A discussion of "initiatives in support of at-risk youth" was postponed Monday until Mayor Adrian O. Mapp could be present, but the announcement set off a lively discussion anyway.
Councilwoman Bridget Rivers said the City Council must be in collaboration with the administration or it would be a waste of time. Councilwoman Gloria Taylor followed up by saying there were things the council wants to investigate, mentioning the Police Division and recent shootings. She then announced a "Youth Summit" at Ruth Fellowship Ministries, where Councilwoman Tracey Brown is pastor. (There is no notice of the Youth Summit on the church website as of Tuesday afternoon.)
Taylor said Police Director Carl Riley and police had been asked to take part in the event, Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m., but Riley said he had not received anything.
Taylor called violence "a health issue" and said "Plainfield lives do matter."
At Friday's vigil for the 49 Orlando shooting victims, she had mentioned three shootings here as well. In April, she had urged an investigation into police policies and procedures.
"I just want to be clear," Riley said Monday, citing a 2014 anti-crime initiative. "Violent crime decreased dramatically."
He said it was down 27 percent and shootings were down 40 percent. To keep it going, he said, "We need help from the community."
Riley said the city hired 16 new police officers in the past 16 months and noted the current "Summer Fun with Plainfield's First Responders" led by Police Officer Bernel Harrison with participation by police, fire and EMS personnel. A youth mentoring program that had 25 members last year has 50 now and another program at Hubbard Middle School has increased from two to three weeks, he said.
In addition, cookouts with police and first responders are planned in all four wards.
"On our end, we're trying to reach out, but we need community involvement," Riley said, to applause from the audience in Municipal Court..
Councilman Barry Goode called the effort "as proactive as you can get," but Councilwoman Diane Toliver said, "We have to remember where we came from - we all came from a village."
She asked "why have children forgotten to love themselves."
"We have to reassure them that we have not let them down," Toliver said, suggesting a hotline where young people can talk.
"We can't stop here," she said.
Riley said the city has both a hotline and a tip line, but Toliver insisted, "We have to remember that someone was there for us," adding that in a killing "two families are destroyed."
Riley objected to Toliver saying there was a "rash" of shootings, calling them "isolated incidents." But Toliver defended herself, saying she looks forward to "getting to the bottom of it" and not to point a finger at "who shot who."
Councilwoman Rebecca Williams thanked Riley and said she looks forward to reporting on Public Safety, to which she is the council liaison.
Council President Cory Storch said there will be an announcement about another city-sponsored Youth Summit.
(As I am writing, a 3:38 p.m. Facebook notice is posted about a "Unity Summit" on Thursday addressing "gun violence, police accountability and community unity.")
What to make of the dichotomy of viewpoints on the council? I leave it to readers to surmise.