Thursday, September 30, 2010
A conflict could be avoided if the Special was called for at 7:29 PM. The notice in Friday's Courier states " 7:30PM prior to the regularly scheduled agenda session" Much ado about nothing"at Actually it may make little difference because the preceding executive session more often than not runs up to 45 minutes after the public meeting is scheduled.
less than 5 full weeks to Nov 2 election day. We will be bombarded by negative radio and TV campaign spots for races in NY, and Conneticut. Locally Candidate Blogs and the barrage of commentaries will be the focus on the two Council races and all state or Congressional races.
Perhaps in the next few days Councilor Rivers will find time to answer questions about her votes. Perhaps we will have more information from JG about our " playboys", the New Democrats Council sponsored train trip.
Contrary to some who "anonate" to ask for clarification or answers or source material from a public figure is not badgering.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The interrelationship of these three blogs lies not only in the subject matter but in the reader's comments. This is important in the one party political atmosphere that divides Plainfield. The misrepresenting of who belongs to whom is clearly indicated in the commentaries posted to "Thoughts--" Disregarding the spat between Rob and Anonymous you must at least read Professor Williams's clarification about which faction various Councilors belong. Also that in the General election there is just one line for any established political party. Therefor, those New, Old, Unopposed candidates winners of the Primary Election must share the same party line. It is only at the primary elections that declared groups and independents have separate lines..
There can be no argument regarding the fact that the Mayor is a party line dedicated Democrat. Nor can anyone refute that Councilors Storch, Mapp, and McWilliams belong to the "New Democrat faction; that is three out of seven, hardly a majority. Two other Councilors Burney and Carter had been associate with the New Democrats in the past. However in the last primary Burney had Jerry Green's support and Carter is the party line designee for Freeholder. Therefore there designation as :"New Democrats" is subject to doubt. Rivers ran as an independent , not a New Democrat" against the party line nominee. No one can doubt Reid's affiliation.
Despite Councilwoman Rivers unexplained change in her vote over the two Ordinances the Mayor had vetoed, the fact is that we must give each Councilor the credit for voting as individuals and not as political hacks. As things are, neither faction can command for issues of extreme importance the necessary "Super majority" to dominate.
Briefly Storch's posting emphasizes the decision process that must take place before committing the city to an expensive venture. Monday's meeting will be illuminating.
All this brings us to Assemblyman Green's posting which raises more questions than answers. We can ignore his on-going attack on Councilor Storch. There is no new substance.
I am happy that he his not supporting the current SpotShotter program and I hope unlike the secrecy in the Muhlenberg fiasco he will inform us through his blog the name of the other vendors of similar programs so that we the public can do our own independent investigation. It is nice to be able to speak with some knowledge not hearsay about an issue.
As a sort of community activist and reader of all local blogs, his revelation of a sponsored train trip to DC is a complete surprise to me. I can not remember it being on the agenda of any Council meeting in 2010 or even 2009. Did the Council decide in Executive Session to rent the train? If so then all 7 members of the Council could be guilty of an illegal act.
I can find no correlation between an error by a State Official costing the State $800 million and the Mayor authorizing the expenditure of $20,000.00 for a speaker. I believe the Charter require approval of such expenditure by the Council. Moreover none of the present Council members are Republicans.
Be cause space is short my final comment is to take exception to the Assemblyman's remarks "he would like to make it sound like the Regular Democrats are involved with the day-to-day operations of the City, but that is not true".
There are two indisputable facts; the New Democrats are on the Council which can only set policy by means of Resolutions or Ordinances. Administration which is in charge of the operation of the City is in the hands of the elected Mayor and her appointed Department heads. To my recollection Mayor Robinson-Briggs when she first took office referred to Assemblyman Green, the Chairman of the City Democratic Party, as her mentor. I believe that she is truly a Regular Democrat.
(various typos that had skipped my original late at night proofing have been corrected. Please point out any remaining errors. 9.33AM)
I would call attention to the editorial in today's rain soaked Courier. Local, State and National government should not be delegated to "party players".
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Monday my favorite news reporter posted an essay in his new blog about bird watching in Plainfield. For years we had fought and sometimes successfully the squirrels to keep our bird feeders in our yard filled. The past three years I had to admit defeat, not from the Squirrels and Chipmunks but by the Deer who would empty several pounds of seeds at night.
Years ago in the 70s there were Pheasants in the detention basin off Terrill Road and one severe winter an Eagle paid us a visit.
So as a pleasant alternative, Mark, this JAMA cover is for you.
The latest issue of BAR (Biblical Archeology Review) has an article titled "Did the Ancient Israelites Drink Beer?".References are given to Numbers 287-10, Proverbs 31:6, 20:1. 31:4 as well as Isaiah 5:11,28:7, 24:9.
In the late Bronze Age Barley not Wheat was the main crop in the Fertile Crescent. The production of Beer was similar to Bread. Hops were not used. The Author goes to great length to postulate that Beer consumption was common and large in all age groups including children. Perhaps it was partly a health measure since water sources could be contaminated.
This journal is often controversial and worth reading.
Monday, September 27, 2010
If the truth were to be told, none of the above by itself could be the source of our sad state. The real villain encompasses all of the above and more. In fact the political system which encourages patronage, nepotism, and favoritism is the real culprit, not any one of the mentioned factors.
Public apathy plus personal agendas that encourage accepting , to some. a "benevolent", party boss who for years is reappointed constitutes the core problem. This is manifested by the Council's desire to have a harmonious relationship with the executive branch. Occasionally Councilors speak out in opposition but that seems to be for popular consumption rather than a sincere desire for the Council to exert its fiduciary responsibility.
For years the Auditors have called attention to excessive amounts of transfers of funds between various accounts, as well as the existence of a great number of "inactive" bank accounts. Yet the Councilors sign off on the annual audit without insisting that these financial irregularities be corrected.
Too many contracts are awarded to "State approved vendors" by the so call "fair and open process' or through the exemption of "professional contracts" from competitive bidding. Provisions in the City's Charter or mandated by State Statues are glossed over if not completely ignored. The role of the CFO in these matters is non existent. There is no proof or record that the City is getting the best bang for its dollar.
There is no followup of actions taken and often no record of having been fulfilled. The Dudley house being an example.
When an inappropriate action may have been taken there is no evidence that an attempt to correct has occurred. The recent awarding of a large grant contract to a firm with no experience in that specific field resulted in this email to me from an anon: " Local Public Contracts Law may permit the City the leeway to engage in sham bidding, but it doesn’t allow for violating Federal and State laws pertaining to the use of funds. I think the law is pretty clear on this. I find it pretty amazing how weak this Council appears." To date neither Administration or Council has rebutted the writer's concern.
The Charter was written to provide for "checks and balances" between the Administrative and Legislative bodies. If the Council does not get the reports it desires it can not function. If Council does not mandate the receipt of those reports it ignores its responsibility to the citizens.
It should be obvious that until the City's financial controls are operative there is little accounting how our tax dollars are being used or misused.
Plainfield's financial structure is of great concern. Is it capable ti operate a multimillion dollar budget? Consider the following; Plainfield's financial table of organization has been difficult to understand. At this point one can only come to the conclusion that there is no organization in place responsible for a 70 million dollar budget. To the best of my knowledge and with information gathered from various offices in city hall eliminating the Mayor's and City Administrator the following positions are not filled; Director of Finances and Administration, Comptroller, CFO, Purchasing Supervisor.
City Administrator Bibi Taylor has been functioning as "acting Director of Finances and Administration since assuming the City Administrator position 7 months ago. She or a Mayor's appointee may act as Director of Finances and Administration if there is a vacancy. Th City Charter does not have a time limit although the Charter limits Temporary or Acting position holders to a term of 90 days "and they can not succeed themselves"
According to our Charter the Comptroller and CFO are one and the same position. Once again we have a repeatedly appointed Acting CFO formerly designated as Assistant Comptroller. The sad fact is that there is a question about the legality of either title and the qualifications needed to fill the State's requirements. See below the Charter description of the Division of Audit and Control.
The other critical financial post, Purchasing Supervisor once again the post is unfilled instead,
David Spaulding is Acting Purchasing Supervisor.
From the City Charter.
Sec. 2:6-7. Division of Audit and Control.
Within the Department of Administration and Finance there shall be a
Division of Audit and Control, the head of which shall be the City Comptroller
who shall be the Chief Financial Officer of the City. Under the direction and
supervision of the Director, the Division shall:
a Develop, maintain, and enforce a uniform system of accounts including
forms, standards, and procedures for all departments of the City Government;
b Maintain and operate the City's central accounting records in accord
ance with sound accounting principles and in accordance with the requirements
of the Director of the State Division of Local Government Services:
c Establish and maintain controls over all receipts and disbursements of
the City Government;
d Control all expenditures of the City to assure that budget appropriations are not exceeded, and maintain such books and records to provide an
appropriation ledger under an encumbrance system of accounting;
e Pre-audit all bills, claims and demands against the City as to conformity
to City budget, the City Charter, ordinances of the City and State law and
authorize disbursement of those that conform;
lW Prepare and submit monthly to the Mayor and City Council:
I Report of revenues
2 Report of appropriations;
3 List of paid claims:
g Prepare all disbursements for submission to City Treasurer;
h Establish and maintain an internal audit program for all City depart
ments and Federal and State aid programs;
i Be responsible for the sale and awarding of City bonds and notes and act
as registrar for the registering of City bonds and notes.
i Maintain and operate accounting records for all Federal, State, and
private funds under contracts of funds appropriated or advanced to the City in
accordance with sound accounting principles and in accordance with con
A.C. 1969, 6.7, as amended June 15, 1970: MC 1973-7, §1. March 5, 1973.
6&oss reference: As to purchasing procedures. see Section 2:10-5 et seq. of
75 Supp. 12/26/73
§ 2:6-8 PLAIN FIELD MUNICIPAL CODE § 2:6-9
Sec. 2:6-8. Bond Sues.
a Except as may otherwise be provided by resolution adopted pursuant to
the Local Bond Law, the City Comptroller is designated as the financial
officer to sell and award bonds in accordance with the advertised terms of
public sale. lie shall report in writing to the Council at the next meeting
thereof the principal amount, interest rate, and maturities of the bonds sold,
the price obtained and the name of the purchaser.
b The City Comptroller shall supervise the administration of municipal
debt and the receipt and delivery of bonds and notes for transfer, registration
or exchange, subject to the provisions of the Local Bond Law.7
ordinance to be filled by the Mayor with the advice and consent of the
Council, the Mayor may temporarily fill such vacancy in the absence of any
contrary provision in the Charter or ordinance by appointing an acting
officer, including the designation of himself or a Department Director as
Acting City Administrator or the designation of the City Administrator as
an acting department director. Any such appointment shall terminate no
later than ninety 90 days after the date of appointment. No person shall be
eligible for a temporary appointment who has previously served a
temporary appointment in the same office during the previous twelve 12
b Such appointee shall have all of the functions, powers and duties of
the office for ninety 90 days.
c In the event the City Administrator is designated as an acting
department director, the provisions of Section 2:5-9d shall apply.
A.C. 1969, 3.4, as amended May 5, 1969; MC 2001-46, § 1, December 19,
2001; MC 2004-24, § 1, October 30, 2002
Next Monday at the Agenda Setting Session there will be a recommendation to place or omit the second and f final vote on an Ordinance for a million dollar bond issue to purchase the "ShotSpotter" system as recommended by the Director of Public Safety. As commentators to various blogs and the bloggers have pointed out there are too many unanswered questions to justify consideration at this time.
The issue has been further clouded by questions on the administrative credibility of the Director Of Public Safety in view of the recent prisoner handling fiasco. Moreover, in the past 36 months there have been two major organizational restructuring in the Police Department from 4 Divisions to 7 and then t0 3. The numbers may be wrong but the description of the Division on the City site lists 7 Bureaus some headed by individuals who have left the Service and others who have been demoted. Such confusion leads to serious doubts about the competency and degree of research done to recommend purchasing the system. If the Council places this item on the agenda they should take a good look at their fiduciary responsibilities.
It would also appear that among the discussion items for next Monday's meeting is the unanswered questions regarding the perpetually vacant critical financial positions and the lack of compliance with state statues. What is the Administrations excuse for failing to have presented.the proposed budget promised for the end of August or at the latest by the September Council meeting. Even if it (the budget) is now on the agenda there is no excuse for failing to meet the deadline set by administration.
Earlier 2010 the Personnel Division proposed and presented to the Council a contract for automated time machines and software to replace the manual inefficient paper system. The Council was in approval but suggested that for accuracy the bid be restructured to included fingerprint identification. Was this ever resubmitted to the Council or has it been lost in the. administrative morass?
In view of the recent exposure of deficiencies found in the fiscal audits for 2007,20087,&2009 is it possible that the Council can not act on the suggestion from its Finance and Administration Committee as mentioned in September.
There may be an addendum to this post later today.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Four reasons for no in depth post this weekend; (1) Great college football weekend, (2) Giants and Jets on Sunday, (3) Are the Yankees going to blow it? (4) A translator program , Babylon, seems to have taken over my browser home page. It didn't do the translation-Latin to English- and although he uninstaller says everything is deleted I am faced with the search sheet for English to Spanish when I open Firefox. Makes life difficult but have to work around it.
Enjoy your weekend and I may reunite with the world come Monday.
Friday, September 24, 2010
ome > Contact Us
Please call us at our toll-free hotline 1-800-547-1121
State of New Jersey
Office of the State Comptroller
P.O. Box 024
Trenton, NJ 08625
Att: Comptroller Tips
All communication will remain confidential.
This quote from the Auditor's report on the 2009 Audit and an almost word for word one in the 2007 and 2008 Audit reports plus a recommendation each year that these deficiencies be corrected is one more manifestation that the absence of a Director of Administration and Finances, or a qualified CFO or Comptroller opens the City's funds to misuse and even embezzlement. It is true that none is reported by the City's Auditor's, however it must be remembered that there is always the possibility of ambiguity in reports issued by any firm who has a repeated yearly contract. One more reason why a forensic audit of at least 2008 & 2009 FY should be authorized by the Council.
The responsibility for non correction of the same annual defects rests with the City Administrator who was in those years Dashields. The 2010 FY audit report has not been released yet, and for the last 5 months of that FY Bibi Taylor has been City Administrator and before that she was Director of Administration and Finances. It is hope that this unacceptable state of affairs has been corrected although the key official position, the CFO remains unfilled with no indication that the Mayor has any desire to fill it.
Other repetitive failures relate to "Grants"; ' There exists numerous grants receivable and appropriate grant reserve from previous years which should be reviewed and cleared of record. There are numerous inactive accounts in the grant appropriation ledger which should be cancelled of record" (2009). Similar although not as verbose remarks appear in the 2007 and 2008 audit."
"We are unable to trace monthly receipts from the various City departments to the records in the Finance Office."
"Numerous duplicate bank accounts remain open. Many of these accounts are inactive. Additionally, excessive bank transfers were noted between bank accounts" This could make tracing funds difficult.
Each year every Councilor has to sign a certificate that they have received and read it. Even if some can not understand the numbers all can read the comments and recommendations. Yet the same unacceptable practices continue uncorrected. Should it not be the Council's fiduciary responsibility to demand and/or take action to have these and the many more others that I have not quoted corrected. We as "stakeholders" (taxpayers) should demand an investigation into the possibilities of irregularities in money management.
We owe Maria Pellum a debt of gratitude for obtaining the 2007,2008, & 2009 Audits.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
The first is the crime rate. It is true that according to FBI statistics there has been a drop of 30% in violent crimes this past decade. However there has not been a breakdown printed as to various classifications. In fact this past 9 months there has been 30 shootings a marked increase over previous years. We have been informed that these are "gang related", and that the area involved is localized to part of the 4th Ward.
As of this time there has been no overall plan published that outlines the city's plan to combat this problem. The one tool proposed at an initial cost of a million dollars and a $150,000.00 annual upkeep is the ShotSpotter system.
It may work. It is a great technical development but can it be a deterrent? That is doubtful. By itself it can only alert that shots have been fired in a pinpoint location. It might enable aid if we still have the capability in Plainfield to reach victims sooner. But by itself it can not nor has there been proof given that it will decrease the use of guns.
Safety Director Hellwig said that the police in special equipped cars could arrive at the scene in "seconds". I have not heard that teleportation has been developed. Yes a few minutes may be saved in relaying information but who can conceive that the perps will still be in the neighborhood? Will there be sufficient police vehicles to stop every car leaving the area? Illogical argument at best.
We can only hope that between today and Tuesday October 12 the Council members will have sufficient positive data on hand to pass the Ordinance's second reading. If they have any questions they must reject the system at this time.
Since the long overdue 2011FY budget has still to make its appearance it has not received the attention it should. Rather I should include it in the next few days in a discussion relating to this Administration's approach to fiscal matters. In the meantime for those with time Maria has posted the last three years Auditor's reports. Forget the numbers the comments and recommendations will give all the insight we need in how Administration manages(?) our money.
The other major concern is the BOE/PSSS. We must thank Maria for her continued breaking down the wall of secrecy that the BOE has erected around its activities. Again this will be a near future post.
Plaintalker has reviewed the arguments being made against Council approving the Ordinance for bonds Lto purchase the Shot-Spotter program. Many objections and cautionary warnings are the same that I presented when the system's acquisition was first proposed. There has been no evidence that Admistration and Public Safety have done a comprehensive investigation before presenting it as an emergency cure. If the Council membership approves the Second Reading I hope that each member will go on record why they voted yea or nay.
Perhaps in two weeks we may some answers from Administration about the CFO, Director of Administration and Public Safety, and the FY2011 Budget. One third of the year has already past without financial accountability. One member of the Council has still not given an explanation for her changed vote.
When will the Council who are supposed to represent the people call for a public forensic audit? For the past two decades various now deceased public advocates have requested 0ne only to have either the Mayor's office, the Council, or the State reject the request.
The other main local major area of distress, the BOE/PSS continues to run its same cloak ed in secrecy course. Maria Pellum's blog continues to be the one extrinsic source impacting on the iron curtain that the system has drawn over matters that should be public knowledge.
With both area well covered by other blogers I will not waste our time being repetaive.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Reading between the back ink the minutes consist only of general references to redacted subjects and no indication of any discussion or vote. The thirty pages of blackout that were transmitted to Ms Pelllum are a mockery in an attempt to circumvent the law. The question is it of sufficient importance to inquire if the ACLU would consider intervening? The minutes apparently do not reflect any discussion pro or con on any subject.
It would appear that if the minutes are an acurate report of transactions in executive sessions more than that permitted to be redacted has taken place.
The New Jersey law is specific and thesed two paragraphs note what may be not released.
Information to be redacted
Prior to allowing access to any thereof shall redact from that record any information which discloses the
social security number, credit card number, unlisted telephone number, or driver license number of any person;
except for use by any government agency, including any court or law enforcement agency, in carrying out its
functions, or any private person or entity acting on behalf thereof, or any private person or entity seeking to
enforce payment of court-ordered child support; except with respect to the disclosure of driver information by
the Division of Motor Vehicles as permitted by section 2 of P.L.1997, c.188 (C.39:2-3.4); and except that a
social security number contained in a record required by law to be made, maintained or kept on file by a public
agency shall be disclosed when access to the document or disclosure of that information is not otherwise prohibited
by State or federal law, regulation or order or by State statute, resolution of either or both houses of the Legislature,
Executive Order of the Governor, rule of court or regulation promulgated under the authority of any statute or
executive order of the Governor.
Access to personnel and pension records
C.47:1A-10 Personnel, pension records not considered public document; exceptions.
Notwithstanding the provisions of P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) or any other law to the contrary, the personnel or pension records of any individual in the possession of a public agency, including but not limited to records relating to any grievance filed by or against an individual, shall not be considered a government record and shall not be made available for public access, except that an individual's name, title, position, salary, payroll record, length of service, date of separation and the reason therefor, and the amount and type of any pension received shall be a government record; personnel or pension records of any individual shall be accessible when required to be disclosed by another law, when disclosure is essential to the performance of official duties of a person duly authorized by this State or the United States, or when authorized by an individual in interest; and data contained in information which disclose conformity with specific experiential, educational or medical qualifications required for government employment or for receipt of a public pension, but not including any detailed medical or psychological information, shall be a government record.
Monday, September 20, 2010
We now have 6 weeks of political rhetoric before elections. It will b e interesting to see how much support Professor Williams receives from the city party. But the real interest will be focused on if the erosion of Obama support is greater or normal for mid term elections.
It is two weeks until the next scheduled Council agenda setting session. It will b e one month after Administration had promised to have submitted the FY2011 budget to Council.. I am sure there will be an explanation why the delay. Perhaps it cold be due to the fact that the Council would not consider an unqualified individual.
We have been blessed by Councilman Burney's posting on his blog his confusing to some of us explanation for his veto support On Tuesday evening I had written in a post:"Councilor Rivers, representing the 4th Ward has yet to expound on why she considered on Monday September 13, 2010 two Ordinances that she had approved of less than one week before to not merit enactment. If she is going to be a proper representative of all the people in Plainfield she must have a reasonable cause at least in her own mind to change her position. We are owed an explanation. To not do so might leave her motives open to questioning."
We are still waiting for an explanation. I will then post it in my blog if Councilor has no other venue.
Without any logical answer the public can only contemplate that the motive was politics. Plainfield deserves better. Some insight into Councilor Rivers can be gained from the heavily redacted minutes of the BOE's executive session.
One "good " news relating to Palinfield id the 10 year drop in crime rates. An expert analysis is missing as to th emeaning of the figures. No weighed is given to the type of crime, especially murders and violent assault in the overall total. That is the real crux of what gains the city has made.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Although there seems to be a dedicated defender group or individual for the Mayor no one is willing to use a tag that would make him/her less anonymous. Hiding behind that veil raise question as to motives or source.
"Nuff said",I will always post any comment in good taste whether it mirrors my opinions or is contrary as long as neither are personally abusive.
For those who have a true interest in the fundamentals of the present great debate over two vetoes I would advise reading Council President McWillimans' blog of 9/16/10. She once again makes the point that this is not a witch hunt but an fiduciary responsible effort to insure proper money management in the Plainfield Government.
Councilor Burney has given an explanation why he changed his vote, Councilor Rivers has been mum. If she is interested in transparency this is a poor way of demonstrating it. However this may be a characteristic remaining from her Presidency days on the BOE.
To turn away from local affairs to the recent primary elections. The victories of the "Tea Parties" in Delaware and New York State as well as else wheres cements the legitimacy of the Tea Party movement which has taken over the far Right of the GOP.
Unlike the Democrats with multiple political philosophies, the Republicans have two; the far right which has been the nucleus of the Tea Parties and a larger disorganized group who vary from moderate liberalism to mild conservatism. The far right which has found allies with the Tea Party leadership many who are only conservative in government not anti-abortionist or anti-immigrants and this alliance may destroy the Republicans as a national force.
The Democrats are used to deal with multiple diverse factions within their own party although the national and state trends lean towards entitlements and government control of industries as well as health care. There is always a question if the leadership is opportunistically socialist for the votes. There doesn't seem to be any concern about mortgaging the future for present needs except to blame Bush.
For many Republicans in New York and Delaware as well as other states where the Tea Party scored a victory they have been left with three choices; vote the party line, vote for the Democrat candidate, or not go to the polls. Those and it may be a substantial number who choose the last two options will help the Democrats retain their House seats and Senate control.
It shall be interesting election. In Plainfield those that give thought to their vote will have to judge if Plainfield received all the benefit from Representative Pallon's House seat in grants and influence in our health facilities. We know our Assembly and State Senate representatives failed to act in the people's interests.
From sunset Friday night to sunset Saturday marks the holiest day in Judaism, Yom Kippur the day of reflection (on ones life) and asking for atonement from sins against G*d. It is true that like in all faiths some who profess to be very religious are the greatest violators of moral righteousness.But be reassured; the overwhelming majority of human beings are good.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Other business passed Monday night included an Ordinance establishing of a Recreation Commission with broad authority.
As usual there were several resolutions awarding grants by the "Fair and open '' routine to 'State approved vendors. All were on the consent agenda before being placed on the non-consent list Five had a value of in order,$100.000, $196,500.00,$48,800.00,$35,500.00,$320,000.00.
There were two problems with these; they did not belong on a Consent agenda due to size of the sums involved; and several should have been awarded by competitive bidding. If the mayor's veto of Ordinance MC 2010-23 had been overridden by the 5:2 vote that had passed the original Ordinance authorizing an enacting vote that would have lowered the threshold for independence.
Councilor Burney has posted an explanation for his vote to uphold the Mayor's veto of 2010-22.
His logic stills eludes me. If you want transparency you take what little steps that you can get. One can not always hit a home run. Moreover multiple little pieces can make up the whole.
Too expose the manipulations to use money from the wrong line items can make visible the Administration's need not to appoint a CFO and a Director of Administration and Finances.
The impression received from Burney's explanation is a desire to catch Administration in an illegal act.
When will Council wake up and realize that the length of the meeting is conducive to mental fatigue and poor thought processes.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The presentation included a PowerPoint slide show with sound. The program is available at the company's web site. Of course the promotional material had no negative factors. Six of the Council members asked very pointed pertinent questions including which towns in NJ had installed the system. Among them are Newark , Irvington, East Orange, Camden, Trenton (new). Elizabeth has just contracted for the system to cover slightly over 1sq. miles.
The public residents who commented on the Ordinance took into account that 27 out of 30 gun shot incidents since the first of the year occurred in the 4th Ward. However the majority 3:1 questioned if the money could be put to better use in the fight against crime.
Some of the questions by the public related to the true effectiveness of the technology alone and what supplementary services including cameras , terminals needed and what the extra costs would be. The examples given by the company were only positive as expected. A brief search of the web revealed some negative comments such as this one:
submitted by theodp on Sunday April 04, @12:07AM
theodp writes "After a week that saw more than 40 people shot and at least 4 killed, Chicago politicians and police are at odds on whether to implement ShotSpotter, a camera and acoustic sensor-based gunshot-location system that is designed to pinpoint a shooter's location within seconds. The Chicago Police Department opposes such a move, saying ShotSpotter wasn't reliable in an earlier trial and — at $250,000 for a square mile of coverage — is too expensive. The company says the system has dramatically lowered crime rates in cities across the country. ShotSpotter is currently deployed in two countries and 51 U.S. cities and counties. And there's never been a better time to buy the patented technology, kids!"
As the Resolution and Ordinance reads there is to be a bond issue for $950,000.00 and a total appropriation of $1,000,000.00 for the acquisition of a gunshot location system. The quoted costs for the 2 square miles for the sensors and terminal equipment was given as $750,000 which must included a number of security cameras and up to 14 in car computers, since the company quoted a cost of $200000.00 per square mile. (Please correct any dollar errors if I am off. ). Missing was an accurate cost of the yearly maintenance costs which for the sensor systems alone was I think 15% of the original costs.
Elizabeth a bigger city with similar problems is only committing as an initial investment about a total $200,000.00. Newark with a system in place has had one of its worse years in gun shot incidences. East Orange which seems to have success as an integrated system including multiple surveillance cameras.
Mentioned was made of Federal and State Grant money availability but the earliest the city would be eligible was 15 months, so either budget money or some other source would have to be found. This was not clarified.
There is an impression that the City and Public Safety has not completely thought out all parameters and are mesmerized by what is believed to be a quick solution to a problem for which there has been no comprehensive solution plan developed. Such a plan with the inclusion of the shot spotter equipment should be first formalised and available for the Council and Public to review and comment before such a large sum is committed.
The Council should table the related Ordinance and its second reading until sufficient due diligence can be accomplished.
I want to expand on my remarks about the Council's actions regarding the failure to override the Mayor.s veto. First I would like to quote a line from Council President McWilliams's blog and repeated at the Council meeting. It represents the crux of the situation, and why the three Council members 's action was not in our interests.
"This is the bottom line: a vote against these ordinances is a vote against transparency and fiscal oversight.No resident will be harmed if these ordinances are approved. In fact, taxpayers will benefit tremendously.
I am also reprinting a letter from another blog which refutes one of Administration's prime arguments
"Vendors who deal with municipal government are well aware of the time it takes to first obtain a purchase order and then, after delivery of goods or services, obtain a final approval and then payment. They are also aware that having a governing body review bills before payment is not an uncommon practice, and is part of doing business with local government. Plainfield's municipal finances need this type of oversight."
No one should have been surprised at Councilor Reid's vote on both resolutions and Councilwoman Carter's one was initially against the Ordinance lowering the "no bid level".
What needs better explanation are the votes of the two who changed from approval to defeat both Ordinances.
Councilman Burney gave an explanation which may have been rational in his own mind but seems asinine to others. Why, because one does not think an attempt to correct a problem is not strong enough would one turn down a small gain in the hopes that a more comprehensive one which can not be practical and would be sure of not being enacted? Perhaps Councilor will post on his blog why he did reject a workable Ordinance in favor of pie in the sky.
Councilor Rivers, representing the 4th Ward has yet to expound on why she considered on Monday September 13, 2010 two Ordinances that she had approved of less than one week before to not merit enactment. If she is going to be a proper representative of all the people in Plainfield she must have a reasonable cause at least in her own mind to change her position. We are owed an explanation. To not do so might leave her motives open to questioning.
Sad to say there is a time when party politics do not have a place in community affairs. This is especially important when there are questions of fiscal mismanagement or competency in Plainfield. This is a problem that the Mayor has shown no inclination to correct by appointing a Director of Administration and Finance or a CFO. Indeed her acting appointments are time wise in violation of the City Charter and perhaps State regulations.
If the Acting (or Assistant?) Comptroller as one documents title indicates is also the Acting CFO is in not a potential conflict of interests. It is the equivalent of having the fox guard the hen house.
I had thought that as a matter of principle that the Mayor's veto of 2010-22 which require Administration to submit all bills monthly before payment would probably be over ridden by a 5:2 vote since it was originally passed by a 6:1 vote. I did not expect Robimson-Briggs campaign manager to vote against her wishes and was sure that one other Councilwoman would uphold the veto.
There was a great deal of intra-Council discussion prior to the vote and strong emphasis by Council President McWilliams that this Ordinance was necessary for the Council to accomplish its fiduciary responsibility to the residents. Councilor Burney remarked that he was in agreement with the concept of the resolution but he did not feel that it was strong enough; That instead of just reviewing bills before payment he thought the Council should review "all contracts and purchasing orders" before payment was authorized
Councilor Mapp repeated his position that too many payments had been made from line items not related to the service rendered and gave several recent examples. This made a mockery of the budget and some might be potentially illegal.
Although, Council President McWilliams agreed to put Councilor's Burney's oversight proposal on next months agenda and noted that it would in effect be an added level of Council Fiscal accountability to the Ordinance under consideration. Councilman Burney joined Councilors Rivers and Reid to vote against overriding the veto. Once again a minority vote of 3:4 determined the Course of Council action. That is acceptable because the Charter requires a vote of 5 -a super majority of the entire Council not a quorum to override a veto.
The second resolution which in effect lowered the ceiling to $17,500. as the cut off level beyond which bids must be sought before awarding a contract. The new State level is $26,000.00. This was defeated as anticipated by another 4:3 vote which the dissidents were; Reid,Rivers, and Carter.
Resolution 339-10; reducing the amount of an Ordinance for capital funds for construction of the never built Senior Citizen Center. By some technicality those authorized funds had been applied to the Monarch facility. Councilman Mapp pointed out that many items already charged to those funds such as "janitorial supplies" were operational items not capital. In addition the $287,000.00(?) bill from Dornoch is included in sums owed . This despite the Council had not received any information about who had authorized the spending of those funds. Until that information is made available the Resolution and accompanying Ordinance was tabled.
The next post will take up the issue of the ShotSpoter program.
Monday, September 13, 2010
On the Consent Agenda are six resolutions (R347-10:R352-10) awarding contracts to "certain State approved vendors" for "amounts not to exceed". The sums are 347-10;$18000.00;348-10;$110,000.00;349-10;$196,000.00;350-10:$48,800.00;
351-10:$35,500;and 352-10:$320,000.00. The larger ones do not qualify for routine business and do not belong on the Consent Agenda. The fact that none were granted by competitive bidding also opens them to review before passing.
As expected the Administration objected to the Finances Committee's consideration of a Forensic Audit. -see report attached to agenda packet. The Administration's counter suggestion that it should be retroactive to past administrations is an attempt to blacken the McWilliam's years. I am sure that some innovative practices would also be present at that time. However an independent forensic audit of the past few years when critical financial post went unfilled might have the potential to lead to possible criminal action.
Regarding the CFO and Director of Finances and Administration positions , the acting CFO's certification of funds available for the Watchung Ave. phase II repavement has a serious error identifying the reconstruction to be between 7th St. and Hillside Ave. whereas the segment is from Hillside to Leland.
There is a suggestion that the same person holds the positions of Acting CFO and Acting Comptroller according to various documents. That at best is not advisable and may be in violation of the Charter.
R 343-10 refers to a Global agreement with Landmark as an attachment which is not in the packet.
I have already commented on the other two Resolutions , one about the PILOT grant and the other about the "Shotspotter" purchase.
The Ordinance creating a "Recreation Commission" and defining its overall powers on all recreation matters would effectively make the Division of Recreation superfluous except for personnel.
I do not expect that Ordinance 2010-23 will garner sufficient votes to quash the veto.
Too much going on to make tonight's meeting of reasonable length especially if there is the public turnout that it merits.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
If only the Council would return to the semi-monthly meetings so that Administration would not complain that time requires immediate action since a months delay would be disastrous. Citizen's participation and input at the comment time is important, but the length of meetings discourages it. Yet ther is enough on tap tonight for being there. If I can see the Resolutions early enough I shall comment later.
Several resolutions on tonight's agenda should require in depth consideration by the Council before their action. Specifically:
(344-10) The request for a PILOT agreement for the " West Second Street Commons" While the project on paper appears to be one of the best proposed redevelopment proposals for downtown, Council should be sure that we are not giving away the "farm" for new residential;l properties. The last PILOT awarded the new purchasers of the Senior Apartment on Park Ave. was needless and costly to our taxpayers. PILOTS were designed to encourage commercial properties are for Federal funding, not for secondary investors so the can have a sweetheart deal.
(R343-10) Global Agreement designating Landmark LLC as developers for North Ave Extension. as well as Properties in Plainfield. Not having seen the Resolution I can only surmise that this is the Bank and other buildings on Park ave, the North Ave. Extension must be the Widening of the Driveway to two way street size to access rear building parking. The fact that the railroad makes it blind for northbound Park Ave, traffic would make it an dangerous intersection needing a traffic light. Opinion delayed.
(R339-10) This is a resolution decreasing the appropriation and a bond issue for the Senior Citizen Center from $4,300,000.00 to $800,000.00 -it was over a million when presented last Tuesday. Supposedly for furnishings this may be an attempt to sneak through the $250,000plus payment to Dornoch that Administration first presented in April. Furnishings could never be that amount unless everything is gold plated.
(R341-10) Resolution approving of an Ordinance-and the Ordinance-of a gunshot location system. Is this an answer in preventing crime? Only to hasten Police response? Is it a one time charge or are there yearly expenses? Can the funds be better used? Most of the installations have also needed cameras to be effective in identifying perps etc. This article from the company's propaganda is typical.
BROCK PARKER - The York Dispatch
Article Last Updated: 09/11/2008 10:50:36 AM EDT
York City Police have begun targeted patrols based on information from the city's new ShotSpotter system.
Police Commissioner Mark Whitman said Wednesday that adjustments to the gunfire detection system are enabling police to more precisely pinpoint the location of gunfire, instead of simply using the system identifying the general area of shots.
As a result, Whitman said, police have started some "more directed gun patrols" and are hoping they lead to more arrests and deterrence.
In August, the ShotSpotter system detected 83 incidents of gunfire in the city -- down from 157 gunshots picked up by the system in July and 103 shots detected in June, according to York City Police.
"I think 83 is a very high number," Whitman said. "Our goal is to get it to as close to zero as we can."
The number of firecrackers detected by the ShotSpotter system in August was 707 -- down dramatically from the 4,463 incidents in July and the 1,339 firecrackers the system detected in a single day on July 4th.
Whitman said police are also about to install two additional sensors for the ShotSpotter system to address areas where gunfire has been verified by police officers, but went undetected by the system. The system of sound sensors and cameras is designed to detect gunshots, map their location and notify police and York County 911 within seconds. It will cost the city $650,000 during the next five years.
Early results: Despite continuing needs to adjust and "tweak" the ShotSpotter system throughout the first year of its use, Whitman said, police are already seeing results.
He said police were able to use the system to help identify some people at the scene of the fatal shooting of Ian Chambers, who was shot in the area of South Penn and West Princess streets Saturday afternoon.
Whitman said the ShotSpotter system detected the gunfire simultaneously or possibly even prior to the first report police received of the shooting, and he said police did recover one gun at the scene.
By being able to quickly identify the exact location of a shooting, Whitman said the ShotSpotter system often allows police to arrive at crime scenes more quickly, and as a result they can collect better evidence to build a case.
In other instances, Whitman said, police have used the ShotSpotter system to "verify or knock down" the stories of people who arrive at York Hospital with gunshot wounds, and claim to have been shot in certain locations of the city. Sometimes the stories have checked out, or have been disproved by the ShotSpotter system, Whitman said.
"As an investigative tool, it's been beneficial," Whitman said.
Reach Brock Parker at 505-5434 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
In the meantime the Agenda for Monday night's Council meeting is up on the City site.
There are two Resolutions overriding the Mayor's veto and a third Resolution calling for an investigation of the City's payment of ($20000 plus) bills to Station WBLS of NYC in July 2010.
I doubt if there will be any no votes cast.
The Resolution to reduce the authorized bond issue for the Senior Center has been further reduced from the $1.500,000.00 as presented last Tuesday to$800,000.00. In addition there will be the first reading of the Ordinance on this matter. I suspect that this will either be defeated or tabled due to unanswered questions about a bill presented and tabled in April.
Regarding the Resolution Authorizing a request to the State Local Finance Board to approve an Ordinance for $1,000,000.00 to purchase "a gunshot location system" and a bond issue of $950,000.00 for down payment on same should be subject for questioning by the Council membership. Mr Jack Pontious of Shotspoter will give a presentation of the system and statistics (loaded?) of success in the reduction of crime in various New Jersey municipalities. I doubt that there will be any mention of cities that found it ineffective. Nor, will he present a list of necessary ancillary modalities need for it to be worthwhile. At this time I think that the money could be better spent on increase police presence and active prosecution of known gang members.
There is a Resolution authorizing a "Global Agreement" with Landmark Developers for LLC including designation as developers for the North Ave. Extension. Also a Resolution authorizing the Mayor to execute a PILOT agreement with West 2nd Street Urban Renewal, LLC for the West 2nd Street Commons". I hope to have a chance Monday to review the documentation prior to the meeting.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Serious stuff Sunday or Monday
As a public service so t hat more people can walk about the stores with their phone to their ears, oblivious of the rest of this world, I offer the following latest assurances that they are only a hazard to others.
Brain Tumour Risk in Relation to Mobile Telephone Use: Results of the INTERPHONE International Case-control Study
The INTERPHONE Study GroupConclusions Overall, no increase in risk of glioma or meningioma was observed with use of mobile phones. There were suggestions of an increased risk of glioma at the highest exposure levels, but biases and error prevent a causal interpretation. The possible effects of long-term heavy use of mobile phones require further investigation.
I can not repeat often enough that the present meeting format is conducive to public lack of knowledge regarding subjects under discussion. The 2+ hours of discussions prior to entertaining the review and approval of Resolutions and Ordinances can be mentally fatiguing for the citizens who are attending the meeting. By the time the Public has the opportunity to speak weariness had over come most who had left.
Unfinished business is forgotten since it is not updated in print monthly. For example, a seemingly innocuous Resolution presented by Administration to reduce the authorization to issue bonds or notes for $4,085,000.00 for the "building of the Senior Citizen Center to $1,300.000.00 was presented as a means to improve the City's financial rating. Although Dornoch had supposedly agreed to build the center in return for the sale price of $1.00 for the property, in March and again in April a resolution was presented and defeated to pay Dornoch $257,000.00 for additional work on the Center which was supposed to have been a complete although unfurnished package. That resolution was tabled pending Administration answering certain questions. It apparently was "forgotten" until this month'
When Administrated Taylor was questioned what the $1,300.000 was for there was a vague reply that it was for unpaid bills!!! and furnishings. I have since learned that the revised resolution is for $800,000.00 a reduction of $500,000.00. Even allowing for sneaking in payment of the questionable $257K that would leave almost a half a million for furnishings. I for one can not conceive what other areas besides the Senior Center are going to be furnished for that amount of money. I also have not seen any request for bids to furnish that area. Once more we must question the financial manipulations of the Senior Center.
Plainfield has along standing history of disappearance of funds. Long before this Administration took office the City had received approximately $9 million for sale of its Sewer Utility. These funds were supposedly to b e used for the infrastructure. No accounting has ever been given where and for what every cent was spent.
With the vacancies that constantly exist in two critical financial officers it is possible for inappropriate allocation of line item funds to occur. The Auditors comments regarding the annual audit should be published for informational purposes. It is obvious that the city's financial operation is less than ideal.
9:30 AM I believe that today's Courier's editorial hits the nail on the head . This is a quote from it: "Robinson-Briggs' financial decisions, and her long-running failure to permanently fill the posts of chief financial officer and director of administration and finance, strongly suggests that the mayor doesn't want anyone looking over her shoulder. Her quest for the "right" applicant may simply mean that she wants only a certain type of person in that job, one she can control or who won't scrutinize her own plans too closely.
Maybe that's unfair, but what else other than basic incompetence is the public left to conclude given this series of events?"
The bold face is mine. The Media is making the same points that several bloggers have prusued only to be met by deaf ears. Perhaps the Council will now embark on a road long delayed.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Councilman Burney's indignation at the exposure of the $20,000.00 bill paid to the radio station to broadcast a public meeting called by the Mayor is justified. So are the questions raised by other Council members. It is likely that next Monday a Resolution will be introduced to investigate the matter. The scope of that meeting could be extended to question use of other line monies for services that do not appear to be related to the intent of the original budget.
The Council does have power according to the City Charter;quote
2.8 Investigations; removals
The council may make investigations into the affairs of the city and the conduct of any city department, office, commission or agency and for this purpose, subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony, and require the full production of evidence. In addition to any other remedy, any person who willfully fails or refuses to obey a lawful order issued in the exercise of these powers by the council shall be adjudged a disorderly person, punishable by a fine of not more them $200.00, or by imprisonment for not more then 30 days or both.
Council may remove any officer or employee, other then the mayor or a councilman, for cause, upon notice and an opportunity to be heard.
In a similar vein Counsilor Mapp's finance Committee report included his recommendation of a "forensic audit". In view of the lack of either at CFO and/or Director of Administration and Finance over the past few years, and with ongoing questions the idea is a good one. Will the Council have the guts to order one?
The PMUA was supposed to give a report and answer some questions but again announced that they were too busy to at tend. Chairman Mitchell wrote that data requested by the Council would be submitted by September 24 and the Commissioners would better be able to meet with the Council in Nov..
Inspection Divisions Directer Turk reported on the city's efforts to enforce corrections of code violations. There are numerous legal roadblocks and if the property owner has filed for bankruptcy it is an impossibility. It would seem that some problems could be solved if the pertinent codes were reviewed and rewritten to be effective in theses times. Make the Ordinances have teeth.
At midnight citizen Allan Goldstein questioned the correctness of the 250000 contract awarded to the"incubator". He noted hast mandates i n the State regulations were not followed. That the vendor had no experience in the field of job training. He also noted that the RFP was so written that it would discourage legitimate vendors. He also pointed out other deficincies which were overlooked. Despite City Administrator Taylor's assurance that the process had met all State requirements there seems to be enough abnormalities that the Council should revisit their positive vote.
The first and striking innovation was a rearrangement of the room's furniture so that the middle of the room long table was replaced by a long one across the far end of the library room, with Corporation Counsel, City Administrator and the Mayor during the brief time she was there siting parallel to the left side wall.
The public's chairs were now placed in rows and appeared to offer more seating. The effect now was that no Council member or administrative personnel had their back to any part of the public. A major and positive innovation.
The first matter of importance was discussion of the Mayor's veto of the two Ordinances. There was a question of time since her letter was dated Sept. 2, 2010 and Council had passed the Ordinances at its Aug 16th meeting. The Mayor has up to ten days after she receives it to exercise her veto. According to the record the Mayor did not get the Ordinances from the City Clerk's office until Aug 23,2010. Thus the date of her rejection letter just fell within her window.
No action could be taken at this meeting but an informal voice vote of 6:1 approved the consideration for overriding to be on the Sept 13 agenda.
Surprise, City Administrated Taylor reported that the Administration had placed an ad. in the Municipal employees paper for a director of Administration and Finance. Whereas they had no names to submit for interview that had several responses and were in the due diligence process. Perhaps next month a nominee will be presented for consent.
The question of the Mayor's not filling the vacancy on the Housing Authority resulted in a convoluted legal explanation by Corporation Counsel. Mr Williams was originally appointed to fill the unexpired term. At that terms end his name was submitted for reappointment and then withdrawn for some unknown to us, reason. The Charter and I believe the Housing Authority bylaws state that a commissioner serves for the duration of his term or until a successor has been appointed. According to Corporation Counsel no vacancy exists until the seat holder resigns or a new member is elected and takes the oath of office.Therefore it would be possible for a person to remain in office for life if no qualified successor is selected .
That may be legal justification but permitting a "holdover" for years circumvents the intent of limited terms in office and certainly is morally and ethically dishonest.
As expected, the Budget is not ready. The excuse; it can not be finalized until the audit for FY2010 is received. How do the many municipalities and organizations manage to adopt their budget at the beginning of the fiscal year have no problem?