To the Editor:
After sitting through the recent Township Committee meeting, I’ve come to a stunning conclusion. In the state of New Jersey, on the local level you are not being governed by a democracy.
In a democracy, residents elect a governing body to govern the town. In theory, they are acting in the best interests of the town according to the collective will of the people who elected them. The entire premise of the “home rule” concept in our state was to decentralize government to allow all the towns to govern themselves by people who live there, have a vested interest in the quality of the community and most importantly, pay the taxes that fund the town. In other words, those who pay the taxes and live there can govern through their elected representatives.
The only problem with this concept is it doesn’t work that way in New Jersey. In fact, if you’ve been following this affordable housing issue and you went to the last meeting it’s actually quite the opposite.
We, the residents, the people who pay taxes, don’t have much of a say at all in the biggest issue facing our town. Our elected officials don’t really have a say in the future of our town as to how our town will look in the next 10 years. All the power is vested in unelected bureaucrats at the faceless Fair Share Housing Center, the members of which don’t reside in most of the towns whose future they’re determining. They determine our quota of affordable units and force it upon us under threats of penalties. No accountability to voters whatsoever.
And if the pesky taxpayers object to anything, it gets referred to another group of unelected bureaucrats - the judicial system. Judges determining what’s best for our town. Again, people who have no vested interest in the town. No accountability to voters. Sense a pattern here?
Let that sink in for a moment. People who may have never set foot in this town, who pay no taxes to Chatham, who are unelected, have the ultimate decision making authority on the biggest issue that I’ve seen in my 20 years living here. If that’s not taxation without representation, then what the heck is.
Just look at how the meeting proceeded if you doubt this. Our elected officials were largely bystanders. Please don’t misunderstand this observation. They are hardworking, well-intentioned people who are very giving of their time and I believe do have our best interests in mind. However, the State of New Jersey has rendered them powerless on this issue. They basically have to just carry out the orders of the State bureaucrats in their local purview. Most of the discussion was handled by our town attorney. Think about that, most of the discussion was between residents and an attorney, not the elected officials. What does that tell you about our system of local governance in this state?
It seems like the next step is for us to have the attorneys go back to the unelected bureaucrats and plead with them to reduce the pain they fully intend on inflicting largely without the citizens having much say in the matter. It shouldn’t work that way.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on affordable housing. That’s how a democracy is supposed to work. That’s not what this is about. This is about a state government bailing on their citizens and vesting authority in unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats on very important local matters.
In my opinion, the State is essentially begging residents to leave New Jersey. Maybe that’s why people are leaving in droves.