Can township do better?

David Sandahl
Hopewell Township
    It was good to see that The Center for Governmental Research gives the government of Hopewell Township a clean bill of health. A decade of determined effort has left the township with strong systems and practices and enviable financial stability.
   Perhaps now is the time for the Hopewell Township Committee to take a look at itself to ask: “How could we better serve the residents of our town?”
   One obvious way is to reform our ancient form of government and pattern of elections, which currently allow precious little time for governing each year before candidates for the next cycle must be found and campaigning begins. Elections cost money, and off-year elections, as we are about to discover again this year in New Jersey in the special primary and general elections for the U.S. Senate, produce low turnout.
   It would be far better if our local elected officials spent less time campaigning and more time on problem-solving, and we would be better off if we spent less money and effort on so many elections while getting better voter turnout.
   The Township Committee should consider altering its form, perhaps to expand from five to six committee members, and provide a separate, directly elected mayor (as contrasted with the current form, in which the mayor and deputy mayor are elected from within the ranks of the five Township Committee members.)
   Holding elections every two years, on even years, would boost voter turnout while giving our elected officials much more time to do their real work.
   State law gives the Township Committee the power to alter its form by ordinance, subject to the approval of the Legislature. If our current Township Committee really wants better government, the next place to look is at improving our form of government.
   (This writer previously served as deputy mayor, as a member of the Township Committee and on the Planning Board in Hopewell Township).