Column: Greetings from New Jersey

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Yes, it's that time of year when I make my annual pilgrimage up the Northeast coast to celebrate my father’s birthday with friends and family. This year marks a major milestone as we celebrate his 90th year and toast with words of the Italian salutation, “Cent Anni,” which translates to “May you live to a hundred years.” These words ring more soundly as one nears such a rare achievement still in good health, full of energy and spirit. 

Up here in the Northeast, the signs of springtime are so much more intense than the subtle changes we witness here in South Florida during the change of seasons. The trees are budding with a vivid youthful tone of green, the flowering forsythia bushes so briefly dazzle the countryside with their vibrant yellow blooms, lighting up the dim, dark landscape coming out of the winter months. Many trees put forth their best, as flowering dogwoods, magnolias, redbuds and crepe myrtles battle each other for Best in Show. 

However, as one looks past the flowering trees and bushes, not everything here is so beautiful. Taking a closer look, one begins to notice all the “Let's make America great again” banners dotting the landscape, hanging off the front porches of the many Trump supporters in the area.  

Visiting areas that should be solid Democrat strongholds of past union and working-class communities, one gets hit with a strong slap across the face, a rude awakening, a harsh wake-up call. Donald’s chances of reelection in 2020 might not look so far-fetched after one spends some time  in communities such as these.
There is another saying, made famous by the late House Speaker Tip O’Neal, that “All  politics are local,” so I will let my mind drift back to our Island City to recap local happenings.  

I watched the last City Commission meeting streaming live on my computer as I packed my suitcase and wrapped my dad’s birthday gift. There were three main items of interest on the agenda: appointments to the Planning and Zoning Board, the resolution on the co-naming of 21st Court as Harvey Milk Court, and the follow-up on the illegal business still operating on the Pride Center’s campus. 

Unfortunately, the handling of all three items left me a bit ruffled and looking forward to my upcoming departure time of 5:30 a.m. as a means of escape from local politics. 
The appointments made to the P&Z Board were not the issue. It was the process of listening to so many candidates, especially those who might suffer from a slight case of narcissism, that went on way too long with no real purpose. Our city is blessed with many residents seeking to serve on boards and committees. 

However, the process might need to be adjusted to take up less time at a commission meeting. Spending over an hour listening to board candidates seems a bit much; and if we had 20 or more candidates apply, an entire evening might be consumed by such a process.
Next up was the discussion on the honoring of Harvey Milk and the co-naming of 21stCourt. The display of three city commissioners running for political cover was embarrassing. These three commissioners used every excuse available to defend themselves for not wanting to support the resolution. 

“There should be a process, not everyone was contacted, no community support, the cost, and on and on and on.” This was after many spoke in favor of the resolution both during public comments and by emails. The three commissioners had their own reasons why they did not want to support the co-naming. If only they were more honest with themselves and to constituents instead of the excuses they tried to hide behind. 
We can at least hold our heads high that the commissioners voted unanimously to honor Harvey Milk on May 22 here in our Island City. Harvey Milk was first and foremost a community activist who sought to improve the lives and the community in which he served. It is those efforts and beliefs we choose to honor. Shame on the narrow-minded and divisive comments made by one resident that the street naming is just another example of the so-called "Gay Agenda" being pushed upon fellow Islanders.

On to the third item of interest, the Special Magistrate and ongoing issues surrounding the illegal operations of a business at the Pride Center’s campus. Due to the late hour, the commission was rushing this very important discussion off to the next meeting. Perhaps some important business might cause the commission to stay put until the issue is properly dealt with.

 In the meantime, an illegal business continues to operate, the Pride Center continues to collect rent, and the rest of us are still being hoodwinked. These kinds of local politics do nothing to make life just better here.

 



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