The way Clifton City Mayor James Anzaldi sees it, for New Jersey's financially strapped cities and towns to gain relief, there has to be an effort at bipartisanship between Gov.-elect Chris Christie's Republican administration and the Democratic-controlled Legislature, and a reduction in state mandates on local governments.
Anzaldi will be urging bipartisanship and mandate relief in an effort to bring about property tax reduction as he serves a year as president of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, the Trenton-based lobbying arm for the state's over 650 municipalities.
The 19-year mayor of the Passaic County city will be sworn in Friday as the climax to the League's annual convention, which has brought thousands of local and state officials to Atlantic City this week.Anzaldi, a Republican, will replace Hope Mayor Tim McDonough, a Democrat, as the League's chief elected representative to the Christie administration and Legislature. Anzaldi is serving his fifth term as mayor and was the first to be elected to a third term. He was the youngest person ever elected to the city council in 1978.
"The number one thing is that something has to be done about property taxes. It has been a charge for the League for years,‘' Anzaldi said Wednesday. He said the potential cost of providing affordable housing to municipalities also has to be examined by the new administration and Legislature.
"State mandates are one of the things we really have to fight about,‘' the mayor said. "If we are going to talk about property tax relief, there have been so many mandates over the years and more are added every year.'' He said, for example, a state recycling charge of $3 on every ton of garbage cost Clifton $100,000 last year. "These kind of things just add up,'' he said.
Anzaldi said he feels partisan politics at the Statehouse has hurt New Jersey in recent years and he is hopeful elected officials will make an effort to end it.
"One of the problems is that the parties are so divided by partisanship that they can't get anything done,'' he said. "I've been around for a long time now and as governors and legislators come in and out the partisanship gets pretty heavy. The last time we had someone who crossed party lines to make things happen was (Gov.) Tom Kean. Since that time there has been a lot of partisanship.
"In order to solve our problems, they have to come to some compromise,'' the mayor said. "These economic times demand an end to partisanship. I think the League will do everything it can to work with the state government to try to come up with solutions."
Anzaldi will be on the dais Thursday when Christie and Gov. Jon Corzine address local officials at a convention luncheon at the Sheraton Hotel.
Property tax caps, civil service, binding arbitration, public employee pension contributions are also prime issues on Anzaldi's agenda.
William Dressel, the League's director, said he and McDonough have written Christie that local officials are ready to support his promise of property tax relief and frugal management.