Sunday, December 28, 2008

Economic Downturn and Municipal Government: Global is Local

Surely we will all be affected by decision of the Federal and State Government in response to the economic downturn and its consequences. Many believe that local government is powerless to affect the overall economy, and must rather react to pressures adjusting policy accordingly. However, I believe that local officials also bear a responsibility to seek ways to address economic pressures. These are perhaps the single greatest threat to the quality of life of the people we serve.

Of course, we must scrutinize our budgets to curtail spending and avoid tax increases. Likewise, we must seek new revenue sources to offset the tax levy providing long term relief to our constituents. Further, we must streamline the delivery of services by local government using cutting edge technology where possible to reduce the financial burden associated with a demand for new or improved services to the public in a time of need. Lastly, government must look to share services among all levels of government, across town borders and regionally where appropriate. The individual taxpayer should pay a minimum required amount for the service received regardless of the government source of the service.

However, I believe the responsibility of local officials also extends to Stimulating Economic Growth. We must seek ways to stimulate the local economy in our towns, providing hope to our residents and businesses at a time when they so desperately need it. We must look forward bearing the past in mind and engage the public in discussion on the issues. It is difficult to lose hope while engaged in a project with a future goal. Hope can be restored to one who is desperate if a new plan is suggested and work is created as a result.

While we must first be concerned with economic activity within our town's borders, the overall economy can be supported by these grass roots efforts. For example, by attracting small to mid-sized businesses from a larger more expensive city to relocate in a small New Jersey town, local officials might be saving a business from closing its doors by offering a smaller rental payment and less demanding staffing alternatives, while creating jobs and rental income for constituents who might also be saved from desperation at a time of need.

I am sure that Federal and State Government needs all the help it can get. I believe global is local, and destiny is ours to dictate.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holidays in Highlands: A spirit of Warmth and Cheer

There is nothing like the Holidays in Highlands to lift a winter weary spirit. Just as we celebrate all year round, the holiday season in Highlands is a merry extravaganza. We begin with the Borough Tree Lighting where children meet Santa and Mrs. Claus to make their Christmas requests. Next we attend the Highlands Senior Citizen Club luncheon where stocking stuffers and games are abundant.

The Historical Society Holiday dinner is filled with carol singing, door prizes and the awarding of the coveted Golden Clam Award. And of course we cannot forget Breakfast with Santa at the Community Center or the Holiday Helpers activity night for kids. But the climax of the Christmas Season is always the holiday church services where the reason for the season is remembered and proclaimed to all.

This year I am very excited about an outdoor presentation and early services at the New Life Christian Church on Bay Avenue, and of course, the Choir Concert and later mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church at Route 36 and Miller Street.

The Holiday Season in Highlands also includes the Hanuka celebration of lights. The Menorah is lit at Borough Hall as a symbol. But a better reminder is our own Twin Lights historic landmark which might make us think of the Hanuka story all year long. Just as the lantern remained lighted for that miraculous week, so the Highlands Twin Lights remain lighted for us, a beacon to new arrivals illuminating who we are and igniting our faith in what is to come.

Highlands truly embodies the holiday spirit. We live it all year round. Whenever there is sickness or tragedy in a family, word spreads like wildfire and gifts and fund raisers abound to help a family cope. When Highlands folks achieve great accomplishments, word spreads just as quickly. We congratulate them with public signs, and personal greetings in the streets. We are a true community family. Living here warms the heart.

Our volunteer Fire Department has a huge membership roster, and our volunteer First Aid Squad is growing by leaps and bounds. These groups are examples of the Highlands spirit of giving. But nothing illustrates our spirit better than our actions in 2001 during the terrorist attack in Manhattan. Tears come to the eye just thinking about the many people who lined the streets, one to a car, willing and ready to take survivors home to their families. What a sacrifice for people who had families of their own here in Highlands who were distraught. Some drivers traveled interstate to drive as many as three or four different people to distant locations.

When thinking of the giving holiday spirit this season, think like the people of Highlands. I am proud to be part of Highlands Borough. The world should strive to be more like we are.

Happy Holidays to all !