NEWARK, NJ - A measure that initially caused an uproar over the intention to remove the public advertising requirement for executive orders signed by Mayor Ras Baraka passed the City Council with little fanfare Wednesday.
An amended version of the ordinance, which has been making its way through the legislative process since July, now allows the orders to be published on the city’s website and/or in a newspaper.
A previous version of the measure would have eliminated the newspaper publishing requirement and allowed the orders to only be filed with the city clerk’s office and then accessed through a public records request.
Some council members had previously expressed reservations that the bill would negatively impact the notion of transparency. Administration officials had said the proposal was a cost-saving measure that would reduce the fees the city pays to publish executive orders in newspapers.
Executive orders usually dictate salary adjustments, personnel appointments or committee placements but it may also set certain policy decisions made by the mayor.
The state’s Open Public Meetings Act does not require executive orders to be publicly advertised such as public meetings, bids and foreclosures are. Newark required executive orders to be published in newspapers only because of a 1986 ordinance that was still in effect.
A grassroots group of Newarkers had criticized the previous version of the bill that would have made accessing Baraka’s executive orders more difficult. The movement had asked residents to call their council people and the mayor’s office to denounce the ordinance.
No one at Wednesday’s meeting spoke on the executive order measure. All council members present voted in favor of passing the amended version of the bill.
Councilman At-Large Carlos Gonzalez told TAPInto Newark previously the amendment to allow executive orders to be published on the city’s website instead of requiring them only to be made public in print was a compromise reached among council members to get the bill through.
Allowing an option for executive orders to be published online would also address the cost-saving measure and still "give people a chance to read them," Gonzalez said.