Monday, July 5, 2010

Transparency in Government, Part 2 - Pay to Play for Residents?

In the previous post, it appears that council members want to make Dumont law stricter than that of NJ.

How nice. 

Is it mere coincidence that the council members pushing hardest also happen to be running for re-election this year? 

Is the motivation due to the sheer embarrassment from the Record expose or just plain smart re-election campaigning?

Meanwhile a recent letter to residents from our mayor hails the coming of long needed improvements to Dumont's infrastructure via NJEIT Phase 2 Project.

If the mayor wanted to promote all the wonderful infrastructure improvements, would it not be in his best interest to place all the documentation online for all the residents to see for themselves?  Why are the design documents from NJEIT Phase 1 or 2 absent from the website?

The other day, I visited the borough clerk's office to look at the NJEIT Phase 3 documents as I reside in one of the affected properties that would be impacted by heavy construction. When an attempt was made to record the documentation since the documents were not available for lending, I was asked immediately to cease recording and to leave the office if I had no further business with the clerk.  I was then assured by the borough attorney's office that I would receive my own copy of the document and plans.

Of course, the verbal assurance was just that.  In the interim, the borough attorney changed his mind.
It turns out that interested residents need to:
- Visit the borough clerk's office during office hours to review their copy of the documents;
- Pay for a resident's own copy of the documents.

Pay?  Correct.  T&M needs $63.50 for a paper copy or a whopping $276 for a searchable electronic copy of the design documents and plans.  This is the same T&M that, according to the Record expose, donated $38,000 to Dumont Democratic accounts in 2009 and $5,200 to Dumont council candidates, one of which is not running until 2011, this year.

For some reason, the clerk's office is unable to scan their copy of the documents and plans online.

I then went to NJDEP.  While the agency recommends submitting electronic copies with paper documents and plans, it is not a requirement and according to the NJDEP representative over the phone, electronic submittals for this type of application are rare.  Duh?  it's not a legal requirement.

So I paid $63.50 and received my copy.  Unlike the ever-shifting "transparency" coming from the current administration; however, I will not be keeping the documents and plans to myself...

Here they are:

- View NJEIT Phase III Environmental and Drainage Design Proposal (download here)
- View NJEIT Phase III Application to NJDEP (download here)
- Download Supplemental Drawings
- Download Construction Plans

Look them over.  Ask questions.

First of all, why is the current administration refusing to release any NJEIT project on the borough website?  It's easy to solicit questions when the residents have no official information - almost assured that any questions asked will be of the marshmallow type.
Good questions would include:

- How many properties will be disturbed and the extent of heavy construction on the properties;
- How long the disruption would last (duration of construction); 
- How much this project would cost as a separate assessment to all borough residents;

A better question would be whether the improvements would remedy the pooling of water to affected residents in the area every time it rains (the answer is no and can be found on page 7).  If not, residents in and out of the affected area should wonder whether this project is wothwhile, if the project is needed at all.

If you lived in the affected area, did you know that contractors can enter your property without your permission?

Finally, after all this, why are Dumont residents paying to remediate a problem that appears to originate from neighboring Haworth according to the FEMA map (Appendix E, pages 266 and 267)?

Yesterday we celebrated, as a nation, our independence from the British Empire and their oppressive taxes.  As a borough, would it be ironic if we discover we were held in bondage from those representing us in Dumont? 

How long would we allow this to continue?