The latest issue of the Lakewood Watchdog (also available on facebook) showed up in mailboxes this week. In addition to an in-depth look at the Council’s plan to spend $25 million of the taxpayers’ dollars to go into the development business, this issue looks at some the campaign promises made by the candidates. It goes into some depth about Adam Paul’s claim to protect parks and open space. Specifically it re-examines the case a couple years ago when Paul joined with the mayor and the Council majority to giveaway the open space at the south end of Hutchinson Park. Most people call this site the “2090 property” for the address (2090 S. Wright St.).
Paul denies he tried to give away the park land claiming he believed it belonged to the school district. Although the courts eventually ruled against him and reaffirmed it was parkland, Paul continues to claim he was just trying to help a school for the deaf. Whether he really cared about the school or whether he was just supporting the mayor’s plan (absolute loyalty to Murphy was a requirement to get the Mayor’s campaign endorsement and all the special interest money that comes with it) is irrelevant to the issue. Whether it was for a good cause or not the fact is that Paul supported giving away the parkland. In addition Paul supported spending tens of thousands of tax dollars on wasted legal fees trying to defend this action.
The Watchdog article revealed a seldom noted element of the whole sorted affair. While everyone knows that the school for the deaf eventually was built in a great location, very few people realize that the City tried to give away this parkland twice. The second time was a quiet title action in which the school district tried to gain ownership of the land for an undisclosed purpose. Since the district did not have a school in mind for the property it appears they were trying to get the land in order to sell it to developers. By selling the parkland to developers the school district would receive a cash infusion from the sale proceeds. While this motive can be debated, what can’t be debated is that this second giveaway was clearly an illegal giveaway that would have resulted in parkland being developed.
There is no way Paul can argue this second giveaway attempt was consistent with “protecting parks and open space”. However in politics the facts don’t matter. Candidates like Paul can just keep making claims and promises and as long as voters don’t check them and accept what they are being told then these candidates continue to be elected.
Usually the local newspapers don’t report these details and the City’s propaganda machine keeps putting out a pollyannish line so that the vast majority of voters have no idea what is going on. However, the new Watchdog newspaper may change all that. We will have to see if voters pay attention to the other side of the news.