The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Insurance Reform May Save Plainfield Taxpayers Millions: The Citizens' Campaign Model Ordinance

Today, I read an article posted by the Citizens' Campaign about Perth Amboy adopting a model insurance reform ordinance that may save the city more than $3 million. By adopting a transparent and more competitive process in looking for the best insurance coverage possible, Perth Amboy will save over a quarter of a million dollars in broker's fees and millions more in insurance savings. 

Heather Taylor, of the Citizens' Campaign, is sending me the toolkit for local insurance reform. In addition, the Citizens' Campaign has a number of other toolkits (including Municipal Pay-to-Play, Shared Services, and other model ordinances) designed to increase citizen participation in local governance--check out their site here: Citizens' Campaign

The resolution, according to the Citizens' Campaign, "...requires towns to seek a minimum of 3 bids for insurance, including bids from the State Health Benefits Plan, County Joint Insurance Fund, and others." I have posted the link to the article here, so that you may read it in its entirety:

The process of putting out an RFP (request for proposal) for brokers (including having the state bid alongside others) to compete for the best services to the municipality is certainly one that Plainfield should look into.
Given that our Chief Financial Officer, Ron Zilinski, has projected a budget shortfall of $3.4 million this year for Plainfield, it makes sense to take a close look at how we can save the taxpayers money--a competitive process can only benefit our community. I will be bringing this proposal the administration and to my colleagues on the governing body. 

Having a transparent process in terms of how we allocate public funds is the hallmark of effective and citizen-based governance--it's time for Plainfield to adopt such a process.

All best,


Monday, March 28, 2011

Politics and Ethics: A Heady Brew

A few days ago, I made a comment to try to offer a bit of clarification regarding another commenter's statement about Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center on the "lack of support for the hospital from insured consumers."  I have been asked to clarify my own remarks since making that comment, so I am posting them here, on my own blog. I was noting what was widely known among many in town--that it wasn't that insured folks didn't support the hospital; rather, it was Solaris steering some people toward its other facility, depending on the quality of their insurance. 

I suggested that Solaris was culpable--not the Plainfield residents who certainly preferred Muhlenberg to going to another facility much farther away. Plainfielders and those in the area ALL supported Muhlenberg--indeed, it was known as one of the best facilities in the state. The "lack of support" for our hospital came from weak-willed politicians at the county and state level (including Gov. Corzine), NOT from the people of Plainfield, Scotch Plains, North Plainfield, South Plainfield, and the rest of the Tri-County area served by this regional medical center. I truly believe that immediate intervention--extreme pressure--could have stopped the closing of the hospital. Instead of blaming "indigent care" and "illegals" for the debt shortfall, the complicity of Solaris's highly-paid executives (along with insurance entities), in the hospital's closing was never really examined in-depth until it was too late. We all know the human cost of this complicity.

In one of my comments, I also stated that it was my view that medical care should be free. For expressing a philosophical/ethical viewpoint, my position was called "fiscally irresponsible." How expressing this view would make someone who knows nothing about my finances categorize it that way is insulting. To conflate my (perhaps Utopian) ideal with the suggestion that I possess no real-world sensibilities (indeed--my position being fiscally irresponsible) is unnecessarily belittling.  I don't know that that was the intention, but the tone seemed patronizing.

Part of my raison d'etre on the Plainfield City Council is to be a watchdog for the city's spending which, in my view, needs to be scrutinized very carefully. I think that, by my votes thus far, I have demonstrated that I am putting the people of Plainfield first.  I take the budget responsibility very seriously.

I would say, however, that my desire for a society where no one would have to pay for his or her basic medical needs is one that I think I will keep. 

All best,


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Willfully Misinforming the Public Harms Plainfield

Click below to watch the interview with Plainfield City Council President Annie McWilliams as she sets the record straight on Plainfield's Division of Recreation!


Over the weekend, I received a few emails from concerned residents who have been hearing rumors about Plainfield's summer camp programs for young people not being available. In addition, some residents thought that the city council took a vote to close the Recreation Division. I am just writing to reassure those residents who have been misinformed.

The recreation programs are fully funded, and the Recreation Division remains open. A few individuals in our city seem to enjoy spreading misinformation and outright lies to alarm the public. Self-interested demagogues continue to do so--this harms our entire community.

The city council took no such vote to close the Division of Recreation--in fact, it is just the reverse. The council voted to INCREASE funding for ALL the programs. Further, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs has a fiduciary as well as an ETHICAL responsibility to ensure that her administration follows the law and runs the recreation division, along with ALL the programs funded in the budget by the council. Anything less is completely unacceptable.

Council President McWilliams has called a press conference for Monday, March 21 at 6:00 pm at City Hall Library to correct the lies and reassure the residents that all programs will continue uninterrupted.
I am committed to funding all recreation programs--indeed, the council has increased the funding for this division. Please note that I was not on the council when the funding increase occurred, although I am in full support.

I am an educator--I teach full-time at Essex County College, and among my students are at-risk youth, whom I have mentored for years, so I am in full agreement that, in addition to our students receiving a quality education, they must also have some part in recreational activities.

I am glad that parents are getting involved in the recreational aspects of their childrens' lives. As an educator, I am hopeful that, as we correct the lies that are being spread through the rumor mill, more parents see recreation as just one component (along with educational excellence and mentoring) in the development of successful young people. 

We must all move forward together, but there must be true collaboration from the administration to do what is in the best interest of Plainfield's children. Scare tactics and divisiveness do nothing but harm the children in this city--I, for one, am disgusted by the outrageous attempt to willfully misinform residents.

All best,