By Michele S. Byers
New Jersey is a beautiful, green and fertile state – and a great place to live – just as it has been since its founding 350 years ago. In fact, it’s still known as the Garden State!
What will the next few 100 years bring? It’s clear that without vision and action, this state we’re in may not be such a wonderful place for future New Jerseyans.
Here are some key steps to make sure New Jersey stays great:
- Keep preserving land, farms and parks. When Gov. Christie ran for his first term, he promised New Jersey a stable source of funding for open space, farmland and historic preservation. This hasn’t yet happened, so funds from the 2009 Green Acres bond have been spent or allocated. Opportunities to save our state’s critical remaining lands will slip away without new funding. A proposal to dedicate a small portion of state sales tax revenues to land preservation for the next three decades is making its way through the Legislature. Let’s get it on the ballot!
- Be “smarter than the storm.” It’s been more than a year since Super Storm Sandy devastated New Jersey, and recovery efforts have been massive. With our resolve to be “stronger than the storm,” rebuilding has clearly shown Jersey’s grit and determination. But, truth is, we must be smarter than the storm … and future storms. Senator Peter Barnes has proposed a Coastal Commission to prepare New Jersey for future storms and accelerating sea level rise. Our state needs a strong coastal plan to make sure it can truly be a safer and more resilient place to live and play.
- Protect our water supplies. Nearly two-thirds of New Jersey’s citizens, plus many key industries, rely on the New Jersey Highlands for an abundant supply of fresh, clean water. It’s critical to continue strong protections for the Highlands and its water supply. It is equally critical to update and implement our state’s clean water and wastewater plans and rules. You may be surprised to know we are behind the times on this now. Our state will not be livable without clean water!
- Protect the Palisades. The Palisades cliffs, north of the George Washington Bridge, have stood for millennia, inspiring generations. LG Electronics’ plan for a new office building rising high above the tree line would spoil this magnificent vista – and set a precedent for more high-rises above the cliffs. Four former New Jersey governors have already spoken out against the LG proposal. New Jersey citizens can make a difference by urging LG to build a lower building and thus preserve this iconic American landmark. Our state’s beauty has been timeless and should remain so.
- Treasure and protect New Jersey’s Pine Barrens. The Pine Barrens’ intact but fragile ecosystem is known for its vast forests, pure water, rare animals, and plants found nowhere else on Earth. Permanent protection for future generations means upholding the Pinelands Protection Act. In a clear message about defending the integrity of the Pinelands Plan, the state Pinelands Commission has rejected a proposal to build a gas pipeline across the Pine Barrens. New Jerseyans must always be vigilant and take action to protect this very special place.
- Protect our state’s great variety of native plants and animals. New Jersey is home to tens of thousands of plant and animal species. Yet, many are in peril of disappearing, including over 830 plant species, dozens of vertebrates, butterfly, and dragonfly species, and many other diminutive, secretive species. Declining rare species are indicative of habitat loss and degradation. To stop these losses and recover our rare species, we must invest in data collection and recovery on our public lands, being careful to minimize conflicts that improve habitat for one species but simultaneously and unknowingly harm other rarities. By incorporating Natural Heritage data on all rare plants and animals entrusted into our care, our public lands can continue to be a storehouse of biological diversity.
- Support local, healthy farms and farming. One of the nicest things about living in the Garden State is fresh, local food. We have more than 10,000 farms, many of them small, family-run operations selling their products at roadside stands and farmers markets. Please support your local farmers – they help keep our state green and our diets healthy!
New Jersey is still America’s best kept secret, but only vision, determination and action to protect its underlying beauty and bounty will keep it that way.
Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
Monmouth County Shared Services Getting Positive Reviews
By Thomas A, Arnone
We received some very positive feedback from our recent shared-services survey of our municipal and school partners, which we will be using in our outreach efforts in the New Year.
Now that we are going into our fourth year of our shared-service program, it was important for us to gauge the program’s success and its effect on our municipalities. This will also help us streamline our operations to best fit the current needs of the community.
Survey results showed that:
- 96 percent stated shared services have decreased costs.
- 96.3 percent stated they are likely to increase shared services activity in the coming year.
- 88 percent stated they now engage in between 1 and 10 different shared services.
- 12 percent stated they engage in over 10 different areas of shared services.
The most active areas of shared services by volume include:
- Cooperative Purchasing: 40 percent
- Public Works: 35 percent
- 911 Dispatch: 25 percent
- Property Tax Assessment: 10 percent
- Information Technology: 15 percent
A total of 100 percent of respondents stated shared services have increased efficiencies in the delivery of services.
Another 32 percent said they have saved $100,000 to $250,000 thus far from engaging in shared services.
A total of 12 percent also stated they’ve saved $250,000 to more than $500,000 thus far.
These are extremely positive results. This exciting news indicates a very large increase in interest and ongoing savings to our municipalities and taxpayers alike.
I know that the entire Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders joins me in saying that we could not be more proud of our county’s shared services initiative and the way in which our municipalities have benefited tremendously by taking advantage of all the savings that the county has to offer. It is with much enthusiasm we look forward to continued success as we make further strides and progress in 2014.
Other news in Monmouth County includes the third annual Made In Monmouth event that is set to be held on April 12 at Monmouth University. This is a great event for our Monmouth County vendors who make and/or create products in Monmouth County. It gives our vendors an opportunity to showcase and sell their many beautiful products. We encourage any business that makes a product in Monmouth County to contact the Department of Economic Development at 732-431-7470 for more information on the event and on how they can register. Let’s help strengthen our county by showing support for our local vendors by attending this worthwhile fun-filled event.
Thomas A. Arnone is a member of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders.