Sarlo’s OPRA stink bomb needs to be defused

March 10, 2024

Just when taxpayers got used to the notion that public records actually belong to the public, our most powerful lawmakers have decided that it’s time to choke off access.

In a state notorious for government corruption and poor transparency, New Jersey’s Legislature will attempt to gut the venerable but dated Open Public Records Act, which is a ludicrous idea if you only consider the treacheries that were revealed by the OPRA law.

It is a cortex-snapping litany: Because of OPRA, reporters were able to shake free internal emails and other documents that exposed the causes of the meltdown of our veterans’ homes during the pandemic. Because of OPRA, law enforcement was fundamentally changed in our state, after records showed major disparities in how police use excessive force. Because of OPRA, inspection records for a group home led to a state investigation of the alleged abuse of a severely disabled woman. Because of OPRA, the Office of the Medical Examiner was found to be a dysfunctional joke — bungling crime investigations, mangling corpses, and misplacing body parts.

These are just a few recent examples of how one news organization – this news organization – uses OPRA. But it is used every day by reporters, activists, and citizens who seek information from various departments and agencies about taxpayer funds, pollution levels, public safety, and countless other government functions that would otherwise never see the light of day.

Sarlo didn’t even bother to consult Marc Pfeiffer of the Rutgers-Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, who ran the GRC when the law was enacted in 2002. Pfeiffer’s take is blunt: “Bludgeons create a mess, and rapiers are surgical. This bill uses a bludgeon to try to deal with outliers that exist within OPRA.”

The reason for this overkill: Our elected officials seek to give government departments and agencies more freedom to stonewall public requests for information, which makes a state with a lousy reputation for transparency even more opaque., March 10, 2024

Recent Posts

NJSPL – Extreme Heat, Coastal Flooding, and Health Disparities

Extreme Heat, Coastal Flooding, and Health Disparities: Climate Change Impacts on Older Adults in New Jersey By Josephine O’Grady New Jersey is facing a myriad of climate challenges, including extreme heat, heavy precipitation, coastal flooding, and more natural...

New Paper on Foreclosure Crisis by Prof. Eric Seymour

Prof. Eric Seymour co-authors Judged by Their Deeds: Outcomes for Properties Acquired by Contract Sellers Following the Foreclosure Crisis in Detroit Abstract Prior research has documented the reemergence of predatory land contracts in majority-Black neighborhoods in...

EJB Talks with Professor Michael Smart

Transportation, Urban Planning, and Racial Bias: Insights from Professor Michael Smart In this episode of EJB Talks, Stuart Shapiro interviews Professor Michael Smart, beginning with how he became involved in transportation planning and its impact on poverty and...

NJSPL – New Report: 15-Minute Neighborhoods

Report Release: 15-Minute Neighborhoods: A Pathway to Creating Healthier, More Just, Resilient, & Sustainable Communities in New Jersey By Jon Carnegie, June Greeman, and Jacob Thompson READ FULL REPORT Over the past several years, several policy threads have...

Jane Miller Featured on Million Dollar Stories Podcast

UNLEASHING THE POWER OF NUMBERS: A CHAT WITH JANE E. MILLER ON WRITING ABOUT MULTIVARIATE ANALYSISMike interviews Jane E. Miller. Today, We had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Jane E. Miller, the mastermind behind “The Chicago Guide to Writing about...

Upcoming Events

Event Series CAREERS

Career Virtual Drop-ins


Bloustein Career Development Specialists Cheryl Egan and Andrea Garrido will be in a Zoom Room on Monday's beginning January 22, 2024 (excluding holidays and spring break) to answer questions, provide […]

Freights and Ports Capstone Presentations 2


All are invited to attend the capstone presentations to be given by graduate students in the Urban Planning: Freights and Ports course.  There will be two sessions: Monday, April 15, […]