CLARK, NJ - All but three towns were represented at a meeting of Union County mayors in Clark recently. The meeting was organized by Mayor Sal Bonaccorso of Clark and Mayor Coleen Mahr of Fanwood.
The gathering was designed to bring local leadership together to discuss the affordable housing challenges facing New Jersey municipalities and the 2 percent arbitration cap for police and fire contracts set to expire in a few months.
According to Bonaccorso the meeting went well. He said many UC mayors are concerned about the demands placed on their municipalities by affordable housing.
Bonaccorso said many towns like Clark are almost completely developed and cannot afford to continue to build without grossly overcrowding schools and straining the town’s resources.
“Everyone in the room was clear they are not against affordable housing, they are against the density,” said Bonaccorso. “None of us want to see our towns or county wrecked in the next 10, 15, 20 years because our towns simply do not have the infrastructure to support the density of building required to fulfill affordable housing requirements. It is going to look like New York City in Union County in the years to come.”
As a result of the meeting the mayors are creating a bipartisan subcommittee to work on developing ideas around affordable housing to present to legislators from Union County.
“We’ve got a great crop of mayors in Union County, and we agreed this (affordable housing) cannot be a partisan issue. Mayor Mahr and I are heading up this bipartisan committee to gather some kinds of points and ideas for legislation. We will work on getting agreement with mayors and share it with the legislators of Union County, they are a powerful group,” said Bonaccorso.
He shared that the mayors are in agreement that state legislators should be working to gain back control of legislating affordable housing from the courts.
Bonaccorso expressed his hope that the UC mayors will continue to speak up and support the work of the subcommittee and not be swayed by any political ties that might urge them to back down.
“I am not controlled by any party bosses, not now, not ever and I hope that is not going to happen to anyone in the group, it is our responsibility to try to get this done,” said Bonaccorso. “Mayors are a big lobbying group, as we addressed the other day, you can’t bring in enough revenue to offset the experiences we’ve got.”
The other item on the agenda at the mayor’s meeting was the pending expiration of the two percent cap on salary increases for police and fire personnel.
The law puts a cap on the raises that can be given if parties cannot come to agreement during negotiations.
“We need to keep this cap in place,” said Bonaccorso. According to Bonaccorso, the future of the cap seems a bit tenuous based on who wins the governor’s seat.
He expressed concern about what he has seen so far in this year’s campaigns and how it may influence outcomes. “Murphy got endorsed by the police, fire and teachers (unions) before they even knew who the other candidate was, it makes me stop and think, hmmm, what does that say?” said Bonaccorso.
According to Bonaccorso, by the end of this gathering the UC mayors agreed to conduct quarterly meetings to share best practices, keep the lines of communication open and continue conversations around issues facing their towns.