John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Open Records/Transparency Category

Open Records Requests Processed by Newtown Township in 2018

March 10 through 16 marks “National Sunshine Week.” It was created in 2005 by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Its goal is to educate the public about the importance of open government and promote a dialogue about the importance of freedom of information and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy. Public access to official records is fundamental to the public’s ability to understand government actions and hold government officials accountable (source: http://sco.lt/6V79kX).

[March 16, BTW, is the birthday of James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution and a key advocate of the Bill of Rights.]

The Pennsylvania Right to Know Act, also known as the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law, is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in Pennsylvania.

As part of Sunshine Week 2019, the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records (OOR) is hosting a series of webinars. On Monday, I attended the “Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) Requester Training” webinar presented by Erik Arneson, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Office of Open Records. This webinar focused on how to write a good Right-to-Know Law request, accessing information in databases, significant deadlines in the RTKL, how to appeal a RTKL denial, and more.

Thanks to our Open Records Officer Micah Lewis, aka, Township Manager, I was able to analyze the open records requests processed by Newtown Township in 2018.

Some Data

In 2018, Newtown processed 92 Open Records Requests in compliance with the State’s Sunshine Law. A total of 42 (46%) were from businesses, many of which sought building permit records. Almost half were from individuals.

Only 4 requests were from the media, which asked about employee salaries and website statistics.

About 20% of the requests were denied mostly because there were no records that complied with the request.

That underscores the need for requester training. To that end, I urge all citizens to learn more about the PA Right-to-Know law and how to request public records by accessing the Open Records Office at www.openrecordspennsylvania.com.

How Does Newtown Township's Data Compare to Other Towns?

The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records released the results of a statewide 2019 Agency Open Records Officer Survey that sheds light on who is using the state’s Right-to-Know Law, what they’re using it for, and how much time officials are spending each week to fulfill requests. Unfortunately, Newtown Township did NOT participate in that survey. Why not? A good question that I intend to ask the Township Manager. Meanwhile, read the following:

Posted on 12 Mar 2019, 13:24 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

My Supervisor Activities for February 2019

The following is a summary of my Supervisor-related activities for February, 2019. I spent only about 26 hours this month on official Supervisor business compared to an average of 50 hours per month in 2018. I attribute this below average number of hours to (1) time off for a vacation in Florida for a few days:

A little R&R is good!

(2) the cancellation of meetings due to snow, and (3) two very short BOS Definition meetings, including the February 27 session featuring the swearing in a new Police Chief.

What This Report Does Not Include

My log of Supervisor-related activities does not include the many hours I spend posting to this blog, maintaining my personal website, writing a newsletter, creating and posting video clips from meetings, hosting podcast interviews, summarizing decisions made by the Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition), etc. Also not included is the time I spend posting to my personal Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. These activities are NOT part of my official duties as Supervisor, but represent my personal views.

My log keeps track of the time spent on the following:

  • Attending “Required” Meetings
  • Preparation for BOS Meetings
  • Attending Optional Meetings/Activities
  • Interaction with Residents
  • Travel To & From Meetings

Meetings

In the month of February 2019, I spent about 8 hours attending meetings. The average for the 4th quarter of 2018 was 16.1 hours per month. BOS meetings are “required” in the sense that I am expected to attend them in order to satisfy my duties as a Supervisor. These include regular bi-weekly public meetings, non-public executive sessions, public work sessions, and special meetings (see the list below).

“Other Meetings” I attended were optional. For February, 2019, I attended a Joint Zoning Council Definition meeting and the Annual BCATO Definition Convention on February 16, 2019

Interaction with Residents

In my opinion, personal interaction with residents regarding their concerns is an important part of my responsibilities as Supervisor. I want to be sure that I spend enough time reaching out to and responding to residents via personal contact, official email via my johnm@newtownpa.gov account and via my personal john@johnmacknewtown.info account, and via phone and/or Facebook.

In February, 2019, I spent 3.8 hours (15% of my total logged hours) interacting with residents compared to an average of 6.7 hours per month in the fourth quarter of 2018. What did I discuss with residents? Here’s a partial list (some items are not included for confidentiality reasons):

  • Met with a resident interested in helping with activities related to the Human Relations Commission
  • Discussed with a resident ideas for enforcing speed limit on Frost Lane in the school zone. For some background on that, read "Frost Lane Traffic Study".
  • Participated in online discussions regarding Newtown Artesian Water Company's letter notifying residents that PFAS were detected in several sources of Township water.
  • Facebook discussion about ideas for bringing new business to Newtown.

Disclaimer

When speaking with residents on issues that may come before the BOS in the future for a vote, I never express an opinion as to how I will vote because I may not have all the information. Needless to say, I also do NOT discuss any confidential information that is not in the public domain. These discussions with residents are meant solely to inform me of their opinions, not for me to give them my opinion. Or it is just to listen to complaints/concerns and to forward them on to the BOS if necessary

I decided to keep track of my activities as a Supervisor on a monthly basis partly because I want to be accountable to residents, but also to make sure I am making the best use of my time. It's really an honor to serve the community! I learn something new every day and have met many fine people and volunteers who also put in a lot of time without any compensation at all. Thanks to everyone who help keep Newtown in business and safe.

Compare to: John Mack's Supervisor Report for January 2019

Posted on 01 Mar 2019, 10:38 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

My Supervisor Activities for January 2019

The following is a summary of my Supervisor-related activities for January, 2019, which was a busy month in terms of interaction with residents but light in terms of time spent at official required meetings. In January, I spent a total of 56.3 hours on official Supervisor business. For comparison, in the last quarter of 2018 (Sep through Dec), I spent an average of 46.7 hours as Supervisor.

What This Report Does Not Include

My log of Supervisor-realted activiies does not include the many hours I spend posting to this blog, maintaining my personal website, writing a newsletter, creating and posting video clips from meetings, hosting podcast interviews, summarizing decisions made by the Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition), etc. Also not included is the time I spend posting to my personal Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. These activities are NOT part of my official duties as Supervisor, but represent my personal views.

My log keeps track of the time spent on the following:

  • Attending “Required” Meetings
  • Preparation for BOS Meetings
  • Attending Optional Meetings/Activities
  • Interaction with Residents
  • Travel To & From Meetings

Meetings

In the month of January 2019, I spent 8 hours attending meetings. The average for the 4th quarter of 2018 was 16.1 hours per month. BOS meetings are “required” in the sense that I am expected to attend them in order to satisfy my duties as a Supervisor. These include regular bi-weekly public meetings, non-public executive sessions, public work sessions, and special meetings (see the list below).

“Other Meetings” I attended were optional. For January, 2019, the only optional meeting I attended was the Technology Committee meeting. The following chart shows the breakdown of all my Supervisor-related activities for January, 2019:

Interaction with Residents

In my opinion, personal interaction with residents regarding their concerns is an important part of my responsibilities as Supervisor. I want to be sure that I spend enough time reaching out to and responding to residents via personal contact, official email via my johnm@newtownpa.gov account and via my personal john@johnmacknewtown.info account, and via phone and/or Facebook.

In January, 2019, I spent approximately 12.8 hours (24% of my total logged hours) interacting with residents compared to an average of 6.7 hours per month in the fourth quarter of 2018. What did I discuss with residents? Here’s a partial list (some items are not included for confidentiality reasons):

Disclaimer

When speaking with residents on issues that may come before the BOS in the future for a vote, I never express an opinion as to how I will vote because I may not have all the information. Needless to say, I also do NOT discuss any confidential information that is not in the public domain. These discussions with residents are meant solely to inform me of their opinions, not for me to give them my opinion. Or it is just to listen to complaints/concerns and to forward them on to the BOS if necessary

I decided to keep track of my activities as a Supervisor on a monthly basis partly because I want to be accountable to residents, but also to make sure I am making the best use of my time. It's really an honor to serve the community! I learn something new every day and have met many fine people and volunteers who also put in a lot of time without any compensation at all. Thanks to everyone who help keep Newtown in business and safe.

Previous Reports

Posted on 02 Feb 2019, 13:01 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

My Supervisor Activities for December 2018

The following is a summary of my Supervisor-related activities for December, 2018, which was a “light” month in terms of official meetings due to the holidays. In December, I spent a total of 24.1 hours on official Supervisor business. For comparison, in November, I spent 58.5 hours as Supervisor (read “John Mack’s Supervisor Report for November 2018”).

What This Report Does Not Include

My log of Supervisor-realted activiies does not include the many hours I spend posting to this blog, maintaining my personal website, writing a newsletter, creating and posting video clips from meetings, hosting podcast interviews, summarizing decisions made by the Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition), etc. Also not included is the time I spend posting to my personal Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. These activities are NOT part of my official duties as Supervisor, but represent my personal views.

My log keeps track of the time spent on the following:

  • Attending “Required” Meetings
  • Preparation for BOS Meetings
  • Attending Optional Meetings/Activities
  • Interaction with Residents
  • Travel To & From Meetings

Meetings

In the month of December 2018, I spent only 3 hours attending meetings, which was significantly less than the 19 hours I spent attending meetings last month. BOS meetings are “required” in the sense that I am expected to attend them in order to satisfy my duties as a Supervisor. These include regular bi-weekly public meetings, non-public executive sessions, public work sessions, and special meetings (see the list below).

“Other Meetings” I attended were optional. For December, 2018, the only other optional meeting I attended was the regular monthly meeting of the Newtown Fire Association. The following chart shows the breakdown of all my Supervisor-related activities for December, 2018:

Interaction with Residents

In my opinion, personal interaction with residents regarding their concerns is an important part of my responsibilities as Supervisor. I want to be sure that I spend enough time reaching out to and responding to residents via personal contact, official email via my johnm@newtownpa.gov account and via my personal john@johnmacknewtown.info account, and via phone and/or Facebook.

In December, 2018, I spent approximately 6.5 hours (27% of my total logged hours) interacting with residents compared to 5 hours (8%) in November. What did I discuss with residents? Here’s a partial list (some items are not included for confidentiality reasons):

Disclaimer

When speaking with residents on issues that may come before the BOS in the future for a vote, I never express an opinion as to how I will vote because I may not have all the information. Needless to say, I also do NOT discuss any confidential information that is not in the public domain. These discussions with residents are meant solely to inform me of their opinions, not for me to give them my opinion. Or it is just to listen to complaints/concerns and to forward them on to the BOS if necessary

I decided to keep track of my activities as a Supervisor on a monthly basis partly because I want to be accountable to residents, but also to make sure I am making the best use of my time. It's really an honor to serve the community! I learn something new every day and have met many fine people and volunteers who also put in a lot of time without any compensation at all. Thanks to everyone who help keep Newtown in business and safe.

Posted on 02 Jan 2019, 11:22 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

My Supervisor Activities for November 2018

The following is a summary of my Supervisor-related activities for November, 2018. In November, I spent a total of 58.5 hours on official Supervisor business. For comparison, in October, I spent 57.5 hours as Supervisor (read “John Mack’s Supervisor Report for October 2018”).

What This Report Does Not Include

My log of Supervisor-related activiies does not include the many hours I spend posting to this blog, maintaining my personal website, writing a newsletter, creating and posting video clips from meetings, hosting podcast interviews, summarizing decisions made by the Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition), etc. Also not included is the time I spend posting to my personal Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. These activities are NOT part of my official duties as Supervisor, but represent my personal views.

My log keeps track of the time spent on the following:

  • Attending “Required” Meetings
  • Preparation for BOS Meetings
  • Attending Optional Meetings/Activities
  • Interaction with Residents
  • Travel To & From Meetings

Meetings

In the month of November 2018, I estimate that I spent about 19 hours attending meetings, which was significantly less than the 34 hours I spent attending meetings last month. BOS meetings are “required” in the sense that I am expected to attend them in order to satisfy my duties as a Supervisor. These include regular bi-weekly public meetings, non-public executive sessions, public work sessions, and special meetings (see the list below).

“Other Meetings” I attended were optional. For November, 2018, these included:

  1. Zoning Hearing Board: November 1, 2018
  2. Finance Committee: November 13, 2018
  3. Planning Commission: November 20, 2018
  4. Technology Committee: November 27, 2018

I spent 6.9 hours attending these optional meetings. In total, I spent nearly 42 hours in November, 2018, attending all the above meetings, preparing for these meetings, and traveling to and from these meetings. The following chart shows the breakdown of all my Supervisor-related activities for November, 2018:

Interaction with Residents

In my opinion, personal interaction with residents regarding their concerns is an important part of my responsibilities as Supervisor. I want to be sure that I spend enough time reaching out to and responding to residents via personal contact, official email via my johnm@newtownpa.gov account and via my personal john@johnmacknewtown.info account, and via phone and/or Facebook.

For November, 2018, I spent approximately 5 hours (8% of my total logged hours) interacting with residents compared to 9 hours (16%)  in October. What did I discuss with residents? Here’s a partial list (some items are not included for confidentiality reasons):

Disclaimer

When speaking with residents on issues that may come before the BOS in the future for a vote, I never express an opinion as to how I will vote because I may not have all the information. Needless to say, I also do NOT discuss any confidential information that is not in the public domain. These discussions with residents are meant solely to inform me of their opinions, not for me to give them my opinion. Or it is just to listen to complaints/concerns and to forward them on to the BOS if necessary

I spent some time working for you as Supervisor 22 days in the month in November (see chart).

I decided to keep track of my activities as a Supervisor on a monthly basis partly because I want to be accountable to residents, but also to make sure I am making the best use of my time. It's really an honor to serve the community! I learn something new every day and have met many fine people and volunteers who also put in a lot of time without any compensation at all. Thanks to everyone who help keep Newtown in business and safe.

Posted on 03 Dec 2018, 13:23 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

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This site is paid for and approved by John Mack: john@johnmacknewtown.info
The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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