Highlands Civics Fact vs Fiction


highlands civicsA Civics Lesson Brought to you by Highlands United:

Facts:

  • The present form of Highlands’ government, aka council-mayor falls under the Faulkner Act otherwise known as the Optional Municipal Charter Law, Small Municipality, which came into effect in Highlands in 1978.

  • The changes following  the Yes vote on the November 2013 Highlands election municipal ballot question is that municipal elections will now be Non-Partisan; this means there will be no banner of Republican, Democrat, Independent or other parties.  Also there will no longer be primaries.

  • Now Persons who wish to be Highlands candidates must be registered voters of Highlands. They may be nominated by petition of at least 3% or one hundred (100) of Highlands registered voters, whichever is less; the number cannot be less than ten. Candidates run on a nonpartisan basis; that is without political party designation or slogan; bracketing of a group of candidates on the ballot is not permitted.  Petitions must be filed at least sixty days before the election.

  • Runoff elections are used only in nonpartisan forms of government. Under the provisions of the Uniform Nonpartisan Elections Law any municipality having nonpartisan elections may decide to have runoff elections or to abandon them if they are already in effect. The change, which must be approved in a referendum, may be initiated either by an ordinance adopted by the governing body or by a petition signed by registered voters equal or greater than 10% of the votes cast at the last preceding election for general assembly.

  • Election of New Highlands Council will fall on the second Tuesday in May at next general election in at least 75 days after the after the referendum for plans with nonpartisan at-large elections.  Installation of New Municipal Government July 1 following election for nonpartisan plans.

  • Initiative and Referendum: Under the Faulkner Act which has been around since 1956, proposed ordinances can be introduced directly by the people, without action by the local governing body. What this means is: once a petition signed by registered voters equal or greater than 10% of the votes cast at the last preceding election for general assembly, the local governing body can either vote to pass the requested ordinance, and if it refuses to vote on it, it is then submitted directly to the voters at the next general election.

Fiction:

  • Non-Partisan Movement changed how much power the mayor has.  No, the structure of the Highlands government has not been changed, only how candidates are presented to the voters.

  • Non-partisan form of government makes Highlands Council fall under the Faulkner Act.  No, Highlands has operated under the Faulkner Act since 1956.

  • Non-Partisan movement is a vast left-wing/right wing conspiracy.   No. Highlands United is made up of 12 people from all different parties: GOP, DEM, IND.

  • Non-Partisan Elections will be the downfall of humanity in Highlands.  No, only an uninformed and misled electorate will do that. 🙂

Faulkner Act (Optional Municipal Charter Law)

Small Municipality

Small Municipality Form (NJSA 40:69A-115)

This form is available only to municipalities under 12,000 in population, although a municipality that grows beyond 12,000 may retain the form. The Small Municipality is commonly thought of as a cross of the two most common “traditional” forms: the township and borough. It is also a strong mayor form in that the mayor exercises the executive authority of the municipality. The mayor may in fact be a stronger position in this form than in the Mayor-Council since he/she is not only the chief executive but also the presiding officer of the council.

The mayor in this form appoints an assessor, tax collector, treasurer, clerk and any officers provided for by local ordinance. He or she also appoints all other officers and employees of the municipality, unless the Civil Service provisions are in effect. The mayor has the dual role of chief executive and presiding officer of the council, and votes with council but has no veto power. The council is the legislative authority of the municipality. Under this form, the council passes ordinances and resolutions, passes the budget, consents to the appointments of the mayor and has investigative powers but it possesses no administrative authority.

VOTERS ELECT
3, 5 or 7 Council members or Mayor and 2, 4 or 6 Council members. Elected at-large. Council: 3 year concurrent or staggered term. Voter elected mayor serves 4 year term. Partisan or nonpartisan elections.

ORGANIZATION OF GOVERNING BODY
Partisan: January 1
Nonpartisan: July 1

MAYOR
Elected by voters or Council. Presides over Council with voice and vote, but no veto. Exercises executive power of the municipality. Appoints Council committees. Appoints municipal clerk, attorney, tax assessor, tax collector, treasurer with Council confirmation. Council elected mayor serves 1 or 3 years, depending on whether terms are staggered or concurrent.

COUNCIL
Exercises legislative power of the municipality. Approves Mayor’s appointees for municipal clerk, attorney, tax assessor, tax collector and treasurer.

ADMINISTRATION
Mayor exercises executive power of municipality. Council may create an administrator by ordinance.

New Jersey State League of Municipalities

OMCL: Direct Petition Process

(1) A petition for direct change to an OMCL charter may be filed at any time. (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-18)

It must be signed by the following percentages of the registered voters:

25% in municipalities of 7,000 or less inhabitants;

20% in municipalities of more than 7,000 and less than 70,000 inhabitants;

10% in municipalities of 70,000 or more inhabitants. (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-19)

(2) The petition must indicate the complete description of the OMCL Plan being proposed.  (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-14, 19)

(3) The petition must meet the following requirements:

(a) All pages must be uniform in size and style,

(b) Each separate petition must have a place for the circulator to sign, indicating that only he or she has personally circulated the petition, and that all signatures were made in his or her presence and are believed to be genuine.

(c) Each petition must include the names and addresses of five voters who are designated as the Committee of Petitioners.

(d) Petitions must be signed in ink or indelible pencil. (e) Signers of the petition must indicate their name and place of residence. (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-186)

(4) All petition papers must be assembled and filed with the municipal clerk as one instrument. (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-187)

(5) The municipal clerk has 20 days to determine whether the petitions are valid and have been signed by a sufficient number of qualified voters.

(a) The clerk certifies the result to the municipal governing body at its next regular meeting.

(b) If the clerk finds the petition to be insufficient, he or she must indicate the reasons why and must notify at least two members of the Committee of Petitioners. The committee of Petitioners then has an additional 10 days to submit supplementary petitions, and the clerk has an additional 5 days to review them. If the clerk finds the petition still to be insufficient, the process is concluded. (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-187, 188)

(6) If the petition is found valid, the municipal clerk schedules a referendum on the question at the next general or regular municipal election to be held at least 60 and no more than 120 days after the petitions were filed or, if there is no regularly scheduled general or regular municipal election within that time period, at a special election in that period. (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-20)

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