Introduction – Citizens
Intro-Local Officials | Intro-Citizens | How to Use | Community Challenge | Authors | Letter
Overview | Six Steps | Sample Timeline | One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six
Woodbridge Model | What Woodbridge Can Afford? | How Much Does Small Cost?
Glossary | Common Questions | Historic First | A Century of Support
Now more than ever, average citizens need to play a role in reforming New Jersey. Our state is broke, taxes are rising, and municipal aid is shrinking. We need serious, lasting reforms – the kind of change that comes not from politicians, but from the people.
There are many reasons for New Jersey’s fiscal crisis, but the most important cause is also easiest to understand: we simply have too much government. With 566 municipalities, New Jersey has more towns than California – and more towns than New mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Nevada, Hawaii, maryland, Delaware, and Rhode Island combined. More than a third of our municipalities have fewer than 5,000 residents; some have fewer than 50. Each one of these tiny towns has its own bureaucracy, its own set of elected officials, and its own power to tax and spend. With this type of fragmentation, waste and redundancy are rampant.
But there’s a solution. By consolidating several towns into a single, streamlined municipality, we can eliminate overhead and provide better government services at a lower cost. And if done properly, we can make these changes without losing local identity. We can achieve new efficiencies while preserving the sense of community that makes our towns unique.
For most of the past century, merging towns in New Jersey was a cumbersome, timeconsuming process. Only a single pair of towns had merged since 1952. That all changed in 2007, when the state legislature passed a little-noticed but potentially revolutionary law, which not only streamlined the consolidation procedure but also made it possible for citizens to play a major role in municipal mergers. For the first time, citizens can actually initiate consolidation proceedings – they can force local government leaders to conduct a formal study into the benefits of consolidation, even when elected officials oppose the merger.
And that’s where this guidebook comes in. Courage to Connect NJ has gathered some of the state’s best experts on local government, municipal consolidation, political organizing, and media outreach to guide you through the process step-by-step. We have prepared everything you need, from sample voter petitions to press releases to talking points. With your help, we can correct one of the Garden State’s most pressing problems and create a more sustainable system of local government. We look forward to working with you.