Note: The following is a copy of an Open Letter sent to Borough Mayor Joseph O'Neill, Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand, Borough Council President Mildred Trotman, and members of Borough Council and Township Committee.
Dear Elected Officials:
We are very concerned that the processes by which the Joint Healthcare Taskforce has conducted its business in fulfillment of its charge are in violation of the New Jersey Open Public Meeting Law (N.J. 10:4-6 to 10:4-2), enacted in 1975 and commonly known as the "Sunshine Law."
Our concern stems from these facts:
The Joint Healthcare Taskforce cannot be considered a purely "advisory body" engaged in "informal discussions." The Taskforce is composed of members who have previously been appointed by the mayors of the Borough and Township from several official regulatory and planning commissions of both municipalities. It is these same individuals who will have the duty and power to act upon the recommendations of the Taskforce when they are presented for consideration and action to the boards upon which they sit and vote (i.e. the Regional Planning Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment, Borough Council, and Township Committee). The Joint Healthcare Taskforce is in essence undertaking the preliminary work that will determine the reshaping of a critical part of the community's Master Plan, and will make recommendations based upon the inputs received from the hospital, the public, and other stakeholders in the community.
The Joint Healthcare Taskforce is a public entity and has conducted meetings that are described as "working sessions" without providing notice to members of the public.
Individual members of the Joint Healthcare Taskforce may have participated in informal or private conversations with entities that may have some interest in the outcome of the Taskforce's deliberations, and that may lead to a material benefit for those entities.
The Joint Healthcare Taskforce has not provided a thorough public record of its meetings, working sessions, and formal or informal conversations regarding the disposition of the hospital site.
We am writing to share and make public these concerns, and to request that the governing bodies of the Borough and Township take action to rectify potentially illegal and unfair conditions relative to the establishment of the Joint Healthcare Task Force and the conducting of its business going forward. The specific recommendations we make include:
1. Reconstituting the Joint Borough Township Healthcare Taskforce under the Open Public Meeting Law and bringing its operation into conformity with the standards outlined therein. These standards include the providing of adequate notice of all meetings and the keeping and publishing of "reasonably comprehensible" minutes of all its meetings.
2. Fully disclosing all prior conversations, meetings, deliberations and/or gatherings engaged in by members of the Healthcare Taskforce, individually or jointly, with officers, trustees, and/or managers of the University Medical Center at Princeton, Princeton University, or any other organization, institution, or foundation at which the disposition of the future of the hospital site, zoning changes, and development potential was discussed.
3. Appointing two or three residents i.e. those not currently holding elected or appointed office of the neighborhoods adjacent to the hospital site to the Joint Healthcare Taskforce.
It is our hope that you will give serious consideration to this letter and our recommendations.
Note: The following is a copy of an Open Letter sent to Rep. Rush Holt.
Dear Congressman Holt:
Recently the swift, coordinated, and efficient response by a mail carrier, police persons, and the First Aid and Rescue Squad to a local neighborhood emergency, resulted, I believe, in the saving of a man's life.
This letter is written in the hope that you might be of help in enhancing the efficacy of putting into action the process of calling 911 in certain instances.
In this case, an astute observation by the mailman that a household situation did not appear to be normal, led him to call 911, and this move on his part resulted in the prompt arrival of the police and a subsequent, superbly handled resolution of the crisis.
Rescues of this kind, as well as those by our outstanding firefighters, fortunately are common occurrences here. How much sooner might the crucial alert have reached the police had the postman not have had to search for a house with a person at home to provide him with access to a phone? In this particular happenstance, without a cell phone or the immediate ability to contact the post office, precious time was consumed.
Is it not possible for municipalities throughout our nation to provide our mail carriers (at no cost to them) with a device to carry on their person such as a light weight pendant or wristlet that will activate a direct line to 911 by simply pressing a button?
For the better part of most days, U.S. mail carriers blanket every section of our country with their deliveries to homes, schools, hospitals, and offices, and are thereby uniquely attuned to what is the ordinary business of everyday life, and what is not.
While personal emergencies have been and always will be possibilities in our lives, it is a fact of life today that a broader awareness of what transpires in our surroundings is a challenge to us all.
With a national system of conscientious observers already functioning, I feel a unified provision for equipping these eyes and ears of each community with the wherewithal to act efficiently, when speed is of the essence, would be a wise investment. It is one which we as a country, not simply a small town, would be prudent to consider.
SYDNEY ANNE NEUWIRTH
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