Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An Agenda in Plain Sight

“The fact is, we have all been a good deal puzzled because the affair is so simple”
- Edgar Allen Poe, The Purloined Letter

I have recently been accused by several people of having an agenda. The allegations are true. I do have an agenda, but not the one they suspect. Like Edgar Allen Poe’s Purloined Letter, my agenda has been hiding in plain sight all along. From the township, I want honest service. From the school district, I want parents to be empowered to determine the best education for their children. Once both goals are met, I’d like to retire from blogging.

During the recent school board elections, there was a “scandal” when one of the board members solicited campaign contributions from school employees. The only reason it was considered a scandal was because it violated a BOE bylaw. In contrast, Aberdeen Township doesn’t haven any constraints against seeking campaign contributions from township employees.

In the 2003 municipal elections, the democratic candidates had Township Attorney Norman Kauff’s wife help manage the campaign (she was one of two people authorized to sign checks). How could anyone expect the Township Attorney to promote and defend the township’s interests when his wife takes a leadership role in the local Democratic Party? Worse, it was common knowledge that Kauff’s wife was operating on his behalf.

Then came the stories of pay-to-play, a developer’s tax deal, and a councilman being paid “consulting” fees for his own re-election campaign. Not one response from the township to defend or explain why. If silence is consent, these misdeeds must have had the township’s blessings.

In the school district, it’s been a battle against the bureaucracy. Spending is out of control. Student performance is in the bottom 25% for the county. And the district’s big idea is Response to Intervention (RTI).

After being presented evidence that RTI was more likely to hurt students than help them, the district chose to forge ahead. Following the political saw that good news doesn’t wait, the results from RTI must be quite troubling.

The district had initially agreed to provide preliminary results last March. That has since been postponed to September. Meanwhile, without any firm evidentiary basis the program works, RTI has been fully funded for another year.

What’s my agenda? I want parents to decide what’s in their children’s best interest. I want to know that my elected representatives are acting in our best interests. I want to spend more time writing novels and screenplays that nobody wants to read.

My sole political allegiance is to our community. In last year’s municipal elections, I voted for both Democrats and Republicans. I’ve been a fierce critic of all school board members.

Last month, I reluctantly adopted a temporary policy to tone down the articles, not target any council member, and restrict comments to those with aliases. Since then, readership participation has dwindled to a trickle.

At the end of this week, I will gradually remove those restrictions. Some of the articles will be taking a sharper tone. No public person will be immune from criticism. Readers will once again be able to post anonymous comments.

That does not mean there will be zero standards. Comments attacking "private" individuals or using outrageously offensive language remain forbidden. Nor will I allow commenters to intimidate others from posting comments. In the coming weeks, I hope to develop a comments policy similar to the one at

I will also begin opening the blog to other voices. has always encouraged opposing viewpoints but now I wish to invite others to publish articles, both news and opinion, as well.

All people are now welcome to submit articles of relevance, particularly our public servants. Any person wishing to submit an article only needs to email me at, include his name, a one-line bio (i.e. “Plumber, 20-year Resident of Aberdeen”), and a phone number to authenticate he is who he claims to be. No anonymous articles will be accepted.

For those people who feel they’ve been unfairly attacked and unable to defend themselves, this should remove any perceived barriers. Particularly, elected officials will be able to have their voices heard, unedited and unfiltered, through this website.

Opposing viewpoints will always be given special consideration. While I am grateful for and encouraged by those who share my views, I prefer open debate.

To that end, I will also be creating a resources page. Many people have been wondering where I get my information. There's no secret. I will post the resources I use including websites and sample OPRA requests.

Lastly, our elected representatives have been able to ignore this blog because relatively few people read it. Many have also engaged in a whispering campaign, hoping to neutralize the blog before it grows large enough to have a real impact.

I intend to begin marketing the blog later this year. I think this blog reaches 150 homes in Aberdeen, 2% of households. My goal is to reach 10%. If I’m going to be judged, let it be by my own words and actions.

Aberdeen has such awesome potential. I look forward to the day I can relax and witness its triumphs.
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Anonymous said...

Interesting ideas... not much lately on info that I have seen questioned on this blog before..... You seem to do a good job investigating into people of town - what about these issues ALWAYS BEING DISCUSSED by our residents, I know I have lived here over 30 years and am in a position where I come accross alot of townspeople.....

Answer these questions with a post:

1. Why are there so many banks in town ? 12 at last count - no chain restaurants or BIG BUSINESS since the old chevy dealership...

And what about the old factory on Cliffwood Ave. - THE TAX REVENUE POSSIBILITIES !!!!!!!!!! What is going on with that area? Heard rumors I do not like....

What about the stalling of the Transit Village idea?

2. What is going on with Cliffwood Beach - why is it not as nice as Keyport and Union Beach? More beach to work with....

3. (this not meant in a racial way) Why are over 100 people allowed to congregate at 7-11 and now quickcheck every day? I know people who have hired them and MANY of them are not legally here. Does this not worry or anger anyone? I talked to one guy who 3 years ago was able to sneak in for 1300 dollars and take a plane home no questions asked for 5 years. All the while sending money home out of the country. I know the passport laws have changed but I SAW THE SAME GUY LAST WEEK so I guess he can still get home.

You want to talk about high grass and garbage Mr. Joe M.? Do you know how 7-11 in the morning makes our town look?

Anonymous said...

Minor point of fact - the 7-11 you are talking about happens to be in Matawan, not that it makes a difference. The reality is nothing will happen in Aberdeen unless it makes Norman Kauff and friends a buck or two.

Aberdeener said...

I'll try to answer each point. Excluding the banks, the other items were mentioned on the blog but briefly.

1) Bank branches are terribly expensive to operate and 10 years ago banks were trying to push people online and out of the branch. Today, however, everything is about the relationship. Banks want you to come into the branch so they can give you credit cards, loans, and other financial services.

The township has the power to limit the number of banks but enjoys the taxes and fees they receive. Aberdeen's master plan does not include an overall vision of what the township should look like.

There are no big businesses here because we lack a developed Main St. that would create foot traffic.

Nothing is happening with the Anchor Glass area or the transit village. Before any development could take place, the Highway Authority would need to approve new access ramps to provide direct access to both developments. I've not seen any indication that approval will be coming anytime soon. (If both areas were fully developed, our property taxes would drop over 10%.)

2) The township will likely announce next year, shortly before elections, that they have allocated funds to match the county grant for the seawall. CME was retained to inspect the seawall and submit a proposal for its rehabilitation.

The objective is to make the area accessible and attractive to visitors.

3) The 7-11 is, indeed, in Matawan and the people there are illegal immigrants. The people are congregated on private property so the options are limited. The 7-11 has received several citations for health violations.

The Matawan council discussed the situation last year but ultimately decided to do nothing rather than become entangled in another legal mess.

You are correct that people have been asking these questions and I've not written anything in-depth. If I can't find enough information to write an article on any one item, I may just do an overview.

Thanks for the suggestions.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Mr. Aberdeener drinking Sobel Kool-aid on the Transit development needing direct highway access. That would only be needed if the property were to be overbuilt as with the Aberdeen proposal. That issue is the very root of why Matawan went their own way to build a project that fits with the community.

Do you really believe that your taxes would go down? By the time the projects are done only Kauff and buddies would be making money.

Anonymous said...

I have seen that they are doing some work at the beach, I don't know what they are hoping to achomplish there. It works in Keyport because of the location to town. We seem to be adding layers and layers of dirt and making CME richer and richer.

Anonymous said...

The beach is maybe of the one most underused areas in our towns of Mat. - Ab. aside from the glass factory. This place should be utilized by ALL residents of both towns.....

There are numerous possibilities for that area. Go to townhall and see pics of what used to be at Cliffwood Beach. Even the other Middlesex side of Cliff. Bch. is a step in the right direction. Imagine something that resembled the CB of the 50's? A larger beach with a dock walk that runs from the beach around the Sea Wall -lit up at night- all the way around until it faced Keyport. It would bring so much pride to our area - a place where people from other towns could come see and use - and heck- pay parking meters. A pipe dream, I know. But, looks like the Capital One bank is more important on the agendas of our town govt.

and the transit village is the biggest disgrace that Mat and Ab cannot work together? What a shame. I do know that a proposed parking garage was an early obstacle - once again imagine the transit village as a place where people from out of town come to use - take a train to go to - have a trolley that leaves every five minutes on the weekend to bring people into town where there are better shops and rest. as a result of the commence created by the village - a mini Red Bank or something better..... something different....... there are possiblities..... but I have never seen SO MUCH RED TAPE IN ONE AREA BETWEEN TOWNS OF MAT. and AB. - and all of these ideas have TAX REVENUE.... but we will deny a chain rest. on 34 shopping center for lack of parking? and allow a 13th bank?

Anonymous said...

Looks like like the anonymous posts bring life back to this forum.... huh? Mr. Aberdeener...

I have read all of them.... funny and disturbing to say the least.

I do agree with the person who first posted to this section - those are some good topics to really delve into in the coming months..... your over views were good but I think THERE ARE BIGGER STORIES there as well........

Good luck - but I think if you found stories there - this blog would be a bigger hit in town..... I have heard those same questions being asked.

Aberdeener said...

Yes, I'm happy to see an active forum once again.

I'll look into the other items but I don't believe there's much information to be found. "Nothing happening" is not much of a story.

Still, maybe there's something we can do to make something happen.

Thanks for the advice.