Monday, December 11, 2006

Lakewood Recall Effort

A lot of talk has been expended over the mysterious effort in Lakewood, NJ to recall one of the non-Jewish Committee members on the Lakewood Township Committee.

For those who may be unfamiliar; here is a synopsis of the story.

In Lakewood there are five Township Committee members, two of whom are Frum, who decide all issues of the town.

A recall petition has been filed by three non-Jewish women, who have admitted to being used as a front for people in the Frum community, to recall one of the non-Jewish Committee members. As of yet, no one has stepped forward to admit to being behind the recall effort, and why it was launched.

Now here is my “independent Frum thinking” opinion on the matter.

The prevailing belief is that these women are being set-up by real estate investors and developers who are upset with this Committee member’s recent crackdown on quality of life violations, and for not automatically supporting the “Master Plan” for Lakewood.

To those unfamiliar with the dynamics of Lakewood, there are a plethora of homes rented out by Frum people to all kinds of drug addicts, lawbreakers, and violent people. This has reached crisis proportions, with people being assaulted, robbed, and hissed at in broad daylight with total impunity. A public outcry ensued, resulting in the Township Committee finally cracking down on Quality Of Life violations. Many landlords are bearing the brunt of this crackdown, since their slum-like homes are being targeted by QOL enforcement agents.

The Master Plan was an initiative to decide on the zoning for the remaining areas of Lakewood not yet officially zoned. The committee chosen to study the issue proposed allowing all thirty five remaining areas to be zoned for high-density building. Not a surprising conclusion from a committee comprised mostly of developers, builders, and engineers. There has been much public outcry against the radical urbanization called for in the Master Plan, and some of the proposals have been rejected.

Understandably, some developers and power-brokers are incensed with the two aforementioned happenings, especially in a town that was always known to be “in the pocket” of developers and builders.

If these are the reasons behind the recall effort, I strongly oppose it.

The average person in Lakewood, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, strongly supports the aggressive targeting of QOL violators, and also strongly oppose the total and complete urbanization of their community.

Also, if these are the reasons, why should they take out all their angst on this particular Committee member? After all, he is only one of five decision makers. No decision can be taken alone, so in any particular issue he must have had support from other Committee member’s to pass his initiative.

From a Frum perspective too I strongly oppose this move. The age-old mode of behavior for Jews in Galus was to keep as low a profile as possible, and certainly not to overtly antagonize the Goyim. Although this approach is sadly becoming less and less adhered to, (perhaps the subject of a future post), nevertheless it still remains the traditional Frum way of life as practiced for two thousand years. To organize a recall of a politician, not on grounds of public safety or the like, is stepping way over the line. Why can’t they just wait until the next election and endorse another candidate? What is the pressing need to antagonize elements of the non-Jewish community to such a degree?

Ironically, in the last election, a Frum member of the community was running against this particular Committee member, on a popular platform calling for bringing wasteful spending under control. Although many assumed that the Lakewood Va’ad (a group of business leaders who set policy for the Frum community) would endorse the Frum candidate, they strangely endorsed this particular Committee member instead. This is quite a bizarre twist, considering that the Lakewood Va’ad is basically comprised of developers and builders.

And finally, why are the ones behind the recall effort remaining in the shadows? If they have legitimate concerns with this particular Committee member, let them come out in the open and explain themselves. Such cowardly behavior does not lend one to believe that there are justifiable issues at stake.

Feel free to comment away, whether you live in Lakewood or not.


Anonymous said...

Firstly, this particular committman is a tremendous thorn in the frum communities side. He is extremely pro cop (his daughter was the cop who insisted on charging Zimmerman), and in general is NOT a friend of the frum community in any way shape or form. If you think Lakewood cops are doing a great job, he’s your man. Secondly, the Va’ad is 100% unconnected to this recall. It is by a few hotheads. Thirdly, as one who looked into the landlord/quality of life issue, there is more to what the landlords are saying than the man in the street thinks. For example, did you know that the local judge ordered EVERY landlord (35+) to show up to court even though only a few cases could be heard? And even thought the entire matter was under appeal in Toms River, and so no verdict could be reached. Or that every Wednesday township inspectors issue tickets to just about each and every house on RT 88, whether warranted or not. BTW, there is VERY little overlap between builders/developers and landlords.

Anonymous said...

Dear Independent;
I reside in Lakewood and I am also involved in the politics here. I too agree that this recall should not be completed. But should be abandoned. Lets wait and vote someone else in if we disagree with his viewpoints or his actions. As you have stated, there are FIVE members of the township council - not just one.

Personally, I would like to see this community try and pull itself together. It seems to me that there are many who are trying to bring more division to us. I believe just because we are different, does not mean we cannot get along.

I would also like to see more in the way of seminars, etc., to learn about my fellow residents here in Lakewood. Teach me what you think and why - teach me your traditions and how these traditions may effect your everyday personal life and decisions you make.

I was personally very offended by Mr. Weisberg's comments about the "bellyachers" here in Lakewood. These "bellyachers" are very involved in their community. And these "bellyachers" devote a great deal of time and effort trying to make it the best community we live in.

I can't imagine using such derogatory statements against others simply because we may disagree on something. Its not fair. You are entitled to you opinion and your beliefs - That doesn't mean I should belittle you for that or hate you either. I wouldn't have it in me.

I will never judge one because they may wear a scarf on their head; a white collar, a yamuka, star of David, or a gold cross around your neck. I will judge you by your actions; by your heart; and by your kindness or cruelty.

I don't feel its fair to put everyone into one basket - we are so very different. I don't think it should be me against you. I think it should be US for US. That way this community can grow instead of being torn down.

I am against illegal immigration. Not LEGAL immigration. Theres a huge difference. I feel the illegal community is bringing a great deal of our troubles here to this community. Yes, my ancestors came from other lands as well; but they didn't steal their way here. And yes, they had a very difficult life in their native lands. They didn't break the laws of this nation to come here and hide in the shadows - they earned their way here, carried all they owned on their backs - and worked hard to become American citizens, the legal way. I am very proud of their accomplishments which enables ME to be here in America. I am only the second generation to be born here, my children are the third.

We are all important here in Lakewood. No matter what people you wish to be affiliated with. Or if you want to be connected to none. We can all make a difference. We can all be more tolerant. We can all make the extra effort to really show we care for all of G-d's creation. That not one of us is better than the other. Abrahams people are Abrahams people. Yeshua's people are Yeshua's. This should not keep us from joining together to become ONE community instead of many bucking heads with each other...

humble angel
lakewood, NJ

chaverah said...

whoah, anonymous 2, and who might you be?

Yehuda Shain said...

The latest rumbling is;
A recall on the Mayor, surprised? NO! Why not? Smell the coffee- He's afraid to stand up for the truth-whether it affects one group or another or everyone.

steve said...

"To those unfamiliar with the dynamics of Lakewood, there are a plethora of homes rented out by Frum people to all kinds of drug addicts, lawbreakers, and violent people. This has reached crisis proportions, with people being assaulted, robbed, and hissed at in broad daylight with total impunity."
I visit Lakewood on many occasions and I think this has to end already. It is time to clean up Lakewood. I am afraid to walk through some of those streets in broad daylight. And to think that frum people would rent their homes to such scum. I suggest that they sell these homes to developers that will renovate them. They are putting the Jewish community in danger just to make a few dollars from government programs. Calling them slumlords is too mild of an adjective. I will leave it at that.

Anonymous said...

I don't usually bother to write comments, but I feel that once you're bringing up an issue for debate, at least get and give the details accurately:
I'll start from the last part of your post:
* The Vaad, while perhaps not of like mind with many, is no longer made up of developers and builders. Don't rely on me, just look down the list. They took some people off a few years ago and put a few yungeleit or "commoners" in their place.(To answer your possible question, I have no affiliation with the Vaad).Some members are: Aaron Kotler (may be developing Cedarbridge and Jamesway for BMG, but not housing development in town), R' Mendel Rabinowitz, Meir (?) Levy, Dr. Cohen, Rabbi Blech, R' Yitzchok Halberstam, etc. I don't recall by heart the rest, but check it out.

(* I don't know if this was the reason, but the Vaad usually votes for an incumbent, and frankly, I don't think we should have more than two frum committeemen. Like you said, we're in galus and should not be seen in a decision-making capacity.)

* The Master Plan was not zoning areas previously "unzoned." There was already zoning for sparse development, or commercial, and this was changed. While I agree that some if not many of the zones suggested were denser zoning, I don't think there's anything wrong with rezoning an area from 1-house per 2 acres ("A-1") to 1-house per 1-acre (R-40) (That's one house on a piece of land 40,000 sq acres big!) in a town with people searching for houses for their children or themselves.Other changes made industrial (M-1) zones into residential/office/ professional zones that would require a minimum of office/professional. True that this would allow for townhouse-type development together with the offices, it wasn't making a sparse residential zone into a dense one. It was industrial. A few of the 35 zone changes were of thes types. (Again, don't rely on me, check it out!)

*Finally, contrary to popular belief and mind-numbed following, check the list of masterplan members.It was NOT comprised mostly of "developers, builders, and engineers," as is oft-repeated.

There is one engineer (Brian Flannery) (Kevin Kielt apparently did not have a vote -ask him- but just kept record and advised), I count one developer (Ralph Zucker), I count three to five people involved in real-estate purchasing/dealing. That's 5-7 people out of 29!! Even if you throw in a couple of more names and "qualify" them as having a conflict of interest, such as land use attorneys (two), that's still a large majority of non-builders/dense-housing lovers! Not only that, but looking down the list, I count about 16 non-frum or non-Jewish members.

Bottom line to everyone is, don't assume everything you hear (and especially as quoted by the APP or other reporters) is accurate. Be an "independent thinker" and find out for yourself!

lakewooder said...

i have lived in lakewood for the better part of my life. i am tired of the way things have degenerated in terms of QOL. i am all for cracking down on the slumlords and others holding on for the buck. you want to live here? good. do it. you want to make a bunch of money? become a daytrader. dont destroy (yes destroy) other peoples' quality of life for your greed. you wouldnt want your next door neighbor dong it now would you? didnt think so....

lakewooder said...

the notion that because one is not a developer themselves that they should consequently be considered unaffiliated is quite simply childish or misleading. take our pick...

Anonymous said...

There was an attempted mugging last night by 6 and forest. At about 1:05am 3 spanish men jumped out of a car and demanded money from a bocher walking there. Luckily someone driving by saw what was happening and intervened. WE MUST DEMAND POLICE PATROLS AT NIGHT. THERE HAVE BEEN ENOUGH INCIDENTS TO WARRANT THAT THIS IS A UNFORTUNATE NECESSITY.

Ben Weber said...

Dear, Anonymous

It is a shame that you decided to hide behind the cloak of anonymity. Your letter is very well written, and deserves a reply. In my opinion it would have more legitimacy if you had signed your name. After reading this reply I hope you will realize that your assumptions are incorrect and that you will actually join our effort and write letters supporting our campaign.

First, let’s take a look at some of the assumptions that you make in your letter.

You start your letter about a “mysterious effort”. It is public information that a recall petition was filed with the township clerk on Thursday December 8th. Two Orthodox Jews and a Hispanic signed this petition.

You write. “The prevailing belief is that these women are being set-up by real estate investors and developers etc…” I ask you, whose belief is that? That was Cunliffe’s belief as stated in the newspaper. No one else voiced such an opinion. The fact is that it is asserted that Cunliffe and the builders are still in business together. His current posturing is just a smokescreen.

You also write about the quality of life issue. This recall committee certainly has no problem with anyone wanting a good quality of life (as long as what is being done is legal). Just as a thought, if our community did not employ these “drug addicts, lawbreakers, and violent people” and their wives, a big part of this problem would be solved.

You write about the master plan being “an initiative to decide on the zoning for the remaining areas of Lakewood”. For the record, your information is incorrect. The fact is that the master plan advisory committee was set up to advise the planning board and the township of changes that should be made if any.

Currently, every area in Lakewood is zoned for something, be it 1 acre lots, 2 acre lots, ½ acre lots, townhouses, commercial etc….
The thirty-five zones you write about are all currently zoned for something.

It was the master plan advisory committee, which advocated changing these zones to higher density. By the way, it is asserted that, Charles Cunliffe is the one who appointed most of the developers and builders to this committee, as repay.

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.
Isn’t it amusing how Mr. Cunliffe, who appointed most of the committee, is now openly criticizing it? It is for this very reason that the recall is targeted against him. He has constantly misled the people since he was elected.

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.

You write about a “Frum member of the community” running against Cunliffe. 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.

Once again this is not an exclusively Jewish initiative. There are currently many volunteers in four of the senior villages waiting for the go ahead. Why? Because they realize that Mr. Cunliffe has constantly manipulated the truth for his benefit. His full list of misdeeds would take up too many pages to print, so I will share a few with you.

About a month after he was re-elected I got my re-evaluation notice in the mail. I don’t know how you felt about it but I was sick to my stomach. Seniors in the Original Leisure Village started crying. It is asserted that this re-evaluation mailing was delayed by four weeks only because of heavy-handed arm-twisting by him. Why? Because he knew how damaging this would be to his reelection effort.

Secondly, he himself appointed the master plan advisory committee and now he screams out against it? How hypocritical can you be?

Thirdly, everywhere you turn in the township there is immense overspending of township funds. It is asserted that this can be directly traced back to his heavy-handed tactics on the committee. While you claim he is only one of five, he happens to be the driving force (senior democrat in majority) on the committee.

Lastly, let me remind you that this is America.... a country operated "by the people, for the people". The laws have been written in this country to protect the people and there is a law on the books that gives the people the right to recall someone they have elected to represent them if they believe they have made policies that will cause them harm. The recall laws have been written in such a way as to make the procedure difficult so as not to be used frivolously. But the law is there and in this case, we believe it should be utilized for the well being of the majority of the people in the town. 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.

This man must be stopped now!


Ben Weber
Committee to recall Charles Cunliffe

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben;

Very interesting comments. Personally, I would like to learn much more about them and their validity. No one has ever come to my neck of the woods and asked to sign any Petition. But the same holds true for anyone visiting our neighborhood for the affordable housing either. So I'm not surprised.

I wonder if there is anyway you can share more with us, or a way you can share how we can find out more information on our own about this very important topic.

Not sure if anyone hear listens to Bob Levy of WOBM, personally, I'm not really a fan - but I heard from someone else that he recently spoke about the corrupt politics here in Ocean County. Must have been an interesting spot.

I look forward to learning more about Mr. Cunliff through your own research or knowledge.

Thank you Ben,

humble angel

Anonymous said...

Yeshivishe scumbags always do things in the cloke of darkness, how long have you been living here, IFT. You need to deal with them the same way as cockroaches, shile a flashlight on them..

Independent Frum Thinker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Independent Frum Thinker said...

Anonymous Dec 12, 12:06 AM –
Although this Committee member may be pro-cop. That is not the reason for the recall, as evidenced by B. Weber’s (one of those behind the recall effort) admission below.

Humble Angel –
Thank you for your beautiful note. Yes, we definitely should try to pull this community together, and learn to work together peacefully and respectfully.

Reb Yudel –
Who knows what’s next in store?

Steve –
I agree that it has to end. Monetary gain is not the only (sic) consideration in business.

Anonymous Dec 12, 3:36 –
Although the Va’ad does indeed include members not connected to developers and builders, the developer/builder/big-business faction definitely outweighs any other faction. I have yet to hear of a Va’ad decision that was to the benefit of the people in place of the usual power-brokers.

Thank you for correcting my error regarding the Master Plan. However, it essentially makes no difference. The Master Plan Committee called for the radical urbanization of Lakewood, and Cunliffe, at least apparently, had the guts to stand up to their recommendations.

As for the Master Plan Committee itself; although there are many members who are not developers, builders, and engineers, still they pushed their agenda through quite successfully. It was even reported by the Ocean County Observer (11-03-06) that members of the Master Plan Committee admitted to being pressured into going along with the developers/builders/engineers’ ideas. Here is a link:
Copy and paste it into your browser.

Lakewooder –
You are right. Like I wrote in response to Steve, there are other considerations besides money.

Ben Weber –
I will attempt to reply to your comments in a separate post very soon.

Anonyomous Dec 18, 5:35 –
First of all, whoever said I live in Lakewood?
Secondly, I must repudiate your strong comment regarding Yeshivishe people. The overwhelming majority of them (us, I should say) are decent, fine people. Please do not allow the acts of the few to corrupt your view of the many.

Thank you all for reading and commenting!

Independent Frum Thinker

Moshe Y. Gluck said...

Are we to understand that your initials are CHT, not, IFT - as some think?


Independent Frum Thinker said...

Moshe Gluck -
Someone forwarded my letter, with permission, to The Lakewood Shopper. Why they chose to use the initials CHT, is between the one who forwarded it and The Lkwd Shopper. I really have no idea.

Anonymous said...

Some additional comments regarding the recall by Mr. Weber, since there is an article about it in the Ocean County Observer today.

I spoke with a friend a week or two ago, sometime after Ben Weber posted on your blog that seniors in the OLV started crying after they received their reevaluation notices. I asked how much her taxes went up, since I knew mine (I don't live in OLV) went up $600. She said hers basically stayed the same. The value of her home/property went up but because the tax rate came down, she is staying about the same, certainly nothing to cry about.

I find it completely hysterical that the committee to recall is offering $1 per signature to those collecting signatures! They're like paid telemarketers! Motivation should not be money if committee to recall members are truly upset with the status quo.


Independent Frum Thinker said...

Interesting information. Thanks for weighing in.

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