10.3.07

el brusco alcalde attacks the Taxrebels

Back in December, a Republican activist from Burlington County named William Monk contacted me to discuss the possibility of recruiting candidates for State Assembly and State Senate in 2007 who would run on an innovative platform proposing out-of-the-box solutions to the Garden State's fiscal woes. In the subsequent months, at considerable expense of his own time and money, Monk plugged away at the project and when I had the pleasure to meet him at Jay Webber's Reagan Day last month, he was all but ready to launch the organization, called Taxrebels, devoted to reducing the burden of New Jersey property taxes.

After the launch, Monk emailed a group of about 20 individuals who had interest in the Taxrebels project to solicit their feedback on the website and the potential elements of the platform, most of whom had spent years pondering solutions to the tax burden that hampers New Jersey. One such proposal concerned consolidation of smaller municipalities, studied at length by Cherry Hill resident Eli Hiller, who noted in testimony to the NJ Legislature's Joint Committee on Government Consolidation and Shared Services:
"New Jersey has five layers of local governance, including 21 of the smallest counties in the United States. We have 12 forms of municipal government totaling 566 distinct entities, ... 651 school districts including charter schools, 208 local public authorities and 232 special taxing districts, of which 184 are fire districts.

These 1,678 units of local governance have produced mind boggling excesses that no other state experiences...New Jersey has 39.85 local government workers per square mile, the most of any state and double the U.S. average...They consume more than 90 per cent of annual New Jersey property tax collections in salaries."
Hiller is passionate about consolidation, to say the least. When the idea was questioned by some of the Taxrebels group, Hiller responded:
"The mindless leading the blind...is my reckoning of the anti-consolidation residents of New Jersey who sit on the thrones of their postage stamp sized fiefdoms. I would like to know from these 'tin-horn dictators' how they propose to reform property taxes if not by reducing the choking number of entities of New Jersey government."
Enter Señor Esteban Lonegan, the Mayor of Bogota, who retorted:
"You are clearly a big government advocate and supporter of collectivism.

Why don't you move to Newark and live your dream? Hey, only one police and one fire chief and 1 Mayor for 250,000 people. You would be happy there.

You could also try Cuba. They adopted your socialist model 50 years ago."
This, coming from a man who believes that the Mayor of a town of 8,000 residents should have veto power over the advertising strategy of a publicly-traded corporation with a market capitalization of $53 billion. So I guess Lonegan, apparently oblivious to the irony, is opting out of the Taxrebels.

No love lost there. But the discussion has continued and is bearing fruit. Here are some of the other highlights and food for thought.

Jerry Cantrell of Silver Brigade adds:
"I've recently had this same discussion with several of our elected officials. Most recently Senator Adler (D) in his Cherry Hill office last Friday and Senator Connors (R) this morning. These are two of the 10 out of 40 who voted No on the 2007-8 NJ Budget. It took three Rs to put the budget to vote and 12 of them voted for it along with 36 Ds. Out of control taxes aren't controlled by one party folks..."
Greg Cinque noted:
"Towns don't need to be merged. Ownership needs to be consolidated. The State owns the schools and pays the bills. Eliminate duplication of local administrations. Eliminate ineffective local school boards populated with guilt ridden parents manipulated by slick school superintendents looking to build their fiefdoms...New Jersey is obsessed with local control. It is nuts. It is also the seed of corruption in NJ. Grassroots corruption starts at the local level in NJ. It is the training ground. Just look at local planning and zoning boards as one example."
The very powerful Teacher's Union, NJEA, came under fire as well. Eli Hiller suggested a major legal effort against them:
"The NJEA and every one of its 616 locals will assure that by withholding campaign funds, launching a campaign to unseat the legislator who had the temerity to suggest corrective action, etc.

The NJEA can be neutralized by a class action lawsuit in which the NJ DoE would also be named as a defendant. There are according to a March, 2006 US Census Bureau report 170,642 K-12 school teachers in New Jersey earning $10.4 billion in annualized salary. That does not include benefits and approximates 50% of public education expenditure. Interestingly, although the NJ population had no significant population increase from 2005 to 2006, the school teacher increase was 6,156 or 3.7%.

The purpose of including the NJ DoE is to gain discovery of the doubtless many, many documents produced by the NJEA attempting to thwart any reasonable idea that would advance public education and thereby, the public interest.

I truly believe a lawsuit with a huge number attached would scare the hell out of the NJEA..."
Seth Grossman, Executive Director of Liberty and Prosperity (which, followed by the words "for all" is New Jersey's state motto - as almost-Senator and Governor Doug Forrester frequently noted), cautioned against such a course:
"The NJEA collects $850 dues each year from 110,000 active members, and they have about 90,000 retired members who voluntarily pay dues. They also shake down the folks who supply school textbooks and supply and have a budget of about $90 million each year. They can afford a lot more legal talent than we.

Also, New Jersey judges from the Supreme Court down are appointed by the politicians controlled by NJEA...The fact is that we are facing POLITICAL problems, not legal problems. Lawsuits are OK if they are part of a POLITICAL strategy to bring down the folks who are oppressing us, but they are worthless if you thing they will change things by themselves."
Finally, it is worth noting that several of the participants in the discussion noted that they received more favorable feedback on these issues from Democrat legislators than Republican ones, and some suggested that the effort should not be limited to one party. This is good and bad news for William Monk's original idea of using Taxrebels to change the Republican Party's platform on these issues. One the one hand, some of those involved have little faith in the GOP. On the other hand, the fact that he is proposing running off-the-line candidates suggests that the goal is change from within.

No comments: