Local Controls: Part II – Local Identity


What does it mean to be from a place? What makes your hometown culturally distinct from its neighbors? We asked festivalgoers at Audubon Day to consider the unique identifiers of the borough.

By Matt Skoufalos | Produced by James Mooney
August 1, 2018

Last year, NJ Pen was awarded a collaborative reporting grant from the Center for Cooperative Media to identify the challenges behind municipal mergers — combining towns into a single governmental entity — and to get at the roots of the ideas behind “home rule” politics.

Together with our partners SNJ Today, Courage to Connect NJ, and University of Pennsylvania graduate student Dave Maynard, we’ll be exploring those questions in a reporting series entitled “Local Controls.”

At the root of this academic exercise is a simple question: What would it look like to organize six Camden County communities—Audubon, Collingswood, Haddon Heights, Haddonfield, Haddon Township, and Oaklyn—into a single entity?

Would the resulting community be more affordable? More equitable? More efficiently administered? Better able to adapt to future challenges? Could any of it be done at all without compromising notions of local identity?

We’ve gone into this project to explore a number of ideas around public policy and community values. In the next few months, we’ll continue our deep dive into the underlying structure of these communities in a variety of ways, from traditional reporting to live events to multimedia packages.

In our first installment, we examined the impact of railroad land grants on the size and shape of New Jersey municipalities today. For our second piece, we spoke to festivalgoers at the Audubon Day street festival about local identity.

How does hailing from a community affect its municipal structure, governmental priorities, and growth and development? What’s the connection between pride of place and future plans?

We plan to explore these questions even further in the course of this reporting project, but for now, here’s a sampling of responses gathered from the public with the help of our partners at SNJ Today.

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