Despite Challenge, Asbury Park’s New Government Takes Office

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On January 1st, while much of the Jersey Shore was nursing the year’s first hangover, Asbury Park’s newly elected Mayor and City Council were ready to get down to business. It was the day of the city government’s reorganization, and the members of the Asbury Together ticket—John Moor, Amy Quinn, Yvonne Clayton, Joe Woerner, and Jesse “Coach K” Kendle—were to be sworn in to their new leadership positions. The team had enjoyed a resounding victory during last November’s non-partisan elections, a hotly contested race that divided the city and rapidly turned dirty during its waning days when the A-Team was accused of fabricating an endorsement from Senator Cory Booker and of utilizing various irregularities in collecting vote-by-mail ballots, which resulted in over three hundred of these being purged from the roster.

And yet, despite early predictions to the contrary, Asbury Together was elected, and the voters endorsed their message of unity. John Moor was sworn in as Asbury Park’s Mayor shortly after noon. It was a moment his supporters had long anticipated. Indeed, last election cycle, it seemed as though Moor would be appointed Mayor, as he had garnered the most votes in his race for City Council and tradition long dictated the top vote-getter become Executive. Urban politics is rarely so clear-cut, however, and Myra Campbell, his former running mate, was appointed instead. Mayor Campbell told the Star Ledger she took the position because the opportunity to be the first black, female Mayor in Asbury history was a historic decision that may never be available again. True though that may be, the decision was controversial, with Moor’s supporters crying fowl and advocates of transparent government concerned that a back room deal had been made.

Shortly after that fiasco, the city’s electoral model was changed. No longer would the races be held in May, nor the Mayor selected by the City Council—now moved to November, the voters were allowed to directly elect their Executive. Four candidates entered the fray, vying for the city’s top office: incumbent Mayor Myra Campbell, Harold Suggs, the A-Team’s Remond Palmer, and Councilman John Moor. In the end, it was the Asbury Together ticket that won, meaning Moor finally became Mayor.

“This Council recognizes that together we can help the City, its residents, and its businesses for realize a future that can help Asbury Park become not the best city along the Jersey Shore, but the best city in the entire state,” Mayor Moor said. “Asbury Park is diverse and dynamic. We have many different voices and this Council will listen to all of them.”

Also sworn in was Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn, who became known as a champion of open and accountable government during her last term on the City Council. It was Quinn’s speech that likely explained why, despite the fact a public concerns portion was scheduled, none of the residents in attendance had anything to say.

“As a token of our appreciation, we are buying all of you drinks and brunch at Johnny Mac’s across the street right after this,” Deputy Mayor Quinn said. “So everybody feel free to come to the microphone—but your delaying all of us having drinks.”

Councilwoman Yvonne Clayton, who grew up in Asbury Park and recently moved back after an absence of several years, thanked her supporters and assured them she would spend her term working for all the city’s residents.

“I want to thank the previous councils for everything they have done; they took a city that was dying and breathed life into it,” the Councilwoman said. “This is our chance to move the city further…Most of all, I want to thank you for believing I have a place on this Council, and when I was running the one thing I would always say was my goal was to make this the best city for all its residents, and that is still my goal.”

Councilman Jesse “Coach K” Kendle drew upon pop-culture imagery to establish his plan for the city.

“I was sitting home one night, and I was looking at Gunsmoke, with Marshall Dillon,” he said. “And I got to thinking: Asbury Park is not Dodge City, but I tell you, he was the Marshall, he was in charge, and this Council here is going to be the same kind of man, its going to get Asbury Park back in order.”

Councilman Joe Woerner expressed his desire to better Asbury Park for all its residents, regardless of skin color or sexual orientation.

“Just a word about the vision that we have—and I think you have—about the city,” he said. “We want Asbury Park to be is a beautiful city where there is opportunity for everyone. And when we say ‘beautiful,’ we’re talking about the ocean, and the boardwalk, and the beaches, and the parks, and clean streets and safe streets, and architecture. And when we say ‘opportunities,’ we want everyone to have the opportunity to be successful and prosper. And when we say ‘everyone,’ it’s the same thing we said during the campaign; it’s everyone in this city. We have people from the East Side, the West Side, young people, older people, we have black, white, straight, gay, family, single, and we want everyone in this city to enjoy the opportunity and beauty that is Asbury Park!”

Asbury Park Mayor John Moor shortly before being sworn in.

Asbury Park Mayor John Moor shortly before being sworn in.

Clayton, Woerner, and Quinn will serve two-year terms; Kendle was randomly selected to serve four years. Though the day could best be described as “jubilant,” a grey cloud lingered over the proceedings: the recently defeated A-Team filed a lawsuit on December 16th, hoping to invalidate the outcome of the November elections. Even though they already conceded the race, the Asbury Park Sun has reported that the A-Team wants to have the three-hundred-plus vote-by-mail ballots that were disqualified counted. Even if every single one of them voted for Palmer, Moore would still have won the election, however, the margin could be small enough to force a run-off. That said, this seems like a long shot, and Judge Dennis O’Brien denied their request to have the city re-organization postponed.

The newly elected Asbury Park Mayor and City Council have taken office amidst a wave of public support. Hopefully, 2015 will be a year that brings new highs to the little City by the Sea; there are many good things on the horizon. If Asbury Park can stay unified, the potential to re-establish itself as a regional attraction and cure the various ills that have long plagued the city, is unrivaled.

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