Perfectly Planned Interview: Randall Solomon, Rutgers NJSSI Director, on improving the quality of life in NJ municipalities.

Randall Solomon_Headshot



Randall Solomon is the Executive Director of NJSSI and serves as the spokesperson and outreach for Sustainable New Jersey. NJSSI one of the core partners of the program.

Deputy Mayor Fred Profeta is strongly committed to environmental issues, and his passion for sustainable communities is transforming how Maplewood Township develops sustainably. Maplewood is one of the participating municipalities in Sustainable NJ.

I wanted to know exactly how our residents will benefit from the program and scheduled an interview with the Director of NJSSI, Randall Solomon, to ask him my main question about the program. “Will our property taxes reduce from money saved in more sustainable local government land use practices and services provided?” I wanted to know.Essentially, the program sounds great, but what’s the fiscal benefit?  It’s a relevant question because in Maplewood residents feel burdened by high property taxes.

I met with Randall Solomon at his office at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy this past week.  Mr. Solomon answered my main question, and more, about the Sustainable New Jersey program.

W. S. Hughes: In order to need a Sustainable NJ communities must be unsustainable, and that would mean municipalities bear some responsibility. How do local governments contribute to an unsustainable NJ?

Randall Solomon: All of the issues related to sustainability – traffic, global warming, toxic materials, safe reliable healthy food, municipalities play a role in this.  How they play a role varies.  With regard to suburban sprawl and open space and creating walk able, livable communities, municipalities control zoning and land use.  Regarding exposure to toxic materials, municipalities can pass ordinances to protect the public health. They can decide what kinds of cleaning supplies and pesticides they use on public facilities.  For greenhouse gas emissions municipalities create a lot of emissions from their own facilities – buildings, trash collections, municipal fleet. So they can do a lot to green their operations.  The can also do a lot to support residents and businesses in greening how they live as well – their homes, their cars, their lifestyles.

W. S. Hughes: Municipalities that participate in Sustainable NJ are expected to complete actions to qualify for recognition and incentives.  How important are the actions? Will the actions significantly reduce the revenue a municipality spends on services provided?

Randall Solomon: There are a lot of different actions. Some of the actions will save you money because that is the nature of the action. A lot of the energy efficient programs will save you money immediately such as the compact fluorescent light bulbs or energy audits for municipal buildings.  Some things might take some time to save money, but in time they will, like installing solar panels.

For each of the actions we outline the costs and the benefits in Sustainable Jersey so that the municipality can see what the likely costs and savings will be, and again, it will vary from action to action.   Some will save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, and others will roll the savings back into new sustainable programs.  It depends on what their priorities are.

With a lot of these programs there is a lot of money to save.  For a lot of municipalities it’s about finding ways to do the right thing without losing money.

W. S. Hughes: Will the cut in revenue spent on services translate into a cut in property taxes for residents in participating municipalities?

Randall Solomon: Many of the programs of Sustainable Jersey will save money, some will cost money. But overall, it wont impact the costs much one way or another. The vast majority of services that municipalities pay for are fixed to pay for things like schools and administration.

In terms of the municipal budget, are people going to see appreciable changes in the amount of taxes they pay, in the short term in relation to the whole municipal budget, probably not.

It’s still the right thing to do.  If you can improve the quality of life in your town or the odds of having a better life for your children and it’s not costing you more, why wouldn’t you do it?

W. S. Hughes: My blog is read by people outside of Maplewood township. What steps can a NJ resident take who wants their municipality to participate in Sustainable NJ?

Randall Solomon:Approach the mayor and members of the council or other municipal officials, the planning board or environmental commission and express your support for your municipality participating in the program. Ultimately it has to go through official government channels and all the things that come into play in making normal local politics come into play in a municipality joining Sustainable NJ.

There is a lot on the Sustainable Jersey website to help people make the case.

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Resources for Green Business Owners: There are resources for sustainable development by the business sector. According to Mr. Solomon “There are a lot of government incentives as well, hundreds of millions of dollars, available to businesses and municipalities to do these kinds of things as well.  If you’re a business interested in sustainability got to www.NJ Cleanenergy.com.”

Generating local news on Maplewood’s participation in Sustainable NJ:

© 2010 W. S. Hughes

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. black hattitude says:

    Hi,

    thanks for the great quality of your blog, every time i come here, i’m amazed.

    black hattitude

  2. Very kind of you black hattitude! very kind. – w

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