Pequannock Decides Its Fate Tomorrow Night

Pequannock Township will be under the gun tomorrow night, as slick Smart Growth representatives try to convince the townspeople its worth their weight in tax reductions to join the regionalization bandwagon.

Pequannock is one of those nearly all-white enclaves that a group called Courage to Connect N.J. is targeting, alongside Agenda 21, Building One America/One New Jersey, and Smart Growth.  If Pequannock just allows the regionalists to take control of, oh, waste management, the sewer authority, other utilities, and administration of the schools, Pequannock will save so much money in taxes they won’t know what to do with all that money.

But, as with all such deals, there is a catch. Pequannock will have to allow its “fair share” of affordable housing.  Already densely populated, it’s hard to imagine where they would squeeze in this affordable housing, including apartment buildings.  But if you read Obama Zombie Myron Orfield’s “Metropolitics” or David Rusk’s “Cities Without Suburbs,” you get an idea of their game plan.

The trick is to go after poorer towns – like Bloomingdale and Pompton Lakes – and promise them the moon, and urban renewal money, if they’ll just sign on the dotted line.  That puts towns like Pequannock, with larger lot sizes, on the spot. It’s just unfair, they’ll claim, that towns like Pequannock, Boonton Township, and Kinnelon have such large lot sizes (and we all know it’s to make the property and taxes higher to keep the more dangerous elements out), when inner ring suburbs are falling apart and bursting at the seams.

Those cities have no taxpayers left.  They all left decades ago for towns like Pequannock and Boonton because the social costs for supporting single-parent families with delinquent children was just too high.

In 1920, my father lived with his family in Riverdale, N.Y., not N.J., in the Bronx.  At the age of five, he was beaten up by a gang of black teenaged girls. You can guess my father’s feelings about black people after that.  Even so, he would have agreed with regional planners.  “It would be better,” said he,“if each town took its share of low-income people rather than concentrating them all in one place” where they would gain political power and never learn to be equals in a white society.

In 1956, my mother’s car broke down in front of Mount Vernon High School.  Mount Vernon is one of New York City’s first-ring suburbs.  She went to the door, where she was met by an armed guard.  In fact, there were armed guards at every door.  The guard told her, “You can’t go in there, lady.  I can’t let you.  It’s too dangerous.  You’d never come out alive.  Find some business along the road here that will let you use their phone.”

About 15 years or so later, my mother’s friend’s children became students at Mount Vernon High.  This would be the early 1970s.  They told us tales of regular shake-downs, beatings, robberies, and knife and gun fights.  They said the only way to survive at Mount Vernon High was to keep your head down.

Things were no better out in Los Angeles, where we moved in 1959.  The drug culture had already taken hold.  And these toughs were the white kids, sons and daughters of Long Beach dock workers and longshoremen.

The people of Pequannock – and Bloomingdale, Butler, Kinnelon, Pompton Lakes, and so forth – are not stupid.  They don’t want to see their high schools turn into Mount Vernon High School.  No matter what these snake oil salespeople say, the parents of Pequannock don’t want to see gang wars in their high school.  Drugs are a problem everywhere; no need to make it worse.

These socialist do-gooders will tell the townspeople that the “low-income” homeowners will be “spread out”.  Not in school they won’t be.  It only takes a small knot of troublemakers to terrorize a school population. Faster than you can say “white flight” people will be out of there, just as they fled New Jersey’s cities and inner ring suburbs.  They say Newark was a beautiful city, once upon a time; that it was a treat to go shopping there.

The regionalization movement was aided mightily by the Mount Laurel ruling and COAH (The Council on Affordable Housing). Regionalization means you will no longer be able to decide where you may live – or who your neighbors will be. Refuse to allow the low-income housing, and you can be sure that your town will not get the funding to replace sewers, repair roads, or expand an airport.

Regionalists have a problem in that minorities are not anxious to be sprawled out into the suburbs and lose their political clout, so the regionalizers have had to rethink their plans.  It’s our tax money that they’re after and they’ll use any excuse to get their hands on it, whether it’s through penalties for large lot sizes, improvements to our own schools when urban schools are falling apart, or from the pulpit where Catholic churches in particular are in sympathy with the Socialists.

My parents had no fear of saying why they left the city, something it’s politically incorrect to say in modern times. The regionalists will play on that fear and prevent the townspeople from registering their true and just complaints.

Pequannock has at least some ammunition, in that it’s already a densely-populated town, large lots notwithstanding.  Let’s hope some of these statistics will be useful to those who must defend their town tonight.  The statistics for nearby Boonton are included as a comparison:

Pequannock Township:

7.2 sq miles.

Population:  15,540

Pop. Density:  2,302.7 per square mile.

6,794 housing units at an average density of 1,006.7 per square mile

Median House Value $380K

Median House Value (2008):  $518,328

Rental average $946 – lowest value $658

Homeowners – 86%; 12,866 Homes

Rental Units: 7%, 996 Rental Units

Median HHI Income: $84,322

Median Family Income: $109,572

HHI Under $30K:  3.1%

Unemployment rate:  6.5%

Crime:  Larceny/theft

White:  95.76%

Black:  0.48%

Asian:  1.94%

Graduation rate: 97.1%

Spending per pupil: $14,415

Boonton demographics: 

8.6 sq. miles

Pop:  8,347

Pop. Density:  508.9 per sq.mile  (in town proper, 2.35 sq miles, 3,556 people per sq. mile)

1,510 housing units at avg density of 179.2 per square mile.

Occupancy:  Homeowner   74%, 3,217 houses

Median house value: $419,409

Avg. Rent:  $1,166 per month

Renters: 26%  – Under $600/mnth

Median HHI income:  $91,753

Median Family Income: $102,944

HHI Under $30:  1.3%

Unemployment rate:  7%

Crime problem:  auto theft.

White:   71.5%

Hispanic:  11%

Black:  4.3%

Graduation rate:  N/A

Spending per pupil $16,060 (State – $17,621)

There is one more fact about Pequannock Township of which its younger residents may not be aware:  Pequannock falls under the Optional Municipal Charter Law or Faulkner Act (N.J.S.A. § 40:69A-1, et seq.), which provides New Jersey municipalities with a variety of models of local government. This legislation is called the Faulkner Act in honor of the late Bayard H. Faulkner, former mayor of Montclair, N.J., and chairman of the Commission on Municipal Government.

The Faulkner Act offers four basic plans (Mayor-Council, Council-Manager, Small Municipality and Mayor-Council-Administrator) and two procedures by which the voters of a municipality can adopt one of these plans. The Act provides many choices for communities with a preference for a strong executive and professional management of municipal affairs. Twenty-one percent of the municipalities in New Jersey, including the six most populous cities – Newark, Jersey City, Camden, Trenton, Paterson and Elizabeth – all govern under the provisions of the Faulkner Act. More than half of all New Jersey residents reside in municipalities with Faulkner Act charters.

Now, this might not sound so good.  Those cities mentioned above are all blighted cities, Camden worst of all.  However, in all Faulkner Act municipalities, regardless of the particular form, citizens enjoy the right of initiative and referendum, meaning that proposed ordinances can be introduced directly by the people without action by the local governing body. This right is exercised by preparing a conforming petition signed by 10% of the registered voters who turned out in the last general election in an odd-numbered year (i.e., the most recent General Assembly election). Once the petition is submitted, the local governing body can vote to pass the requested ordinance, and if they refuse, it is then submitted directly to the voters.

The Faulkner Act was created to provide municipalities with greater flexibility than provided in New Jersey’s traditional forms of government (city, township, borough, town, and village) and to expand on the reforms provided in the Walsh Act, which permits New Jersey municipalities to adopt a non-partisan commission form of government. The legislation was signed by N.J. Gov. Woodrow Wilson on April 25, 1911. The commissions in Walsh Act municipalities are composed of either three or five members elected for four-year concurrent terms. The commissioners also serve as department heads in addition to their legislative functions. The commissioners elect one commissioner as mayor.  However the mayor is only responsible for his or her departments and serves as the chair of the commission.

The Walsh Act was modeled on the commission system that was set up in Galveston, Texas in the wake of the devastating Hurricane of 1900. As part of its reconstruction efforts, the city reorganized itself to a government system in which each elected official had a specific area of responsibility, combining executive and legislative responsibilities. The Walsh Act was enacted in 1911, and specified that commissioners would be elected at large in nonpartisan elections, and would serve four-year, concurrent terms of office. The Walsh Act was the first charter law in New Jersey to include options for ballot initiatives, referendums and recall.

The 1923 Municipal Manager Law was the last type of reformed municipal government the State of New Jersey introduced in the Progressive Era. The law introduced to New Jersey the council-manager council-manager form of government first developed in Sumter, S.C.

The council is nonpartisan and elected at-large for four-year terms. The terms may be either concurrent or staggered, and there is an option for run-off elections. Presently, only Lodi Borough uses run-offs and staggered terms, with half of the council being elected for four-year terms every two years.

The mayor, elected by the council from its own numbers, has no executive responsibility beyond appointing representatives of commissions and boards, and presiding over council meetings. The mayor is elected for a four-year term in municipalities with concurrent terms or serves for a two-year term in Lodi Borough which has staggered terms.  The members of the council are subject to recall elections.

You can see already what sort of problems this can lead to, particularly in a town like Pequannock.

The council–manager government form is one of two predominant forms of municipal government; the other common form of local government is the mayor-council government form, which characteristically occurs in large cities. Council–manager government form also is used in county governments and the governing body in a county may be called a council, a commission, freeholders, aldermen, and such.

Under the council–manager form of government for municipalities, the elected governing body (commonly called a city council, city commission, or board of selectmen) is responsible for the legislative function of the municipality such as establishing policy, passing local ordinances, voting appropriations, and developing an overall vision. County and other types of local government follow the same pattern, with a different title for the governing body members that matches the title of the body.

The legislative body, which is voted into office by public elections, appoints a professional manager to oversee the administrative operations, implement its policies, and advise it. The position of “mayor” present in this type of legislative body is a largely ceremonial title, and may be selected by the council from among its members or elected as an at-large council member with no executive functions.

The city manager position in this form of municipal government is similar to that of corporate chief executive officer (CEO), providing professional management to the board of directors. Council–manager government is much like a publicly-traded.  In a corporation, the board of directors appoints a CEO, makes major decisions and wields representative power on behalf of shareholders. In council–manager government, the elected council appoints a city manager, makes major decisions, and wields representative power on behalf of the citizens.

This system of government is used in 40.1 percent of American cities with populations of 2,500 or more, according to the 2011 Municipal Yearbook published by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), a professional organization for city managers and other top appointed local government administrators/CAOs.

As originally enacted in 1950, the Faulkner Act provided for three forms of government: Mayor-Council, Council-Manager and Small Municipality. Within each form, letter codes designated predefined aspects of each form and its individual arrangement of options, such as partisan or nonpartisan elections, concurrent or staggered terms, all at large or a combination of ward and at large seats.

In 1981, the Faulkner Act was significantly amended. The letter codes were eliminated, and the number of varieties within each plan was greatly increased. The Council-Manager plan was amended to include the option of having a mayor chosen by the electorate. A new form, Mayor-Council-Administrator, was added. Municipalities were also given greater flexibility to amend their Faulkner Act charter without having to place the entire charter on the ballot.

Good luck to the citizens of Pequannock Township (including Pompton Plains) tonight.  Change is coming, but remember that it is neither inevitable nor necessary.

                                            

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Published in: on September 18, 2012 at 3:49 pm  Comments (1)  

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