Hey Pete, one of your constituent towns is Mayor-Council form!

Assemblyman Biondi speaks, has something scary things to tell Bridgewater Township.

Asmb. Biondi’s letter in the Courier News

The Hillsborough Faulkner Act Q3 opposition forces, already sounding a little desperate to hold onto power, have recruited a voice from Hillsborough’s past to weigh in:

I can no longer sit by without comment and allow Hillsborough, which I have loved and served for so many years as mayor, freeholder and assemblyman, to be led to an ill-considered change of government, the mayor-ward council form, by a small cabal of self-interested and egomaniacal individuals.

Bridgewater Township, which Assemblyman Biondi has served as freeholder and assemblyman, has had Mayor-Council form for 30 years.

Can you believe, that a sitting Assemblyman would refer to any constituent or group of constituents as a “small cabal” of “self-interested and egomaniacal” individuals?

That used to be considered disrespect out of a sitting state representative. I hope it still is.

As a former mayor, I am quite familiar with the various forms of government available to New Jersey municipalities, particularly with the strengths and weaknesses of each. There are some equally strong pluses and minuses in those charters in which the mayor is directly elected, and specifically in the so-called “strong mayor,” or mayor-council, form of government.

Thanks to the NJ.com discussion board, and other public effort, there are a lot of people around who are familiar with the “various forms of government available to New Jersey municipalities.” It concerns me, when an elected official feels that his “insider knowledge” should trump what other people have concluded.

However, there are no pluses and no benefits in wards. In political entities as large as a country or a state, election of representatives by district is essentially unavoidable. Yet, even there, it is a detriment, as “pork barrel” politics fills our federal and state budgets with untold millions to billions of dollars of waste. On the scale of municipalities, it is a truly unnecessary, and expensive, curse. The extra layer of ward politics is toxic and corrupt, breeding infighting and tax-hiking backroom deals among the council members and animosity between residents of different wards.

I would have rather heard Pete Biondi explain how, at the state level, “pork barrel” politics fills our state budget with untold millions to billions of dollars of waste. The Republicans controlled all of Trenton for many years, up to 2001. Assemblyman Biondi was there—what did he fix? What did he expose of “pork barrel”?

I have a hard time seeing, how “millions” of dollars could be tacked on to Hillsborough’s budget, when it would be prepared by a strong mayor. And could only be increased by 2/3rds vote of Council. That, you may recall, would always necessitate an at-large Council member to vote on it.

I’d also like to know, what specific municipalities the “extra layer of ward politics is toxic and corrupt” in? Dover Township, in Ocean County, recently adopted the exact form as Q3 in Hillsborough. But they, literally, had the toxic dump and child cancer clusters there when it was still Township Committee.

Biondi goes on:

But does it at least necessarily lead to a more equal representation? No. In a setting in which the wards are more important than the town as a whole, it would be possible for one ward to elect the mayor, the three at-large councilman and their own ward councilman. That’s right, five of the eight elected officials, controlling both branches of government, could still be from one ward.

As I am fond of pointing out, in the 1990’s Bridgewater had three (a majority) of its at-large Councilmembers come from the exact same neighborhood. And the mayor lived just up the road.

You can also get such a disaster scenario in a township committee form.

But then Biondi throws this in:

And they’ll have four-year terms to do what they want, with the mayor being unbeatable at the polls anyway, because of his massive campaign fundraising advantage.

So what Biondi is saying, is that the Mayor in a Faulkner Act Mayor-Council system will use the influence of her office to collect a massive amount of fundraising dollars (so-called “pay to play”). With this war chest from corruption, she will remain unbeatable in general elections.

So Pete Biondi is saying, everyone watch out for Mayor Patti Flannery in Bridgewater!

It took us 30 years to come together to the point of getting our own post office. Will we now throw away our hard-fought community identity and split up again, this time into wards? I hope not.

Tee hee. “United by a common zip code.” I think Bridgewater adopted Faulkner Act Mayor-Council right around the same time it was assigned the “08807” zip code, and dropped Somerville’s “08876”.

We need a publicly elected charter study commission to select the right form of government for us to vote on, a form that will bring us together, not set us at each others’ throats. I encourage the people of Hillsborough to vote against the ward system of government, and vote “no” on the Hillsborough question on the ballot.

PETER J. BIONDI

assemblyman

16th Legislative District

Funny, this is the first I’ve heard of Biondi ever publicly advocating a charter study commission. He never did it as mayor, or as assemblyman. It is only when the corrupt municipal infrastructure, that many in Hillsborough (as well as outside Hillsborough) say Biondi controls, that there is this sudden push to “study” a change.

It seems to me, however, that over 4,000 people studied the change already. And many, many Hillsborough residents would like to see a change of government NOW.

But I am also concerned, what Assemblyman Biondi sees as the problem with Mayor-Council form. Since one of the largest municipalities in his 16th District,
Bridgewater Township, has such a form.

All Pete Biondi says, is that it gives the mayor a tremendous “pay-to-play” spending advantage . . .

As I have been posting on the NJ.com forum, I wonder whether Pete Biondi is actually worried about losing his ability to influence the makeup of Hillsborough Township Committee. With three-or-four of the five commitee members of ethnic Italian background, it seems very uncomfortable that the Assemblyman is so adamantly opposed to the general public choosing who their councilmembers are.