According to the Pew Research Center, no matter what your party affiliation, there is equal agreement that citizens should follow what happens in government and politics.
The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan, non-profit 101 year old organization, believes that democratic government depends upon informed and active participation of citizens at all levels of government. The League also believes that it is the government’s responsibility to protect a citizen’s “right to know,” by giving adequate notice of proposed actions, holding open meetings and making public records easily accessible. Following these principals might have helped to avoid the recent controversy over our Monmouth County Commissioners salary adjustments.
We commend the local, county and state governments that are making efforts to maintain open government policies. During the last year, attempts to overcome difficulties in making government accessible to its citizens have, for the most part, been successful. However, we encourage greater efforts to inform and allow citizens to participate in government actions by maintaining meetings online as well as allowing citizens to question officials and to express public concerns. We agree with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs recommendations for remote public meetings. It says that “ensuring public participation and comment is the most significant concern” and advised lawmakers to use “multiple means of accepting public comment” — including text comments, email, tweets, and phone calls.
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We applaud video meetings that have been set up to allow more people to interact with their representatives and encourage them to continue. However, we feel that meetings and agendas should be made more user friendly for citizens to access and to participate in real time. Using a real time virtual platform that allows the public to ask questions as the meeting is being held, rather than submitting comments or questions prior to meetings is preferable. During public comment periods, this would allow genuine interaction between citizens and government. We also feel that rules should be set up to allow for equal time for all citizens to be heard.
The League of Women Voters encourages citizens to use these new ways to attend meetings. We all should be informed citizens.
Monmouth County League of Voters,