By Aaron Hirsch
I have always had a passion for politics. It’s hereditary. It was a popular subject discussed in my house growing up. Ever since I could vote, I made sure to be registered. I have only missed one primary election in my adult life, and I’m 43 years old.
Lakewood used to be mostly lush farmland as far as the eye could see. It became known as a resort town in the early 1900’s, for some rich and very famous people. Its population remained relatively steady, and the infrastructure was sufficient to sustain the population.
When I moved from Flatbush to Lakewood in 2013, and settled into the beautiful Chestnut Street area, I looked forward to a quieter, greener life. I knew that Lakewood was changing, was evolving, but I didn’t know to what extent until I settled here.
Now I see this vision is in jeopardy.
I welcome all of the newcomers and I would love for them to live in Lakewood. However, if our roads are in the same condition as they were during the years of horse-pastures and resort-living, it will be impossible to continue our comfortable lifestyle.
Government must be responsible and held accountable for their actions. Our zoning and building laws must be strictly enforced, so developers can’t continue to turn this town into one large traffic jam. I have attended the vast majority of planning, zoning, and committee meetings over the past year, and I have become well-acquainted with the system. I have learned the games builders and their representatives at the board meetings play to get what they want. I have gotten up to speak at many of these meetings, and many times called them out on their lawless behaviors.
This town is ready for a strong, common sense committeeman to help enforce basic laws, already in place, that can turn this town into the traffic-free place that I believe it can still become.
There are several relatively simple steps we can take to address our infrastructure troubles.
In other Townships in NJ, the local Government requires that the builders and developers do traffic studies and fiscal impact statements. In other towns, the traffic study is performed by the Township, and paid for by the applicant, which makes perfect sense. In Lakewood, it’s not. We allow an applicant to hire their own traffic study firm and then we wonder why our roads look the way they do.
The fiscal impact statement is a study of how a proposed project is going to impact the local area financially. We can’t just assume that every project costs the same amount for the taxpayers. More houses bring more revenue for the township in the form of property taxes, however what people don’t realize is that the services provided – like garbage pickups, busing, educational costs, etc. – costs more than the actual taxes collected.
More people means more cars, a need for new roads, more wear-and-tear on current roads, a need for additional schools and school buses and trash pickup. It causes an elevated impact on current businesses, and a potential for new ones. Which is all great, but who is paying for this?
If the Township continues to allow applicants to shirk their responsibility of developing the roads surrounding their properties (which legally they are required to), it eventually falls on the Township to build them. So, in this backwards way, the taxpayers end up footing the often large bill.
I propose to bring the planning and zoning boards to the 21st century by utilizing the computer systems we already have, to create an easy access program with a full history database of all properties in Lakewood, for board members to use to be able to make the most informed decisions.
Another thing coming out of taxpayer pockets – public school funds for kids who don’t even live in Lakewood! Numerous families that move out of Lakewood continue to send their kids to public schools here, often citing a higher level of education. They pretend they still live in Lakewood, and the BOE has to pay $10k – $15k per year for their continued education. If they would update their address, which they legally must, then the Township they live in would have to pay Lakewood’s BOE for educating their kids, saving local taxpayers lots of money.
I feel there is a simple fix to this; There is a legally required form called ‘Affidavit of Residency’ that landlords must get their tenants to fill out and the landlord then submits to the Township. Then the Township could cross reference these forms with the BOE lists and we would know who lives here and who does not.
One thing I noticed is how much blame the Township has put on the County and State to fix their road systems; blame I feel is misplaced. We have been hounding the state for many years to widen Route 9. There is only ONE through-street that goes straight from Howell to Toms River. And that is Route 9. We should be thanking the state! It is a chutzpah that we blame the state when we have failed to create our own through streets had we used proper planning. Rather, they chose to vacate existing streets which could have alleviated much of the current congestion. At this point, of course, we are left with no choice but to petition the state for this cause, but the fault is with our local government.
Many years ago, like all towns and cities, maps of Lakewood were created with virtual streets (paper streets) with block and lots, so that when it would eventually be built it could be done efficiently. These maps were created at a time when Lakewood was zoned for very spread-out living. So, we have altered much of Lakewood’s zoning to cram in duplexes and triplexes, but somehow failed to widen or add additional streets that were prepared only for small town living! And even more than that, many of those first streets were “vacated”, meaning they were given to developers so they could instead build houses in place of these roads.
On my campaign website, AaronHirsch.org, you can see a map that was created for Lakewood in the year 1958. The streets are all laid out on the paper, ready for developers to make use of its streets and spaces. And then check out the next map, a current one, from 2016. The two maps look unrecognizable. In 1958, streets are in a structured grid format. In 2016, we see what ended up actually happening – a jumble of dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs, with a laughable amount of through-streets.
This year is the year of the Master Plan, the all-important 10-year projection of the town’s growth and the needs that will come with it. Based on extensive research I have done into its methods and personnel, I feel that legally the Master Plan Committee was not eligible to hold the positions they do, including the chairman himself. I have presented my significant findings to the Township Committee.
This is yet another example of poor planning, lack of accountability, and the destruction of proper law.
It is time for a candidate to bring a common-sense approach to how things are done around here; to use foresight and planning in tackling our complex issues. Lakewood is a diverse town; we cannot afford to continue making simple mistakes that have disastrous effects, sacrificing our quality of living, safety, responsible growth and prosperity for all of Lakewood’s residents.
Voting is a two-step process. If you don’t go out and vote in the primaries then the person you feel is most qualified for the position might not make it onto the general election ballot. If your preferred candidate doesn’t win, you missed your opportunity to vote for who you feel is the best person for Office, and you will be forced to vote for another person’s less qualified choice. Please don’t leave YOUR choice to someone else.
If you care about the future of this town, coming out to vote in the primaries is a crucial step to vote in the candidate that can make your vision reality.
Vote for Aaron Hirsch, Republican, and you may just be surprised at how this town can begin its climb to the peak of success rather than descend down an ever-darkening tunnel.