The Dysfunction of Our Government in Action

Well folks, our troubles are over.  Now I know that we are in the middle of a pandemic with a $10 billion budget shortfall, unemployment in chaos, lines and fistfights at the DMV, the economy in shambles, businesses closing every day and the highest tax burden in the nation.  However, Governor Murphy took the bold, historic step of – changing the title of the office “freeholder.”  With our world in chaos, this is on what the governor is fixated.

While it may seem a relatively minor administrative move, it has several very serious consequences.  First, the term freeholder is an historic economic qualifier that has been used for over 240 years to the complaint of no one. Men and women of all races, ethnicities and creeds have proudly served as county freeholders.  The changing of this title will open the floodgates to changing every elected office that has been in existence for hundreds of years including senator, assembly, judge, mayor and even governor.  It will never end.

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Second, this results in an unfunded mandate for counties to now change all documents and records from “freeholder” to the new title.  There are three centuries of records, meeting minutes, signs, plaques and so on that now have to be addressed.  For example, Monmouth County has over 900 bridges – all with the title “freeholder” affixed to them.  In the Hall of Records, the term is impressed in marble.  Business cards, letterhead, contracts, and dozens of other documents include the title “freeholder.”  The confusion and cost to the taxpayers will be enormous.

Third and perhaps most important is that this clumsy attempt at trying to sanitize our language will do more damage than just the physical change of a title. It will erase a part of our history and invariably lead to endless attempts at doing more damage to our historical legacy.  We should learn from our history – the good and the bad, instead of trying to obliterate it.  Rather than celebrating the tremendous strides we have made as a society and the opportunity that people of every faith, ethnicity, race, and gender now have, we are wasting time erasing history. 

Frankly, this is the kind of meaningless action that infuriates people most when they think of government and its seeming inability to address things that would really make a difference in people’s lives. No one is moving out of New Jersey because the term for county representative is freeholder.  They are leaving because of the crushing weight of taxes, regulations and a bloated government bureaucracy that is more concerned with silly symbolic gestures than actually fixing the myriad problems facing our state.