Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lonegan brings his message to the Bayshore

Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan will be presenting his “Grassroots Taxpayer Action” seminar at the Shore Casino in Atlantic Highlands on Friday evening April 25th at 8PM. The seminar is open to all and there is no charge.

Lonegan is a fascinating and controversial character who makes a difference. In recent months you may have read about him being arrested for protesting Governor Corzine’s toll road scheme outside of Corzine’s presentation in Cape May. Lonegan and his grassroots organization , Americans for Prosperity-NJ, is credited with leading the campaign against that ballot questions in last November that would have authorized dedicating 1% of the New Jersey sales tax to property tax relief (thereby assuring an increase in the sales tax) and the measure that would have authorized $450 million in state debt to fund stem cell research. The defeats of both of these measures, as well as the public backlash against Corzine’s toll road scheme, were stunning to the New Jersey political establishment.

Lonegan made headlines in July of 2006, while still Mayor of Bogota, when he called for a boycott of McDonald’s after the hamburger chain posted a Spanish language billboard in his borough. He felt that the use of Spanish advertising sent a message to Hispanics that they don’t need to learn to speak or read English. 21% of Bogota residents are indentified as Hispanic or Latino in the 2000 U.S. Census. This stand was used against him in October of 2007 when Lonegan hired illegal immigrant day laborers to assemble lawn signs against the ballot questions that would have raised taxes and authorized millions in state debt had they passed.

My first exposure to Lonegan was in 2005 when he was running for the Republican nomination for governor. I attended a candidates’ debate at Monmouth University. Lonegan stood out as the funniest and most forthright candidate. I was also surprised to learn that he is legally blind.

Lonegan brings a “Taxpayers First,” philosophy to the political debate. During his twelve years as Mayor, Bogota municipal spending was constant and he kept debt and tax increases well below the rate of inflation, despite massive state mandates and aid reductions to suburban towns.

The political establishment often paints Lonegan and his movement as “fringe” or extreme right wing. Yet, given his success with the ballot questions and the toll road scheme, he has established himself as a force that makes a difference. He does so by going directly to the people.

His presentation at the Shore Casino of Friday night April 25 promises to be entertaining and informative. And, it is cheaper than a movie.

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