and both the Monmouth County Democratic Organization and Senator Cory Booker are NOT involved in this race in anyway and on behalf of any candidate. We encourage all voters to vote this Tuesday for the candidate he or she prefers. There are several outstanding candidates running, several of them are Registered Democrats and Democratic County Committee members.

The mailer includes a photo of Booker with Palmer and a statement that reads as follows:

Dear Neighbor,

As your United States Senator, I’m working everyday to help our President give the people of Asbury Park the help they need — whether it’s affordable healthcare, or federal funds to give police and firefighters the resources they need to keep us safe. That is why I’m proud to support Remond Palmer for Mayor of Asbury Park. Remond is an Independent Democrat who stands up for what he believes in.

Yours in Service,

United States Senator Cory A. Booker

Click below for Booker’s responses to two inquiries about the disputed mailer.booker sun response

booker response—————————————————————————-

Follow Asbury Overheard on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Social media smear of Toast’s Amy Russo of Asbury Park

Social media smear of Toast’s Amy Russo of Asbury Park

The following is my post on the Red Bank Green website in regard to the social media smear of Amy Russo, who owns Toast in Asbury Park. Amy is getting unfairly tagged with the abrupt dismissal of the workers at the Broadway Diner in Red Bank without notice, a decision that was not hers. Even worse, she can’t even speak up to defend herself, as I explain below. She is set to buy the diner, and open Toast Red Bank there. That transaction takes place July 31. Amy has no idea I’m posting this, and would probably tell me not to do so. Too bad. I say whatever the hell I think, and call it like I see it. I can’t help it. Here’s my comment on Redbankgreen.com’s facebook page:

I can’t resist commenting.

Unfortunately, Amy Russo just got screwed by a bad situation she didn’t create. Nice of everyone to jump to the conclusion that a successful businesswoman — who has loyal and happy employees in two other successful establishments — is dumb enough to walk into town and fire 40 long-time employees without notice.

That fact is that she doesn’t fully own the place yet, nor does she have managerial control. She did not make that decision. It was up to the existing management to decide how to treat their long-time employees and customers before the place closed. That closure has to be done before full ownership can be transferred to Amy, who wants to open a different business there after closing for two months to do interior renovations.

My friend John Ward used our story on Asburyparksun.com for his Red Bank Green report. Go back and read the Sun story. John provided the link. Amy is buying out her late father’s partner who’s run the Broadway Diner for years, as her Dad passed away a few months ago. She will obtain ownership and full control on July 31, if all goes according to plan. Everyone around — particularly the hard-working small business owners and their employees on Monmouth Street — should pray it does. Toast has been fantastic for downtown Asbury Park. A failed business at that location is not something you want on Monmouth Street.

So what is Amy Russo supposed to do now? The deal is not yet done for her to take over. Is she supposed to publicly condemn her late father’s partner before she buys him out on July 31? Throw him under the bus publicly, even if he deserves it, by stating it was his decision to dismiss the employees without notice? That would be stupid. It’s more important that she gain control of the location to open something with a great chance of success, which benefits everyone around there — including those who will work there, some of whom may be former Broadway Diner employees. She’s right to keep her mouth shut until this transaction is complete.

My guess is that the long-time partner of her late father isn’t selling because he’s making a killing and cashing out. Whether you like it or not, the 24 hour diner model in Red Bank sure doesn’t seem viable to me. And if you don’t agree, go open one yourself and see how easy it is. Have a ball. I’ll be happy to come and try it once to give it a shot. There’s a reason you don’t see them around anymore.

Personally, I think the Broadway Diner sucked. It was dirty and the food mediocre. Hey, that’s my opinion. And I think it was eventually going down. It was not like it used to be years ago. No way was that place lasting, and that was a management failure. The only thing good about the Broadway Diner was the employees, very down to earth and regular people. Doing their best to make a living and working very hard. Obviously, they’re upset. Of course, everyone feels for them. It’s horrible. But shouldn’t they contact Amy and ask if they can work at the new place? She didn’t let them go without notice.

Oh well. I’m writing about Toast coming to Red Bank in the triCityNews on Thursday and ignoring this smear of Amy because I don’t want to repeat it and give it more legs. What I’m writing about is how great she was for downtown Asbury, and that she will be the same for Monmouth Street. We’ve all seen it first hand in Asbury Park. She runs the equivalent of the local luncheonette that all towns used to have, and a wide cross section of all types of people go to her place in Asbury. It is not an elitist place in the least.

Of course, if you want the full traditional diner experience now that the Broadway Diner is closed, by all means go to the Americana in Shrewsbury, as some commentators have stated. It’s excellent. Great food. Great place.

But Amy Russo knows how to run Toast. That’s what she does well, and that’s what’s been of tremendous benefit to downtown Asbury and Montclair, as it will be for Monmouth Street. There’s a reason her businesses are so popular.

Dan Jacobson

TriCityNews

Asbury Council: Demand renegotiation of iStar infrastructure giveaway

Asbury Council: Demand renegotiation of iStar infrastructure giveaway

The following column by triCityNews Publisher Dan Jacobson appeared in the Feb. 6 issue of the paper. We rarely publish the paper’s content on line. We’re not fools. That’s how a newspaper destroys itself. But we will make an occasional exception here on our Asbury Overheard blog when an important public interest is at stake . [Our asburyparksun.com site remains committed to objective, unbiased journalism.] Here’s Jacobson’s triCity column on what he calls the “infrastructure giveaway” to waterfront redeveloper iStar Financial: 

This is why we started the triCity-affilliated asburyparksun.com website almost two years ago.

It’s to objectively and fairly report the news of Asbury and surrounding areas so all of us — this publisher included — can know what the hell is going on. And make our own decisions about it.

After all, no one else is going to do that. Certainly not the Asbury Park Press.

And last week the Sun’s Jill Bartlett reported a doozy — downtown developer Carter Sackman was never billed for his in-lieu tax payments for the past five years on either his Steinbachs building or his newer 550 Building across the street.

That’s an estimated $700,000 that was never collected for the city. Doesn’t sound like Sackman’s fault either. He deposited the monies into an escrow account with a bank. All the city had to do was send the bills as the payments came due, and the money would be withdrawn. Sackman said he was unaware of any of this until new Councilman John Moor started asking questions about it. Sackman says he wants the payments made. Obviously, he needs a bill!

What an embarrassment. Yet another reason to have a complete lack of confidence in what went on under the last city council, which left office last year.

Which brings us to the big enchilada that now must be questioned — the rushed agreement that pays for the infrastructure for waterfront redeveloper iStar to build more condos on the waterfront. Since that agreement was inked last year, iStar now wants to bring in national homebuilder K. Hovnanian to build “luxury townhouses” on a relatively small lot for that company in the waterfront zone.

It’s time for Councilman Moor and the other two new council members — Amy Quinn and Myra Campbell — to demand that this infrastructure agreement be renegotiated. For it literally cuts the city schools out of new tax revenues from iStar’s future development on the waterfront…for 30 years! That’s what’s being used to pay for the infrastructure that they need for their condos. [I'm not even going to get into how the city's taxpayers were shortchanged in the deal.]

Yup, the last city council screwed our city’s schools and kids, so iStar can now move forward to bring in the Hovnanians of the world — a completely inappropriate fit for Asbury Park.

This is where I puke.

This Publisher and a ton of other people in the city — most likely a majority as shown by the last election results — question the competency of the last council. And with good reason. The failure to bill the largest downtown developer $700,000 for his in-lieu tax payments for five years only reinforces that conviction.

There’s a simple reason that you can’t trust that waterfront infrastructure agreement — it was rushed through before a new council took office. And anytime something is rushed like that, it can’t be trusted.

In fact, the last city council put on hold a massive project to update the whole waterfront redevelopment plan to conform with present-day realities — all so this infrastructure agreement could be pushed through. Shouldn’t the waterfront plan have been updated first? Of course not. Then iStar would have to face a Council that wasn’t comprised of dumb sheep, and they likely wouldn’t have gotten this infrastructure deal. The waterfront plan has still not been updated.

I’m not saying that last council were stupid people outside of their work as elected official. But in their elected capacity they were dumb as stones — and, even worse, they did not know how to look to anyone else to get advice or information. It was absurd.

And they bound the city for 30 years to a massive agreement to pay for iStar’s infrastructure — all on the backs of our city’s kids. In addition, the city’s taxpayers themselves should have gotten much more than was negotiated. I don’t see where iStar had to pay a penny for this.

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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