Faulkner Act - Mayor-Council-Administrator
In accordance with a ballot question that was passed in November 2005, Berkeley Heights switched from a Township Committee form to a Mayor-Council-Administrator form of government under the Faulkner Act or OMCL ( Optional Municipal Charter Law ).
There are 4 categories of municipalities under the Faulkner Act. The Mayor-Council-Administrator form that was chosen by Berkeley Heights is the least common of the 4, in fact only 3 municipalities in NJ have chosen this category: Berkeley Heights (2007), North Brunswick and West Millford.
I believe in hindsight this is the worst of the categories for us as it has put far too much power in the hands of a few. The reason this is true is because elections are partisan, staggered and at-large. For the other 2, Mayor-Council and Council-Manager, there are options of partisan/non-partisan, staggered/non-staggered and at-large/ward that are allowable. However, for the Mayor-Council-Administrator there are no options.
Berkeley Heights converted to the mayor-council-administrator system in 2007. This choice is now rearing its head in many negative ways. I question if people who run for local government are looking to contribute or make a positive difference anymore. There is too much money being spent, too much mistrust and gamesmanship, and too much irrelevant political theater as background noise.
Partisan government at our level makes our town less desirable to live in. Berkeley Heights is often referred to as Bickering Heights. There is a lack of balance of power in this town and a very small group continuously dictates the local politics, alienating the majority of the town especially anyone with conflicting opinions. A partisan government in Berkeley Heights has also lead to a complete meltdown of any municipal accountability.
To make matters worse, in the case of the $31,500,000 municipal building project, the current partisan team has chosen to bypass a check of power granted to the people by the Faulkner Act which is the right to referendum.
As in all Faulkner Act municipalities, citizens in the OMCL mayor–council–administrator system enjoy the right of recall,initiative, and referendum, meaning that proposed ordinances can be introduced directly by the people without action by the local governing body. One of the main functions of the Faulkner Municipalities is that the people have the final say. It is basically our right to veto. This powerful tool of direct democracy is designed to give citizens a voice in government when local elected officials are unresponsive or overly influenced by special interests.
When you couple the bloc voting of a purely partisan team with the removal of any veto from the people, what are we left with? A town government that serves special interest, that is unchecked by its residents and is accountable to no-one. A council that tax and spends at will with minimal oversight, which attacks their own constituents when questioned and who hides much of their dealings in private back room meetings.