Transparency Matters

We live in South Orange, an amazing town with an amazingly talented group of citizens who want to take part in our government. You see that in the groundswell of people who have joined groups like SOMA Action and SOMAdems and PARES. You also see that one of the challenges to people being able to mobilize is the lack of information that is available to them. It’s simple. If you want to know what’s going on in town, it’s just not that easy. A commuting parent or working parent, just does not have time to attend every town Committee meeting  hoping to hear about the topic they are concerned about. How many people can attend a 9:30am Wednesday meeting? I am fortunate in having my own business where I can create my own hours, but no one should have to take off work to know what is going on in the town government.

Part of my platform, as a candidate for Board of Trustees, is to systematize and routinize information sharing with residents. The agenda to each meeting should be publicly posted on the website 2 days before a meeting. The minutes to the meeting need to be finalized and posted within 60 days of the meeting.

But to date, the Board of Trustees has not posted minutes to their semi-monthly meetings in over a year. The Village Clerk’s position has been vacant for over a year, but with creative solutions (from getting an intern from Seton Hall to requiring Trustees to take the minutes on an alternating basis) we could have addressed this.  Our town deserves more transparency into what is happening in our government and how our tax dollars are being spent, and voting me into office means I won’t let up until we meet the standards we should hold ourselves to.

Here is a quick look at the Trustee committees’ record to date on meetings scheduled to meet each month:

  • Legal and Personnel Committee: No minutes to meetings since 7/27/15.
  • Finance and IT Committee : No minutes or agendas since February 2016
  • Planning and Zoning Committee: No minutes to meetings since November 2016. How can you possibly keep up with the Village Hall developments if you don’t have access to this information?
  • Public Works Committee: There have been no agendas posted since December 2016. How would you chose whether it was important to hire a babysitter so you could attend if you didn’t know what would be discussed?
  • Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee: There was one agenda posted in January 2016, but before that none since 2013!
  • Public Safety Committee – This committee has been regularly posting agenda’s and minutes. Ironically, the Chair of that Committee is Trustee Dubowy, the Trustee leaving the Board this May.

 

Transparency is critically important; not just to prevent fraud, but so that we all feel involved and knowledgeable about what is going on in our community and how our tax dollars are being spent. I challenge anyone here, to say their bosses would be happy with that performance. My bosses would have told me without information, they couldn’t even evaluate my performance. The constituents are the bosses of the Trustees and it’s time to tell them that this performance is unacceptable. The time for sleepy politics as usual has passed. It’s time for engaged political and democratic processes that are open and transparent. I for one can’t wait. Vote for me on May 9th and help me bring us to where we need to be.