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Public Forum on Tuesday, Oct. 19, to discuss consolidation of Scotch Plains and Fanwood

SCOTCH PLAINS – Should Scotch Plains and Fanwood merge?

That is the question that will be discussed at a public forum on Tuesday, Oct. 19, at the Scotch Hills Country Club, 820 Jerusalem Road, in Scotch Plains.

The free event will begin at 8 p.m. and will feature Gina Genovese, Executive Director of Courage to Connect New Jersey, who will explain the growing efforts statewide to connect municipalities and outline the process that interested towns can follow. A question-and-answer session will follow.

The event will be hosted by Fred Lange, a Scotch Plains resident who heard Genovese speak in Plainfield on June 27 and asked her to make her presentation in his town, where shared services is already a hot topic. The shared services discussion between the two towns is a separate issue, although Genovese supports that discussion. This forum will focus on the potential benefits of merging both towns under one municipal government, with the goal of saving taxpayers money.

This article originally appeared in the Suburban News. To download a full PDF of the article, click here

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Forum on reducing property taxes to be held in Northvale

NORTHVALE — Courage to Connect NJ, a non-profit that promotes consolidation to reduce the state’s skyrocketing property taxes, will hold a free forum at Borough Hall tonight to discuss consolidating municipal services in the Northern Valley area.

Gina Genovese, the group’s executive director and a former mayor of Long Hill in Morris County, will talk to residents about how the duplication of services in the state’s 566 municipalities is contributing to the state’s fiscal crisis.

A forum on reducing property taxes willl be tonight from 7:30 to 9 at Northvale Borough Hall, 116 Paris Ave. A similar meeting in Englewood is scheduled for Oct. 20.

“There is so much duplication of municipal services from one end of the state to the other,” Genovese said in a press release promoting the event. “New Jersey’s municipal framework must ultimately be reduced to 100 to 150 towns, or our state will become unaffordable for most of us to live here.”

Genovese will address how municipalities can maintain their identities, while being part of a larger entity that shares departments such as police, public works and tax functions.

This article originally appeared in The Record. Click here to download a full PDF of the article

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Merchantville residents consider study of merger

MERCHANTVILLE — An advocate of municipal mergers spoke here Wednesday night, but not everyone in the audience embraced her views.

Gina Genovese, founder of Courage to Connect NJ, was brought in by members of a local group that put together a petition in July urging a study of a possible merger between Merchantville and Cherry Hill.

“It’s a message that we’re presenting all around the state, that this is a problem for New Jersey,” Genovese told her listeners at First Presbyterian Church.

She said duplicated efforts among multiple municipalities are “a major cause of our fiscal unstablility.”

This article originally appeared in the Courier Post. Click here to download a PDF of the full article.

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Courage to Connect NJ seeking to reduce the size of government in New Jersey

Gina Genovese wants to limit the size of government.

Specifically she’d like to see New Jersey’s 566 municipalities combined into roughly 125.

Genovese, of Long Hill, nine months ago founded Courage to Connect NJ, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating New Jerseyans about roles they can play in consolidating municipalities and restructuring administrative services to reduce the tax burden on the citizenry.

She held a workshop in Jefferson last week, and will hold another on Oct. 14 at the Morris County Library at 7 p.m. Genovese served on the Long Hill Township Committee and was mayor for a year. She’s sinced left elected politics and makes it a point to keep politics out of her presentations.

“It’s for the people to decide, I don’t want to sit here and tell you what should happen,” she said Tuesday during a phone interview regarding what municipalities she believes should be consolidated.

“The people cannot be blindsided by this — they have to be part of this process when it starts,” she said.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Record. Click here to download a full PDF of the article.

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Merger advocate to visit Merchantville

The founder of an organization that advocates municipal consolidation will visit Merchantville on Wednesday night to support some residents’ effort to combine the borough with neighboring Cherry Hill.

Courage to Connect New Jersey founder Gina Genovese will present a program from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the First Presbyterian Church on West Maple Avenue. Genovese said her presentation will be a “comprehensive program and presentation that educates the public on the issue.”

A group of Merchantville residents this year petitioned the borough government to merge Merchantville with Cherry Hill. Since then, elected officials in both communities have begun considering the request.

This article originally appeared in the Courier Post. Click here to download a full PDF of the article.

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Municipal Mergers are a Tall Order in N.J.

Reducing the number of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities will save taxpayers money and improve the business climate, according to advocates for local government consolidation.

Their efforts are now getting support from a new nonprofit, Courage to Connect New Jersey, and from an attempt by residents of Merchantville to combine with its larger neighbor, Cherry Hill.

Gina Genovese, executive director of Courage to Connect New Jersey, said municipal mergers can lead to increased economic development.


This article orginally appeared in NJBIZ. Click here to download a PDF version of the full article.

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Consolidation effort draws small but ardent crowd

PARK RIDGE — A presentation by municipal consolidation advocates attracted a small group of local residents, councilmen and activists on Wednesday night.

The group, Courage to Connect NJ, urged residents to think boldly about consolidating towns, suggesting at one point the elimination of seven or eight municipalities in northern Bergen County to create a larger one, the Pascack Valley.

“A lot of people are saying that what we currently do is unsustainable,” said Gina Genovese, the group’s director and a former Park Ridge mayor. “I didn’t talk about whether there was a Republican administration or a Democratic administration. That has nothing to do with it.”

They argue that by combining police and public service departments, and by merging town government, redundancies will be reduced and taxpayers will pay meaningfully less in property taxes.

Local reaction to the idea was mixed, with some residents expressing fear that local identity will be diminished. Few expect much to happen in the near future, though Genovese said that an “iceberg” was approaching.

“There’s a fear of the unknown with this, and that’s what drives a lot of it,” said Steven Hopper, Park Ridge councilman. “It’s about saving money and being sustainable, but it’s also about better services.”

Continue reading this article on North Jersey.com

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EDITORIAL Push New Jersey towns to find way to merge

Municipal consolidation may be gaining momentum.

Consider some recent events:

The two Princetons have formed a commission to investigate consolidation, the first time the towns will formally sit down and discuss the issue since 1996.

Hightstown and East Windsor have entered discussions to determine if a township police takeover could save the borough money.

State Senate legislation that would merge the tiny borough of Teterboro into four adjacent towns — South Hackensack, Little Ferry, Moonachie and Hasbrouck Heights — has won committee approval and awaits a vote of the full Senate.    Several hundred residents of the small Camden County borough of Merchantville signed a petition asking borough officials to begin researching a possible merger with neighboring Cherry Hill Township.

And former Gov. Thomas Kean, speaking at a Bergen County forum last month, endorsed consolidation of New Jersey towns to make local government more efficient.

”To consolidate services to really lower property taxes — I think the time has come,” he told the forum, according to The Record of Hackensack.

All of this comes on the heels of an October poll from Quinnipiac University that showed overwhelming support for municipal and school district consolidations.

And yet, consolidation remains off the table in Trenton, aside from legislation introduced by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, that would force the merger of the half dozen towns on Long Beach Island into one town and consolidate all doughnut-and-hole towns — such as the Princetons, Hightstown and East Windsor and Jamesburg and Monroe.

Click here to read the full editorial on Centraljersey.com

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Residents Break New Ground in Attempt to Merge With Cherry Hill

Residents belonging to a grassroots group in Merchantville are believed to be the first to use a state law that allows people to petition for a merger with a neighboring municipality without the approval of their own elected officials. For all the talk of consolidating services in tough budget times, consolidation rarely happens in New Jersey. The Merchantville group may show merger-hungry residents in other municipalities that at least getting the process started can be done without great difficulty.

The group “Merchantville Connecting for the Future” needed only 127 signatures to affect its petition. Under the state law petitioners need at least ten percent of all votes cast by municipal residents in the most recent General Assembly election. The Merchantville group got more than 300 signatures. Meantime in neighboring Cherry Hill, elected officials voted in favor of studying consolidation.

Courage to Connect

“Cherry Hill mayor and council voted on a resolution and the people of Merchantville petitioned to have a study done,” said Gina Genovese, executive director of Courage to Connect NJ, a group that advocates consolidation of municipal services. “So it is a wonderful blend of the legislation which says local governments can participate and local citizens can participate.”

Read the full article on NJ 101.5

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Proposed merger of Cherry Hill, borough may spark movement to reduce N.J. municipalities

CHERRY HILL — It’s been said God made the country and man made the town.

In New Jersey, man may have overdone it: There are 566 municipalities in a state that is fifth smallest in square mileage.

But one citizen’s group from the tiny borough of Merchantville has taken it upon itself to merge its municipal operations with Cherry Hill — using a little-known state law that doesn’t require the permission or blessing of a town’s political leaders to initiate such action.

Some feel this could be the catalyst of a movement to reduce the number of New Jersey towns and fiscal redundancies.

“If there are successes and people see they have the power to do this, they can exercise that power,” said Gina Genovese, executive director of Courage to Connect New Jersey, a nonprofit, independent group that promotes municipal consolidation. “This has never been done here. It’s exciting.”

The efforts of the community group “Merchantville Connecting for the Future” began early this year. State aid had dropped from $715,691 in fiscal 2009 to $557,946 for fiscal 2011. Residents noted long-term sustainability was a real issue for the Camden County borough, which measures six-tenths of a square mile and has a population of 3,800.

“Our taxes have been going up and we’ve been supplementing our budget by drawing down money from our town surplus,” said Greg La Vardera, a Merchantville resident and member of the 20-person coalition.

La Vardera said residents asked the borough council to consider a merger with Cherry Hill so school systems, municipal departments and other services could be efficiently extended. The initial response was lukewarm, he said.

“And then nothing happened,” La Vardera said.

But then the group became aware of the Uniform Shared Services and Consolidation Act of 2007, which allows everyday citizens and/or elected officials to initiate municipal consolidation. It requires 10 percent of town voters from the last general Assembly election to sign petitions in favor of a merger.

Continue reading this article in the Star-Ledger

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News & Videos


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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:

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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: