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Letter to the Editor: From a Prospective Charter Commissioner

An introduction and an argument for the commission.

Hello Springfield Residents,

My name is Jim Bonacorda, and I am volunteering to be a member of the Springfield Charter Study Commission, which will appear as a public question on the November 6th ballot.  My wife, Karen, and I reside at 27 Marion Avenue.  During the 22 years that we have lived in Springfield, we have seen an increase in both the number and complexity of issues that the Township faces.  This is why I have decided to volunteer and become more involved in Township matters.  I have been involved with the WE_SpringfieldNJ group, which focuses on local and regional flood mitigation issues. Karen and I are also members of the Community Emergency Response Tram (CERT).

Residents who experienced severe damage to their homes from flooding during Hurricane Irene stood before the Township Committee in January 2012 and requested the formation of a Flood Mitigation Sub-Committee.  The response received was that there wasn't enough "bandwidth" to meet this request, and that it would fall under the purview of the Public Works Committee.  This is what made me start to think about the current structure of our governing body and wonder if there is a better way to deal with the issues we face.

On June 12, 2012 the Springfield Township Committee passed Ordinance No. 2012-19 which authorizes the question of whether or not to establish a Charter Study Commission to be placed on the ballot.  The question reads:

"SHALL A CHARTER COMMISSION BE ELECTED TO STUDY THE CHARTER OF THE TOWNSHIP OF SPRINGFIELD AND TO CONSIDER A NEW CHARTER OR IMPROVEMENTS IN THE PRESENT CHARTER AND TO MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS THEREON?"

The Charter Study Commission can recommend that:

1. the current form of government be retained and unchanged; 

2. the current form of government be retained, but with certain modifications;

3. the form of government be changed to one of the four plans under the Faulkner Act;

4. the governing body petition the Legislature for either a special charter or one or more specific amendments to the municipality’s charter, such as the addition of initiative, referendum and recall to one of the “traditional” forms of municipal government (e.g., a borough or township form).

It is important for each voter to vote on the question and, regardless of a Yes or No vote on the question, to vote for five members.

If the Charter Study Commission question is passed by the voters in the November election and I am elected as a member, I will join the team with no pre-conceived notions about changing the current form of Springfield government.  The Charter Study Commission is a fact-finding team of Springfield residents that examines the current form of government and compares it with other Faulkner Act forms. 

The Commission may or not recommend a change.  If it does recommend a change, the voters have the final word on accepting or rejecting it.

A mailing went out last weekend that stated the Charter Study Commission "could cost taxpayers in excess of $60,000."  Please note that Charter Study Commissioners are volunteers and do not get paid.  One source of expenses is the printing of the final report.  Additional costs may come from attorney fees.  I will work with an eye on keeping costs to a minimum.  We will make every attempt to get pro bono legal assistance with the Study.

BART FRAENKEL November 06, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Charter studies have been done before and there's no legitimate reason another shouldn't be done now, if that is what the majority of the public wants. Hopefully those who are elected to serve on the committee, if it passes, will be diligent in their job and handle the responsibilities fairly. I wish you and other 5 people running for this position much luck.
Diane Boyle November 06, 2012 at 08:52 PM
I have had the fortunate experience of getting to know you and your wife Karen this last year and am confident that you will represent the citizens of Springfield fairly and without party partison whatsoever. Jim you have my vote!!!
a November 07, 2012 at 04:07 AM
unfortunately anonymous is right which is why i voted against it, nothning personal.
Geri Ann Bujnowski November 07, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Your right Bart, once something is studied it should never be looked at again.

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