I believe that if local government is to fulfill its responsibilities as the voice of those who elected us, we must let them know that their voices will be heard and their concerns addressed.”
Why did you first become involved in your town’s government?
Having grown up in a large town within a large county, the feeling of community involvement I felt after moving to a rural area was very inviting. I started out as a member of the township’s Environmental Commission and then moved to the governing body where I thought I could help to preserve the unique quality of life that Hope Township
citizens enjoy. Throughout my life, I have been blessed with friends on all levels of
government, and I have tried to tap into those relationships to help better the lives of all Hope residents.
What are the most significant challenges facing local governments?
The top three challenges facing local government are: (1) property taxes; (2) property taxes; and (3) property taxes. All municipalities, regardless of size, face a constant battle to provide basic services with an ever shrinking source of revenue compounded by increasing state mandates. Local taxpayers look to their local officials to control expenditures when, in fact, we have little to say on items such as schools, COAH obligations, pensions and
spiraling insurance and energy costs. We need to get real about property tax reform now.
How would you describe your style of leadership?
I have always considered myself a reflection of the people I serve, and I remind myself of that fact every single day. I believe that elected officials must be willing to listen and encourage our residents to speak out on any issue that concerns them. In Hope Township, we encourage dialogue, and I will stop the proceedings of our Township Committee meetings at any time to hear from any of our residents. I believe that if local government is to fulfill its responsibilities as the voice of those who elected us, we must let them know that their voices will be heard and their concerns addressed.
What do citizens want from their local government and has it changed?
I believe that when local government views itself as more important then the people it serves, then that local government will fail. Because local government is the most accessible to the residents, we are expected and must be accountable and responsive to the people we serve. We are all human and the pressures on elected officials come from all sides, and that is why honesty and ethical behavior are a must for all local elected and appointed public servants. These qualities have not and will never change.
What advice would you give to newly elected officials?
I would give the following points to newly elected officials:
• Never lose sight of why you were elected—to serve your constituents.
• Leave your ego at the door—respect and listen to every resident’s concerns.
• Summon up all the patience you have within your soul in dealing with every day problems.
• Budget your municipality’s funds as if they were your own.
• If you are not having fun, quit.
What are the biggest legislative challenges facing
By far the biggest legislative challenge facing municipalities today is affordable housing. Between the passage of A-500, which denies us crucial compliance tools, and the new COAH ”Third Round” numbers, which are based on inaccurate assumptions, local governments face a perfect storm. We are being asked to do more, with fewer resources.
My colleagues and I support the intent and the provision of affordable housing. But the state must
recognize the challenges that confront us. Unfortunately, the League, at the overwhelming urging of its members, had no choice but to file a legal challenge to the COAH regulations. Over 250 municipalities have made financial pledges to this effort, which is now pending.
We are not challenging the Fair Housing Act. We are challenging the methodology that COAH created, that we believe is fundamentally flawed. We feel we need to do this to defend our taxpayers and to ensure a viable and sustainable housing policy.
What are your goals as League President?
My goal for this year will be to continue the standard of service set by my predecessor and good friend Mayor Bob Bowser of East Orange. As local elected officials, we need all the help we can get to make sure our voices are heard in Trenton and Washington D.C.
I hope to work with all of our state’s mayors to help strengthen our youth both physically through
the League’s Mayors Wellness Campaign and mentally through the League’s Book Club. Both of those
initiatives will have new programs in 2009. I will also push to continue and enlarge the League’s Green Future Grants Program, so that all our municipalities obtain energy independence and savings.
The local elected officials of our great state represent the best and the brightest public servants in
our world today. Join those minds with those of our great League staff and together there is no greater advocate for the residents of our great state.
President, New Jersey League of Municipalities
Mayor, Hope Township
President McDonough gave the following address at the League’s Business Meeting on November 21, 2008 during the 93rd Annual League Conference.
I would like to thank all of you very much for allowing me to serve as President of your League of Municipalities. It is an honor to be called to this office and I gladly accept it. I am proud to be your President. I am proud to be a member of the League. And I am proud to be the Mayor of Hope Township.
Hope is one of the earliest planned communities in the country, having been established by German Moravians in 1769. They knew what they wanted to achieve, which is shown on several early planning maps; which detail streets, homes, wells, businesses, farms, a school, tavern and church. Recognizing the need for immediate income to develop the community, the first industrial building built was the grist mill and its mill race, which diverted a channel of water to the mill to run the grinding wheels to grind flour. This was accomplished in one year and began immediate production, which continued into the 1950s.
This industry was soon followed by the distillery, general store, log tavern, a saw mill, oil mill, pottery, tannery, log cabins, north and south farms, permanent limestone residences, single sister’s residence and school, gemeinhaus or church and “god’s acre,” the Moravian cemetery.
After a formal survey of the village completed on November 26, 1774, the community was officially accepted by the Moravian church and the name was changed by drawing lots on February 8, 1775 from Greenland to Hope.
The community at Hope was governed by elder men and women who made decisions regarding professions for young people, marriages, development of the community regarding businesses, new homes, etc. As well as guided the religious life of the group. In the gemeinhaus, meetings were held daily and on Sunday morning the litany was read.
The Moravians were a religious group whose formal name was the “unitas fratrum” or unity of the brethren.
Like those founders of hope, this league depends on unity.
We all work individually to protect the interests of our fellow citizens. And we become active in the League of Municipalities so that we can work together to protect their interests, also.
I hope that this year I am able to continue the standard of service set by my predecessor and friend, Mayor Bob Bowser of East Orange. Mayor Bowser recognized the diversity of municipalities in this state and what can be the diversity of our interests, but he always emphasized the need for unity in action on key public policies. He knew that unity in action, and the active participation of more and more league members, were the main tools that the League can use to build a better New Jersey.
The League has been blessed by a series of great leaders and I salute all of our past presidents for their leadership, integrity, intelligence and skill. I also want to thank all the members of our executive board with whom I have served and on whom I will continue to rely for support and wise counsel.
I thank you, again, for calling me to the office, and I urge all of you to continue to support the League and to become more involved, so that you can help us shape a better future for all the people of our Garden State.