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July 19, 2011

FROM TIME TO TIME – A Quarterly Report on the Activities Of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, April, 2011 – June, 2011

Dear Mayor:

Here is an update on League activity during the second quarter of 2011.

We have advocated for municipalities in Trenton by

  • Advocating for a rededication to municipal property tax relief through State compliance with Energy Tax and CMPTRA funding statutes.
  • Successfully promoting public employee pension and health care benefit reform. Orange Mayor Eldridge Hawkins and Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz enthusiastically led our efforts to gain passage of the historic Pensions and Health Benefits reform.  East Brunswick Chief Financial Officer Lou Neely set a solid foundation for discussions that Mayors Hawkins and Diaz along with Cinnaminson Administrator Gerry Seneski had with Senate President Sweeney’s Office, Senator Beck and Governor’s Counsel. Mayors Hawkins and Diaz   walked through throngs at a massive rally opposing the reforms, to reach the State House so that they could convince reluctant Legislators to support these vital reforms. They were joined by Mayors Tim McDonough of Hope, Jim Maley of Collingswood and Richard Gerbounka of Linden. Their efforts were successful.
  • Meeting with DCA on the Best Practices Checklist, in order to promote workable, reasonable and open standards and procedures.
  • Working with the sponsor of the EMS reform bill to remove requirements that would adversely affect municipalities.
  • Meeting with the Civil Service Commission regarding temporary furloughs and staggered furloughs.
  • Backing efforts to provide relief for municipalities from tax appeal and reserve for uncollected taxes requirements.
  • Resisting attempts to limit municipal health and safety inspections of multiple dwellings.
  • Opposing legislation that would require that certain public contract bid advertisements include certified cost estimates or estimate ranges of projected contract cost and amends the grounds for rejection of bids.
  • Opposing legislation that would eliminate routine municipal inspections of multi-family dwelling units.
  • Participating in a coalition to stop deregulation of the cable TV industry that would hurt municipal interests.
  • Working to protect State and local programming on New Jersey’s public television and radio networks.
  • Combating a threat that would permit the State to retain revenue replacement funding, if voters reject a shared service proposal put forward by the bureaucracy in Trenton.
  • Arguing in the Tax Court against a corporate refusal to remit telecommunications business personal property taxes.
  • Striving to convince State policy makers to reinstate vital Transitional Aid and Urban Enterprise Zone funding.
  • Promoting appropriate tort reforms to protect local taxpayers from liabilities resulting from actions and events beyond local control.
  • Lobbying for a cap on attorneys fees in suits filed under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act.

We have advocated for municipalities in Washington by

  • Promoting full level funding for the Community Development Block Grant program in the current Federal budget.
  • Organizing our CDBG Funding Task Force, co-chaired by League First Vice President and Mount Arlington Mayor Art Ondish and League Past President and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage.
  • Urging our delegation to support continued CDBG funding.

We have strengthened local leadership capacity by …

  • Holding the Annual Conference Planning Committee which included representatives of the League’s 20 affiliated associations. The meeting, which was held at the Holiday Inn in Jamesburg, included presentations by League Assistant Executive Director Mike Darcy and Meeting Program Specialist, Danielle Holland. Additionally, representatives from the Bus Shuttle service, food providers and the Atlantic City Convention Center were on hand offer their help in planning their meetings for the November Conference.  Preceding this meeting the Affiliate Presidents had the opportunity to discuss issues of relevance with the League Executive Director on matters of special relevance to them and their members. Additionally Gary Finger, the newly appointed BPU ombudsman presented an overview of his duties and responsibilities on how his office can help address issues related to the BPU.
  • We have held Professional Development Seminars for Municipal Officials on the topics of:

    Personnel Policies and the Impact of Social Networking
    Budget and Audit Updates
    Shared Services
    Ethics and Conflicts of Interest
    E-mail Retention and the Open Public Records Act

    • Providing news and critical information to municipal leaders and others in state and federal government though our monthly magazine New Jersey Municipalities.In the past six issues we have included articles by mayors, other local and state level officials and other experts on topics as diverse as the state census, community agriculture, smart cards and shared services. In addition to articles, we provided columns focused on Labor Relations, Legislation, League Services, Legal Issues and Federal Initiatives.
    • League Executive Director Bill Dressel to speak at the Spring meeting of the New Jersey Municipal Management Association at the Breakers Hotel in Spring Lake. Over 200 managers were in attendance to hear the latest developments on a broad spectrum of legislative issues.
    • Convening a meeting, staffed by League Executive Director Bill Dressel and Senior Legislative Analyst Mike Cerra, of the Economic Development Task Force. BPU President Lee Solomon presented important developments involving a broad spectrum of sustainability issues and grants funding for economic development purposes to the over 30 members who attended the meeting.
    • Senior Legislative Analyst spoke at the annual conference for the New Jersey Planning Officials, providing a legislative update to the attendees.
    • Transporting nearly 50 Mayors and OEM Directors participated in a tour of the PSE&G Nuclear Power generating plant in Lower Alloways Creek. The purpose of the tour was to provide League members an understanding on what systems were in place to prevent a disaster like the one that occurred earlier this year in Japan. The tour was held at the request of the League’s Emergency Management Task Force chaired by Mayor Tim McDonough of Hope Township and arrangements for the tour were made by Art Guida, Vice President of Government Affairs for PSE&G.
    • Organizing, under the leadership of League Past President and Hope Mayor Tim McDonough, Chair of the League Emergency Management Task Force and League Executive Director Bill Dressel, a meeting at the State Police Headquarters in West Trenton hosted by the Superintendent and his OEM staff, who conducted a tour of the ROIC.

We have provided municipal officials with resources for problem solving by

  • Publishing the 2nd edition of the 19th volume of Arbitration Reporters in June.
  • Publishing the 2011 Edition of the New Jersey Municipal Salary Report (published bi-annually).
  • 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.
  • Co-producing, with the School Board Association, a day-long program that featured presentations and interaction on how municipalities and school districts can collaborate to produce efficiencies that will help both remain under the 2% cap. 
  • Posting downloads and videos related to that session on the League web site.
  • Working through the NJLM Educational Foundation to produce an informative half day event “Local Law Enforcement Strategies: Technology and New Management Models”
  • Holding, by the Mayors’ Book Club, in conjunction with the Centenary College Education Department, “Literacy Day” at the College in Hackettstown. The program featured a presentation by Pat Brisson, a New Jersey children’s book author, followed by a children’s play, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” presented by Centenary’s Theatre Group. Over 200 first grade students from the 8 participating schools along with their host mayors we invited to participate at this event.  The Mayors’ Book Club, Chaired by Mayor Tim McDonough of Hope, was created over three years ago as a pilot program to help Mayors promote literacy programs in the schools. The program is funded by foundation grants from Verizon and PSEG to the League’s Educational Foundation, which is responsible for these kinds of events. Plans are presently under way to have a similar pilot offering in South Jersey.
  • Hearing from Caren Franzini, CEO of the NJ Economic Development Agency (EDA), at the quarterly meetings of the League Economic Development Task Force, chaired by Mayor Jim Maley of Collingswood. Ms Franzini spoke on the Christie Administration’s recent efforts to attract and retain businesses in New Jersey and provided members with resource materials on how they can get more information from the EDA to promote economic development programs in their towns. The League has scheduled a program on this subject for the November League Conference and more details will follow in the fall issues of the league magazine
  • Contributing to State Office of Information Technology efforts to plan a statewide Digital Government Summit.
  • Publishing updated editions of Protecting Your Town’s Environment and our guide to Access to Public Records.

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/NJ_League)
  • League special committees and task forces and other initiatives.
  • Hosting over 75 League members and staff at the 13th annual Baseball Appreciation Day at Riverfront Park in Trenton.
  • 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. 
  • Posting video commentary to the League web site regarding the League efforts at management reform and the League response to the State budget.
  • Meeting, by League President Mayor Chuck Chiarello and Executive Director Dressel, with Major General Glenn Rieth, National Guard, State Police Superintendent Joseph Fuentes, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, Corrections Commissioner Gary Lanigan, Attorney General Paula Dow , DCA Commissioner Lori Grifa, DOT Commissioner Jim Simpson, Department of Health and Senior Services Acting Commissioner Mary O’Dowd  and State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, to discuss ways the League can work together with their offices in developing better working relationships with our 566 municipalities.

 

 

 

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