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New Jersey's Multiple Municipal Madness Paperback – October 1, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press (October 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813525667
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813525662
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #525,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

ALAN KARCHER, the former Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly during the activist 1980s, currently practices municipal law in Middlesex County. He represents the third generation of his family to serve as a member of the New Jersey State Legislature.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jon Shure on January 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
When Alan Karcher was the Speaker of the NJ General Assembly he never shied away from controversy. He was one of the more outspoken politicians ever in the state. That comes out clearly in his book about how and why New Jersey became a state with 566 municipalities. There are far too many and they are far too small for New Jersey to be a place that is governed efficiently. One of the results is that in return for our penchant for "home rule" we pay the highest local property taxes in the US. Karcher's look into the history of how this happened is enchanting. He tells us that the boundaries were drawn by people long dead for reasons no longer valid. And in all too many cases the reasons had less to do with logic than with keeping "undesirables" out of a particular town or settling often selfish political disputes. He tells us, for example, that Florham Park came about because a couple whose first names were Florence and Hamilton (hence the name) wanted to pay lower taxes; and that Victory Gardens was created because another town didn't want as residents the African Americans who came to New Jersey to work in an ordnance factory in World War Two. The history is reason enough to read this book but Karcher didn't stop there. He offered his own bold plan for how to rectify this mess. Don't look for the Legislature to pass it any time soon, but do read and enjoy. Unfortunately, the author died in the summer of 1999. He left behind a rich career of political activism and a book that one wishes were fiction but is not.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Acute Observer on August 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
The title is question-begging. The "madness" is the result of subdivision of governments by and for the people of New Jersey in order to attain a political goal. The 'Introduction' says municipal boundaries were drawn for personal and economic reasons. The 'Index' does not contain the entry "Company Town", even though it is mentioned in the text (as in Helmetta). Karcher does not mention how the 13 counties in 1776 became 21 counties in the 20th century. This was done for the right reasons: the people voted for it. In other states counties were created as the population increased so as to keep a manageable area. (Laura Ingalls Wilder mentions this in one of her books.) Claiming that 200 of the municipalities have small tax bases also ignores why that was not a problem under the 1844 NJ Constitution (p.4). Chapter 1 concludes with the 8 reasons they created municipalities. Karcher avoids the policies of NJ's power elite, such as the lack of Initiative & Referendum, the 1947 Constitution, etc. Any law to allow solving the problems would require a constitutional change (as in "mortmain" Chapter 2). The example of New York City as over-consolidation is due to its power elite's wish to have the greatest population in the country (p.18). Why would anyone want this for any state?

Chapter 3 explains how one large township is now nine separate municipalities. Sectional conflicts created Monroe Township (p.21). Taxes also caused conflicts (p.23). When the War Department prohibited alcohol in townships, Sayreville changed to a "borough" (p.31). Chapter 4 tells how Shrewsbury Township became 75 separate towns. Some municipalities originated from private real-estate developments (Spring Lake, Deal). Sectional conflicts, alcohol prohibition, and local school control led to this fragmentation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
The book has great revelance for all concerned residents of the Garden State. The author traces the forces that brought forth the creation of 566 local towns,the cost of running so many political subdivisions, how local governments are maintained (through elevated property taxes and sprawl/ratables race)and makes a great case for changing this political system.
The book is a fanastic blend of history, political intrigue and candid insights about institutionalized housing and employment discrimination against African-American, the poor, and now-families with school aged children.
The author even is so bold as to take on the notion of Home Rule. Showing that it is more of a "political" huddle (set up by special interest groups) rather than a real "legal" impediment to change. The author also attacks the "entrenched system" for allowing public officials to hold multiple political offices at once.
Overall this is an outstanding work by someone truly concerned with the future of his state.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By papaphilly on January 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
Alan Karcher has done a remarkable job of explaining why NJ has as many municipalities (566) as it does for such a small state. Most of the reasons were petty and personal. Most were set for racial, ethnic, or religious reasons. Some were set up to keep out the wrong economic types. Most of these municipalities could not exist if the state government did not help them with money. Karcher has done a great job of offering a historical perspective of the state that started when our country was young and continues to today. He also has offered his vision of how to fix what is wrong with the system. Personally as a resident of NJ, I think that I could make ice cubes in very hot places before NJ changes its way of doing things. If you want to know why NJ is the way that it is and why it happened, then this is a great read. Karcher is also very knowledgeable of the inside workings of the state because he was the assembly leader during much of the 1980's.
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