From Dr. Frank Kern; Brigantine City Councilman: “This is my last regular Wednesday night council meeting as a sitting council member. It has been an honor and a privilege to sit on council.
I want to thank all of the people who supported me and worked hard for me and with me. I especially want to thank my wife, children and grandchildren for allowing me the time to serve my community.
“I was driving with a friend last week who asked me what I thought was the most important accomplishment of my term in office. Without hesitation I said ‘transparency.’”
“When I first began to come to council meetings eight or nine years ago, meetings frequently took 35 to 45 minutes from start to finish. There was frequently no discussion about any item on the agenda. Resolutions were usually passed without discussion, by a vote of 7-0. I used to think how unusual it was that an ordinance or resolution was announced and then voted on without any debate with respect to its usefulness or cost or impact on our community. I was not used to such a slam-dunk process.
“To be sure, there was time for comments from the audience. In those days, the audience was typically less than 10 people, and there was no encouragement to speak or he heard. To go to the microphone and speak to City Council was somewhat daunting. It seemed to me that new voices were not welcomed, dissent was not encouraged, and homeowners felt left out of the system of government in the city.
Now that there is diversity amongst council, there is open discussion and debate. This produces significant transparency. You have learned much about the operations and financial condition of the city simply by hearing council meeting discussions.
But probably the single most important thing that I helped to accomplish was our insistence that all professional service contracts, especially in engineering, be put out to fair competitive bid. This alone has saved the city many thousands of dollars. Remember, money spent unwisely affects all of our property taxes.”
“During the past two years, council has worked hard to lower starting salaries in the police and fire departments together with longer steps towards the process of retirement. It is now your responsibility as informed citizens to make sure that council keeps their election promises regarding new police and fire contracts, and continues our commitment to recognizing divergent viewpoints as being authentic.
“We now have a well-functioning website. Our budgets are on the website. Citizens are now given the opportunity to discuss the budget before introduction. Council agendas together with their supporting documents are posted in advance of meetings. Additionally, citizens are given an opportunity to speak on agenda items before we vote. And finally, we have some Saturday meetings to accommodate residents who cannot make the regular Wednesday evening meetings.”
“These are just some of the beneficial results of having a council made up of people with differing viewpoints. This is not only good for council, but it also allows citizens with differing views to speak up.
“Secretive government is bad government. We have an obligation to uphold the best tenets of our democracy: a free and open government.”
“I am proud of what I have accomplished in opening up the operations and decisions of city government to our citizens. I wish the best of luck to Mr. Sera in his new position and wish all Brigantine residents, employees and visitors a happy and healthy New Year.”