These folks are giving New Jersey a bad name


No matter where you go, you can’t ever escape New Jersey. Take, for example, a little over a week ago when I was waiting at the swim-up bar in a beautiful tropical resort for the bartender to finish blending my pina colada.

The guy standing next to me had a scowl on his face and when he started talking, I pegged him immediately: Jersey.

“Which exit?” I asked him. My out-of-state readers should know that’s how we talk to fellow New Jersey residents to find out where they live — by asking which exit on the New Jersey Turnpike they take to go home.

He was a little surprised, but he didn’t smile. “Totowa,” he said. “Exit 16W.” He didn’t ask my exit number.

“Beautiful day, beautiful place,” I said.

“Total rip-off,” he said.

“Excuse me?” I said. I figured I was standing in the best spot on Earth, and nobody was trying to rip me off.

“The restaurant’s just mediocre and the wine is plonk,” he groused. “Plus, they overprice it by about $2 a glass. St. John’s is a lot better. The hotels are more exclusive and they’ve got decent wine in the restaurants. Of course, for wine, you can’t beat France.”

I thought about giving him the name of a number of fine restaurants within a mile or so, and I also thought of explaining to him that all wine is imported in that locality, but if you want a local specialty, you need to order something with rum.

But I didn’t do either. I just took my delicious drink (with extra cherries) and ambled off to talk with a guy who was having a really nice time with his kids, and had asked me earlier to give him the name of a place where they could see a bioluminescent bay at night.

Before I got out of earshot, the Jersey guy was giving the bartender an earful about the proper way to mix a margarita.

“Make sure to give him the worm,” I muttered, although they don’t make margaritas with mescal (something I did often in my misspent youth). He didn’t hear me because he was still complaining too loudly.

Here’s what I think: If you can’t enjoy a beautiful and perfect day in a beautiful and (nearly) perfect place, you don’t deserve to be there. You should just stay home in Totowa, bitch about the local wine, and quit embarrassing those of us who live in New Jersey and try not to act like rude jerks in public.

• • •

I was down in Long Branch a couple of days before vacation, and I saw lots of yard signs about the upcoming mayoral election. It looked like there were more signs for incumbent Adam Schneider than there were for his challengers, Councilman Brian Unger and political newcomer Robert Krebs.

As much as it pains me to say it, Schneider will probably be elected to a sixth term when the community’s voters go to the polls May 11, and I think that’s a darned shame.

Schneider and his junta have ruled that town with closed ears and an iron fist for years. The only breath of fresh air was when Unger, a thoughtful idealist with a green bent, got elected to the council a few years ago — an outcome that surprised a lot of people, including Schneider and his cronies, who were none too pleased. They’ve managed to steamroll almost every good idea Unger has come up with, but the guy has continued the good fight. I particularly applauded his efforts on historic preservation and acting as the conscience of the council.

I’m sure that the Schneider Team (junta) has done some good things for Long Branch over the years, but in my opinion, the eminent domain debacle in the MTOTSA neighborhood was a deal breaker. Schneider et al. were spearheading nothing but a crass land grab to take private property, by claiming the family homes were “blighted,” and then turn it over to developerswhowanted to build high-priced condos.

The battle turned Long Branch into the national

poster child for eminent domain abuse in the American press, and the city’s position was also roundly condemned by most of the people in New Jersey, including the state’s public advocate. Still, Schneider and his bullies wouldn’t back off until the courts basically told them they had to.

They can spin the whole nasty business to their advantage, but the expense they put on taxpayers in order to fund their mean policies, and the pain and expense they put the nice people in the MTOTSA neighborhood through to protect their homes was simply inexcusable, and shouldn’t be forgiven.

I hope voters in Long Branch come to their senses before May 11. And while I don’t know that much about Krebs, I can say with a clear conscience that either he or especially Unger would be a better choice for Long Branch than another term for Adam Schneider.

For him, six terms would be about six too many.

• • •

And speaking of giving New Jersey a bad name outside its borders, I was horrified recently when “Hardball” host Chris Matthews made reference to an email memo from the New Jersey Education Association about Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to pull the state’s finances back from the edge of disaster, in part by cutting aid to education.

I’m not quoting exactly, but in essence the memo came in the form of a prayer that said, “Dear God: Michael Jackson was my favorite singer, Farrah Fawcett was my favorite actress and Billy Mays was my favorite salesman. Chris Christie is my favorite governor.”

When Matthews called the NJEA on this rude and crass email memo, they lamely said it was an “internal” document and not for public consumption. But as Matthews pointed out, the dumb missive was sent to over 15,000 members of the NJEA, so it was pretty public.

The NJEA hasn’t done much to gain public sympathy in this whole business, but they really outdid themselves with this memo and by getting their organization ridiculed on “Hardball.”

I wonder how their teaching members would explain it if a student asked about it in the classroom.

Dear God, indeed.

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at