An interesting http://www.nj.com/news/local/index.ssf/2010/07/municipal_watchdog_groups_form.html" target="_blank">story from North Jersey: Scads of local taxpayer groups are popping up in the wake of government cutbacks and tax increases.
It’s interesting, too, that not all of them are playing an adversarial role. Some are forming to support municipal or school budgets from what they see as widespread misconceptions about overspending.
Either way, getting the public involved and getting more sets of eyes on local government is a healthy development. I’m not sure it’s happening to the same degree in southern New Jersey — but it should. And it can be very effective in holding down taxes and promoting transparency in government. Ocean City, for example, has had several grassroots groups for many years, including the very active anti-tax organization, Fairness in Taxes. When The Press looked at tax increases in towns over the past 10 years, Ocean City’s increases were one of the lowest.
But whatever their focus, having more taxpayers involved in watching their local governments and school boards is critical. This is a difficult — perhaps a transitional — time for government. Grassroots people who don’t have an ax to grind or a pet project to hype need to get involved.
Interested in starting such a group, or getting more members? E-mail me at email@example.com, and let me know where people can contact you. I’ll post the information in a future blog.