The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Several Gallons of Corruption"


In my American Literature I course last week, we talked about the meaning of corruption in one of the texts we discussed--Puritan minister Cotton Mather's "Trial of Martha Carrier." The use of the word in that text was in its literal sense of pus breaking forth: "...he was taken with a swelling in his Foot, and then with a pain in his side, and exceedingly Tormented. It bred into a sore, which was Lanced by Doctor Prescot, and several Gallons of Corruption ran out of it."

That literal meaning is obsolete now, but I always think of it when I read of political scandals--such as that of Trenton Mayor Tony Mack (here) along with his recreation division, see here--it is quite a visceral image.

To ignore corruption in Plainfield city government and to have it fester and run, seemingly egged on by mediocrity and incompetence, is to abandon the people of this city. I will be following up on outstanding items for which we, as the governing body representing the people of Plainfield, deserve answers--here are just a couple:

1) As of this writing, many residents have asked me about the administration's investigation of the corruption scandal that has engulfed the Recreation Division, wherein a fraudulent application and illegal permit fees were being charged for vendor participation in the Independence Day events this year--the Recreation Division was handing out these fraudulent documents and telling vendors they had to pay excessive fees to be a part of the events. Click here and here for my previous blog posts on this particular scandal. A call to the Union County Prosecutor's Office and to the state is certainly in order if the city doesn't provide answers regarding this issue. Theft and corruption are prosecutable actions.

2) I have received several emails about the state of tax collection in Plainfield, in terms of its accountability and the basic competence of its administration. Tax bills were once again sent out late, and the excuses have been flying. In addition, several residents are still wondering about the outcome of the situation wherein thousands of dollars in cash went missing from the tax collector's office. Dan Williamson, former Corporation Counsel, never provided a comprehensive answer for this particular instance of corruption, but I know there are financial records and details of what initially happened, who was involved in the theft, and what was done (or is currently being done). A call to the Union County Prosecutor or to the state seems to be in order here as well. Again, theft and corruption are prosecutable actions.

It behooves the administration to ROOT OUT CORRUPTION wherever it exists--not to sweep it under the rug, not to ignore it in hopes that the people will forget, and not to minimize the fraudulent and criminal activities that occur in city government. I am deeply disappointed in the mayor's silence about her part, if any, in all this, but certainly not at all surprised--her obliviousness and incompetence have been well-noted by all for several years now. I will follow up as best I can.

All best,

Rebecca





Monday, September 24, 2012

Our Tax Rate and Fiscal Responsibility


As many of you know, I have been asking the administration for our 2012 tax rate for several months (we passed the budget last spring). Every time I asked, I got some excuse for why the information couldn't be given to me. Then, after being told at the September 10 council meeting that they didn't know I had made the request (!!!), I received an email from Administration and Finance a day later with the numbers (of course, the County had just released the numbers as well). The rate is as follows (click to enlarge):










The city portion, as you can see, has gone down very slightly, thanks mainly to Council President Mapp and Dave Kochel, the budget consultant the city council approved to assist with the process in the continued absence of a Chief Financial Officer. The administration bragged, in early spring, about getting the budget down to Trenton on time, but then deliberately hid from the council for several weeks the notice that the state had returned the budget to the administration, basically stating that it was a hot mess, sloppily put together, and riddled with errors that amounted to about a $2 million shortfall. 

In that budget, there was no accounting for the deferred pension payment, insurance costs, etc., in addition to the mayor's attempt to pad her own budget and pet projects to the tune of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars (while also attempting to slash the Plainfield library budget by 40%!). 

I wrote about this in June: The Politics of Incompetence.  It was only through the hard work of the council's finance committee, led by Council President Mapp that Plainfield residents did not receive a tax increase this year.  

I also have received numerous complaints about the tax collection in our city. At the budget hearings, I was mortified to discover that untold amounts of money were sitting in the tax collector's office, not deposited in violation of state law! The tax bills were once again sent out late. I will be following up on this and other items at the next city council meeting--this coming Monday, October 1.

All best,

Rebecca


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

No Abstractions

 
In expressing grief/
Let us freely give voice to/
“Speakable” horrors.