Step 1: Organize
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
The first step is to organize a group of local residents interested in learning the benefits of consolidation.
Start by talking to people you already know: friends, family, neighbors, and acquaintances from local organizations. It’s not difficult to find others who are frustrated with high property taxes and local government redundancy.
Once you have identified a group of possible supporters, contact CTC-NJ at info@CourageToConnectNJ.org. We will provide you with an overview of the consolidation process and help you organize two initial meetings:
1. Private Meeting of Core Supporters
This will be your group’s introduction to CTC-NJ. We will discuss this “Consolidation Guidebook,” as well as our work in similar communities. We will help you with the logistics of creating a local advocacy organization, including launching a website and identifying pro-consolidation supporters in neighboring towns. In addition, we will provide you with two documents:
THE GUIDEBOOK TEMPLATES. Gives you the nuts and bolts for organizing a consolidation campaign. It has everything you need, including samplepress releases, talking points, draft op-eds, and much more.
MEDIA TRAINING GUIDE. Offers strategies and suggestions for creating aclear and consistent message about your consolidation efforts.
2. Public Information Meeting
Next your group will sponsor a public presentation. This will be your organization’s first community event and your first opportunity to introduce residents to the benefits of consolidation. CTC-NJ will provide a synopsis of New Jersey’s fractured system of local government and then discuss solutions and concerns.
This informational meeting should be widely publicized, partly to raise awareness about the issue of municipal consolidation and partly to help you identify additional supporters for your organization. The Guidebook Templates provides information on publicizing the event, including templates for:
- Drafting and distributing a media alert
- Issuing a press release
- Writing a letter to your local elected officials and relevant community organizations
- Writing and submitting an op-ed to your local newspaper
- Posting fliers around town
- Creating facebook, Twitter, and other social media pages
In some cases, you may find it helpful to create an “online petition” using free websites such as iPetition.com. These petitions are not legally binding (and so if you decide to submit a formal petition to the Department of Community Affairs in Step 3, you’ll need to create a new, hard-copy document), but they are useful organizational tools. An online petition allows you to gauge community interest and collect the names and addresses of potential supporters.
As your group expands, assign specific roles and engage as many people as possible in leadership positions. Here are two critical roles:
- The Organizer Every group needs a leader to organize the member ship, serve as a primary contact, and act as a media spokesperson.
- The Manager You also need someone who can work behind the scenesand focus on the details. The manager collects names of potential supporters, distributes minutes and agendas, and keeps track of important deadlines.
Naming Your Organization
Your local advocacy group will need a name. Some names currently in use by local groups working with CTC-NJ are: Reconnect [Town #1 & Town #2], and [Town] Connecting for the Future
At this point, you need very little money to run your organization. Your publicity shouldn’t cost more than the price of printing fl iers and press releases on your home computer. You can host your group’s website for free at www.CourageToConnectNJ.org/[town].
New Jersey law places few limits on your town’s potential consolidation partners. You may connect with any number of towns so long as they are all in the same county and each municipality borders at least one of the other participating towns. There are a few obvious places to begin when you are looking for consolidation partners. If you live in a small town, it’s likely that your community shares government services with neighboring municipalities. These pre-existing relationships can help you identify which communities are willing to work with their neighbors to provide joint services. Towns in the same regional school district are often the most promising potential partners.
RELEVANT DOCUMENTS FOR STEP 1
You can find the relevant documents for Step 1:
- In The Guidebook Templates at Chapter 1
- Online at www.couragetoconnectnj.org/templates
The relevant documents for Step 1 are:
- Press Release Announcing Introductory meeting
- Letter to Local Officials and/or Community Groups
- Opinion Piece for Local Newspaper
- Sample Poster
- Instructions on Creating a facebook Group
CTC-NJ Members: Download documents here.