BRIGANTINE – Visitors to City Hall this summer may have spotted an odd message on a few bumper stickers in the parking lot: “I ain’t no FOOT.” Little could they know that message may have been directed at them.
During an Aug. 18 City Council meeting, resident Mike Brennan alleged that the message is an acronym, letting the reader know that the sticker’s owner “ain’t no F-ing Out-Of-Towner” – and some of the sticker-bearers were owned by city employees, he said, which led to a flurry of memos reminding them of what is or is not appropriate.
Anti-summer resident and anti-visitor sentiment is a tradition in some shore towns, dating to the days of Philadelphians or New Yorkers packing their lunches in shoe boxes before a train trip to the beach – hence the nickname “shoobies.”
But in Brigantine this summer, the FOOT controversy came on the heels of remarks by Councilman Sam Storino during a council meeting that many people believed were targeted at summer residents. “You come from somewhere else,” he told some in the crowd, “because you like Brigantine and now you want to change it,” although Storino said he was talking about a specific group of political opponents who are dual residents.
At American Legion Brigantine Post 396, members are preparing for their annual post-Labor Day party, sometimes known as “Shoobie Tuesday.”
During the Aug. 18 council meeting, Brennan read from a restricted Facebook page, “Greenheads against FOOTs,” which he said contained posts and messages from at least one city employee, occasionally posted on city time.
“‘I ordered 100 stickers, so there will be enough for everybody,'” read one message he recited for City Council. “‘They should be here by Tuesday.'”
“‘A FOOT actually came into my office to show off a bug bite she had from one of our greenheads,'” read another post recited by Brennan. “‘She claims she will never come to Brigantine again. Well, I say one down, 24,999 to go.'”
“‘There should be a vaccine for us so we can be immune to the FOOTs,'” read one comment. “‘P.S., I really want a sticker.'”
City Manager Jim Barber said last week that he “reissued the memo regarding the use of city computers, reminding people that they can’t be used for anything but city business.”
As for whether he would ask city employees who had “FOOT” stickers on their cars to remove them, “I don’t know if I would ask them to,” he said, citing First Amendment concerns. “If they were on city cars, maybe, but on personal cars, I don’t know.”
But like the old saying about victory and defeat, pro-summer resident statements may have a thousand fathers, but the “I ain’t no FOOT” bumper sticker and Facebook page seem to be orphans.
Asked about the gold Mercury Grand Marquis and blue Nissan Pathfinder that have been repeatedly seen in the City Hall parking lot baring FOOT stickers, Deputy City Clerk Ann Adams said she did not know who owned either of them.
Barber, meanwhile, said that “when I drive around the island, I see more ‘BB’ Brigantine Beach signs. I haven’t seen (FOOT stickers). Of course, I’m not looking for them.”
He said he was unaware of the two such stickers on cars at City Hall that day last week.
Storino said Brennan’s comments during the meeting “were the first time I ever heard anything about it. The council members were looking at each other, like ‘What is he talking about?’ I don’t know one person who has (FOOT stickers). I don’t know where they come from or who they represent.”
Storino himself, who said his own remarks were in the heat of the moment and taken out of context, said, “I absolutely support all the people who live here. Monthly, weekly, yearly, it doesn’t matter. I’ve never questioned how long you lived here or where you were from. It doesn’t matter.”
Mayor Phil Guenther also said the Aug. 18 meeting was the first he had heard about the stickers or Web page.
“Mr. Barber directed everyone that city computers are for city business,” Guenther said Friday. “I don’t know that much about it. Anyone who has had that bumper sticker in the past, I think they don’t (anymore).”
As for the American Legion’s party, “I don’t think it’s anti-visitor sentiment. It’s more of an end-of-summer party. Certainly there are less crowds, and I think they are celebrating more the end of summer,” he said. “(As for) any widespread issue with out-of-towners or summer residents, we embrace tourism. We encourage people to come to the island, and I hope they’re treated courteously and plan to visit in the future.”
Brennan, of the real estate appraisal firm Brennan Colangelo Appraisals LLC, said, “It kills me. Like any island, our economy is driven by second homeowners. … There isn’t any businessman on this or any other island who would tolerate this nonsense. We don’t have enough business in Brigantine, and they have to do this stuff? It’s ridiculous.”
Carl Mutschler, owner of the Jolly Roger Surf Shop in Brigantine, agreed in principle about anti-visitor sentiment.
“I certainly don’t have it, and I live in Brigantine,” Mutschler said. “You do see that, but it’s mostly a minority like that. Obviously (it’s from) people not involved in business. They aren’t going to be anti-making money. … It’s a shame, people like that.”
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