Elections bring change – an opportunity to “reset” the policy agenda. Any newly elected governing body brings with it new policy priorities – some collective priorities shared by multiple members, and some unique ones espoused by individual officials.
The key challenge of any new governing body is effectively managing those priorities. Doing it well positions a new government to deliver results; failing to do so invites distraction to the governing process, treating all issues equally and encouraging less-than-strategic governance.
The challenge was magnified in Princeton, New Jersey this year. Its transition to a new governing council in January coincided with the launch of a newly consolidated municipality, the state’s most significant in more than sixty years. Thus in Princeton, the new ideas and priorities that typically accompany new governing bodies existed alongside consolidation-related issues and transition matters that, in some cases, required more urgent attention. Read more »
Anybody who has followed the local government consolidation issue knows the difficulty of enacting significant, large-scale change. Old habits die hard, so it is no surprise that the procedural challenges to municipal restructuring are often daunting. Ever powerful are the inertia of the status quo and the “leap of faith” required on the part of voters to be convinced it’s possible to get to greener pastures.
Such is the case in New Jersey, where history hasn’t been kind to the municipal consolidation movement. In the time between a 1934 New York Times article lamenting the state’s inability to streamline its local government structure and today, just two consolidations occurred. In January, the number grows to three as the Township and Borough of Princeton merge following an affirmative 2011 referendum. Read more »
In their fourth time to the altar, the two Princeton, New Jerseys—township and borough—said “I do,” and agreed to merge. With the vote, Princeton becomes the first municipal merger in the State of New Jersey in nearly 60 years. (Well, not the only. There was the 1997 consolidation of Pahaquarry, population = 7). Unlike the three previous attempts—the latest in 1996—voters in both the Township and the Borough agreed to join their governments.
In retrospect, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised the vote passed. These two communities already share more than a dozen critical public services, major community assets, and a history and profile recognized the world over. Working together – indeed, working as “one” – has long been ingrained in the two communities. Read more »