Pay ’til it hurts, and then pay some more

CODA

GREG BEAN

You have to wonder when the taxpayers in Long Branch will drag out the torches and pitchforks, then march down to city hall and drag some politicians out of their lair for an old-fashioned monster bash.

Those politicians have committed so many outrages against their citizenry that they’ve certainly got it coming.

The latest sad twist in the city’s eminent domain land-grab saga came last week, when a federal appeals panel said a jury had been absolutely right in awarding $2 million to three homeowners on Seaview Avenue. The city had appealed that jury verdict, of course, because Long Branch — which is facing serious budget troubles, like every other municipality in New Jersey — doesn’t have a spare $400,000 (the difference between what the owners wanted and what the city wanted to pay) just lying around (Well, who knows? Maybe they do and just haven’t mentioned it). But the appeals panel said, no dice. Pay up.

Had they asked me for my advice (which I’ve given them repeatedly in this column over the years), they would have dropped this thing a long time ago, before it got to the point where it looks like taxpayers will have to pay for even more foolishness.

Led by Mayor Adam Schneider and a rubber stamp council (not Brian Unger, the lone voice of reason in that bunch), the city had lowballed the property owners, who did not fight when Long Branch took their properties (that old “blighted” neighborhood thing again). But they did dispute the amount the city wanted to pay.

They sued, and a couple of years ago, a jury gave ’em everything they were asking for. Thus the appeal, and thus the $400,000 soon to come from taxpayers’ pocketbooks (where else would it come from?).

Keep in mind that this isn’t the first time courts have slapped Long Branch politicians around. Nearly everyone in this state remembers the MTOTSA imbroglio and the five years of litigation those homeowners had to go through to save their homes from being taken by eminent domain so private developers could put up high-priced condominiums. The city eventually had to settle that one by dropping the eminent domain actions and agreeing to pay $435,000 in attorney fees to the homeowners (Do you taxpayers remember that one? Did it sting a bit?). Oh yeah. The city also agreed to install new streetlights and repave the homeowners’ streets.

That case made Long Branch the national poster child for eminent domain abuse, but it apparently didn’t teach the Schneider cabal a darned thing.

Maybe they’re incapable of learning. It just might take that mob with pitchforks to get their attention.

• • •

According to a story by The Associated Press and carried by NPR, New Jersey pastor the Rev. Cedric Miller of the Living Word Christian Fellowship is telling his flock to quit using Facebook.

Miller said he’s been helping married couples work out the difficulties caused by the social networking site for a year or so, because one, or both, of the partners found an old girlfriend or boyfriend on Facebook and got in trouble as a result.

“What happens is someone from yesterday surfaces, it leads to conversations and there have been physical meet-ups,” Miller said. “The temptation is just too great.”

(Meet-ups?)

Apparently, Miller isn’t the only one who’s noticed this danger. According to the AP story, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says Facebook is “the number one site for online divorce evidence.” And a recent article in the UK newspaper, The Telegraph, referenced an online divorce site that said 20 percent of their divorce filings mentioned Facebook as one of the things leading to the breakup.

So what does this mean for you, dear readers?

Well, ladies, if your husband says he’s on Facebook all the time, but claims he only uses it to trade sports gossip, he might be lying. He might be rekindling his romance with the gal he took to the senior prom, the hussy who’s still using the photo of her in that prom dress that looks like it was made from furniture upholstery and that other-worldly bouffant hairdo as her profile picture.

And, gentlemen, if your significant other says she only spends so much time on Facebook tending her crops on FarmVille, she just might have found that lifeguard she met on Cape Cod, where her family vacationed the year she turned sweet sixteen. You know the guy I’m talking about. The one who taught her how to make s’mores on the campfire. The same geek who taught her the words to “Kumbaya,” and how to play all three chords on the guitar (“Hold your fingers here. Press just a little harder”). She might be making plans to meet him around the campfire again right now.

Or they might not. They really might be using Facebook to share their picks for the weekend games or swapping pigs and chickens on FarmVille. And if so, there’s nothing to worry about.

Still, there are apparently some of you out there who have used Facebook to reconnect with an old flame. You know who you are.

• • •

If you’re like most Americans, you’re either planning your Thanksgiving menu or thinking about the meal you’re going to eat. But it seems like this year, we haven’t seen nearly as many stories about the lebenteen zillion calories the averageThanksgiving dinner contains, and how long it will take you in the gym to work them all off.

Maybe that’s because after recent national stories saying that 30 to 40 percent of Americans are obese, and the percentage is probably heading to the 50 or 60 percent range, the folks in the media just figure the fat train has already left the station. Or maybe they’re just saving all those stories up for the day before Thanksgiving.

So here’s what I suggest. Let’s just take a break from all news this week (except this paper, of course) so we won’t see those stories and feel guilty about what we’re about to do. And then we can gather with family and friends to enjoy our dinners.

I’m feeling thankful already. And yes! I’d truly love another helping of stuffing. And pie, don’t forget the pie.

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