The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cherry Blossom Children at the Library



Cherry Blossom trees/
Spectacles of God’s glory/
When planted with care.


Friday's Arbor Day celebration featured the planting of five new cherry blossom trees at the Plainfield Public Library. Dozens of youngsters from Evergreen Elementary School were on hand to ensure that the mulch fully covered each planting. Dr. Greg Palermo, Chairman of Plainfield's Shade Tree Commission, also noted that, for the third year in a row, Plainfield has been awarded the Tree City Award by the Arbor Day Foundation. Click here to find out more about Tree City USA. I serve as a city council liaison to the commission, along with Councilman Cory Storch. In addition to Dr. Palermo, the members of the volunteer Shade Tree Commission are: David Frost, Tim Kirby, Jan Massey, Kim Montford (who put together the wonderful program), and Peter Simone. Thanks also to the Department of Public Works staff Bill Nierstedt, Planning Director, and John Louise, Superintendent, under the direction of Public Works and Urban Development Director Eric Jackson. As usual, it was a wonderful celebration. 

All best,

Rebecca 



 


Thursday, April 26, 2012

We Need Our Library

Plainfield children working on jigsaw puzzle in Children's Library

By now, many residents have read of the mayor's desire to cut funding for our free public library again--this is unconscionable. Our library is one of the best in the state, and has received more awards than any other that I am aware of. Our director was named New Jersey State Librarian of the Year, among other prestigious awards!  As other city residents have noted, the library is the largest community resource in our city, offering EVERY member of our community access to learning, literacy, and workforce development. It bears repeating that the Plainfield library offers the ONLY GED program in Plainfield.  

If one cares about the employment prospects of the youth who, for whatever reason, have not completed a high school diploma, the cutbacks--which will certainly affect this program--will be devastating. The library offers math and literacy programs, and the use of computers to the folks who do not have access to the Internet unless they come to the library. The library meeting rooms are used extensively by volunteer organizations such as Literacy Volunteers of America and other neighborhood and community groups. The library is also opening a job center for the Plainfield community with additional computers for those who are looking for work. 


The library has logged over 9,000 volunteer hours in the past year--something not matched by any other city agency. The Local History Room has been invaluable to longtime Plainfielders who have traced their roots! This year, they have issued 3,000 new library cards, mostly to our children! n addition, the employees have not received a raise in years--unlike other city employees.  The library has also seen an increase in book checkouts--about 3,000 more in the 1st quarter of 2012 versus the same quarter in 2011--amazing!

As Board President Anne Robinson (who is a volunteer) noted, most jobs are now offered online, and folks need the access in order to look. Given Plainfield's high unemployment rate, it is inconceivable that the chief executive of a municipality such as Plainfield would willfully deny the residents in the community the opportunity to do job searches.  

In addition, the Children's Room at the library has seen a huge increase in use--it is a state of the art facility--don't our children deserve that? Cuts to funding would reduce the hours of the Children's Room to virtually nothing. 

Meanwhile, those who have been attending the budget hearing have been seeing firsthand what the mayor thinks is important--I urge everyone to come out and see for him or herself what this administration has in mind. 

All best,

Rebecca

Saturday, April 14, 2012

PMUA: Making the Workers Pay the Settlement??

PMUA workers at 2011 Environmental Fair

I received a blog comment from a resident who has been following the PMUA debacle very closely. In his comment, he forwarded minutes from the February 9, 2012 PMUA Committee Meeting, wherein the discussion included ways to pay the "settlement" (an annual $182,000) to former directors Watson and Ervin, a settlement made unethically (in my view) by new PMUA Commissioners Dunn and Sanders, who hadn't sat in on the arbitration process but who decided to circumvent the process to make an unconscionable "backroom" deal, for which I feel they should resign immediately--of course, they won't because they clearly are proud of their reprehensible actions.  

It turns out that there is an idea--called in the minutes one of "several scenarios"--to make the WORKERS pay for the settlement through furlough days--again, what happened to the "family" Mr. Dunn so cynically alluded to caring about? How any commissioner could even develop the mindset to consider putting the burden for his or her "sins" upon the front-line workers and office staff is beyond my ability to comprehend, given the golden parachute the commissioners have chosen to give to their favored sons.  In addition, Mr. Dunn made a suggestion to hire Watson and Ervin as "consultants, if needed." Flabbergasting!
  
"To be led by the thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen." --OEB

Unconscionable.  Read for yourself--the comments that jumped out at me are bold and highlighted in red.

From the February 9, 2012 PMUA Board of Commissioners Committee Meeting Minutes:

"Several scenarios on how to pay for the former executive’s settlement of $182,000 per year. In the meantime, Alt. Commissioner Sanders is in favor of delaying the hiring of a Deputy Director and that Director Young can continue to perform two jobs. Commissioner Brown is in favor of the furlough of two days or so by current employees of the Authority and Commissioner Brokaw agreed and offering furloughs in conjunction with holidays could be more attractive. Commissioner Mitchell indicated that the last time there were furloughs, the former administration hired even more people after the furloughs were over with and defeating the purpose. We must keep those savings this time. Director Young expressed that if he continues to work two positions, the company will save an additional $72,000. Commissioner Dunn expressed the desire to pay the former executives their first installment regardless by this coming Tuesday. We can hire them as consultants if needed. Commissioner Brokaw wants the issue done with right now as well, however Eric Watson and David Ervin should not come back as vendors or anything else for that matter. It would not be good for the Authority, public or the employees and we need to discuss in executive session.
Commissioner[s] Dunn and Sanders expressed that we need to find the money from somewhere."
   
"To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to."--OEB

As Councilman Storch stated at the Monday, April 9 city council meeting, the worst enemies of the frontline PMUA workers and office staff are the commissioners themselves. 

All best,

Rebecca 



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Respect and Ethical Behavior: Character Counts

Being affirmed as a member of the Plainfield City Council, 1/3/10
 "I have a huge and savage conscience that won't let me get away with things."      --Octavia E. Butler
"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought." 
Once again, the behavior of the mayor and one of the councilors has made the news. It is difficult for the city council to effectively function when the public has to endure this willfully disrespectful conduct. Councilman Reid has, on more than one occasion (as we all witnessed the other night) told other councilors to "shut up," and has attempted to filibuster and talk over other councilors--this rudeness, unfortunately, is not new.
"To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears."
As I pointed out to Dr. Yood during the public comment, the city council has rules of conduct. Mr. Reid, apparently, feels that he can violate those rules whenever he wants to--this is disrespectful to the rest of the council, who all (even when we disagree) at least have the courtesy of waiting our turn to speak. Councilor McWilliams had to endure similar outbursts during her tenure as council president. 
"To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool." 
Similarly, the mayor audibly called Councilman Storch a "jerk" twice. I heard it, and the administration representatives sitting on either side of her heard it as well--I could see the shock in the eyes of one of them, and the discomfort of both at what the mayor said. The individuals sitting in the first couple of rows heard her outburst as well. All appeared shocked. This is shameful, despicable behavior that I have had to put up with for months--the mayor speaking in a "stage whisper"--muttering all kinds of insults and inanities--which came to a head last month while I was reading out the resolutions to the public. That the mayor, who purports to hold a degree in "Political Science/Criminal Justice" from Seton Hall University, decided to call my patriotism into question, as well as her publicly ridiculing my private Christian beliefs (causing me to receive hate mail and other, frankly scary, communications from lunatics all across the country), demonstrates a willful disregard and ignorance for my constitutional rights as an American. 
"To be led by the thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen." 
Some blog comments took me to task for asking for a point of order to stop the mayor's interference--as if I were equally responsible for her inability to be respectful of the business of the people. For anyone to blame or chide me (or Councilman Storch) for what the mayor does, as if we initiated it, shows clearly that they agree that her immature, childish, and offensive acts are part and parcel of how she has "governed" this city. Her mismanagement has led to the exodus of numerous talented individuals, and the lawsuit she filed against the city council last month suggests continuing contempt for the city.  She seems to forget the the meeting is a council meeting--I think she should sit with her cabinet members in the front row, rather than sitting near the council whom she disrespects so much.
"To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to."
The mayor is not the only one who has shown contempt for the residents of Plainfield, however. At that same Monday business meeting, Mr. Malcolm Dunn, one of the PMUA commissioners appointed by the mayor, stood and defended his actions in circumventing the arbitration process that the two former directors were in the midst of, and (with his cohort, Mr. Cecil Sanders) making a private deal. This unethical behavior galls people of conscience, and I think that Dunn and Sanders should resign and should pay the city back some of the $4,500 annual stipend they are supposed to receive. In addition, it is my understanding that they do not receive benefits for themselves or their families--let us hope that this policy is being adhered to. Frankly, I think that all the PMUA commissioners should reject the benefits the ratepayers have been giving them all these years. That is one way they can show solidarity with the "family" Mr. Dunn so cynically (in my opinion) spoke of. His words all rang hollow--the "family" is suffering because he and Mr. Sanders went around a legal process to award his two prized "family"members over $1million--unbelievable. 
"To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery."
The hardworking office staff and frontline workers should direct their concerns over their employment status at those who have put the authority in jeopardy--namely, the commissioners who voted for the lucrative contracts for the executives who recently resigned and decided that a $1 million plus golden parachute for these two was in order--ratepayers and PMUA workers be damned. I would like to hear from all the commissioners on this and all of the other PMUA-related problems, but I don't expect to. Their continued silence, absence, obfuscation, and evasion tells me everything I need to know. The council will go forward with the study (comprised of legal, engineering, and accounting entities) which, according to the Finance Board (a state agency) MUST be done before further steps are taken.
With hope for a better Plainfield...
All best,
Rebecca
Quotes in red are from The Parable of the Talents, Octavia E. Butler