Little more than two weeks into the administration of Mayor James Davis, the City Council began delivering on the promise of more open government that Davis and his Moving Bayonne in the Right Direction slate campaigned on for months.
Davis and his five municipal running mates ran on a platform, of among other things, creating more transparency in government. All five were elected, including four with Davis in the June 10 runoff.
In the mayoral debate hosted at the Hudson Reporter offices in April, Davis had talked at length about creating an administration that would strive to listen to the public more and make information more easily and readily accessible.
The governing body has already introduced two initiatives that the mayor and council thought would bring greater transparency to government and greater participation in it; moving the council caucus from 3:30 to 7 p.m. so more people can attend, and moving up the public speaking portion of the council meetings from the end of the program to the beginning.
"Two things already done," said Council President Sharon Nadrowski of the measures addressed at the June 16 council meeting.
In anticipation of the council’s wishes, City Clerk Robert Sloan had already moved up the public comment segment for that meeting’s agenda.
“Public speaking is at the front of the meeting,” Sloan said. “So that’s why these requests to address the council have been moved to the front.”
During the campaign season, one contention of many of Mayor Davis’s supporters was that the council meeting’s public speaking portion was previously held at the end, so those wishing to speak often had a sparse audience.
“I think this is a lot better way to have it, at the beginning of the meeting,” said Stan Marko of 25th Street after the meeting ended. “At the end, people are filing out. You’re literally talking to an empty chamber.”
Having people speak at the meeting’s opening, when more are assembled and attentive, can only be a good thing for the process, according to Marko.
“More people listen to you,” he said. “Hopefully, people come up with better ideas.”
Former council candidate John Sebik, one of the first speakers in the new format, was in agreement.
“The key is communication from and with city hall,” he said. It fosters “a constant generation of ideas.”
Resident and former Hudson County freeholder candidate Rafael Augusto welcomed the
Council-meeting speaking change.
“People feel they can come to these meetings now,” he said. “It’s a good idea. It’s not antagonistic. People were actually laughing at this meeting.”
Council members stayed for about a half hour after the meeting was adjourned to talk with attendees.
The time of the caucus meeting, generally attended by a couple of journalists, a handful of city officials, and a few residents, was perceived as an impediment to public attendance.
Nadrowski said that the later time allows for those who work during the day, but want to attend the council caucuses, to do so.
Mayor Davis also promised that city information would be made more readily accessible through postings online and through greater cooperation from the city when processing Open Public Records Act inquires.