CLARK, NJ - All 21 Union County mayors have been invited to a meeting in Clark on Aug. 16 to discuss the affordable housing issues facing New Jersey municipalities and the 2 percent arbitration cap for police and fire contracts that expires later this year.
Cranford Mayor Thomas Hannen Jr. has confirmed he will attend this meeting.
"I am looking forward to hearing my fellow mayors discussing items of mutual interest, but not limited to these items," Hannen said. "My impression is that the meeting will discuss a wide range of topics."
Mayors Sal Bonaccorso of Clark and Colleen Mahr of Fanwood will be co-chairing the meeting. Bonaccorso and Mahr are the second and third longest-serving mayors in Union county respectively, behind Mayor J. Christian Bollwage of Elizabeth.
“Our communities are on a path to being over-built, over-congested and over-polluted in the next 10 to 20 years because of the high-density building that is required to meet the current affordable housing guidelines,” Bonaccorso said.
Bonaccorso said he believes the threat to infrastructure, traffic and quality of life in local municipalities is a bipartisan issue. Bonaccorso said he reached out to Mahr because she is a "great mayor and friend" and he knows her town is facing similar challenges.
“This issue of affordable housing is not a Republican or Democratic issue. It’s an issue that is not being handled right; it is an issue that needs to be handled right. You can see how in these auspicious conditions, builders are running wild,” Bonaccorso said in a recent township council meeting.
Bonaccorso also spoke to assemblymen Jerry Green and Jon Bramnick about the burden high-density housing is putting upon local towns. Green is the chair of the Housing and Community Development Committee and sits on the Joint Committee on Housing Affordability. Bramnick is the vice-chair of the Legislative Services Commission.
“I asked Jerry (Green) to sit down and reconvene a committee hearing to try to bring back COAH or something to that nature that can administrate affordable housing for the state in a much more sensible way than we have right now in New Jersey,” said Bonaccorso.
Bonaccorso said he shared his concerns with Bramnick during a meeting with local residents concerned about potential overdevelopment in their town. Bramnick issued a statement on his Facebook page indicating plans to push for an emergency vote this week to block the high-density housing being forced on municipalities by the courts.
The second item on the agenda for the Union County mayors’ meeting is the expiration of the 2 percent cap on salary increases of police and fire personnel. The original law began in 2010 as the state worked to limit property taxes rising by more than 2 percent per year. The law was extended in June of 2014 but comes to an end later this year.
The law is designed to put a cap on the raises police and firefighters can be awarded if an agreement cannot be reached during contract negotiations. The negotiated cap extension allows arbitrators to grant annual raises of 2 percent over the previous year's wages rather than just 2 percent per year.
Bonaccorso has committed to sharing the outcome of the August mayors’ meeting with the council and community.
Follow TAPinto Clark for updates as they become available.