Roselle Park is exceptional.
Rare one might say.
Above and beyond the multitude of qualities that make one place distinct from another, Roselle Park – at its core – is different from all (but one) of the other New Jersey municipalities in how its government functions.
Out of the 566 municipalities in the state, Roselle Park is only one of two that have a Borough form of government that have ward councilmembers dedicated to individual wards. The other is its neighbor to the south, Roselle.
Other municipalities that function as Borough forms of government have all their council representatives at-large; their residents can call any councilman or councilwoman to address an issue and all residents can vote for any and all council representative. In Roselle Park and Roselle, residents in each of the five wards can vote for their ward council representative and only they can vote for their councilmember. Additionally, they have one main point of contact in the ward they live in. While they can contact the Mayor Carl Hokanson or Councilwoman-At-Large Charlene Storey, residents know who they can reach out to in order to answer a question, address an issue, or clarify a matter.
Some criticize the structure as antiquated and limited since a majority of issues do not affect solely a single ward (roads, sewer system, services, etc.). Others feel that knowing who to reach out to is a positive and that they have a more direct voice in who represents them, a neighbor who – just by their proximity – could be more attune to issues in their particular neighborhood.
Looking at it in a grander scale, Roselle Park’s government reflects America’s form of government. Ward council representatives are the equivalent of Congress Representatives, based on population and restricted to a ward/district. Council-At-Large is the equivalent to a Senator, who covers an entire state regardless of population. Residents in certain Congressional Districts contact their Congressperson but everyone in the state can reach out to their Senators.
The wards in Roselle Park are determined by population and soon after the national census – which is conducted every decade – a review is made of the wards and adjustments are made, if needed, as to where ward boundaries are set. One example is that in the first decade of the 21st century, the boundaries between the 4th and 5th Wards were Valley Road and Chester Avenue. In 2011, when the last ward map review was conducted, those boundaries moved one block east to Jerome Street and Laurel Avenue.
Another little quirk is that wards are separated, for the most part, down the middle of streets. A person who lives on the south side of the 500 block of East Grant Avenue (the even-numbered houses) lives in the 1st Ward. Their neighbor right across the street on the north side of the 500 block (the odd-numbered houses) lives in the 2nd Ward. This also sometimes causes confusion.
To help residents find out information about their ward in the most efficient manner, Roselle Park News has utilized innovative mapping technology to show the wards graphically instead of giving a long list of streets that compose each ward. Below is an interactive map that not only shows the wards but also each ward representative. Simply move the mouse over the appropriate ward and click the mouse to reveal the contact information for each councilmember along with their photograph. Readers can also zoom into to find out if their street is in a particular ward. Buttons on the top right corner allow to share the map and bring the map to full-screen. In the full-screen version, readers would be able to print the map as well as search for streets.
The next ward review is expected to be held in 2021.
This article is using the ward map received through an OPRA request from the Roselle Park Borough Clerk’s office. The digitized map from the county has different boundaries between a section of the 3rd and 5th Wards.
Below is the county version of the map.