Q AND A WITH LEAGUE PRESIDENT
New League President David DelVecchio
A Taxing Problem Is on His Agenda
Why did you first become involved in Lambertville?
Like a lot of people who work in Trenton, I looked for a house and found a home in Lambertville. One of Lambertville’s former mayors, Phil Pittore, recruited me to run as Mayor in Lambertville. I was working in government at the state level and had worked at the county level. I believed I could be effective as a local office holder getting more out of Trenton for our community and opening up our government for all segments of our population.
What are the most significant challenges facing local governments?
Steadily rising property taxes (except for taxes for municipal services in the City of Lambertville). Due to the rising property tax, family budgets are squeezed and people on fixed incomes and working families are forced to make a quality of life decision to pay property taxes. That is why we need the General Assembly and state Senate to finish their job or we need to have a Constitutional Convention.
Property taxes are the most onerous taxes. As I’ve said many times before, property taxes squeeze those individuals on fixed incomes and hard working families the hardest. For example, individuals or families who purchased a home in 1970 and have paid off their mortgages, are squeezed because that home may have been purchased in 1970 for $25,000, but is now worth $400,000. Their income has not followed that growth, so the tax on their $400,000 property is like a second mortgage.
How would you describe your style of leadership?
Outside of the budget—which I work to understand inside and out—I try to keep the big picture in mind and allow the individuals who work for me to do their jobs. I do not believe I have all the answers and I do believe that the people who put me in office have a clear idea of what they want for their neighborhood or community.
What do citizens want from their local government and has it changed?
People want honest and open government. Quality services for reasonable taxes. Garbage and recycling picked up on time, well maintained recreational facilities and infrastructure as well as a responsive police force. In addition, the public wants a friendly and helpful workforce.
What advice would you give to newly elected officials?
|Remarks of the Honorable
President, New Jersey
League of Municipalities
President DelVecchio gave the following address at the League’s
business meeting during the 91st League Conference.
First of all, I want to thank all of you very, very much for entrusting me with this office.
I’m proud to preside over an association that has weathered the storms of 90 years. I’m proud to preside over a League that has continued to find new and better ways to help municipal officials serve their fellow citizens.
But I am humbly aware of the fact that you expect me to preserve that record of steady progress.
I am proud to be given the chance to preside over an association that unites democrats, independents and republicans – that serves the interests of cities, suburbs and rural communities – that reconciles the differences that can strain relations among south, central and northern New Jersey. But I am humbly conscious of the fact that you expect me to hold that unity together.
I am proud to have the opportunity to preside over an organization that has never become a rigid bureaucracy.
Despite the odds against local self-government, it has maintained its vitality by continually relying on its members for ideas and for action. Throughout, our League has always known and always shown that when all who truly value home rule work together, nothing is impossible. And I am humbly awed by the fact that it is now, to a great extent, up to me to energize all who appreciate the importance of the institution of municipal
government—whether they serve their fellow citizens in elective or appointive office, full time or part time, paid or in a volunteer capacity.
Through your efforts, the people of our 566 municipalities can continue to count on the vital life-sustaining and life-enhancing services that only local governments can deliver – effectively, efficiently and economically.
And as I am proud to lead the League, I am humbled to follow, in office, Mayor Herb Stiles of Elmer. He has set a standard of service that I will strive to meet. I will do my best. I ask you all to do the same. Without your help, I will fail. With your support, our success is inevitable.
The first piece of advice is as follows: to have an impact, one needs to understand the budget of your municipality. Once one understands the structural spending and revenue components of the budget, then one can have an impact with your municipal priorities.
The second is to have respect for your public with regard to what they can afford for your services. Spending for municipal services should be efficient and cost effective.
The third is to listen to your constituents. We moved a proposed police headquarters many times because different neighborhoods did not want the headquarters there.
The fourth is to learn as much as you can from your colleagues, both in your home town and from all around the state. Network with other elected officials. Attend League seminars and participate in the League’s Annual Conference.
At the Conference, we have the chance to learn the most in the least amount of time about the issues we all face—day to day, week to week, and year to year. The Conference covers it all, and it covers it well. The training, exhibits and networking opportunities all help to make you a better public servant, with better knowledge and a better perspective on the issues you face back home.
Keep working for your fellow citizens, no matter what frustrations you face. And always keep your sense of humor.
What are the biggest legislative challenges facing municipalities?
Property tax reform…property tax reform …and property tax reform.
Under Mayors Herb Stiles and Pete Cantu, we made real progress in our battle for property tax reform. Under Mayors Chris Bollwage and Carl Block, we expanded our work with our Congressional Delegation in Washington. Under Mayors Barbara Hall and Jim Parent, we reemphasized the importance of attention to the state regulatory process. And throughout the past ten years, we’ve added valuable aspects to our service program and important members to our League staff.
But most importantly, as it always has, under my predecessors, and under theirs, the League will continue working to advance the interests of ALL municipalities. Nothing in Trenton or around the state will escape the League’s attention. The League will remain our eyes, our ears and our voice in the state capital.
The League’s new headquarters at 222 West State Street will bring us closer to the State House and will make it even easier for us to keep an eye on our legislators.
What are your goals as League President?
The most important objective to be reached is to continue the job the Administration and the Legislature began with regard to property tax reform. Property tax reform for people on fixed incomes and working families is the most important goal we could achieve.
Article published in January 2007, New Jersey Municipalities