JACKSON-The Jackson Township council is preparing for a showdown with the Orthodox community this week as it considers a dormitory ban within its borders. Many in town are left wondering, is the battle over before it even starts after revelations came to light connected the Jackson Township council to powerful professional firms already operating in Lakewood.
Some in town however, are more concerned about the deep political and patronage ties between the city of Lakewood and the rural township of Jackson, left asking themselves how can the people who created Lakewood now be tasked with saving Jackson?
The two towns are not similar in any way to the observing visitor.
Lakewood is a bustling, congested city, literally breaking at the seams. Jackson is a rural community of over 100 square miles, much of the land is environmentally protected and sensitive headwaters.
When you drive from Jackson to Lakewood vice versa, you know exactly where Jackson ends and Lakewood begins. Sleepy tree lined roads turn into high density residential neighborhoods bustling with activity and traffic. High density commercial districts make way for sparse strip malls.
On paper, it’s nearly impossible to tell where Lakewood begins and Jackson ends. The two towns share much more commonality than one would think. That’s because the same power base that has been appointed to run Lakewood’s municipal government, planning board, zoning board and MUA are is nearly identical to the one that runs Jackson.
All of the things that make Lakewood and Jackson similar lead to one common denominator, campaign funding by politically powerful professionals that operate in both towns. In total, between 2012 and 2016, the campaign of Jackson’s township councilmen Ken Bressi, Barry Calogero and Rob Nixon took in over $26,000 in campaign funds from politically appointed professionals that also run Lakewood’s boards even though they had no opponents in their November election.
Why did they take accept nearly $50,000 in total campaign contributions in 2016 in an election where they had no opponents?
The township council in Jackson generously acepted $26,000 in donations from Lakewood’s appointed professionals between 2012 and 2015. During that time, they awarded those same professionals over $6,000,000 dollars in public service contracts.
In an Open Public Records request to the township in 2016, the township provided JTOWN Magazine with the payouts to those professionals. Since our October report on those payouts between 2012 and 2015, the township has since refused to release the 2016 payouts.
Since running our initial report last year on the Jackson council’s campaign pay to play scheme, the township has since stripped JTOWN Magazine of its municipal advertising, delisted it as an official paper of the township, publicly ridiculed the magazine and have been engaged in an underhanded backroom attempt to kill JTOWN Magazine, going as far as fabricating statements released to other newspapers. The council struck back at our meddling in their affairs, enacting fierce and harsh political retribution against our publication.
So what is it that the Jackson Township council doesn’t want the residents of Jackson to know?
They don’t want the residents to know that they originate from the same power and financial base as neighboring Lakewood Township. Ken Bressi, Barry Calogero and Rob Nixon got the bulk of their 2016 campaign funding from the same sources that Lakewood Township’s elected officials got theirs from.
In return, like Lakewood, Jackson appointed those donors with very lucrative municipal public contracts.
For instance, the planning firm that represents Lakewood’s zoning board, council, municipal utilities authority and planning board, Remington and Vernick also represents Jackson’s zoning board, planning board and council as engineer and planner.
Jackson Township now tells the people of the town it is ready to enter battle with the same professionals that have been representing Lakewood for years…really?
The same powers that represents the rampant overgrowth in Lakewood is now tasked with controlling the growth in Jackson, simply because they put money into the campaign coffers of our council.
Many of the same professionals who donated large sums of money to the campaign team of Bressi, Nixon and Calogero were given extremely large payouts over the past four years in Jackson. They also receive large public payouts for their work in Lakewood.
Across the board, when you look at the hired professionals in Lakewood, most of them have also been hired in Jackson. While that in itself could be defended as a coincidence, chance is thrown out of the window when those names are cross referenced with campaign financing paid to the Jackson Township Council, where all of them are listed, according to election filings on record with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
While nothing done in either town is illegal under New Jersey law, residents are left to question what exactly is going on here?
A pay to play scheme is apparent in Jackson, with stark similarities to Lakewood. Many of those same professionals also funded political campaigns in Lakewood Township in 2016.
In a recent news story about JTOWN Magazine, councilman Barry Calogero balked at a 2016 election satire piece mocking his campaign pay to play scheme, but in January of 2016, Calogero voted yes to hire the Lakewood professionals who donated large sums of money to his campaign.
The same money being thrown around Lakewood for political access is now being thrown around in Jackson Township for similar political access and the township council is throwing a fit because they didn’t want the township’s residents to know.
While Lakewood and Jackson are two completely different towns, on paper, there are very few differences when it comes to who controls both towns, according to NJELEC, records obtained from Jackson Township and meeting minutes from the Jackson and Lakewood 2017 reorganization meetings for both towns’ council, zoning, planning and MUA boards.
Political pay to play is alive and well in Jackson and Lakewood and the ones paying the price will be the residents of both towns.