By Stephen Yellin
On his new campaign website, Republican State Senator Gerald "Gerry" Cardinale explains in a video clip why he’s established the site: "So that you can know the truth about my record." I’ll be happy to take Mr. Cardinale up on his offer, as I have been doing for the last month, and bit by bit reveal to you, the reader his extraordinarily extreme record in 28 years as a New Jersey legislator. For example, Cardinale talks a good game when it comes to government transparency, but did you know that he prefers cutting off newspaper advertisements of public meetings? I didn’t either at first. But if you get to know the real Gerry Cardinale as I have, you’ll understand as well as I do why he needs to be defeated on November 6th.
Read on if you want to know the dirty details...
If you open your local newspaper, you’ll likely find (somewhere inside it) a list of meetings and events open to the public, as required by the government. Sometimes these "little" reports result in dozens of citizens being able to attend events with their elected officials, which of course hold politicians accountable. Many of those citizens would never have known about these forums for public discussion without reading it in the paper first. And many of these citizens are elderly, lacking or not knowing how to access the Internet. For them, the newspaper is their best – and only – method of finding out about the world around them, and how best to play their part in the system.
Gerry Cardinale must not like the idea of senior citizens and newspaper readers being able to talk to him. How else does one explain his attempt last year through legislation to get rid of print-based information on such meetings? His legislation (which thankfully went nowhere) would have placed all public meeting information online, and removed that information from the newspapers unless the paper wanted to keep it. And honestly, if you’re a money-making enterprise like a newspaper, why spend money on something if you don’t have to?
The Bridgewater Courier-News put in best in an editorial last October when they wrote:
"What Cardinale wants to do is eliminate the newspaper versions and leave just the government’s own postings, a process that is guaranteed to reach fewer citizens. While we all operate increasingly in an online world, there remain many people -- believe it or not -- with limited or no reasonable access to the Internet, either by choice or due to financial limitations. Many older people aren’t comfortable with computers. Some people may have online capability, but only for e-mail. Or their computer systems may not be able to handle certain Web sites." (Editorial, Bridgewater Courier News, 10/11/2006)
Look, we’re all bloggers, and we all know how to use the Internet for political purposes. But many citizens, including some who use the Internet regularly, never go near political updates or even look for meeting information online. My mom, for example is fairly well-versed in politics (she reads my online work, I’m proud to say), but she reads the New York Times for public information, not Tom Kean, Junior’s website (he’s my State Senator, alas). She’s an example of the type of person Gerry Cardinale would prefer knew less about what her government was doing for her on a regular basis, and when she could meet with them to let them know how she feels. And my mom knows how to use the Internet! How do you think those who have rarely or never touched a computer, who don’t know how to send e-mails, yet who still are active in community affairs would fare without public notices?
As I said, Cardinale’s plan went nowhere, and he was roundly condemned by four major New Jersey newspapers for his attempt. Even the corrupt ex-Newark Mayor, Sharpe James opposed this attempt to weaken public scrutiny (maybe he should have, as he’s now in danger of going to jail). Even afterwards, however, Cardinale was defiant.
"They say the revenue doesn’t mean much to big newspapers, but a lot to small newspapers, but we don’t tax people to provide revenue to newspapers. . . I think taxpayers deserve our attention if we’re spending money that could be saved and still accomplish the goal." (Asbury Park Press, 12/2/2006)
In Gerry Cardinale’s world, it’s ok to "save money" by shutting taxpayers out of public meetings. I just hope that when he is defeated next month by Democrat Joseph Ariyan Voice for the 39th that he’ll stay active in politics, so that he can come to meetings and complain about the state of affairs. No doubt his fellow senior citizens would be glad to hear him as a private citizen with them, and not as a State Senator trying to silence them.
Stay tuned for even more exciting news on this race...