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Municipal Governments Must Act Regionally Too

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Harkin back to the days of the Trenton region’s most important contributions to the country. We are the site of the Battle of Trenton – the turning point of the American Revolution; The Battle of Princeton, Assumpink Creek was a secert route of the Continentla Army, unmapped trails through Hamilton and Lawrence allow Washington to go undetected between Trenton and Princeton, Trenton was the Capital of our nation. Economically, at the turn of the century through WWII the Trenton region was a major manufacturing center for wire rope, rubber and ceramics. This is our region’s heritage.

Today, a sense of regionalism is absent which is evident with municipalities acting strictly locally. Leaders who do not consider the impact that their decisions have on their neighbors betrays the fact that they lack appreciation or awareness of the greater progress that can be made by working with the larger region in mind.

Understandably, the focus of surrounding municipalities has been inward and in large part the focus needs to be inward. Local elected officials are in office to better the communities that elected them. Plus not all decisions impact other municipalities.

Nevertheless, Ewing, Lawrence and Hamilton share common borders with the City of Trenton. As such, active ties, communication and cooperation with each other are essential to resolving the issues of blight, joblessness, crime and poverty that exist in our border neighborhoods.

As a clear example of the absence of a regional view and its impact is the City of Trenton’s decision to lay off over 100 patrol officers, which has undeniably resulted in increased violent and other types of crime in neighboring municipalities. It has impacted the decision making of other Police Departments too. In fairness, the leaders in those same municipalities do not adequatley flex their collective political muscles to advocate better and more transitional aide for the City of Trenton.

Cities have borders. Police and Tax Assessors have jurisdictions. But poverty and crime have no boundaries. The facts of geography dictate the reality that what happens in Trenton eventually happens and has happened to her neighbors.

We need to think like the Greater Trenton Area and what that can mean to our mutual economic and cultural prosperity and to law & order.

To accomplish this, we need to stop competing and begin to cooperate through the creation of a Regional Municipal Borders Development Alliance that has equal representation from each of the four municipalities. As Municipal Borders implies, the Alliance would target our commercial and residential neighborhoods along our shared borders.

With the consent of the various City/Township Councils, it would be tasked with preparing regional economic planning strategies and operational plans, identifying opportunities and coordinating feasibility assessments, collecting and distributing information, promotion and marketing.

First, level the playing field within these targeted areas by equalizing the property tax rates and assessments.

Then, as enticement to improve their properties, provide several years of property tax incentives for existing homeowners and new homeowners that occupy these homes.

Target the manufacturing and commercial zones with incentives that will create good wage earning jobs. This can be accomplished with a PILOT program that will incentivize employers to hire and to own, improve and occupy facilities within these zones.

Secure grant monies that will be dedicated to streetscaping, lighting, implementing a Complete Streets Program, beautification and infrastructure improvements.

Prior to the start of each calendar year, the alliance will present its recommendations to each Council for the upcoming budget year. As a result of the Alliance’s recommendations, City/Township Councils would work in conference to agree upon proposed initiatives, develop the necessary ordinances and resolutions needed to implement the recommendations and to initiate the funding requests to the various County, State, Federal and private sector programs.

When the mission is accomplished, the Alliance would stay in place to ensure the accomplishments and spirit of regionalism remains.

This is an idea at least worth exploring. Trenton’s, Ewing’s, Lawrence’s and Hamilton’s Mayors should meet along with their respective Council Presidents to begin the process of exploring the viability of a Regional Municipal Borders Development Alliance.



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April 2012
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