I sat up last night for hours pondering the City Council meeting and finally went to bed without posting. Here's my attempt to report on it:
The 2017 budget passed 5-2, with Bridget Rivers and Diane Toliver voting "no." Each one later made harsh comments, Rivers saying the budget was full of "slush" and "fluff." She objected to a $10,000 reserve item in the $83.4 million budget, saying it should "go toward the seniors." Toliver railed against an $11,000 raise "someone" was getting, also saying it should go to the seniors.
The senior issue was about a shift in responsibilities. City Administrator Rick Smiley explained that the administration made a "change in reporting," but Toliver and Rivers drilled away at who reported to whom at the Senior Center. Although rules forbid naming personnel in discussing the budget, the comments made it obvious that the titles involved were Superintendent of Recreation and Senior Center Director. Smiley told Toliver it was the administration's decision, but she retorted, "I'll speak to you after the meeting."
Later, two members of the Senior Center spoke in public comment. Mafalda James said programs were not better over the past six to eight months, describing delays in getting supplies for millinery and jewelry-making. She said members had been contributing toward the cost of supplies, but were told not to do so any more. The senior lunch program declined from 100 per day to 60, she said, calling other changes in the program "a smack in the face for all of us" and "unconscionable."
"Someone said, 'We know what you need.' You don't know what we need - don't try it," she said.
Senior Center member Carolyn Johnson said she did not understand the "restructuring" of the program.
"It's been in existence a long time," she said. "How come we need overseers?"
Toliver next pivoted to why landscapers can't take grass clippings to the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority. Public Works Director Oren K. Dabney said the PMUA is not a "Class C" facility that can take vegetative waste.
(I looked on the PMUA website for more information on whether vegetative waste can be accepted at the Rock Avenue transfer station/Plainfield Environmental Resource Center and I am hoping to get to the 6 p.m. meeting tonight to ask whether the NJDEP still rates the facility as Class C. The Authority in recent years has contracted with other municipalities to accept vegetative waste and could lose a revenue stream if its status has changed.)
Toliver's inquiry reminded council members that they have not held a joint meeting with the PMUA for a while, and they will now look into scheduling one.
Although Rivers took up a lot of time with accusations such as "money hidden in pockets everywhere," she said "I am not up here campaigning."
Monday's council meeting was the last before the June 6 primary, where Rivers is one of four mayoral candidates. Two council seats are also on the ballot. At least two candidate forums have been announced (NAACP on May 21, League of Women Voters on May 31) at which voters can weigh the options.