Banning Beach Tags Is Insanity

New Jersey Senators Stephen Sweeney and Michael Dougherty are either vindictive shoobies or clinically insane.

Last month, New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney [D] and Republican Michael Dougherty had one of those ideas that should have been of the fleeting variety that comes into one’s mind and leaves it almost the exact same moment when that mind realizes it’s actually incredibly stupid—the kind that evaporates so quickly, it doesn’t even get spoken.

Not only did these two cowboys speak it, though, they actually went and made their light-bulb moment official by drafting bill S-2368, which arbitrarily proposes that any Jersey Shore town that takes federal or state aid for Hurricane Sandy cleanup stop selling beach tags.

So, basically: There, there, Sad Little Shore Towns, you may have this community-saving help—but you know that money you count on in order to at least somewhat pay for the basic maintenance of your entire geographical region’s greatest draw? Yeah, you’re going to have to figure out something else for that! Even though you’re a few billion in the hole! And even though you’re not going to even begin to make that back unless those beaches are properly guarded and maintained! It’ll be character building! Just watch! You actually owe us a huge thanks!

Imagine, please, that you are dangling out your bedroom window as your house burns slowly to the ground. A firefighter appears in front of you, offering a ladder to safety, to unscorched ground—but before he pulls you onto his burly back, he’s like, “So, I’m totally going to rescue you, and all—like, totally, totally going to pull you out of this crumbling house and into fresh air—but I’m just going to need to know that you’re going to deliver a hot, fresh, large pizza to my house every night for a month. Just, cause, you know, I’m saving your life.”

And you’re all, “WTF?”

That’s basically what’s going on here. For starters, the disconnect between the rescue and their rescue’s little caveat is deeply baffling: One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Federal aid needs to go to the Shore towns that got knocked on their asses by Sandy, because that’s what happens when a natural disaster knocks a place on its ass. They will never come back without it; all the tourists buying all the soft serve in the world can’t fix this.

And contrary to many people’s beliefs, beach tags don’t exist for the pure shits and giggles of the municipalities that charge for them. The mayors of Avalon and Sea Isle and Ship Bottom don’t pool their tags’ earnings and go out for one wild boys’ night at La Costa every Labor Day. They directly pay for the betterment of those beaches, and therefore, the towns themselves and the entire state. They pay for the lifeguards’ salaries, so that someone else is watching little Bobby when you pass out underneath your Danielle Steel and he goes running into the waves. They make sure that trash removal is regular so you can come back again the next day with an entire lunch spread from Wawa for the whole fam—including the beers that are definitely not passing for iced tea, even when you pour them into plastic cups—and toss it before you climb back in the car. And honestly, for most of the Jersey Shore towns, the income from beach tags only offsets these costs, they don’t cover them.

So what on earth does all of that have to do with hurricane relief?

I get that people don’t like beach tags. It sucks to remember to clip them to your beach stuffs, and it sucks even harder if you lose one or a few and have to replace them. And because people of basically any socioeconomic status will try to get out of paying for many a thing, when they perceive themselves to be paying for the privilege of breathing outside air and using natural resources that exist whether or not they’re coughing up $6 a day to use them, there’s inevitably going to be bitterness. I’ve spent every summer of my life in Avalon, and I’ve heard all the complaints and the reasoning behind them.

Something tells me these two gentlemen are of the variety of beachgoers who give the high-school girls patrolling for beach tags a hard time. Who, despite the evidence right in front of them in the form of a glistening beach with waters protected by two strong, championship swimmers, just don’t get it. Who are taking advantage of their positions and a hurricane to try to treat themselves—and their constituents—to a free patch of sand this summer. Which is just gross—but then again, the alternative is that they “must be total idiots,” if I may borrow a phrase from Mayor Joseph Mancini of Long Beach Township in Ocean County.

I don’t know which is worse. What I do know is that this bill is nothing short of kicking these towns when they’re down. And that’s the opposite of what they were both put in office to do.