Fellow taxpaying Hoboken residents, we should all be offended by the letter from City Corporation Counsel Steve Kleinman in last week’s Reporter, as well as the statements by Mayor Roberts regarding the lawsuits filed by Beth Mason over the city’s noncompliance with OPRA requests.
First of all, the city’s business is our business. Everything the city does should be on our behalf. All activities, every dollar spent, should be documented and made available to any taxpayer – any resident – who requests it. We shouldn’t have to file OPRA requests, and we certainly shouldn’t have to sue to see how they spend our money.
If it’s too labor intensive for the city to find a document and hand it over to a citizen upon request, the city should make it self-service: invest a little money up front to make all of its information (except, of course, any sensitive personnel files) available online or at City Hall so we can find the information on our own. Budgets, council meetings, minutes, real estate transfer records, videos of meetings, development studies, parks plans, building permits granted – everything should be easy to find, so we can all be watchdogs over the way our tax dollars are spent. Beth Mason has been a tireless advocate for all of us but we should all join in the effort to open up access to city records.
Lots of communities across the country do this, taking the sunshine principle seriously. Like mold, graft and corruption thrive in dark corners – sunshine is a disinfectant. No matter who’s in charge at City Hall, they should not be allowed to keep any of our information beyond our reach.