Monday, December 18, 2006

Lakewood Recall Effort, Part 2

My most recent post was regarding the recall effort in Lakewood, NJ. This post was submitted, with my permission, to The Lakewood Shopper, and was subsequently printed followed by a response from Ben Weber, a member of the Committee to recall Charles Cunliffe. Ben Weber’s response was also posted in the comments section to my post.

Here is my reply to Ben Weber’s letter.

B.W. takes my issue with my characterization of the recall effort as “mysterious” by pointing out that the recall petition was signed by himself, along with two others, on December 8th, and that this is all public information.

The fact is that the original letter filed at the clerk’s office, was on November 13th, and was signed by three non-Jewish women: Audrey Faust, Janet Heulitt, and Clara Ward.

While commendable that those behind the recall effort have come out into the open on December 8th, it remains to be explained why for almost four weeks they chose to use these three women as a front and hide their true identities.

B.W. takes issue with my writing that the prevailing belief is that these women are being set up by real estate investors and developers by claiming that this is Mr. Cunliffe’s belief only.

I can only write what I hear and see. And yes, that is the prevailing belief amongst the regular people in Lakewood. Is it a fact? I don’t know. But it certainly is the popular assumption. The fact that one of the three signatories to the recall petition is the head of the Lakewood Landlords Association, plays right into this suspicion. The Lakewood Landlords Association was created only recently with their key objective to fight attempts by the Township to crack down on Quality of Life violations. While the overwhelming majority of Lakewood is firmly behind the Township’s efforts to crack down on QOL violations, the LLA is fighting tooth and nail to stymie their efforts.

B.W. points out my mistake in writing that the Master Plan was to establish zoning for the remaining areas of Lakewood, while in actuality it was to decide on changing existing zoning for Lakewood.

However, this is totally irrelevant to our discussion. Whether the Master Plan is establishing zoning or changing existing zoning, either way it calls for the radical urbanization of Lakewood, something the overwhelming majority of residents strongly oppose. The Master Plan was pushed through by the efforts of developers, builders, and engineers, without any regard whatsoever for the average person’s position on the issue. If Mr. Cunliffe is being recalled due to his rejection of the Master Plan’s recommendations, then it is an effort driven by power-brokers and not in the interest of the average Lakewood resident.

B.W. writes that it is amusing how Mr. Cunliffe, who appointed most of the Master Plan Committee, is now openly criticizing it.

I have to agree that this is a strange backpedal on his part, but his final conclusion is consistent with the majority of Lakewood’s residents who oppose the recommendations of the Master Plan.

B.W. counters my allegations of antagonizing elements in the non-Jewish community by writing that a Hispanic individual signed on the official recall petition, and that many seniors support it too.

All I can say is that if this is really the case the Recall Committee is in dire need of some serious public-relations assistance. Everyone, from other Township Committee members, to the media, to the members of the Frum community, all seem to think this a mostly an effort by a faction in the Frum community. If I am wrong, so be it. But more must be done to counter this widespread impression.

B.W. concurs with my astonishment that the Lakewood Va’ad endorsed this particular Committee member even though a Frum member of the community was running against him. He even goes further by writing “Are you aware that he actually beat Mr. Cunliffe in the rest of Lakewood? It was only due to a last minute push in Yeshivah, which put Cunliffe over the top. The rest of town was shocked that these 'power-brokers' endorsed him.”

From this statement it seems quite clear that B.W. understands and opposes the threat to the Frum community from self-serving power-brokers, a position seemingly at odds with his alignment with the LLA.
Also, if Mr. Cunliffe is the only one willing to stand up to them, why should he be recalled?

B.W. then lists three “misdeeds” of Mr. Cunliffe.
1 – He delayed the mailing of the tax reassessment, which caused most of Lakewood’s taxes to increase significantly, until after he was re-elected.
2 – He appointed the members of the Master Plan Advisory Committee and then rejected their recommendations.
3 – There is immense overspending of Township funds.

I must say that, in my opinion, all of the above do not qualify as legitimate and sufficient grounds for a recall. And I will reply in order.

1 - The tax assessment was carried out with the full knowledge and support of the Lakewood Va’ad. Even if Mr. Cunliffe delayed the mailing until after the election, that is merely a detail in a much larger picture. The people ultimately responsible for the tax assessment are the ones who allowed it to take place, and even supported it. That includes the other Township Committee members, the Lakewood Va’ad, and all of the other self-serving power-brokers. Regarding this specific issue Mr. Cunliffe may be guilty, but no guiltier than all of the others involved. If this is the motivation of the Recall Committee, they should be focusing on restructuring or abolishing the Lakewood Va’ad. Let us not forget that the Va’ad knew what the tax assessment was all about and still supported Mr. Cunliffe in the face of a challenge from a Frum member of the community! Quite an unconscionable act!

2 - The fact that Mr. Cunliffe appointed the members of the Master Plan Advisory Committee and then rejected their recommendations, I responded before that although this seems somewhat strange, at least in the end he took the position of the majority of Lakewood residents.

3 – The massive overspending of Township funds is indicative of a culture of corruption that permeates the Lakewood Township. Even if, arguably, Mr. Cunliffe is more corrupt than the others, all the others are also guilty. As I wrote in my original post, one member of the Township Committee can not hijack its resources. If massive amounts of money are missing, all members are guilty.

B.W. reminds us that America is a country "by the people and for the people", therefore we have the right to recall someone who doesn’t represent our interests.

As I touched on in my original post, that may be law of the land. But Chazal are replete with warnings not to be Misgareh B’Umos. Since even according to B.W. Mr. Cunliffe represents no danger to the Frum community, I fail to see the pressing need for one to be actively involved in antagonizing the non-Jewish residents. Especially in light of the above, as we have established that Mr. Cunliffe may possibly be no worse than any other Committee Member.

B.W. writes that if we wait for the next election, “we risk the ‘power-brokers’ once again being behind him and the Hamon Am not realizing who or what they are voting for.”

I take issue with this point too. If the power-brokers will support him in the next election, they will probably endorse “one of their own” to take Mr. Cunliffe’s place in the event that he is successfully recalled. I fail to see how the Recall Committee is getting to root of the problem, namely removing the influence of these power-brokers from the political sphere entirely.

I would like to conclude by stating that I have no connection whatsoever, in any way, to Mr. Cunliffe. I never even saw the man. For all I know he may be a terrible person. However, as an objective observer I fail to grasp the motivation of those trying to recall him.

Perhaps there exists a complete misunderstanding between myself and B.W.
I am contemplating calling him in person to discuss the issue, especially if the readership of this blog thinks it would be worthwhile to pursue.


B.W. begins his letter by questioning my decision to remain anonymous.

Anyone familiar with the unfortunate reality of the world we live in understands the answer to that question. It needs no further elaboration.


Anonymous said...

I agree that a recall effort is not in thye best interests of Yiden.

From the tone of both your posting it seems that someone is feeding you info.I happen to be privi to certain info and you are hinting to this very strongly.

My advice to you is to stop saying your "Dayos"

Yehuda Shain said...

Ithink the Tzibur should wake up & make a recall on most of the Lakewood Township Committeemen

Independent Frum Thinker said...

Anonymous -
If you agree with me that the recall is not in the Frum community's best interest, why are you threatening me? Or are you just trying to give good advice?
If you want to discuss this confidentially, feel free to email me. You'll find a link on my profile.

Reb Yudel -
Definitely a position held by many. But consistent with my thinking, I don’t think Frum Jews should organize such things.

Anonymous said...

This confusion between "power brokers' and the Vaad on one hand, and the Landlord on the other is a wide spread mistake. The Va'ad is full of Machers. There is ZERO overlap between the Va'ad and the Landlord association. And to write that the recall committe should recall the Va'ad (were they elected) is plain STUPID

Independent Frum Thinker said...

You may be correct that there is zero overlap between the two, but from what I have gathered, the average Lakewood resident supports the crackdown on QOL violations, while the LLA basically opposes it.

As for writing that I advise the Recall Committee to recall the Va'ad, you are mistaken.
Here is an exact quote of what I wrote:
"If this is the motivation of the Recall Committee, they should be focusing on restructuring or abolishing the Lakewood Va’ad."
Obviously one can not recall unelected Va'ad members. What I wrote was that if the Recall Committee’s motivation is due to the tax reassessment, they should focus their efforts on eradicating the root of the problem, and not just focusing on one specific part of it.

Anonymous said...

Dear Frum ,
Chas V Shalom, I did not intend to threaten you,sorry you took this the wrong way

Ben Weber said...

Please forgive me. It is to time consuming for me to have a discussion through cyberspace. I posted a reply to your original blog because I had recieved it from the Shopper in form of a letter to the editor asking for my response. A friend then mentiond that it was on your site as well. I welcome the opportunity to speak with you further on this or any other subject. Please feel free to call. My number is listed.


Anonymous said...

please let us know the outcome of your conversation with B Weber.

Anonymous said...

Dear IFT,

Thank you for pointing out Mr. Webber's mistakes in his first reply to you. I was going to do the same, but you presented a much better case with your Lakewood Recall Effort part 2. One thing I'd like to mention, because I was there, has to do with this quote by Webber: "On a side note, a special thanks and support must be given to the planning board members namely Moshe Neiman, Isaac Ackerman, Yechiel Herzl and Yerachmiel Percal who single handedly stood up for the people, although immense pressure from certain forces in town to just rubber stamp the committee’s recommendations was placed on them."

What about Franklin, Gatton, Wise and Banas? I don't recall ANY vote that was split to the point that the above Frum mentioned by Webber were the ones who single handedly won any vote. I forget the exact number, but of the 35 proposed changes to the zoning, only about 5-7 were turned down. A very small percentage. And when they were turned down, it was pretty much unanimous.

Mr. Webber also wrote: "You write about antagonizing elements of the non-Jewish community. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is evident by the fact that members from the senior community signed the original notice and that a Hispanic individual signed on the official petition, that this is not an exclusively “Jewish” issue, but a community wide mission. Most of Lakewood is behind this recall."

According to their own words in the APP, the women were misled. What could be more antagonizing to the non-Jewish community than the misleading of 3 old ladies?

"Most of Lakewood" is what percentage by the way? Or is this just a hasty generalization?


Independent Frum Thinker said...

Anonymous Dec 19, 4:09 –
Thank you for clearing that up. But what then did you mean when you wrote I should stop saying my Dayos?

Ben Weber –
I completely understand how time-consuming it can be to write lengthy responses. Currently I am very busy, but I may make an effort to contact you soon.

Anonymous Dec 20, 2:06 –
If I do get a chance to discuss this with him, I will try to post the outcome.

Anonymous Dec 20, 10:52 –
I see your point regarding the Master Plan Advisory Committee.
What do you mean “I was there”? Were you one of the members?
As for you comment that the women were misled; I was under the impression that they were set-up as a front, but not that they were deliberately misled. Am I mistaken?

Independent Frum Thinker said...

For the record:

I have absolutely no Negius one way or the other in this recall effort.
I am not stating my opinion for any political gain or the like.
Like all the other posts on my blog, I write what I feel is important to point out, regardless of whether it affects me personally or not.

Sara with NO H said...

I love that lakewood is just as dramatic these days as boro park and monroe and willi and skver. It sort of makes me feel like a lot of the people from lakewood can quit chopping us up lol. Sorry I have no idea what comment had to do with the post. Be me moichel?

Anonymous said...

Dear IFT,

Regarding your questions about my post...

I was an audience member at all the hearings.

I do believe they were set up as a front, but I was just quoting from the paper what they said.


Lady Delish said...

Lets continue losing faith in humanity

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Oyyyyy politics.

Independent Frum Thinker said...

Sara with no h –
It’s okay if you feel your comment isn’t directly connected to the post. You still expressed your feelings about Lakewood in general. And besides, anyone coming and reading is appreciated.

Anonymous Dec 21, 2:19 –
It seems you were right. The original three signatories backed down and claimed they were misled. Something doesn’t smell right.

Lady Delish –
No, we are not losing faith in humanity. We are merely pointing out areas where we could use some improvement. Please read the header to my blog. Stay positive!

Social worker/frustrated mom –
Yes, politics does occasionally need to be addressed. However, please check out my most recent post. It is least I think it is.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.