SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Village President Alex Torpey accepted an award Saturday recognizing South Orange’s efforts on behalf of open government.
The award, presented by the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government, was one of several given by the nonprofit organization. Torpey was honored in the “political leader” category. He called attention to village Clerk Robin Kline, who also was at Saturday’s workshop, asking her to stand and be recognized.
“I think it’s really important to note that one person can’t do these things by themselves,” he said in an interview Sunday. “I’m lucky to have an administrator, clerk and department heads who are interested in trying to do these things.”
South Orange’s decision to release its 2012 budget in an Excel spreadsheet format earned state and national recognition from groups who advocate citizen access to government.
Torpey noted that while some municipalities have taken steps to restrict citizens who wish to tape board meetings, South Orange records the meetings itself and posts the video on the village’s website. “It’s easy to forget how far ahead of the game South Orange is,” he said.
Other initiatives that will be undertaken by the new Public Information and Marketing Committee, according to Torpey, will be a redesign of the village’s website and a social media policy that he said will enhance the village’s profile.
By having a group that posts and shares information about the village on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, the village can “make sure that every time something happens we get the most exposure out of it,” he said.
Torpey is an advocate of using technology to increase citizen engagement in government. “I could tell you a thousand stories … where people are using technology to make the world a better place,” he said. “Why isn’t government using technology?”
By creating interactive media tools, he said, government can encourage people to get involved.
The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.