County Machine Backs Candidates Litowitz And Coolidge. Tabernacle Budget Adopted. June 1, 2016 Meeting Video Available

Passing the MoneyELECTION: Campaign Financing. As the June 7 primary election approaches, the two campaigns have filed their Report of Contributions and Expenditures with New Jersey’s Election Law Enforcement Commission (“ELEC”). ELEC monitors the integrity of campaign finances in New Jersey.

The Litowitz-Coolidge campaign reported $7,610 in monetary contributions. This doesn’t include $40.52 of in-kind contributions. The monetary contributions are about five (5) times more than Yates’s and Lee’s, who reported $1,550 in contributions.

By far, the largest contributor to the Litowitz-Coolidge campaign was Richard A. Alaimo Association of Engineers that contributed $5,200 (see Schedule A, page 1). That’s a whopping 68% of the total.

The Alaimo Group provides engineering services to numerous government bodies, authorities, commissions, boards, agencies and organizations throughout New Jersey and especially in Burlington County. It’s home base is Mount Holly.

Alaimo Associates contributed to Committeewoman Kim Brown’s campaign in 2011. It was appointed Tabernacle’s engineer in 2011, when she became mayor. Alaimo remained township engineer until 2016, when Dante Guzzi Engineering was appointed and Steven Lee was Mayor. This cut costs significantly.

Guzzi’s 2016 hourly rate for a principal engineer is $137.00. Alaimo’s 2016 hourly rate for a principal engineer is $175.00.

If candidates Litowitz and Coolidge are elected, look for them to team up with Kim Brown to re-appoint Alaimo. Expect our engineering costs to soar.

The smallest contributor to the Litowitz-Coolidge campaign is Tina Marie Coolidge. She’s contributed nothing. As I’ve said before, she doesn’t seem interested.

The Litowitz-Coolidge ELEC filing also shows that Committeewoman Kim Brown’s father’s firm, “JKA Enterprises” (see Schedule 1(D)), was paid $1,767 for yard signs and other items. So far, I’ve received three (3) glossy mailings. That’s a huge number for a municipal primary election.

Not surprisingly, the Litowitz-Coolidge ELEC report shows a connection to the TRS. In April 10, 2016, I reported that:

Litowitz and Coolidge were supported by the same people who lead the TRS. Chief George Jackson, III signed their petition for election; so did his family. TRS President Jamie Wood also signed their petition; so did her family. Executive Officer Shawn Vena signed the petition, along with his family. TRS past President Jim Jones, signed the petition along with his family. Mr. Jones is the father-in-law of Mr. Litowitz and is related to President Jamie Wood.

The new ELEC report shows a contribution from Lauren Wood, Jamie Wood’s daughter . It also shows a contribution from Joseph Jones who is believed to be Jamie Wood’s father (see Schedule A, pages 1 and 2).

The fingerprints of the Burlington County political machine are all over the Litowitz-Coolidge campaign: big contributions from established professionals, dubious reporting by the Burlington County Times about layoffs; Ralph Shrom (long-time Republican operative) as treasurer; and a barrage of glossy mailings.

Also, there are the ballot shenanigans. Candidates Litowitz and Coolidge, who are running as a team, were placed next to each other on the ballot. Yates and Lee, who are also a team, are separated on the ballot. They are placed first and fourth which takes more concentration to see. Ballot placement decisions are typically made by the County Republican Chairman.

In his recent Tabernacle News and Info post, Candidate Litowitz asks,

[If] the ‘Republican Party choose [sic] to run candidates against established incumbent party members’, doesn’t that say something about the incumbents?

Yes, it says that the County machine doesn’t like officials who are independent. It also says that the County machine expects Litowitz and Coolidge to re-appoint its people.

The Yates-Lee campaign reported no contributions from professionals. They reported $1,550 in total monetary contributions; one was $500. The remainder were contributions of $300 or less. They spent $1,608 on advertising signs. I’ve received one mailing from them.

Staying Positive? In their recent posting, Litowitz and Coolidge say that they are not engaging people who are criticizing them. Instead, they are focusing on their message of “positive change.”

They actually say they are not engaging people who are spreading “half-truths, “misinformation, and flat out lies about us.” But because they also haven’t responded to any of my criticisms, I think it’s fair to take a broader view.

In my experience, candidates who don’t respond to criticisms, don’t respond because the criticism is accurate. That seems to be the case with Litowitz and Coolidge.

Last week, candidate Litowitz tried to censor a link to my post from Tabernacle News and Info. My May 30 post was about his opposition to my video recording of Township meetings and his lack of interest in transparency. I presented the documents of his threats to prevent my video recording and my response. Readers can review the documents again.

Candidates Litowitz and Coolidge have a long history of silence on and opposition to open government and transparency, especially when information about the Tabernacle Rescue Squad is concerned. Their candidacy was a direct response to the Committee’s exploration of ways to assure the professional and efficient delivery of emergency services. This is a legitimate and necessary part of the Committee’s duties.

But the Tabernacle Rescue Squad doesn’t want any Township oversight or management. They won’t even provide their roster! The only Township involvement they want is to receive public subsidies and funding. So they put up Litowitz and Coolidge to oppose the incumbents Yates and Lee.

Yates and Lee make up the Committee’s Public Safety subcommittee that was created to review emergency services. The review is the first step in the Committee’s long-delayed promise to assure the professional and efficient delivery of emergency services. Former Mayor Kim Brown and the Committee made this promise to the State and to Township residents when they dissolved the Tabernacle Fire District.

Candidates Litowitz and Coolidge and the TRS supported the dissolution. Now that the Committee is beginning the process, the TRS and its candidates, Litowitz and Coolidge, want to stop it. That’s why Litowitz and Coolidge have no interest in calling for the TRS to be transparent. They support the TRS’s interest in being an organization that has no public accountability. No other township allows this of their own rescue squad; Tabernacle shouldn’t either.

Litowitz and Coolidge have earned legitimate criticism that their platform tenet of “improving transparency” is, to be polite, bull pucky. They’ve had plenty of time and opportunities to disagree with these criticisms and demonstrate why. But they haven’t. Their silence and their record speak for themselves.

Consider also their recent glossy mailing about “black clouds” hovering over Tabernacle taxpayers. Candidate Coolidge has only showed up for a few Township meetings. She makes claims that residents are not informed about the budget, but she hasn’t ever been part of budget conversations. I don’t think she showed up at Committee meetings until she announced her candidacy.

As an elected member of the Tabernacle Board of Education, candidate Coolidge didn’t even attend the 2014 BOE budget meetings. As Mayor Lee pointed out, BOE budgets are notorious for automatically increasing two percent annually because the law allows BOE’s to do it without public approval. If Candidate Coolidge had real concern for “Budget Responsibility,” as her campaign literature says, she would have spoken out against the BOE tax increases. Instead, she promptly quit in May 2014. This shows her lack of respect and responsibility for elected office.

It’s accurate to criticize her as being unaware and uninterested in the Township budget. Her silence isn’t because she’s focusing on her message of “positive change.” She’s silent because the criticism is accurate and she has no response.

Candidate Litowitz is rightly criticized for his laughable claim to be a “watchdog.” Regarding the budget, it’s accurate to fault him for his silence when Committee members Franzen and Brown said they had no reason to examine the 2016 budget more closely and supported a four cent municipal tax increase. Committee members Yates, Lee and Barton disagreed. Mayor Lee appointed a subcommittee to take a closer look at the 2016 budget. This led to the amendment that cut the tax increase in half (see below).

It’s also fair to criticize candidate Litowitz for his silence and support of past budgets that were rammed through without much discussion. Some of those budgets used more surplus and deferred more school taxes than was done in 2016. He said nothing about holding down taxes or tightening expenses or taking a long-term view when past budgets were proposed (neither did Tina Coolidge).  Though he now says he’s not refuting these criticisms because he wants to stay focused on “positive change,” he’s really not refuting them because they are accurate.

In previous TTJ posts about Tabernacle’s primary election, I’ve raised many criticisms about candidates Litowitz and Coolidge. They’ve never questioned or challenged my facts or my conclusions. I think they know that the shoe fits.

2016 Budget. At the Special Meeting, Wednesday June 1, the Township Committee adopted an amendment to the budget. The amendment makes cuts to various appropriations and increases the use of existing surplus. These reduce the amount needed to to be raised from taxes.

Candidate Jason Litowitz wasn’t at this public meeting. But his co-candidate Tina Marie Coolidge was. She didn’t have any comments at the budget hearing, even though she’s made the budget a big campaign issue.

After the budget hearing, candidate Coolidge and Megan Jones, Jason Litowitz’s wife, asked about layoffs of township employees. The Litowitz and Coolidge campaign has said a lot about alleged layoffs. As they have done before, the Committee clarified there are no layoffs.

Mayor Steven Lee explained that one part-time temporary employee had been hired in 2015 to fill in for the Township Clerk when she was away on a planned absence. Another part-time temporary employee was hired in 2015 to do brush removal after the severe in-line storms in June. Those two needs came to an end and the employees were released as planned. That’s not a layoff.

Litowitz’s, Coolidge’s and Jones’s questions about the “layoffs” have been answered so many times that their comments can no longer be seen as a misunderstanding of the issue. Why do candidates Litowitz and Coolidge continue to spread the lie that township employees are being laid-off? It’s because they will say almost anything to get elected.

The election is this Tuesday, June 7. The right to vote is a privilege of our democracy. Exercise your right; cast your vote.