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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."

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Princeton Township and Borough consolidation saves taxpayer money and entities’ uniqueness

This opinion editorial article, written by former Princeton Borough mayor Marvin Reed, originally appeared in The Times of Trenton

It’s easy to ask: If past referendums for municipal consolidation in Princeton were defeated, why should this year’s ballot turn out any differently?

It’s a good question. But there’s also a good answer: We’ve learned, we’ve grown, we’ve changed.

From past experiences such as ours and that of other municipalities, the state has significantly broadened and liberalized the consolidation statutes to make it less complicated to combine municipalities.

Admittedly, there has not been a rush to reform.

But Princeton is one of the few New Jersey towns that has tried to respond to the state’s initiative to become more efficient. The town has studied merger before, but this time, following new options and with a bit of state financial assistance, we have gained something from a full-scale professional study that included elected municipal officials as well as their administrators. Through the participants’ candid, practical advice, the resultant study shows how best to redeploy staff in a more direct, coordinated system.

Continue reading this article here

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NJ Monthly Poll Reveals 50% of Readers Support Municipal Consolidation

A new poll in NJ Monthly magazine shows that more than 50 percent of readers believe the best way to ease property taxes is to consolidate some of our 566 municipalities. School funding took in 24.31 percent and Mandated Shared Services took in 10.5 percent.

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Fanwood Would Retain Identity if Merged with Scotch Plains

This letter to the editor, written by Fred Lange, Ilse Heinemeyer and Donald Parisi, originally appeared in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times.

In response to your August 11 article (Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times) titled, “Fanwood Council Spurns Merger, Suggests Shared Service,” it is important to know that this effort was started by residents of Scotch Plains and Fanwood who understand that our two communities are really one from our perspective. We have used the services of Courage to Connect New Jersey to help us use the state’s Municipal Consolidation Act.

Contrary to the reporting in your newspaper, Courage to Connect New Jersey is not “forcing” our municipalities into consolidating. The non-profit, non-partisan organization is simply walking our local grassroots groups through steps to explore ways to run municipal government more efficiently, including consolidation with adjoining towns.

As a local affiliate of Courage to Connect New Jersey, our group of volunteers in both Fanwood and Scotch Plains are now collecting the signatures needed to form a consolidation study between the two towns. We now have over 800 signatures. We hope that mayors and other elected officials in both towns get involved in this very important initative.

By signing this petition, residents are not voicing their support of a consolidation. Rather, the petition is just to launch an independent, non-political study of the pros and cons of merging Scotch Plains and Fanwood.

We are involved because we believe shared-service agreements are limited in reducing redundancies in municipal government. This study, when conducted with the oversight of the state Department of Community Affairs, would identify many other savings afforded through the full consolidation of the two towns. An aside: Fanwood mayor Collen Mahr expressed concern in your newspaper that Fanwood would somehow lose its identity if there was a merger down the road. Some might consider that a political scare tactic. That fact is that towns like Short Hills, Colonia and Basking Ridge have their own identities – yet they are sections of other municipalities.

As we move down this road, I hope that local officials do not cloud a very complex issue by alleging that Fanwood would not continue to be Fanwood. That just isn’t so. We are focused on ending the duplication in the municipal structure, not how towns identify themselves. To learn more, please visit www.couragetoconnect.org. We did.

 

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New book aims for municipality consolidation

The second edition of a book that aims to help New Jersey municipalities merge and consolidate has been published, with updates that reflect recent legislation.

The “Connect NJ Guidebook: The Tools for Municipal Consolidation in New Jersey,” was first published in January by Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-profit organization that focuses on community consolidation. Since Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation in April that makes it easier for towns to form consolidation commissions, its creators decided to revamp it now to include the new information.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous that New Jersey has 566 redundant municipalities,” said Gina Genovese, the executive director of Courage to Connect New Jersey and one of the book’s three authors. “We all have to work together, we have to make a sustainable structure.”

No Gloucester County municipalities are currently exploring mergers or consolidation, but Cherry Hill and Merchantville citizens have organized a group to study the concept.

Members of Merchantville Connecting for the Future, a grassroots organization, has been exploring consolidation for more than a year; however, their application to study the matter was rejected by the state Department of Community Affairs in December, prompting the new legislation.

The book focuses on a way to consolidate municipalities called “Local Option Municipal Consolidation,” which is a new form of consolidating that was created in 2007 by the state legislature.

 

To continue reading this article in the Gloucester County Times, click here

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N.J. towns should find courage to merge into 125 regional ‘town clusters’

This opinion-editorial by Courage to Connect NJ Executive Director Gina Genovese originally appeared in The Times of Trenton

For more than 100 years, residents and government officials have been talking about the need to end the redundancy in New Jersey by consolidating municipalities and school districts.

Over the decades, this well-documented problem is becoming dire. The current structure of 566 municipalities and 591 operating school districts defies all logic – from both a business and an economic perspective.

Yet, as we enter the second half of 2011 – with ever-increasing property taxes the paramount concern of residents throughout New Jersey – we still refuse to make the hard decisions.

But with many tax-weary residents fleeing the state and businesses hesitant to relocate here, we are digging New Jersey deeper and deeper into a hole. Together, we need to focus on how we are going to get out of it.

We need to think about what streamlined local government would look like. Instead of 566 separate municipalities, we could have about 125 efficient “town clusters.” Just imagine the millions of dollars in savings that would be realized when we have 440 fewer town halls in operation.

Think about what an efficient regional school district structure looks like. Instead of nearly 600 operating school districts – requiring $8 billion in annual state aid – there would be 125 districts that match the new municipal boundaries.

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School Consolidation Study Funds Still Up in the Air

On June 14, the first-ever education summit took place at Mendham High School, and saw 25 elected school and government officials from Washington Township, the Chesters and Mendhams come together to discuss funding formulas and possible redistricting among the schools in the municipalities.

The topic of a feasibility study was brought up late in the meeting and the cost it would force upon the taxpayers within the five sending districts. The study would be used to disseminate details and demographic data essential in figuring out which direction the municipalities should take with regards to changes in funding, consolidation or dissolution.

A feasibility study, according to members of the summit’s dais as well as Gina Genovese of Courage to Connect New Jersey, costs upwards of $50,000.

James Button, the Mendham Township representative to the West Morris Regional Board of Education, spoke to the panel–as a member of the audience–and said that he met with both Governor Chris Christie and acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf recently. Button said that after explaining the region’s situation to them, Cerf said, repeatedly, that he would “take care of” a feasibility study, if it came to that.

This article originally appeared in the Long Valley Patch

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Should New Jersey’s Towns Consolidate? One Organization Says Yes

Advocates for the consolidation of some of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities visited the Berkeley Heights VFW at 15 Locust Avenue on Wednesday to discuss possible methods for townships to merge together and operate under a single governing body.

Gina Genovese and Wendy McCahill of Courage to Connect New Jersey, which is a grassroots consolidation initiative that is encouraging towns to consolidate, gave a presentation at the VFW that gave some insight as to how consolidation could help alleviate the current perilous financial state of New Jersey.

“Anytime you open up a paper you see the financial struggle our state is in right now,” said McCahill. “We’re all taxpayers, we continually see our bills go up and up, and we’re all like, ‘when is this going to end?’”

Genovese, a former Berkeley Heights resident and current business owner, has served in elected office in various positions, including a stint as the mayor of Long Hill Township. She encourages anyone willing to listen to consolidation ideas to examine how such ideas could help the individual towns, as well as the state as a whole.

“We’re here to do three things: we’re here to take a look at the State of New Jersey differently – is it essential to have 566 municipal and administrative structures delivering local services?,” said Genovese. “We’re here to look at our towns and communities differently – will consolidation cost us our town identity? Lastly, we need to look at ourselves as voters and tax payers. Are we helpless? Is there nothing we can do about this?”

 

Continue reading this article in the Westfield Patch.

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Non-profit group advocates municipal consolidation

Shared services and municipal consolidation may be hot button issues in New Jersey politics today. But that’s nothing new. As far back as 1895, just when “boroughitis” had struck northern New Jersey and new municipalities were being coined through out the state, an article appeared in “The New York Times” on the topic of consolidating the Oranges.

“By all means consolidate and consolidate as soon as possible,” said Dr. Francis J. E. Tetreault, the city physician of Orange at the time. “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 has kept us apart.”

This struggle to consolidate has been a long struggle for former Long Hills Township Mayor Gina Genovese. She spoke at a forum held in Rutherford’s Borough Hall last week and hosted by Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering municipal consolidation from the ground up by educating residents.

“We are not for forced consolidation,” said Genovese, co-founder and executive director of the organization. “We believe it needs to be organic and it needs to come from the people.”

For the first half hour of the presentation, co-founder Wendy McCahill held up placards one by one listing the names of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities from largest to smallest. The list starts with the state’s heavy hitters: Newark, Jersey City, Paterson and Elizabeth. The South Bergen coverage area didn’t make its appearance until Lyndhurst came up at 126, shortly followed by Rutherford at 143. Piling the placards on top of each other demonstrated just how many small towns make up the Garden State. Over 320 towns have populations of fewer than 10,000 (East Rutherford and Carlstadt are among them); 32 have fewer than 1,000. Nearby Teterboro had the distinction of being the smallest town in the state, though McCahill noted that it’s bumped up one or two spots since they last compiled their list.

 

Continue reading this article in the South Bergenite

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Merchantville Moves Closer to Consolidation with Cherry Hill

MERCHANTVILLE, NJ – June 14, 2011 – The Merchantville Council last night voted 4-2 to endorse an application by a local grassroots group to form a Municipal Consolidation Study Commission with Cherry Hill.

The grassroots group, “Merchantville Connecting for the Future,” will now have the application reviewed by the state Department of Community Affairs. It is expected the state will approve the application next month so that three public meetings could be held later this summer.

Bob Stocker, a member of Merchantville Connecting for the Future, said the Merchantville council’s vote was largely symbolic, as a new law passed by the state Legislature allows the study to continue without consent from one of the two municipal governing bodies.

The Cherry Hill council had already approved the consolidation study.

“The Merchantville vote, to me, was more gratifying than having the state Legislature pass the law earlier this year,” Stocker said. “The council had originally been adversarial. To now have this vote shows we are all working together.”

Stocker said a committee representing Merchantville for this study is non-partisan and focused on finding out if consolidation with Cherry Hill is the best option. The committee includes:

Rosemari Hicks, Richard James, Kathy Birmingham, Anthony Perno, George Wilkinson and Dan Fiedler.

Stocker said his group is working through the consolidation process with Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that helps residents examine ways to run government for efficiently, such as through municipal consolidation.

“It has been more than a year to get to this point and I really feel we’ve turned the corner,” Stocker said. “We are really working toward the same goal, which is to study if this is the right move for Merchantville and Cherry Hill.”

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South Bergenite Features Upcoming Courage to Connect NJ Forum

Residents of Rutherford and surrounding communities are invited to an open forum on Wednesday, June 8, at 7 p.m. to discuss how municipal consolidation can provide much needed tax relief.

Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-partisan, non-profit organization, will sponsor the program, which will be held take at the Rutherford Borough Hall Council Chambers.

The forum will also include discussion on the second edition of “Courage to Connect New Jersey Guidebook: The Tools for Municipal Consolidation,” published this month. It is a comprehensive manual that provides step-by step measures that residents and local officials can take to form municipal consolidation study commissions and, ultimately, consolidate communities.

The program is free and open to the public; residents of Rutherford and other communities in Bergen County are encouraged to attend. To learn more about Courage to Connect New Jersey or for a free copy of the guidebook, visit the organization’s website: www.CourageToConnectNJ.org or email info@couragetoconnectnj.org.

This article was originally published in the South Bergenite.

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News & Videos


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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: