Tag Archives: local government

You Could Be the Mayor… (999 words)

true political power

It’s always easier to sit back and be an “armchair jockey”  Or is it?  The responsibilities of others in the public eye seem to differ drastically when we change our perspective.  Let’s suppose for a moment that the perspective never changes.  What if the person sitting back and doing nothing was actually in charge?  Or better yet, what if that person actually gets tired of the way things are going and gets up and does something about?  It takes a great deal of dissatisfaction to get motivated to create change!  I present you with these two perspectives.  If you accept either perspective, you could be The Mayor.

dodge mayor    Over ten years ago, the Dodge Truck branded the new Ram as the Mayor.  The marketing point was that something new was available–something that had evolved from a tradition of strength and durability.  The industry soon learned that simply labeling something tough was meaningless in the eyes of the consumers. The Mayor was no different than any of the others.  Depending how you dressed it up or presented it, perception would be sculpted by the beholders.

When we take a look at government, especially township government, there is a hierarchy of power.  In larger cities an alderman is elected to represent the needs of the smaller communities in the municipality.  An aldermen, in turn, is a liaison between the neighborhoods and the city council.  Each city councilman is elected by the residents of the city.  A separate election is held for the Mayor.  In townships like Fairfield (in in Cumberland County, New Jersey), committeemen are elected.  So few people want the responsibility that the party leaders must search for candidates who will best serve the interest of the party.  It may go without saying that the individuals who control the political party, are uniquely positioned to serve the township in a way they see fit.

Legacies can be shaped if the power players can strategize and defeat any opposing candidates.  Everyone knows each other in small towns anyway; so party leaders don’t need to dig too deep.  Finding harmful information that can be shaped into character flaws is one of the easiest ways to run a campaign.  Simply put, instead of making a candidate sparkle, just sling some mud.  This tactic requires no tact.  Student council are more dignified.  To build a legacy, campaign managers need to work with their candidate.  A relationship is built on trust and a common goal to establish a leadership position that will last several terms.  Otherwise, yesterday’s aspirations coupled with today’s accomplishments will never lead to the successful completion of tomorrow’s projects.  A legacy is lasting and in some cases passed down from generation to generation.  We see this nationally with the Bush’s and locally with the Pierces.  Again, building a legacy based on name-recognition requires far less effort.  The public already knows that name and the track record.

Once elected to office, a separate selection must be made.  Who will be The Mayor?  The role of the mayor in township government is to facilitate.  He or She sets the agenda.  Meetings are conducted to ensure that the public interest is met. Follow-up with the administrator confirms that the decisions made be the township committee are completed in a timely manner.  A level of decorum is maintained.  Only then can the needs of the community be met.  There will be times that these objectives can not be met without opposition.  This is the reason for a democratic government.  Each committeeman (or committeewoman) has a voice.  They were elected by the people to represent the people who elected them.  In many cases, the voters elected individuals who are competent enough to make important decisions without constant input from the constituency.  Sometimes, however, there are entire groups of people who are consistently underrepresented because of where they live, their inability to get their neighbors to vote, or because of their political views.

The Mayor is not always directly elected by the people.  This person who is supposed to facilitate and direct the committee is selected by the other members of the committee.  This often overlooked fact makes voting for the committee even more important.  Voting for the wrong committeeman lends itself to having a Mayor who will not serve the community.

So who is your Mayor?  It’s important to identify who is making the decisions and why.  When a mayor is not leading nor facilitating in a manor that demonstrates progress, we must ask why not.  What drives our mayor and the township committee is as important as the results that we expect to see.

Someone once told me, “You could be the Mayor…”  But recognizing the responsibility, the rigor, and the reliability that is required of position, I declined.  It’s a full time job for one person, but could be a part-time job if the committee works together to accomplish their goals.  They must collectively determine what will benefit the township.

The current mayor once asked me if I thought it bizarre that I hadn’t been asked by the people that I supported.  He was suggesting that my support of them was not reciprocated.  I saw this as an opportunity to share with him that he wasn’t insightful enough to see for himself.  I had been asked, in fact!  I believe that the residents deserve far more than our committeemen or committeewoman can provide.  Without a general consensus, the committee can not move forward.  He asked me what kind of Mayor did I want.  I responded, “Can I get a Michael Nutter type of mayor, please?”  The Mayor warned me that I’d better be careful what I asked for, and that educated Mayors are too costly.  Our conversation didn’t last too much longer after that.  And now I can’t get the Mayor or his Deputy to return as much as a text.

You Could Be the Mayor…if you were willing to lead people who longed for change. This picture says one word more than this essay.


Fairfield Fantasy

Imagine that the residents were offered an opportunity to have a township celebration at the municipal building and surrounding recreation fields. There could be refreshments and rides and music.  It would rival the Harvest Festival, but admission would be free.  Unlimited fun while children and adults engage in countless activities.  This event could be planned annually for the next ten years for no additional cost!  The only cost would be a one-time fee of $20 by each tax payer in the township. Wouldn’t that be great?

How about this instead?  Imagine planning for a community center for the entire township. With a game room, big screen televisions, and a dinning hall;  a recreation area for community events and staff to facilitate, we’d have an asset that would rival neighboring communities. Again all of this (with some creative planning and about a $20 contribution from each tax payer) could be ours. How cool would that be?    Alright!  One more idea–what if we could get a discount on an emergency vehicle that could supplement the emergency medical services for all of Fairfield Township. The vehicle could be paid for with grants, but mostly with the funds that could be raised from consenting taxpayers. It would cost a minimal $20 times all 4000 tax payers.

Now here are the requirements. We can only choose one of these delightful options. Either a 10 year festival that celebrates the residents of the township, or a community center for all of the residents, or an emergency medical vehicle that services the entire community.  Which would you choose?  The entire township would have to vote, and the winning selection would be acted upon immediately.  Every tax payer would be pledging the minimal one-time-only fee of $20.  Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

The Math

There are approximately 8000 residents in the township, but not all are tax payers. Excluding the children , the seniors, the renters, and the other family members that live in each household, there are about 4000 folks who are eligible to pay taxes. But that would be enough to meet these goals. If everyone made their mandatory contribution, the fund would amass a whopping $80,000!  Imagine that!  An annual celebration would cost about $8000 a year.  With proper planning and community development, a community center could be developed. Non-profit organizations right here in Cumberland County have done it for less! Emergency vehicles are expensive, but (again) with proper planning, research, and a lot of tenacity a vehicle could be purchased for nearly the same amount of money.  It wouldn’t be easy, but nothing worth having is ever easy. This doesn’t have to be a fantasy. This $20 we speak of is smaller than the additional $30 a year that we WILL be paying due to the most recent tax hike. That’s NOT a fantasy!   

Now imagine instead of getting one of these amazing projects, we had to give that entire sum to one person.  Would you be as excited?  Collectively, would we consent?  Perhaps if you had an explanation?  Imagine that the reason is because that individual claimed that he or she felt entitled because the system failed him or her.   All of those who already consented to the other project(s) have already made their mandatory contribution. No party!  No community center!  No rescue vehicle!  Instead a law suit must be settled. It’s sad but necessary. No refunds will be given.  No further explanation will be offered. How do you feel about that?

What if I told you that this is one of many reasons that residents loose interest in local government.  Is this the reason that so few residents vote?  Would our participation adversely impact the final outcome?  So often great plans crumble as a result of exchanging the wants for a community for the needs of a few.  This is the Fairfield Fantasy.  Or should it be called Fact or Fiction?  Either way the residents will get an F.