Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Of Mice and Men (and Women)

According to an old army rule, you never look at your enemy’s family photos because, the moment you do, you realize he’s a family man, too. Though I have been a consistent and harsh critic of the Matawan-Aberdeen Board of Education and the Aberdeen Township Council, this past week I was taught a bit of humility.

Last Friday, at the prompting of some readers, I sent an email to James Lauro, Aberdeen’s acting town manager, regarding sewers in Freneau and seawall development. I was greatly, and pleasantly, surprised to receive a phone call from Mayor Sobel in response to the email; it was the first time we ever spoke.

Mayor Sobel was very generous with his time and patiently answered my questions. Regarding the seawall, he explained the township won $262,000 in matching grants, meaning the money will be released when the township allocates matching funds. CME Associates, the township engineer, is presently developing plans to widen the seawall and provide beach access as part of an overall plan to promote the shore. My guess is we’ll hear more about the project in time for next year’s election (there are no matching funds in this year’s budget).

Regarding Freneau, he explained that sewers would cost millions of dollars and the money isn’t there absent development in Aberdeen Forge. I asked about scaling back the road improvement program and using some of that money towards the sewers. The Mayor said he didn’t believe the sewers had sufficient community support to warrant the massive investment, that his understanding was many, if not most, homeowners were content with their septic tanks.

The conversation then segued into other development projects. He explained that the Anchor Glass Area was purchased by Somerset Development but that he was unaware of any real progress. He also warned against relying too heavily on proposed development plans as these projects often result in something very different from the original vision.

I told Mayor Sobel that I was very concerned with the selection of Silver Oak Properties as the primary developer for the Transit Village Project. Not only does Silver Oak have no experience with large-scale development, the owner, William Bocra, is a convicted felon, having gone to prison for three years after attempting to bribe an IRS auditor. I expressed that, given the large number of local developers arrested on bribery charges, including the original Aberdeen Forge developer, Anthony Spalliero, appearances matter.

Mayor Sobel said he understood my concerns but felt the point had become moot. He said it was his understanding that the township no longer has any standing relationship with Silver Oak Properties and that he’s not had any recent discussions with them. He further assured me that “not one shovel” would hit the transit area until the roadways were first expanded, at an estimated cost of $125 million, to handle the increased traffic. Sure enough, a cursory review of payments to the township attorney, Daniel McCarthy, reveals only a few inconsequential payments regarding Silver Oak.

My biggest surprise was Mayor Sobel expressing he had no strong opposition to merging the township with Matawan.

We ended the conversation on good terms and he offered to make himself available for future discussions.

Also last week, Patricia Demarest became President of the district’s Board of Education. We have always been on good terms since I first began attending board meetings but I had become concerned, following the heated election, that our relationship would become strained. Not so. She’s been as warm and open as ever. Though I don’t care for her allies on the school board, I have always admired her for her integrity and desire to help the students of our district. When nobody else on her side of the aisle appeared at Meet the Candidates night, she was there.

When she was elected president, I was the first to applaud her.

I mention Mayor Sobel and Board President Demarest because it takes great character to reach out to one of your harshest and most vocal critics. And I contrast their actions against School Board Member Barbato who retained legal counsel to issue me a cease and desist letter that accused me of committing “liable” [sic].

Although I will likely continue to criticize and dissent, I intend to give every opportunity to the opposition to express their viewpoints. I’m a strong believer in lively debate and I welcome any courtesy the opposition extends towards me.

Mayor Sobel and Board President Demarest, thank you for your time and patience. I look forward to speaking with you in the future.
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17 comments:

mrsb said...

Posts like this are why I devote time to reading your blog.

And thanks for the info on the seawall. As a resident of Cliffwood Beach, this is high on my list of interests.

matawan advocate said...

If as Mayor Sobel states Aberdeen has no connection to Silver Oaks and its felon owner, why is the case against Matawan Borough still pending? What is the purpose of preventing Matawan from developing their side of the Transit Village?

It has always been our position the Matawan Democrats want to merge with Aberdeen. Simply put their inexperience is driving Matawan into financial ruin. We believe they are looking for a merge to save them from a political nightmare. Sharing services would be beneficial to Matawan. However, at present Aberdeen pays the larger share of the School tax. Does Matawan want to take on a larger portion of the School tax? We don't think so. This whole idea of mergng would have to be explored in depth. Meanwhile, Matawan's Borough Council majority is still spending, spending, spending. Last year Matawan's Borough Council reported to the public that Aberdeen was not interested in sharing services. Good to hear Mayor Sobel is open to discussions.

Aberdeener, you never cease to amaze us. Great job!

tilly said...

Aberdeener you are treading in dangerous waters. By allowing yourself to be taken in by Mrs. Demerest you have opened the door for Barza to poison you as they have so many other well meaning freethinkers. Mrs. Demerest is nothing more than a drone for their purposes and has allowed herself to be used as such for years. You haven't been around as long as some of us and don't know all of the facts. For instance, if she really cared so much for kids why did she vote against O'Malley's appointment? Why has she proceeded to inject herself in his presence at every opportunity? Why has she advised him, along with Barza that on the pyramid of importance, the BOE is at the top and the children at the bottom? an ideal that he has openly rejected, by the way. If she cares so much about our kids why weren't her own children enrolled in MARSD until shortly before she was appointed to fill the seat of another member who resigned? Why has she endeavored to get both of her children into alternative high schools rather than having them go to our high school? She has always defended our high school along with Barza. In fact I can't remember a time that she has EVER voted independently from them.Imagine my surprise on Election day, when I went to vote and found Mrs.Demerest working as a poll worker. Why has no one questioned the ethics of a sitting BOE member working the polls at an election that involved a school budget that she had voted to put on the ballot? As the new BOE president, she now has a "wonderful" opportunity to spin for Barza whenever they wish it. Go to meetings and ask her real questions,see if she can answer coherently without needing Barza to help her out. Aberdeener, you are smarter than this, Mrs. Demerest is no friend of yours or any freethinking resident of Aberdeen. As for Mayor Sobel, again, you haven't been around long enough to know all his underhanded dealings over the years. Please don't drink the Kool-aide.

billbradleyjr said...

I too am a Cliffwood Beach resident and as mrsb posted, the seawall is high priority for me as well. Cliffwood has always been the "red headed stepchild" of the Aberdeen neighborhoods. Everything from civic improvement like the seawall, side walks and road repair too other municipal duties like leave and snow removal. Is any one from Cliffwood or Cliffwood Beach even on the Town Council? Thanks for bringing these issues to light Aberdeener.

Anonymous said...

Aberdeener,

Could you shed any light on the rumors that the head of RTI and Assistant Superintendent for
Curriculum and Instruction, Kim Honnick, has been fired from the district?

I'd love to hear the districts plans for the RTI program without her. Who's going to be put in charge?

BARZAMUSTGO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BARZAMUSTGO said...

Demarest is great ! I really like her, she does exactly what she is told to do, like the two stooges that just got elected !

Anonymous said...

Sobel is a liar. He attended a meeting at Town Hall with Bocra as recently as 1 month ago. The meeting was arranged by his friend Norman Kauff. He lies everytime he opens his mouth.

Aberdeener said...

Regarding the Silver Oak lawsuit against Matawan, it appears to have been baseless; Matawan always retained complete discretion to select any developer they wanted. My guess is the lawsuit was a simple means to prevent Matawan from using any other developer. Though quite expensive for Matawan, the developer's son, William Bocra, Jr., graduated top of his class at Columbia Law School.

Anonymous said...

Don't drink the Kool-Aid!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering when someone was going to say something about Pat Demerast working up at the high school election polls. Another one of those "grey areas" I suppose. I wonder what the district lawyer has to say about the ethics of that.

Aberdeener said...

During the election, certain board members did question whether it was appropriate for Pat Demarest to be a poll worker. They were told there were no restrictions on board members so long as they are not candidates for election.

Despite claims of non-partisanship, these school board elections are highly partisan (not to mention the budget) and I believe it is inappropriate for a board member to oversee people casting ballots, whether electronic or provisional.

Unfortunately, it is up to the school board to amend the bylaws and I don't see that happening quite yet.

Tired of NK said...

Lets get this straight people including all of us believe what politicians like Soble tell us ?

If they said to me the sky was burning or the oceans are yellow I would have to go up in a plane and walk to the beach and drink it for myself.

Politicians like we have all over New jersey are low life, lying, baby kissing scum.

That is the truth of politicians !

Everything else is bullshit. And since I did not put his name into the mix NORMAN KAUFF is still and will always be a scumbag. That is also THE TRUTH.

Anonymous said...

Has Pat Demerist ever voted on a school board issue differently then Barzar? No, she is not allowed. If Pat did show up to the meet the candidate night it was just to be the Parrott for Barzar. If my memory is correct she voted against the appointment of the new Superintendent with Barzar.

Aberdeener, next time you speak with our Mayor, ask him why he and his council members were involved in supporting candidates in a non-partisan school board election.

Aberdeener, you are scaring me that you are drinking the kool-aid. There is an anti-serum, it is called reality.

Anonymous said...

Is there real serious discussions on merging Aberdeen & Matawan?

theTruth said...

When I was voting, Demarest pulled me aside and offered me five bucks to vote for Rubino and that other guy. I gladly accepted the money, then spent it at the Doghouse. I believe that Zavorskas used the money to pay for her son's college education.

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