NJ FOG – Lift Award

3/18/2008 Update:

This story was picked up by the Associated Press.

“To them (local governments), ignorance is bliss and job security”

See PhillyBurbs.com for the whole story.

3/18/2008:

As published previously, this week is Sunshine Week 2008, promoting open government.

Part of today’s event is the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government presenting the Lift Award, which is given to those that fight for their right for government transparency.

Oddly enough, some people in Hoboken still don’t believe taping should be allowed, as mentioned in this article from the current Hoboken reporter. “Once again, we find that we’re being videotaped,” said Commissioner Perry Belfiore, who said that he asked Mason in the past if she would refrain from taping the meetings. Belfiore complained that the footage was sometimes “Springer-esque.” “Think back to the last meeting, with that person standing there crying, in tears,” said Belfiore, “What is this, a soap opera?” Belfiore further explained: “My fear is that it’s going to extinguish conversation between our tenants and this board in a public forum.” Commissioner Dominic Lisa actually threatened to resign from the board if the residents become fearful of speaking at the meetings because someone is filming them.

Hopefully, this doesn’t turn into another money-wasting lawsuit the city would gladly enjoy being part of.

Videotaping Citizen honored in Trenton

njfog4112.jpgWayne Tarus of Berlin, New Jersey will be honored today for his civic activism and his willingness to put himself on the line to ensure that citizens have a common law right to video tape public meetings. Wayne was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for videotaping two Pine Hill Borough Council meetings in 2000. He then filed a civil lawsuit alleging wrongful arrested and followed it through all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that cameras today are like the quill pens used hundreds of years ago to chronicle the actions of government, and New Jersey residents have a common-law right to use them to record public meetings. While it said governmental agencies can impose “reasonable guidelines” to make sure the recording does not disrupt their official business.

The justices found the Pine Hill mayor was “arbitrary and unreasonable” in ordering the police chief to arrest Wayne — a longtime critic of the mayor and council –because the borough had never adopted formal guidelines for videotaping public meetings.

“For any town that wants to rule with an iron fist, this puts them all on notice they can no longer do that and reaffirms the protection for every resident in the state of New Jersey,” Wayne was quoted as having said in a Star-Ledger article. “Knowledge is power and any time anyone wants to cut the flow of information or squeeze it, it should be looked at.”

Chief Justice James Zazzali, writing for the court, said the court’s decision should encourage “citizens of a democracy to be more engaged, rather than less,” in part from an “understanding that openness reduces public corruption.”

“Openness is a hallmark of democracy — a sacred maxim of our government — and video is but a modern instrument in that evolving pursuit,” Zazzali wrote. “The use of modern technology to record and review the activities of public bodies should marshal pride in our open system of government, not muster suspicion against citizens who conduct the recording.”

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6 Comments on "NJ FOG – Lift Award"

homeworld
Member

[quote comment=”73879″][quote]Commissioner Dominic Lisa actually threatened to resign from the board if the residents become fearful of speaking at the meetings because someone is filming them.[/quote]

Really? Hey, somebody tell Beth Mason to start video taping the Zoning Board, too. Lisa is the chairman. Maybe if the variance-happy developers say they are “fearful of speaking at the meetings” with a camera in the room then Lisa will threaten to resign from the Zoning Board, too! Double bonus![/quote]

aren’t there transcripts of the hearings anyway, so whatever the residents say is being copied down, and anyone can fill out an OPRA request to read it.

ShhhDontTell
Member

Hoboken Housing Authority Meeting.

Let’s read the minutes. Who has the minutes? We didn’t take minutes?? lol

Nice “Happy Birthday” to Mike Russo at the end.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1975953342205844905

‘We The People Reports’ also has the missing BOE meeting.

westy
Member

If anyone has seen Perry Belfiore speaking at the City Council his political grandstanding has to been some of the most “Springer-esque.”

To use his own words from one of his City Council rants, he has been a “monkey with a hand-granade.”

westy
Member

If anyone has attended the Zoning Board meetings they know Dominic Lisa seems to never have met a developers plan he has not liked.
He will dither about details of what is or isn’t a “stoop” but sadly will vote to grant the major variance to increase hieght and density.

One statement I have heard him made several times that is very telling, that he was proud of voting for the extreme ammount of variances given to 101 Marshall Street (SkyClub) two 17 story towers under the Russo administration, Yet when the plans became public and the residents of Hoboken and Jersey City became angered by the huge and numourous variances he voted to give the poltically connected developers he had “no comment.”

The Zoning Board is a very important to the future of Hoboken and when the people we hope have the best intrest of all the people of Hoboken. I would say most people other than developers, looking at the the legacy of the Board during Mr. Lisa’s tenure are very disapointed.

It again it reminds me of Michael Russo’s statament, It all depends on who’s developer we are talking about, yours or mine…. and that is not way we should be building Hoboken.

oceanbloo
Member
oceanbloo

Any member of the general public with enough gumption to show up at a public meeting and speak is not going to feel intimidated by being filmed. I’d guess just the opposite – that they want a record of their complaint.

Once again, public officials don’t want their unprofessional and at times, ridiculous behavior aired, and they think we’re dumb enough to buy it. Give me a break.

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