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.