Friday, December 31, 2010
As former Schools Superintendent Larry Leverett pointed out during his tenure, you cannot deal with a problem unless you acknowledge and name it. There once was a time in Plainfield when officials and the community applied this concept to HIV/AIDS.
In the early 1980s, understanding of the disease was limited and even health professionals behaved in a way that would be unthinkable today. When one of the first AIDS patients entered Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, Plainfield activists found out his food tray was being left outside his door by fearful staff. Through a campaign of awareness and action, activists increased both common sense and compassion among those who were supposed to be caring for him and others. They visited often and a church group came to sing Christmas carols. They advocated with medical staff for more education and understanding all around and prevailed in the end.
Plainfield also had one of the most publicized instances of pediatric AIDS, a young girl under the care of Dr. James Oleske. Her story, told simply, dispelled many notions about the disease as it affected children.
The city became part of an HIV/AIDS consortium that sought Ryan White funding and marked World AIDS Day each December 1. Plainfield Action Services had a wall of posters with personal messages from those affected by HIV/AIDS. I created one for my sister Jane, who died of what was then called AIDS-related Complex, or ARC. I also did a guest sermon at my church and wrote a Speaking Out piece for the Courier News about Jane.
Of course, all the activism in the world could not stop the losses through the 1980s, as scientists struggled to understand the disease, its vectors and its treatment. Plainfield lost many of its most enthusiastic new residents, gay men who appreciated its marvelous housing stock and who, at personal expense, had saved many a building from ruin. The emerging gay community, both men and women, took a leadership role in raising funds for research on HIV/AIDS and quietly cared for and celebrated the lives of its own.
As the HIV/AIDS population shifted to affect other groups more strongly, especially men and women of color, new awareness and education campaigns had to be developed. It is unconscionable that the city’s first black female mayor would seek to suppress information on HIV/AIDS, given the newest statistics on those affected. Rebecca Williams is properly publishing the data on her blog and urging community involvement to address prevention.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
This array of post-holiday trash was still awaiting pickup last night, but this morning it is all gone! Progress!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
"The last hike was in 2007 and before that, rates did not increase for three years. But now householders will be asked to pay $191.45 per quarter for solid waste costs, up from $159.65, and $578 per (Correction: per year) quarter for sewer services, up from $509.
"Various other costs rose, including 40 percent more to clean up a trash-strewn property and 20 percent more to dispose of the debris."
As the governing body considered the agenda for the annual reorganization at Monday's meeting, somebody noticed it did not have a listing for the mayor's State of the City address. It will be added, of course, but it made this writer recall a past Plaintalker post on the subject.
It seems our mayor prefers a PowerPoint slide show to a speech on how things are going in the Queen City. Last year's example ran to 30 pages and can be seen on the city web site.
In 2008, I was wishing for a more dynamic and inspiring address than one that consisted of rather long lists of details. As an example, I posted a "State of the Pedestrian Address" in honor of my favorite cause, walkability. Just for a laugh, I am offering this link to those who missed it or who might want to read it again.
Meanwhile, I am behind on collecting my thoughts for a "Year in Review" post, having only gotten as far as a sketchy list. I am hoping to get it together in the next couple of days.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Approaching the main train station from Park Avenue, one section of the sidewalk had only knee-deep holes for one boot-shod foot at a time. There has been a longstanding debate over who is responsible for clearing snow from around the train stations, the city or NJ Transit. Looks like it wasn't decided Tuesday.
Some of the oddities along the way included these new windows at the "luxury condo" building. They were open to the gale winds and blowing snow all weekend.
But Roofus the famous downtown cat was snug inside the old Budget Rent-A-Car building and as usual, was rather indignant at finding a paparraza invading his privacy.
Weather notwithstanding, one Front Street merchant was hoping for post-holiday spenders to come along and posted this inviting sign.
The mayor and the governing body sparred Monday over the aftermath of council action to restore City Administrator Bibi Taylor's job.
Taylor was fired by the mayor just as she was going on maternity leave, but the council overrode the decision to keep her on. Taylor gave birth to a daughter last week.
On Monday, the ongoing dispute continued with Councilman Adrian Mapp finding fault with documents listing Dan Williamson as corporation counsel after he was named acting city administrator by the mayor. Mapp said Williamson could not serve in dual capacity according to the city charter.
"You can't have that," he said vehemently, and Councilwoman Bridget Rivers called it "another misstep."
Williamson glossed it over as an error and along with acting Corporation Counsel James Ventantonio, formerly the city solicitor, promised to fix it.
In further discussion, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs responded to questions about plans for day-to-day operations of the city by saying she had planned to bring in an acting city administrator "from the community," but told the council, "We don't have the funding due to your move."
She said Williamson and Ventantonio will therefore continue in their acting roles.
Robinson-Briggs said she was still waiting for Taylor to give her an "absolute schedule" for her maternity leave, which may span Jan. 3 to March 1. She said "some time" had been offered to Taylor, but she did not respond. Williamson said he had asked Taylor for a "written proposal." When she does, he said, he will submit it to the mayor.
The governing body spent two hours Dec. 20 in closed conference with Taylor before members emerged to state they were overturning the mayor's action. On Monday, Councilman William Reid said he was not opposed to consulting with Taylor on important matters, including impending layoffs, an IT shared services deal with the school district and more.
"Hopefully, we will get these things done for the benefit of the city," Reid said.
Given the mayor's declaration that no funding exists for the previously-discussed proposed hiring of former Finance Director Ron West as acting city administrator, Councilman Cory Storch asked whether the auditor could find some money in the budget. But the mayor said if there was a funding source, she would love to "not to have a layoff plan" due to budget cuts.
Council President Annie McWilliams said she understood Taylor had offered to work some hours, but Williamson said the decision rested with the mayor. In turn, Robinson-Briggs said other mothers had not been permitted to work from home while on maternity leave.
The discussion went on with Rivers challenging Williamson's ability to run the city day-to-day and the mayor defending him.
McWilliams wrapped it up by saying the most important thing to get out of the discussion was "what is the plan going forward." Rather than prolong the discussion Monday, she said it would continue "maybe in January."
The council will hold its annual reorganization at 8 p.m. on Jan. 3 in Municipal Court. The first agenda-fixing session of 2011 will take place Jan. 10 in City Hall Library, followed by a regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 18.
Councilmen William Reid and Rashid Burney voted “no,” citing disagreements with the two amendments, while Councilmen Adrian Mapp and Cory Storch, Councilwoman Bridget Rivers and Council President Annie McWilliams voted “yes.” Councilwoman Linda Carter, who won a Union County freeholder seat in the November general election, was not present because she resigned from the council earlier on Monday.
One amendment eliminated the Purchasing Division while adding a clerical salary under the chief finance officer to work with an automated purchasing system advocated by Mapp. But Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs suggested that incoming CFO Ron Zilinski might leave if the responsibility for purchasing was added to his duties.
Zilinski was hired in late November after the state Division of Local Government Services ordered the mayor and governing body to come up with a CFO or face daily fines. The statutory office had been vacant in Plainfield since former CFO Peter Sepelya retired at the end of 2007. Zilinski recently retired from a fiscal post in Trenton but has decades of experience and agreed to work 28 hours a week as CFO/City Treasurer in Plainfield.
Both Al Restaino, director of Administration, Finance, Health and Social Services, and Dan Williamson, acting city administrator, said they had spoken with Zilinski and that he had reservations about purchasing being added to his role. But after McWilliams asked whether Zilinski had objected in writing, each answered, “No.” Rivers asked the same question and both said no again.
The other amendment would cut funds from the salary line for the Recreation Division and put the money into seasonal workers. Advocates said the move would enhance programming, but opponents said it would unfairly cut Recreation Superintendent Dave Wynn’s salary to part time. Reid staunchly defended Wynn, with the mayor murmuring assent. After Storch suggested that a Recreation Commission could provide a better level of oversight and improve programming, Reid said, “You’ve been involved in city stuff for a long time and you know in your heart it wouldn’t work.”
Only three people spoke in a hearing on the amendments, one being Dwayne Wilkins, the current chairman of a Recreation Committee reactivated after a standoff between Wynn and volunteers over use of city ball fields. Wilkins praised Wynn’s handling of Recreation Division events, but questioned programming, citing a volleyball program that served only two adults and nine children. He said his committee had marketers and others who had a lot of ideas for programs, but who needed “a baseline of understanding” that has been elusive.
Robinson-Briggs offered examples of towns with populations similar to Plainfield’s, all having fulltime recreation directors. She said she disagreed with having seasonal people run programs.
The mayor eventually asked the council to reconsider not just the two controversial amendments but also several others. However, Bob Swisher of the auditing firm Supplee, Clooney said changes now would mean starting over with the whole process of advertising amendments, holding a hearing and voting final budget passage.
Neither of the proposed divisional changes would take place until April, due to the need to give notice to the personnel involved. Overall, the budget savings with all the amendments would only be about $12,000. Finally McWilliams, who had sought budget passage before the end of 2010, called for the vote, asking, “Are your concerns valid enough to hold up the vote?”
The 4-2 affirmative vote delivered one of the earliest conclusions to the budget process in many years, just six months into the fiscal year that began July 1. The SFY 2010 budget did not pass until February. Typically, passage in the third quarter of the fiscal year has left little leeway for savings. Several council members have called for starting the SFY 2012 budget process very early, with a three-year projection of savings, as state rules will put tighter reins on future spending. A 2 percent cap will be imposed on municipal budget increases for the next fiscal year.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
The weather report was not looking good ...
This storm is the real thing. It went from a light dusting to near-whiteout conditions in a very short time. I will post some photos at intervals, but it is best to stay inside if you can. Take care, everybody!
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Click here to access the agenda page on the city web site.
The library has been closed since Thursday, but even if the agenda had been available there over the weekend for scrutiny, it would not be enlightening. None of the three departments had resolutions to peruse, nor did the administrative/executive branch or the corporation counsel. The legislative body’s resolutions were largely start-of-year housekeeping items, such as naming the official newspaper. There are also several resolutions having to do with council rules for 2011, but no details.
That agenda is for the Jan. 3 reorganization and would normally contain numerous appointments to boards and commissions. Maybe there will be a revised agenda by Monday night. The meeting is 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library, if not wiped out by the predicted major snowstorm.
Included in the correspondence are two announcements from the mayor, one naming Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson acting city administrator and one naming Jacques Howard acting department head for Public Works & Urban Development.
There is also a special meeting scheduled for 8 p.m. Monday, which includes a public hearing on the budget amendments and possible budget passage. It’s a likely bet that the Dave Wynn claque will show up to root for their man. But let’s hope that if there is a blizzard and the meeting still goes on, the bombast will be held to a minimum in the interest of everyone getting back home safely.
Given the drama of the last regular meeting of the year on Dec. 20, it is no wonder that it was not ended with the formal “sine die” announcement. The niceties of proper procedure can easily be overlooked at such times. Correction: Deputy Clerk A.J. Jalloh says: "Bernice, the "Sine Die" WAS announced by the Council President at the last Regular Meeting. It was immediately prior to adjournment."
Good luck to all who are taking up new responsibilities in 2011 and courage to all veterans of the council fray.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
The hodge-podge Department of Administration, Finance, Health & Senior Services may have tried Bibi’s patience, with its mix of fiscal and social concerns. But even when called on to sort out a time-consuming brouhaha at the Senior Center, she kept her composure. She also faithfully upheld the desires of the executive branch without antagonizing the legislative branch.
When Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs won re-election in November 2009, the cabinet had to be reconstituted and the mayor named Bibi both acting department head and city administrator. However, she said it would only be until Jan. 31, as Bibi was moving on.
The thought of the impending loss made veteran council watchers quite sad, as they hadn’t seen her like in a long time. When her plans changed and she stayed on, more than one observer breathed a sigh of relief. She was named city administrator for the balance of the mayor’s term, to Jan. 1, 2014. For lack of a chief finance officer and head of AFH&SS, she also kept a handle on many additional responsibilities.
Bibi saw the council through the 2010 budget process that finally ended in mid-February. She also had to deal with a new dispute over youth baseball leagues, which took many hours away from her main responsibility for day-to-day operations in the city.
Before long, it was time to start the SFY 2011 budget process. Though visibly pregnant through the fall, Bibi attended many extra night meetings on the budget. Again, Bibi dutifully answered council questions while firmly stating the mayor’s position on certain changes the council sought.
Then came the blow. The mayor whom she so loyally defended fired her, no reason given, even as her delivery date was imminent.
The act appalled a wide range of Plainfielders, including Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green, the mayor’s mentor.
On Monday, council members exercised their right under the city’s special charter to “disapprove” of the firing and Bibi’s job was restored. Already in the early stages of labor, she endured the long meeting where, before the council vote, more than a dozen speakers praised her and urged the council to keep her on.
Early Wednesday, she gave birth and will be out on maternity leave for a while, though ever the trouper, she has offered to work from home until she can return fulltime.
The high regard for Bibi expressed by so many people reflects her stellar role in 2010 and her brightness in the crowded constellation of cabinet members over the past five years. Whatever happens next, 2010 was surely the Year of Bibi in many Queen City minds.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
MAKE SURE THERE IS A VACANCY FIRST!
A meeting to decide on three nominees to replace Councilwoman and Freeholder-elect Linda Carter was called off for that very reason - she had not yet resigned her council seat, therefore there was no vacancy to fill. In days to come, I'm sure that oversight will be rectified.
NJSA 40A:16-11. Appointment to fill vacancy where incumbent was nominee of a political party; time to fill vacancy
40A:16-11. Appointment to fill vacancy where incumbent was nominee of a political party; time to fill vacancy. If the incumbent whose office has become vacant was elected to office as the nominee of a political party, the municipal committee of the political party of which the incumbent was the nominee shall, no later than 15 days after the occurrence of the vacancy, present to the governing body the names of three nominees for the selection of a successor to fill the vacancy. The governing body shall, within 30 days after the occurrence of the vacancy, appoint one of the nominees as the successor to fill the vacancy. If the governing body fails to appoint one of the nominees within the time prescribed herein, the municipal committee that named the three nominees shall, within the next 15 days, appoint one of the nominees as the successor to fill the vacancy, and such person shall be sworn in immediately. If the municipal committee which nominated the incumbent fails to submit the names of the nominees within the time prescribed herein, the governing body may, within the next 15 days, fill the vacancy by the appointment of a successor from the same political party which had nominated the incumbent whose office has become vacant.
If, on the effective date of this act, the governing body had previously received from the municipal committee the names of three nominees to fill any such vacancy and had not filled the vacancy, the governing body, within 30 days after the effective date of this act, shall appoint one of the nominees as the successor to fill the vacancy.
L.1979, c.83, s.1; amended 1980,c.101,s.3; 1990,c.57,s.1.
An audience including many who praised Taylor’s performance in the role broke into applause after the roll call vote. Taylor was hired as finance director in July 2009 and only served since January as city administrator, but speakers said she shone on the job from the start. Resident Frank D’Aversa said it only took one meeting to realize her talent and said he told the person next to him, “You got a winner.”
But winning her job back Monday still did not answer the question of who will carry out day-to-day operations in her absence while on maternity leave. Taylor is due to deliver her third child at any moment. No sooner had the applause died down than officials began dickering over the leave issue.
Robinson-Briggs began by pointing out that Taylor’s leave starts Jan. 3 and that she was not going to be let go on Christmas Day, as has been reported. She said she was looking forward to working closer with Taylor. However, she said Monday she has named Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson acting city administrator and is considering former Finance Director Ron West to serve in that role, “short term or long term.”
The mayor had named West as a possible successor to Taylor after last week’s firing and said Monday, “He may still need to be part of the plan.”
Two unanswered questions were how long Taylor might be out on leave and whether she could work from home. Taylor had attended the closed session and was in the audience, but did not take part in the discussion. City Council President Annie McWilliams said Taylor had indicated she was willing to work from home, but Robinson-Briggs said flatly, “If someone is on maternity leave, they are on maternity leave.”
Councilwoman Bridget Rivers had another concern, grilling Williamson on his powers as acting city administrator and asking how a future acting city administrator would be able to handle decisions, including possible layoffs, arising from budget passage that is expected next week.
The discussion ended with the council requesting the mayor to come up with a temporary plan of action. But then the talk turned to two controversial budget items, a reduction of Recreation Division funds that would leave the fulltime superintendent working part-time and the proposed elimination of the Purchasing Division in favor of putting its functions under a new chief finance officer.
In public comment before council action, many residents praised Recreation Superintendent Dave Wynn and asked the council to keep him working fulltime. When the council began discussing the budget amendments up for a vote Monday, the mayor voiced support for Wynn and backed it up by reading out a long list of towns that have fulltime recreation directors.
“If there is a personality clash, I ask you to look past that. We need a fulltime recreation director,” she said.
Robinson-Briggs also spoke against eliminating the Purchasing Division, saying the only thing that kept the city on “the straight and narrow” during the prolonged lack of a chief finance officer was Purchasing and Audit & Control.
The mayor also read from the Municipal Code a portion on duties of the City Council, saying the governing body may appoint all committees except for administrative purposes. She alleged that the Finance Committee, which drafted the budget amendments that affected the two divisions, overstepped its role.
But McWilliams said once the council made cuts, “How you execute them is up to you.”
Rather than attempting to make further budget changes at this point, the council passed the amendments Monday. A public hearing on the amendments will be held on Dec. 27, after which the council hopes to pass the budget.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Relations between the governing body and the mayor seem to be getting more fractious than ever. If in fact Dan's big rumor turns out to be true (the one about the mayor being ready to fire the city administrator), the council will be eligible for a big-time tit for tat, as there is language in the charter that says they can disapprove such action by a five-vote majority.
The discussion Monday put Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig on the spot, as the city’s eighth homicide this year was a 400 percent increase over last year, when just two fatal incidents took place. Hellwig defended an anti-violence plan that he said was in place for three weeks, saying, “It seems to have had a positive effect.”
But then three shootings, one at the same person twice, raised again the specter of unchecked violence, even though Hellwig said the Dec. 11 victim was a gang member who was targeted.
Hellwig said to have a police officer on every corner was impossible, but offered the hope of having the long-awaited CCTV surveillance system installed “next year.” Despite the public’s fears, he said, “Crime in the city is not out of control.”
“We’re in a good spot,” Hellwig said, noting break-ins are the number one concern after homicides.
“We made a number of arrests,” he said. “People have a perception that nothing is being done.”
But Fourth Ward Councilwoman Bridget Rivers said, “I have a different opinion than you have,” citing “some unreported shootings.”
“I’m putting a motion in place that we close that place,” Rivers said, referring to the Kennedy Fried Chicken restaurant at Park and Fifth.
Councilwoman Linda Carter said the governing body tried to use such a strategy before and was told it could not be done. But she said the council had long asked for a police presence at the site, where large numbers of people tend to congregate after bars close.
The discussion drifted over to the council’s role as the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control board, as some of the homicides have taken place outside bars.
“We put something on the books three years ago to require them to have security,” Carter said.
“The takeaway seems to be that we have to have an ordinance in place,” Council President Annie McWilliams said.
The council receives reports on incidents in or around liquor establishments and Councilman William Reid noted some have “pages and pages of fights.”
“What are the number of fights or stabbings that have to take place before we mandate something like that?”McWilliams asked, referring to an ordinance.
Councilman Adrian Mapp recalled there had been a “gentleman’s agreement” on rules.
Rivers said, “I know there used to be a police presence.”
McWilliams concluded the talk by saying Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson would get back to the council with options.
Plaintalker’s archives reflect gun violence prevention strategies that include “Operation Ceasefire,” a plan where any shooting would be fully investigated as if it had been a homicide. Announced in December 2006, it was still not implemented by August 2007. It eventually took off, but fell through when cuts in the Union County prosecutor’s office caused the effort to disband.
While conditions including the presence of security personnel have been imposed on owners of liquor establishments through ABC reviews, there is no comparable process for dealing with 24-hour restaurants. Over the years, strategies for dealing with after-hours crowds at Park & Fifth have included blockading the street to traffic or making informal agreements with owners on limiting hours.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The governing body expects to wrap up the budget this month, but due to a required 75-day notification to affected personnel, the net savings of $162,076 will dwindle to $12,000 by the time the cuts take effect.
The amendments will be voted on next Monday, after which they will be published. A public hearing on the amendments will take place Dec. 27, at which time the council hopes to approve them and vote on final passage of the budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. The $70.3 million SFY 2011 budget introduced in October included a municipal tax levy of $50.5 million, up from $48.2 million in the 2010 fiscal year budget.
Among amendments, the council proposed reducing the salary and wage line in the mayor’s office, as well as the governing body’s own compensation. One staff attorney will be eliminated from the Corporation Counsel’s office. The Recreation Division will see a reduction of $30,000 from a fulltime position and the same amount will be added to seasonal workers.
The Purchasing Division will be eliminated in favor of putting its functions under the newly-hired chief finance officer. Councilman Adrian Mapp, chairman of the council’s Finance Committee which formulated the amendments, said purchasing will be automated under a system with which incoming CFO Ron Zilinski was very familiar.
The comptroller’s budget line will be reduced by $50,000, because there was no CFO for most of the year, but a $25,000 increase to the office will provide for a clerical position to assist with purchasing duties. Councilman William Reid objected to the elimination of the Purchasing Division and Councilman Rashid Burney expressed concerns about a new CFO’s ability to manage the change.
Reid said the CFO is scheduled to work just 28 hours a week and eliminating a person certified as a Qualified Purchasing Agent was a “step that should be reconsidered.”
Al Restaino, recently appointed director of the Department of Administration, Finance, Health & Social Services, called Reid’s concerns “very valid.” Both the comptroller/CFO’s office and the Purchasing Division report to Restaino.
“Placing the responsibility under (the CFO’s) umbrella will create a hardship,” Restaino said.
When Mapp said the purchasing was going to be automated, Reid said the city’s IT manager had never dealt with such a system, nor had Board of Education staff that will be serving the city in a shared IT services agreement. Mapp insisted that the new CFO was “very familiar with the Edmunds system,” which provides municipal software programs.
“You just got to turn it on,” Mapp said.
As Reid continued to voice skepticism about the plan, Councilman Cory Storch said he was hearing about a hardship, but he said, “The hardship we need to be concerned with is the taxpayers’.”
Storch noted city audit findings, which repeatedly found flaws in purchasing practices, and said, “I’m willing to consolidate the departments.”
With the need for personnel notices, the change would not take place until April and would affect a full year’s budget starting next July.
Among other amendments, the newly-established Division of Information Technology and Media would be de-funded and its salary and wage line of $163,000 and other expense line of $155,000 would be added to Administration & Finance, where the division is being placed. It had been free-standing and reported to the mayor, an arrangement that was in violation of the city’s charter, which calls for all divisions to be under one of three department heads.
The council will increase the budget of the Plainfield Public Library by $150,289. Mapp said last year’s cut to the library in that amount had generated “lots of debate, lots of e-mail” and that the increase was in the best interest of the city.
A $50,000 reduction in the salary and wage line for the Police Division kicked off an intense discussion of public safety issues, including overtime costs, the number of superior officers, past cuts, a spike in homicides this year and police deployment strategies. Public Affairs & Safety Director Martin Hellwig was called on to respond to the council’s concerns. Plaintalker will have more on the subject in a separate post.
In a related matter, the appearance of former Public Affairs & Safety Director Jiles Ship was put off until the Dec. 22 regular meeting, 8 p.m. in Municipal Court.
In the face of ongoing budget constraints from the state, Storch suggested that the council "redo the whole budget process." He advocated starting in January, with a collaborative effort among the city’s administrative and legislative branches and the Citizens’ Budget Advisory Board, to get an early handle on the SFY 2012 budget and to make three-year projections to keep costs under control.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Parris Z. Moore of Blok Box Pictures served two prior stints as a media consultant, in the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years. Among his responsibilities were editing, filling out logs, getting talent release forms, scheduling, managing archival materials and many other duties.
The proposed new contract is for $35,000 from Dec. 21 to June 30, 2011.
Although Moore did production work on the segments, interviews for them were conducted by Laurence Rice, who was laid off earlier this year. Rice also taped events. In July, the city hired a videographer at $100 an hour, not to exceed $30,000 for the year.
At present, the only other person involved with local television programming is IT manager Chris Payne, who is also responsible for media.
The city is on the verge of making an agreement with the school district for shared IT services. A resolution up for board discussion Tuesday states “The City of Plainfield is in need of experienced informational technology personnel and the Board of Education has the necessary personnel to accommodate the City of Plainfield’s needs.” It is not spelled out whether the deal will also include help with local television programming.
The city’s rejuvenated Cable Television Advisory Committee has ambitious plans for local television programming and has taken steps to involve students in station operations. Given the thin staffing even with Blok Box returning, it will likely fall to the committee to make the most of these resources until such time as more can be allocated.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Councilwoman Bridget Rivers, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee, will introduce Ship for a 15-minute presentation.
Ship, now president/CEO of Highland Global Strategies, served the city in 2004 and 2005. He resigned at the end of 2005 as his term was about to run out. While with the city, he devised a new deployment plan based on the city's four wards. Click here to read Plaintalker's post from 2005.
The city is currently experiencing a rash of shootings, several of which have been fatal. The most recent one occurred early Saturday morning, leaving Sahaad H. Monroe, 25, dead and another man injured.
The council meeting is 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Avenue.
Two other discussion items are on the agenda. Councilman Adrian Mapp, chairman of the council's Finance Committee, is scheduled to lead a discussion on amendments to the SFY 2011 municipal budget. In addition, the governing body has invited Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs to "explain her plans for day-to-day operations of the city" in the absence of City Administrator Bibi Taylor, who is due to deliver her third child imminently.
Friday, December 10, 2010
When the school board initiates a new search for a superintendent, it is highly likely that city residents and district union leaders will insist on a more open process than the one that brought Gallon here, and one that will be informed by some of the qualities the community wanted in a new superintendent the last time, but which Gallon did not possess.
Coming from Florida, Gallon did not have the grasp of New Jersey school law and school finance that residents at a community forum said they desired. He had no experience with Abbott districts, as the neediest districts in the state were then called. While a proven leader as a principal, he had never served in the role that was the subject of a national search.
In retrospect, the secrecy of the search comes across as a mistake. In past searches, finalists appeared before the community to answer questions before one was selected. But a search consultant declared early on, “There will be no parading of candidates in front of the public.”
The search began in August 2007 with the hiring of an Illinois firm and ended in February 2008 with Gallon’s appointment.
Gallon made his first public appearance unannounced, late into a school board meeting where his very appointment was a “walk-in” item not on the agenda. It was a pretty stealthy move by the board, which had already kept a tight lid on all aspects of the search. The dinner with three finalists and the ultimate visit to Gallon’s home district were wrapped in mystery worthy of Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility.
Whatever Gallon did once he arrived, he got here through a process for candidates that the board members at the time desired and the search firm carried out. One of the putative reasons for extreme secrecy was to avoid political interference in the process, and while it is true that Plainfield tends to be rife with intrigue, the board’s antidote to behind-the-scenes machinations came off looking remarkably similar.
“Transparency” lately has become a buzzword used to cover all sorts of situations, but if the district hopes to keep the revolving CSA door from spinning yet again, the next search needs to be as open as possible. The district has endured a loss of morale as well as trust, and the next superintendent will have to build up both while leading it out of poor performance. The oft-mentioned “stakeholders” deserve to know more up front about those who seek the job.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
The proposed rate changes are spelled out in a Dec. 2 legal notice (which I missed). The main concern of the group is a 61.8 percent increase in the shared services quarterly rate, from $51.13 per quarter to $82.75 per quarter. It includes a quarterly increase from $35.07 per lot to $48.72 and a quarterly increase per household from $16.13 to $34.03.
The full notice may be seen on the New Jersey Press Association web site under public notices. There is no direct link to the notice, you have to input information to get it. Click here to get started.
Here is how the PMUA explains the proposed change:
The proposed adjustments will not result in an increase in the total solid waste rates charged to most ratepayers. The Authority's CY2011 Solid Waste operating budget "does not" include a service rate increase. However, certain service adjustments were necessitated in the Authority's "On-Call" bulky waste collection services in order to expand bulky waste collection service availability to all Plainfield property owners. This needed adjustment now makes bulky waste collection an integral component of the community "shared services" fees paid by all City property owners. Bulky waste collection is part of the Authority's comprehensive solid waste program service package being provided to our current customers and the proposed change will have no overall impact on these customers. Extending this service to all property owners and making it a part of the Authority's shared services fee is needed to help address a significant increase in illegal dumping being experienced throughout the City.
Charles says the change in shared services rates "will basically force homeowners to choose PMUA's services. " The citizen group has encouraged homeowners to opt out of PMUA services and now Charles sees the rate change as a particular concern for those who did so. The language of the notice cites an extension of bulky waste collection to "all property owners," not just its current customers.
Click here to read DumpPMUA's previous commentary on shared services.
Charles urges residents to speak out at the Dec. 28 meeting, which will be at 6 p.m. in the PMUA building at 127 Roosevelt Avenue.
Besides "Shared Services Adjustments," other rate changes up for a hearing and vote Dec. 28 are Low Density Residential Rates, which will slightly increase fees per lot and decrease fees per household, yielding no overall change in the 2010 rate of $199.38 per quarter rate for 2011.
Under Container Service Rates, disposal fees will increase from $101.13 per quarter to $110.77 per quarter and collection fees will decrease from $232.22 to $223.11. The Basic Container Service Fee will increase only 53 cents to $333.88 per quarter for 2011. All the approved changes will take effect on Jan. 1, 2011.
DumpPMUA was organized in March 2009 after PMUA increases of 14 percent for sewer rates and 20 percent for solid waste rates, which the group said occurred without proper notice. The group went on to examine the authority's operations, including travel and expenses for commissioners, and although the authority prevailed in a lawsuit over its practices, reforms on policies were enacted. To learn more about DumpPMUA, click here.
The City Council had asked PMUA officials to appear before the governing body earlier this year, but PMUA Chairman Harold Mitchell asked that any meeting be put off until after the November general election. So far, no date for a joint meeting has been announced. The authority is operating with several holdover commissioners. No appointments were made in time for its annual reorganization in February and none have come through subsequently.
A vacancy in the office of councilman occurring during a term shall be filled by election at the next general election to be held not less then 60 days after the occurrence of the vacancy. The council shall forthwith fill the vacancy temporarily by appointment of a qualified person to serve until the qualification of the person so elected. A person appointed to fill a vacancy shall have the qualifications required of the previous incumbent and shall be a member of the same political party as such prior incumbent. In the event the council fails to fill the vacancy within 60 days following its occurrence the mayor shall forthwith appoint a qualified person to serve as above.
City Clerk Laddie Wyatt tells me there is statutory language that sets forth the process as I noted it. If I can get the citations, I will put them on the blog. (Update: I changed my mind and I am not going to research this. You are on your own.)
The last time the process was invoked was when Councilman Rayland Van Blake resigned before the end of his council term, but before taking office as a Union County freeholder. As I recall, three names were offered by the Democratic City Committee and the council selected William Reid as appointee. Objectors are saying the charter does not require anything more than direct council action.
Stay tuned. (Never mind.)
Sunday, December 5, 2010
The porch was a favorite spot for vagrants over the summer, as well as those who swiped donations from the Salvation Army box across the street and used the porch as a fitting room to try things on before discarding what they didn't want.
The boarded-up doors and windows most likely mean squatters have tried to take over the building as cold weather approaches.
It is sad to think we have people so desperate for shelter and clothing, but it has been a fact of life in the city for many years and only got worse with the economic downturn. If you are doing relatively well, this is the time for an end-of-year charitable donation that may even be tax-deductible.