Mayor & Council of New Providence, NJ
Mayor J. Brooke Hern
Welcome to the 2014 reorganization meeting of the New Providence Borough Council.
Looking ahead to the work we have before us, we can be confident that the results of our work over the past year will serve as a solid foundation for building a strong prosperous future for New Providence.
As a governing body, we have continued to make substantial progress on important programs and policies that continue to save tax dollars, improve services, and strengthen our quality of life.
As always, our progress continues to be the result of a collective effort on the part of our elected officials, Borough employees, and many volunteers. Although government always seems to move more slowly than any of us would like, we were able to realize many important goals in 2013.
Among them, we completed the Hillview Field Renovation project, which includes two turf baseball fields, and a newly graded and sodded soccer field with improved drainage. This is the first phase of a three-step plan to address the great demand on our athletic fields, and to remedy poor conditions that have resulted from years of over use.
We also invested in public safety by replacing a 25-year-old truck with a new pumper, by funding trench rescue equipment that enables our firefighters to safely respond to dangerous conditions, by funding a new ambulance and new defibrillators for use by the police, Fire Department and EMS, and which will also be deployed in Borough facilities and parks.
We invested in our public works department with the purchase of a new sewer jet, and funding for a new street sweeper which will be ordered this year.
We further invested in our infrastructure, by milling and paving of five roads, micropaving 16 other roads, and finishing stage two of the Veterans Park project.
This past year, we continued our work in the development of a new, state-of-the-art, emergency dispatch center, which we will share with Summit and Millburn. Funded with the help of $1.7 million in federal grants, the dispatch center is expected to be in operation, here in New Providence, by July of this year. It will meet all the new requirements imposed on the Borough, and it will increase the effectiveness in the dispatch of police, Fire Department and EMS personnel.
This past year, we continued in our efforts to market and sell the first of four liquor licenses, that will permit a restaurant to serve liquor for consumption on the premises– for the very first time in our history.
This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.
In November 2011, voters approved a referendum to permit consumption liquor licenses in New Providence based upon our stated goal of using it as an economic development tool, to attract high-quality restaurants to our town, increase consumers on our sidewalks, and benefit our local business community as a whole.
We enacted a tough new ordinance that ensures that any establishment serving alcohol is consistent with our shared vision of making New Providence better.
I know there are some who believe that our ordinance is too tough. And I know there are some who believe that our price is too high. But the kind high-quality restaurants we seek have no problem whatsoever with the requirements of our ordinance, or the minimum bid we established. There’s been only one obstacle that we’ve yet to overcome, and that’s the availability of real estate.
So there are three components to this issue: regulation, price, and real estate. We as a government have absolute control over the first two, and we have none over the last. As policy makers, we have the good sense to know that we can set the stage for economic development, but it’s ultimately up to the business community to develop our economy.
And although market conditions have not been perfect, so far, we’ve come close enough that we should not lower our standards merely to unload a liquor license and get a bar in New Providence.
We don’t want that, and we don’t need it. Sometimes, things take longer than we want, but that doesn’t mean we should compromise. And we don’t have to. Our business district continues to grow more vibrant every day. Sometimes, things take longer than we want.
My own efforts to get Starbucks to come to New Providence took more than a decade. For years, I repeatedly arranged for Starbucks to visit different locations, and nothing was quite right. We even had a close call several years ago; a letter of intent was signed, but the deal collapsed. And now, after all this time, and all that effort, Starbucks is moving to the Village Shopping Center in 2014. It’s a destination that will bring people to our downtown, and many of those people patronize our other stores and restaurants.
So when it comes to a consumption liquor license, let’s be patient. Let’s allow the private sector the time that’s required to take this opportunity, and turn it into a successful business enterprise that lifts our local economy, and improves our quality of life.
And really, improving our quality of life is the reason we’re here tonight. So many of us in this room tonight, have answered a call to serve our community. Expecting nothing in return. And knowing that our only sure reward is the satisfaction we derive from having devoted our time and energy to making things at least a little bit better – and knowing that we made a difference.
If you’re among those who have never made that kind of commitment to New Providence, I encourage you to do so in 2014.
Become a firefighter, join the rescue squad, volunteer for a board, coach a baseball team, or, perhaps, run for mayor. There are so many great and talented people in New Providence, and each of us should do whatever our time, energy and talents will allow. It is all about sacrifice, but you can make a difference.
As I was preparing my thoughts for this evening, I realized that I’m in my 10th year of serving in elected office in New Providence. Probably, as long, or longer, than any one person should serve.
I served six years as a councilman, and I’m starting my fourth year as mayor. And I asked myself, has it been worth the sacrifices that I’ve made. Is anything any different now that when I started? Have I made any difference at all?
I thought about how things were on this Council when I first took the oath office in August of 2004. And things were a lot different – even besides the fact that none of these other six gentleman were up here with me.
Meetings weren’t televised, and disagreements were generally not aired in public. In fact, it was common practice for members of council to skip a meeting rather than vote no. In other instances, when a resolution or ordinance had enough votes to pass, dissenting members would remain silent and vote yes, merely to achieve a unanimous vote.
Today, every council meeting is televised, and every councilman speaks his mind and votes however he chooses. As a result, there is now an unprecedented level of transparency in our local government, and our residents are able to weigh different sides of complex issues and form an educated opinion about important policy decisions that impact the future of our town.
Because of that, our Council is better able to represent the people we serve. And just as I’m inclined to think that I helped make that difference, each of you should believe that you can make a difference, too.
Over the past ten years, there have been huge and significant policy issues that gripped our community, divided our residents, and which were either decided by the Council, or put to referendum. These were opportunities to make a difference, and I’m glad I was in a position to do so.
In the years ahead, equally important decisions will arise, presenting new opportunities to make a difference. And it will require strong-willed and independently-minded leaders to keep New Providence on a steady course. If you are among the many talented men and women in New Providence who have yet to answer the call to serve our community, I hope you will do so now.
Finally, I want all of our employees and volunteers to know that you are appreciated. Day in and day out, each of you helps to make New Providence the very best it can be. I still believe that our best days lie ahead. And I hope that everyone will join with me in making New Providence even better than it is today.
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