Greg Bean

Coda

New Jersey behind China

on eminent domain reform

If Americans want to prevent losing their homes to eminent domain abuse, maybe they ought to consider moving to a place that has a higher regard for the notion of private property rights.

Somewhere like China.

According to a recent story in the Washington Post, lawmakers in China are currently debating a law that would protect private property in that Communist nation. As China grows and becomes more of an economic power, it seems that even the hard-liners in that country are beginning to realize that private property obtained by hard work, like homes and businesses, should be protected to keep the government from taking it away for things like development on a whim. Observers expect the law to pass, marking a real sea change in the thinking of Red China’s rulers.

Maybe the city fathers in Long Branch, New Jersey, could take a lesson.

At Greater Media Newspapers, and especially our newspaper the Atlanticville – which covers the Long Branch area – we’ve been consumed for the last couple of years by the battle waged by the homeowners in the Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace and Seaview Avenue (MTOTSA) neighborhood in Long Branch to keep from losing their homes so that developers can build 185 high-priced condominiums on the properties.

The saga has turned Long Branch into the national poster child for eminent domain abuse, but it has been gratifying to see the number of state and national politicians who have debated the issue and proposed various legislation to reform eminent domain laws.

In New Jersey, lawmakers representing the Long Branch area on both sides of the political aisle have gotten on board.

Last spring, Assemblyman Michael J. Panter (D-12) introduced a bill which called for a 24-month moratorium on the exercise of certain eminent domain powers by state, county and municipal powers. That bill is still stuck in committee and has not passed to date.

Most recently, Assemblyman Sean T. Kean (R-11), speaking at a town meeting in Long Branch, called for changes in the state’s eminent domain laws that would set a more rigorous standard for property condemnations. He said if legislation he has proposed is passed and approved by the voters, “people’s homes could not be taken simply because they are located in a redevelopment zone.”

I like the sound of those proposals, and I have the feeling a lot of others do as well.

The groundswell of public opinion and protective legislation will undoubtedly stop similar abuse in the future, although any new laws might come too late to protect the homeowners in MTOTSA. Unless a lawsuit filed by the MTOTSA homeowners that is currently working its way through the appellate court system is successful – which is not a sure bet – protecting those homes will require a change of heart by Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider and the City Council.

Unfortunately, hearts are apparently changing more rapidly in China than they are in Long Branch – and that’s a crying shame.

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I love politicians, I really do, because they make life interesting and are usually good for a laugh.

Take Marlboro Mayor Robert Kleinberg, for example. Kleinberg, who may be more interested in his image than any local politician I’ve ever come across, was in our office recently to complain about the way he was being covered in our paper, the News Transcript.

He had a laundry list of gripes and apparently didn’t feel they were being taken seriously, because in a fit of pique during the conversation he had with the managing editor that day, he said that he would no longer talk to us. For someone like Kleinberg, who obsesses over everything that’s written about him and tries to spin every story to his best advantage, that’s like saying he’s no longer going to breathe.

Sure enough, his resolve didn’t last long. Moments later, he asked the very editor he was no longer “talking to” to change our editorial policy of not making political endorsements so that we could endorse him in the next election.

(!)

You just can’t make this stuff up.

+ + +

Several people phoned last week, wondering why I called for Monmouth County GOP Chairman Adam Puharic’s ouster or resignation in a recent column. “I thought you were a friend of his,” one said.

Fact is, I do consider Puharic a friend, and although the column in question was highly critical of the membership in the county’s contentious and bitter Republican Party, and of certain anonymous bloggers who fan the flames of divisiveness from positions of shadowy obscurity, I did not call for Puharic to step down.

That falsehood, I’ve since learned, was one of many created and spread by one of the very bloggers I was disparaging. In two separate posts, this blogger – who goes by the name of da Truth Squad and tortures the language with the abandon of a psychotic pulling the wings off flies – has written that I called for Puharic’s resignation in that column.

This is not the first outright lie da Truth Squad has spread about me, or Greater Media Newspapers. At one point, he or she reported that my only background in the newspaper business was a previous position as a food critic. That was fairly amusing. I’ve never been a food critic, and the only thing I know for sure about food is that I really like my wife’s corned beef and cabbage. On another occasion, the Squad tried to tarnish the reputation and impugn the objectivity of one of our reporters by claiming the reporter was related to a county committee person in the town she covered and was slanting stories. That was not so funny, and we took action to stop that lie in its tracks.

This latest lie is another that simply can’t be allowed to go unchallenged. I’ve got a thick skin, and I don’t mind being smacked around for my opinions, but I do take offense at having those opinions blatantly misrepresented to further a blogger’s political agenda.

I get in enough trouble for things I actually say, and don’t need baconheads like da Truth Squad putting words in my mouth.

Gregory Bean is executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.