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July  30

A Revolt in the Making

A group of local political leaders met last night at the Office restaurant in Montclair to discuss ways to radically change the structure of county government in Essex County.

Calling itself the Committee to Change County Government, the group is trying to put a question on the ballot in 2005 that would change Essex County's form of government from a county executive model to something else.

Since adopting a county executive form of government in Essex County, "almost every county executive has gone to jail," said Kevin Lee Allen, a leader in the group and one of the forces behind putting a secession question on Montclair's ballot last year.

Allen said he has sent a number of letters to the county clerk asking about the new ballot question, but has received no response.

"We don't get calls returned. We don't get letters returned," he said. "You'd think for the $26 million we send to the county, we should maybe get a postcard." Allen was referring to Montclair's $26 million tax bill from Essex County.

The meeting was attended by Montclair mayor Ed Remsen, Glen Ridge mayor Carl Bergmanson (also co-founder of Barista), Millburn deputy mayor Sal Bate, former Montclair councilman Don Zief, Roseland councilman Rich Leonard, county freeholder Muriel Shore and Candy Straight, who ran unsuccessfully for county executive last year.

In addition to changing the form of government in Essex County, the group wants the state to consider whether it needs county government at all.

"We're looking to vet candidates for governor," Allen said.

The movement, like the county secession movement that's been broiling in Essex for the past few years, is essentially a taxpayer revolt.

"I'm just sick of paying taxes," Allen said. "We're sending $26 million to the county this year. What do we get?"

July 30, 2004 in Controversy | Permalink


Sounds like the Millburn/Short Hills secession movement of a while back.

Posted by: The Prop | Jul 30, 2004 11:49:40 AM

Secession *sounds* good, but how would the towns then pay (as in buy) the county's assets located in the township?

I'd bet Brookdale park won't be cheap!

Where is that money gonna come from?

Posted by: Right of Center | Jul 30, 2004 11:55:19 AM

Perhaps Mr. Allen would like to back up his assinine comment that "almost every County Executive has gone to jail". It should be simple. List all the CE's and tell us which ones have gone to jail.

Posted by: Ken Shane | Jul 30, 2004 12:32:32 PM

I'll bet you that every one of those in attendance was Republican. This has been a Republican initiative. It's intended as a way back into power since they know they could never do it legitimately at the polls in a Democrat heavy county like Essex.

Posted by: Todd | Jul 30, 2004 12:51:32 PM

I would suggest to Todd that the secession movement is a tax issue, not a party issue. With the vast majority of Essex County tax dollars going to Newark the balance sheet no longer balances.

As for the commissioner issue, do the Essex Freeholders really think they run the county directly, without a day-to-day operations officer? Maybe they can. Maybe not.

Posted by: The Prop | Jul 30, 2004 1:14:05 PM

What strange comments.
First of all, I'm certainly no Republican, and I strongly favor eliminating county government. It's an anachronism that has become little more than a cesspool of waste and corruption.

Who's gone to jail? Only the last two county executives, one from each party. No one argues that the services it provides couldn't be done for a fraction of the cost elsewhere.

What is it about Jersey that everyone is so apathetic when they're getting ripped off?

Posted by: Martin | Jul 30, 2004 1:38:55 PM

Let's see.

The room was probably 50-50, Dems and Reps, this is a tax issue, not a political issue. By that, I mean both are equally corrupt.

There are three counties that have the same form of government as Essex, an exec and freeholder board.

I believe that *most* of those who have served as county exec in that form have gone to jail. I can immediately think of Treffinger and his predecessor in Essex and Mr. J of Hudson. Even if that isn't most, it's enough.

This is not about personalities, it is about a clearly corrupt, redundant form of government.

Posted by: Kevin Lee Allen | Jul 30, 2004 3:27:16 PM

This is a continuation of the Millburn effort and Millburn was at the table, represented by their Deputy Mayor.

Posted by: Kevin Lee Allen | Jul 30, 2004 3:29:55 PM

To the party issue. There are Democratic counties and there are Republican counties in different parts of the state. The all have similar issues and corruption.

Posted by: Kevin Lee Allen | Jul 30, 2004 3:31:39 PM

Freeholders as commissioners would hire a professional administrator.

Right-of-Center raises an important question with the parks. There is also the issue of the county debt.

The parks could be administered by the towns that encompass the land. Like Brookdale becoming a joint project of Montclair Glen Ridge and Bloomfield.

Compensation would have to be worked out. If the effort is indeed secession, maybe the parks are bought by the new county.

If we eliminate the counties, maybe the county parks become park of the state parks.

The real issue is the county debt, which continues to grow (last night I learned some very dangerous things about the county abuse of the open spaces funds). We have been Enroned by those we have elected to serve us over the years and it continues to compound. My suggestion would be to bankrupt the county and let the bond holders go after the freeholders and execs.

Posted by: Kevin Lee Allen | Jul 30, 2004 3:37:21 PM

One place where there will be tremendous savings will be in the elimination of patronage and no-show positions. That savings can help to offset the other costs and debt.

In Montclair, we have recently eliminated the patronage from the former Cultural Affairs office. I know that Mr. Shane misses that and I am sure he will work to preserve other peoples patronage positions.

Posted by: Kevin Lee Allen | Jul 30, 2004 3:41:42 PM

Kevin -- keep up the great work. have you been in contact with Brian Fisher in GR to leverage some of the good work he's done? U can always foind him on the GR board . . .


Posted by: rchanin | Jul 31, 2004 1:13:54 AM

Kevin, I totally applaud your secession efforts. I don't understand why some people are so dead set against getting out of a county that has down nothing but look for more money year after year and provides us with so little in return.
The funniest response againt secession is when people say it is racist or elitist. PLEASE... the only color MOST taxpayers in Montclair care about is GREEN!!!
Good luck!!!

Posted by: onthesly | Jul 31, 2004 12:36:10 PM

Essex County changed its charter from County Supervisor/Freeholder to the County Executive form of government beginning in 1978 with the election of Peter Shapiro [D]. Mr. Shapiro served two four-year terms. In 1986, Nicholas Amato [R], then the county surrogate, was elected, served one four-year term, and declined to seek re-election. Mr. Amato, originally a Democrat, changed his party affiliation to Republican in order to challenge Mr. Shapiro. In 1990 Thomas J. D'Alessio [D], the former county sheriff, was elected as County Executive. Mr. D'Alessio was convicted under Federal corruption charges and served time in Federal prison. Mr. Donald Biase, the County Administrator, served as Acting County Executive for the duration of Mr. D'Alessio's unexpired term. In 1994, James W. Treffinger [R] was elected County executive and served two four-year terms. Mr. Treffinger began his public career as a Democrat, but changed his party affiliation to Republican. Mr. Treffinger pleaded guilty to Federal charges and is currently serving a Federal prison term. The current County Executive, Joseph N. DiVincenzo [D], was elected in 2002.

Posted by: Anita Smith | Aug 14, 2004 10:07:13 PM

Mr. Allen (and other organizers),

I would be interested in working with your group.

I have several ideas for regionalization of certain necessary services through compact agreements between municipalities. What I have been lacking is access to people such as yourselves to flesh them out.

Please let me know how I may get in touch with your group. My e-mail address is [email protected]

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Jim Troisi

Posted by: JTroisi | Feb 24, 2005 10:25:20 AM

The 'elephant in the room', so to speak, in Essex County is Newark. Aside from the problems of corruption, Newark 'taxes' the county budget at a ridiculous rate.
Yes, there is much waste & abuse in other towns as well. But my radical solution, is not for great towns like Montclair/Millburn to secede... but rather FORCE Newark out!
If Newark was it's own county (in addition to city) and had to find ways to support itself.. I bet efficiencies would all of the sudden fall into place!

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