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AHH 24-Hr. News

IMAGE Julia Muench, Pianist to Perform March 9th at Middletown Township Public Library
Thursday, 29 January 2015
Julia Muench to perform at Middletown Township Public Library Middletown Township Public Library located at 55 New Monmouth Road, is proud to present Julia Muench,  who will play an exciting program of music from a time when German immigrants... Read More...
IMAGE Parent's Night Out - Drop Off at Central Baptist
Thursday, 29 January 2015
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ - Just in time for Valentine’s Day weekend, Central Baptist Church will host their second Parent’s Night Out on February 13th, from 6-9 PM. Parents can drop their kids off at the church for three hours, and enjoy some... Read More...
IMAGE Albert E. Martin, Jr. Hoops for Horizons 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament Scores for Red Bank Youth
Thursday, 29 January 2015
RUMSON, NJ – The 13th annual Hoops for Horizons 3-on-3 basketball tournament will kick off at the Rumson Country Day School on Thursday, March 5th It runs through Saturday, March 7th with all funds raised benefitting the Horizons Student... Read More...
Atlantic Highlands Republicans Split on Mayor Choice
Thursday, 29 January 2015
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ – The Republican municipal county committee in this small municipality met Monday to hear from two long-term councilmembers who have expressed interest in running this fall for the seat being vacated by Mayor Fred Rast III.... Read More...
County Announces 2015 Paper Shredding Days
Wednesday, 28 January 2015
Opportunities to dispose of old documents safely FREEHOLD, NJ – MonmouthCounty has scheduled nine 2015 Paper Shredding events in local communities so that MonmouthCounty residents have opportunities to get rid of old documents and confidential... Read More...

Columns

IMAGE Worst Storm Ever? (What’s up widat?)
by Woody Zimmerman
Thursday, 29 January 2015
Somehow – no doubt largely due to the vigilance and timely warnings supplied by our political and media guardians – we have managed to survive... Read More...
IMAGE Review - Into The Woods
by David Prown
Wednesday, 28 January 2015
I saw the Broadway version of "Into the Woods" in the 80's with Bernadette Peters just a few days after I saw "Les Miserables" with the original... Read More...
IMAGE Protest This Super Bowl Commercial
by Anne Mikolay
Tuesday, 27 January 2015
Sunday, February 1, the New England Patriots will face off against the Seattle Seahawks in NFL Super Bowl XLIX. Football fans will tune in to see the... Read More...
IMAGE What’s that Flock in the Bay?
by Joe Reynolds
Sunday, 25 January 2015
This was a week of counting wintering water-birds. The other day I looked out onto New York Harbor and saw a large raft of diving ducks. I counted at... Read More...
IMAGE Just Sayin...
by Anne Mikolay
Sunday, 25 January 2015
While watching this month's news broadcasts, I have concluded the world is steeped in irony. This tendency to fore-go common sense and do the... Read More...

It’s Sunshine Week, that time of year we reflect on the importance of government transparency and how critical it is to our democracy. Much of the conversation during Sunshine Week focuses on the failure of government to be open and transparent. Citizens, Journalists, and Reform groups use this time to highlight how we can expand our current rights and combat government secrecy.

This attention is sorely needed, citizens across the New Jersey are often forced into countless hours in court or before the Government Records Council (GRC) just to get access to the most basic documents like budget data and meeting minutes. We have all seen or heard these stories, local governments operating behind closed doors, in the shadows.

And while we must continue to fight for strengthening the Sunshine Law and for expanded access to information, it is also important to remember why we fight for this information and what we do with it.

James Madison, whose birthday commemorates Sunshine Week, once said, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” During Madison’s time he and his colleagues took to writing pamphlets to inform their neighbors of important issues facing our nation.

Today’s modern day pamphleteers are the bloggers and citizen journalists in city hall, covering the budget meetings and planning board hearings. We must arm these citizen journalists with the knowledge and tools to make a difference in our towns, school districts, and even the state government.

With local news bureaus shuttering, there has never been a more urgent time for citizens to step up to the plate. Go to your next local meeting and take a look around the room, how many reporters are covering the meeting? You are lucky if there is one.

Imagine what would happen if each of us followed the lead of citizens like Union County’s Tina Renna, who became a citizen journalist and reports to the public how the county’s tax dollars are being spent. Or citizens like Camden County’s Bob Shinn and John Tremble, who use public information to identify and implement best practices for cutting government waste. These three citizens alone have uncovered millions in wasteful government spending – now imagine what would happen if we each chipped and did our part.

So while we continue to expand access to government information, we must also be working to expand the pool of citizen leaders and citizen journalists like Tina, Bob and John – teaching people how to access information and use it to chart a smarter course for government.

Think back to those days, weeks, and months after Superstorm Sandy, we saw first-hand how having access to timely and relevant information is critical.

By using the Open Public Records Act, citizens can monitor how tax dollars are being spent to clean up debris. And through the Open Public Meetings Act, or Sunshine Law, citizens can sit on planning meeting to ensure that our shore towns are rebuilt with the infrastructure in place to withstand another Superstorm Sandy.

That is why we continue to educate citizens on how to constructively use the information they gather through the OPRA process. For example, on April 1, we will be training citizens how to cover news through new forms of media(thecitizenscampaign.org/new_media_post_sandy).

With access to information, citizens are able to constructively participate in the process and give feedback or offer best practices. And the more informed discussions we have, the better off our state will be. 
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Follow The Citizens Campaign on Facebook and Twitter! Visit our websiteTheCitizensCampaign.org for free tools and training!