Conservative Legislator Calls for the Government to Fund Free Beaches

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The Jersey shore was devastated by Sandy.  We all know that.  It was a potential knock-out punch to thousands of homeowners, vacationers and businesses, one they had no means to prepare for other than purchasing insurance and hoping for the best.  It’s simply not their fault, not due to their negligence, that their communities, homes and resources were squashed  into nothingness.

Many people are calling on the state and federal government to provide funds to help them recover.  One of the primary calls is for money to rebuild the beaches so that businesses can have summer traffic, rentiers can have renters, and vacationers can have beaches and boardwalks.

It’s a reasonable, rational use of our collective wealth, our common wealth, as a people.  The folks who live at the shore cannot afford to recover from this disaster on their own, so we help them to do so by pooling our resources from ME to AK, from FL to HI.  It’s what government is for, taking care of the things that we can’t take care of as individuals.

Now uber-conservative Assemblyman Mike Doherty says that if we do use federal and state funds to restore our beaches the beaches should be free to use.

I’ve long believed that the state’s beach tag system unfairly limits access to a public resource which has been the beneficiary of a great deal of state and federal investment.

And Bob Ingle calls that “uncommon logic and good sense.”  Which it’s not.

The Jersey Shore is a state and national resource, not just a resource for the people who live there.  It brings incredible local, state and federal tax dollars to the state through tourism; is one of our state’s largest industries; and is a natural resource that is of incalculable value. It is perfectly reasonable to expect that governmental levels above the local to fund regular beach restoration that is beyond the ability of local property owners.

Why that means the beaches should be free I don’t know.  Ingle points out that we’re the only state that charges for public beaches, but that’s kind of off point.  Federal dollars go to support private beaches in many states — including ones Ingle mentioned in his blog post — that no one but homeowners on the beach have access to.  At least in NJ we don’t have publicly funded private beaches.

And one of the ways we do that is by charging people who use the beaches to offset the costs of lifeguards, litter patrol, sand raking, boardwalk management and the other ongoing costs that the people who use the shore accrue.

Ingle and Doherty have it completely backwards.  The American people are funding the expenses of building the beaches, and likely will fund the recovery from the worst storm to hit the Jersey shore in recorded history.

So why should the American people also fund the daily costs of beaches they’ll never use?  Funding the beaches themselves makes sense since they are state and national treasures, but most of us won’t ever use a lifeguard, have our trash picked up, arrive at 8 a.m. to a raked beach.  Those costs are on top of building and repairing the beaches, additional costs not currently born by the state and federal governments.

Yet after funding the beach themselves, Michael Doherty says we should also fund people’s vacations!

Now, as a liberal I can understand that idea.  I don’t really have a problem with it.  If we can lower the cost of middle class vacations I’m supportive, since we’ve done everything else we can to prevent them from owning vacation cabins, having enough time off from work to have vacations, etc.

But as a radical conservative Doherty is supposed to want people to pay for their own way.  For him to support additional funding for beaches is a betrayal of everything he professes to believe.

And that’s because he doesn’t believe it.  He’s a faux populist, someone who pretends to be about the little guy but is really about wrench throwing.  He knows that we’re going to fund beach recovery so he decides to bitch about something else.

Comments (4)

  1. William Weber (WjcW)

    What about places like Bay Head/Manaloking, one of which had a neat policy of no parking for more than 2 hours between the hours of 8 and 5, effectively, limiting access to the beach. You believe that’s fair?

    Secondly, the beach fees were supposed to be dedicated to ‘maintaining the beach,’ but yet mayors, already coming out against this idea, have said, ‘Property taxes will skyrocket’… how could this be unless they were using the beach fees to fund other town related servcies?

    And lastly, some people ARE partly responsible for the damage to their own houses… those who fought the creation of the dunes that saved many neighborhoods. I can think of one couple who was recently awarded some $300,000 by a court because the town “obscured their view of the ocean with a dune” and lowered the value of the property. I hope they have the descency to give the money back now, realizing that a beach property without a direct ocean view is worth more than one washed into the ocean.

  2. rubydede

    I believe that most conservities feel that if the gov’t takes their tax monies they should receive something back in the form of storm aid …

  3. Bertin Lefkovic

    As the rebuilding of the Jersey Shore begins, I think that we need to reconsider more than just whether or not towns should be allowed to charge prohibitive fees for beach access.  We need to take a long look at the hyperprivatization of one of our state’s most important natural resources and be forward thinking, especially since it is unlikely that Sandy is going to be the last major storm to hit our area.

    As the 2013 gubernatorial and legislative election season gets underway, I think that a prerequisite for anyone running for election or re-election to any state-level office should be a vision for how the Jersey Shore can be best utilized by as many of our residents as possible, how to rebuild private and public property in a way that enables more rather than less people to access this area and live there on anything ranging from a brief visit to year-round, how to enhance commercial activity in the area in such a way that it benefits everyone, but does not irreparably harm the natural quality of the region, and for all of us to be as prepared as possible for future storms of this and even greater magnitude.

  4. carolh

    ACCESS period. There should be more access points to the beaches. Some towns are trying to restrict them by adding an access only every HALF mile instead of every quarter mile.  We ALL own the ocean and the parts of the shore touched by it. Turning our beaches into what were becoming essentially gated communities is wrong and we need to address that.  


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