Wednesday, September 9, 2015

COUNCIL'S TUSEDAY NIGHT #1




There was no official notice but the word had gotten out that the Planning Division had requested an open executive session hearing on the Administration’s plan to out-source that division.

That plus a large group who had come to advocate for a paid sick leave ordinance and others who were there to speak about the Crossing Guards’ payment raise resulted in such a mob that before 7pm there were no open street parking spaces.

Indeed when the public was admitted into the Court Room shortly after 7:15 it was filled to capacity.

Councilors Rivers and Taylor entered shortly after the session began and participated in the discussion. Councilor Brown was present on Speaker phone which I find unsatisfactory; (later on why).

To begin Corporation Counsel explained that this was only for information and that there would be no action pending public legal notice for RPs to be in the papers today. I do not get the Courier but I could not find it among the zingy-million pages of Sheriff’s sales and a scattered elsewhere in the Ledger's legal notices including one section titled “For Bids”.

City Administrator Smiley gave a very brief introductory statement stating the change was desired for “efficiency and economic savings. Later in answering Councilor Storch’s inquiry Smiley noted that there were 3:3/4 FTEs in the Division

Planned Sanchez then took over and noted that in Union County only Plainfield and one other municipality out of 21 had an in house Planning Division; all others outsource including Garwood where  Bill Nierstedt is Council President.

Again the unsupported statements without cold figures were made that there would be greater efficiency and an economic savings with no loss of quality and availability of services if such a move was made.

Sanchez went on to say that the difficulty in getting approvals through the present setup of Planning Division and by inference the Planning and Zoning Boards were discouraging developers from coming to Plainfield. Once again there has been an unconfirmed rumor that one such developer has business ties with members of the Administration. Obvious there was no blame placed on the Council’s recent rejection without adequate explanation of a PILOT program.

Public Works Administrator Watson- he of great experience in the PMUA- remarked that the savings would be about $200K a year. Again there was no line item accounting presented.

Plainfield’s experience with outsourcing the City Engineer Department and the Health Care Directorship belies the claim that this creates greater efficiency and a substantial budget savings.

I hope there will be a presentation of cold facts not vague statements when this is presented at next months meeting. Without that it may be as in other cases there is a personality element in the desired change.

6 comments:

  1. "Once again there has been an unconfirmed rumor that one such developer has business ties with members of the Administration."

    It is not an 'unconfirmed rumor', but a matter of fact:

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-51dYlart-_cm9SbHVUM2lDc0U/view?usp=sharing

    The proof is on page 2, item E2. This is John Stewart's 2015 financial disclosure, and indicates a 25% ownership of 177-185 North Avenue, the Frank Cretella building soon to be the location of Mi Buenaventura, the restaurant destroyed by the Watson-Yates demolition of 117-125 North Avenue in March.

    The remainder of the linked file contains various emails indicating that neither Mr. Stewart or the Mapp administration took any pains to keep Cretella's real estate partner walled-off from exercising his official duties in furtherance of the developer's other projects.

    Although this doesn't go beyond the Arts Loft groundbreaking, it does call into question the so-called Emergency Demolition, where every action taken by the city coincided with Cretella's lien purchase and foreclosure of the property, none of which was included in the multitude of documents released by the City in the wake of the destruction of Mi Buenaventura. There was minimal talk at last night's meeting about an investigation of this snafu, as I think most signs point to one major culprit, but he is not the one the Council lives to take down.

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  2. What dozens of us who have some connection to the Planning Division found infuriating was that we had heard through the grapevine that serious action might be taken at last night's Council meeting, but nobody seemed to know what in tarnation it was all about, or whether our presence would be useful. I fear that our Mayor is learning street tricks now from Jerry Green, who has sometimes been accused of political practical jokes meant to stir conflict.

    The mistake that led to this is that the planners received "Rice notices" a week ago, notifying them of a possible layoff plan, without the context, which was the proposal to outsource their entire office. That was mere rumor until last night. The public should have been told about the proposal first, and the layoff notices should therefore have waited, until we had a Council decision about whether the outsourcing should even occur.

    To my surprise, the finest protest to this proposal came from Gloria Taylor, who recognized that at best, there were multiple sides to the issue, and various possible reasons for opposing it. I concur that, at the very least, the proposal should be laid out and discussed in an organized way. We didn't get that last night - just an unsubstantiated claim that $200,000 a year could be saved. The problem is, the Division budget needs to be compared against the cost of having a private planning firm perform these functions. You can't just compare the current cost to the number zero.

    As to the outsourcing proposal itself, I'm totally against it, and will speak to the Council about it, when and if it actually shows up on the agenda. But I will save my reasons for another posting.

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  3. I think race is an issue here. They want to get rid of the white employees

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  4. If that presentation of "facts" is any indication of the quality of this RFP that they claim to be sending out then this should be a bigger train wreck than I thought. If I were the Mayor I would fire all of the people in his cabinet who spoke that night. They make things up and aren't even sharp enough to prepare for questions that should have been anticipated. When Gloria Taylor can stump you with questions its time to call it a day.

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    Replies
    1. Good point 9:52, how can there be a 200k savings if the planning division budget is 360k, 75k of it is outsourced already leaving 285k - if the administration says they can save 200k that means the new outsourcing will only cost 85k. . . . really? They plan to run the entire department with 85k.

      Are they serious? REALLY?

      Something is drastically wrong here.

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