Wednesday, January 2, 2013
A Look Back and a Hopeful Look Forward
I want to wish everyone a very happy new year. I have been reviewing the past year (the good, the bad, and the ugly, as the line goes). I wish I could say that this had been a completely successful legislative year. In some ways, it was--here are just a few thoughts. Thanks to Councilman Adrian Mapp, who worked closely with our budget consultant Dave Kochel, we were able to pass a good budget with a minimal tax impact on Plainfield residents (exclusive of county and school taxes); in addition, we were able to restore the mayor's proposed 40% CUT to the library's budget so that this most important resource (and core service to our community) could function effectively--see here.
The city council held a number of town meetings to discuss issues of importance to the community, two of which stood out: the future of the Muhlenberg campus and the PMUA. The council's PMUA study committee, led by Chairman Joseph Ruffin, examined the organization from top to bottom and arrived at conclusions that insisted on either reform or dissolution. This important dialogue, unfortunately, was ignored by the mayor as well as by the PMUA Commissioners, one of whom circumvented a legal arbitration process to ensure that a million dollar "settlement" was given to retired executives. To add insult to injury, the Commission also spoke of instituting a furlough of the workers to pay for it--see here.
The future of the Muhlenberg campus remains uncertain--the 600 plus residential units proposal by JFK/Solaris was roundly rejected by Plainfielders, who insist that the hospital be restored or put to some other medical use.
This past year was a contentious and difficult one. The city had to deal with the mayor's ridiculous lawsuit (which she has since withdrawn) against the council because of her illegal use of taxpayer funds--see here and here; unfortunately, the taxpayers will have to pay her personal legal expenses. This year also saw her ill-fated and ultimately shamefully embarrassing attempt to cast me as unpatriotic (throwing in that I am not properly religious, in her mind) and causing me to receive hate mail from all over the country because of her lack of understanding of the First Amendment--see here and here.
There were also fraudulent and illegal activities that I uncovered in the Recreation Division--see here and here--related to the Independence day events, wherein the Recreation Division had created and handed out fraudulent vendor applications with illegal fees on them in an attempt to defraud hardworking businesses. This fraud is being investigated by the county at this time. It is incumbent upon the administration to vet anyone who applies for employment in this city and to be on the watch for dishonest and corrupt opportunists who would think nothing of leaving the city open to lawsuits because of their greed. I hope that justice will be served, for the sake of the defrauded vendors as well as our city's reputation.
I wrote about this tendency toward corruption back in September: "Several Gallons of Corruption." I have also written about the incompetence that I have seen in City Hall in several posts this year--see "Time to Go" and "Don't Bother, They're Here." I thought I had seen it all, until the mayor's attempt to stage a carnival backfired: "Epic Fail: Carnival in the 4th Ward." I am still awaiting documents on this debacle. The administration still has key cabinet positions unfilled, and the fiscal oversight is simply not there.
Finally, we had Sandy. This historic storm caused great damage to our city and yet residents pulled together to help one another. Our public works and public safety departments did outstanding work in keeping us safe during this emergency. I was able to see the strength of our citizens as visited the city's Washington School shelter for several days, and also made sure that I got to all of our senior citizen residences. I checked on as many people (especially seniors) as I could and distributed flyers--some of which I got from the city, and some that Adrian and I produced ourselves, given the shortened daylight hours and my own obligations at work, but I was happy that we were able to get as much information as we did out there--PSE&G updates, county alerts, and other information--the power of social media such as Facebook could not be denied.*
We said goodbye to our colleague, Annie McWIlliams, and will be welcoming our new colleague, Tracey Brown, to the council table. On the national stage, President Obama was re-elected to a second term, and we have a new Congressional Representative in Rush Holt, as we are now in the 12th District. As I look to serve you in the coming year as a member of the Plainfield City Council, I am hopeful that I can be a better and more effective representative. Our reorganization meeting will be held tomorrow (Thursday), January 3, in the Municipal Courthouse Chambers at 7:00 pm.
I look forward to a good 2013!
*And I still have not met a single individual who heard a bull horn. SMH.