If you never read the 1897 editorial written to 8-year old Virginia O’Hanlon in the New York Sun, go ahead and Google that now. Virginia wanted to know if Santa Claus was real and her father suggested she write to The Sun and ask. The now famous editorial speaks of the Miracle of Christmas and, regardless of your religious beliefs, there is a reason the editorial endures 120 years later. It’s a great read. Spoiler alert, they tell Virginia there is a Santa Claus.
So let’s move on to a more modern miracle, the September 26, 2017 Interest Arbitration Task Force Report released by one half of the Task Force. Second spoiler alert; Governor Christie’s half. That day, the Governor’s half of the Task Force released a report that says the 2% arbitration cap is actually much better than sliced bread and went on to “prove” their point in a 25 page “report.” The report is fascinating. It’s fascinating merely because nobody seems to have written it. I can only guess that on the morning of September 26th now Senator-Elect Declan O’Scanlon awoke to find that Santa Claus left an early Christmas present for the Governor’s appointees of the Task Force.
WAIT, we say! We have the power of OPRA. We’ll see who wrote that report. On Governor Christie’s very first day in office he said, “Today a new era of accountability and transparency is here.” So I submit the OPRA requests to the Governor’s Office, the Legislature, the Department of Community Affairs and PERC. I sit patiently and wait for the mailman. And I wait. And wait some more. Later, the responses come. They are all unanimous; “more time please.” I can imagine that four members and all their staffers sure have a load of data compiling a comprehensive report such as that. I’ll wait, I’m sure they will play by the rules. “Accountability” and “transparency” will rule the day. And so I wait. And wait some more. I even had some time to finally read that Mastro “report” about Bridgegate.
Now let me make an important point about OPRA. If something is “deliberative” it does not have to be released. A “draft” report is certainly deliberative. I’m okay with that. But is the fact that it is being written some huge State secret? If we are discussing battle plans for North Korea or a new offensive in Afghanistan we need to keep that secret. I get that. But how about the fact that SOMEBODY, SOMEWHERE is writing a 25 page report without one half of the Task Force empowered to do it? Should all references of that be omitted too? It’s like having a basketball game without another team!
So, the responses come. Hundreds of pages. Hundreds! I sift through them page by page, agency by agency. Everybody included the “final report.” Thanks folks, had that already. The League of Municipalities seemingly shattered their copy-paper budget making duplications of that hot item. Everybody also included all the emails about arranging a September 26th meeting of the entire Task Force (imagine that!). I already had those too. So I search and I search for some reference, ANY reference to the writing of this “draft.”
I FOUND IT. I found a reference about the draft! In a September 2nd email from PERC Chair P. Kelly Hatfield’s iPhone to Declan O’Scanlon’s private email account she wrote: “Draft finished in his hands now.” Granted, it doesn’t have quite the same ring as “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” or Watergate but it’s pretty damn important for one half of the Task Force that wasn’t invited to the draft writing party. Silly stuff really. It’s only a law. No biggie.
So, yes Virginia, somehow, miraculously, there is a Task Force “report.” Luckily Virginia never asked about the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. We also have a Senator-elect in Declan O’Scanlon who purports to “fight for sound, fact-based policy” (well that’s what it says on his website anyway). I for one won’t miss any of this on the morning of January 17, 2018
So Miss Hatfield, Senator-elect O’Scanlon, Governor’s Office and DCA. I’m back at the mailbox waiting for transparency, accountability and just a tiny speck of honesty. If you released what I actually wanted you’d all be ashamed of how you perverted the process. Its legitimacy is laughable. It’s yet another disgusting, disgraceful footnote to the worst Governor in New Jersey history. I’ll wait at the mailbox, but I will not be holding my breath.
So the Governor’s appointees want you to believe the Task Force Report is legitimate. But read that Sun editorial to little Virginia. She also really wanted to believe. The Sun answered; “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” We know the answer to that story too.
Pat Colligan is the President of the Police Benevolent Association
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