As you are aware due to the mockery of last years’ City Council’s Budget Hearings, devoid of statutory Department Directors testimony, a platform for personal mayoral ambitions not the public’s welfare, Hoboken is in the throes of State takeover. Let me decry as flagrant political opportunism, the presentation of this underfunded budget by the city’s administration but discoverable and solvable had our council labored as opposed to posture.
Once discovered, the city’s embattled finance department offered in quick succession potential resolutions from CAP wavers to Budget amendments. All alternatives were voted down until Hoboken’s inability to send out fourth quarter tax bills imperiled viability, engendering a directive from the Department of Community Affair for budget adoption or state takeover.
The council appealed the DCA directive for budget adoption. Councilwoman Mason instigated the appeal process by authoring a letter on behalf of herself and the council and through a series of communication a meeting before the Local Finance Board was scheduled for of June 11, 2008.
Councilwoman Mason attended the meeting, with her paid videographer who videotaped the hearing. As some know, the Councilwoman made a reputation advocating transparent government and to foster this image maintains a web site “we the people reports.com” which posts videotapes of all council and municipal boards meetings. Patiently, I waited for the Local Finance Board hearing to be aired. Through an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request I obtained a written transcript of the meeting from the DCA, therefore I knew five councilpersons attended, those in attendance were less than prepared, but the tape of this hearing was nowhere to be found.
Finding this odd I quizzed the Councilwoman at the August council meeting. The councilwoman’s answer was vague, something about wanting to post zoning first. This scenario continued until December, when I issued OPRA requests to the Councilwoman for duplicates of the videotapes. At the January 17, 2009 meeting I again questioned the Councilwoman. Curiously, the chiding I received from the councilwoman and her table thumping interpretation of the publics’ informational needs is also missing from the Councilwoman’s web site.
Not willing to take no for an answer I filed an appeal of this denial to the Government Records Council (GRC). Plus Ten days from filing I was notified by the GRc’s Director that the Attorney General’s Office was reviewing my complaint. The GRC has since assigned a number to the complaint, (GRC 2009-75), mediation is pending.
Why this drama? Why the stonewalling? The councilwoman feels the tape private property. I disagree. A court will decide but even if I am wrong, the governing body has been supplanted by an unelected interloper. What is the irreparable harm in allowing the public to view the events leading up to this?
I have always viewed people who propagate policies for the masses which they intend to flout as dangerous, those who demand transparency from all but operate in secrecy more so, usually marshall music and uniforms follow.
Thank you for your many courtesies,