Gina Genovese: Learn About the Local Consolidation Movement


As budget hearings continue in Trenton through the early spring, there is another important meeting that is also taking place. In my opinion, this meeting is more critical for the long-term fiscal strength of our state than anything taking place in the Statehouse.

It is a statewide municipal consolidation workshop scheduled for the morning of March 28 in East Brunswick, near the geographic center of New Jersey. The event, coordinated by non-partisan, non-profit Courage to Connect New Jersey, brings together people from throughout the state who are involved in local consolidation movements.

One panel will focus on what is taking place in Merchantville and Cherry Hill, which have already formed a municipal consolidation commission between the two towns and is moving quickly through the state-mandated process. Another panel will focus on the Princetons, where residents and local leaders of both towns will explain how they built consensus for their future. There will also be talk of what is happening in Scotch Plains and Fanwood, in which citizens of both towns are the first in the state to take advantage of a 2007 municipal consolidation law, in which they petitioned the state for a study without the approval of local, elected leaders.

Through consolidation, we will no longer spend our budget seasons focusing on where to cut and what services will be diminished, while taxes continue to climb. Through consolidation, we can begin the discussion of how we can take the best attributes from adjoining towns and create the type of affordable communities that our children will one day be proud to live in.

It all starts with discussion. And that is what is happening on March 28. Join me to learn more about the state’s growing consolidation movement at The workshop agenda and registration are available on our website.

Gina Genovese is the executive director of Courage to Connect NJ.

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  1. As a person who believes in Representative Government, I have no problem whatsoever with local elected officials investigating anything to make local government more efficient, less expensive and better for the local citizenry, in fact I think it should be encouraged (note: encouraged does not equal extorted).

    As a person who believes in Citizen Involvement, I fully support the idea that citizens should also be able to bring ideas to the public, and, via petition, be allowed to bring those ideas to a referendum – in fact, I have been a vocal and unwavering advocate of Initiative & Referendum (I&R) for New Jersey’s citizens for many years.

    “Courage to Connect” claims to also be an advocate for Representative Government and Citizen Involvement, but if you actually investigate their proposals and the bills that they advocate, you will discover that the opposite is true – and something much more sinister: “Courage to Connect” is really an advocate for robbing the citizens of New Jersey of their right to self-determination, and that they advocate autocracy over democracy.

    Their entire organization is based on a false premise. They continue to ally themselves with those who have demonstrated, again and again, that their interests are diametrically opposed to clean government. They have not presented themselves in an honest way, they have not acted in good faith, and they continue to attempt to undermine what little representative government we, the citizens of New Jersey, have left.

  2. @ Carl Bergmanson: “self-determination” ?

    How many of us reading here will have to move out of beloved homes in our retirement because of property taxes?

    No other state suffers from self determination the way we do.

  3. NJ’s property taxes are horrible, it’s true, but the reason our property taxes are so high is because the State of NJ keeps stealing property tax revenue from the towns, and keeps re-directing money the was ostensibly for “Property Tax Relief” away from our schools.

    Consolidation is just a shiny object that Machine Politicians like Christie and Sweeney are flashing with their one hand (with the help of CurToCon, and others of their ilk) while going for a dip in your wallet with the other.

  4. We have more municipal governmental entities than the state of California, a state not known for strong fiscal management. I can’t comment on Courage to Connect specifically, but the case for consolidating the multiple layers of government in NJ is compelling. Do we really need Essex County government as well as Montclair? How much in administrative expenses could be saved by consolidating the townships of Montclair, Glen Ridge and Bloomfield? How much could be saved in purchasing costs by consolidating townships? These are fair questions for taxpayers to ask.
    The only people who benefit from all the inefficiency in the public sector in NJ are public sector employees, who taxpayers support with their hard earned wages. The tax burden is suffocating our towns and the state. If consolidation results in savings, everyone will benefit from the economic growth lower taxes will engender.

  5. Frank, I guess I’m a here a bit early!

    BMK – your first question is the good one:

    Do we really need Essex County government as well as Montclair?

    No, we do not. Here’s the full text of a letter on that very subject that was (heavily edited but) printed in last Saturday’s Ledger:

    In an editorial in Friday’s Ledger where you claim to favor reducing redundancy in local government, you rather disingenuously state: “…studies have been done – to death – on the benefits of consolidation…” while neglecting to mention that those same studies (including the one recently commissioned by the state) show that, when all the costs are calculated, municipal consolidations will – at best – result in little or no savings, result in reduced services, and, in many cases, will actually cause property tax increases.

    If one were genuinely interested in reducing redundancy in local government in New Jersey, the clear answer would be to eliminate County Government. County Government in New Jersey is completely redundant and serves little purpose other than to generate patronage jobs and huge piles of money for the political machines that have nearly completely taken over our state.

    I understand why Chris Christie and Steve Sweeney never advocate cutting into their gravy trains – the question is, why doesn’t the Ledger?

  6. Consolidation sounds like something you should take a laxative for. (I realize this remark proves beyond a doubt that I don’t belong in the same cigar-smoke-filled room as the rest of you.)

  7. Thanks, Bebop – I had a lot of fun when I ran for governor in 2009, and at least I had a chance to help some folks open their eyes to the scam that’s being run on us. I think my vote total (17,125) was pretty damn good (and I know shocked a lot of political folks), especially considering the virtual news blackout and the fact that I spent less than $1,000.

  8. Frank –

    Who is funding them?

    Great question – it should make for some interesting reading…

  9. Back to BMK:

    the case for consolidating the multiple layers of government in NJ is compelling.

    It’s only compelling until you look at the numbers. There is no evidence whatsoever to support the notion that smaller municipalities (or smaller school districts for that matter) cost more to operate or are “less efficient”. In fact, almost without exception, the numbers* show that just the opposite is true – especially in New Jersey – for example, Glen Ridge costs significantly less to run – per capita or per square mile – than Montclair does.

    Consolidation is not the answer, because the problem is not home rule, the problem is the 50-year-long effort by machine-politicians to undermine home rule and rob NJ taxpayers of their liberty and prosperity.

    50 years ago we had more towns than we have today, and there was much more local control. We had no income tax. We had no sales tax. Sure, we had Property Taxes, but they paid for local services we actually received. We had a tiny government in Trenton and our citizens had much more control over their lives, their property, and their government. Our motto – Liberty and Prosperity – was a description – not a joke. Machine politicians don’t like small towns – it’s hard to skim much (and get away with it) from such small piles of cash, and they had already looted our cities, where the piles were bigger. So they told us that “home-rule is inefficient” and keep telling us that “if only you give up a little more of your local control, things will be better”, and that has brought us to where we are today: High Income Taxes – High Sales Taxes – High Property Taxes – and a giant bureaucracy in Trenton with an insatiable appetite for our cash.

    * – many of which are available online – here’s a great place to start:

  10. Your usual fine, authoritative job, Carl. My usual commendations to you.

    Does anyone in fact know anything of Gina Genovese’s background? I’m always somewhat suspicious, especially in New Jersey, of groups which identify themselves as “non-partisan.” I’m also traditionally even more suspicious of such groups when they actually name someone “executive director.”

    And I wonder about the journalistic irresponsibility of Baristanet in simply throwing up the above item without any accompanying commentary or investgation. (Typical of the utter credulousness of this site, I know…) Carl, after all, refers to Genovese’s group (I can’t help noting that I recall another Genovese and another statewide group for which he once served, out of Atlantic Highlands, as, well, “executive director”) as rather sinister in its intent. Certainly shadowy. This really should be looked into, given Carl’s own consistent veracity, but apparently expecting the Baristas to do so is never in the cards. Journalistic enterprise is not exactly common practice here.

  11. Carl hit the nail on the head. NJ state government continue to rob municipalities of their own money. By state law they are required to return unused funds and surplus back to the cities/towns. However a state court ruling years back determined that the legislature can hold on to those funds and spend them as they wish despite what the NJ state law says.

    The biggest cost center of the muni budget is staff with fire dept and police dept accounting for more than half of it in most cases. If you were to consolidate towns how could that possible lessen that cost center when in fact you have the same amount of homes, businesses and area under your jurisdiction?

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