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Local government in New Jersey

By Ron Rivers,

Contributed to OurSociety by Donna Russo

Local government in New Jersey is composed of counties and municipalities. These counties together contain 565 municipalities, or administrative entities composed of clearly defined territory; 250 boroughs, 52 cities, 15 towns, 244 townships, and 4 villages. With five types and twelve forms of local government (plus several non-standard forms in municipalities with special charters), some areas of New Jersey are administered significantly differently from other states. To make matters more complex, New Jersey also distinguishes between regional, consolidated, and county-wide school districts and school districts that serve only a single municipality.

There are 21 counties in New Jersey. These counties together contain 565 municipalities, or administrative entities composed of clearly defined territory; 250 boroughs, 52 cities, 15 towns, 244 townships, and 4 villages.

Each type of municipality has equal legal standing, rights, and powers as any other type or form. Unlike other parts of the United States, New Jersey does not have different tiers of power or legal standing for its municipal governments.


The borough form of government is New Jersey’s most common, being used by over 200 of the state’s municipalities.


In this form of government, a mayor is elected at-large plus eight council members – two from each of four wards. The mayor presides over council meetings and votes as a member of the council. The mayor has veto power over ordinances that can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the council. All appointments to municipal offices are performed by the council. Currently, only nine of the state’s 15 towns still have the town form of government.


The township form of government has a group of elected of cials (the township committee) which serves as both the executive and legislative authority. The township committee has either three or five members elected at-large. Every year, the committee chooses one of their members to be the “mayor”, becoming the moderator for meetings of the township committee but having no special powers. In general, all legislative and executive powers are exercised by the committee as a whole. The committee, however, may appoint an administrator to oversee day-to-day operations of the municipality. The township form of government is only available to municipalities that are of the township type. Out of the 246 townships in the state, the township form of government is used by 144 of them.


This form consists of a five-member Board of Trustees elected for staggered three-year terms. The board selects a president and a treasurer from among the members. While there are four municipalities that retain the Village type of government (Loch Arbour, Ridge eld Park, Ridgewood and South Orange), none of them still use the Village form of government.


Local laws, usually called ordinances, are made much in the same way State and Federal laws are made. The local legislative body (such as town council, city council, etc.) sees a demonstrated need for controlling a situation that is particular and unique to their jurisdiction. If they cannot find a State or Federal law that applies to their problem, they can pass a local law to control it. This local law (ordinance) must NOT conflict with any State or Federal law that exists or it could be successfully challenged in court.

A good law is one that works and benefits the people who must abide by that law. Assuming that by “good” we mean acceptable in the democratic concept, a “good” law is one which is: 1) Clear 2) Possible to follow 3) Enforceable 4) Consistent with the country’s constitutional right. Others would add that the law should also have a “worthwhile purpose” (although worthwhile seems open to value judgments) and which should also be “fair” (but we could also say that laws should be enforced equally or applied equally to all citizens).

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Power in Purple

By Ron Rivers,

Why Purple?

Purple is the combination of Red and Blue, the two current representations of American politics.  At our core the OurSociety experiment is about uniting people together. In the modern information, age communication is globally integrated linking us all closer together than ever before; we’re helping to update our local government practice and procedure to best take advantage of this interconnectivity in order to create more experimentation and innovation at a community level.  Anyone can be involved in the OurSociety platform regardless of socioeconomic status, race, religion, etc. with equal voice and say. We care about proposed policies, plans, and visions and if a citizen is willing to commit their time to researching and developing a plan for improvement we believe they deserve to be heard. Taking advantage of our collective human capital and innovation empowers the individual citizen to have more agency within their communities and governance.

In addition to our idealistic reasoning for the color purple, there is also significant data and evidence available that supports the belief that America is not majorly red or blue, but rather purple. In 2000 Robert Vanderbi of Princeton University created the first Purple America map which more accurately described the temperature of politics within the United States. The data from Purple America helps to support our message that citizens have more in common than we think and OurSociety is going to prove it.

Designing on Vision

Organizational logos are a powerful way to explain your vision and organization to people in an instant, which is why we took the task of creating ours very seriously at OurSociety. Logos of successful organizations are instantly recognizable and often convey emotion and understanding associated with the feeling of using the company’s products or services. The challenge we faced in designing our logo was how to incorporate the big vision of the OurSociety experiment into a single image.

OurSociety is a centralized local governance platform designed to empower individuals to make the correct political decision easier than ever. We use the data we collect to identify trends among the voting populace and share that information with the public in the form of data based truthful information. OurSociety creates a bridge for people to have more involvement within their community without having to attend a specific town hall meeting while ensuring that the content is relevant, truthful, and accurate. Most importantly we approach this vision from a local government standpoint where it matters most, your community. What was the best way to convey this information to an artist? Is anything we said actually tangible? We had some tough questions to answer but here is what we came up with:

“The logo should convey direction/purpose and can include elements of the following: total inclusiveness (all of our society) aka coming together, data (we will be using the data we collect to impact positive social change), and should include the color purple (combo of blue and red)…”
– taken from our internal notes for the design process

When we received the initial artwork our entire team was in love. The check marks in the logo represent two separate pieces of data coming together to form a decision. Each individual “bar” represents information (data) provided to us by and/or given to our users.

The data comes together to form a check mark – a symbol of decision and choice. This really spoke to us because at our core we are about empowering our users to make better decisions in regards to your beliefs and interests through factual data instead of the traditional rhetoric.

Adding the dot above the check was a way to humanize the experience; creating an image of a person with arm raised in participation, saying “I’m in!”. OurSociety is a collaborative project for all of us and your engagement is crucial to our collective success. Engagement can be defined as telling us about yourself and your Societal Values so that we can help vote based off of your values instead of an arbitrary party designation and/or as getting involved by submitting policy, plan, and vision articles. No matter how you choose to utilize the OurSociety utility we want you to know that your voice gets equal representation in our data, no single person regardless of political, economic, or social standing has a higher (or lower) value than you.

Bringing the circle of the checks together demonstrates unity with no beginning or end; participation and engagement by our users to help define OurSociety. Internally we define OurSociety as a concept rather than a product; in today’s age of exponential growth of technology and information we need to view our collective society as a social technology. As with any other technology we must constantly experiment and innovate our practices and procedures within society in order to improve them. OurSociety provides a centralized, uniform platform for creating this type of environment for improvement by utilizing data collection and aggregation to determine the wants and needs of communities both large and small. The data is released to the public to help further understanding about collective wants and to inspire collaborative projects. By fostering active participation within the OurSociety we will be able to provide clear direction and purpose for our local community governments; helping elected civil servants lead more efficiently while empowering an entirely new generation to become involved in our process.


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OurSociety Free Local Election Campaign Platfor - 501c3 non-profit company