Lakewood Briefs


Mo Hill Accuses Petro Campaign of Foul Play with anti-Orthodox Mailer

Toms River Republican mayoral candidate Maurice “Mo” Hill has filed a complaint against his Democratic rival, Jonathan Petro, claiming that the latter’s campaign attempted to fool voters with an anti-Orthodox mailer sent from a phony entity.

As much of the campaign itself, the charge centers on controversies and mutual accusations surrounding construction and proposed zoning changes in the town’s North Dover section, which is home to a fast growing Orthodox community.

The complaint claims that the Petro campaign “conspired to deceive Toms River voters through the publication and distribution of a previously anonymous letter from a fictitious entity that falsely accused Hill of inappropriately colluding the Orthodox Jewish community to amend the township’s zoning laws to allow for Houses of Worship on 2 acre lots.”

Presently, houses of worship must own 10 acre plots of land in order to build in the township. Under pressure from an investigation by the Federal Department of Justice, township officials and attorneys have designed possible plans that would avoid a possible suit by the DOJ. However, such moves are often painted as capitulation to the interests of the Orthodox community and have become a main centerpiece of the campaign. Even though Mr. Hill has repeatedly stated that he would only endorse changes that the DOJ would agree would avoid litigation and would categorically reject lowering the requirement to two acres.

The commonly used stamp of “overdevelopment” in northern Toms River often erroneously conflagrates the house of worship issue with the building of affordable housing units in the area which were mandated by the state years before the Orthodox influx.

According to the complaint the mailer that accuses Mr. Hill of caving to Orthodox interests was produced and distributed by Ryan Protter, president of Toms River’s Democratic organization and chairman of the county’s Democratic Balloting Committee though a rented mailbox in a UPS store assigned to a fake organization.

Mr. Petro denied any knowledge of the mailer and said that he did not see it “until it arrived in my mailbox.” Yet, in the same statement, he was quick to capitalize on the letter’s content pointing out that Mr. Hill had not denied the accuracy of the any of the statements made including meetings he held with Orthodox residents to discuss zoning issues.

Toms River has long been considered a Republican stronghold, yet in the last election cycle three Democrats won seats on the powerful town council largely by focusing their campaign on accusations that incumbents had gone too far to accommodate the needs of the Orthodox community. Some of their campaign material was widely labeled as anti-Semitic and played on common themes of Jewish money buying unfair amounts of influence.

In the present campaign, in addition to the mayoralty, three seats on the town council are in play and both Mr. Hill and Mr. Petro have candidates on their tickets to fill the slots.

Rep. Smith Introduces Bill Over Chinese Crackdown in Hong Kong

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) has introduced a bill that attempts to hold China accountable for promises to preserve democracy in Hong Kong amid a crackdown on the semi-independent province by Beijing.

In his remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives, Rep. Smith detailed a history of “broken promises” by Chinese leader Xi Jinping harkening back to the 2014 Hong Kong pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.

“Despite President Xi’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors—then and especially now, triggered this time by an outrageous proposed policy to facilitate extradition—the resolve, courage, tenacity and clarity of purpose of the people of Hong Kong shines through the darkness like the sun,” he said.

The bi-partisan measure is co-sponsored by Jim McGovern (D-MA) and in his introductory remarks Rep. Smith recalled several bills and efforts that he had worked on to protect freedom for Hong Kongers together with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

“Since the 1989 Tiananmen massacre thirty years ago, I’ve had the privilege of working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle—including Speaker Pelosi—on human rights, the rule of law and democracy for the people of China,” he said. “We have always believed that every person in China deserves better than the brutality so many endure and the systematic violations of their universally recognized human rights.”

The present Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 prescribes heavier reporting and scrutiny from the State Department and Department of Commerce on China’s actions in Hong Kong and lists various possible punitive measures for violations of previous promises to ensure a free society there.

“Today we’re simply urging the Chinese President and the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, to faithfully honor the government’s promises,” said Rep. Smith. “Honor the promises made in 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration that facilitated the conveyance of Hong Kong from the UK to the China beginning July 1, 1997 that autonomy, human rights including press, assembly, association and religion would be exactly the same as before the handover for at least 50 years. Honor the promises made in the “Basic Law” of Hong Kong adopted by China’s National People’s Congress in 1990—before the giveback—that autonomy and rights would be protected.”

Mosquito Carrying Rare Virus Discovered at Joint Base in Lakehurst

A mosquito with a rare and potentially dangerous virus discovered at the massive military base in Lakehurst has opened a wave of heightened awareness and efforts to guard local residents from bites.

According to a report by the Asbury Park Press, the insect was discovered in a trap in a residential area of the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst which is home to various branches of the armed forces and is Ocean County’s largest single employer.

The mosquito was found to carry a rare virus known as Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) which can cause infections of the brain that can lead to neurological damage or even death. Several mosquitos in 13 counties across New Jersey have tested positive for EEE and this summer a man in Somerset county was hospitalized with the virus.

EEE can also affect horses and while a vaccine has been developed for them, one for humans does not yet exist.

It is unclear how the mosquito at the Joint Base was discovered to be a carrier of EEE. Following the revelation the area was sprayed to deter mosquitos and residents were urged to minimize exposed skin while outdoors, to apply insect repellant, and not to leave standing water.

“Through strong state and local partnerships, we are able to greatly reduce the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses,” state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said in a news release last week. “The public has to do its part, too. Dumping out standing water on your property goes a long way toward reducing mosquito bites by limiting where they grow.”