State-wide Open Government Honorees Include South Orange Village President


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State-wide Open Government Honorees Include South Orange Village President

  1. 1. TOWNSHIP OF SOUTH ORANGE VILLAGE State-wide Open Government Honorees Include South Orange Village President ** For Immediate Release ** September 23rd 2012 **South Orange, NJ - This weekend, a handful of open government advocates were honored bythe New Jersey Foundation for Open Government. South Orange Village President Alex Torpeywas one of those honored in the ‘Political Leader’ category, the others being Kenilworth MayorKathi Fiamingo and New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg. The other categories wereCitizen Activist and Journalist.South Orange, which is often in the news for its arts and cultural events and model walkabledowntown, is also hailed as one of the leading-edge municipal governments in New Jersey forits transparency initiatives, including easy online access to government documents likeagendas, minutes, ordinances and resolutions, presentation of thorough budget information,and active participation by residents on various Village committees.More recently, and with the help of the Village’s new administrator Barry Lewis, the 2011municipal budget was released publicly as an Excel Spreadsheet, which gained praise fromseveral groups in New Jersey and nationwide including the ACLU and New Jersey SenatorLoretta Weinberg. This standard budget format allows third party application developers tocreate online citizen-government participatory budget platforms, which are currently beingexplored by the Village. Additionally, Board meetings were re-structured, with the addition of asecond public comment period, to ensure members of the public can comment both before andafter the Board takes any action, and to require that more information (budget impact, narrativehistory, committee discussion) be submitted with any item to be added to the public agenda fordiscussion or action.Other initiatives include a website redesign which is expected to kick-off before the end of themonth, exploring ways to file OPRA (Open Public Records Act) requests, village servicesrequests and more on the website or from a smartphone. Additionally, the Public Informationand Marketing Committee, an advisory committee compromised of residents and keycommunity partners, like Seton Hall University and the South Orange Performing Arts Centerwas recently re-started after years of dormancy.Trustee Howard Levison, who is expected to serve as the committee’s trustee liaison, remarkedthat "There are a number of projects that enhance our communications and transparency wehave wanted to work on, and having resident input will be valuable in assisting us with thesevarious projects."Village President Torpey thanked his predecessors and staff for their commitment totransparency, "We could not be doing what we are now without the groundwork laid byprevious village presidents, trustees and other village officials. We are in a great position in 2012to become one of the, if not the most, transparent municipal government in New Jersey.Hopefully by telling our stories - our challenges and our successes - we can encourage othertowns to modernize and improve how open they are, often in ways that actually save taxpayerexpense."Trustee Deborah Davis Ford commended Torpey and agreed of the importance of transparencyand “the critical role our village staff have played in helping implement these initiatives.” South Orange Village Hall 101 S. Orange Ave South Orange, NJ 07079 973 378 7715 x2
  2. 2. Village Clerk Robin Kline was also present at the open government workshop hosted by NJFoundation for Open Government this Saturday, and was thanked by President Torpey toapplause of the room for her hard work and initiatives towards modernizing the Clerks Officeand helping make South Orange more transparent.President Torpey reiterated the importance of collaboration getting these projects done: "Sincegetting elected, Ive personally tried to connect with people over social media, by creating briefvideo updates of Board meetings, hosting weekly office hours and posting more information onour website and in local media, but the real long-term meaningful changes are coming from ourentire South Orange team working together for the goal of finding new ways to connect ourgovernment to our residents."The other recipients, in the category of citizen activists are: John Bury of Union County, FrancesDay of Morris County, Veronica Silkes also of Morris County, Michael Pierone of Warren Countyand David Burnett of Glouster County. This year’s sole recipient in the category of journalists isFred Snowflack, editorial writer of The Record, of Bergen County. For more information please contact Cathy Cameron at 973 378 7715 x2, visit or followSouth Orange on Twitter @SouthOrangeNJ.  South Orange Resources: •Find Open Budget information: •Apply for the Public Information & Marketing Committee (or any other committee): •Find government documents: •Find meeting videos: •Follow South Orange on Twitter: •Find Village forms online: South Orange Village Hall 101 S. Orange Ave South Orange, NJ 07079 973 378 7715 x2