Adding Dem input on the Morris Township Committee will mean (finally!) framing old problems in new ways that will lead to cost-effective solutions that have never been imagined let alone implemented. Here are some of our ideas:
Our goal is to limit local taxes and lower them. We have ideas for new ways to cut costs and bring in new revenues from sources other than taxpayers’ checkbooks, including grants and shared services. Our current officials are not aggressive about pursuing grant opportunities. We will be. We also bring fresh ideas for shared service options; there are untapped negotiating opportunities here. New negotiators will yield improved results.
Dem values – such as reducing expenditures through improved energy efficiency – have been excluded for too long.
Everyone in our community will benefit when Dems have a voice – seats at the table – in determining how our budget is developed and how our precious tax dollars are spent.
TRAFFIC AND TRANSPORTATION
Traffic is the bane of everyone’s existence! Our current Morris Township Committee has not been proactive or assertive in working to collaborate with local, county, and state partners (as well as relevant groups like the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, Together North Jersey, and Sustainable Jersey) to advocate on behalf of our residents and work towards solutions in three overlapping areas:
- Improve the capacity of the roads to better handle current and future traffic
- Decrease the volume of vehicles on the roads
- Encourage transportation alternatives – such as walking, biking, car pools, mass transit
As part of the Master Plan review, Cathy suggested the formation of a Transportation Advisory Committee (similar to the Economic Development Advisory Committee) to coordinate a comprehensive approach to working with traffic and transportation issues in Morris Township. The Planning Board appears to have adopted this proposal – at least in so far as it relates to conditions that exist at Route 24, Columbia Road, and Park Ave.
We would like this group have advisory authority on a broader range of issues. Working in combination with elected officials, staff, and residents we would like to see action and results from this group on such issues as:
- Develop - and share with the public - a comprehensive plan to deal with sidewalks and speeding in Morris Township. Our current decision-making process needs review and revision to ensure that it is clear, fair, and understandable to all. Also needed: proactive voices to push for action, progress, and timely implementation.
- A more active and comprehensive approach to implementing the kind of regional collaboration that’s needed to move forward with effective traffic solutions. Our current approach of “monitoring” developments in neighboring towns is insufficient.
ACTIVELY SUPPORT OUR ENVIRONMENT
Our current Morris Township Committee is silent on environmental issues. We have new ideas for ways to go green and save money – nothing has been done with energy efficiency programs available through NJ’s Clean Energy Program, for example. We’ll change that.
We propose to have the Township form a Green Team whose charge is to explore and recommend ways we can promote conservation and environmental sustainability, especially options that require little more than community education and outreach. Examples include actions that individuals (as well as the Township) can take to promote energy efficiency, water conservation, anti-idling efforts, plastic bag reduction, etc.
Strengthening our efforts to “green” our community is not only the right thing to do from a moral perspective, it also brings economic benefits as well. Reduced energy consumption, for example, is a clear way to save money and cut costs. Many large corporations (such as Alcoa, Pepsi, Ford, Starbucks, and even Goldman Sachs) are discovering that “green” leadership practices and programs add value to their brand and increase their financial bottom line.
Positioning ourselves as a community that values BOTH innovative green leadership AND fiscal responsibility is a winning combination for attracting new home buyers, building property values, drawing businesses to fill empty office space, and enhancing our tax base.
When state and national legislators (like Rodney Frelinghuysen) act in ways that threaten those freedoms (such as his recent vote to allow coal companies to dump their waste into rivers), we need local officials who will voice the concerns of many of our residents and call these actions out for what they are: unacceptable threats to our freedom and our safety.
DELIVER NEW SOLUTIONS
We will deliver new solutions on many different topics, for example: senior citizens' concerns, public-private partnerships, and neighborhood issues. But we must have seats at the table to move our ideas forward:
- Let’s do what Madison and Chatham have done and participate in a program (sponsored by a nonprofit group called Tri-Town 55+) that enables seniors citizens to get rides anywhere within a 15-mile radius of their town for a flat charge of $5.
- Our community has needed and been giving lip service to opening a community center for decades. This idea needs to be thoroughly investigated, priced out, and seriously considered. There may be an opportunity to buy St. Virgil’s School - which could be used for this purpose. This option needs to be investigated; information about it needs to be shared with the public; and an opportunity for public input (questions, comments, suggestions) needs to be offered. We see many benefits in pursuing this option: such a center would build a sense of community, provide additional services to everyone in our community, and also, very importantly, it would generate new income that, over time, will defray upfront costs. John’s experience with this in Roseland will be immensely helpful to this planning process.
- There are SO MANY untapped possibilities for innovative ways to improve services at NO COST to taxpayers through public-private partnerships. Morristown’s recent partnership with TD Bank, the town’s Shade Tree Commission, and the schools is an excellent example. TD Bank donated $20,000 for trees. The town and the schools got new trees. The students got great hands-on learning opportunities. The bank showed its commitment to sustainability and community outreach. A great win-win partnership for all! There’s no reason Morris Township can’t achieve the same results. We pledge to accomplish at least one such partnership per year.
- We have many ideas for ways to make our local government more open and citizen-friendly. One example (of many): A preliminary agenda should be publicized the Friday before each township committee meeting on the township's website, by email, and on Facebook to give residents an opportunity to attend and voice their concerns about issues being discussed. We also want to get our township committee to identify big properties being discussed by name, with the lot and block numbers. This will avoid “under the radar” actions on big properties that can affect nearby neighborhoods. These changes are necessary for transparency and are a basic public courtesy that’s been neglected for too long. With seats at the table, we’ll make these (and many other similar changes) happen.
- Having access to video of our governing body meetings is also basic to transparency, accountability, and providing residents the information they need to keep informed about decisions that can affect their property values and quality of life. Cathy has single-handedly brought video of township committee meetings to Cablevision and YouTube despite stiff opposition from our elected officials and at NO COST to taxpayers. In the last several months, she has expanded this coverage to include the Planning Board’s work on the Master Plan Review and the Colgate Redevelopment Project. If we can begin partnership-building with the high school to create videographer internships for students from the broadcasting program, we will have an excellent hands-on learning opportunity for students as well! This is a partnership that’s gone untapped for too long.
- We need new thinking on how to build our local economy. Let’s start by adding a Dem Committee person to the Economic Development Advisory Committee to bring new life to outreach with the business community.