Last night’s Council Meeting (Agenda Fixing Session) was a display of the tail wagging the dog. The Mayor’s proposal to remove the power of the Council to approve lay-off plans and shift it solely to the cities Executive Branch is yet another example of a City Council that does not only not understand their role, will not take the time to do their due-diligence prior to the council meetings and can’t seem to stand up for themselves long enough to get a clear answer to their questions.
The proposed ordinance MC2019-07 will remove the Council’s “Advise and Consent” power over any proposed lay-off plans by the city. That’s right – a governing body is moving to weaken themselves – a likely unheard of situation. The claim by the Administration and Corporation Counsel is that this is just a housekeeping matter to align the city charter with municipal code. It should be noted that there are very few council sessions with municipal code clean-up being done so it is interesting that this particular topic is in such dire need of a refresh. It is also interesting to note that the current ordinance has been in place since the time the current charter was enacted – so where is the need or urgency to make the change. For those that attended last months council meeting there is a clue – the layoff of the emergency dispatchers that was proposed and not voted on in February (Not because the Council members voted against it, but because no council member was willing to second the motion to vote on the resolution).
The administration would like to outsource the functions of the dispatchers to a private firm – apparently because of an estimated savings of over $2 million over the term of the contract. Without seeing the details of that agreement it is hard to see how outsourcing 5 individuals would save that much money – add to that the administrations habit of performing poor outsourcing projects and it makes that savings even harder to comprehend. That issue aside, it is obvious that the Council’s inability to act on the Mayor’s wishes caused some bad feelings within the group and as a result the Mayor decided to just change the way the process works so that he can get his way.
Outsourcing is not always a bad thing – and can often lead to efficiencies and economies of scale that some corporations or governments struggle to achieve independently for areas that are outside their core competency. But not all outsourcing is smart and poorly outsourced programs can cost more and create issues with performance and service, resulting in having to be brought back in-house at considerable expense.
It is my guess that the Mayor has a budget issue to resolve and is eager to get this outsourcing project in motion for his next budget. I would also guess that he would dig out the prior plan to outsource the planning division – which only failed last time because of public outrage and a council that stood up against the proposal.
All but two council members asked questions last evening and each one of them failed to hold the administration or corporation counsel’s feet to the fire on the answers. They allowed themselves to get spin and conflated information instead of the answer to their questions. The only exception to that was Councilwoman Ashley Davis – who asked several questions and repeated them until she got the answer. She also had the courage to vote against moving this ordinance to next week’s agenda where it will be voted on. Unfortunately, her colleagues still struggle with what their role is as a council member, fail to do the necessary homework prior to the meetings and instead appear to just formulate questions on the fly during the meeting.
With the exception of Ms. Davis, the council demonstrated their utter lack of independence from the Mayor (also their party chair who decides if they can be on the ballot and their chief fundraiser for elections) – so little independence that they will give up authority that has been with the Plainfield City Council for 50 years without demanding any real information or understanding the nuances of the city charter or municipal code.
Approving this ordinance could have very dire and expensive consequences for Plainfield near and long term and the Mayor’s insistence that the Council would still have to approve any contracts for outsourcing projects is another sad topic – this Council has never asked pointed questions about any contract let alone denying one or any of the requisite expenditures that go along with them.
Sean, your observation, “their party chair who decides if they can be on the ballot and their chief fundraiser for election”, is certainly the elephant in the room.
It has always been a concern having the Mayor serve in these dual roles – and that concern is now playing out. This is so evident in the way Cory (who was opposed to Adrian serving as party chair, he wanted Joylette) now votes and interacts. Cory’s best attributes were that he asked good questions – which in turn helped to stop bad things from happening. We no longer see that, he has also become one of the yes man on the council as his term is up and he need’s the help of the party chair. This is evident as Cory sits back as the Mayor eliminates qualified individuals from serving on boards and replaces them with political appointments that only serve him. And Plainfield suffers.
We don’t see party chairs serving as Mayors in other towns in Union County: Elizabeth, Linden, Union, Westfield, Fanwood, Summit etc.
In Linden, the Mayor battles with the chair, (who is also the county chair – Nick Scutari). Though this has not been a ‘good for one’s health’ relationship – the Mayor has had some good results – manly keeping taxes flat. Where have you seen that? Instead here in Plainfield our Mayor creates new positions, bigger salaries, BIGGER cars, for his most loyal, Plus paid trips to conferences with an entourage. And then ponders why we now have budget shortcomings.
What’s on the horizon is also concerning. As Scutari needs Mapp to sustain his own re-election hopes for next year and maintain his own power base. To accomplish this he needs to control our chair and to do that he will be dumping lots of ‘vendor’ money into our local elections to make sure Mapp’s rule continues. Mapp will then subliminally dangle these ‘prizes’ in the face of HIS councilors, as they now serve him and not the best interests of the city. It’s gross. And Plainfield suffers.
Here’s the irony, Mapp was on the other end of these power plays when he lost his employment and his Freeholder seat some years back. We all helped him to fight this – but now values are placed on the back-burner and self interest rules. And Plainfield continues to suffer.
Fight the power has become I am the power. The about face is more than sad. It is served as a reminder that elected officials are hardly servants of the people.