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AHH 24-Hr. News

IMAGE Enjoy a Relaxing August in Monmouth County
Saturday, 19 July 2014
PHOTO: Keyport Spanish American Festival is August 9 at Beach Park. (facebook image) The best of summer is on its way FREEHOLD, NJ – Warm... Read More...
Help Your Community Exercise Their Right to Vote
Saturday, 19 July 2014
Become a Monmouth County election poll worker FREEHOLD, NJ – The Monmouth County Board of Elections is seeking poll workers for upcoming elections.... Read More...
National Park Tourism in New Jersey Creates $159.5 Million in Economic Benefit
Saturday, 19 July 2014
New report shows visitor spending supports 2,328 jobs in New Jersey PHILADELPHIA, PA – A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that... Read More...
IMAGE COA: Obama Administration’s Final Decision Declares Open Season on the Atlantic by Big Oil
Saturday, 19 July 2014
Coalition Responds to Administration’s Hypocritical Ocean Policy--- Adds Insult to Injury off Jersey Shore SANDY HOOK, NJ - Today, the Bureau of... Read More...
AAA Mid-Atlantic: Pump Prices in a Mid-Summer Slide
Saturday, 19 July 2014
The Week As predicted by AAA, the retail price at the pump continued to tick lower following the Independence Day holiday due primarily to lower... Read More...

Columns

IMAGE Review - Tammy
by David Prown
Sunday, 20 July 2014
It's amazing to me how lame the movie selection was this week. I'm not even sure if there was anything new out...amazing. Have you noticed how I'm... Read More...
IMAGE The Importance of the Small Things, such as Commas
by George Hancock-Stefan
Sunday, 20 July 2014
I came back from a two week trip through Romania and Turkey.  It was a great trip visiting old and new churches and monasteries, and meeting in... Read More...
IMAGE Traumatic Brain Injury Was Devastating
by Daniel J. Vance
Saturday, 19 July 2014
Four days after getting his driver's license at age 16 in 1975, Todd Bode was coaxed into joining his big brother on a road trip. The hook was that... Read More...
IMAGE Skewed View - July 18, 2014
by Tom Brennan
Friday, 18 July 2014
Edward Snowden says Dropbox is "hostile to privacy". That and Condoleezza Rice has been on their board since April: http://bit.ly/1rmen1c Why... Read More...
IMAGE How Many Divisions does the Court Have?
by Woody Zimmerman
Friday, 18 July 2014
“How many divisions does the Pope have?” This was Josef Stalin’s famous rhetorical question to an advisor concerned about the Pope’s... Read More...

Upcoming Events

Wed Jul 23 @ 9:30AM - 10:50AM
Story Time
Wed Jul 23 @ 3:00PM - 04:30PM
Free Summer Mini-Camp
Thu Jul 24 @ 9:00AM - 11:00AM
Middletown Mayor Open Office Hours
Thu Jul 24 @ 3:15PM - 04:30PM
Children's Programs
Thu Jul 24 @ 5:00PM - 09:00PM
Blood Drive - AH

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!