Friday, May 16, 2014
Commentary on Eliminating New Hires
Will the council eliminate all new positions and wreck Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's plans for the future of Plainfield?
The answer may come as early as next week, when a special meeting on possible budget amendments is set for 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 20 in City Hall Library. Another special meeting is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 27, also in City Hall Library, for a public hearing on amendments and possible passage of the 2014 budget.
Mapp won the mayoral contest in June 13 primary and received 70 percent of the vote in the November election. At the Jan. 6 reorganization, Plainfield Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green pledged that he would be "working closely with the mayor" and deplored the situation in Hillside, where he said the mayor and council were at odds.
Green now says he only gave in to former Union County Democratic Party Chairman Charlotte DeFilippo's orders to back Mapp and that the mayor is "every bit as bad as I feared." Green's followers on the council now appear to repent of the support they voiced for the mayor and new administration in January.and may express their disdain by slashing the budget.
In an unprecedented show of suspicion, a council majority went so far as to hire a budget consultant to review a one-month temporary budget appropriation. Normally, a consultant helps the council review the entire budget once it is introduced (passed from the administration to the governing body).
Backing up an April vow of the council majority to cut all new hires, the consultant recommended the same.
The police director, also approved by the council, serves in addition as head of department of Public Affairs & Safety, drawing only one salary for both jobs.
The council approved the title and salary for the chief of staff in 2013. Because the ordinance spells out the fact that the mayor appoints the chief of staff, one wonders whether defunding the position is a tactic to nullify his choice.
The Planning Division supports economic development by handling the land use aspects and has suffered staff cuts in recent years. It is a needed complement to attracting economic development in that it makes sure projects conform to the city's master plan. At one of the budget hearings, Councilman William Reid suggested tearing down the city's historic downtown commercial district to create a strip mall. Without the oversight of a properly staffed Planning Division, such proposals might just slip through.
All the budget material, including findings of the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, the consultant's report, the mayor's 2014 budget and, for the first time, the state-required Municipal Data Sheet, are on the city's web site on the new News & Media page. On the subject of media, cities can no longer depend on newspapers to tell what is going on with local government. Cities basically have to communicate with the citizens through such means as web sites, email blasts and social media to inform citizens. Eliminating media is, as the saying goes, hiding your light under a bushel.
Anyone who is concerned about the budget can read the documents online. All the budget sessions are on PCTV cable and on YouTube, if you have time to view them. All the City Council contact information is online, if you can't make the upcoming budget meetings. The budget process for 2014 is in the final stages and the outcome will likely set the tone for future fiscal dealings between the administration and the governing body. Let your elected representatives know what you think.