Bergen Grassroots Action on Transparency Continues

Published On March 18, 2015 » 526 Views» By Charles Powers » Bergen County Municipal Practices &Transparency
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Participants Urge that BGR’s Series on Municipal Transparency Continue

Having seen through the Ridgewood example how providing Transparency and Input Opportunities for Residents can be empowering to both local citizens and officials, the participants in the BGR January 8 session have actively urged BGR leadership to continue its multi-pronged efforts on Municipal Governance.  The catalyst literally came in the person of Paul Aronsohn, Mayor of Ridgewood whose remarks and then interactive dialogue warmed up a frigid evening at BGR’s January 8 session at the Ethical Culture Society in Teaneck. See an account of that important meeting by clicking here.

BGR had conducted an earlier key workshop on Municipal Transparency on December 11. It drew an intense and articulate group of  both local officials and and transparency advocates into a lively discussion. At the evening’s end, all workshop participants urged BGR to continue the dialogue on these transparency issues in both formal and informal work sessions. Important progress was made in understanding how the State’s municipal Best Practices inventory is currently a good (and could become an even better) performance test mechanism since all State municipalities are required to complete it and certify its accuracy. All municipalities must also provide an opportunity their municipal governing boards to review their municipality’s actual adherence to those Practices. The State has JUST published its state-wide Municipal Best Practices results for 2014 for all state municipalities and BGR has been in dialogue with the Inventory’s creators and is focusing attention on Bergen County municipal responses.

See the BGR website page with those results:  Click here to get access to it.

Background: In August BGR first began an exploration of how well different governments (both county and municipal) are doing in making information available to their citizens. A major initial focus was a Monmouth College study which rated each municipal website in the stat (see references below). But websites are only part of the story.

A Major New Tool to Test Transparency. The State itself  now issues a municipal “best practices” checklist and many of those practices focus on open process and the availability of information about those governmental activities to the public. EVERY MUNICIPALITY IN THE STATE  OF NEW JERSEY MUST COMPLETE THE CHECK LIST AND SCORE WELL ENOUGH ON IT TO QUALIFY FOR ITS FULL COMPLEMENT OF STATE AID. We believe very few citizens even know of the existence of the best Teaneck 2013-2practices process (a snip of page 2 Teaneck’s answers from the 2014 check list is depicted here – have you ever seen it before?). We have initiated a study of how that checklist was developed and will be reporting on how excerpting it will clarify how well your township is doing. But it may well be that citizens will want to explore key answers with the local officials who join us.

How can we get Bergen County citizens acquainted with this list and the way in which they might use it to build better transparency in their own community?
Two steps:

1) We began a two-part exploration of this state process and its implications for building local municipality transparency with a small one-hour clinic on the night of November 6.

2) On Thursday night, December 11 –  at the Ethical Culture Society North and Larch in Teaneck, BGR will hold a full public session that builds on what we have learned to-date. And BGR is bringing  to this meeting the results of active discussion with the current and former state officials who have created and evolved the program. Additionally, several local public officials and advocates will describe their experiments and ideas for how best to make these openness processes work and how to build public confidence in their practices and procedures. State’s Own Summary of Best Practices Program

 Where can you get access to the answers Bergen County Communities gave to the Best Practices Checklist? The state’s latest collection of them for 2014 Has just been published. Click here to get access to it. Here you will also find there an analysis by SC member Ed Lipiner of the logistics as well as the strengths and weaknesses of this state program tool for the purposes of helping municipalities assess and build governance transparency

Our 2014 Byron Baer Awardee,
State Senator Loretta Weinberg  

More than 60 Bergen residents and visitors from throughout the State gathered Thursday December 18 to participate as BGR Inc. gave State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg its 2014 Byron Baer Award. Twelve of her colleagues and constituents whose experience with her spanned all or key segments of the 50 years since she came to Teaneck described why Loretta Weinberg, more than fully meets those criteria. The event was reported by the Record’s Bergen County Reporter, John Ensslin  on December 18. (see: www.northjersey.com and search for Weinberg honored, Byron Baer Award, Ensslin). For BGR’s own depiction of the Baer-Weinberg connection  please click here . Who was Byron Baer? please click here.

You Can Continue to See Issue Segments from BGR’s County Office Candidate Forums

This first full week in January, expect to see major changes in how the County’s public safety programs will be administered in the years ahead.  Where can you learn how the new County leadership understands the basis for those changes and many other issues?  A month before the November 4 election, Bergen Grassroots sponsored forums at the Teaneck Library Auditorium that involved all 6 of the 2014 candidates for elected Bergen County office. They were the first County forums/debates  of the year. The first (9/30) session involved the 4 candidates for the two open positions on the Bergen County Board of Freeholders (the county legislature). The second (10/2) session featured the two candidates for County Executive. Both sessions have gotten extensive media and internet coverage.

BGR, Inc. has built  two new pages on our website where video “issue” segments from each of these 2 forums can be watched. Our goal even post-election is to allow you to see the candidates discuss/debate the issue(s) which are of greatest concern to you. The first page provides you with readily “clickable” issue segments from the Freeholders forum. Click here . both T and DThe second one provides you with access to forum video segments from County Executive candidate forum. Please click here.

BGR, Inc is extraordinarily appreciative to all the candidates for their participation and are grateful about the information about candidate views that emerged.  

 

 

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