For years, Frank Pallone ignored Asbury Park – because he could. This reliable little City would traditionally give him enough of a victory margin to wipe out the Republican victory in several Monmouth County towns.
That meant while Asbury Park kept other towns at bay, all Pallone had to do was waltz through his other safe zones in Monmouth and cruise to victory.
Back when the current 6th Congressional District was in the 3rd District, Pallone didn’t have it so easy. Current Superior Court Judge Paul Kapalko came within a few thousand votes of picking him off.
But once the redistricting occurred, Pallone had some smooth Atlantic waters to sail. Since then most challengers haven’t gotten more than 36% against Frank, and because the Republican Party refused to spend money to defeat him, Pallone built up a $4.5 million war chest over the years from never having to spend it.
So Pallone took Asbury Park people for granted. He knew they would be there for him no matter how much he neglected them, and boy did he neglect them.
There was a stretch of years where Frank Pallone was invited to more than 10 City sponsored events in Asbury Park, such as the Mayor’s Ball, the Policeman’s Steakout Dinner, The High School Alumni Hall of Fame Dinner and others, and Frank Pallone was simply a no show.
Many of those events were to benefit the poorer children in Asbury Park, who are without a doubt the most impoverished in his District, but Frank wouldn’t come. He just didn’t care so long as the City adults robotically voted for him.
Frank Pallone skipped so many events in Asbury Park I wrote a column entitled “Dove Siete” in the triCityNews (meaning “Where are you?” in Italian), hoping to goad Frank into making an appearance in my fair little City by the Sea. But to no avail.
Frank Pallone ignored Asbury Park like a Ft. Monmouth closure hearing (which he also ignored).
If you think I’m overstating it, take Pallone’s word for it. When there was a rally occurring in Asbury Park by unions who were vying for work at the Beachfront Redevelopment zone, Frank went to California. When asked by a reporter why he wasn’t back in Asbury Park, Pallone asked, "Why should I go to bat for the people of Asbury Park if I don't have a relationship with the Mayor?" (The Mayor at the time was a Republican, although AP has non-partisan elections.)
So Frank admitted that he wouldn’t go to bat for Asbury Parkers, but most folks in the City never heard that because the Asbury Park Press refused to print it, despite my subtle encouragement to them.
Now this isn’t to say Pallone has never come to Asbury Park in the quarter century he’s been representing the City. Let me recount for you 4 times he did come to Asbury Park, and more importantly, why.
Whenever Congressman Barney Frank would make an appearance at Club Paradise, Asbury Park’s popular gay night club, Frank Pallone would come to kiss Barney’s…ring. He did so several times, while ignoring the functions Asbury Park threw for the City’s youth.
He came to the Stone Pony once for a benefit for a school… The Ranney School. In case you don’t know, Ranney is one of the most prestigious private schools in New Jersey, it isn’t in Pallone’s district, but it is where he sent his kids to school. But what the hell – Bruce Springsteen was playing at the benefit because his kids go to Ranney too, so Frank just had to be there, even though he skipped EVERY function Asbury Park threw to help their impoverished children.
I also saw Frank at the West Side Community Center…when Jon Corzine came there to speak.
Speaking of the West Side Community Center, the 4th time Pallone came to Asbury Park was in 2007 on Martin Luther King’s birthday. The WCC is a dilapidated building where Director after Director has tried to keep programs going for the good of Asbury Park’s west side children.
On MLK day 2007, Frank Pallone promised to “Bring funding to the West Side Community Center.” This brought great applause and wonderful coverage from the Asbury Park Press.
I, for one, knew he was lying. I went to every Asbury Park City Council meeting I could after that to take the microphone and ask if the WCC had yet received the money Pallone promised. When I couldn’t go I offered to pay people to go to the meeting and ask the question. The City Council and the City Manager would chuckle at the question. By my observation, they knew Frank was lying.
I tried my best to get the Asbury Park Press to do follow up stories about Frank and his broken promise to Asbury’s children, but for some odd, strange, unthinkable reason that I can’t determine, the Asbury Park Press just won’t ask him about it. I think his throwing out a promise to Asbury Park’s black community on MLK day for applause and pandering is kind of a news story.
Now imagine my surprise on this past July 4th when I went to the Asbury Park Independence Day parade, and lo and behold who did I see in it? Frank Pallone! I barely recognized him since it’s been so long since he was last here.
So what changed? Why would a congressman go from brashly admitting that he won’t go to bat for the people of Asbury Park to marching in their parade? Why after refusing every invite from Asbury Park to help their children, after 24 years of the City asking “Dove Siete,” would Frank Pallone suddenly choose this year to be in Asbury Park’s Parade?
Two words: Anna Little.
She’s got Frank Pallone worried about Asbury Park.
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Pallone's Town Hall Meeting, Red Bank, August 25, 2009