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Toms River Wal-Mart Project and The Gov: Perspective

 A web story that’s generating volumes of activity aims to broaden corruption allegations surrounding Gov. Chris Christie to the stalled Super Wal-Mart project on the Toms River-Manchester border. It is comprehensive, but leaves some key points unanswered.

Disclaimers: I have no ties to Wal-Mart, environmentalists, the Governor, Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore, or northern pine snakes; I believe that killing old-growth trees will do nothing for clean air and that more impervious cover means more trouble for Barnegat Bay; and I sense the job-creation and tax-revenue bait that has Toms River officials swimming after it like minnows.

The article, which you can read here,  peers under the rock where political alliances thrive, and creates a plausible case for a steamrolling of natural land to line the pockets of an old-boy network. It illustrates the unending tug of war between commerce and environment that only escalates as Ocean County’s population increases. As you can see in this article, WOBM News has been illustrating it for decades and will continue to do so.

The points are well taken. But they ignore the shore’s economic underpinnings. Superstorm Sandy wiped out tourism dollars in 2013 the way it wiped out buildings in 2012. The Route 35 redevelopment threatens to do the same this year. There is a desperate need all along the shore to steady a teetering commercial financial base.

The Toms River Township Council, at its formation in 2003, declared itself the overseer of business redevelopment on the Route 37 corridor. They probably should build a shrine to the auto dealers who expanded and upgraded, and who bring added traffic to the hardy independent retailers who line much of the highway. A Super Wal-Mart is just another in a series of elusive dreams to address a listless economy.

Also overlooked are the nearly two-thirds of Ocean County land protected from development, by state, county and local means, and the lawsuit brought by a family-owned supermarket chain, which has stopped the Wal-Mart project in its tracks.

The article uses the Wal-Mart situation as supportive evidence of a blustering, back-biting thug and his money-hungry cronies using New Jersey like a Kleenex and tossing it out when they’re done. But in all candor, the game has been the same forever. Only the players, and the parties, change. “Whoever dies with the most toys, wins.” To pretend otherwise is disingenuous at best.

If anything, the story provides ample proof that we, as voters and taxpayers, should move beyond the images projected by people who seek to represent us. It requires research and time. If you’re not willing to commit to it, then you can’t complain about what you get.

 

* The author of this column, Tom Mongelli, is Townsquare Media’s Shore News Bureau Chief.

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