New Jersey State League of Municipalities Conference

Eskil S. Danielson, MA CEM
18 Hunter Lane
Byram Township, NJ 07821

January 7, 2009

New Jersey Herald
P.O. Box 10
Newton, NJ 07860

Via E-Mail

Both in a recent news article and in a follow-up editorial, the NJ Herald, under the guise of watchdog for Sussex County taxpayers, did a disservice to the officials of local municipalities both in Sussex County and throughout the state and, in turn, to their taxpaying constituents. I refer to the very biased report on the 93rd Annual Conference of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.  In the interest of “fair and balanced reporting”, please consider the following information not included in your article or the editorial.

First and foremost, municipal officials both elected and appointed, are far more acutely aware of the need to save tax dollars than anyone else, so expenditures are made based on the direct benefit to the community. The benefit of actively participating in the conference outweighs reasonable expenditures for registration, housing and expenses. To attend and obtain the valuable sessions in an ala carte format would be a waste of taxpayers’ dollars and local officials’ valuable community service time.

The 93rd Annual Conference offered the following:

  1. Over 75 very informative workshops, about two hours in duration each and on dozens of current issues with valuable Q & A.
  2. A consulting period where local officials could meet one-on-one with officials and principals from 89 state and federal agencies from the NJDEP and DOT to the US Census Bureau and the DOL.
  3. Over 100 affiliate programs for tax assessors and collectors; financial officers and purchasing agents; health and welfare boards; municipal attorneys and prosecutors; building, plumbing and fire code officials; municipal clerks and registrars; court administrators; engineers, managers and administrators; planning and zoning officials; public works and recreation officials. Continuing education credits necessary for state mandated certifications are earned in these affiliate sessions.
  4. An exhibition hall where 797 vendors offer their services and display  their equipment for the benefit of all attendees. The vendors range from a broad range of consulting firms to large displays of heavy equipment.

In addition to the foregoing, a business meeting was held at which eighteen resolutions were passed and elections were held. Among those elected was 3rd Vice President Daniel Coranoto, Deputy Mayor of Hampton Twp. who will become the League president in 2012.

As for me, I attended workshops on community leadership, elected officials and police, interlocal services, volunteer fire department harassment litigation, ‘green’ building concepts and regional emergency medical services. I spent over eight hours walking the exhibition floor and at one booth alone saved the township almost $4,000 on the cost of our town’s seasonal lighting campaign. I also attended the Mayor’s Box Luncheon (sandwich, apple, etc.) where we had presentations on “hot button topics” such as COAH and DEP regulations by the respective commissioners. I attended the Annual Delegate’s Luncheon where Governor Jon Corzine addressed his administration’s initial efforts to manage the economic crisis in New Jersey.

Our township manager, clerk, planner, court administrator and other officials were very attentive to business also. As just one example, one of our officials, who is shared with other communities at a savings to each, took seven hours of continuing education courses. None of us sought reimbursement for meals although the restaurant chain, mentioned somewhat pejoratively in your article, is a family restaurant chain and among the most economical in Atlantic City (and Franklin for that matter).

The editorial suggestion to move the venue sounds good as a ‘soap box’ issue, but the reality is that there is but one venue in New Jersey that can handle a conference that potentially brings together officials from 566 municipalities not to mention presenters, vendors, state and federal officials, etc. To even mention Trenton, New Brunswick or Princeton as alternative locations belies the Herald’s knowledge of the magnitude of the conference. The only venue in New Jersey that comes close is the Wildwood/North Wildwood area. However, the matter of hotel to conference center bus transportation (the parking is inadequate at both the Atlantic City and the Wildwood Convention Centers) is taken care of in Atlantic City by the addition of six dollars per day on room registrations. Ultimately, this is a savings as opposed to taxis or parking fees.

Elected and appointed officials in New Jersey’s 566 municipalities face a daunting task to keep abreast of the dynamics of local governance. They have a difficult time meeting the legitimate demands for service without having to now correct the misimpression created by your newspaper. When a cost-to-benefit analysis is done, the comprehensive New Jersey State League of Municipalities Conference is a bargain.

Other New Jersey and Philadelphia media spend much time learning valuable information at the conference and television programs are transmitted live from the exhibit hall. Maybe the New Jersey Herald should attend next year and follow us around as we conscientiously do our best to keep up with the nuances of governance in New Jersey while concurrently being mindful of our constituents’ and our own tax bills.

Eskil S. Danielson, MA CEM, Mayor, Byram Township

photo by Joyce Bambach

photo by Joyce Bambach