Government transparency was the general theme of South Orange Village President Alex Torpey’s State of the Village Address Monday night.
“In South Orange, we’ve been recognized statewide, regionally and nationally, for setting an example on how to be transparent in government,” Torpey said.
Torpey emphasized the work that he said he and his colleagues on the Board of Trustees have accomplished in transparency with initiatives such as Peak Democracy and making the outline of the town’s budget available to the public.
He also announced that he’ll be presenting an ordinance to the Board shortly that requires transparency in government, to “ensure” it continues to happen. The ordinance will require Trustees to respond to public comments during meetings immediately after they have been made (or if that’s not possible to respond via email or some other means), to make filing an OPRA — or Open Public Records Act — request less of a hassle, and more, according to Torpey.
“[This] takes all of these best practices that we know is the right thing to do and puts it into a law so that everybody who follows this will know what’s expected of them from a transparency standpoint,” he said.
Torpey also said that South Orange had been moving toward greater government accessibility and solving issues for the better of the town as a whole.
“The job of the public institution is to make decisions that perform the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people,” he said. “I’m interested in a government that makes people happy because the government works well and people understand that it works fair.”
Torpey also discussed sustainability. He said that the town would work harder toward relying on sustainable energy. In particular, he noted plans for Village Hall to run on geothermal energy if it is to be renovated and that bike racks will soon be added onto jitney buses.
Torpey sent a strongly worded message to those who look to commit crimes in South Orange.
“Our officers are incredibly diligent, our detectives are creative and move fast, and our technology is getting better and better in supporting that and showing people how big of a mistake it is to come to South Orange and commit a crime,” he said.
In addition, Torpey said the Village had worked to lower the rate of tax increases each year, had responded to public work complaints such as snow removal via the app SO Connect, had resolved issues around water supply and quality with a newly signed contract with NJ American Water, had fostered major redevelopment projects, and had begun using time at Board of Trustees more valuably.
Torpey closed the address attributing the success of the Village to the residents and the community.
His last slide read: “Village is strong because community is strong.”