Let’s hope that 2008 is a year in which our communities—urban, suburban and rural—find common ground and areas of partnership. Unfortunately, there are many issues that risk pulling us apart. For instance, as we debate potential changes to the Fair Housing Act, local governments are also dealing with newly proposed housing regulations promulgated by the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), a new school funding formula and potential amendments to the local housing and redevelopment law. These complex policy matters have the potential to turn community against community, which in turn would weakening our efforts to revitalize our cities, preserve our environmental resources, and provide affordable housing.
There is an undeniable need for housing in all segments of New Jersey (urban, rural and suburban) to be more affordable for our families.
Additionally, we must address more fully the chronic over-reliance on property taxes to fund local services and schools.
We also must be assured, however, that the new school funding formula does not, in the long-term, under-fund any of our districts and exacerbate any inequalities. Again, we run the risk of this issue devolving into a suburban verse urban issue, instead of an issue focused on the needs of all the children.
Meanwhile, the Kelo decision on eminent domain has triggered a debate regarding property rights. We recognize that there must be safeguards, transparency and fair compensation in the rare circumstances in which eminent domain is employed. We should, however, also promote development and redevelopment in appropriate areas, particularly the areas designated by the State Plan for such development.
Housing, Education, Eminent Domain, Taxes. These challenges underscore the linkage between the fates of our cities, our suburbs and our rural communities. We must not allow the agents of change to play our communities against one another. Instead, may we find that in 2008 lessons have been learned, and that the Legislature and Administration see local governments as partners to progress
Editorial from New Jersey
Municipalities, Volume 85, Number 2, February 2008