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Mayor and Council

Robert H. Conley, Mayor
(973) 593-3038
Hartley Dodge Memorial Building
50 Kings Road
Madison, NJ 07940 (map)

Mayor's 2012 Message

Welcome Governor Codey, Sherriff Rochford, Assemblyman John Mc Keon, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey. I also want to welcome former Mayor Gary Ruckelshaus, and former council members Connie Stober, Fran Mantone, Frank Benedict, Bill Primus, Martin Barbato, Astri Baillie, Don Bowen and Gary Ruckelshaus. Thank you for your service on behalf of Madison. Also welcome to my family (all ten of siblings couldn’t make it but I believe we have a quorum), friends and residents of Madison.

And a thank you to the NFL for agreeing to move the time of the Giants game, so that it wouldn’t conflict with these proceedings

Thank you to Mary-Anna for 14 years of dedicated service to Madison. And I wish her the best of luck serving on the Board of Public Utilities and in all of her future endeavors.

Thank you to Sam Cerciello, for your service to Madison while serving on this Council and I welcome you back to your previous role as “Liaison to the People”

Welcome back Carmela Vitale, your experience will help you to hit the ground running, something that will be extremely valuable with the work that needs to be accomplished in the coming year.

And welcome to Bob Ladrigan, who is expanding his role as one of Madison’s busiest volunteers. Your knowledge of Borough operations will allow you to jump right into the work at hand.

Welcome back to our returning Council members, Jeannie Tsukamoto, Dr. Vincent Esposito, Don Links and Rob Catalanello. And yes, we are over our quota of Roberts up here, it brings a whole different meaning to Roberts Rules!

As I prepared my remarks I took a look to the past through the Mayors’ annual messages. It is interesting how history often repeats itself.

It was 32 years ago, that Betty Baumgartner sat in this chair, starting the first of her two terms as mayor. At that time she talked about the uncertain economy, the need for open government and the challenges to our downtown. Much has changed over the past three decades, and much has remained the same. In the next few minutes I will touch on some of these issues and on others.

Mayor Baumgartner’s time in office was much like the past decade.  It was marked by bi-partisan leadership. I will be the fourth straight Mayor who will have spent at least part of their term leading a Council from the opposite party.  While Washington and Trenton struggle with partisan politics, it is clear that Madison thrives. We all run under a party label, but when the election is over, we lead for all of Madison.

As we look to the next year, the challenges may look substantial, but the solutions will come by all of us working together with a long range look to the future.

Our capital needs are many and our funding sources are limited. In the coming years, our investments for the future will be far less glamorous than the construction of turf fields and the renovation of Lincoln Place. Our basic infrastructure needs serious attention. This goes from the obvious – roads needing reconstruction – to the less obvious (unless you’re in the wrong neighborhood) of storm water management and to the hidden ticking bombs of our sewer collection system and aging pump stations.

With limited resources, we must be more prudent with our capital spending. Department heads and the CFO have prepared a five-year capital plan. From this point forward, this plan will become front and center for the Borough government, as it represents is a needed spending plan but it is unfortunately, not a fully funded plan.

As we make decisions on 2012 capital projects they must be made with a clear understanding of their long-term implications. Any project that is eligible for funding from the state or other sources cannot move forward without our first having exhausted all possible avenues of supplemental funding. In 2012 we cannot afford go-it-alone funding. Of course, we cannot recruit funding partners without contributing our share of the costs; therefore, the 2012 budget must include the reestablishment of an annual transfer of monies to the capital fund.

Another challenge we face came very clear to me in the Town meetings that I ran this past year. Madison residents greatly appreciate the services provided by the borough. Consistently, Public Safety, and the Library were at the top of the list of services that Madison residents value and appreciate.  They are what makes Madison great. Also appreciated, was having sewer and garbage pickup included in the basic services provided by the Borough. Of course this all came with a “But.” I heard many times, “We appreciate these services BUT can you deliver them more cheaply.” This will be a substantial challenge for our government, but it is one we must meet.

We will meet this challenge through:

Expanded Shared services. Just as we cannot afford to turn our back on grants for capital in 2012, we cannot afford to ignore the benefits of shared services. This past year we have seen how a single, Joint Court has saved its four member communities a half a million dollars. The coming years will give us even more opportunity to work together. I have already talked to several mayors of neighboring communities about meeting on a regular basis to discuss cost-shared service opportunities. I would love to expand this concept to an annual “conference” of our Councils and Committees. The more dialog we have with our neighbors, the more can accomplish together.

Strategic Planning - Unless we look out to the future we will never be able to tackle the challenges of today.

The Library is committed to developing a strategic plan. A plan that will address the facility needs as well as the programs they provide. The Library in the year 2020 will be far different than it was in the year 2000. The Health Department is another rapidly evolving program. They have developed a business plan to expand services to new communities, but they now need a full strategic plan. These are just two elements of what will eventually grow into a strategic plan for all of the Borough of Madison.

This will be an enormous undertaking and VOLUNTEERS ARE WELCOME.

For committees and boards not immediately working on long-range plans, I will be asking for their goals and objectives for 2012, to be shared with the community before the end of February.

Reduction of Short-term debt - A year ago, two promises were made, one that there would be a state-of-the art artificial turf facility on the newly acquired 49 acres; and two, that it would not cost the taxpayers a dime. This spring we will be opening the facility for use.  We have a dedicated committee working on the fundraising. Through user fees, naming opportunities, community-wide fundraising events and the addition of major partners, they are committed to delivering on this goal.  And the Council and I are committed to supporting their efforts. We will also continue to apply for Green Acres funding to reduce the short term debt on the land purchase.

The last area I want to touch on is another brought up by Mayor Baumgartner 32 years ago, and that is the concept of open government. As was pointed out this past year, the people you see in the front of the room have been elected to make the tough decisions; however, we can only do that through a process that encourages input and participation from our residents. We will achieve this goal through several avenues:

Town Meetings - I have talked often of the town meetings that I conducted this past year. Much of what I have covered today came from input from these meetings. The town meetings will become a formal part of the way we do business. While the topics will vary, the format will remain consistent. Part one will be to provide information, in order to give our residents a better understanding of Borough government. In the town meetings I paraphrased the clothier Cy Sims, “An educated resident is our best citizen.”

Part two of the meetings will involve resident participation.  Through discussion questions we will get important input from our residents. This input will not only assist the Council in the decision process but will also serve as part of the data gathering necessary for the development of a strategic plan.

Strong Committees - The success of Madison is closely tied to the work that is done at the committee level. Just look at Betty’s comments related to the challenges of the Downtown. Out of that grew the concept of the Downtown Development Commission. Yes, Madison’s downtown has its challenges but through the work of the DDC and the Chamber of Commerce we continue to have a vibrant downtown.

I challenge Council liaisons, Committee Chairs and members to:

  1. Encourage free thinking
  2. Listen with an open mind
  3. Understand there are no right or wrong answers and  there are certainly multiple routes to a solution.
  4. And for the Council Liaisons there will be times when you don’t agree with a committee recommendation. It is your role as a liaison to make sure the recommendation is delivered anyway, and then it is your role a Council member to share your opinion and vote the wayyou see fit when it comes back to this body.

Council Meetings

Through benefit of cable TV and Rosenet.TV more and more residents are watching our proceedings. What we have heard recently is that we did not always put forth the best image of government last year. I have discussed this with our returning members and we are in full agreement, “We can and must do better.” I will be sharing with the Council, a Code of Conduct currently in place in another community. We will use this as a model for Madison, and I will then ask that the Council adopt a similar code. As elected officials, the Mayor and Council must be held to a higher standard, a code of conduct will make it clear to the residents of Madison that we take our position very seriously.

The last area I want to cover under open government is a review of all of our professional contracts. In a few minutes we will be approving a resolution renewing many of our professional contracts for a 60-day period instead of the traditional year. This will allow us to solicit proposals for these services. In doing so we will know that we are getting the best services for the dollar.

We have a busy agenda ahead of us in the coming year.  With a bipartisan team effort from our governing body we can accomplish these goals.

I want to thank the residents of Madison for putting their faith in me and wish all a Happy and Healthy New Year.