Attack on Pelosi Prompts Public Official Protection Bill

Verrelli

TRENTON – Assemblyman Anthony Verrelli called it a “privacy package.”

That’s probably accurate, but it begs an obvious observation: Public officials should be more about transparency than privacy.

The Assembly’s State and Local Government Committee on Monday endorsed a bill that “requires redaction and nondisclosure of (the) home address of elected officials and candidates for elected office.”

In other words, if you want to find out where the mayor of your town lives, it may become a bit harder to do so. Ditto for someone merely running for mayor, or presumably, school board.

This bill, and similar ones still have to make it through the full Assembly and Senate – and then be signed by the governor. That, however, may be just a formality.

Verrelli brought up the attack on Paul Pelosi as an example of the security peril faced by public officials.

Time out please.

Pelosi is the husband of the Speaker of the House, a national figure. Moreover, Nancy Pelosi’s public persona has grown even higher in the face of constant vilification by Republicans; all of which is part of politics.

Let’s not compare the visibility of Nancy Pelosi with local officials. After all, many New Jersey residents have no idea who their Assembly and Senate representatives are; let alone what they look like.

That’s not the fault of lawmakers; it’s just the nature of state politics.

The attack on Paul Pelosi is now being used as an excuse to shield traditional public information from voters.

This is a disturbing trend. And it follows the pandemic, when some government offices on all levels used COVID as an excuse not to comply with public records laws.

The bottom line here should not be hard to see.

The home addresses of elected officials are, or at least should be, public information. If someone wants to know where their local assemblyman resides, it’s basic info that should be available.

Philosophically, the idea is simple: if you are representing the community you should not be able to hide from it.

Additionally, many elected officials seek various types of help for their hometowns, or in the case of municipal officials, their own neighborhoods. There’s nothing necessarily nefarious about that, but those who care should be able to know when it’s happening.

Sometimes, of course, such actions are nefarious.

As has been pointed out, then-Paterson Mayor Marty Barnes got in trouble about 20 years ago for allegedly accepting favors in the form of home improvements. So it was certainly relevant for folks to know where he lived.

If this bill passes, it’s going to be interesting to see how far its reach is.

There are now many ways to find out a person’s address. There are voter registration lists, property tax records and mortgage records. Are all those records going to be deleted, or blacked out? Hard to know.

Still, the real problem is not so much how these laws work in real life, but the seeming quick acceptance of both Democrats and Republicans to support privacy.

If officials are so terrified of the voters knowing where they live, don’t run for office.

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3 responses to “Attack on Pelosi Prompts Public Official Protection Bill”

  1. Congress is allowing judges to hide information about potential conflicts of interest as well as their home addresses, which is a something that is unjustified despite the tragic murder of one judge’s son.

    Instead of doing something to stop deranged gunmen, one of the most corrupt members of the US Senate is making you guilty if you share an address where some public official lives. There is no effort to shield the homes of 24-year-old black men—the class that comprises the largest number of homicide victims. Judges are rarely targeted by criminals, so the solution ignores the facts and makes great headlines.

    Senator Joe Cryan tried to use this as a political weapon when one of his critics published news about his purchase of a home in Pennsylvania (which sold for a million dollar profit). Maybe it is nobody’s business when politicians live out of the state or make big money in shady transactions but on the other hand, it certainly should be the right of the people to know.

    Among those who would be required to disclose less information is a Supreme Court Justice’s wife who plotted with the Trump-loving terrorists who attempted the Jan 6 coup d’état.

    The guy who sponsored this terrible legislation was Sen Bob Menendez, the one who got indicted for failing to disclose a million or more in ‘gifts’ from a ‘friend’ who got the senator’s office to pave the way for foreign government contracts, grease the skids for his 20-something girlfriends to enter the US, and try to derail a criminal investigation into the biggest Medicare fraud in history.

    Americans are not paying close enough attention to their government. They should not be prevented from getting facts they need to assess performance and reveal corruption.

  2. The New Jersey Constitution prohibits such private laws. N.J. Constitution, Article IV, Section VII, Paragraph 9, Subsection 8 states the following:

    “The Legislature shall not pass any private, special or local laws: (8) Granting to any corporation, association or individual any exclusive privilege, immunity or franchise whatever.”

  3. While we’re at it, it’s time to change the OPRA (Open Public Records Act) laws because they’ve become too restrictive and costly. Taxpayers/voters have to wait at least 7 days for the information, unless the requestee requests a 30-day extension. If the requestee refuses to give up the documents, or heavily redacts them when there is no cause to do so, one has to sue them in Superior Court. That becomes cost-prohibitive, even if the Court awards the requestee attorney fees. The money usually needs to be put up front to hire an attorney, and the court process drags on and on.

    There shouldn’t be copying costs for taxpayers and voters requesting government/official/political documents that are matters of public record already. Taxpayers have already paid for these documents once in their taxes. They shouldn’t have to be paying additional fees for copying costs, which can get expensive if documents are large. The costs should be born by the government or quasi-government entity since they are paid for by the taxpayers and they work for the taxpayers.

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