And Behind the Mask..

Who is the “Jackson Taxpayer Alliance”?

As reported by the Asbury Park Press, a number of the more offensive campaign ads from this election season were paid for by a group called the “Jackson Taxpayer Alliance”.

jackson_mailer

But who heads this mysterious organization, dedicated to “taxpayer advocacy” and bringing political discourse to new lows. Well the filings say:

<DRUM ROLL>

Raymond Cattonar, former candidate for Jackson council and current Jackson “watchdog”, with a budget of 10 thousand big ones!

<GASP?>

It’s Election Time!

“Lakewood Developers” gone wild

This year, it’s all about Orthodox Jews Lakewood Developers:
“Lakewood Developers” with their special “developer” hats on.
“Democrats Giving Money to Democratic Candidate”. Also, hamming it up with some “Lakewood Developers”!

“VAAD: Yostpille for Mayor”. Whoever made this flyer though doesn’t seem to realize that Yiddish is read right-to-left and that Google Translate is not very good at spelling.

A photo of the secret closed meeting connecting Yostpille to the VAAD. VAAD member circled by the original author in case it wasn’t immediately obvious.
Come on in “Lakewood Developers” and your “Lakewood Developer” families.
“Constituent Leaves Campaign Office”. Good thing this was caught and reported by a local Jew-watcher.
“Lakewood Developers” and their Rabbinical Societies are always building those Kollels.
yostpille3
The secret cabal of “Lakewood Democrats” behind Tracie Yostpille’s campaign. Keep all those “Lakewood Democrats” out!
As the old adage goes, “Behind your enemies: the Jew.”

Lets Get Real

Are overdevelopment and ties to outside organizations valid concerns? Of course.

Is everyone involved in the political attacks above a rabid anti-semite? Unlikely.

But it seems clear to us that these political pieces are not about providing information to voters, they are about inciting fear by showing opposing candidates near someone in a black skullcap, Yiddish text, and/or the word “Lakewood”.

Stop invoking the specter of Orthodox Jews to scare people. It increases hatred and division and is bound to backfire when someone snaps a picture of your candidate next to someone who happens to be Jewish.

Update: And Behind the Mask…

Reasonable Accommodation

Much like for religious beliefs, special arrangements may need to be made to preserve the rights of those with handicaps. The protections provided by the Fair Housing Act require that a disabled person be allowed to make physical modifications to their home and exceptions to housing related policies as needed to “afford such person full enjoyment of the premises”:

(3) For purposes of this subsection, discrimination includes–

(A) a refusal to permit, at the expense of the handicapped person, reasonable modifications of existing premises occupied or to be occupied by such person if such modifications may be necessary to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises, except that, in the case of a rental, the landlord may where it is reasonable to do so condition permission for a modification on the renter agreeing to restore the interior of the premises to the condition that existed before the modification, reasonable wear and tear excepted.

(B) a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling;

A recent letter (shown below) sent by an attorney retained by Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz, a handicapped homeowner in the Westlake Golf & Country Club of Jackson, details the rabbi’s travails in trying to get the homeowners association to afford him full enjoyment of his house. If allowed access to an existing gate in a common area, it would enable him to attend religious services without pushing his wheelchair on a busy road. His requests to build a screened porch which could be used for religious observance were denied, despite other houses having a similar porch. And recently, the association bylaws were amended in a manner that would seem to prevent him from worshipping with a group at in his home:

1.38 (New) “Residential purposes” shall mean used solely as a place to live. Holding or conducting regular meetings, presentations, assemblies or other gatherings, to which members of the public are invited, shall not constitute a residential purpose and are prohibited. For purposes of this restriction “members of the public” shall mean individuals other than personal friends and members of a resident’s family.

Now, we’re sure there are perfectly perfunctory reasons for all this: the gate was intended for emergency vehicles only, screened porches are only allowed on some models of homes in Westlake but not others, and the association board had a sudden but unrelated need to clarify the word “residential” in their bylaws.

But to what end does the homeowners association continue to deny what seem like otherwise reasonable accommodations to a disabled resident?

Two Sides to Every Story

A social media controversy over a speed bus was flipped on its head by new video evidence.

villanovabus
Original Facebook post

A recent video on Facebook sought to bring attention to a speeding bus on Villanova Drive and shows the vehicle swerving in the direction of the camera while driving past. The poster alleged that the driver had intentionally changed course towards him as a means of intimidation. A followup showed the driver receiving a ticket the next day for speeding.

This seemed like the end of the story, until the Lakewood Scoop shed new light on the incident with a post containing dash-cam videos from the bus company. This new video shows that in addition to the original poster standing behind a tree on the side of the street, there is a second person, unseen in the original video, blocking part of the street. The bus was actually forced towards the curb (and the camera) to move away from this person in the street. It almost seems like a set-up designed to capture the original video.

Below are two police reports associated with this incident:

The police were called to Villanova Drive around 3:00 PM on 2/15, the day after the first video, where a number of residents claimed that a speed bus had swerved towards them, a claim which would seem to be contradicted by the dash-cam video. The officer then stayed in the area, giving a citation to the driver when he passed later.

New Lawsuit Filed Against Jackson Township

Religious discrimination and harassment alleged by new suit.

As reported this morning by the Asbury Park Press, a new religious discrimination lawsuit has been filed in federal court against Jackson Township, this time by a private homeowner. The suit alleges that Council President Robert Nixon and various unidentified township employees worked together under the guise of zoning enforcement to stalk and harass the occupants of a home in Jackson for doing nothing more than hosting prayer services, in violation of the US Constitution, the NJ Constitution and RLUIPA. This seems to be entirely distinct from the lawsuit filed by Agudath Israel last year over school, dormitory and eruv bans.

The complaint filed in court is available below:

Update: DOJ Investigation in Jackson

The US Department of Justice has launched its own investigation into Jackson’s municipal laws.

In addition to a subpoena from the NJ Attorney General, Jackson officials have received a similar request for documents from the US Department of Justice:

The DOJ’s request focuses more on the recent school and dormitory ordinances and asks for 10 years worth of zoning and planning documents. Presumably this is to determine if the new bans are part of a coherent long-term development plan or created to target land use by a specific religion or group, thus falling afoul of RLUIPA and the Fair Housing Act.

There is a bit of irony here: while these ordinances were being conceived, Jackson actually had their attorneys send their own request to the NJ Attorney General and the US Department of Justice for investigations into housing practices:

They allege blockbusting by the Orthodox Jewish community, a charge which centers in general around real-estate professionals spreading fear in order to lower housing prices. Jackson’s proof? In addition to citing rumor, they give links to two videos of speeches, one where individual Orthodox Jews are encouraged to move to new neighborhoods, and the other in Yiddish (we bet the federal government sent it straight to their language specialists). Hardly compelling evidence that there is a professional effort to scare people from their houses.

We do however feel that there are some peddling panic in Jackson and scaring people into selling. Not the Orthodox Jews moving in, but so-called “strong” and “watchdog” community groups that harp on their every move and constantly invoke hyperbolic statements about the inevitable destruction of Jackson Township.

In response to the Township’s letter, the NJ Attorney General declined to investigate while the DOJ doesn’t seem to have ever responded. In the end though, both turned their sights to discriminatory behavior by Jackson officials themselves.

Jackson Under Investigation

Subpoena received by Jackson Township from NJ Attorney General.

As mentioned in the Township Council meeting last week, Jackson Township is now under investigation by the NJ Attorney General and the US Department of Justice for passing certain laws targeting Orthodox Jews. Later in the meeting, permission was granted for the construction of an eruv in Jackson using attachments to utility poles as part of a preliminary settlement in a lawsuit brought by Agudath Israel against Jackson.

Below is the subpoena sent to the Township by the Attorney General’s office, requesting documents and communications related to Ordinance 03-17 and Ordinance 04-17, which prohibited schools and dormitories in most zones in the town, and Ordinance 20-17, which removed the mechanism for exceptions to be granted in an old and “seldom enforced” right-of-way ordinance thereby effectively blocking previous requests for an eruv.

Update: US Department of Justice investigation launched as well