Hopewell became the seventh community in Mercer County to pass an anti-corruption measure, as township officials unanimously voted in favor of a resolution Monday night that they say creates a more transparent political process.
The resolution was first presented to the committee on May 14 by Represent.Us, an anti-corruption non-profit organization that helped other municipalities, including Princeton, Ewing Township, South Brunswick, Lawrenceville, West Windsor and Cranbury, pass similar legislation.
The organization works to end political corruption, bribery, “dark money” and allow for elections to become more transparent.
The resolution aims to “pursue and enact legislation to control campaign financing, limit the influence of unregulated donors, promote transparency and fairness through the election process and ensure a government that is responsive to the needs of the people.”
It also calls for copies of the document be forwarded to Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, State Senator Shirley Turner, and State Assembly Members Reed Gusciora and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson.
While reading the resolution to community members in attendance, Deputy Mayor Julie Blake said the governing body had “long sought to limit the influence of money in politics, and whereas as early as 2002, the Hopewell Township Committee adopted one of the first municipal regulations in the state, regulating pay-to-play contributions.”
The resolution reads on to say that transparency in government is needed for “the growth of an educated and informed electorate, and whereas ordinary citizens must retain a voice in the electoral process.”
Officials expressed their support for the resolution last month, with Blake noting the idea of transparency in government is “valuable to all of us.”
Represent.Us Central New Jersey Chapter Leaders David Goodman and Susan Colby, as well as Hopewell residents Geri Koblis and Chris Foster were present at the meeting, and broke out into applause once the committee voted on the resolution.
As he stood before the committee, Goodman said “democracy is alive and well in Hopewell Township — and vibrant.”
He added that the timing of the resolution is crucial, as the legislature is looking at bills which will advance the principles the resolution states.
“It’s a wonderful day for Hopewell Township and we’re delighted that the full committee has agreed to support us,” Goodman said.
With the resolution’s passage, Koblis said she was relieved that she was receiving the answers others failed to give her.
“When Rush Holt had town meetings, I would ask him, ‘until we do all these great ideas that you have about going forward, how can any of this be accomplished without campaign finance reform being addressed’ and I never got answers,” she said. “When Phil Murphy was doing his town hall [meeting] at [The College of New Jersey], I asked him that same question, and I wasn’t getting answers. I was feeling discouraged; now, I feel really encouraged.”