Laptops for everyone on Palmyra Borough Council! – Burlington County Times

Welcome to 2016 in local government. The Palmyra Borough Council is going to get laptops! Holy cow! What a breakthrough! Yeah, I’m being sarcastic.

I’m not taking a potshot at Mayor Michelle Arnold. She actually is spot on in dragging the council into the 21st century. It’s really unconscionable that the council didn’t have laptops on which to conduct borough business.

But beyond that, the most amusing part of BCT reporter Todd McHale’s story Thursday was the fact that, in the last paragraph, Borough Solictor William Burns had to remind the council that all municipal business by elected officials, on whatever device they use, is subject to the Open Public Records Act.

It’s pretty sad that: a) elected officials needed to be reminded of that; and b) there was any consternation about the council having laptops to expedite municipal business.

While $11,207 might be a little pricey for seven laptops, it’s not the most outlandish government spending ever seen (i.e., see federal government, cost for screwdrivers). Even Arnold asked if it could be done cheaper.

The answer was clear. The laptops needed to be purchased through a state contract. And government officials wonder why they aren’t trusted. The markup beyond the estimated $700 for the laptop was more than $900 for the assurance that the laptops would be secure on the borough’s network, for the installation of hardware, licensing fees and service.

Given that all business conducted on the borough laptops is public, that network security has that much of a markup has to make you laugh, because if you don’t, you’ll cry. Maybe, just maybe, the state contract isn’t what it should be.

If you want another laugh, Administrator John Gural provided it by having to tell Republican Council President Bryan Norcross that extending the three-year warranty on the laptops was a fool’s errand. “I will tell you,” Gural said, “in five years, those laptops will be ancient history as far as technology is concerned.” Duh. That’s been a truism since the 1980s.

In eight months of being executive editor here, I’ve already gotten pretty up to speed on New Jersey politics. It’s provincial. It’s all about rewarding those who have helped you. And it’s nothing about helping relieve taxpayers from some of the highest taxes in the country.

Sure, I like to buy cheap gas in New Jersey, but there’s more to life than cheap gas.

When, in 2016, council members go down to a 3-2 vote to have laptops to conduct business, or state contracts more than double the cost of said laptops, or elected officials have to be reminded that the business they conduct is public, then something is terribly broken.

Add to that, despite having common sense on their side, Republican council members feel the need to ask that a couple of hundred bucks get knocked off the laptops’ price when taxpayers pour in about $17 million annually, and you leave shaking your head. And the two Democrats fought the laptops. Shake your head again.

I was extremely critical of county government for its abacus-and-parchment way of tracking costs in its accounting of the closure of the Centerton Road bridge. And all the consternation about the purchase of seven laptops just adds to the notion that Burlington County government entities are stuck in the mid-20th century.

So, to leave you on this Sunday with something positive, I do cheer the mayor’s fortitude in getting laptops for council members so they will be more efficient in governing Palmyra. It is, after all, 2016. It won’t change until you, the voters, insist that it does.

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