Overruled by Home Rule: Why the New Jersey Legislature's Latest Attempt to End the Waste, Corruption, and Inequality Created by Municipal Fragmentation Will Fail
Stanford Law School
Seton Hall Legislative Journal, Vol. 32, No. 2, 2008
A century's worth of policy experts, government commissions, and reform-minded politicians have concluded that New Jersey has too many towns. They have filled the state's archives with reports documenting the costs of fragmentation in the Garden State: the inability to address regional problems, the inequalities created by residential segregation, and the inefficiencies of operating so many local services. But while New Jersey has 566 municipalities - the most per capita of any state - only nine sets of towns have considered merging since 1952 and only one pair, Pahaquarry and Hardwick, has actually consolidated into a single unit. It is far easier, these experts have learned, to create new towns than it is to eliminate them.
In early 2007, the New Jersey State Legislature created the Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission to address the problem. Modeled on the federal military base closure commissions, the Local Unit Commission was established to review New Jersey's 566 municipalities and recommend which ones should consolidate, which ones should share municipal services with neighbors, and which ones should continue as they are. It was an improvement over the older procedure for consolidation, which was cumbersome and bureaucratic. But if the goal was to recreate the success of the military base closure commissions, which shut down over 500 military sites from 1989 to 2005, then the New Jersey legislature failed. This Article reviews the failings of the bill and argues that state must find a more effective way to address the problems of municipal fragmentation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 46
Keywords: municipal law, local government, consolidation, new jersey, home rule
JEL Classification: R5
Date posted: March 27, 2008