June 12, 2005

Taxpayers Could Be Footing Bill For Freeholder Campaign Literature

Like the rest of the households in Union County last week mine was the recipient of the publication “Union County Directions”, a news vehicle published by the Union County Alliance. In fact, because I work for a business in Union County I had the dubious pleasure of receiving two copies.

Coming out just days before the primary election, it could have been called the “Freeholder Gazette” and easily mistaken for campaign literature. The 24 page publication featured articles about the activities of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders on no less than 18 pages including a picture square in the middle of page one of board chairman Rick Procter, who is up for reelection this year.

Numerous other pics included the other two freeholders who are also up for reelection, Nancy Ward and Angel Estrada, or quotes attributed to them. There was also shots of Freeholder Dan Sullivan, the county manager, the clerk of the board, and a few of Sheriff Froehlich, the county clerk and surrogate. I guess newly elected Freeholders Adrian Mapp and BJ Kowalski were absent that day as they are conspicuously missing from the action shots and also it appears that they don’t say much.

Freeholders Deborah Scanlon and Chester Holmes were modestly accounted for, they are both up for reelection next year as is Al Mirabella, who was MIA. I guess he has other plans for next year's election and didn’t need to have his face plastered all over this publication.

Not knowing much about the "Alliance" I decided to check it out. I learned that the Alliance was formed in 1993 during difficult economic times in Union County, “for the purpose of creating a single strong voice with which to address the county's problems” according to the Kean University website.

Called A Coalition for Action whose board of directors is made up of representatives from Verizon, Trinitas Hospital, Union County College, Elizabethtown Water, PSE&G, Wachovia Bank, Wakefern, the iron workers union and many other corporations, legal firms, government officials, educators and investment bankers.

The Alliance website, http://www.ucalliance.com/ , features 8 priotities which have been identified as core issues by members of the executive committee. These priorities focus on public safety, transportation, healthcare, education, improving the county economically, Brownfield development, legislation, the Alliance’s annual conference and lastly continuing to publish a countywide newspaper for distribution to more than 200,000 Union County homes and businesses “which will serve as a keepsake tool of valuable information.”

The Union County Alliance is a 401c nonprofit funded by dues collected from its members. The publication is paid for by the sale of advertisements, most of which in this issue are for government-connected entities with only a few exceptions. And further according to a reliable source the newsletter is put together by Union County Public Information Department employees in the county administration building.

Seems as though the taxpayers are actually footing the bill for this thinly disguised Freeholder campaign piece. It also seems as though the other members of the Alliance are getting the short shrift, as there are few articles about what the likes of PSE&G, Verizon or Trinitas are doing for the betterment of the community.

County residents keeping an eye on their mailboxes will see that just like clockwork, a few days prior to the general election, the fall edition of Union County Directions will be delivered. It's just about guaranteed that featured in pictures and articles will be the three Union County Freeholders whose names will appear on the ballot just a few days later. This involuntary taxpayer funding of political campaigns is sure to continue until the public resoundingly voices its opposition.

Look your edition over, evaluate it and than contact the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission at P.O. Box 185 Trenton, NJ 08625-0185 Tel. (609) 292-8700 or Toll Free in NJ 1-888-313-ELEC (3532) or http://www.elec.state.nj.us/