Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Recapping Monmouth Park's Monday Meeting, without Frank Pallone

As sent in an email to a local group this morning with a few minor edits for corrections/updates.

I think Monday's meeting was "ok" at best and left a lot to be discussed and addressed. If I may offer my $0.02, adjusted for inflation, here are a few of my own notes/thoughts and along with a list of action items to move forward with.

1) There was a question, that was basically unanswered, about MP's ability to repay a $22 million loan if what we read in the paper about MPs declining revenue and money troubles are true. Does anyone know, or is there a way to find out, if MP has a "credit rating"(?) like us private folks have? For example, when I apply for a loan from EvilBank, LLC, they want my life history and my FICO score and they determine if I can have the loan. Would *ANY* bank in this day of failed loans and banks give an agency like MP $22 million on their own? Can MP really repay a $22m loan? I like that Oceanport is trying to help solve the problem and take the loan as a "conduit" for MP, but I'm worried about MP's ability to repay and we the taxpayers footing the bill. It would be extra awful if we were given a river of poo and then had to pay for it too. In the past the Mayor has indicated that should MP fail, their debt becomes the NJSEA's debt, which then becomes the State of New Jersey's debt. Not that I wish ill-will upon anyone, but in 20 years, how many of us will still be alive to ensure that the river is cleaned and the loan is paid for, by MP? I'd hate to leave the bill for the polluted river with my grandkids.

Item #1: Is there a way to Open Public Records Act MPs finances, bank/credit ratings/etc and it's ability/past performance to repay loans?

2) Ray really beat them over the head with the Stupid Stick for the uncovered dumpsters. John Duffy(?) noted that the track has internal procedures and they "fine" horsemen who don't follow procedures. Can we find out which horsemen/stables/etc have been fined, how many times, at what costs, etc? I think the point to drive to would be that if one stable operator is the biggest (only?) offender, maybe the
solution is force DEP to shutdown a single stable operator, not so much MP. I'm sure with our wonderful free market system, some other stable operator would be more than happy to fill the opening at MP to race their horses and act more responsibly if MP were to ditch one bad operator.

Item #2: Is there a way to OPRA MP's internal fine records or records related to MPs actions against stable operators who violate their SOP?

3) Ray (damn Ray was good!) also got Mr. Duffy to claim that DEP and private inspectors make random stops through the park to ensure that SOPs are being adhered to, dumpsters covered, and all of the "SHOULD"s are completed. Can we have access to those DEP or internal/private inspections? What is the outside consultant saying about MPs SOPs and actual practices? Its great that someone is inspecting the track, but if the inspector finds the same problems over and over again with each visit, and MP is not addressing any violations, then is the inspection helpful? Who is the private, outside, independent agency, and where are their reports/findings?

Item #3: Is there a way to OPRA MP's internal SOP audits and inspections?

4) There were multiple questions about MP's paying of their fines. While I'd hate to distract their finances that could go towards paying a loan, I also noted that most every question, statement, complaint and comment had to do with the double standard applied to MP's actions. For example, if any of us polluted the river, we'd be liable
for the fines/cleanup. MP skirted the questions or just said they could not comment. Fine. However, it might be worth investigating through an OPRA request what communications have happened between MP and DEP over those fines.

Item #4: Is there a way to OPRA DEP or MP records regarding fines for pollution?

As a personal question, I'm still confused, will this retention basin essentially be a pool of raw sewage? If the river itself is "1000s" of times the limits of acceptable levels, and is "clean" storm water, mixed with stable poo-water, mixed with river water, then I'd have to think that straight poo-water from the stables before being diluted in other "clean" waters must be millions of times above the limits?

I also received an email/comment on my blog from someone in attendance
who noted that no one asked:
1) Will Oceanport property owners along the river be given any property tax refunds/deductions due to the pollution?
2) Will Oceanport property owners be compensated for their decreased property values due to river pollution?
(I suppose the same questions can be extended across the river to Long Branch and maybe even up to Monmouth Beach?)

Anyhow, I think it would be a good idea to come up with a list of outstanding questions, comments and concerns and move forward with the assumption that MP is NOT doing the right thing, despite what they say, and assume it will be our responsibility to increase the pressure to see the problems resolved. It was nice to see some of our elected state representatives in attendance, notably NJ State Senator Jennifer Beck (R), Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R), and Assemblyman Declan J. O'Scanlon Jr (R).  Although Congressman Holt and Pallone were NOT in attendance, Steven Hildner from Holt's office was in attendance. It might be worth our while to each shoot them an email, or a quick phone call and thank them for getting involved and showing up to the meeting. Holt's office sent a staffer who was in attendance and it was a good sign to see that he'll at least work to get the fed EPA involved, not that I think Lisa Jackson will be any more effective in helping us as part of the EPA than she was in helping us as part of the DEP. A bit disappointing that Pallone didn't make an appearance or leave a letter with a staffer.

However, with that said, I do also want to note that there are folks down in the Lacey area who have been complaining and citing real data that demonstrates that Oyster Creek Nuclear plant has been polluting that area with radioactive waste for years. While I don't intend to get into the debate over nuclear power (which I fully support the use of if done safely like the plants in France), I am concerned that if
the battle those citizens have been fighting, with wide-spread support from the APP and most politicians, isn't going in their favor and is equally or more dangerous than our case, I fear we might be looking at a similar situation where our complaints will go on for decades, fines will be levied, claims for solutions will be proposed but at the end of the day, we'll just be a small group of complainers who are largely
ignored and we don't have the APP pushing weekly articles out reminding folks of our battle and problems. Oceanport's administration is clearly on our side and it seems like our area State reps are on our side so we should try to keep those political forces working for us.

1 comment:

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