Government Reform Thoughts

Last Updated 03/23/2011 - Provide Your Thoughts Here

March 24, 2011: For all 21 counties in the state, we propose that there be at least one member of the minority political party sitting on the board. - The Leader/Times
July 29, 2010: One area that needs to be considered for governor Chris Christie's toolkit is separating out healthcare benefits from collective bargaining agreements. Governments need to be able to negotiate health plans based on available funds, not on what has been given in the past. - The Leader/Times
July 8, 2010: This past weekend, the governor and senate president came to agreement on a 2% so-called cap on property taxes. However, they agreed to have healthcare and pension costs, capital improvements and debt exempted from this cap. So what have they achieved? - The Leader/Times
July 1, 2010: If taxes are to rise when property values jump, it stands to reason that taxes should plummet when home sales are sluggish. - The Leader/Times
June 24, 2010: All county governments must be required to submit annual reports that detail total cost, total revenue (sponsorships etc.) for all programs not funded through property taxes such as entertainment, science-related activities, horse stables etc. These reports should be available on the county website as well as in the governor's office. - The Leader/Times
June 17, 2010: Rather than moving all the 21 county prosecutor offices to the state budget, New Jersey would save counties more money if they moved county jails to the state corrections department. The Union County corrections department's operating budget is around $43 million compared to $20 million for the county prosecutor's office. - The Leader/Times
June 10, 2010: Municipalities and counties should be required to write language in ordinances that is in English, not legalize. Even a piece of state legislation offers a interpretive statement at the end. - The Leader/Times
June 3, 2010: Garwood has eliminated their bulky waste pickup as a budget cut. When we told government to cut the waste, we didn't think they would take us literally. - The Leader/Times
May 27, 2010: Union County should immediately institute a 10 percent salary cut to all county employees earning over $100,000 a year. To show they mean it, the freeholders should do the same. - The Leader/Times
May 20, 2010: Governor Chris Christie should call the New Jersey State Legislature into a special session this summer, as ex-Governor Jon Corzine did a few years ago, to develop concrete recommendations for a long-term approach to stabilizing property taxes in New Jersey. - The Leader/Times
May 6, 2010: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just awarded Rutgers University and BedBug Central a $20,000 grant to create a public awareness initiative for New Jersey residents about bed bugs. And we wonder why we have a federal deficit. - The Leader/Times
April 29, 2010: As local governments formulate their budgets, they must keep in mind one simple fact: We can't spend more money than we have. - The Leader/Times
April 15, 2010: Voters this Tuesday have an important role as they will be asked to decide the fate of school spending plans. Despite the rhetoric from the teachers union, as well as the governor's office, we implore everyone to be informed on their school budgets and the candidates seeking board of education seats. - The Leader/Times
April 8, 2010: We are happy to hear that a report to the Board of Chosen Freeholders has concluded against creating a Union County court, reasoning that it would take $142,000 out of the coffers of the municipal courts throughout the county. We hope the freeholders concur with this report. - The Leader/Times
April 1, 2010: Government must start to run like a business in that when times are good, they can be more generous to their employees, and when times are bad, the unions must realize that pay increases simply are unreasonable. - The Leader/Times
March 25, 2010: Aid to school districts should be based on a percentage of the total revenue brought into the coffers of Trenton, this way when revenues are significantly down, so is the aid. But if revenues jump, so does help to school districts. - The Leader/Times
March 18, 2010: Given the significant cuts in school aid to districts, the New Jersey Legislature must immediately take up proposals including collective bargaining, health benefit cost sharing and pension reform to give school districts a way to reduce their costs. - The Leader/Times
March 11, 2010: We can't afford to put a roof on Giants/Jets stadium, which would've brought in a superbowl, among other things, but we can consider building a year-round indoor facility for the Watchung Stables. - The Leader/Times
March 4, 2010: Given the state's severe fiscal shortfall, members of our state legislature that are able should have their salaries withheld this year in order to help reduce a projected 12 billion dollar deficit in July. - The Leader/Times
February 25, 2010: Furlough days need to be extended to our school system. And where will these days come from? July and August. - The Leader/Times
February 18, 2010: Governor Chris Christie needs to set parameters for what constitutes the role of county government. For instance, is there truly a need for public safety directors, divisions of information technologies and large public information departments? - The Leader/Times
February 4, 2010: The state legislature is considering a bill calling for detailed budget information to be included on the websites of all levels of government in New Jersey. We would like to see if this really becomes a reality, given that many local government sites don't even post emails of their elected officials, meeting agendas or other pertinent information. - The Leader/Times
January 28, 2010: President Barack Obama's decision to cut NASA funding of the space shuttle replacement program is short-sighted and will cause irreparable in the long term to a space agency which gained prominence with the race to the moon in the 1960's during the Kennedy administration. - The Leader/Times
January 21, 2010: State superior courts should allow internet access to litigation filed in their courthouses. By charging for these records, lawyers, members of the public and press would have immediate access to these cases and also create a steady revenue stream for the state. - The Leader/Times
January 14, 2010: With the nomination of Bret Schundler by governor-elect Chris Christie as Education Commissioner, we look forward to his proposal to reign in the cost of public education in New Jersey. - The Leader/Times
December 31, 2009: Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy 2010. - The Leader/Times
December 24, 2009: Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. - The Leader/Times
December 17, 2009: This newspaper throws its full support to New Jersey Governor-elect Chris Christie and his administration, wishing them wisdom and strength in the new year for leading the state while facing necessary and unavoidable reforms. - The Leader/Times
December 3, 2009: In order to reduce the school portion of property taxes, we encourage the state to revise how it calculates teacher salaries. In the future, all salaries should be based on a 12-month average with all time off (summer recess, winter and/or spring breaks) deducted when making these calculations. - The Leader/Times
November 26, 2009: Municipal officials who attend the annual League of Municipalities Convention should be required to submit a detailed report outlining conferences and forums they attended, vendor booths they visited and what they learned that can enhance operations in the town. - The Leader/Times
November 19, 2009: Members of Congress should start opposing the automatic cost of living increase in their salaries each year. - The Leader/Times
November 12, 2009: New Jersey legislators should leave the process for replacing United States Senators alone. We do not need to change our state laws every time the majority party is afraid of losing a seat. If Democrats didn't like the appointment process currently in place, should Frank Lautenberg retire before his turn is up, they should have changed it before the gubernatorial election where Republican Chris Christie was elected. Democrats are considering changing the process to a special election to take the appointment out of the hands of the new governor. - The Leader/Times
November 5, 2009: Now that Chris Christie has been elected governor, can surprise "SWAT team audits" as recommended by Assemblyman Jon Bramnick be far behind? - The Leader/Times
October 29, 2009: Please vote on Election Day, Tuesday November 3rd. - The Leader/Times
October 22, 2009: If CEOs no longer receive bonuses for poor performance per a new Obama Administration directive, then why is congress being payed? - The Leader/Times
October 15, 2009: Political bosses in New Jersey must have term limits. - The Leader/Times
October 8, 2009: With New Jersey expected to go into the next fiscal year in the red already by $1.5 billion, Senate democrats should be more concerned with cutting spending and raising revenues than who is going to be the next Senate president. - The Leader/Times
October 1, 2009: The Tax Foundation has listed New Jersey as having the highest property taxes in the nation. Union County is again in the top five of the highest tax counties in New Jersey. When will our governor and State Legislature finally address this fact instead of blaming previous administrations and Washington for the state's fiscal problems? - The Leader/Times
September 24, 2009: Voters should be given the opportunity to vote on those persons in line for the Presidency who not members of the President's cabinet. The Speaker of the House must be an elected position chosen every two years. - The Leader/Times
September 17, 2009: Is the position, Speaker of the House, too powerful and too partisan? Should the Speaker of the House be elected by the voters? - The Leader/Times
September 10, 2009: When the state's Legislative Apportionment Commission begins meeting to realign the 40 legislative districts, they need to change past policy by focusing on making as many of these districts as competitive as possible, and not simply protecting incumbents.  - The Leader/Times
September 3, 2009: New Jersey must pass legislation to fill state legislative or congressional vacancies by appointing people to temporarily fill seats, but forbidding them from seeking the office themselves. Incumbency should only be an advantage to those elected to seats and not those who are appointed by the governor. - The Leader/Times
August 27, 2009: All government job openings must be advertised in classified sections of local newspapers in the coverage area of the government entity and also made available on that particular government's homepage. - The Leader/Times
August 20, 2009: All candidates for public office in New Jersey, whether it be federal, state, county, municipal or school must be required to take a course outlining not only the duties of office that they seek, but what it legal and not legal for a public official. All these documents would be required to be signed by the individuals and submitted to the state's Division of Elections. Any person who fails or refuses to sign would have their name removed from the election ballot. - The Leader/Times
August 13, 2009: If providing lifetime health insurance to unionize county employees in exchange for zero salary increases in the first few years of contracts is such a good idea to save money in current budgets, why hasn't it been expanded to county officials such as the county manager and department directors? - The Leader/Times
August 6, 2009: Government’s answer to less spending is to reduce services. The Post Office is going to eliminate local Post Offices. The state is forcing small school districts to merge with K-12 districts while municipal governments are all but eliminating road paving projects. We bet taxes won’t be lowered, though. - The Leader/Times
July 30, 2009: The culture of corruption in New Jersey requires that future elected officials take an oath of honesty whereby any charges leading to their conviction of corruption would automatically lead to forfeiture of their entire pensions and return of any salaries they may have made in their public official capacity. - The Leader/Times
July 23, 2009: County and municipal governments should have public hearings on ordinances on first reading with a comments period for second readings. Currently, the public comments at a public hearing just before a governing body votes, thus giving little to no time for elected officials to digest what the public is saying. - The Leader/Times
July 16, 2009: The problem with healthcare is the burdensome regulations. For instance, why is against the law in New Jersey for trade, business and social organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, New Jersey Bar Association and the Knights of Columbus, to offer health insurance to their members? - The Leader/Times
July 9, 2009: We asked a simple question this week as to who checked the Hetfield Avenue bridge after last month's truck accident. Fanwood said it was Scotch Plains jurisdiction because it fell on the Scotch Plains side of the bridge. The County said it was NJ Transit's responsibility, yet the County is going to pave the bridge with funding from Scotch Plains and Fanwood. Paving this bridge before it is checked for any possible damage would be a real waste of taxpayer money. - The Leader/Times
July 2, 2009: With the discussion of shared services becoming serious these days, towns should start considering consolidating fireworks displays to save money, by producing one fantastic July 4th regional show. They could also alternate between towns to give those that don't have displays, such as Westfield, Scotch Plains and Fanwood the opportunity to share in this tradition. - The Leader/Times
June 25, 2009: President Barack Obama should issue a mandatory 10% cut for all White House staff, including himself, and then ask state legislatures to take similar actions. - The Leader/Times
June 18, 2009:  Following up on Assemblyman Jon Bramnick's proposal for unannounced audits of all levels of government and agencies, we call for our state to work with surrounding states such as New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, where by auditors, who have never seen the books of other states, are the ones conducting the reviews. - The Leader/Times
June 11, 2009:  When is our state, counties and local governments going to realize that we can't keep doubling taxes every five to 10 years and expect New Jerseyans to keep paying?. - The Leader/Times
June 4, 2009:  If you thought that the state furloughs would not impact you personally, just ask the Westfield Board of Education which had to receive help from Senator Tom Kean, Jr.'s office in order to utilize the National Guard Armory Building for commencement exercises. You see, it is a state facility and all state was to be closed on Friday June 19th and Monday June 22nd , the day of the graduation. As of now, the ceremony is set for the 22nd if needed in the case of rain. - The Leader/Times
May 28, 2009:  When it comes to taxes, it doesn't matter whether it's coming out of the left pocket or the right pocket, it's still taxpayers' money. It doesn't matter whether it is a Federal grant for transportation dollars or the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Fund, it is still coming from taxpayer-generated funds. - The Leader/Times
May 21, 2009:  With the amount of advertising in the Republican Primary Election between gubernatorial candidates Chris Christie and Steve Lonegan, it is a shame that turnout will likely be sparse, as only registered Republicans and some unaffiliated voters will be casting ballots due to the state’s restrictive laws on who can vote in primaries. - The Leader/Times
May 14, 2009:  None of the school, state or municipal unions are budging on requests to accept reduced raises to prevent layoffs. Government executives, administrators and bureaucrats are not conceding to receive pay reductions either. In our opinion, everyone should give an inch before we lose a mile. - The Leader/Times
May 7, 2009:  Since matters aren't working out well for the public, perhaps teachers and police contract negotiations should be held in public, then voted on by the public. - The Leader/Times
April 30, 2009:  New Jersey must get serious about property tax relief. In this election year, we need to hear more than sound bites and press releases from candidates. Property taxes ranging from $10,000 and up are becoming too common place with no end in sight. What will happen when people's incomes drop and New Jersey starts losing it's residents in droves? - The Leader/Times
April 23, 2009:  With the defeat of the Garwood school budget, we encourage the community to provide their ideas to the borough council when meetings begin on whether to chop this year's school spending plan. - The Leader/Times
April 16, 2009:  With all local towns discussing municipal layoffs, serious discussions must begin on merging departments such as recreation, tax services and perhaps even sharing municipal clerks. And while we're at it, why don't our school systems discuss having revolving school administrators, for example, assistant principals that would be assigned multiple districts. These recommendations could save substantial money in salaries and benefits. - The Leader/Times
April 9, 2009:  In the wake of Nancy Munoz, widow of Assemblyman Eric Munoz, succeeding her husband on the June Primary Election Ballot, we echo what we said on December 18, 2008: passing a seat, whether in the U.S. Senate or the NJ State Assembly, to either the highest bidder or a family member must be curtailed -- whether it's Carolyn Kennedy, Roland Burris or Nancy Munoz. Open up vacancies to the public and allow elections to be decided by more than party insiders, the elite or the connected. For as talented as the successor may be, political seats are not family heirlooms. - The Leader/Times
April 2, 2009:  Regional government entities; ie: freeholder, vocational / technical school boards, and sewerage authorities, must be required to hold a series of budget hearings within the towns in their service areas. This is the only way to ensure the public has an adequate amount of time and opportunity to make their statements known to these elected and/or appointed officials. - The Leader/Times
March 26, 2009: County and municipalities must start looking for real ways to share the property tax burden, such as merging recreation departments as well as a regional approach to tax services. Small towns financial future may depend on it, while large towns could use the extra revenue. - The Leader/Times
March 19, 2009: Stimulus money cannot be considered as a way to cut government spending. It was meant to stimulate the economy, not as a means to increase government spending. - The Leader/Times
March 12, 2009: The county, local towns and school boards in the future need to be required to list what their budget deficits would be if they kept spending levels at the previous year. - The Leader/Times
March 5, 2009: With economic projections dim this year for the county of Union, including the possible elimination of critical social services, including the Route 22 pedestrian shuttle bus, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders should immediately take a 10 percent salary reduction, if not more, to offset the hike in demand for social services and the shortfall of grant dollars coming into the county. - The Leader/Times
February 26, 2009: The concept of "do more with less" seems to be taking hold this year in local governments in everything from merging operations at the county level to generating new revenue sources for schools. While this is good news, more needs to be done to cut spending. - The Leader/Times
February 19, 2009: Unions, including the Communication Workers of America and the New Jersey Education Association, must stop acting as though we are in a booming economy. The CWA must accept a two-day furlough for state workers, and the NJEA must stop jamming large school contract increases down the throats of local school boards, such as what occurred in Garwood this week. - The Leader/Times
February 12, 2009: The details of settlements of lawsuits involving government must be fully disclosed so that there is true transparency in government. - The Leader/Times
February 5, 2009: During discussions of local budgets, we implore our towns to leave no stone unturned including merging operations with other towns such as recreation, municipal court and building services. - The Leader/Times
January 29, 2009: During discussions of local budgets, we implore our towns to leave no stone unturned including merging operations with other towns such as recreation, municipal court and building services. - The Leader/Times
January 22, 2009: Now that the nation has a new President, our federal government must see this as the perfect opportunity for a new beginning to tackle the mounting issues facing our nation in a truly bipartisan manner. - The Leader/Times
January 15, 2009: Elected officials serving at the municipal and school board level must send a message to Governor Jon Corzine that they are willing to meet the 4% cap on 2009 property taxes only if he restores funding to 2008 levels. - The Leader/Times
January 8, 2009: Democrats in New Jersey are now reviewing possible candidates to fill the vacancy for United States Attorney for New Jersey. The new person, whose name will be given to President-elect Barack Obama for consideration, must continue to have a zero tolerance level on corruption in this state. - The Leader/Times
January 8, 2009: 100 good men? What's going on now in the US Senate is shameful. - The Leader/Times
January 1, 2009: As budget meetings begin for our local governments this month, we expect 
our governments to not only hold a tight line on new spending, but to reduce department 2008 budgets. This is no longer a time to save funds for a rainy day; it is now raining. - The Leader/Times
December 25, 2008: In these difficult economic times, our local state, county and local governments must justify the filling of vacant positions and / or increasing employment. - The Leader/Times
December 18, 2008: As being considered in New York and Illinois, passing U.S. Senate seats around to nobility or to the highest bidder must stop. Elections for U.S. Senate must provide for choosing candidates with the best interests of the citizens in mind. - The Leader/Times
December 11, 2008: It may seem that New Jersey is defenseless now that United States Attorney Chris Christie has resigned, but Ralph J. Marra, Jr., who was first assistant U.S. attorney under Mr. Christie, has assumed the responsibilities as Acting U.S. Attorney. We suggest that anyone with information on possible crimes contact his office. - The Leader/Times
December 4, 2008: President-elect Barack Obama needs to appoint a new U.S. attorney for New Jersey who is just as diligent at cleaning up corruption as their predecessor, Chris Christie. - The Leader/Times
November 27, 2008: In that AIG Chief Executive Edward Liddy cut his salary to $1 as part of voluntary pay restrictions by executives tied to a $150 billion government bailout, we implore the government to require the same from executives of other bailouts. - The Leader/Times
November 20, 2008: Former New Jersey senator Wayne Bryant was found guilty Tuesday of selling his office as one of New Jersey's most influential lawmakers and padding his pension. In addition to jail, Bryant should be forced to return all the fraud money and forfeit his pension. - The Leader/Times
November 13, 2008: The Federal government is considering using taxpayer money to bail out General Motors, in debt due to unrealistic pension promises to unions. Millions of American taxpayers do not have pensions such as promised irresponsibly by General Motors. Stop robbing these taxpayers and force General Motors and their unions to renegotiate reasonable arrangements. - The Leader/Times
November 6, 2008: It's time to eliminate the compensation that government officials, police chiefs and school superintendents get for accumulated vacation and sick days upon retirement. They have a right to vacation and they should take it but not to be paid for it. Sick days are a safety net, not a form of compensation. The practice is abusive to the taxpayer. - The Leader/Times
October 30, 2008: The only poll that is important is the final decision in the presidential election. - The Leader/Times
October 23, 2008: Union County voters should be given the opportunity next year to decide, through referendum, whether they want to continue to elect their freeholders at-large or switch to districts similar to a city ward system. The current Democratic majority does not want to change while the Republicans want to change. Let's let the people decide. - The Leader/Times
October 16, 2008: With budget shortfalls at all levels of federal, state, county, towns, authorities and school district governments, before laying off workers, must substantially reduce compensation of those at the top; and reduce the number of those at the top. - The Leader/Times
October 9, 2008: The pork-stuffed 700 billion dollar bailout of Wall Street from Washington has shown us, once again, why future presidents must be given the Line Item Veto. Let's put fiscal responsibility ahead of partisan politics. - The Leader/Times
October 2, 2008: Given the magnitude of the nation’s current financial crisis, John McCain and Barack Obama need to let the American people know the type of individuals, if not their names, of persons they intend nominate for treasury secretary and other key cabinet-level posts. The next President is only going to be as successful as the people he has running these departments. - The Leader/Times
September 25, 2008: Anything we might say now pales in comparison to what's going on now in Washington D.C. over the world financial scandal and crisis. - The Leader/Times
September 18, 2008: The wizards of Wall Street, bankers and executives have collected obscene bonuses and dumped the trash on the taxpayer. After the financial chaos subsides, we need to find a way back to fundamental monetary practices. No more smoke and mirrors please; and throw the buggers in jail. - The Leader/Times
September 11, 2008: We believe political parties should be required to file and publish biographies of their candidates on the internet. Too often, local candidates run for office with little or no information on their backgrounds provided to the public. - The Leader/Times
September 4, 2008: Now that the presidential and vice-presidential candidates are known, the campaigns must focus on the key issues of stimulating the economy and development of an energy policy, and not on the personal lives of the candidates and their families. - The Leader/Times
August 28, 2008: We thought it was illegal for elected officials to use public resources for electioneering purposes. That's why we question New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine's use of the government website for praising the selection of Sen. Biden by Sen. Obama - which concludes by stating "Joe Biden will be a great partner in Barack Obama's efforts to bring about change in America." See www.state.nj.us/governor/news/news/2008/approved/20080823a.htmlThe Leader/Times
August 21, 2008: Union County Democrats selected a replacement Tuesday night for disgraced Asm. Neil Cohen who resigned. They did so behind closed doors, not open to the public. In that the replacement supposedly represents all the people, we believe the meeting should be public. We also would like to know where is Neil Cohen and why haven't charges been filed. Why is all this a secret? -  The Leader/Times
August 14, 2008: When an official does something right, the press should acknowledge it. Case in point: Although stopped for speeding, NJ Attorney General Anne Milgram did not use her influence or make her position know to the officer. She just paid the ticket.- The Leader/Times
August 7, 2008: The practice of wheeling campaign funds should be brought to an end. Wheeling is where money is transferred throughout a political party, candidate or PAC and sent to other candidates. We believe this distorts the electorial process and impedes citizens' ability to choose their elected officials. - The Leader/Times
July 31, 2008: A forgotten concept - "Elected officials should be held accountable should they violate the public trust." - The Leader/Times
July 24, 2008: As tax bills are about to be mailed, a look at tax rates on the state's website shows a dramatic jump over the past few years. Administrators are either going to have to cut their own salaries, as well as department directors, or merge with surrounding towns if New Jersey truly intends to stabilize property taxes. - The Leader/Times
July 17, 2008: With property tax bills containing huge increases and going out in the next few weeks, our State Legislature is going to have to take a closer look at this issue or the number of people moving out of New Jersey is going to face dramatic proportions. - The Leader/Times
July 10, 2008: The state must make a concerted effort to ensure that shared services grants to counties and towns result in real savings for taxpayers and not just shared services conferences and discussions. - The Leader/Times
July 3, 2008: No government executive, official or school personnel shall receive a pay raise or increase in compensation of any form unless taxes are reduced. - The Leader/Times
June 26, 2008: As the New Jersey legislature has proven that it is unable or unwilling to implement pension reform, we believe the voters must decide the issue with a referendum in the November General Election. - The Leader/Times
June 19, 2008: The federal government must address the huge hike in gasoline prices with a united political commitment to energy development. This will curtail speculators and eventually yield a strengthened energy position. Meanwhile, the government must encourage conservation and renewable energy options. - The Leader/Times
June 12, 2008: Given the gas crisis, isn't it time that all government vehicle perks be eliminated so that officials feel the sting like everyone else? Then, maybe something real and lasting would be done about the energy crisis. - The Leader/Times
June 5, 2008: Perhaps it's time for the state and the teachers' union to step aside and allow qualified teachers and management to work without being forced to join the union. In this way, competition may bring about reform of contract abuses. - The Leader/Times
May 29, 2008: When school pass contracts or hire executive personnel the details of those contracts and résumés should be made available at the time for immediate pubic scrutiny. The public is already given 30 days to scrutinize other documents prior to their final vote. Why should teacher contracts and major hires be any different? - The Leader/Times
May 22, 2008: We think it's probably a good idea to move the school board elections to November as being contemplated by state legislators. However, we are concerned about a provision to end the practice of having voters cast ballots on school budgets. - The Leader/Times
May 15, 2008: Any provisions on increasing revenue projections in the state’s budget and should not go directly to reducing taxes instead of for delusional purposes to increase spending. - The Leader/Times
May 8, 2008: Some people in the State of New Jersey believe they are entitled to free health care, and that they can go to hospitals without paying. Some of these individuals include illegal aliens. Hospitals are closing and going bankrupt. We request that all state leaders and the Governor to issue a clear statement as to what the entitlements are, and who is to pay for entitlements that may exist. - The Leader/Times
May 1, 2008: Why can't Westfield develop a parking system which would enable merchants to validate parking for their customers? Couldn't the town offer annual passes for a certain fee that stores could pay and in turn, provide free parking to Westfield shoppers? - The Leader/Times
April 24, 2008: A regional approach needs to be taken with regard to recreation programs offered in Union County. Most towns have recreation commissions that sponsor many of the same types of programs, often utilizing the services of private companies such as yoga centers and soccer camps. Couldn't these programs be merged under a newly created Union County Parks Commission run independently by volunteers appointed by county and municipal governments? In addition to volunteers, full-time staff could be hired that represent all 21 towns in the county with no duplication of services. This would save millions of taxpayer dollars. - The Leader/Times
April 17, 2008: Given the conviction of former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, it is time for term limits; not just in the state government, but in our big cities. - The Leader/Times
April 10, 2008: Local towns are proposing fee and fines increases such as parking tickets, charges for community room, licensing fees for restaurants and private pools. With the fiscal crisis, municipalities may need to consider salary reductions at the top and have employees take additional vacations without pay to offset deficits and avoid layoffs. - The Leader/Times
April 3, 2008: If Governor Jon Corzine really wanted to lower property taxes in New Jersey, he would move the county jails under the jurisdiction of the state's corrections department. A decade ago, state superior court judges removed from county to state payrolls, yet the county jails, along with the courthouses and correctional officers, all remained within the county budgets. - The Leader/Times
March 27, 2008: With the state cutting municipal aid to towns, the time has come for discussions on changing government budgets from one-year to two-year spending plans, with half the towns' budgets coming up every other year. This would enable towns to share administrators while also reducing the burdensome task of budget talks that often take up a quarter of every year by local governing bodies.  - The Leader/Times
March 20, 2008: The Union County Executive Superintendent of Schools is in charge of looking at school budgets and rejecting them when they are over cap and have excessive non-instructional spending. Who is the budget czar that does the same for county and municipal spending plans? - The Leader/Times
March 13, 2008: Governor Corzine has decided to balance the state budget on the backs of small towns with populations of under 10,000. This includes Fanwood, Garwood and Mountainside. We believe this is a short-sighted approach as these towns are already sharing costs such as school districts and board of health services. More must be done to reign in state costs such as salaries over six figures and the chopping of additional departments ie: public advocate's office. - The Leader/Times
March 6, 2008: Governor Corzine announced in his fiscal year 2009 budget plans to cut 3000 state employees. We believe that the first to be considered should be the ones with the highest salaries (over $100,000) and those with multiple jobs such as county and state. - The Leader/Times
February 28, 2008: Now that Governor Jon Corzine has set an example by actually reducing spending by $500 million from last year, it is now time for our local school boards, municipal, and county governments to follow suit. - The Leader/Times
February 21, 2008: Union County, municipal and school governments are in the process of releasing budgets for 2008. Given the fiscal crisis in our state government, local governments must reduce their expenditures. We hope layoffs are avoided by reducing the salaries of the highest paid employees instead. See this page for other suggestions. - The Leader/Times
February 14, 2008: With the announcement this week that Mountainside Chief School Administrator Richard O'Malley is resigning for another superintendent's post, the district should now consider merging with either Berkeley Heights or Westfield to reduce administrative costs. Under the new job description for the Union County superintendent of schools, a state position, Carmen Centoulo has been directed to look at merging k-8 districts with k-12 districts to reduce administrative overhead. - The Leader/Times
February 7, 2008: It seems that moving the Presidential Primary to February was popular with New Jersey voters, given Tuesday's high voter turnout. It was one of the reforms from last year that worked. - The Leader/Times
January 31, 2008: We believe New Jersey should change its system for Primary Elections to allow voters, regardless of political affiliation, to vote in either Democratic or Republican races.  The only rule should be that they could vote only once.  Voters also should not be listed as affiliated after voting in primaries. - The Leader/Times
January 24, 2008: The Governor has challenged anyone to present an alternative to his preposterous (in our view), $45 billion, sell the Turnpike plan. The GOP is silent. Do they not have a plan? Is everything now a done deal with the details being completed today while the Governor is in Switzerland? - The Leader/Times
January 17, 2008: The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission has recommended an increase in the federal gasoline of 25 cents to 40 cents per gallon over the next five years to fund the nation's transportation system. Given Governor Jon Corzine's recommendation to increase tolls in New Jersey 200 percent over the next 14 years, we believe the voters should make the final decision on any more taxes.  - The Leader/Times
January 10, 2008: The initiatives of incoming Freeholder Chairman Angel Estrada, announced at the Union County freeholders' January 6 reorganization meeting, lacked any fiscal proposals such as reducing the county tax levy. Fiscal responsibility needs to be front and center, not new ways to get re-elected.  - The Leader/Times
January 3, 2008: Politicians and government must promote the act of voting and citizens' participation, otherwise the system could spiral to invalidation.   - The Leader/Times
December 27, 2007: We believe most New Jerseyans are ready and will support statesmanship and integrity in government in the new year. - The Leader/Times

December 20, 2007: New Jersey State government released its controversial school aid numbers, but not the formula that determines the amounts. The aid is projected to increase 7 percent over last year. Efficient and successful school districts like Westfield will be punished as it is to receive a 2 percent increase for the next three years. Others will receive up to a 20 percent increase. None of this makes any sense, particularly when the Governor has no funding for the $1 billion proposal and at a time when the state faces a $3.5 billion budget gap and $80 billion in unfunded pensions.

December 13, 2007: Salaries and benefits in New Jersey for local, county and state government officials, employees, teachers and commissions are out of control. They keep giving themselves raises beyond what the public can afford. Since they can't control themselves, must salaries and benefits be put to the voters to straighten out the mess? - The Leader/Times
December 6, 2007: Scotch Plains Township Manager has announced his retirement effective September 1. We believe township residents should have an opportunity to provide input on his successor, as has been the case with the hiring of new superintendents and school principals. - The Leader/Times
November 29, 2007: While Comcast and Verizon have been wresting with how to give all subscribers the ability to watch local-access channels, Scotch Plains has taken matters into its own hands and now offers streaming video of town council meetings "on demand" on scotchplainsnj.com. Scotch Plains has proved that municipalities have the power to do this. We hope that other government agencies - at the local, county and state levels - will follow their example. - The Leader/Times
November 22, 2007: Congressman Mike Ferguson has announced that he will not seek a fifth term representing the 7th district in Congress. While committee people from both political parties will ultimately decide who runs on the party line in the June Primary, shouldn't the residents of the district have a say in this important decision? - The Leader/Times
November 15, 2007: All county agencies should have a webpage that is searchable from all major search engines. In researching the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA), we discovered that most New Jersey counties, including Salem, have detailed webpages for their improvement authorities, but there is no website for the UCIA. The State directed our newspaper to the Union County Watchdog Association's website, which posts all UCIA meetings and minutes after filling out OPRA requests to obtain them. This is not a good way to achieve transparency in county government. - The Leader/Times
November 8, 2007: The New Jersey State Legislature must stop closing down in election years. Legislators have not been in session since June; they return on November 8. - The Leader/Times
November 1, 2007: This week, all citizens have the power to voice their reform thoughts in the voters' booth. We believe local residents and all New Jerseyans should use this power to send a message that our government leaders need to be held accountable for their actions and shun partisan patronage. We hope that citizens vote for candidates based on their individual merits, not based on the party label that accompanies their names on the ballot. - The Leader/Times
October 25, 2007: The Cranford Township Committee told its Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority representative to change his affirmative vote to reexamine RVSA privatization. At Garwood's council meeting Garwood and Edison residents decried Garwood Council President and RVSA representative Charles Lombardo's affirmative vote.

The RVSA voted 6-5 to approve Rahway Commissioner Peter Pelissier's resolution to authorize privatization-related requests for proposals. As Mr. Pelissier's actions related to his pension-collecting scandal and un-retirement from two official Rahway position call his ethics into question, we question his motives. We question the financial implications of privatization.

We applaud Commissioners Joan Papen of Scotch Plains and Allen Chin of Westfield for their negative votes, and we implore other RVSA officials to seriously consider the potential ramifications of privatization before moving forward. - The Leader/Times
October 18, 2007: The State of New Jersey is spending $10 million to send out rebate checks to homeowners and renters. Rebates should be handled as part of the New Jersey State income tax. Rebate checks are nothing more than a gimmick to help reelect incumbent state legislators. The two political parties should pay the $10 million, not the taxpayers. - The Leader/Times
October 11, 2007: Under the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, telecommunications utility 4Connections is entitled to the right of way to set up its fiber-optic cables throughout municipalities, such as Westfield and Mountainside. The company has made presentations at council meetings in those two municipalities asking for permission to run cables, but the towns are powerless to say "no." We need legislation at the state level that will give our local elected and appointed officials the power to reject applications that do not serve the best interests of their communities. - The Leader/Times
October 4, 2007: Public hearings should take place on the first reading of an ordinance, not the second. Currently, governing bodies vote on the second reading right after a public hearing. Holding hearings earlier would provide sufficient time for the public's comments to be considered in the final document. - The Leader/Times
September 27, 2007: State and local government and local elected officials need to address controversial issues now and not wait until after the November 6 General Election. These include: at the state level, Governor Jon Corzine’s Monetization plan to lease or sell state assets such as the New Jersey Turnpike, creating a new formula to calculate school aid; in Union County, whether to privatize the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority’s sewerage operations and, in Fanwood, whether to move ahead with the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program. - The Leader/Times
September 20, 2007: Rahway Administrator Peter Pelissier, who also serves as head of the city's redevelopment agency, has been ordered to repay $331,000 in pension payments to the state. He retired from both posts but remained as a consultant with the redevelopment agency to the tune of $294,000 over four years. He also is a member of the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority, which services the readership area of The Westfield Leader and The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times and is considering privatizing the sewerage treatment operation. Given this revelation, we believe Pelissier should resign from the RVSA. In addition, The state's dual office holding ban on legislators should be expanded to disallow a non-elected or elected official from holding two paid government positions.  - The Leader/Times
September 13, 2007: The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission has created the $90,000 position of assistant director of community affairs and appointed Mercer County Democratic Chairman Richard McClelland to the post. Government job openings, both newly created and existing positions, must be advertised to the general public both on the state website and in high-circulated state newspapers. Who else was interviewed for this position?  - The Leader/Times
September 6, 2007: Other states require multiple forms of ID in order to vote. New Jersey should copy this rule to ensure that only legal citizens cast votes in elections.  - The Leader/Times
August 30, 2007: The state Department of Community Affairs has awarded $17.7 million in extraordinary municipal aid grants. Cranford, which requested $1.3 million, was rejected, while Fanwood received $325,000. Cranford sustained significant damage in a flood earlier this year that will affect the township's financial situation. That township deserved extraordinary aid money from the fiscal crisis it suffered. - The Leader/Times
August 23, 2007: All public meetings of government should be required to release an agenda on their website to coincide with the 48-hour law to advertise public meetings. Agendas should be released to newspapers also. No agenda, no meeting. - The Leader/Times
August 16, 2007: Following 9/11 President Bush created the Department of Homeland Security because the FBI and CIA were not sharing critical intelligence information. Now we have found out that three Newark college students were murdered by an illegal immigrant who was indicted on 31 counts of alleged sexual assault of a child and nine counts from a barroom fight he was involved in. Do we now need more laws to force law enforcement and immigration officials to communicate and for federal, state and local agencies to share information? Why can’t our government use common sense? - The Leader/Times
August 9, 2007: Gov. Jon Corzine has said he supports giving towns more taxing power. Five bills in the legislation would give towns the authority to collect taxes on real estate transactions. Why doesn't the state instead stop its money grabs such as on municipal parking tickets if the state really wants to help towns? - The Leader/Times
August 2, 2007: At its best, governments protect the citizens they serve. Governing bodies and municipal offices purportedly exist to fight for the best interests of individuals in their communities. When any resident finds him or herself in an unhealthy or unsafe environment, every arm of government should spring into action to seek those accountable and not only demand, but also produce, a solution. - The Leader/Times
July 26, 2007: The “Hat Bandit” has been caught and authorities discovered he had served 18 years in jail for killing his girlfriend. Reports are that because he was using cocaine at the time of that crime, he was charged with aggravated assault instead of murder. Do we need laws to keep killers off the streets? - The Leader/Times
July 19, 2007: It's time for indicted State Senators Sharpe James and Wayne Bryant to resign. - The Leader/Times
July 12, 2007: The government must act on the illegal alien problem. Frequently, illegal aliens are hired off the street by contractors and paid off the books. These workers are eager to do almost anything, are given little training and can't speak the language. It can be a serious safety problem for these workers as well as for the general public. - The Leader/Times
July 5, 2007:  After the general election in November, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has a plan to sell public assets such as the New Jersey Turnpike to balance the budget. The details of his scheme, called monetarization, are so esoteric that State Senator Tom Kean, Jr. has filed a Freedom of Information petition with the Federal government in attempt to uncover the details.

The Governor has written language into this year's budget that permits him to commit expenditures of unlimited amounts for legal and financial fees to arrange the contracts for the sale. We believe that a proposal of this scope should require voter approval in a statewide referendum.

We question that the NJ Constitution permits authorization of expenditures of unlimited amounts. We question that the constitution permits borrowing or sale of assets for the purpose of meeting operating expenses. As such, is the Governor exceeding his constitutional authority?- The Leader/Times
June 28, 2007: Celebrating Independence Day: We believe the best way to celebrate Independence Day is to dedicate oneself to act with courage and honor during all your days, just like our forefathers and our fighting men of today. Stand up to wrong, defy your enemies from within and from without the United States. - The Leader/Times
June 21, 2007: Attorneys in government seem to have special laws and treatment for themselves when they commit a crime, break the law and/or violate the public trust. Take Michael Nifong for example, the nefarious district attorney in the Duke lacrosse case. His punish is disbarment by his peers. We believe he should face the criminal justice system and go to jail if found guilty - just like all others who are not attorneys would. - The Leader/Times
June 13, 2007: It appears that the New Jersey Legislature will reach an agreement on the state budget for the coming year prior to the deadline of June 30. Last year, the closed door budget negotiations passed the deadline, and government had to shut down. We think the state should post the budget deliberations on the Internet for transparency and to receive citizen input. The process by the legislators over the past several years have placed the state near bankruptcy and the taxpayers are facing tens of billions of dollars of indebtedness. - The Leader/Times

June 14, 2007 Editor's Note: Congratulations to the NJ State Legislature:

Now Online June 14: 

Proposed NJ Budget

Proposed Amendments

June 7, 2007: Why should New Jersey voters, who are mostly unaffiliated with either of the two major political parties in the state, have to pay the cost of these so-called Primary Elections in their property taxes. Turnouts for Tuesday’s Primary were a dismal 3 and 5 percent locally. Why are there no contested elections? Why are voters disallowed to vote in primaries unless they are a registered Republican or Democrat or unless they wish to become affiliated with either party by taking advantage of their American given right to vote? - The Leader/Times
May 31, 2007: The details of the reforms required in New Jersey state government are well known. What is needed now is action, before politicians vote themselves back into office in November. - The Leader/Times
May 24, 2007: The Union County Freeholders last week eliminated more than a dozen advisory boards and committees. The action follows a proposal by the Citizens Campaign of Metuchen to open up the process of how the county fills these positions. The group reported that as of April there were 130 vacancies out of 652 positions on 51 boards and commissions. So we ask, did the county reach out to determine why these groups, such as the AIDS advisory board or the Americans with Disabilities Advisory Board, were not meeting? Or did the county decide they wanted to reduce the rate of vacancies the easy way - by simply eliminating them? - The Leader/Times
May 17, 2007: Instead of the state budget process being conducted behind closed doors and finalized at the last minute with political Christmas tree grants, the details and progress of deliberations should be posted on the Internet. It's not that we don't trust them to do the right thing, but from experience...- The Leader/Times
May 10, 2007: The Governor's Ethics Advisory Panel has reported that the personal and financial relationship between Governor Jon Corzine and Carla Katz, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1034, did not create a conflict of interest for the Governor or the union head during contract negotiations this year. Ethics committees in our state do not meet often; we wonder what kinds of indiscretions they would deem unethical and act upon. Furthermore, the Associated Press reports that the Ethics Advisory Panel is a two-person panel appointed by the Governor - does the ethics committee itself have a conflict of interest? - The Leader/Times
May 3, 2007: After details were made public by The Star-Ledger, last week the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, which oversees college financial aid and scholarship programs, has ended a kickback deal with Sallie Mae, Inc. involving millions of dollars. The state should end all kickback deals and conduct business only with the best interests of citizens at heart. - The Leader/Times
April 26, 2007: Given all the subpoenas issued by US Attorney Chris Christie against New Jersey elected officials, it would be useful if there were a website listing them all and their status. - The Leader/Times
April 19, 2007: New Jersey citizens are required to follow the letter of the law, i.e. speeding and parking regulations, etc. Shouldn't those who we elect to serve us be required to follow those same regulations? The boyfriend of New Jersey's former attorney general, Hamlet Goore, was allowed to drive his car from the scene despite having a suspended driver's license and driving a uninsured vehicle after former AG Zulima Farmer arrived at the scene of the motor vehicle stop. Police voided the tickets. Now our Governor, Jon Corzine, was seriously injured when the state-trooper car he was in crashed after going 91 mph on the Garden State Parkway. The governor was not wearing a seat belt. - The Leader/Times
April 12, 2007: It's been suggested that NJ Legislators' voting power in the Legislature be weighted based on how many votes each received in getting elected; or alternately, based on voter turnout. The reasoning is that the seats are all arranged as safe seats and the power bosses snuff out competition while discouraging voting. As example, in District 20 in 2003 without competition Senator Ray Lesniak (D) received 12,361 votes with a dismal turnout. In District 21 in 2003, Senator Tom Kean (R) with competition received 32,058 votes with about 47,600 people voting. Perhaps Kean's vote should be worth three times that of Lesniak. Sen. Lesniak takes pride in the power he has garnered over District 20. But, has he instead destroyed Democracy? In NJ, there are 40 Districts, each with about 210,000 people. - The Leader/Times
April 5, 2007: We believe that when government salary contracts (i.e. the teachers' contract in Scotch Plains-Fanwood) are signed, the final version of the contract must be produced with no modifications. Union members should not receive retroactive increases and pay hikes until the contract is finalized. The current system through which staff receive their increases offers no incentives to release the final contract to the public. - The Leader/Times
March 29, 2007: The ethics committees in the State of New Jersey are dysfunctional, and they refuse to act on matters of wrongdoing. To save money and to end the fakery that they do something, should they not be disbanded? - The Leader/Times
March 22, 2007: In New Jersey, government health care and retirement benefits should be provided only to fulltime employees. We call for an end to the pervasive abuse by part time political appointees. - The Leader/Times
March 15, 2007: As property taxes continue to spiral out of control, maybe it’s time to start reducing the salaries of administrators at the top. - The Leader/Times
March 8, 2007: Scotch Plains-Fanwood Board of Education officials this week are considering cutting the high school’s ROTC, German classes and the freshman sports program to reduce the proposed tax-levy increase to 4 percent. Why not consider cutting school administrators? Sharing a vice principal or assistant superintendent with a surrounding district? - The Leader/Times
March 1, 2007: We believe that information pertinent to a municipal budget should be made readily available. For example, in Scotch Plains a councilman has requested figures for the revenues of the new mini-golf course. We cannot understand why financial reports on this new venture have not been compiled or why the request for these figures would be met with opposition. - The Leader/Times
February 22, 2007: Elected officials often run unopposed for re-election because of the political party establishment of the incumbent. We believe that some sort of threshold, perhaps a requirement that one-third of registered voters turn out for an election, be instituted or the election results would be deemed invalid.  - The Leader/Times
February 15, 2007: Local governments, as part of settlement agreements of legal issues, have been approving early retirement packages to employees. By approving such agreements, the taxpayer is not permitted to see how much money is given as lump sum payments, as well as the total cost of benefits packages to these workers. We believe such agreements should be fully disclosed as public documents prior to votes by elected officials.  - The Leader/Times
February 8, 2007: The Town of Westfield this week reached a settlement with police officer Greg Kasko. The town has refused to say how much money he will be paid. At a time when property taxes are skyrocketing in New Jersey, how can the town withhold telling taxpayers how much of their hard-earned money is going to settle a lawsuit?  We believe legal agreements involving public entities must be fully disclosed and published, the same as legal notices and include public hearings.  - The Leader/Times

February 1, 2007: In guise of reform, the New Jersey Legislature has just passed a property-tax bill approving a one-time rebate to occur in September. It borrows taxpayers' money to provide the voters with a payment just before Election Day. We believe incumbents are using public money to buy votes and that this should be challenged in court. - The Leader/Times

January 25, 2007: County Manager George Devanney has released his $415-million executive budget, which calls for a tax levy of $268 million, nearly $40 million over last year’s adopted spending plan by the freeholders. We question such a huge hit in taxes and encourage the freeholders’ finance committee to hold budget meetings outside of their Elizabeth confines over the next month and allow for public comments.  - The Leader/Times
January 18, 2007: The New Jersey Legislature should adopt anti-Pork Barrel legislation. The U.S. Senate passed rules Tuesday, January 16, 2007 that will force disclosure of pet projects at least two days in advance by posting them on the Internet. It is designed to end the practice of slipping them into spending bills at the last minute. It doesn't prohibit "Pork Barrel" legislation, but is a good first step. The House had previously passed a similar version of the rule. - The Leader/Times
January 11, 2007: Now that our local governments have reorganized it is time to focus on spending. If our state will not do the job it is time for local governments to work together to achieve real shared services. We believe merging municipal courts (as discussed in Scotch Plains and Fanwood) is a start. Tax assessors and tax collectors could follow along with shared agreements on administrative school district expenses. - The Leader/Times
December 28, 2006: should New Jersey citizens have the the power to decide how the state spends money? Two state legislators want the state to have a referendum whereby citizens could post public questions on the November ballot for statewide consideration. Twenty-four states have such a system in place. - The Leader/Times Feedback: By all means we, as the public, must have the ability of placing questions on the ballot for state wide consideration. As time goes on it becomes more and more obvious that our elected officials do not listen to the people. We still have no property tax reform, no ethics reform, no pay to play reform, no dual office holding reform, no public employee pension/benefit reform and spending that is out of control. The state of NJ is a financial mess, we should have gone bankrupt 1 ½ years ago, except our liberal court allowed illegal borrowing to cover every day expenses, the state's budget has increased year after year, apparently Trenton never heard of a spending reduction. They don't understand that if you don't have the money you can't spend it. We now are facing the potential sale of assets, further spending for such things as Stem Cell Research, and never ending tax increases. Then how can we forget, such fine examples of NJ political leadership, such as Ms. Farber, Mr. McGreevy, Mr. Lynch, Mr. Bryant, Mr. James and so on.
In the 1770's American Colonists banded together and took action into their own hands for freedom. In is now our turn to take back our state. In lieu of cannons and muskets we will use Imitative and Referendum. Give us the modern day weapons to do battle. It is obvious that we can expect nothing from Trenton and our very survival is depending on our own action.
December 21, 2006: Is New Jersey state government reaching a desperate stage? We think so. Rather than officials reforming the corruption and malfeasance plus curtailing their greed, some legislators are proposing selling off $billions of the public's assets, such as the NJ Turnpike, to continue fueling their avarice. Reform legislators in the minority and the public are outraged with the duplicity. What now? - The Leader/Times
December 14, 2006: There's so much misinformation, or lack of information, on the budget crisis in NJ. This breeds fear and conflict. We suggest the state compose an interactive spreadsheet and publish it on the Internet with as accurate facts and interrelationships as possible. Then, the public can manipulate the factors and see the impacts. - The Leader/Times
December 7, 2006: We believe that governments should post all meeting agendas on their websites in advance of the meeting in a visible, logical place for citizens. Meeting minutes should similarly be posted following meetings. All levels of government should use the Internet as a tool for fostering open communication with their constituents. Some municipalities currently use the Internet in this manner; we believe all should follow. - The Leader/Times
November 30, 2006: Government shall pass no law imposing or increasing fines for the primary or incidental purpose of revenue generation as this is a backdoor method of increasing taxation. Further, it has a destructive impact on law enforcement, where the goal should be achieving and maintaining acceptable social behavior. - The Leader/Times

November 23, 2006: We agree with Assemblyman John Burzichelli and State Senator Stephen Sweeney that deceptive advertising and cumbersome mail-in rebates programs should be banned in New Jersey, such as in legislation in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Alabama, Maryland, California, Missouri and New York. We urge the state legislature to act on this and similar deception matters. - The Leader/Times

November 16, 2006: New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine is studying adding toll plazas on highways that currently don't charge fees. Some of these roads are Federal highways. Can this be legal? We disagree with such a plan. It will create further traffic tie-ups in the nation's most densely populated state, and it will be just another tax on citizens in the nation's most intensely taxed state. - The Leader/Times
November 9, 2006: goleader.com hopes that in this week following elections, our newly elected candidates will offer their own government reform thoughts and will see them through during their terms in office. - The Leader/Times
November 2, 2006: Ballot questions to dedicate state funds by Constitutional changes for specific purposes are a trap. Dedicating funds for seemingly honorable and worthwhile purposes is really only a regrettable compromise because legislators can’t deal with the waste and corruption that exists in Trenton. We say stop the pork. There also is considerable concern about how these funds would actually be used. We say, “Don’t do it.” Take a stand now against corruption and waste in Trenton. - The Leader/Times
October 26, 2006: At the first meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards in more than a year, Republican and Democratic representatives squandered almost two hours fighting along partisan lines about who should chair the committee. This deplorable conduct not only wasted the time of the non-legislative volunteers on the committee but also demonstrated the unfortunate reality of party politics in New Jersey. On a panel with the noble goal of preserving ethical standards, there is no place for partisan lines. This committee must stop squabbling and work to end corruption in state government. - The Leader/Times
It would appear the high ethical standards and NJ politicals are directly opposites. It is hard to imagine that after a year of in activity the committee met for two hours and squabbled like kindergarten kids. Should these elected officials refuse to do what we voted them in to deal with, then get out of the way, give us your $50,000 a year pay and let a committee of the common folk rectify the problem.
We are not shackled by party loyalty or donations from private interest groups. We have no favors due the likes of Senator Bryant.
You elected officials have three choices, lead (which you don't seem to want to do), follow (which seems like it your normal practice), or get out of the way (horrifying to you in Trenton) and let us to fix the problem.
When does the committee of common folk meet?
- anonymous

October 19, 2006: Union County, New Jersey elects county government officials on an at-large basis. The urban centers dominate the winner-take-all contest. One-party rule results. Suburbs are concerned that they are not represented while paying a large share of the taxes. Some counties in New Jersey elect their officials by district. Perhaps the time has come for the state to pass a uniform election law for counties, invoking the district election concept to enable representative government. - The Leader/Times

October 12, 2006: The property taxpayers are looking for answers to the problem of runaway increases. Policemen, firefighters, teachers and municipal employees are looking to be treated fairly in their contract negotiations. We believe the only way to achieve accountability and fairness along with achieving balanced priorities is to have all public employee contracts, including teachers, to be under the control of one entity. We suggest that this entity be the mayor and town council. - The Leader/Times
Your suggestion to centralize all the contracts under the mayor and town council have merit.  However, the school board will resist this move to their dieing breath.  Plus in my mind the most powerful elected official in town is not the mayor, but rather the School Board President. The police, as in Scotch Plains, would not even talk about benefits and went directly into arbitration.
I would suggest, that we would have to decide to not deal with the unions and direct hire.  The benefits and salaries would have to reflect the private sector's.
One thing that would have an immediate impact would be to allow senior citizens, with out children in the school system, to be exempt from that portion of their property taxes dedicated to the schools.  This way if the parents want services that seniors are not concerned with, the parents can pay for it and the seniors will not be forced to move out of town because of out of control property tax increases.  Just a thought.
- anonymous

October 5, 2006: Officials in New Jersey State Government are discussing requiring towns and school districts to merge and turn over local functions to county government as a way to reduce cost and lower property taxes. Long term, this may be beneficial. However, we believe that this would result in chaos and delay tax reform. Substantial implementation time would be required. Most importantly, the root cause of the problem is not being addressed - that of corruption, exploitation and waste. Everyone knows what the problem is and what fixes are required. We say, bite the bullet and get the job done. Stop wasting time and money. Stop distractions. The public will not let up on this issue (we hope). It's way above the radar screen. - The Leader/Times

September 28, 2006: Should employers be required to show proof of citizenship for their employees? No one in New Jersey should be paid off the books. Everyone should pay their fair share in taxes. We need everyone to play by the same set of rules. - The Leader/Times

September 21, 2006: A freeholder is under investigation by New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicle Services, the stepson of the sheriff is being questioned on a possible auction scam, a passenger fell off a Paratransit bus and nobody noticed for a block, but at least the Eastman Street Bridge in Cranford is no longer a foot too low. What is wrong with this picture? - The Leader/Times

September 14, 2006: In the absence of action by the New Jersey legislature on the loopholes of Sheriff sales of seized property, we propose that codes of conduct and penalties addressing the issue be placed in contracts with the Sheriff's Unions. Then, we call upon the union's to insist that government managers and executives abide by the same codes and penalties. See August 31 editorial.

September 7, 2006: We think the state law banning nepotism in legislators' district offices should be expanded to county and municipal governments. - The Leader/Times.

August 31, 2006: We urge immediate passage of Sheriff of Nottingham legislation as proposed by New Jersey Assemblyman Eric Munoz whereby public auction of confiscated property would require: notice of the date, time and place of the public sale, together with a description of the items to be sold; the conditions of the sale, would be required to be published in a legal newspaper for at least seven days, but not more than 14 days after the last publication of notice. In addition, it would require a minimum bid of at least 80 percent of market value of the property to be auctioned, and it will include an “insider trading” provision precluding anyone from having prior notice of such auction from bidding on the items. See editorial for explanation. - The Leader/Times.

August 24, 2006: In NJ, the party in power of respective elected positions considers that office to be their property. When an elected official is not seeking reelection or moving on to another position, the party chooses a replacement. The replacement then gains the power of incumbency with a huge advantage to then becoming elected at the next cycle. We believe that this is wrong. No elected office should be filled other than by vote of the citizens, even if this requires that the office remain vacant until a vote can be taken. - The Leader/Times.

August 17, 2006: New Jersey is suffering through its latest disgrace as Attorney General Zulima Farber was forced to resign Tuesday over ethics violations. The view of most in the state is that Farber should have never been appointed in the first place. She officially steps down August 31 and New Jersey will have yet another "acting official." Political appointee in February and assistant Attorney General, Anne Milgram, 35, stands to be the "Acting Attorney General." When will this all end? Every lawyer in the state is hoping to receive a call from the governor for the appointment. We don't need another lawyer. We need Diogenes to help us find an honest man. On the selection of a replacement for Attorney General, please see our editorial of September 22, 2005; We'd Like to See the Resumes - The Leader/Times.

August 10, 2006: Governor Corzine has proposed to allow towns to charge a municipal sales tax on top of the existing state sales tax.  Instead of this proposal, would it make more sense to allow towns to collect half of the existing 7-percent sales tax? - The Leader/Times.

August 3, 2006: We believe that the tactic of government taxing the citizens and then granting them their money back as if it's a favor is wasteful, manipulative and wrong. Look where it got us. We call on Governor Jon Corzine to disband these programs and eliminate the taxes. Tax relief is needed everywhere in New Jersey, and reducing government spending is essential. - The Leader/Times.
Not that long ago, the state was looked to as the "efficient" central collector of fees due municipalities such as right of way fees from utilities. In the past decade, the state decided that it was "their" money and the funds were "state aid." The state also collects a host of nuisance fees such as parking ticket surcharges and excessive recording fees for real estate that make the municipality / county look to be the "bad guy" (But Westfield cannot get permission from the state to use hand held computerized parking ticket writers).
The state and all levels of government must CUT its expenditures - start by inducing the municipalities to consolidate functions that have no municipal law making - e.g. the construction department. The cost and quality of inspections will be better if Westfield
, Fanwood, Scotch Plains (and maybe one or two more) consolidate their services much like the Board of Health. 
PS, now I am all angry and bothered thinking about government abuse and mismanagement …  how will I get any work done now!
- anonymous

July 27, 2006: Governments such as Westfield, Union County and Scotch Plains seem to be involved in an increasing amount of litigation, particularly with employee claims. The true cost of this litigation is seldom revealed. We believe that upon settlement of all suits, the total cost including all awards and legal fees should be itemized and publicized. There is no incentive for lawyers to resolve matters. We believe that attorneys should not be paid for poor performance, when dragging out litigation and when milking the system. - The Leader/Times.

July 20, 2006: Attorney General Zulima Farber, New Jersey’s chief law enforcement officer should resign for interfering with police by assisting her boyfriend who was involved in traffic and driving offenses. She did this on state time, in a state issued vehicle and being driven by a state trooper. Can the public trust her integrity? - The Leader/Times.

July 13, 2006: After the state budget fiasco, we suggest that the government be required to publish the proposed budget on the Internet and make it available to all citizens for a month before the legislators and governor vote to adopt it. We demand an end to disgraceful last-minute Pork. - The Leader/Times.

July 5, 2006: Given the state shutdown and impact on municipal budgets, should counties, municipalities and local school governments be required to include state-mandated programs in their budgets without state funding? - The Leader/Times.

June 29, 2006: Governor Corzine has threatened the shutdown of state government effective this Saturday, July 1 unless Assembly Democrats approve the state budget. All non-essential services would be closed. If non-essential employees are to stay home, should these jobs be considered for elimination to reduce state spending? - The Leader/Times.

June 22, 2006: Governor Jon Corzine has recalled and will be auctioning off 809 state employee issued vehicles -- of the fleet of 6,145 vehicles. Is this enough? Should all levels of state, school, county and local governments follow the Governor's example to help restore good fiscal sense in New Jersey? - The Leader/Times.

June 15, 2006: Newark Mayor-elect Cory Booker has started to clean up City Hall by terminating all department heads effective July 1. It is time that New Jersey residents get behind his efforts to revitalize Newark city government - The Leader/Times.

June 8, 2006: Public tax money funds state grants. Incumbents are given grant money to disperse to organizations and unions in exchange for reelection endorsements. This is an unhealthy practice that is being abused, in our view. - The Leader/Times

June 1, 2006: Several individuals in New Jersey are on more than one government and/or authority payroll (either appointed and/or elected) and thus receive multiple taxpayer-funded paychecks. We believe this is a conflict of interest and abusive. This practice should be stopped. - The Leader/Times

May 25, 2006: In an effort to reduce municipal spending, should our towns look to shared services such as school administration, health, recreation and public works? With the retirement of the Fanwood recreation executive director, this could be the time to merge Scotch Plains and Fanwood recreation services. As an example, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood regional school system already brings these two communities together - sharing a recreation department would be a logical extension. - The Leader/Times

May 18, 2006: We applaud the U.S. Attorney and the NJ Attorney General for vigorously indicting and prosecuting the officials and public employees stealing and committing other crimes. Suddenly, several officials and employees are resigning abruptly. As we understand it, state law reads that if an official or public employee resigns before being indicted, that that individual gets to keep all retirement and other benefits, even if convicted. We think that law should be changed. - The Leader/Times

May 11, 2006: On the editorial page this week, Mr. Paul Peyton writes: "Regionalized Municipal Departments Could Save Taxpayers’ Dollars," and on the same page, former Westfield Mayor Alexander Williams discusses "Legislators Should Stop Playing With ‘Soft Savings’ on Consolidation Issue." In our view, these discussions form a road map for government consolidation Do's and Don'ts - The Leader/Times

May 4, 2006: Just as government holds businesses to a “Truth in Advertising” standard, shouldn’t government also be held to the same standard? As example, governments persistently release statements that they are cutting their budgets. In reality, they are increasing their expenditures and taxation of the people. Union County government says that they have kept budgets to a minimum in that it has increased by only 1/3 over the last six years. In reality, the county taxes have increased by 50 percent over that period. Other agencies state that they have reduced the rate of increase – double talk?. - The Leader/Times

April 27, 2006: From NJ Division of Local Government Services: Dear Mr. Corbin: This is in response to your complaint regarding the proposed establishment of an $80 million trust fund in the City of Newark for capital and neighborhood projects. As you may be aware, the Department of Community Affairs has been actively involved in this issue to determine the legality of the proposals and whether the process is within statutory parameters. Department staff met with Newark City officials and after much discussion, the City has agreed to rescind its plan and to comply with all aspects of statutory and regulatory law. Please be assured that this office will continue to monitor the financial transactions in the City of Newark through our budget review and approval process. - Sincerely, Susan Jacobucci, Director, Division of Local Government Services.

April 27, 2006: A few weeks ago, we lamented over the greed and disregard for the law displayed by Newark Mayor Sharpe James (also a state senator) as he put $80 million of city money into private trusts that he would control after leaving office. This week, Governor Jon Corzine is challenging the mayor/senator by freezing the funds. This is a ray of hope for New Jersey. The Governor has the guts to stand up to powerful individuals in his own party. Every citizen and honest politicians of both parties must step forward and support Gov. Corzine on this matter of corruption. As the governor continues on this anti-corruption quest, it will be easy to see through the politicians who would try to stop him. - The Leader/Times

April 20, 2006: Abbott Schools (failed school districts) in New Jersey are controlled by board members elected by a dismally low number of voters, yet the boards control hundreds of millions of dollars given to them by taxpayers of the other districts in the state. Widespread abuse of this money is reported. How can this matter be corrected? The failed systems in Union County (Elizabeth and Plainfield, Abbott schools) and the state had dismal voter turnouts. Elizabeth, a town of 120,000 people (four times the population of Westfield), had only about 1,700 people voting. Plainfield, with a population of about 50,000, had only a little more than a thousand people voting. This is dreadful. See the top money list here. The School Money List Top Receivers. - The Leader/Times

April 13, 2006: We agree with Asm. Jon Bramnick, R-21 of Westfield: The governor is urged to have U.S. Attorney Chris Christie send Stern’s investigative team to audit other state entities after their work is completed at the UMDNJ hospital. “There is no doubt we need audits, reviews and investigations of many state funded entities,” Mr. Bramnick said. The Leader/Times

April 6, 2006: Rather than school boards and mayors battling with residents over rising property taxes, we believe that it would be more effective (and the right thing to do) for all parties to counter attack and campaign where the real problem (and solution) is - against fraud and misuse of tax money elsewhere - such as at UMDNJ, Abbott Districts and the widespread patronage through county and state entities. The Leader/Times

March 30, 2006:Newark Mayor Sharpe James sees handwriting on the wall and withdraws from mayoral re-election bid but presumably intends to stay on as State Senator; State Senator Ray Lesniak of Elizabeth proposes to sell NJ Turnpike to raise money; State Senator Tom Kean, Jr. of Westfield and candidate for the U.S. Senate comes out strong against Governor Corzine's tax proposals and increased spending; It seems like the war is on in Trenton. Let's hope the citizens win.- The Leader/Times
Asm. Bramnick Statement:
We in the Legislature Must Counter Attack this Monster Government, See complete letter.

March 23, 2006: The New Jersey Constitution requires that the state government have a balanced budget to protect the citizens. The state supreme court has acknowledged that this constitutional provision has been violated by the state. Now, in the face of a fiscal crisis, the governor is increasing spending by 10 percent and borrowing $8 billion, not to be paid back for 35 years. If not the courts and not the constitution, now what?- The Leader/Times
Dear Leader; The constitution is a "living document" don' you know.  Which means, as was said by the Queen of Hearts in "In The Looking Glass", when questioned about the law, "It means exactly what I say it means" - anonymous.
I know you're busy with local matters, but for things "Iraq" and "Afganistan", try these: www.mudvillegazette.com www.neptunuslex.com and http://milblogging.com So, if you want to, you can correspond with a soldier who's right out there in the mud and blood. - anonymous.

March 16, 2006: The government pension system in New Jersey is being seriously abused at the expense of the taxpayer. Officials and appointees double dip along with police chiefs, superintendents and others padding their last year of salary to artificially boost their retirement pay. We call for the legislature to bring an immediate end to this. We’d like to hear your thoughts for government reform.- The Leader/Times
Comment March 16, 2006: First, with regard to cars being towed from the PNC Bank lot, Travis Redd is of course correct. When people park on others' property, they really don't have a right to complain if they are towed -- and especially if there are signs warning them. The one mitigating circumstance is that for 25 years in Fanwood, the PNC bank lot was always available in the evening for people doing business downtown. PNC's predecessors chose to be good neighbors, and to help the town in a continuing parking crunch. The solution to this, if PNC and others with empty lots at night choose not to be good neighbors, is for the town to do what it should have done 25 years ago and build a deck at the southside train station. It could even choose to make parking free after 2 p.m. to encourage shopping downtown.
On your publishers' note: There's nothing that can be done. It's yet another reason why experts such as Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia's Center on Politics describe NJ as one of the most corrupt states in the nation.
- anonymous.
Regarding your march 16 column on pensions: The legislators are looking forward to their own inflated pensions. Why change a "good thing"? - anonymous.

March 8, 2006: Newark Mayor Sharpe James: If you have been reading the newspapers lately (March 3, Tom Moran of The Star Ledger), you may have noticed that Newark Mayor Sharpe James, also holding office as State Senator, has transferred about $80 million of taxpayer money to a trust account and named himself as director-for-life for the account to dole it out to support business projects as he sees fit. The mayor’s action is so outrageous, while he defies all authority and perhaps the law, in our view. Few lawmakers or those responsible for enforcement dare even speak of the matter in public – although they whisper in disgust to us. Have we now become so weak in the face of corruption? Have we sunk this low? We demand that something be done, but from whom? - The Leader/Times
Comment March 8, 2006: Newark Mayor Sharpe James: Incredible that the Mayor of a major US city can get away with this crime.  Yes, a crime.  He misappropriates federal funding to fight terrorism, and now creates a private account for him to decide where it goes?  Classic example of pay to play in Essex county.  Is there any politician in Trenton who can fight this injustice?  To a somewhat lesser degree, Union County Freeholders are guilty as well.  Mismanaging our hard-earned money on their own uncontested pet projects....and then have the nerve to run a +$20M deficit in doing so!!  Typical NJ politics, and it must stop. - anonymous
On Sharp James and the $80 million...Ah, it's good to be the king. - anonymous

February 16, 2006: As far as government salaries are concerned, one would be forced to examine “honorarium” salaries, individuals collecting salaries from more than one government entity, etc. Where there are question marks as to what such an individual may be doing to deserve a salary, it may be necessary to request a time sheet to see if that person is actually there, doing something, or on another job instead. - The Leader/Times

February 9, 2006: We’re trying to find out if there is a law in the state that controls rates that towing companies can charge. Can they charge any fee they wish, such as the $385 charged last week? Suppose they charged $600, what would be the recourse? If they damaged your vehicle, what would be the recourse? - The Leader/Times

January 26, 2006: State senators and assemblymen seek ideas on what bills to sponsor. We suggest that they pass one that makes it illegal in all fashions for government entities, authorities and utilities that use public money in any way to issue retroactive pay raises or benefits in any form. - The Leader/Times

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