Instead of seceding from Essex County, why not just get rid of it? If you like that idea, you ought to go to Cedar Grove tonight, where Massachusetts state senator Richard T. Moore will speak about his state’s experience getting rid of county government. (They even got rid of one called Essex County!)

Co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Change County Government Steering Committee. Cedar Grove Municipal Building, 525 Route 23 (Pompton Turnpike), from 7:30 to 9 pm. (Wed. November 30).

57 replies on “How To Ditch County Government 101”

  1. This was somewhat of a card trick, by the way, having lived through it. By carefully shifting the graft, waste, stupidity, and sheer bureaucracy of county government to the Commonweakth, they made it look like the problems had disappeared. They have not. The cost has gone down a bit, but the services are not much better. Only a new group of “innies” are reaping the spoils. Where is George V. Higgins when we need him?

  2. What’s your point Conan?
    All government is corrupt, so let’s just sit on our asses and do nothing?
    Shifting “County” functions to
    (A) the state, and/or to
    (B) the municipalities
    certainly doesn’t solve any graft, patronage and corruption at those levels, but it eliminates an entire layer of it at the county level!

  3. No, not all government is corrupt. Much of it is wasteful, though.
    Removing redundant bureaucracies could be beneficial just in the elimination of duplicate and unneeded services alone. In Massachusetts, the county governments were themselves abolished – but most of their redundant functions were absorbed into other existing entities. There wasn’t much net improvement, and taxes there are almost as bad as they are here.
    I suppose it is a start, but if you are going to change things, I think you need to change more than the names or the packaging.

  4. The system is fixed by expossure. We must have a transparent system. We need the county books on the web and published for the public so people can review them to find corruption and waste.

  5. Bottom line: it’s one less teat.
    Things that actually get done are seldom, if ever, the “best way” (especially in the field of government). I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive towards doing something in the best way as a goal, but if we allow that to be the only standard, nothing at all will actually get done.

  6. Laser,
    You are mixing 2 separate things.
    The question here is not whether our County Elected officials are doing a good job or are responsive.
    The question here is whether county government is necessary at all (and worth the cost).

  7. But isn’t that the point? You are saying that county government isn’t needed because it isn’t effective. I’m looking to see if county gov can get more effective.
    Centralizing power at the state level may lead to lopsided support in different parts of the state. County rule mean greater self control. Also county gov is there for town and city continuity.
    Loren, whats your beef with the county gov?

  8. You won’t eliminate a trough so entrenched. It’s a wonderful thing for those who feed there. Just think (or research) back on it’s illustrious past.

  9. Laser,
    It’s an extra layer of govt that is not necessary. Do you work for the county or something?
    And I think Johnny was alluding to the high conviction rate of Essex County executives.

  10. I live in The Commonwealth, too, and the thing is that our counties always did quite a bit less than your counties, largely because there is little or no unincorporated land, so the role of something like a sherriff is quite a bit smaller. Services are often taken care of by municipalities, too. The shared services were basically courthouses and jails used to detain for trial.
    Sadly, George V. Higgins is dead, and it’s shocking that so many of his books are out of print. Try checking Sandra Nichols Found Dead or The Friends of Eddie Coyle out of your local library, and you’ll ensure yourself a very fun reading experience.

  11. Lisa Williams – while I share some of your regard for George V. Higgins’ novels, his technique of emphasizing dialogue over description often worked against the success of his books. I remember an instance where two characters are supposed to be scurrying across Washington in the teeming rain, and yet, and yet! they have a conversation which runs something like 15 pages. Ridiculous. A drain on readers.
    But of what relevance is this former Asst US Attorney to county government in NJ anyway? Frankly, given the extent of and dedication to corruption in this state, I doubt that even George V. Higgins could have adequately handled this state fictionally. We’re still waiting for a writer who can, I think.

  12. Go to a freeholder meeting sometime; you ‘ll first be amazed, then anesthetized.
    county officials do not expect the public to attend. fewo do, other than those receiving honors as “Italian American of the Year” and “County Champ Soccer Team” …
    freeholders vote in effective secrecy, prevent discussion, decline to answer questions, publish their agenda ((VERY LATE)) on the day of the meeting and tack on resolutions as they see fit. as for the public record, they approve meeting minutes in six-month batches, and air the procedings on public access on an indiscernable schedule
    meeting rules are arcane, ensuring the public either cannot speak at all, or must wait until 11 pm to do so
    want to know where your tax dollars go? ask joe di — he’s ‘extraordinarily comfortable’ with his prospects:
    “as DiVincenzo prepares to seek re-election to a second term in 2006, he looks extraordinarily solid: he has no major problems among the traditionally divisive Essex Democrats, and Republicans have few prospects to run a competitive race. And after DiVincenzo’s Chief of Staff, Phil [the hulk] Alagia, delivered an 85k vote plurality as head of Jon Corzine’s Essex [joke] campaign, possible opponents are running away.”
    better yet, try to find a copy of 2004’s Analysis of County Procurement & Contracting for a v. interesting read on where and how Essex Cty spends your $$$.
    while you’re at it, conduct a little public-interest research into how many county officials, elected or appointed, have relatives feeding at the government trough. it’s disgusting to make a family business out of “public service”

  13. “It’s an extra layer of govt that is not necessary.”
    Why?
    I’m willing to entertain the notion but certainly not based on generalities.
    I note that MA didn’t get rid of county gov’t, only somehow abolished the gov’ts of approximately half of the states’ counties. There’s a lot here that needs explaining. Why were the remaining county gov’ts not deemed unnecessary?

  14. Actually, just like Massachusetts, New Jersey has no unincorporated land. Every square inch of New Jersey is in one of our 566 municipalities.
    The forum this evening was very interesting, as was the last one (about the history of County Government in NJ). Anyone who pays property taxes or rents property in NJ should be very interested in this issue.
    It was especially interesting to hear how similar their county governments were to what we have here, and how services are better than before, with a modest cost reduction and a fairer distribution of the burden to boot.
    Of course, there are differences between our situation and theirs, but those differences mostly underscore why the abolition of County Government makes even more sense here, (and also why it will be much harder to accomplish):
    Dual officeholding is commonplace in NJ.
    NJ has no Initiative & Referendum.
    NJ has much more powerful County Political Machines, with each party controlling a significant number.
    Tremendous indebtedness of our counties.
    (Our Essex County debt service alone will top $100 million in 2007)
    The next forum will be on the
    Millburn & Summit Studies on County Government
    and will be held in Summit:
    Summit Municipal Building
    512 Spingfield Ave
    Summit, NJ 07901
    Thursday, Dec 15, 2005
    7:30pm to 9pm

  15. Crank,
    Perhaps you should consider going to one of the forums…
    If you live in Baristaville, approximately 18 – 25% of your property taxes go to the County, if you think you (or the general public)are getting a good return on that expenditure, you are in the minority.

  16. Loren, I don’t work for the county government. hmmm… lasermike026 of the parks & rec… in any case.
    The county government provides essential services that New Jersey towns depend on and can not afford themselves. I don’t know if Bloomfield, Glenn Ridge, and Montclair could survive without the county system. Much of New Jersey civil system runs on the county level. To eliminate county government would mean to remake the entire state of New Jersey. And for what? Instead of going to Newark for freeholders meetings we go to Trenton?
    To have county government is not the issue. People getting involved in civic affairs and transparent government is the issue.

  17. Some people on this thread have referred to New Jersey as “the Commonwealth” like “the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania”. The correct term is “the State of New Jersey”.

  18. I didn’t read all of the thread, but I was referring to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts — also known as “The People’s Republic of Taxachusetts.”
    Lisa, Cathar – George V. was somewhat of a chewy read, and sometimes I would wish I could just slap his characters into pithiness, but that was not the way he told stories, and his stories are worth the effort. He is not for everybody, and I enjoyed him immensely because I have a history of Massachusetts politics – and its underside – in my blood. His last novel, “At End of Day” reads brilliantly between the lines of the Whitey Bulger / Steven Flemmi story that resulted in a major FBI agent going to jail. “Defending Billy Ryan” is a primer on local politics, and, as the Tipster said, “All politics is local.”

  19. And, at the risk of being called “noser” again, I appreciate that the mayor of Montclair gets involved in this blog. And even though I promised my non-resident vote to RoobyDoobyDoo on the Open Thread yesterday, I just wanted to say I think Ed is a mensch.

  20. Same goes for Carl — sorry, didn’t mean to leave you out. I was referring to Ed in general, but I also appreciate Carl’s posts concerning the forums. Not enough coffee yet.

  21. I think County government is necessary in New Jersey because there are certain functions that cross county lines. For instance, the Essex County Park System, the oldest park system in the country, sprawls across various municipalities. Watsessing Park and Brookdale Park, for instance, have land in Bloomfield and East Orange, and Bloomfield and Montclair, respectively. It’s all very well to say let the towns take over the upkeep but then there would be uneven care and the towns would have to work together to do it, etc.
    One of the improvements I could see would be to take the court and jail system out of the County government responsibilities and make it a state responsibility, which I know Joe DiVincenzo would like to do. That would lower county taxes while still leaving a county infrastructure in place to run other functions.
    Another improvement, which doesn’t have anything to do with county government, would be having the boards of education be state-run instead of independent fiefdoms.

  22. More specifics are appearing here but I still don’t see a cogent argument for eliminating county gov’t. Some good cases have been made for transforming it.

  23. Carl Bergmanson,
    Thank you for posting all this, and for your efforts. There is tremendous support for eliminating county governmnet (along with other reforms in how New Jersey is run).

  24. Another reason to keep county government is because otherwise the wealthier suburbs would no longer be helping to fund the less well-off cities such as Newark or Paterson and they would decay further. I know there are those that would say “fine, as long as I don’t have to pay for them anymore,” but then you have a situation that is even worse. Hartford in Connecticut has no funding from the local suburbs because there is no county government and from what I have read it is in terrible shape. Admittedly there are probably wasteful practices, graft, etc., but we need to address those issues, not cut off funding.
    Additionally I think reform in New Jersey should include forbidding dual office-holding. For instance, the Mayor of Newark should not be a State Senator. Too many opportunities for pork.

  25. Cathar — then I especially recommend his later books. He moved away from the dialogue-driven style that made him famous with Eddie Coyle, much to the chagrin of many reviewers. I like the later books better.

  26. Carl — I didn’t know that! What’s with all the “township” signs, and is that different from the “town” itself? We don’t have anything like that in Massachusetts, and I thought that the “township” land was part of a county rather than a municipality.

  27. It appears from some of the comments here that some background info might be helpful.
    First of all, while I am the Mayor of Glen Ridge, and a founding member of the Change County Government NJ Committee (CCGNJ) I should say that I am speaking here only for myself.
    The Change County Government NJ Committee (CCGNJ) consists of official representatives and other leaders from several towns within Essex County who have been meeting to discuss how to better coordinate efforts to stabilize taxes in Essex County municipalities with an emphasis on the size and cost of county government.
    (This is adapted from the CCGNJ.org website )
    The purpose of these Educational Forums (co-sponsored by the LWV & the Change County Government NJ Committee) is to bring forward experts on County Government so that both elected officials and the public at large are more informed about County Government
    One of the reasons last night’s forum was particularly useful is that it illustrates that running a state essentially without county government is possible. That does not mean that it is the most desirable option, only that it is a viable one.
    Some of you here address this issue as though it would be possible to wave a magic wand and have counties (or county government) disappear, of course, it makes for a good theoretical debate, but the discussion itself is of limited value. In the real world, accomplishing such a dramatic change is usually done in many small steps and usually takes decades. In the presentation last night, Senator Moore started his timeline in 1970 or so, and they still have only eliminated nine of the 14 counties (although the others have been dramatically reduced). Any change, no matter how incremental, will happen only any after tremendous discussion of the ramifications of each change.
    Finally, some view this as an attack on the current county administration, or a specific party. They are incorrect (personally, I think Joe D. is probably the best County Exec we’ve ever had). I have been a critic of the existence of county government for many, many years, through several administrations of both political parties. It is not about the individuals, or the quality of work that is being done. It is about an extra tier of government that costs each of us thousands of dollars each year and is paid for in an extremely inequitable way.
    I think a number of points that some of you made above are really a matter of semantics, even in Massachusetts and in Connecticut, some vestiges of counties remain (if you had attended the forum…) What is gone is county government, I√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll address your points individually below.

  28. Laser Mike writes:
    The county government provides essential services that New Jersey towns depend on and can not afford themselves. I don’t know if Bloomfield, Glenn Ridge, and Montclair could survive without the county system. Much of New Jersey civil system runs on the county level.
    It is unfortunate that you did not attend the meeting last night, because you would have learned that the towns in Massachusetts are actually better off under the new system. Vital services were not eliminated, they were reassigned and duplication was eliminated (or at least reduced). I can say with absolute confidence that the Borough of Glen Ridge (note one ”n”) would do just fine under such a system, as would each of Essex County’s 21 other towns. BTW, The State of New Jersey already runs the “County Court System”, and pays for a good portion of the costs involved.
    As far as your second question:
    What direct benefit would Glenn Ridge gain if Essex County was eliminated?
    This is really one of the “magic wand” questions I spoke of. Each individual change would have some impact that would have to be addressed, and it would depend on whether the function was eliminated, pushed up to the state or down to the towns. The direct benefit would not be to the town, but to the taxpayers, the average homeowner in GR is paying about $2,700 a year in property taxes to the county.

  29. Conan writes:
    Same goes for Carl — sorry, didn’t mean to leave you out. I was referring to Ed in general, but I also appreciate Carl’s posts concerning the forums. Not enough coffee yet.
    and Martin writes:
    Thank you for posting all this, and for your efforts. There is tremendous support for eliminating county government (along with other reforms in how New Jersey is run).
    Thank you both, it is nice to be appreciated. It is relatively easy for me to be involved, I don’t work in the public sector, I’m not a Republican or a Democrat, and I’m not running for re-election.
    What I appreciate is that so many other elected officials from both major political parties are willing to be involved, many of them at great political and professional risk. Our members have little to gain personally and much to lose, so their participation speaks volumes about their integrity and their dedication to the public good.
    And Martin, I agree with you that there is tremendous public support for real reform at all levels of government, the tough part is making it happen.

  30. Part of the problem with the county is keeping informed as to who is who and what is going on.
    When I was growing up in New Brunswick, the local paper (the Home News) and the local radio station (WCTC) reported on both county wide news as well as about issues effecting other municipalities in the county. As a result, everyone was aware of what the county was up to.
    Since moving back to NJ, I have found that there is realy no good source of Essex County news. The Star Ledger has an Essex County section, but they are basically a statewide paper. The Baristta covers parts of Suburban Essex, but not all of it. The Montclair Times covers the town.
    Since the owner of the MT also owns other town wide newspapers in Essex County, perhaps they could they could get together and print a common Essex County section that would be included in each of the papers.

  31. mauigirl writes:
    I think County government is necessary in New Jersey because there are certain functions that cross county lines. For instance, the Essex County Park System…
    It is unfortunate that you were not at the forum, mauigirl. Senator Moore talked about how this type of thing was dealt with, for example, the towns on Cape Cod created an openspace commission to deal with the parks there.
    …It’s all very well to say let the towns take over the upkeep but then there would be uneven care…
    While the parks are currently looking much better than they were, over the last 30 years or so, the Essex County Parks have been a poster child for “uneven care”. In addition, it was only when the local police departments were allowed back into the county parks that many of them were even safe enough to be used. In any case, much of the funding for the work you’ve seen in our county parks in the last two years has been from grants that were received by local organizations. The County has done a good job of coordinating this effort, but it certainly could be done the way it is being done on Cape Cod.
    …and the towns would have to work together to do it, etc.
    I’m not sure why you think this would be a problem. For the most part, the towns in this area have worked together very well, certainly much more effectively than the county has been historically.
    One of the improvements I could see would be to take the court and jail system out of the County government responsibilities and make it a state responsibility, which I know Joe DiVincenzo would like to do. That would lower county taxes while still leaving a county infrastructure in place to run other functions.
    One of the things I have been saying since “day one” has been that we should start with the common ground we share with the county administration, I fully support the effort to move the rest of the court system, the jails and prosecutor’s office to state control. If you had been to the forum last night, you would have learned that that was how they started in Massachusetts
    Another improvement, which doesn’t have anything to do with county government, would be having the boards of education be state-run instead of independent fiefdoms.
    This is kind of off topic, so let me just say that perhaps you should look into the success rate of NJ state-run school districts before proposing this.

  32. Crank writes:
    More specifics are appearing here but I still don’t see a cogent argument for eliminating county gov’t. Some good cases have been made for transforming it.
    If someone sends me a bill for $2,700 a year, shouldn’t the burden be on them to justify the expense? Besides, as I said above, there is no magic wand, the road towards abolition of county government is really a progression of many incremental reductions (call them transformations if you prefer). If, at some point, it makes sense to retain some vestige of the county system that is left, that’s fine with me, but let’s work on getting to that point, because we’re nowhere near there now.

  33. mauigirl52 writes:
    Another reason to keep county government is because otherwise the wealthier suburbs would no longer be helping to fund the less well-off cities such as Newark or Paterson and they would decay further…
    I’m glad you brought this up, because this is a popular misconception, and it’s often used to demonize advocates for reform. In New Jersey, towns like Newark and Paterson don’t receive much more benefit from the money suburban taxpayers pay to the county than the suburban towns do. It sounds good to say, it just isn’t accurate. What’s more, the current county tax is a regressive tax that actually hurts poor people, regardless of where they live, more than rich ones.

  34. mauigirl52 writes:
    Additionally I think reform in New Jersey should include forbidding dual office-holding. For instance, the Mayor of Newark should not be a State Senator. Too many opportunities for pork.
    At the forum last night, the senator told us that you are allowed to hold more then one office at a time in Massachusetts, but you can only get one paycheck (this got a good laugh). While that is better than what we have here in NJ, I completely agree with you on this, it should be completely outlawed.

  35. Lisa Williams writes:
    Carl — I didn’t know that! What’s with all the “township” signs, and is that different from the “town” itself? We don’t have anything like that in Massachusetts, and I thought that the “township” land was part of a county rather than a municipality.
    There are many different types of Municipalities in NJ, I am not familiar with all of them, and I am not an expert on the subject, but we seem to have all different types. Both towns and townships are independent municipalities. Most towns are of the “stand-alone” variety, but some towns are completely surrounded by townships (I have heard this called “Doughnut & Hole”). For example, Morristown is an independent municipality in the center of, and completely surrounded by Morris Township, which is also an independent municipality.
    Here is a map of NJ Municipalities I found online.
    In Essex County, where The Township of Montclair, The Borough of Glen Ridge, and The Township of Bloomfield are (the three towns served by this website), all the Cities, Towns, Townships, Villages and Boroughs are of the “Stand-alone” variety. As an historical note, Montclair (1868) and Glen Ridge (1895) seceded from Bloomfield.

  36. I have to quick because I’m in a rush.
    Glen Ridge leaving Essex or abolishing Essex has more to do with Glen Ridge than the problem with county government. Glen Ridge is so different from the rest of the county that I’m not surprise that their mayor would support eliminating county government. What common interests does Glen Ridge have in common with Newark or the Oranges? Nothing but proximity.
    I’m sure a rich town like Glen Ridge would like to cut itself away from a county system it perceives as taking their resources and apply it the needs of the county. What the people of Glen Ridge may not understand is that they benefit from the support that poor towns receive. We all in this together.

  37. The people of Glen Ridge might do better on property taxes is they abolished Glen Ridge, liquidate Glen Ridge public assets, and join with Bloomfield or Montclair.

  38. I also think that Mayor Bergmanson is understating the benefits the county provides. If he wants to make a case for eliminating county government, he can point out waste in county programs, programs that can go to the state, programs that can go to the town, and programs that can be eliminated. Until then, his statements are mostly conjecture.
    Also, the houses I’ve seen in Glen Ridge have property taxes around $20,000. I’ve been looking for a home.

  39. Laser, dude, you seem to have no idea of what you speak.
    I missed last night’s presentation as I was traveling, but I am a little familiar with the Mass story. I am very familiar with Nj counties and Mayor Bergmanson’s efforts to find economies for his town.
    LM, I do agree that consolidation of towns must also be considered, but let the buyer beware, unlike in business, larger communities do not necessarily mean tax savings. There is probably an ideal size local government, that may be based on land area, population or a combination of factors.
    In South Jersey, some counties work quite well. The county often provides police services to small towns and the political demographics allow for real competition between parties, ensuring that when the party in power screws up, the bums get thrown out.
    In Essex County, the one party system fosters corruption. This is not a Democrat thing or a republican thing. There are corrupt Republican counties as well.
    That corruption may be as simple as cronyism. Someone mentioned earlier to look at what politicians or politician’s relatives have county jobs. And therefore county pensions, we pay these people forever.
    Or the corruption can be more sinister.
    LM mentions the issue of wealthier towns supporting less wealthy communities. Frankly, that is hardly the case, drive the length of Bloomfield Avenue. The county road is in much better condition in the western communities.
    I think someone mentioned ‘welfare’ which is a broader issue than simply ‘the dole.’ Property taxes do not support these programs, the funding for these support programs comes from the state and the federal government, then the county takes their ‘vig’ out of the funds (in terms of office rent and patronage jobs) reducing the amount of cash actually available to help people.
    Someone mentioned the parks, which could be regionalized on a different level. Do their need to be 575 parks authorities in the state, assuming one state, 21 counties and 550 communities?
    Do we need 21 court systems in NJ? Why not 8 or 10? The Essex court system is the largest, simply saying ‘the state’ should assume the cost means ‘we the people; will be paying for the system out of a different pocket. What is the optimal size for a court system in NJ?
    Who does the county public works system benefit, beyond the workers and the patronage system? I’ve seen the county workers plow snow off of Bloomfield Avenue and onto the local roads. Wouldn’t it be better for each community to handle the roads in their area. Mayor Bergmanson, Mayor Remsen and others are looking into these issues.
    I admit that I frankly think the counties are an anachronism. I think the political boundaries need to be redrawn. When King George (?) established the counties, there was a lot of unincorporated land. Now we have the 550 individual communities and 660 school systems, don’t get me started on that issue.
    There should be nothing that stops the people and/or our elected officials from looking, regularly, at how we might better deliver services and find, hopefully more efficient means of delivering ‘right-sized’ government. On all levels.

  40. LaserMike writes:
    Glen Ridge leaving Essex or abolishing Essex has more to do with Glen Ridge than the problem with county government. Glen Ridge is so different from the rest of the county that I’m not surprise that their mayor would support eliminating county government. What common interests does Glen Ridge have in common with Newark or the Oranges? Nothing but proximity.
    It’s hard to see how this statement addresses any of the issues involved, or helps your cause in any way. I should also point out that many towns in Essex County have voted to secede from Essex County, or to explore options including secession. Furthermore, while each town in Essex County is unique, we share many common bonds with our sister towns throughout the county, including, unfortunately, a statistical tie for first with our neighbor to the south, East Orange, in the Star Ledger’s ranking of largest property tax burden.
    I’m sure a rich town like Glen Ridge would like to cut itself away from a county system it perceives as taking their resources and apply it the needs of the county.
    First of all, Glen Ridge is not a particularly rich town, most of our Essex County neighbors to the west have higher average incomes, and in some cases, much higher. Secondly, the property tax is not based on the ability to pay, that’s one of the biggest flaws in it.
    What the people of Glen Ridge may not understand is that they benefit from the support that poor towns receive. We all in this together.
    This is the demonizing I was referring to above. Your statement is completely baseless, and smacks of someone who, lacking the facts to back his argument, resorts to personal attacks. As I said, the current county tax system does not benefit “poor” towns anymore then it benefits “rich” towns, and wasting our tax dollars on redundant services hurts the poor most of all.
    The people of Glen Ridge might do better on property taxes is they abolished Glen Ridge, liquidate Glen Ridge public assets, and join with Bloomfield or Montclair.
    Here, again, you are just plain wrong, both in your sentiment, and on your numbers. Joining either Montclair or Bloomfield would cause the property taxes in Glen Ridge to go up, not down.
    I also think that Mayor Bergmanson is understating the benefits the county provides. If he wants to make a case for eliminating county government, he can point out waste in county programs, programs that can go to the state, programs that can go to the town, and programs that can be eliminated. Until then, his statements are mostly conjecture.
    Of course, the irony here is that this is exactly why the CCGNJ was established, and what we have been doing for the last year, and a big part of why we have been sponsoring these forums; that you don’t know this says more about your comments then anything I could write.

  41. I can just as easily make argument for less towns and greater consolidation at the county level and vice versa. Its all arbitrary. It doesn’t mean anything. What matters is involvement. After involvement reaches critical mass, then we can start on government restucturing. But to restructure before community involvement becomes the norm, taking out county gov is just the existing players playing the system.
    When people say, “the problem is county” its a misdirection. The problem may be at state, county, or local level. Eliminating county doesn’t eliminate the problem. It just a reorginatization.

  42. I’d like to thank Mayor Bergmanson for his thoughtful replies to the various issues raised. I am sorry I didn’t know about the forum ahead of time as it sounds as if a lot of interesting ideas were brought up.
    As a frequent visitor to Cape Cod, it is interesting to hear how they dealt with the “overlap” issue on parks and open space; but isn’t that just substituting one bureaucracy for another? But I suppose that rather than a whole bunch of separate counties with their own parks, at least it’s all under one entity.
    I agree totally that the county, in the past had let the parks decline terribly, and as a member of one of the local park groups that is benefiting from the grants, I realize how the improvements are being funded now, which I might add, is due to the ingenuity of Joe DiVincenzo and his staff. However, I realize this could change depending on who’s in charge and what they decide to focus on.
    Regarding the comment about the cities suffering if county government went away, I was basing this comment on an article I read a year or so ago in the NY Times about Hartford, that it went downhill when county government was abolished (as I recall; it was a year ago or so). If that is incorrect I am certainly open to new ideas. Could be the circumstances there were different.

  43. Mayor Bergmanson,
    In my opinion you have not presented any credible reason to change or eliminate the county government system. Until I hear something compelling and credible, I would choose to keep the county government system as is.

  44. “Of course, the irony here is that this is exactly why the CCGNJ was established, and what we have been doing for the last year, and a big part of why we have been sponsoring these forums;”
    I’d never heard of the CCGNJ until yesterday. There’s one concrete result of a year’s work for you.
    Of course decent media coverage of county/regional issues like this is hard to find. That may be a big part of the problem.
    Thanks to Mayor Bergmanson for outlining his thoughts in more detail and for the link to the CCGNJ website. There’s some food for serious thought here. That’s what I was after.

  45. If the CCGNJ has a podcast or webcast of Senator Moore’s presenation, I would be happy to review it.

  46. I have a meeting, so this will have to be my last post.
    It is the job of our elected officials to be responsive, and that, more than anything else, is what the CCGNJ is about. Many citizens from my town, and the voters in many other towns, have expressed their opinion that we need change at the county level. Because of that, we are attempting to examine the current system, and explore what other options might be available to us. If there were 70% or 80% or 90% votes to merge towns, or to centralize school systems, I’m sure we’d be looking into that as well, but that is just not the case.
    To me, the evidence is pretty clear that we don’t need counties, but as I’ve said here, it’s not something that going to happen overnight, and it won’t happen without broad public support for a clear plan of action, and it is very likely it won’t happen even then, it took looming financial disaster and a statewide referendum to make it happen in Massachusetts, where counties didn’t have a fraction of the political power they have here.
    The bottom line is this: Just because something has always been done a certain way, that does not mean there isn’t a better way to do it. We must continue to explore all our options, whether we√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢re talking about county government, municipal government, school boards or whatever. The only way to do that is with research and education, otherwise it is all just speculation.
    I’m told that the tape will be made available for towns to broadcast on their local stations, when I get a copy, I’ll make sure it winds up on channel 36, which means that many people in Glen Ridge, Montclair and Verona will be able to see it.

  47. Time for me to step in and pick up for my friend Carl: Some facts:
    1. There is a lot of patronage tied to county gov’t. Period.
    2. As towns have moved towards full-time professional managers, more sophisticated use of technology, and shared services agreements within their towns and among other towns, there are far fewer services that a County provides than we need.
    3. We will likely always have some form of county government but it does not have to be anywhere as large and expensive as it is, especially in Essex County.
    4. Instead of having so much state and federal grant money go through the county, the state can directly farm some of this out and some of the very large and qualified non-profits can do some.
    5. Joe D. has done a far better job than some of his predcessors but it’s not about Joe. It’s about whether we still need this expensive middle layer of government and the huge debt that we and our grandchildren will be paying off.
    6. Any institution fights to justify and preserve its existence. Once a while it necessary to challenge the need for some basic premises or structures. If we had to start all over again, our municipal givernemnets and school governance would probably not look too different from what we have – does anyone think that if started over again to create a county government structure, that it would look anything like it looks now?
    7. Anything is possible if the political will exists to make some change.

  48. “There is a lot of patronage tied to county gov’t. Period.”
    So, there’s no patronage in local government(s). Wouldnt said patronage just migrate because local officials would have more power?
    “Instead of having so much state and federal grant money go through the county, the state can directly farm some of this out and some of the very large and qualified non-profits can do some.”
    Wouldnt that just be the same “layer”, but only in a different form? Nonprofits are often no more efficient than the government is! And, again, it’s still a “middle layer” ?
    Confused.

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