Since 1993, Howell Township has been governed by the Optional Municipal Charter Law, also known as the Faulkner Act. Our Township operates under the Council-Manager plan in this form of government. In this plan, our Mayor and four Council members serve four-year terms and hire a manager to conduct the day-to-day operations of our township. The role of our Mayor and Council is limited to legislative duties. They appoint a manager, a municipal clerk, and a tax assessor, and have a role in the selection of the municipal attorney. Our Mayor and Council also have the important role in appointing residents to our Planning and Zoning Boards, as well as other advisory boards and committees.
The manager acts as the chief executive and appoints department heads and prepares the municipal budget that is revised and approved by our Council. The manager must attend all Council meetings and may take part in discussions, but has no vote. The manager serves at the pleasure of our Council and may be removed by a majority vote at any time.
Under the Council-Manager plan, Howell residents have the right to amend or change their form of government through a process called "initiative and referendum." One of these possible amendments includes changing from partisan to nonpartisan municipal elections. This occurs when residents form a Committee of Petitioners and circulate a petition to gather signatures in order to have a ballot question submitted to the voters at the next election.
Once the Petitioners obtain the required number of signatures and the petition is certified by the municipal clerk, the proposed ballot question is forwarded to the Monmouth County Clerk of Elections to be placed on the ballot.
ABOUT NONPARTISAN ELECTIONS
Howell Township currently holds partisan municipal elections every two years. Historically, candidates for Mayor or Council must run under the party line of either the local Republican or Democratic parties to have a viable chance of winning a seat on Council. These elections tend to be divisive and highly partisan, often distracting voters from important local issues or a candidate’s qualifications.
Interestingly, nearly half of the voters in Howell are registered as unaffiliated (not associated with a political party). A nonpartisan Council will allow for broader representation of Howell residents. This will help prevent the hiring of partisan professionals beholden to partisan interests. It will also help ensure that the appointment of members to the Planning and Zoning Boards is not done based on party affiliation. For too many years, the hiring of partisan professionals and partisan appointments to our boards and committees has been a disservice for the collective good of Howell residents.
Changing to nonpartisan elections has several benefits: -Elect candidates based on ideas and qualifications, not party affiliation -Promotes coalition building to effectively conduct township business -Creates a fairer election process for unaffiliated and/or independent candidates -Candidates can run together regardless of party affiliation -Candidates focus on local issues, rather than party platforms -Reduces gamesmanship with party politics -Reduces influence of political parties -Eliminates blind voting straight down party line
There are 88 municipalities in New Jersey that hold nonpartisan elections. There are 42 municipalities in New Jersey operating under the Council-Manager plan and 16 of them hold nonpartisan elections. There are 53 municipalities in Monmouth County and 11 of them hold nonpartisan elections, including Tinton Falls, Ocean Township, Asbury Park and Long Branch.