Sunday, November 6, 2011

Take a Look at PW&UD

Random image: Spiderwort in November.

I used up my extra fall-back hour by sleeping late, but if you follow city government and still have time today, I suggest you take a quick look at part of the 2010 State of the City report today.

As soon as Eric Jackson came on as director of Public Works and Urban Development, I thought of a number of things that I hope he will be able to address between now and Dec. 31, 2013, when his term ends along with the mayor's. For all of the mayor's first term, the PW&UD director was Jennifer Wenson Maier. She was not reappointed, but then there was some mix-up over her successor and she agreed to stay on for a couple of months. As it turned out, she left for Hoboken and David G. Brown II became director March 1, 2010. But he left in November 2010.

To refresh my memory about the scope of the PW&UD department, I looked at the 2010 State of the City address and found that of the three departments - Public Affairs & Safety; Administration, Finance, Health & Social Services and PW&UD, the last one took up half of the report. Its divisions include Public Works, Recreation, Planning, Economic Development, Inspections and Community Development.

Instead of giving a traditional speech on the state of the city, the mayor's style has been to give a slide show listing details of each division's accomplishments.Even if you just scroll through the online report, you will see the wide-ranging responsibilities that Jackson has inherited. What it doesn't show is the disproportionate focus some divisions have required, notably Recreation with its ongoing controversies over management and interaction with a volunteer baseball league.Nor does it show the effects of layoffs on Planning and Inspections, for example.

These grocery-list reports do not give a sense of the overall direction and most pressing priorities of PW&UD. The reader (or listener, if the 2012 one follows the same format) must glean them, if possible from the piled-up statistics. The report also documents the past as opposed to summing up major goals for the New Year.

If you read the report (I did not use 2011 because it is sideways on the city web site), you will undoubtedly think of some goals you would like to see addressed in 2012 or items for which you would like an update. As a citizen, you can always speak during public comment at City Council meetings or you can call - (908) 753-3375 - or write Jackson's office at City Hall. My pet project would be refurbishment of city parking lots, most of which are in poor condition. See my Plaintalker post here.

This year is rapidly drawing to a close. What will the next two years bring for the city and especially for Public Works & Urban Development?



  1. One of my main gripes with the city is the hodge-podge of services the city government is involved with and the limitations on focus and direction that accrue by virtue of the 3-headed dumping ground (AF&HHS, Public Safety, and PW&UD)bequeathed us by our charter.

    Social Services, including Seniors and Recreation, would be better managed and reach more individuals if they were combined under the umbrella of an independent community-based non-profit. There is no reason these services should be top-down rather than bottom-up.

    The same can be said for Public Works and Urban Developement. Merge PMUA with Public Works, where it belongs, instead of leaving it as a bureaucratic albatross, a step or two removed from accountability. Keep it apart from Urban Development, and form an economic development commission that would mesh public and private initiatives.

    Plainfield needs more players and more transparency. We need results that will never come with the current structure of city government. Benign neglect will sink us.

  2. Recreation will continue to be a main focus as long as the mayor supports the superintendent who does not fulfill his duties serving the whole community of Plainfield. Who sends his puppet to the mike at every council meeting to berate QCBL for not playing with them. They forced their way into existence, let them find a way for their kids to play without intimidating a league that has been contiuously sabotaged by recreation since duplicating the program. We will see if Mr. Jackson will not have his hands tied and be directed to leave wynn alone as the previous directors. This will truly show whether he can be free to do the right thing or will his appointment be short lived also.
    Time will tell.

  3. There are signs for NO Parking on tuesday 4am to noon on some streets that are 1. NOT enforced 2. Faded 3. No sweeping trucks clean the street anyway. And what is that broken orange cone in the sidewalk opposite Dunkin Donuts downtown? A tripping hazard to remend you of town in general ?

  4. Have you saw the lonely shade trees on Somerset St and Madison Ave? Gateway to the Queen City !!