Much has been said in the news lately about the “Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission”, a body that was created over a year ago by the legislature to do the following:
“the commission shall develop criteria to serve as the basis for recommending the consolidation of specific municipalities, the merger of specific existing autonomous agencies into the parent municipal or county government, or the sharing of services between municipalities or between municipalities and other public entities.” (All references are to NJSA 52:27D-501 et seq.)
This Commission has been in the news lately as it has only now gotten around to forming, despite the law requiring it form within 60 days of the passage of the law.
Who gets to serve on the Committee? Just about anyone, except:
“No appointee shall be an elected official of a local unit or county unless that person has significant experience in shared service initiatives and demonstrated success at having implemented such agreements at the local level.”
Isn’t that brilliant? A Commission to consolidate towns, but no elected representatives from any towns can serve on it.
The Act is also interesting in that it is an attempt to play off the “success” of the BRAC law that closes United States Military bases. (We all know how well that worked with Ft. Monmouth.)
In fact, the law makes specific reference to the BRAC procedure:
“Tough political decisions are often most expeditiously made through the use of bipartisan commissions, as demonstrated by the success of the federal base realignment and closure (BRAC) procedure.”
Unfortunately, the law fails to mention that the BRAC procedure is subject to terrible abuse, with the outright falsification of data that led to the eventual demise of Ft. Monmouth. Despite overwhelming evidence of false and misrepresentative data, the BRAC Commission and the Army are going ahead with the closure.
The so-called LUARAC Commission is empowered to do a lot of studying, and will spend a lot of our money to do so:
“The commission shall appoint an executive director, who shall serve at the pleasure of the commission and who shall have expertise in one or more local government subjects, such as planning, local finance, geography, taxation, or other relevant fields. The executive director shall appoint professional staff qualified by training and experience to serve the commission.”
Yes, another layer of bureaucracy that will spend our tax dollars. Just like the County “Super-superintendents” that will recommend consolidation of school districts. Do you notice a trend here? Governor Corzine and his party, while in control of the legislature, have repeatedly created state-level bureaucracies that are designed to eliminate local control. Why? Because State-level patronage pits provide a greater amount of political boss control and a higher rate of return than local small town governments.
But I digress. The LUARAC law also has the ability to force small towns to comply with its requests:
“The commission shall be entitled to the cooperation of the officials and employees of every county and municipality as it may require.”
The Commission is going to ask for volunteers, and if it gets none, will presumably throw darts to select what towns to study. After spending money, forcing cooperation, and making recommendations that may include consolidation of municipalities, it will make recommendations to the Governor and legislature as to what towns should consolidate.
Only then, after all that money is spent, will it be put to the voters to decide if they want to consolidate. Only if it passes by a majority from all local units, will consolidation go forward.
O.K. let’s bring it back home:
As many people know, Fair Haven has a close relationship with its neighbors, Rumson and Little Silver. We are currently studying a consolidation of the three local police departments, as well as existing and ongoing efforts to share other municipal services. Much of the recent efforts have been a result of a “pick your dance partner” mentality: It is better to work together now, than be forced into partnerships in the future.
I support efforts to save money for our local property tax payers, but I also strongly believe that the identity of our small towns must remain intact. I oppose forced efforts to consolidate municipalities. Fortunately, under the current law, Rumson, Fair Haven and Little Silver will not have to confront a consolidation, as the legislature that wrote the LUARAC law put in this provision:
Municipalities to be considered for consolidation shall be within the same county and shall also be situated within the same legislative district.
Fair Haven and Little Silver are in the 12th, Rumson is in the 11th. As it stands, the law prevents a consolidation of these three towns. Why? I submit because no legislator wanted to risk losing one of their constituent towns. They wanted to protect their gerrymandered turf.
The lesson from all this, is this: What comes out of Trenton is not designed to help us. It is designed to further the agenda of the controlling interests in Trenton.
Mike Halfacre is the Mayor of Fair Haven and a contributor to MoreMonmouthMusings