A group of local political leaders met last night at the Office restaurant in Montclair to discuss ways to radically change the structure of county government in Essex County.
Calling itself the Committee to Change County Government, the group is trying to put a question on the ballot in 2005 that would change Essex County’s form of government from a county executive model to something else.
Since adopting a county executive form of government in Essex County, “almost every county executive has gone to jail,” said Kevin Lee Allen, a leader in the group and one of the forces behind putting a secession question on Montclair’s ballot last year.
Allen said he has sent a number of letters to the county clerk asking about the new ballot question, but has received no response.
“We don’t get calls returned. We don’t get letters returned,” he said. “You’d think for the $26 million we send to the county, we should maybe get a postcard.” Allen was referring to Montclair’s $26 million tax bill from Essex County.
The meeting was attended by Montclair mayor Ed Remsen, Glen Ridge mayor Carl Bergmanson (also co-founder of Barista), Millburn deputy mayor Sal Bate, former Montclair councilman Don Zief, Roseland councilman Rich Leonard, county freeholder Muriel Shore and Candy Straight, who ran unsuccessfully for county executive last year.
In addition to changing the form of government in Essex County, the group wants the state to consider whether it needs county government at all.
“We’re looking to vet candidates for governor,” Allen said.
The movement, like the county secession movement that’s been broiling in Essex for the past few years, is essentially a taxpayer revolt.
“I’m just sick of paying taxes,” Allen said. “We’re sending $26 million to the county this year. What do we get?”