Citizens responsible for watching how government works

As multiple elected and appointed officials appeared on television, stepping out of a bus in handcuffs, I was ashamed and outraged. At the same time, I also was reminded how important it is for the public to participate in government.

It isn’t enough just to vote. We also have to hold government officials accountable and to demand transparency. We have to become government watchdogs if we are to prevent corruption of such scale in the future.

Regardless of individual political ideology, we need to demand that our many governmental bodies give adequate notice of proposed actions, hold open meetings and give the public time to comment, as well as make public records easily accessible.

Government business, on all levels, needs to be conducted out in the open, in front of the citizens it serves.

Holding public officials accountable entails becoming informed about the issues they have before them, attending meetings, and questioning officials. We need to remind them that the people they serve are looking over their shoulders, meeting after meeting. It is our right and our duty.

Scrutiny helps keep public officials honest. It obligates them to explain the reasoning behind the decisions they make, clearly state their intentions, divulge all pertinent information, and actually serve the public good. True citizen involvement and oversight would prevent a lot of corruption from ever taking place.

With so many officials arrested, and another round of arrests rumored to be coming soon, where does this leave New Jersey citizens? Still feeling ashamed and outraged, yes, but hopefully also committed to becoming more proactive and watchful, forcing our officials to stand in the light and conduct business honestly.

Corruption cannot be rooted out completely, but with citizen involvement we can keep it from consuming our state.

Anne Maiese

President League of Women Voters

of New Jersey