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"Be courageous; try everything until something works; and dedicate yourself to your passion, trusting that ‘what you are will show in what you do.’ And, it seems, in what you leave behind."

Thomas A. Edison

Courage to Connect NJ

Scotch Plains activist believes key to lower taxes is merger with Fanwood


SCOTCH PLAINS — Fred Lange, a grandfather and amateur magician, was just enjoying his retirement.
 
Really. The Scotch Plains man, who’s pushing 80 but could pass for a lot younger, was living out his days with his wife, Doris, and paying no mind to local politics.
 
But that all changed a few years ago with a simple idea. What if, he wondered after hearing a presentation on the topic, his town merged with neighboring Fanwood? What if communities across the state did the same?
 
That could drive down property taxes and attract new companies to the Garden State, he surmised.
 
“This would be great for New Jersey — to be able to have more manufacturing, more business,” he said.
 
With that, he went from observer to activist. Now he’s the front man for a citizen-driven movement to consolidate the two towns, and his push is irritating some people along the way — even politicians who respect his ultimate goal of tax relief.
 
Lange, with guidance from a group called Courage to Connect New Jersey, rounded up about 30 volunteers and spent months collecting the signatures of voters from both towns. With more than 1,000 names, he was able to harness a 2007 state law and force a series of public hearings on the topic of consolidation. The last was held Monday.
 
Residents came out to argue for and against, and now his group will go before the state Local Finance Board in Trenton to push for a study on the feasibility of consolidation.
 
This article originally appeared in the Star Ledger. To continue reading the full article click here

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Mayor Goerner, CTC-NJ Executive Director Gina Genovese and Fred Lange await public hearing

Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner, Courage to Connect New Jersey Executive Director Gina Genovese and Fred Lange of Courage to Reconnect (l-r) eagerly await a public hearing with Fanwood residents regarding a proposal municipal consolidation study for Scotch Plains and Fanwood. The hearing was held July 10 in Fanwood, as part of three summer hearings being held through the oversight of the state Department of Community Affairs.

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Mayor Goerner and Gina Genovese Featured on NPR

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Despite a few snags, Princeton merger work continues

 

By Phil Gregory

 

Following a November vote by residents of two New Jersey municipalities to merge, a task force is proceeding with plans to combine Princeton Township with Princeton Borough.

 

Some expenses of the consolidation are higher than anticipated.

 

More jobs than originally projected are being cut, and that’s boosting the cost of severance packages.

 

Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner says, however, savings from the merger should help control the expense.

 

“We did have some unexpected voluntary contributions from Princeton University that amount to approximately $500,000, $250,000 per municipality, to help offset transition costs,” Goerner said.

 

Goerner also anticipates additional savings from combining the township and borough operating budgets.

 

The merger will take effect in January.

 

The group Courage to Connect New Jersey has been pushing for years to get more of the state’s 566 municipalities to consolidate. Group members hope what’s happening in Princeton encourages more towns to merge.

 

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Fanwood Mayor, Council Question Effort to Consolidate Scotch Plains, Fanwood

This article originally appeared in the Scotch Plains Fanwood Times. Click here to read the full article.

 

A public hearing was held Monday night at the Scotch Plains Municipal Building on the application by the organization Courage to Reconnect Scotch Plains/Fanwood (CTR-SPF) seeking local and state endorsement to study consolidating the two towns.

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Princeton setting the example for consolidation

The seemingly obvious idea that New Jersey’s many municipal governments could join together to save tax money has been thwarting anyone who tried it for more than a century.

 

Only since November’s historic referendum in favor of consolidation are the Princetons proving that consolidation might just have a chance. Observers all over the state are watching to see how the Princeton consolidation experiment goes.

 

Gina Genovese, director of Courage to Connect NJ, has proof that the idea to join towns together goes way back. She likes to show people an enlarged New York Times article from 1895 suggesting that the Oranges merge to form one local government.

 

“The Oranges must be made one city so that all our public departments may be better and more economically managed. It is only selfishness that keeps us apart,” the article reads.

 

In 2007, the state legislature streamlined the process of consolidation to encourage municipalities to do it. So far, Princeton Township and Borough have been the only municipalities to join together under the new law, after many failed consolidation votes since the 1950s.

 

Courage to Connect is a nonprofit group that promotes consolidation and provides resources to help citizens and government officials navigate the treacherous waters of consolidation. The process is a complicated one that requires public votes, coordination with dozens of government agencies, negotiations with public employee unions and more.

 

It’s all the more complicated, Genovese said, because no one had ever done it before.

 

Genovese said the Princetons are truly blazing a trail with the never-before-tried process, and that leaders in other cities are watching and waiting to see if they will follow suit.

 

“For years, people would say if the Princetons can’t consolidate, no one else can, because they tried so often,” she said. “The naysayers would say it’s never happened in New Jersey. Princeton took that away from them and that’s very powerful. Also, now they’re paving the way because they’re doing implementation. Every step they take now is forging a new path for New Jersey.”

 

This article originally appeared on Mercerspace.com. Click here to continue reading the full article. 

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Princetons Finds Merger Vote Easy Part Of Consolidation

Combining the two New Jersey communities that share the Princeton name is testing Governor Chris Christie’s effort to get the state’s patchwork of 566 cities and towns to merge governments.

 

Voters in 1.9-square-mile Princeton Borough, which includes the downtown shopping area, and the surrounding 16.6-square-mile Princeton Township approved consolidation in November, after at least three earlier referendums failed. Elected officials have been meeting at least once a week as they face a Jan. 1 deadline to decide on everything from how many people to fire to which municipal buildings to spare.

 

Christie, 49, a first-term Republican, is pushing consolidation after cutting municipal aid in 2010 and capping annual increases in local taxes at 2 percent. Princeton, home of the Ivy League university, agreed to merge after the governor endorsed the plan and offered to pay 20 percent of the $1.7 million cost of combining. He has promised to do the same for those who follow Princeton’s lead.

 

“This is a test case for the principles he’s basing the economic future of the state on,” said Brigid Harrison, a professor of law and politics at Montclair State University. “If it fails, it’s going to be held up by the home-rule folks as proof of why it doesn’t work.”

 

Governors in OhioMichigan and New Jersey say their states have too many layers of government and that unwinding them would save money without harming services. Christie, during a May 16 town-hall meeting in East Hanover, said consolidation has been a slow process and “it’s not like ripping the Band-Aid off.”

 

This article originally appeared in Bloomberg. Click here to continue reading

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Statewide forum promotes municipal consolidation effort

This article originally appeared in the Asbury Park Press. To read the full article, click here 

 

EAST BRUNSWICK — Citizens and elected officials from all over the state attended a forum Wednesday to discuss ways in which to make local government more efficient through municipal consolidation.

 

The event updated participants on the growing number of citizens around the state who are in the beginning stages of forming municipal consolidation committees, following the 2007 Municipal Consolidation Law. The discussion was led by Gina Genovese and Andrew Bruck, both of whom are leaders of Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes municipal consolidation.

 

A portion of the four-hour program focused on what is happening in Merchantville and Cherry Hill, where the towns are working to come together. A second panel focused on the consolidation of the Princetons, now underway.

 

“Courage to Connect New Jersey is already in its third year, and has met with so many fabulous people from all over the state who want more efficient municipal government,” Genovese said. “Municipal consolidation is a unifying issue, with Republicans, Democrats and others coming together, willing to do what it takes to make New Jersey are more affordable place for us all to live.”

 

During the event, Thomas Neff, director of the state Department of Community Affairs’ Division of Local Government Services, said the state agency had 120 staff members at one point, but now the work is being done by only 40 people. That is why, he said, it is so important for citizens to get involved in identifying cost savings at the local government level.

 

“It is important to have groups like this willing to step up to the plate to help educate people about what they can do to bring local efficiencies to government,” said Neff, adding the state can serve as a resource with experts in local government administration. However, he said, the state does not have the funds at the moment to pay for municipal consolidation studies.

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Consolidation can work in New Jersey

This opinion-editorial by Princeton Mayor Chad Goerner originally appeared in the Daily Record. To read the full article, click here

 

For the Princetons, 2012 is the year we transition to a single municipal government, with the promise of a brighter and more sustainable future.

 

Our success in consolidating has set off a series of similar efforts across the state. To that end, a dynamic and energetic organization called Courage to Connect New Jersey has gathered significant momentum and is holding a conference on Municipal Consolidation on March 28 in East Brunswick. The statewide event will build on the success that we’ve had in Princeton Borough and Princeton Township.

 

In a time where municipalities across the state are struggling to maintain the same level of service, we in Princeton Township have struggled to do the same while trying to keep municipal taxes low. As a result, we ended up reducing 18 percent of our staff over the last five years.

 

With the new 2 percent state-mandated municipal cap, many towns are facing a choice: reduce staff and cut services or spend down their municipal surplus (i.e. savings). That is the situation that towns across the state face today. Consolidation will put our towns on a more sustainable path and allow us to actually bring back services that had been cut to balance the budget.

 

At the same time, it will save our taxpayers a significant amount of money. Princeton Borough and Princeton Township have identified $3.2 million in annual savings at the full implementation of our consolidation plan. These savings are from personnel reductions only. (One personnel reduction is my own as I worked myself out of a job, too.)

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GOERNER: Town mergers can work in N.J.

This opinion-editorial by Princeton Mayor Chad Goerner originally appeared in the Asbury Park Press. To read the full article, click here

 

For the Princetons, 2012 is the year we transition to a single municipal government, with the promise of a brighter and more sustainable future.

 

Our success in consolidating has set off a series of similar efforts across the state. To that end, a dynamic organization called Courage to Connect New Jersey has gathered significant momentum and is holding a conference on municipal consolidation on Wednesday in East Brunswick. The statewide event will build on the success that we’ve had in Princeton Borough and Princeton Township.

 

In a time where municipalities across the state are struggling to maintain the same level of service, we in Princeton Township have struggled to do the same while trying to keep municipal taxes low. As a result, we ended up reducing 18 percent of our staff over the last five years.

 

With the new 2 percent state-mandated municipal cap, many towns are facing a choice: reduce staff and cut services or spend down their municipal surplus (i.e. savings). That is the situation that towns across the state face today. Consolidation will put our towns on a more sustainable path and allow us to actually bring back services that had been cut to balance the budget.

 

At the same time, it will save our taxpayers a significant amount of money. Princeton Borough and Princeton Township have identified $3.2 million in annual savings at the full implementation of our consolidation plan. These savings are from personnel reductions only. (One personnel reduction is my own. I worked myself out of a job, too.)

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News & Videos


Visit CTCNJ on YouTube


Chad Goerner interview on NJTV:




Gina shares insights on NJTV:




Princeton's new Mayor Liz Lempert addresses the community:

Mayor Liz Lempert Video (click image to watch on nj.com; video is below slideshow)


Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner featured on NJTV:




Executive Director of CtoCNJ Discusses Consolidation on NJTV:

NJToday
(click image to watch on PBS.org)


WMBC Introduces CtoCNJ:




WMBC Continues the Conversation:




CtoCNJ on NJN:




Gina on NJN:




Fox News 29 in Cinnaminson:




CNBC in Woodbridge:




Gina's "Can NJ Connect?" video:




Abbott and Costello take a humorous look at what we don’t know about our own communities: