The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Monday, May 28, 2012

Honoring Our Veterans



Just remember that/
Honoring our veterans/
Means taking true care.

A story from April about African American women who fight in our nation's wars bears re-reading on this day:  



Sincere and deep appreciation to all the veterans who have sacrificed for us. Let's make sure that we provide them with the resources they need when they come home.


All best,

Rebecca

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Adrian Mapp for Council--the BEST CHOICE for Plainfield!

Adrian has been endorsed by Cory Storch, Annie McWilliams, and me.

As we move into the final ten days of this primary campaign season, I want to urge you to support City Council President Adrian Mapp as he works toward re-election as the Third Ward Councilman. As others have stated, there is no better choice than Adrian. He has served the Third Ward effectively, efficiently, and with distinction. His accomplishments speak for themselves: as councilman, Adrian led the first major commercial development in our downtown--the Tepper's project, which has brought revenue to our city; Adrian led the effort to get the roads reconstructed--during his first tenure as council president, we got 22 roads done. There are many, many more!

Adrian recently led the council in the passage of 3 bond ordinances which will result in more than 30 roads being completed this year; it is Adrian's financial expertise as a Certified Municipal Finance Officer (Adrian also has an MBA in International Business and is a C.P.A.)  that has led to the discovery of current budget issues--Adrian will be able to shepherd us smoothly through the process--given his experience in municipal finance.

His opponent, who frankly admitted that he is only running because he was forced to resign from the school board, offers nothing in the way of ideas and progress for our city. He has no financial expertise on a level with Adrian's, has said absolutely nothing about how he would stabilize taxes, and his only economic development idea is to put a "flea market" on a vacant lot in the Fourth Ward so that vendors can sell their wares. 

The opponent has said nothing substantive on the PMUA or the hospital, and his constant refrain of "let the Mayor be the Mayor" illustrates to me, at least, that he views his legislative role as "hands off," despite the mayor's continued reckless attitude toward the use of public money.  His casual attitude of "let the Mayor be the Mayor"  also appears to willfully ignore the incompetence of this administration--he only focuses on occasional council disagreements with the administration, and not on the critical issues that lead to those disagreements. As Adrian has stated, "We pass about 90-95% of the ordinances the administration brings before us--but that other 5-10% that we fight about? We are fighting for YOU, the residents of Plainfield."

We need a careful steward of the public's money, and Adrian is just that. He will continue to be effective, he will work with the council to restore the mayor's cuts to the Plainfield Library budget, and he (along with me and Roni) will reject irresponsible development in our Third Ward neighborhoods. 

Now is not the time to vote for an individual who is only running because he can no longer serve on the school board. In my view, Plainfield simply cannot afford to have a seat-filler who will look askance at the depredations of this administration and not look critically at the budget. A vote for this individual would be a vote for continued disregard of the extreme mismanagement at city hall.

We need experienced legislators like Adrian. He is in on Line 8A. As you all know, I am also supporting Roni Taylor in Line 7B. Roni and Adrian will be a great team, along with Cory and me, to work with the council and the administration to effectively deal with the issues facing our city.

All best,

Rebecca






Friday, May 25, 2012

City Government at Its....


Bernice Paglia's "PlainTalker" blog has a post this morning on the budget discussion that occurred Thursday evening at City Hall library. I posted a bit of commentary there, but figured I may as well put my comments on my own blog. Here they are, with some slight edits: The folks who are supposed to be in charge are once again showing their incompetence and sloppiness. I am incensed that accurate budget information was not given to us in a timely fashion. I agree with Citizens Budget Advisory Committee (CBAC) member Jan Massey that a great deal of time has been wasted. As one of the other CBAC members stated, these folks get paid a lot of money (six-figure salaries) for perpetual "mediocrity." What makes it all the more infuriating and, frankly, offensive, is that the administration has a posting for NINE (9) new civil service positions for "Senior Computer Service Technicians" under the Department of Administration, Finance, Health and Social Services at an hourly salary range of $25.67 to 34.15! How on earth can something so ridiculous be justified, when the IT Director himself stated in his budget presentation that he only needed 3 IT techs? 

To the layperson, the administration appears to be playing fast and loose with the public's money. I asked, on the record, for an answer to this question--that answer will be given publicly, on the record, by the administration. By sending the council such a sloppy, incorrect budget, the administration has done a real disservice to the people of this city. Where is the budget oversight on the part of the administration? I am galled by the fact that, once again, the administration has the head of one department (Mr. Jackson, of DPWUD) being asked to step into an acting role in the absence of the city administrator. 

It is simply not fair that a department head should be asked, suddenly, to take on the role of his superior and answer questions about items that are not normally within his purview. This dual role certainly cannot be helpful to advancing his agenda for the Public Works Department, which has several divisions of its own reporting to him--including Planning, Recreation, Inspections, Economic Development, Community Development, and the Public Works folks at the City Yard. 

In addition, it is inconceivable that the city administrator would not be present for this most critical aspect of a budget process he is responsible for presenting and explaining to the governing body. It is not right for the administration to keep playing musical chairs with these "acting" titles. It is wrong for the mayor to willfully pad the budget with hundreds of thousands of dollars in some areas, while ignoring the needs of the community as a whole. It is a continuing affront to the people of this city. 

Rebecca

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Take that, Philistines!


“More than a building that houses books and data, the library has always been a window to a larger world--a place where we've always come to discover big ideas and profound concepts that help move the American story forward. . . . .

Libraries remind us that truth isn't about who yells the loudest, but who has the right information. Because even as we're the most religious of people, America's innovative genius has always been preserved because we also have a deep faith in facts.

And so the moment we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold into a library, we've changed their lives forever, and for the better. This is an enormous force for good.”

― President Barack Obama

Plainfield Children's Library's "Reading Rainforest"--photo by Bernice Paglia

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Public Purse Redux



The City Council is currently in the process of budget hearings for the CY 2012 budget. We have heard from several departments about their needs for the coming year, in terms of personnel and operating expenses. As this is my first budget deliberation session as a councilor (the prior year's budget was passed before I came on the council), I had several policy questions regarding the impact of the budget increases on Plainfield's struggling taxpayers. I also don't feel that I have been given enough information from the administration about the deferred payment that is coming due, among other things.

I also had several policy questions about the status of seasonal employees, and when the Personnel Director came before the council earlier this month, I asked about the distinction between seasonal and temporary employees. She stated that seasonal workers could only be on payroll for a maximum of THREE months, not SIX months, as the Recreation Superintendent had erroneously stated on the record two weeks prior, during the Recreation budget hearing. Temporary workers (a different designation) could work for six months.

I then asked what would happen if a seasonal worker was on payroll in violation of the city's policy, and it was stated (as I understand it) that the division head would have to file an "Action Form" to remove the worker from the rolls as part of the process of being in compliance. It was also noted that it was the responsibility of the division head to alert Personnel to changes in employment status. 

During these very difficult economic times, we need to be extremely careful about how your tax dollars are spent each year.  Last week, I asked a question about what this year's tax impact was projected to be. No one from the administration could answer this question. You deserve to know how much the administration wants to raise your taxes with the budget it presented to the council.  At this late date, I find the lack of information quite alarming.

Even more alarming, however, is the fact that the Administration, Finance, Health and Social Services Department's Information Technology, Media, & PCTV74 Division currently has an employment bulletin up on the city's website (click HERE), looking to fill NEW "temporary" positions by hiring NINE (9) "Senior Computer Service Technicians" (a Civil Service title) at an hourly range of $25.67-$34.15, with a Plainfield residency requirement listed as well.

Like all the other councilors, I am very supportive of technology and bringing the city into the 21st century--we have seen the results of the technology upgrades in the City Clerk's office, with documents, OPRA request forms, the city council agendas, meeting minutes, the city's charter, and so forth now being accessible online; residents can also pay their tax bills online, and the new phone system seems to be working well. So, I have no problem with using IT to make the city run more smoothly and professionally. 

However, when the IT Division came before the city council a couple of weeks ago with view of its budget needs, the Director requested only 3 employees to be added for Information Technology: 1 network engineer, 1 additional support technician, and 1 clerical assistant. How did this (frankly, reasonable) request for IT blossom into 9 positions? In doing the math, the potential impact of nine additional employees at the hourly range of $25.67-$34.15 is of great concern to me--why would the division post for nine senior computer service technicians?

In all fairness, I don't know whether they would be full-time or part-time, as the posting doesn't say, but consider this as a potential impact: At the lower end of the range, meaning $25.67, working full-time (140 hrs per month for 6 months), the cost for NINE workers total could be as much as $194,065.20. If workers were hired at the top of the range, the potential could be as much as $258,174.00. For six months.

Here are the questions that I feel the public needs an answer to as we continue with budget deliberations: Are nine senior computer service technicians needed? If so, why wouldn't this need for nine computer techs have been reflected in the division's budget presentation? Add to this the division's request for additional personnel in Media and for PCTV74, and it becomes potentially very expensive to the taxpayers of our city.  

Again, I strongly support the work of the IT director--and I have stated this support many times publicly as well as to him directly, but I have an obligation to ask the questions that my constituents need answered on policy and budget issues. A question I was asked by a constituent had to do with why these particular civil service titles are being used, when they were not mentioned before--I detected some cynicism in the question--I assured the constituent that I would ask as many questions about the city's policies as I could.

I have asked several additional questions of the administration for which I am still awaiting answers. I think that, the more transparency there is  for residents to understand how the budget process works, as well as for them to understand the employment policies of the city, will be a great benefit to us all.

We did not complete the discussion with the IT Division head on the evening of the presentation, as the hour was getting late--the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee also has questions to ask so that they can provide their recommendations to the council in their report at the end of the budget deliberation process. I am hopeful that we can finish soon so that we can finally pass a budget.

These are extremely difficult and challenging times for Plainfielders--I hear from you every day about the taxes, the PMUA rates, jobs for our young people, the proposed Muhlenberg housing development, public safety, the roads, the uncut grass and your concerns over foreclosure rates and abandoned homes--it is our responsibility  as council members to make sure that we are providing you with what you need, in terms of city services, while at the same keeping costs reasonable.


All best,


Rebecca


*Everyone is aware of my strong support for the Plainfield Public Library (see here), which meets the needs of the majority of our community while remaining fiscally responsible. The mayor wants to cut the library's budget while, at the same time, increase the budget significantly for other areas. The modest increase that the library is asking for ($66,000) juxtaposed against the hundreds of thousands of dollars that other departments are requesting needs to be examined closely--we need to make sure that you are getting the best services for your tax dollars.







Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Public Safety: A Core Issue


I just read a Courier-News editorial posted on the "Plainfield Today" blog. I must say, I am not surprised at the fact that, in the wake of ten shootings in our city over the past month, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs was quoted as saying, “I’d like to assure the residents of Plainfield that this situation is under control.” As the editorial (which appeared in Saturday's paper) noted, this oddly blithe comment isn't comforting to the residents when it is rather clear that she doesn't have it under control. The paper takes her to task for once again demonstrating a lack of leadership. Click here for the editorial in its entirety.

Empty platitudes, hand-wringing, and finding some way to blame the city council (forthcoming, I'm sure) for whatever strikes her fancy are part and parcel of the "leadership" style of the mayor. "Dismaying" is the kindest word I can use to describe how it feels to be a part of a governing body where, at the Monday night meeting, the mayor (as usual) lit into Council President Mapp with snide and near-paranoid speculations on his political aspirations, mentioned that one of her suggestions for the Queen City Baseball League was that the league dissolve, but said not a single word about the ten shootings. 

Ten shootings, and she and her surrogates prefer to bicker about baseball. Yes, it's dismaying, to say the least. As of this writing, I have seen no press release or comment to the residents of Plainfield about the incidents on the city's website. I am sure, however, that one will be posted tout de suite and, as usual, a day late and a dollar short. 

I sit on the council's Public Safety Committee, and I try to meet and talk with Public Safety Director Hellwig as often as I can to find out what is being done to ensure our safety as a community. The City Council will be holding a Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday, May 29th at 7:00 pm at the Plainfield Senior Citizens Center, located at 400 East Front Street. I will request that Director Hellwig be there to answer the council's concerns as well as the concerns of you, the residents. 

Public Safety is a core issue, and you deserve to know what is being done to protect you, your children, your family, your neighbors, and your city.

All best,

Rebecca

Friday, May 11, 2012

Library Grounds Clean Up Tomorrow! Saturday, May 12!


Saturday, May 12, 2012, 9:00 am 
Volunteers Meet on Library Steps
Gloves, rakes, bags, and water will be provided
 
Bob, Adrian, Rebecca, Paul, and Michael--from Fall 2011.
Hi, everyone,
It's that time again! We, as residents of Plainfield, have an obligation to help keep our city clean. The library belongs to all of us, and despite the opposition to the library as demonstrated by the mayor's desire to cut library funding by upwards of 40% of the current budget, we must keep this most important cultural and civic resource looking spic and span.
We need to trim hedges, remove branches, and pick up litter and other debris in preparation for the Friends of the Plainfield Public Library fundraising event, which will be held on Saturday, May 19th in the Reading Rainforest Children's Room. If you have hedge trimmers, please bring them! Below are some photos from past clean-ups--you will probably see some of your friends and neighbors--join us on Saturday, May 12 at 9:00 am!
See you there!
 
Rebecca
 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Veronica (Roni) Taylor: Democrat for Plainfield!



By now, many of you (my small band of readers--lol) know that I am running Democrat Roni Taylor's grassroots campaign to serve as your next At-large City Councilwoman. Roni is running for the vacant seat, as Annie McWilliams has decided not to run when her current term ends. Over the next four weeks, I will be outlining why Roni is MY CHOICE for the At-large council seat, and why I think SHE SHOULD BE YOURS. We have been walking through neighborhoods all over the city, trying to reach as many voters as possible, to hear your concerns, and to enlist your support. Roni is an independent thinker, beholden to no one but the residents of Plainfield. She has an unmatched record as a public servant, and will bring her energy, thoughtfulness, and consensus-building skills to the council table!

All best,

Rebecca

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Library Grounds Clean-Up on Saturday, May 12!

Saturday, May 12, 2012, 9:00 am 
Volunteers Meet on Library Steps
Gloves, rakes, bags, and water will be provided
Bob, Adrian, Rebecca, Paul, and Michael--from Fall 2011.

Hi, everyone,

It's that time again! We, as residents of Plainfield, have an obligation to help keep our city clean. The library belongs to all of us, and despite the opposition to the library as demonstrated by the mayor's desire to cut library funding by upwards of 40% of the current budget, we must keep this most important cultural and civic resource looking spic and span.

We need to trim hedges, remove branches, and pick up litter and other debris in preparation for the Friends of the Plainfield Public Library fundraising event, which will be held on Saturday, May 19th in the Reading Rainforest Children's Room. If you have hedge trimmers, please bring them! Below are some photos from past clean-ups--you will probably see some of your friends and neighbors--join us on Saturday, May 12 at 9:00 am!

See you there!
Rebecca