Home Rule Exodus

The Star-Ledger reports today on the increasing pressure on New Jersey’s 566 municipalities to consolidate services such as animal control, health services, police departments, and trash collection. Recent history offers countless stories of failed attempts at shared services, but “Gov. Jon Corzine has upped the ante by threatening to cut state aid to small towns with heavy overhead if they don’t merge services.”

Notes the Ledger,

Yet overcoming the tradition of home rule isn’t easy. Mount Arlington got a grant to study police services, but when officials began to consider a plan to merge the police force with a neighboring one, residents balked and it failed to go through.

Hey, we get the hard-nosed, imperious edict thing – we really do. Happens all the time in New Jersey education as the State issues copious statutes on everything from doughnuts served at School Board meetings to superintendent contracts. The result? Angry school boards, transient superintendents (the average tenure now is just over two years), and balking residents.

If Corzine is ready to take on the variegated country quilt that comprises New Jersey – and there’s a bundle of excellent reasons to do so – then here’s a quaint suggestion: how about a little conversation? Wouldn’t it be more effective to attempt to engage this State in a little back-and-forth about the efficiencies and economies available through consolidation? Has anyone tried town hall meetings or web-based exchanges or cooperation with local municipalities in order to work up a some momentum of goodwill?

Moses spoke from the mountaintop. It worked for him. Unless Jon Corzine imagines himself a biblical prophet, however, he’d be better off engaging local communities in intelligent conversation rather than tossing out tablets from Mt. Trenton.

What do you think?

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