Paul Elisha: Politics and Zoning on the Jersey Shore
Ever since New York’s nefarious Kinderhook ‘Kingfish’ unleashed the venal voice of political patronage that forever soiled what could have been a proud and venerable national heritage, with the merit-less motto of: “To the winner goes the spoils!”, those engaged in government via politics and pertinent appointments, at state and local levels, have made the concept of ‘You scrub my back and I’ll scrub yours,’ standard operating procedure. The problem is that not a lot of dirty laundry has come clean, since political practitioners at state and local levels were seemingly seduced by Thomas Jefferson’s slant on state’s rights and decided to reconfigure the concept into a formula for private fiefdoms, free of outside interference.
As a youngster, intimate with the New Jersey shoreline, assiduously studied with my fisherman father, I saw the often irremediable damage sustained by repeated onslaughts of hurricane havoc, waged against beach-front areas.
In the Post-World-War II era, money hungry developers ignored warnings of technical experts whose negative reports and anti-zoning positions predicted certain and irreversible destruction, for any attempts at shoreline edifice construction, in the face of seasonal climactic calamities, that all agreed, were bound to occur. In far too many cases, the publicized votes of zoning authorities against such development were then mysteriously and quietly reversed by voracious political paladins, determined to fatten their fiscal underpinnings, at someone else’s expense.
Now, after several un-seasonal and horrendously destructive coastal calamities that pulverized lives and property with greater intensity than ever before, in recorded history, authorities at all levels of federal, state and local government, without exception to political party position or previous opinion, are persuaded, that nothing short of a unified national effort must ensue, to meet and overcome the challenge this continuing climactic threat presents to the safety, socio-economic prosperity and literal geographic continuity of our country’s Atlantic coast.
As public officials and their technical advisors prepare to meet and plan for necessary responses, one obvious and shameful detriment must be erased: the evil element of illicit profit, by any public official, for the explicit purpose of self-enrichment. This includes every unseemly patron… ‘wanta-be’ or actual. It’s a dirty business that only exposure and reprisal can redress; plus an explicit and publicized policy of non-approval for requests to re-build in areas that were inappropriately zoned in the past.
In his early American assessment, in 1835, Alexis de Toqueville wrote: “Democratic nations care little for what has been but they are haunted by visions of what will be.”
If we’re courageous and honest enough to expunge the ethical damage to areas that were improperly zoned and developed, before nature erased them, and remain determined to keep them as nature intended, we can face the climactic future un-haunted by whatever portends.
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