by Bill Cleary
Gloucester City's John Schmidt, a self-proclaimed open government activist, is in the news again. MyFoxPhilly featured him recently (The Parking Vigilante) for taking Runnemede school parents to task who are parking in the yellow zone outside of two schools in that community.
photo: Schmidt at Gov. Christie's Town Rally in Gloucester Township
In an interview with MyFoxPhilly.com he said, "It's yellow for the protection of the kids”. (see video below).
Schmidt has taken it upon himself to write down the license plate numbers of the violators. He was told by Capt. Paul Dailey of the Runnemede Police Department that he would have to sign the complaints and he would have to testify in court. So far, he hasn't.
Schmidt says he's not trying to target parents. But many of them don't buy it.
"What kind of satisfaction could anybody get from doing something like that, when you have small children in kindergarten and first grade to pick up?" said one grandparent.
"The guy, it's oblivious, he doesn't have anything better to do with his time, than to come down here and harass people that are trying to pick their kids up from school," said a parent.
But Schmidt says he'll keep driving the issue until something is done about it.
WHO IS JOHN SCHMIDT? A Gloucester City resident, he is single and lives with his parents. When he is not crusading throughout South Jersey to right what he thinks is a wrong he attends college.
A political fanactic, Schmidt worked for the election of Bill James when he first ran for mayor of Gloucester City in 2006. He joined the City Democrat Club, was named to the Gloucester City Tree Commission and the Gloucester City Board of Health. But the relationship between Schmidt, the mayor and Democrat Club members fell apart in the following year(s). He didn’t like the way the mayor was handling several issues and became a vocal critic of the administration. He was booted off the Board of Health and the Tree Commission.
Schmidt said he wasn't booted off either body, "I resigned."
Along the way Schmidt decided that since the Democrats didn’t want him he would become a Republican. After he was removed from the City Tree Commission by Mayor James he stated,
“For the most part I am a supporter of Republican Governor Chris Christie, and Republican Assemblyman Domenick DiCicco Jr. The fact that I filed a lawsuit against the City for violating OPRA and because I reached out to the other side of the isle the mayor has it out for me.”
One moment John is a Republican and the next moment he is a Democrat.
On November 6, 2011, John, in a letter to the the Clementon Housing Authority writes,
"You, as a reader should also know my personal standpoint on politics in general. I am a Democrat, but at the local level, I believe my party has forgotten its true mission. It seems that the local Democrats care more about keeping the public, the people they serve, in the dark instead of doing the people’s business. My party, the Democratic party, has forgotten the little guy but remembers big business and campaign contributions."
Two weeks later Schmidt was nominated to the same body that wanted to arrest him for trying to videotape a Housing Authority meeting. He was appointed November 22 by Clementon Mayor Mark Armbruster a Democrat for a five year term.
John is also known for filing numerous Open Public Record Act (OPRA) requests seeking information about Gloucester City officials. He has also filed OPRA requests in a number of other communities such as Clementon, Runnemede and Pine Hill. Besides taking Gloucester City to court he has also been responsible for legal action being filed against the boro of Runnemede.
The municipal clerk is responsible for answering those requests, some of which take considerable time to answer. Last year, Kathy Jentsch, Gloucester City Municipal Clerk was asked to comment about the many requests submitted to her office by the same people all the time (for example Schmidt). “When a large percentage of OPRA requests are coming from the same person or same group of people working together, I have to agree with your statement that “they have taken this law and made a mockery out of it for personal reasons.”
Schmidt ran for the Gloucester City School Board in 2011 but lost. Recently he submitted an application to the Gloucester City Republican Club to run for the Third Ward Council seat. Republican Chairman Wil Levins said he didn’t accept his application.
Thank you to City Housing Inspector Joe Stecklair and the employees from the Gloucester City Public Works for cleaning up “Sanford and Son” junk yard located in the Riverview Heights section of the City. The house was abandoned by the tenant in January. The individual and his family left behind piles of trash along with an above ground swimming pool that was half filled with water. The pool ladder was left inside it which was a safety hazard. One phone call to Mr. Stecklair and the problem was solved.
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