Recently, the Fort Monmouth Redevelopment Bill was passed by both the Assembly and the Senate. The underlying premise of this legislation is State control of the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth. Conversely, the Borough of Oceanport's position advocates local control.
For the better part of the last year, there have been many discussions between the local Fort Monmouth municipalities and our state representatives. Neither side was was willing to cede their position.
Logically, it is not possible for this bill to please everyone. Despite the numerous discussions, we were never told why the municipalities couldn't be granted control of the Fort Monmouth property. All we were given was a conclusion that the State has to be the party that controls development. After all this time, I'd still like to know why?
Over 400 acres of Fort Monmouth property lie in the borough of Oceanport. That's over 400 acres of development that we will be left with when all is said and done. Development we have limited control over.
We, in Oceanport, knew we were fighting a losing battle from the beginning because of the State's legislative powers. Therefore, we had every reason to be intellectually and conceptually intractable. The Borough of Oceanport had nothing to lose by fighting the bill.
Our diligence resulted in no less than 40 amendments to said bill. These amendments were added ONLY because the Borough of Oceanport got on a soapbox and complained about the original bill. If Oceanport didn't stomp its feet and hold its breath, the original bill would have sailed through as written. Make no mistake, the amendments make the bill a better bill but, it is far from perfect!
This bill seems to reflect a lot of compromise as set forth in the amendments. BUT, the one place that there was no compromise was in the underlying premise of the bill: State control. In my opinion, everything after State control is secondary.
At this point, only time will tell. If, in fact, the State is able to do all the wonderful things that it says it is going to do, then I guess we'll all live happily ever after. If the State isn't able to do all these wonderful things, our Legislators will be hearing from Oceanport residents till the cows come home.
As we move forward on this project I would like to thank the news media for keeping this issue in the forefront and helping us push for local control; especially the Asbury Park Press and Carol Gorga Williams, The Link Newspaper and Neil Schulman and Walter O'Neil, The HUB Newspaper, the Two River Times and John Burton, More Monmouth Musings Blog and Art Gallagher, James Hogan's Random Thoughts Blog, Greg Kelly's Monmouth County Life Blog and radio stations WOBM 92.7 and The Breeze.
I'd like to thank Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider and Councilman Anthony Giordano for their support in recognizing the need for local control and The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, especially Freeholder John Curley, whose comments about the "vultures coming to pick over the carcass" at Fort Monmouth were greatly appreciated. I would also like to thank Assemblyman Robert Schroeder who was the only member of the New Jersey Legislature to support Oceanport's position and vote "no" on the redevelopment bill.
I'd like to thank the Oceanport Borough Council, who in the face of extreme political pressure, chose to stand up for Oceanport and our 6000 residents and pass a resolution condemning the redevelopment bill and co-author an Op-Ed piece that ran in the Asbury Park Press extolling local control.
I'd like to thank our Mayor, Michael Mahon for all of his efforts on our behalf. I'd like to thank our attorney Senator John Bennett for his advice and knowledge of the legislative process and behind the scenes work.
Thanks to the residents of Oceanport many of whom attended meetings, sent emails, made phone calls and wrote our legislators. Without you we would have NEVER seen the 40 amendments we received on the bill.
And Finally, thanks to Oceanport resident Jay Coffey whose advice guidance and help were invaluable to me and the rest of the Municipal Council. Your help to our town will never be forgotten.
I am proud to be your Council President!
Irace is to commended for his tenacious efforts to impact the future of Fort Monmouth. He put the interests of his constituents and his own convictions before his relationship with powerful Trenton insiders. In the face of significant political pressure he relentlessly pursued what he believed to be the right path rather than the easy path. As a result, he got a better deal for the people of Oceanport and Monmouth County than would otherwise have been possible.
Joe is very generous to thank me and MoreMonmouthMusings for support. For the most part MMM staid out of this fight, while rooting for Joe and Oceanport in the background. With my focus on the congressional primaries, I did not have the time to do the work required to write about, or take a position on, this issue with authority.
It should be noted at this phase of Fort Monmouth's transition that none of the efforts that Joe Irace and the many people he acknowledged would have been necessary had Frank Pallone and Rush Holt done their jobs for the people of Monmouth County, the State of New Jersey and the security of the United States of America and kept Fort Monmouth open as a military base.