Monday, October 18, 2010

TOO MANY OR TOO FEW BUT NOT RIGHT.

Sunday, October  17 the Courier finally had space to print an article by Mark Spivey that first appeared on October 13 in his blog. The subject was of course the extraordinary long monthlyAgenda Sessions and the equally excessive lengthy of the once monthly business meetings. Quoting from the article:
"Following a flurry of council meetings that lasted in excess of four or even five hours, many of which were adjourned well after midnight, Council President Annie McWilliams said Wednesday that the governing body is looking into ways to rearrange the meeting calendar. The plan likely will result in the implementation of a second agenda-setting meeting per month, McWilliams said.
"I am not yet in favor of returning to four meetings a month because it frees up time for (council) committees to meet," McWilliams explained via e-mail Wednesday. "While it has admittedly taken some committees longer than others to get going, the ones that have met consistently and really focused on key items have had great success."
The council early in 2009 voted to reduce the number of monthly meetings from four down to two: then-Council President Rashid Burney at the time called it an effort to instill "quality over quantity.""

Ever since the change was made in 2009 I have been, along with others, including knowledgeable individuals on  municipal affairs as "Dottie G", outspoken  at the Council Meetings and in this blog about the  need to return to the semi-monthly coupled meeting schedule. Our appeals to reason have fallen on deaf ears. Th Council which is suppose to represent the Public interest continues on its self-satisfying course. 

Months ago I even proposed that as a poor compromise  the Agenda Setting Session at least be split into two separate meetings. The above article is the first unofficial indication that even  such a move  which does not correct one of the great defects in the present schedule is at least being considered . But it in itself will not solve the pressing problems of business that face the Council.

The argument that the present schedule  permits  more time for Council Members to be more effective by holding frequent Committee Meetings ala  State and Federal legislative bodies is a fallacious one. Month in month out the only committee that produces a written report has been Mapp's Administration and Finance Committee. This report is as a rule the only one that appears in the Business Meeting documents. A few of the other Committee Chairpersons will give  a verbal report at the Agenda Setting Session some from written notes, none  of which appear published. Other committees activities are at best only sketchily verbally reported  and often the report is they are going to meet at the end of the month.

Very few items in these Committee reports are reflected in the Council's action discussion, and at most are only mildly informative of  Administration's concerns. Indeed the Council meets as a" Committee of the Whole" and does not vote the approval of a  sub-committee's recommendations but often as it should has an open and prolong debate on the subject.It is true that some like those involving the Recreation Division  have resulted in Council instigated  Resolutions or Ordinances, but that is  a  rarity.

There is another reason why the present routine and the  proposed change does not serve the needs of a municipality of Plainfield's  size and problems. Too often situations that require "urgent action" because time is running out is present at the last moment. Four weeks at best is too long a time interval for Council to need and act upon in depth consideration. Two weeks between meetings would remove that axe that is hung over the Councilors' heads. Two weeks could also shorten time for the Council to enact needed Ordinances.

2 comments:

  1. I don't believe it is a matter of quantity, rather it is a quality issue!

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  2. Blackdog, I could never understand the "quality over quantity" remark. Quality is dependent on how one addresses issues, Quantity is the number of issues that come before the "Council". It is to be presumed taht every one is important for the proper functioning of the city. Those that don't such as hanging banners need by Charter Council approval butr they are handled on the Consent agenda at the business meeting. They take up time only at the Agenda setting and then the issue is mostly if they meet requirements and/or substance. To consider them not of quality is wrong. But they only take up time at the "voting meeting" if request to be discussed and then off the Consent Agenda.
    There are too many items on the Consent Agenda that are not "routine" and to not belong there. The Consent Agenda as in the days of the Gibson Council can be used to have a short meeting. That Council abrogated much of its fiduciary responsibility. We can nit have a repeat by overwhelming the workload at a single meeting.

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