To the editor:
The recent resolutions against government transparency from the Raritan Township Committee reveal a level of political debauchery that's now common in Hunterdon County. (Raritan Twp. Committee Votes Against Bills Aimed to Increase Government Transparency) Raritan's politicians just voted against Raritan's citizens.
Government transparency is never unpopular with the public. What's unpopular is politicians who insult the intelligence of their constituents when they permit their attorneys, like Raritan's Jeffrey Lehrer, to make inappropriate pronouncements about what is or isn't good for Raritan Township. Lehrer's job is to advise, not to rationalize. But lawyers like Lehrer are common in Hunterdon. They drive government rather than serve it. They're paid by weak-kneed politicians who like to have someone else carry their water.
For example, Lehrer pronounces that if a citizen wins a lawsuit under the Open Public Records Act, the citizen should not be allowed to recover legal fees from the municipality that violated the OPRA.
Are the citizens of Raritan stupid, or what? In any other legal dispute, the violator who loses pays. But not when a citizen is violated by his or her government. Should anyone be surprised that a 100 percent GOP municipal committee just told its constituents to go pound sand?
Then we have Committeeman Lou Reiner, whose sophomoric attempts at intellectualism fail every time he opens his mouth to advance his personal interests. Reiner is “not in favor of creating more burdensome red tape” -- just as he's never in favor of municipal bonding, except when it's to his benefit.
Reiner's partner, Committeeman Richard Chen, is opposed to any measures that improve transparency but that might add costs. Translation: Chen and Reiner and their ilk think good government is free. And as long as they can say they "voted against any tax increase," to hell with the most fundamental right of the governed to keep the likes of Chen and Reiner honest. Mayor Karen Gilbert thinks transparency is too burdensome on her. Deputy Mayor Michael Mangin says, "I don’t mind being transparent," but voted against transparency.
Do Raritan citizens realize the people they elected just stuck it to them?
One of the over-riding rationalizations of this committee's vote against transparency is that their town clerk is already over-burdened with work. The obvious answer -- to hire help to handle OPRA requests -- could "raise taxes." This committee just told Raritan taxpayers that it's better when they can't find out how their taxes are spent.
Committeeman Craig O’Brien was the only official to advocate for citizens' power to know exactly what their elected officials are doing. More power to him.
It's becoming increasingly easy in Hunterdon County to see who are the bums in office. They're the ones voting against citizens' most fundamental right to know what their government is doing. Consider four of our freeholders - Matt Holt, John Lanza, Suzanne Lagay and John King - who refuse to post audio recordings of their meetings online. With role models like that, do you think we’ll get ethical officials in any town?
Nick Corcodilos, former mayor