Monday, April 9, 2012

The Trentonian re-imagines the region

The accompanying map traces its roots to July 13, 2010. That’s the date Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a move to lower the ceiling on annual tax increases from 4 percent to 2 percent.

With that signature, the governor began starving towns and schools of revenue. Why would he want to do that? It’s simple: there is too much local government.

Well governor, The Trentonian is here to help.

A team of the newspaper’s editors and reporters met with experts and checked the numbers, and came up with a new Mercer County region. You will see that, among other things, it turns Ewing and Trenton into one small city. More on that later.

The map is something of a thought experiment; we are hoping it will make people think.

And, frankly, residents better start thinking. As The Trentonian’s Joan Galler reports elsewhere in today’s newspaper, there is momentum in the state for consolidation. The governor has pointed to the Princetons as a successful model.

You can laugh or scoff, but there’s evidence that some of you are already thinking about this issue.

One county, one town, one way to secure our future

Think The Trentonian’s plan to reorganize Mercer County is good? Bad? Meh? Well, let me tell you what I think: I think it doesn’t go far enough.

  • You ask me, it’s no great surprise the Princetons decided to merge. While no hard and fast statistics can back me up, I’d wager the average IQ out in Ivyland is higher than the average anywhere else around these parts. And so, after some 60 years of talking about it, the township and the borough merged. Why? Because they’re smart enough to realize merging is better than not merging. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but definitely for the long term.

  • Which is why I continue to call for merging the entirety of Mercer County into one government entity, population 366,789, which would make us the 50th largest city in America, slightly ahead of Arlington, Texas and just below Wichita, Kansas.

  • Why should we do this? I have three reasons.

  • Follow this link to check out Jeff's plan.
  • What would your vision of a consolidated Mercer County look like?

    In creating this special project on consolidation of towns in Mercer County, a lot of hard work and research went in to our decision making process on what municipalities we thought should merge and on what the resulting county map would look like.

    But we realize that you, our readers might have different opinions on what, if anything, could or should be done to reduce the number of towns in the county. Maybe you agree with us, maybe you think nothing should be done, or maybe you agree with our columnist Jeff Edelstein, who thinks our vision doesn't go far enough.

    So take a moment and check out these maps depicting different versions of Mercer County and vote for the one you agree with most in the poll running along the right side of this page.

    Municipal consolidation movement picking up steam

    Faced with police and teacher layoffs, reduced garbage collection and other municipal service cuts -- largely due to slashed state aid -- citizen activists are prodding their elected officials to consider municipal consolidation.

  • They have the power now, under the 2007 Municipal Consolidation Law, to petition municipal governing bodies to undertake talks with a neighboring town -- even when local leaders don’t like the idea.

  • What would happen and how much would we save, they are asking, if we erase municipal borders between one or more towns, and merge our police, fire and schools and eliminate redundant municipal jobs? After all, these activists point out, New Jersey residents pay the highest property taxes in the nation.

  • Visit The Trentonian main site for much more on this story.
  • Princetons point way for consolidation

  • After six tries, the proposal to consolidate Princeton Borough and the larger Princeton Township was approved by voters last fall. A Transition Task Force now grinds out details of reconfiguring departments for the newly centralized municipality that will be known simply as “Princeton” in January 2013.

  • The road to a cost-saving merger has been fraught with roadblocks. Some residents asked, “If it’s not broke, why fix it?” They pointed to the 13 services the two entities already shared. Proponents saw savings in eliminating redundancies.

  • Two of the most significant factors to be overcome, according to Mayor Chad Goerner of Princeton Township, were fear of change and the perceived loss of unique identity. Some residents felt that by merging, they would be losing a significant cultural and emotional connection.

  • Click here to see the full story.
  • NJ Sen. Kip Bateman on consolidation

    Legislation aimed at easing the merger process has been introduced by the 16th District delegation: Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman, Assemblyman Jack M. Ciattarelli and Assemblywoman Donna Simon.

    The 16th District covers Princeton Township and Borough, which are currently planning their voter-approved merger.

    For more on this story, click here.

    How towns can merge: The six steps

    Courage to Connect NJ, a non-profit group that encourages municipal consolidation, spells out the process for towns to merge.