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November 1, 2010

FROM TIME TO TIME – A Quarterly Report on the Activities Of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, July, 2010 – September, 2010

Dear Mayor:

Here is an update on League activity during the third three months of 2010.

We have advocated for municipalities in Trenton by

  • Promoting Legislative action on management reforms and mandates relief initiatives.
  • Advocating for favorable Assembly action on S-1, which would abolish COAH and enact needed reforms to the Fair Housing Act.
  • Facilitating the testimony of League Third Vice President, Mayor Janice Mironov of East Windsor, League Past President, Mayor Chris Bollwage of Elizabeth, Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt and Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley, Chair of our Economic Development Committee, who were joined by Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr, to urge the Assembly Budget Committee to focus on the immediate need to enact local government cost containment reforms.
  • Assisting League 3rd Vice President and East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov and League Board Member and Frenchtown Mayor Ron Sworen with testimony in favor of meaningful management reforms before the Senate budget and Appropriations Committee.        
  • Meeting with Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. to discuss toolkit proposals to implement sharing of school business functions across districts and municipalities.
  • Meeting, which involved Lower Township Mayor Mike Beck, League Management Consultant Greg Fehrenbach and Mr. Dan Keashen (representing Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt), with Assemblyman Lou Greenwald to discuss proposed toolkit Arbitration reforms, including PERC selects three arbitrators for union contract from a list of 25, parties then pick one of the three selected arbitrators, instead of parties agreeing to choose a specific name directly from the list of 25 as is currently the case; Arbitrators are mandated to consider the impact of union contracts on property taxes, no such requirement in current law; Arbitrators are barred from making contract awards that exceed 2.5% cap, inclusive of all salary, benefits and other economic contract provisions.
  • Meeting with Assemblyman John McKeon to discuss Mandates relief.
  • Meeting, which involved League President Mayor Jim Anzalid of Clifton, with Assemblywoman Nellie Pou to discuss proposed toolkit Pension and Benefit Reform, including the proposal to Cap sick leave and carry forward of vacation for current employees.
  • Meeting, which involved League Executive Board member Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs of Plainfield, Tim Gordon Administrator of Millburn and Anthony Mercantante Administrator of Middletown, with Assemblywoman Linda Stender to discuss toolkit proposals regarding Public employee discipline reforms to reclassify many offenses as minor to avoid lengthy and costly hearings for relatively trivial infractions; allow Civil Service Commissioner to make seasonal appointment for nine months.
  • Meeting with Assemblyman John Wisniewski to discuss toolkit proposals to move school and fire elections to November and require only single sample ballot to each household instead of multiple ballots to all voters residing in household.
  • Assisting League President, Mayor James Anzaldi of Clifton, along with Mayor Samir Elbassiouny of Washington Township (Warren), Millburn Township Administrator Tim Gordon, Middletown Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante and Wantage Township Administrator Jim Doherty, who testified before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on the need for Civil Service Reforms.
  • Advocating for revisions and clarifications to the DCA Best Practices Checklist.
  • Advocating for revisions and clarifications to the Uniform Construction Code and FEMA regulations effecting the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • Meeting with Senator Paul Sarlo to discuss various management reforms, including civil service reforms and sick leave pay-outs.

We have advocated for municipalities in Washington by

  • Supported the Local Jobs for America Act (S. 3500), a companion to legislation that was introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 4812) earlier this year. Both the House and Senate bills call for much-needed assistance to municipalities, as they seek to protect essential services and avoid additional layoffs of municipal workers — a harsh reality many local governments are now facing as they enter the fiscal year 2011 budget cycle.  These bills would direct $75 billion to cities, towns, and counties over the next two years to create or save an estimated 1 million public and private sector jobs, prevent further layoffs, and help restore access to key community services. In addition, the Senate version includes $23 billion to support 300,000 education jobs, $1.2 billion to put 5,500 law enforcement officers on the beat, and $500 million to retain, rehire, and hire firefighters. The bill also provides for on-the-job training subsidies for workers entering private sector jobs who still need skills training.
  • Advocated for funding for Federal Medical Assistance Program  (FMAP)
  • Reported on and studied the Administration’s New Strategic Plan to Address Homelessness. The strategy relies on better collaboration between federal agencies, state and local governments, and service providers and uses the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program (HPRR) as a means to retool local homeless assistance and prevention efforts. The strategy aims to end chronic homelessness, homelessness among veterans within five years, and homelessness among families and youth within 10 years. The plan does not call for additional funding; instead, it details five overarching strategies which will serve as a roadmap for using existing funds.
  • Urged our delegation to support H.R. 1102 (The Keep Our PACT Act), which would require the Federal Government to provide 40% of the costs of educating children with disabilities, pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). That legislation is co-sponsored by New Jersey Representatives Mr. Holt, Mr. Pallone, Mr. Rothman, and Mr. Sires. Although the federal government has long been authorized under IDEA to fund up to 40 percent, it has failed to ever reach that mark.
  • Urged our delegation to support H.R. 3578, the Everyone Deserves Unconditional Access to Education (EDUCATE) Act, which amends the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to reauthorize and make appropriations for the grant program to assist states and outlying areas in providing special education and related services to children with disabilities. This bill would phase in the full Federal 40% funding over a period of years, so as to limit its impact on the budget. It would authorize appropriations for FY2016 and thereafter that equal 40% of the amount determined using the formula. H.R. 3578 is cosponsored by your colleague, Mr. LoBiondo. A similar Senate proposal, S.1652, the IDEA Full Funding Act, has been introduced by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. It is cosponsored by our New Jersey Senators Lautenberg and Menendez.

We have strengthened local leadership capacity by

  • Holding over 25-30 seminars on such timely and important topics of:
    • Budget and Audit updates
    • Ethics
    • Furloughs
    • Shared Services
    • Health Insurance Benefits
    • Labor Negotiations
    • Family Medical Leave Act and Family Leave Act
    • Personnel Policies
    • Foreclosures
    • Municipal Liens
    • Class Action Lawsuits
    • OPRA
    • Grants
    • Municipal Bonds
    • And many more…
  • Producing Publications on technical topics of critical importance to municipal leaders.
  • Having League Executive Director Bill Dressel speak before the Ocean County Mayors
  • In July, the League of Municipalities’ Education Foundation conducted a half day program at Rutgers University on The Economy and Prospects for Recovery. The Program attracted over 200 elected and appointed officials who listened to a panel of Federal, State and municipal experts. Also a white paper was presented by Dr Jim Hughes and Dr Joseph Seneca of Rutgers University. Copes of the white paper along with highlights of the program can be found on The League's Educational Foundation website NJLMEF.org.
  • In early August the 2009/2010 Mayors Book Club contracted with NLC to work with the 9 pilot towns on promoting early childhood literacy expired and plans began to establish a new program for 2011 with Centenary College in Warren County. The program would involve mayors from four northern counties and involve classroom instruction and web based resource materials. It is anticipated that the program will be launched early in the new year
  • In August, Mayor David DelVecchio, League Past President, and Mayor Timothy McDonough, League Past President, along with Bill Dressel, League Executive Director, briefed a special Committee appointed by Governor Christie on transportation issues. The Mayors stressed the importance of preserving the Local Aid funding component of the Transportation Trust Fund and also detailed the need for enforcing heavy truck traffic on local roads. The Committee is expected to release their report in November.
  • Also in August, League Executive Director Bill Dressel met with Michael Bryan Director of the Division of Taxation and Guy Bocage Director of Purchase and Property in the Division of Taxation to discuss ways these agencies and the League can work closer together in keeping municipal officials informed on a broad range of issues, in which they are involved.
  • In August, League Executive Director Bill Dressel joined several mayors along with HUD representatives and Congressman Rush Holt at the College of New Jersey in Ewing Township at a press conference to promote the Federal State partnership in supporting the Sustainable Jersey program sponsored by the League and the College of New Jersey 
  • In early September, L. Mason Neely, Chairman of the League of Municipalities’ Pension and Health Benefits Committee accompanied Legislative Analysts Lori Buckelew and Jon Moran and League Executive Director Bill Dressel, to meet with State Treasurer Eristoff, to discuss the Governor's Pension Reform initiatives and provide some suggestions on how the various state administered pension systems can be restructured to provide greater parity among the systems
  • In September, the Mayors Committee for a Green Future along with representatives of the College of New Jersey conducted 6 press conferences awarding over 33 towns, which received grants made available by Wal-Mart Corp.
  • League Executive Director Bill Dressel spoke before the Somerset Governing Officials Association on the newly enacted CAP law and management reforms and mandates relief along with updates on COAH, Pension reform and OPRA litigation, in which the League recently joined Raritan Borough.
  • Legislative Analyst Lori Buckelew spoke at the Atlantic County Mayors Association meeting.
  • On September 24, the League Educational Foundation sponsored a half day program at the Bloustein School, Rutgers on Moving Up in a Downturn: Management and Fiscal Strategies to deal with the 2% cap.
  • On September 28, a Special Executive Board Meeting considered School Property Tax Reform.
  • On September 29, the League Legislative Committee met.

We have provided municipal officials with resources for problem solving by

  • Publishing three new booklets from our bi-annual series: Municipal Parking, Garage Sale, Flea Market & Auction Fees and Alarm Fees and False Alarm Penalties.
  • Also updated our annual Economic development Primer, 2009 Laws Booklet, Newly Elected Officials Guide and Personnel Policies Publication.
  • Posted copies of those publications on our Home Page.
  • Continuing to provide several resource centers on our website including, but not limited to: the Grant Resource Center, the Aging and Senior Resource Center, a Purchasing Resource Center and an Ordinance Library.
  • Convening, under the Chairmanship of Buena Vista Township Mayor Chuck Chiarello, League First Vice President, a meeting of the League's Emergency Management Task Force at the League offices in Trenton, which included several mayors, elected officials and state officials, including League Legislative Analyst Lori Buckelew, who staffs this committee for the League.
  • Having League Executive Director Bill Dressel meet with representatives of the Health Care Quality Institute to discuss the formation of a Mayors’ Committee on Life Sciences, which would establish a partnership between Mayors and the pharmaceutical industry in highlighting the economic benefits of that industry in our communities and in our State. That proposal was further refined over several weeks and was approved by the League officers in late spring and will become a League standing committee, which will develop educational sessions and resources for mayors on this timely issue.
  • Advancing the agenda of our Mayors’ Task Force for School Funding Reform, under the Chairmanship of League Board member and Eatontown Mayor Gerry Tarantolo, through meetings, research and the professional expertise of facilitator Eve Langer and Rutgers Professor Dr. Ernie Reock.
  • Hosting, in conjunction with the State DEP, the League’s 3rd Annual Mayors Brownfields Conference in Trenton. Over 75 mayors and various appointed professionals were briefed by DEP Commissioner Bob Martin and his staff on funding opportunities and other technical resources available from the DEP to assist in Brownfields clean up.
  • Hosting the League’s 15th Annual Baseball Appreciation Day at Trenton’s Waterfront Park, which included several mayors who attended the Brownfields meeting.
  • Hosting and administering year-round education seminars to help local officials deal with and solve issues and problems at the municipal level.
  • Providing an informational Legal Consultation Service through the Bureau of Municipal Information for municipal officials.
  • Keeping municipal officials advised of legal developments affecting municipalities.
  • Reviewing proposed regulations for municipal impact and commenting if appropriate. 
  • Visits to county leagues
  • Publishing the League Foundation’s local policy paper, “2010: A Stabilizing Economy but Uncertainties Remain.”   The paper is available at the Foundation’s website at http://www.njlmef.org

We have promoted municipal government by

  • Authoring several op-ed pieces defending the principles of home rule, self-determination, the need for COAH reform, Civil Service reform and property tax reform.   Multiple pieces ran in the Newark Star-Ledger, the Trenton Times, the Asbury Park Press, the Bergen Record and across the State.
  • Producing regular Media Alerts to the press, covering every aspect of new public policy developments in Trenton.
  • Encouraging all state and local officials to follow us on Twitter.  You can now follow the League on Twitter (http://twitter.com/njlofm)
  • The League's 2010 Census Awareness Committee Co-Chaired by Mayor Randy Brown, Evesham, and Mayor Wilda Diaz of Perth Amboy directed league staff to promote the importance of "getting out the count" by sending out numerous emails, faxes, mailings and postings on the league's home page.
  • League special committees and task forces and other initiatives
  • Featuring League Executive Director Bill Dressel on Channel 12’s Eye on Ocean County with host Laura Jones . The program dealt with a broad range of issues like property tax reform, the state budget and affordable housing.
  • Hosting the Quarterly Meeting of the League’s Educational Foundation, chaired by Foundation President Louise Wilson, at the league headquarters, which included an update on the Mayors’ Book Club, a recap of the March Social Media Conference in Newark and plans for a July 9 session on the Economy at Rutgers. 

Very truly yours,

 

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

 

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