Don?t let Whelan and other legislators take away the power of the people

Don?t let Whelan and other legislators take away the power of the people

By SETH GROSSMAN, Political Columnist

(Reprinted from February 10, 2010 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties,

“Success to the old fashioned doctrine

That men are created all free

And down with the power of the despot

Wherever his stronghold may be.??

? ?Lincoln and Liberty Too,? Republican Party campaign song, 1860


Between last Christmas and New Year?s, City Council in Atlantic City approved a plan to give $350 million of city, county and state tax breaks to the Morgan Stanley Revel Casino. Within two weeks, 1,700 Atlantic City voters signed petitions to force a public vote on the issue, all in compliance with state law.

A few days later, Democratic Sens. Ray Lesniak, Jim Whelan and Majority Leader Steve Sweeney introduced special legislation to change that law and to take that referendum power away from all towns in New Jersey. Whelan said that once a ?deal? is made by politicians, it cannot be ?subject to the whim of people.?

Those people were members of UNITE HERE Local 54, the hotel and restaurant employees union that organized the petition drive partly because they don?t want a new casino with nonunion restaurants.

But what happened to ?government of the people?? Aren?t they entitled to equal protection of the law? And if nonunion restaurants are good for ?economic development,? why not let nonunion companies help finish the construction?

I went to Trenton to tell Lesniak?s Senate Committee that the proposed legislation would protect political payoffs. If a developer hires the right lawyers and lobbyists, donates to the right politicians, and hires the right people to get a sweetheart tax abatement, taxpayers would now have no way to stop it.

But as soon as I spoke, Senator Lesniak banged his gavel, and two uniformed guards quickly removed me from the microphone. Ironically, I was escorted right past Lloyd Levinson of Cooper Levinson. He is the lawyer-lobbyist for Morgan Stanley who made the deal Whelan talked about ? and who gives campaign donations to Republican and Democratic politicians around the state.

Several black residents of Atlantic City then spoke, and fought back tears to defend their right to vote. A councilman who supported the tax breaks said local voters should have the final say. Meanwhile, about 60 white members of building trades unions muttered insults against their fellow union members who opposed a deal that would give them another year of highly paid work.

Last week the U.S. Labor Department said that for the first time in our nation?s history, most union members are employed by the government. It also reported that people employed by private business earned only 1.2 percent more than they did the previous year, while employees of state and local governments got 2.4 percent raises ? twice as much.

Here in New Jersey, many public school teachers got 4.5 percent pay hikes, and union public employees in struggling Pleasantville got 3.9 percent.

But Local 54 employees who work in private hotels and restaurants agreed to no increase at all for three years.

The reason is simple: No matter how strong or militant the union, if it forces a private company to pay too much, the company goes broke and everybody is out of work. But if government pays its employees too much, it simply raises the tax rate and everybody else has to deal with the problem.

Union construction workers are now just like government employees. They get such big pay hikes, pensions and benefits that very few private businesses can afford them. Like government employees, they now use politics to get what they want.

First they got a monopoly on all government and casino projects. Then they got a monopoly on all CRDA and solar and windmill projects. Now they want more: government money for any private business that hires them.

Raising everyone?s taxes for 20 years so a big corporation pays less and hires highly paid union construction workers for one year will not stimulate the economy. Dirty deals like this are killing it. The first to get hurt in this kind of depression are the Local 54 people who work in our hotels, restaurants and casinos.

Until Republicans wake up and again become the party of ?Lincoln and Liberty Too,? help us buy some billboards, ads and some radio and TV time. Help us convince more people that only liberty brings prosperity.

Please attend our major fundraising wine and cheese event Sunday, Feb. 21 at the Carisbrooke Inn at Little Rock Avenue and the Boardwalk in Ventnor. Guest speaker is Paul Mulshine, libertarian-conservative columnist for the Newark Star Ledger. Tickets are $75 each or $100 per couple. Call (609) 927-7333 or email

Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears live on WVLT-92.1 FM heard throughout South Jersey 8-9 a.m. every Saturday. For information see, email, or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Athena Diner, 1515 New Road, Northfield.

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