2013 Citizen Leadership Award Candidates - CITIZEN LEGISLATOR

*For the first time, we have teams of citizen leaders within this category.  Each team is considered one candidate.

CONCERNED CITIZENS OF HILLSIDE (Union):   A group of Hillside residents regularly met with coaches from The Citizens Campaign to determine important issues and strategize on how to constructively address them.   Noticing that Hillside currently did not maintain a directory of municipal board information, Aldeana Mitchell spearheaded the successful effort to get the town clerk’s office to keep and update a public directory of boards and commissions.  Now residents can find out which boards have open positions and they know how to apply.   After reviewing Hillside’s directory of municipal boards and commissions, Beverly Harris saw that there was no government body dedicated to the arts in Hillside.  Utilizing what she learned from our coaches, Beverly researched existing art commissions in other towns throughout New Jersey, found an ordinance that she could use as a model and presented it to her governing body.  We are proud to report that Beverly was the catalyst for the creation of Hillside’s first Arts Advisory Board.  Together, Aleana and Beverly are wonderful models of citizen leadership for the entire group of Concerned Citizens of Hillside and for us all. 

CITIZEN LEADERS OF HAMILTON (Mercer):  In a town facing economic challenges like every other, Connie Silakoski and Steve Cook gathered dozens of friends and neighbors together to talk about possible remedies to their rising property taxes and steps to identify potential waste occurring within their school district.  With the help of The Citizens Campaign coaches John Tremble and Bob Shinn (who also saved their own school district in Cherry Hill $6M over 1 ½ years), this team was able to identify significant savings, through OPRA requests and research, by simply improving their process for hiring insurance brokers and obtaining insurance.  They presented their findings to the School Board, to no avail. However, weeks later, a shocking chain of events occurred: first came an indictment, then a trial, complete with FBI tapes revealing that the Mayor and insurance broker were conspiring to send out “the screws guys” after the citizens who were just trying to clean up the process.  But these threats didn’t stop Connie and Steve!  This year they finally got what they asked for – an open and accountable process, without conflicts of interest for obtaining insurance in both the school district and municipal government.  Their efforts saved Hamilton an initial $800,000 in broker fees alone, with more to come!

DAN De NOSE (Newark):  Hearing about the millions of dollars being saved in cities across the state through the efforts of dedicated citizen leaders, Dan was inspired to take action in his own city.  It was no easy task.  After educating himself on the Citizen Legislator process, he reached out to fellow Newark resident and last year’s Citizen Leadership Award winner Cynthia Mosley and The Citizens Campaign coach Ibrahim Sharif. They attended dozens of city council meetings and made several public presentations, never stopping until the cost-saving ordinance was finally adopted.  Despite the countless meetings, Dan always remained constructive and dedicated to moving the reform forward, because he knew that it had the potential to save his city much needed funds and saving jobs and programs from the chopping block.

 

Vote now:

Citizen Leaders of Hamilton: Connie Silakoski, Steve Cook, John Tremble
Concerned Citizens of Hillside: Aldeana Mitchell & Beverly Harris
Dan De Nose (Newark)

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