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Randy Bishop, 2012. Blogfinger file photo.

Randy Bishop, 2012. Blogfinger file photo.

At the last Neptune Township Planning Board meeting, Committeeman Randy Bishop  made the following announcement:

“I just want to thank the Board for the eleven years I served on the Planning Board.

“I will not be the Committee liaison in 2016.

“It appears that I will be appointed to a State position and I would have to leave the Governing Body.*  I would like to stay on, but as the law is, I cannot.

“This will be my last Planing Board meeting.

“I received word today that the appointment that will launch my next mission will take place on January 7, and sent to the floor of the Senate on the 11th.

“I will resign January 26 from the Township Committee.   Dr. Michael Brantley will be taking my place on the Planning Board.”

 

*Governing Body=Township Committee.

 

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Alan Barber (left) admires the great auditorium as Lois Hetfield and Charles Layton tell how Woody Allen once made a movie there. Photo by Mary Walton

Australian journalist Alan Barber (left) admires the Great Auditorium as Lois Hetfield and Charles Layton tell him how Woody Allen once made a movie there. Photos by Mary Walton

By Charles Layton

Alan Barber, who runs the newspaper in Ocean Grove, Australia, turned up in our town on Monday. Lois Hetfield, the Chamber of Commerce’s administrator, showed him the Great Auditorium, and then the two of them, plus a couple of Blogfinger staffers, settled in for some coffee and chit-chat at the Barbaric Bean.

While we were talking Mayor Randy Bishop dropped in, and he and Barber proceeded to swap stories and make comparisons between the two namesake towns at opposite ends of the planet.

Barber is vacationing in New York City. Since he was so close by, he said he couldn’t resist seeing his “sister city,” so he hopped on the North Jersey Coast Line and came on down.

He explained that Australia’s Ocean Grove, southwest of Melbourne, was founded in the 19th century by Methodists from our own Ocean Grove. The coastal area where they established a camp meeting, based on the one in New Jersey, was the domain of Aboriginal Australians at the time.

Barber’s newspaper, the Ocean Grove Voice, is a bi-weekly, or “fortnightly” as they say down under. He was born in South Africa, grew up in the United Kingdom, where he became a newspaper photographer, and moved nine years ago to Australia, where he had friends and a brother. He settled in the area of Melbourne, which he considers Australia’s most interesting city, and then “discovered Ocean Grove by chance, really.”

The spot of land where the first Australian Grovers settled, next to a beach, is now a park, but the Camp Meeting Association still survives there, although it isn’t the dominating presence it is here.

The Australian Ocean Grove was originally a dry town, under a covenant that is still sometimes cited when someone wants to prevent a business from acquiring a license to sell liquor. Still, alcohol is now served in that town’s restaurants and bars, and Barber said the local coffee shop, The Olive Pit, just got a liquor license as well.

That’s not the only difference between here and there. Barber said the beach area there has no sidewalks and no boardwalk, just dunes. The town has two business districts with a total of 60 or 70 shops, plus there is a big shopping mall. A second mall is in the works, he said.

Ocean Grove, Australia, has about 12,000 residents now, but Barber expects it to grow to 25,000 in the next 15 years “because there’s a growth area at the north that’s developing.” Bishop told him that our Ocean Grove has between 5,800 and 6,000 people, but that our population can swell to as many as 21,000 on a busy weekend, counting day trippers and hotel guests. (Hetfield said we have about 500 hotel rooms now.)

Mayor Randy Bishop of Ocean Grove gets the low-down from Alan Barber of Ocean Grove

Barber told Randy Bishop (left) that The Barbaric Bean reminded him of The Olive Pit in Australia. One difference: The Olive Pit just got a liquor license.

Barber was especially impressed by our Great Auditorium, with its seating capacity of 6,500. He said the only performance space in his Ocean Grove is in a little place called The Piping Hot Chicken Shop, which features local blues bands and an occasional visiting band from Melbourne. Bishop wanted to know whether any of the street names in Australia matched those in our town, so we all started ticking off the names of our local streets — Lawrence, Cookman, Heck, Abbott… There was only one match: Ocean Grove, Australia, has an “Inskip,” Barber said.

According to Barber, his Ocean Grove has had a much harder time preserving its historic buildings. Development “is almost a free-for-all at the moment,” he said. People are leveling older structures and building “square boxes,” and there is no historical protection under the law. He said there was a local uprising that managed to keep a McDonald’s from moving in, but the town has allowed a KFC and a couple of smaller chain businesses.

As darkness was falling, Barber caught a train back to New York. He flies home to Australia on Thursday. He invited us to come and visit any time.

Oh, but here is a coincidence. Barber told us that while he was visiting here, the president of our Camp Meeting Association, Dale Whilden, and his family just happened to be visiting Ocean Grove, Australia. Barber said he was told the Whildens had dropped by his newspaper’s office to say hello.

If you want to read Barber’s newspaper, go to http://www.oceangrovevoice.com.

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By Charles Layton

Neptune Township is preparing to switch to “single-stream” recycling.

Chief Financial Officer Michael Bascom made a strong case for it at Monday night’s Township Committee meeting, and the Committee seemed to be on board.

Bascom said the change to this new recycling system could save the Township “tens of thousands of dollars per year” while at the same time making recycling easier for residents.

Under a single-stream system, residents would no longer separate out newspapers, cardboard, mixed paper, metal and plastic. Instead, it would all go into a single container to be collected and sorted later by special processing equipment.

Bascom’s arguments echoed the arguments one finds on various websites promoting the process — that because of its convenience more people will participate, and that the Township will save on landfill costs and also, because of the automation involved, on personnel costs.

Committeeman Eric Houghtaling said that the Township’s public works director, Wayne Rode, was “really for this.”

Bascom said the Township would need to purchase two new automated recycling trucks and a large quantity of new recycling cans, at an overall initial cost of more than $1 million, but that the savings in other areas would probably more than compensate. “At worst it will be a break-even,” he said.

Mayor Randy Bishop said the Township will soon need to buy new recycling trucks anyway, because the old ones are wearing out.

Although most Neptune residents will have to be issued new recycling cans — which look more like regular garbage cans — residents of Ocean Grove would probably continue using the same familiar green cans but with all types of materials commingled rather than sorted. Bishop said the new recycling trucks can’t be used in Ocean Grove “because they can’t reach between the parked cars.” Our recyclables will therefore need to be collected by hand, as now.

Bascom said the Township might have to collect more often in Ocean Grove.

Bishop said an ordinance will be introduced at the Committee’s July 9 meeting to get the process rolling. “Our expectation is that it will take 12 months to implement,” he said.

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By Charles Layton

By this coming Monday — if not sooner — the Democratic Party will probably have made up its mind whether to endorse incumbent Mary Beth Jahn or her challenger, Nicholas Williams, for Neptune Township Committee.

Whichever of those two gets the party’s blessing will have a significant advantage in the June 5 primary, which will decide the party’s candidates in the general election next fall.

Two members of the Township Committee are up for re-election this year: Jahn and Dr. Michael Brantley. Normally, the Neptune Township Democratic Party would have backed those two incumbents, but at its March 24 meeting the party’s district leaders chose to replace Jahn with Williams. That action has caused an acrimonious split within the party, with Jahn refusing to step aside and Mayor Randy Bishop supporting her.

The county party and its chairman, Victor Scudiery, get to make the final call, either reinstating Jahn as the party’s choice or following the endorsement of the Neptune party.

But whatever Scudiery decides, the remaining contender, be it Williams or Jahn, can still appear on the primary ballot, but in a far less favorable position.

In an email on Wednesday to some of her supporters, Jahn said, “I will not know until early next week as to whether the Monmouth County Democrats will choose to endorse me or the Neptune Democrats’ choice, but either way, I will be running in both the primary and general elections.”

Jahn also told The Coaster: “I think the public and citizens of Neptune should decide at the polls who they want to represent them rather than it being brokered by a small handful of people at a meeting.”

Williams has not made any public statements about the controversy.

Any candidate who seeks to be on the ballot must submit a petition signed by at least 18 voters who are registered either as Democrats or independents.  Those petitions have already been submitted to the office of Municipal Clerk Richard Cuttrell, and if one were to judge by the petitions alone, Jahn would seem to have an edge. According to Cuttrell, her petition contains 68 valid signatures. Williams and Brantley filed a joint petition with only 23 signatures. However, Scudiery is not obliged to consider the size of the candidates’ petitions in making his choice.

The backing of the party is important because voters in primary elections tend to be party stalwarts, and many vote the straight party “line.” This is a formidable advantage for those who get listed on the line. Also, a candidate not listed on the party’s line doesn’t get party financial help.

Ocean Grove is one of the bases of Jahn’s support. At least half the names on her petition were the names of Ocean Grovers. Her popularity here is due in part to positions she has taken on controversial Ocean Grove issues. For instance, she took a more determined stand than any other Neptune politician against high-density condo development at the North End. She has also been active in efforts to clean up derelict buildings in the Grove.

Scudiery’s decision is expected to be announced on or around next Monday. Whatever he decides, it seems likely that the power struggle within the Neptune party will not soon end. The party’s current municipal chairman, James Mowczan, is said to be on the side of Williams in this dispute, while Mayor Bishop is in Jahn’s camp. Feelings are running very high.

The Republicans, meanwhile, have had a much easier time choosing their candidates. They will be Donald Beekman and Kevin Sheehan.

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For background on the Jahn-Williams controversy, go here.

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By Charles Layton

The man who is seeking to replace Mary Beth Jahn on the Neptune Township Committee was himself replaced Monday night. The Township Committee voted not to reappoint Nicholas Williams to his seat on the board of the Neptune Housing Authority.

It was an unmistakable signal that Committeewoman Jahn and Mayor Randy Bishop are prepared to fight back against those in the local Democratic Party who wish to remove Jahn.

Jahn has said the party’s municipal chairman, James Mowczan, is opposing her candidacy for reelection because of a dispute over an important job appointment. Jahn has refused to support the hiring of James Manning Jr., a former Neptune mayor, as the township’s next business administrator when Philip Huhn retires from that post at the end of this year. Manning, she says, is not qualified. However, Williams, who seeks to replace Jahn on the Township Committee, is thought to favor Manning’s appointment, although he has made no public statements to that effect. (An attempt to reach Williams for comment was unsuccessful.)

Nick Williams -- removed from the Housing Authority board.

It was a tense moment at Monday night’s meeting when the Committee came to consider whether to reappoint Williams to the housing board. Jahn moved to appoint Beverly Holland, a former Neptune Board of Education president, instead of Williams. Mayor Bishop asked if anyone wished to second that motion. When the other three committee members — Eric Houghtaling, Kevin McMillan and Dr. Michael Brantley — remained silent, Bishop said, “All right, then, I’ll second it.”

When the vote was taken, Bishop and Jahn voted for Holland’s appointment. The other three abstained. Gene Anthony, the Township’s attorney, then ruled that, according to the law, when members of a public body abstain not based on a vested interest, their abstentions are treated as in agreement with the majority of those voting. And so, Jahn’s motion passed. By abstaining, Houghtaling, McMillan and Brantley were able to finesse an uncomfortable situation, allowing Bishop and Jahn to have their way without themselves overtly defying other leaders of their party.

Houghtaling, McMillan and Brantley appeared to be trying to avoid taking sides in what has quickly, over the past three days, developed into an open war among Neptune democrats, with Bishop and Jahn on one side and Mowczan and Williams on the other.

After the vote, no more was said about the matter — until time came for public comments from the floor. At that point, Kennedy Buckley of Ocean Grove rose and delivered a speech denouncing the Neptune Democratic Party leadership for trying to pressure the Township Committee into hiring Manning. He also praised Jahn for standing up against that pressure. “It just stinks to high heaven,” he said. He appealed to other members of the Committee to follow Jahn’s example. His appeal was answered with a tense silence.

Much would seem to be riding on the outcome of this struggle over Jahn’s seat on the Committee. Here is some background:

Jahn and Brantley are both up for reelection this year. On Saturday morning, Neptune’s Democratic district leaders, in a meeting at Mom’s Kitchen, voted — apparently by a narrow margin — to recommend that Brantley, but not Jahn, be given special priority on the ballot in the party’s June 5 primary election. In place of Jahn, the district leaders voted to recommend that Williams be listed on the party’s “line” on the ballot.

However, the final decision about that lies with the County Democratic Party and its chairman, Victor Scudiery. If Scudiery decides in favor of Williams, Jahn’s chances of winning the primary will be diminished, because she would lose the more favorable ballot position as well as the campaign support of the party. However, if Scudiery rejects the Neptune party’s recommendation and sticks with Jahn, that would constitute a defeat for Mowczan, for Williams and probably also for Manning. (The Republicans are not considered to have much chance in the general election, no matter who the Democrats’ candidates turn out to be.)

In case Scudiery rules against her, Jahn was gathering signatures on a petition Tuesday to assure that she has a place on the primary ballot.

The outcome of this struggle could effect Ocean Grove in tangible ways. Although Ocean Grove is a Republican stronghold, Jahn has developed a following here because of her positions on some important local issues. These include the North End redevelopment and the problem of derelict buildings in Ocean Grove.

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For more information and background on the local party’s move against Jahn’s candidacy, go here.

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By Charles Layton

District leaders of the Neptune Township Democratic Party voted Saturday not to back incumbent Mary Beth Jahn for reelection to the Township Committee.

The party chose instead to go with Nick Williams, a former school board member and the current chairman of the Neptune Housing Authority.

The action came at a meeting of the local party’s 35 district leaders at Mom’s Kitchen. However, the vote does not mean Jahn won’t be on this spring’s primary ballot; it is a recommendation to the County Democratic Party and its chairman, Victor Scudiery, who will ultimately decide who get’s the “line” — i.e., the party’s official blessing — in a primary race.

In addition to Williams, the local party voted to recommend incumbent Dr. Michael Brantley. The seats of both Brantley and Jahn are up for grabs this year. Whichever two Democratic contenders end up on the general election ballot this fall are considered likely to win, given the Republicans’ relatively weak position in Neptune. The vote by the Democrats’ district leaders was evidently quite close. One source told us that Brantley came in only one vote ahead of Jahn. (The party’s municipal chairman, James Mowczan, told us the vote tally was not made public, and that he didn’t know how close it was.)

When contacted by Blogfinger on Saturday, Jahn did not wish to comment, except to say, “My interests always lie with what’s best for Neptune.” Her colleague on the Township Committee, Mayor Randy Bishop, also declined to comment. Bishop nominated Jahn and spoke on her behalf at Saturday’s meeting.

What happens next is complicated. In order for Jahn to get on the Democratic primary ballot, she must submit a petition with at least 18 signatures. County chairman Scudiery does not decide which of the two contenders, Jahn or Williams, goes on the primary ballot — they both do — but Scudiery does decide which of them gets the endorsement of the party establishment. This is considered quite important, as it determines which candidate gets the more favored ballot position.

The New Jersey primary elections are scheduled for June 5. Only persons registered with a given party may vote in that party’s primary.

UPDATE, Sunday, March 25: In response to speculation on this website as to the reason for Saturday’s action, Jahn wrote that it was prompted by “my refusal to hire an unqualified former Township Committee member” to replace Neptune Business Administrator Phil Huhn, who plans to retire later this year. That former Committee member is James Manning Jr., who has expressed interest in the job. It had been announced that the Township Committee would hold a special meeting last Tuesday to interview candidates, including Manning. However, that meeting was suddenly cancelled without public explanation. To read about Manning and the job position, go here. To read Jahn’s complete statement on that subject, see the comments string to this article.

Meanwhile, in an interview on Sunday, the Neptune Democrats’ municipal chairman, James Mowczan, said he felt sure the leadership of Monmouth County Democrats would not go against the wishes of the Township’s party leaders. “It’s pretty much a done deal that they [Nick Williams and Michael Brantley] will get the party line,” he said. In the years Vic Scudiery has been the county leader, Mowczan said, “he’s never gone against the recommendation of the locals.”

If Mowczan is correct, the June 5 primary ballot would list Williams and Brantley as the endorsed representatives of the Democratic Party. Any other candidate (which is to say, Jahn) would be listed lower on the ballot, a significant disadvantage, he said.

Asked about Jahn’s statement that the local party turned against her over the question of whether James Manning would be the Township’s next business administrator, Mowczan said he hadn’t heard anything about that. “I don’t think it was anything against Mary Beth as much as it was for Nick Williams,” he said.

He said it was “not common” for local party leaders to oppose the candidacy of an incumbent, but that it was also “not unheard of.”

Further update: After reading the above comments, Mary Beth Jahn said that Mowczan told her he was allowing the challenges to her seat “because I did not give him a promise to support Jim Manning for business administrator.”

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