Jackson Mayor Calls on Murphy to Resign Over Pandemic ‘Power Trip’
JACKSON — Mayor Mike Reina angrily called on Gov. Phil Murphy to resign, saying that he is on a "power trip" after shooting down the township's plan to allow youth athletic teams to train on municipal ballfields.
During Tuesday's Township Council meeting, officials said that municipal recreational facilities would be open for use by soccer, lacrosse, baseball, football and softball teams as long as they abide by social distancing guidelines and limit the number of participants to 10 or less.
The local rules do not allow scrimmages, contact drills, camps, training clinics or league games. Reina told New Jersey 101.5 that no equipment, including balls, would be allowed and it was only for strengthening and conditioning purposes.
No spectators will be allowed on the field, sidelines or bleachers and parents will have to remain in their vehicles.
"I told this to the governor's office that we are only going to use permits per team, per field as not to have a free-for-all," Reina said.
But when Murphy was asked during a Thursday news briefing about the township's plan, Chief Counsel Matt Platkin explained that Executive Order 133, which allowed golf courses and county and state parks to open, requires municipals parks to follow the same restrictions as county and state parks, including no sports.
"This has been communicated to the town and we will follow up if they have any questions," Platkin said.
“Sports is not OK,” Murphy added.
The mayor later heard from the Ocean County Prosecutor's office on behalf of the state Attorney General's Office that the plan is not in compliance with the parameters of the executive order.
That angered Reina.
"You're picking and choosing like you did my small businesses and what you did throughout the state. You're picking and choosing everything to your liking and it's insanity," Reina said Friday in an interview.
Reina said that many small business owners who are losing their homes, cars and shops because they cannot open are they same people who support charities, veterans, seniors and youth sports.
"But it seems to me no one wants to hear it in Trenton. They want it their way and only their way and in all fairness to the state and its residents, that's not working out," Reina said.
He said the objections being raised are unfair and unwarranted.
"Now I am mad. I've been disrespected. You took away the one pleasure we were offering the children during a bad time for them to get out and you took that away, too. Really? Really? We know you're the governor. We get it. Everybody goes through their power trip syndrome and now you're enjoying yours. You, Cuomo, whatever. I really don't care. But you took it away from the kids. Now I take it personal," he said.
Reina said no one wants their children getting sick and stressed there will be no interaction or contact while in the park.
"What's any different then you going into goddamn Walmart? I don't get it," Reina said.
The mayor, a Republican who has been in office since 2008, attacked Murphy's handling of the pandemic, faulting him for the deaths at nursing homes, which account for half of all reported COVID-19 deaths.
"You want to talk about data? We can talk about data, governor. We can talk about what you're doing with the nursing homes. The long-term care facilities. I can open a whole can of whoop ass but I'm not. We're talking about kids. I'm not going to turn around and be that guy, 'Well, look what you did here.' I'm not going to throw anything at you that you don't deserve. But you deserve this thrown at you. You need to wear this now. You need to explain to every parent and guardian in this state why you come up with this asinine regulation after you made the rules that we abide by that now are no good," Reina said.
Reina said he mourns those who have died from COVID-19 and said it's his job to look after the 58,000 residents of Jackson.
"I am the last person who would minimize or use something as leverage to get back at a political figure let along the governor. I am above that. But we maintain every safeguard you can maintain and we used your guidelines. It was OK until I said you can start using the parks," Reina said.
Reina said the recommendation from State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan to not participate in drive-by celebrations sent him over the edge about the executive orders.
Callahan later clarified that they are permissible as long as there were no gatherings that went along with the drive by parades.
"Are we living in a socialist state? Last time I looked, the Constitution overruled half of the crap he's put on us. I get the whole pandemic thing. I get the whole executive order thing. I have to respect that. I know what the chain of command is. But now you've crossed over the line. He's determining how people should live. Let me tell you something: The Bill of Rights is above your pay grade? Resign. Let's find somebody who doesn't need a pay grade to understand the Bill of Rights," Reina said, referring to a comment Murphy made in an interview last month.
Murphy later clarified that he "didn't mean that we were above the Bill of Rights" but that "we've got to do what we have to do to save lives here and we'll continue to do that. Obviously, we respect the U.S. Constitution as well as our own.”
Reina said he would email U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who has said he will investigate states use of executive orders during the pandemic, to let President Donald Trump what is happening in New Jersey.
"Every son of a gun in Trenton needs to read the Constitution and understand when they were elected they swore an oath on a Bible to uphold and support the Constitution," Reina said. "You broke that oath. Resign. You don't respect it, you don't do nothing for it and this crap that's going on in New Jersey better come to an end quick. People are hurting."
The mayor is concerned that Murphy's executive orders, which forced the cancellation of most Memorial Day parades, will threaten Independence Day celebrations.
"We're canceling fireworks. You may not be able to celebrate like you've always done in a barbecue with your family and friends. But now you canceled the Memorial Day parade. So now all the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice that we honor on that day by saluting the flag and saying a prayer, we can't get together and honor those brave men and women who died for us to give us people like what we have in New Jersey telling us what we can and cannot do. We're not capable of thinking for ourselves. We're not responsible enough to maintain social distancing until we get this unseen enemy under control," he said.
Reina said despite the objections, the plan to allow youth teams to use the parks by Memorial Day weekend is moving forward.
"Any organized team who'd like to participate in the guidelines set forth by the governor to go into my park, my park being Jackson Township Park and recreational areas," will be welcome, he said.