At right, Chief of Staff John Stewart and Mayor Adrian O. MappDespite some residents' pleas to restore key members of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's team, the City Council passed the 2014 budget Tuesday with reductions that other residents said were needed to keep taxes down.
The governing body also called a special meeting for Thursday to voice disapproval of a video Mapp made stating his need for staff to re-brand the city and seek state and federal support for its revitalization. The meeting is 8 p.m. in City Hall Library.
Among the speakers in support of Mapp's initiatives, Alan Goldstein told the council, "You're cutting the muscle and leaving in all the fat."
The staff eliminations "will put us in jeopardy," he said.
Tom Kaercher asked the council "to keep the promises you made in January," when many members voiced support for Mapp. He also noted Mapp's mayoral win last year with 70 percent of the vote.
"To really make a dent in changing direction, we really need ratables," he said.
The council did approve the salary for Carlos Sanchez as economic director, but Kaercher said, "We also need to market the city in a very pro-active way," for which Mapp said he needed a media director and the chief of staff.
"I'm asking you to restore the two positions you cut last week, to give the mayor the tools he needs," Kaercher said.
Dottie GutenkaufThough ailing, activist Dottie Gutenkauf came out to castigate the council for cutting the two positions.
"Shame!" she said. "I don't think you can look yourself in the eye."
Former Mayor Sharon Robinson-BriggsBut former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who beat Mapp to win a second term in 2009, told council members they should "look in the mirror and be proud." Robinson-Briggs has attended recent meetings to denounce Mapp for his actions as councilman before he won the mayoralty in 2013 elections.
"Stop with the political," she said, taking offense at recent praise for Sanchez instead of "Mr. Jacques Howard" of her administration.
"It's wrong to cast aside the work he did," she said.
Candidate Charles Eke, who is running against incumbent Rebecca Williams, also praised the elimination of the two positions. Williams, who holds the Second & Third Ward at-large seat, succeeded Mapp as president of the New Democrats political club, while Eke is running on the Regular Democrats line.
Ozella Brundidge contrasted the addition of two new positions with the former mayor's lack of staff in her office, which Robinson-Briggs also complained about.
The last word before the vote was from Dr. Harold Yood, who said the council was "being short-sighted by not trying to get new ratables" and said they were "cutting off the city's nose to spite its face."
Williams was absent for the vote. Councilman Cory Storch, also a Mapp supporter, said he would vote "yes" on the budget even though he felt the cuts were ill-advised.
"They make no sense for the future, they only relate to the past. The past is something we need to go way beyond," he said.
Storch said although he is on the Finance Committee, he felt he had no say and "everything seemed to be predetermined."
He urged his colleagues to "get past dysfunction and move to the future."
Councilwoman Gloria Taylor, who is running on the regular Democrat line for Mapp's unexpired Third Ward term, countered by saying,"If we don't know the past, we can't know the future. Collaboration has to go both ways."
She charged that Storch had an "open door" to the mayor that she does not have.
The vote to pass the $74.6 million budget was unanimous, with Storch, Taylor, William Reid, Vera Greaves, Tracey Brown and Council President Bridget Rivers voting "yes." Williams arrived after the vote.
Regarding the controversial video, Rivers expressed disapproval of it and asked Corporation Counsel David Minchello "what can be done." Minchello said he reviewed the Municipal Code regarding political acts during city work time and city property for personal use as well as the bylaws of the television board.
"It is not illegal," he said, but the council could express disapproval by way of a resolution.
"I look at it as unethical," Rivers said, noting she also looked the the bylaws.
Rivers said she felt the video should not have been done on city time and asked how others felt.
Greaves said, "If you have an issue, face your opponent" and not use "public radio (sic)."
"If you're man enough or woman enough," she added.
Reid began a lengthy speech by saying, "We are with the mayor. We have not said anything disparaging about the mayor."
Taylor said the mayor should be the "cheerleader" and she felt some of what he said was excellent, but parts were "below the belt."
After challenging Minchello's view, she said the council had a right to investigate the video.
"Did he do it in the mayor's seat?" she asked. "When a city leader does this, it should not be tolerated."
The resolution up for a vote at the special meeting is to voice disapproval of the mayor's comments and to refer the matter to the state Local Government Ethics Board.
In the 17-minute video, Mapp alleges Assemblyman Jerry Green, the chairman of the Plainfield Democratic Party, has attempted to obstruct his administration. Green sent out a mailer in early May that denounced Mapp, even though he had given Mapp the party line in 2013 instead of Robinson-Briggs, who was seeking a third term. Green and the former mayor have since joined in opposing Mapp.
After the meeting, Mapp said the council has a right to call a special meeting, but he said he hoped it would be "focused on doing the work of the people." He called the notion of an investigation "laughable" and said he will continue to use the resources of the city "to communicate with the people who elected me, and to make sure the public knows what challenges are facing me."
"If the council has a problem with me giving the truth to the public," he said, "there's nothing I can do about how the council feels. I will continue to provide the public with the information it needs and deserves."