Watchung - OPRA lawsuit update

Discussion in 'Advocacy & Access' started by TheLonerider, Oct 29, 2017.

  1. TheLonerider

    TheLonerider Well-Known Member

    Location:
    New Joisey
    Just wanted to share... as part of my post-gaming the watchung thing I filed an opra request in July. After much stalling and some redaction of emails which were not supposed to be redacted, had to sue to get content.

    The result appears those fliers warning mt. bikes can be confiscated for violating the ban? The government apparently lied.
    [​IMG]

    “We can’t take them just for operating in the park, but under the circumstances outlined below we can. It might be a little misleading to state it on the sign.”

    [​IMG]
    This was from an email regarding “increased penalties” for mt. biking in Watchung Reservation which Union County redacted. It details government employees debating what to put on the no bike signs and fliers and one of them pointing out that threatening to confiscate bikes is "misleading" because that authority does not come from the ordinance they say authorizes the mt. bike ban.

    ...that ordinance says nothing about bike confiscation!
    It is another ordinance, never mentioned in the flier, that authorizes that threat, and it has nothing to do with the ordinance the county has said authorizes the mt. biking ban.

    THAT authority stems from a separate ordinance, as stated in the emails the government tried to hide, namely, an archaic leftover from the bikeboom years regarding bike registration.

    It is for this reason that the government people, amongst themselves, decided that saying on signs or pamphlets that bikes could be confiscated for riding in the park – i.e., violating the mountain bike ban– would be misleading to people. Again, “We can’t take them just for operating in the park”, according to Lt. Dean Falzarano, of the Union County police department. But that is precisely what they did say they could do!

    “A little misleading” is the understatement of the year!

    No wonder I had to sue to get access to this. Because that “misleading” threat? That’s exactly what they DID put on fliers distributed on kiosks throughout Watchung anyway – after they decided it was misleading!

    The legal fees my lawyer ran up were over three thousand dollars. Factor in court costs and the fees their own lawyer may have charged and it could easily be double that since as the loser or the one settling the case, the government has to basically pay all the costs.

    In other words, they were willing to pay a lot of money to keep this hidden.

    The reason seems obvious: Though the government said amongst themselves that “they can’t take” bikes just for some one violating the mt. bike ban, that IS EXACTLY WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN TELLING THE PUBLIC, as they did on their fliers.

    The gov't still doesn't allow riding there, but at least, citizens can now know that there is no basis to the threat to confiscate their bike in the ban on mountain biking. As to the registration thing, some towns may offer it if asked, but no one is required to do this or has been for years that I am aware of, and the idea is they could confiscate it if they thought it was stolen. Since most bikes these days are not registered with a municipal government, failing to do so can hardly be in itself suspicious, but then that is another issue. The point is that the government knew its threat was misleading, and published it anyway.

    Like the tv used to say, the more you know.

    -- Lonerider
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2017
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  2. stilluf

    stilluf Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Westfield NJ
    Thanks for your unflinching advocacy @Lonerider . This shows that the Lack of communication with the public, and ambiguous or unenforceable ordinances has always been the County's Achilles Heel. It's strange to me that they still refuse to engage in a dialogue with stakeholders, and instead keep all deliberations/decisions hidden. #freewatchung
     
    TheLonerider likes this.
  3. TheLonerider

    TheLonerider Well-Known Member

    Location:
    New Joisey
    Thanks!

    [​IMG]
     
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  4. jimvreeland

    jimvreeland Shop: Hilltop Bicycles Shop Keep

    Location:
    Pissthataway
    No one post anything about Watching ever again. Thanks.
     
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  5. stilluf

    stilluf Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Westfield NJ
    Does this include you? ;)
     
  6. thegock

    thegock Well-Known Member

    Especially Jim
     
  7. Xler8

    Xler8 Active Member

    Location:
    NJ
    I applaud :thumbsup: the due diligence and perseverance in trying to get more answers! If only more people were willing to go at it this long without giving up...

    So where does it go from here?
     
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  8. TheLonerider

    TheLonerider Well-Known Member

    Location:
    New Joisey
    Thanks! As to the next step... still working on that. I only know we all know more now than we did before, and that's not a bad thing!

    Lonerider
     
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  9. Dingo

    Dingo Well-Known Member

    Good info Lonerider, and thanks for hanging in there. I kinda figured there was and is more to this non-sense.

    I was at my dentist today in New Providence, and we were chatting about the watchung mess. He said another patient was just glad to see it all die down so that he could just go back to riding there, as usual.
     
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  10. TheLonerider

    TheLonerider Well-Known Member

    Location:
    New Joisey

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