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 positions in the cross-hairs are a mixed bag. The council approved the current deputy city administrator, filling a title that was vacant for eight years while the former mayor relied on a division head instead of a cabinet-level person for economic development. Now that council meetings are on YouTube, anyone can look up the PCTV video of the Jan. 6 meeting and see the enthusiasm expressed for the individual who was hired. The proposed elimination would leave no one in charge of economic development at a time when the city desperately needs it to increase revenues and compete with other towns along the Raritan Valley Line.

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.

--Bernice



10 comments:

  1. "Good 'ol Alan"May 17, 2014 at 6:53 AM

    Well said Bernice. Sometimes (and this budget reflects one of them) you have to make an investment in the future, or else you wind up living in the past. There was so much neglected by the previous administration, we need to work overtime to make up for what was lost or squandered away. That is precisely what these new positions represent, an investment in Plainfield's future.
    Can we succeed without trying? I don't really think so. Are there forces out there trying to make certain we don't? I think the answer is obvious, as is the ringleader of the movement to suffocate this city. Mayor Mapp beat his primary day opponent by a decisive 23-point margin, and then garnered over 70% of the vote in the general election, besting his nearest opponent by a staggering 56-point margin. 7,459 voters spoke last November, of which 5,234 voted for a change in direction and a break with entrenchment. Four City Council members, and one political boss who talks out of both sides of his mouth, are fighting tooth and nail to keep us stagnating into the foreseeable future. They don't at all seem concerned with the legacy of failure their actions and time-wasting maneuvers are sure to bring about.

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  2. Interesting that both the CBAC (which was formed in the SRB years as an anti-mayoral weapon) and the council's hired budget consultant BOTH recommend defunding, aka firing, the chief-of-staff.

    I have argued here before (oh, yes, I know, all us anonymii look alike) that in the absence of a full-time, fully-paid mayor the chief position is essential to the functioning of the administration because there is no one else to coordinate the daily outreach and policy functions in a city of our size with our complex level of needs and services. Does that person need to make 80K? Maybe not. Do we also need a full time media head at another 70K? A community relations person at 80K? I see room for cutting some of the mayor's funding requests without wholesale elimination of all the positions. That's simplistic and thoughtless.

    Speaking of which, who gave the council's budget consultant his/her instructions? The consultant deliberately chose to recommend defunding all of the new positions instead of any other available options. Why? Were they told that all prior lines must stay as is - cut only from new requests? Why cut at all? There's nothing in the four slide PPT to indicate how or why they arrived at their position. Also remember that a "budget consultant" is like a tax accountant. They're only interested in reducing expenditures. Advising on how to invest more to make things better is not their job.

    (Yo, GoA: the ' goes after the L to replace the D ;-})

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    1. Judging by the budget consultant's campaign contribution history, Mr. Caroselli might be considered a creature of the Union County Democratic machine.

      http://www.elec.state.nj.us/ELECReport/ContribByContributorsActiveXViewer.aspx?Page=S&LastName=caroselli&FirstName=lawrence

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  3. Mapp knew that the City was run on a daily basis by the City Administrator as per our charter and that the City was under a tight budget. Just because John Stewart worked on his campaign does not mean we have to repay him with a $80,000 per year job. We need a Chief of Police and not a Chief of Staff!

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  4. I think Jerry Green, Taylor, Rivers, Reid, and Greaves are putting nails in their own political coffins and will be out of office. Not soon enough for me. You can't work with people who want Sharon back in office and how are looking only for their benefit and not that of the city. We need to work hard to get these people out of office. If they represent what the Democratic Party has come to, we need another party. Sad, but there are people who want to destroy Plainfield to get their way. Goodbye to bad rubbish when they go.

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  5. So, the budget consultant that we paid 7K for said that the budget was sound considering where Plainfield wants to go. He now says NO to -

    Police Director - seriously?
    Recreation
    Community Relations
    Planning - no planning?
    Deputy city administrator who heads Economic Development - REALLY - no economic Development?????

    So people, remember - the administration's bottom line was $101.00 increase - with ALL POSITIONS FUNDED.

    The 7K consultant came in at $92.00 - with NO POSTIONS FUNDED

    So for a difference of $9.00 PER YEAR the council is going to quibble? And Bridget Rivers wonders why people think the council would hurt Plainfield? Can you understand now?

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  6. While I'm not a fan of Adrian Mapp nor Sharon Briggs, and agree on all comments above, I must call out our current one-term Mayor, which is exactly where he is headed if he keeps up his ridiculous behavior. When Sharon wanted to hire a part time assistant to be paid just $15,000 a year salary, because after all, she was part-time as well, Adrian had a hissy fit and rejected all her new hires. He in turn hires (and the council agreed to hire), the Chief of Staff at $80,000. He has racked up over a million dollars in new hires! And we the taxpayers are going to foot the bill for it since taxes are no doubt going up. What's good for goose is good for the gander... He has become the monster we all feared he would be...

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    1. To 10:46am -
      1 - Sharon had 2 assistants as well as a personal assistant. She did not hire one, she wanted to keep it. She did have all of the above for about 4-5 years. The council, including this mayor, gave her everything she wanted in her first few years of being mayor. I think this council should do the same.

      2 - No new hires? So it is OK with you to have no police director - which is not a new position, it just hasn't been filled for several months

      No economic development? That is OK with you. If so, you can forget about your taxes increasing 2% as the administration wants now - count on much more, with no ratable relief because we have no economic development, remember?

      He has not racked up 1 million in hew hires, he has filled several positions that have been vacant. If you recall, this city was run by 3 people most of the time. Is that what you want? You think Plainfield was great before?

      For me - the $9.00 is worth the risk. And remember - the difference is for the year - less than 80 cents per month - again, that is month!

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  7. I think it should be stated that the budget which allows for all the new hires depletes the city's surplus from $5mill to under 700k in one year. The consultant's proposed budget removes all the new hires but keeps the surplus around $4mill. So the comparison of Mapp's budget tax increase of $101 to the consultant's budget of $92 is not complete until one weighs in how fiscally sound it is to reduce the city's surplus 85% on new hires.

    I personally don't agree with either proposal. Some compromising is necessary because not all positions are vital for the city's development at this time. But some positions are vital. All or nothing can not be the city's stance on the budget.

    Richard Stewart

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  8. I would like to add to Mr. Stewart's comments that last year's budget depleted the surplus to under 400K in one year. Many of the same council members who are on the council this year had no problem with it last year when the surplus was 300K less that this year.

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