Friday, January 22, 2010


Opinion --
Asbury Park is Now Officially A Banana Republic

Asbury Radio considers it an outrage that this city has AGAIN sent its only officially designated historian off to jail for 28 Days on trumped up charges in an action that rivals the worst tactics of a lawless third world country.
We have repeatedly asked the city leadership, as recently as last night, for an answer to this question: What other resident of Asbury Park has been sent off to jail for failure to correct building code violations on his own home? The government didn't even do that to the owner of the Metropolitan Hotel whose decrepit state threatened the safety of everyone who passed by for years and years!!! The Metro Homes building site, between Kingsley and Ocean, is a minefield of violations, a gaping oozing sore abandoned by the developer, who graces the pages of the local newspapers every year or so with promises to restart the project soon. But the city insists it doesn't know the answer our question.
The official charge is "contempt of court," triggered by the historian's failure to pay down a veritable mountain of alleged code violations that include peeling paint on his house and grass deemed too tall on property that he doesn't even own. The charge is "contempt of court", because no one in his right mind would send someone to jail for not mowing his lawn! So the court had to resort to the one size fits all "contempt of court", normally reserved for people who don't show up for court or give the judge some guff.
The case would be thrown out by a higher court. Is the City afraid to test it? Move this case out of this jurisdiction!
This City and its court have made a mockery of the law by failing to acknowledge the glaringly obvious conflict of interest between it and the city historian who nearly everyone knows is an outspoken critic of this town, a role respected and tolerated by every civil municipality similarly situated.
The State of NJ includes in its definition of the position of "official historian" the fact that the position must be unpaid. Why unpaid? Because the wise forefathers realized town fathers may resent the slowing hand of the historian, whose thankless mission to weigh progress against preservation may require curbing enthusiasm at times, and rebel by holding his salary over his head. Even they would probably be shocked to know this city is holding this man's personal liberty over his head!
We are not chastened by excuses that the electorate cannot intervene in the actions of the judiciary. The electorate appoints the judiciary in this town! Can you intervene more than that?
Werner Baumgartner can be a colossal pain in the behind, no one knows this more than we do. And he knows it himself. And most historians worth their salt are!!! However, this city's so-called justice has committed what amounts to acts of cruel and unusual punishment, which have driven our historian into financial ruin and threaten the his sanity, as they would any one of us. The normal, routine recourse in cases of violations is to attach the property with the fines, not imprison the property's owner.
Is this a side show, a carnival town or is this a respectable community with compassion and judgment? If we can't answer that, who is going to want to have any dealings with us?
Free this man now!!
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P. Schnorbus said...

Werner Baumgartner cares deeply about Asbury Park, which was a summer destination for our family when we were children 40-50 years ago. It wasn't a scary place but an inviting one for families. It isn't one that I would recommend to families nowadays because what is there really to do, and how safe is it after dark? Werner may get visibly exasperated because he sees the jewels and the history of the city going by the wayside.

It appears that because Werner takes an avid interest in his UNPAID job that he has been thrown into the slammer! If Werner has repairs to make on his house, please allow him to do so. This will not get accomplished if he is in jail.

The bottom line is this: Werner's incarceration doesn't reflect well on how city officials operate. There are more important things to take care of and to implement to make the city a better place -- a great place -- akin to the one that I remember from years gone by.

Joan Schnorbus said...

Outrage is right! In a city riddled with decaying structures, it would be interesting to learn how many Asbury Park property owners are now, or have been, incarcerated for property code violations. My guess is there wouldn’t be enough jail cells in the entire state to accommodate them.

Jailing someone for code violations, which prevents him from working to address the issues and the fines the code violations engender, is tantamount to debtors’ prison, which history has proven to be impractical and which has been frowned upon throughout U.S. history. So, what is the ploy here? To keep Werner from working to get his house up to code or even to be able to maintain it, and then seize it? To drive him out of town (don’t forget the tar and feathers!), and bestow some cheaply-obtained prime real estate on someone more friendly to the city?

It appears that Werner has become Asbury Park’s own political prisoner because of the attention he has brought to neglected historical landmarks and his robust dissention with city practices pursued in the name of redevelopment. And it also appears that a voice like his is sorely needed when the Elks/Charms building, named to Preservation NJ’s 2009 10 Most Endangered Historic Sites in NJ, is quietly torn down over the Christmas holidays -- a time when the attention of the populace is usually focused elsewhere (and apparently so was the APP’s). The Charms building demolition was another move prompted by a city inspection.

As long as Werner Baumgartner is persecuted/incarcerated by the city’s actions, I will refrain from doing any business within Asbury Park. It’s not the only game in Monmouth County.

Joan Schnorbus