Plainfield’s Branch of Gov’t – Part 1

This is a three-part blog post regarding my primary takeaway from Monday nights City Council meeting. During that meeting it became overwhelmingly apparent to me that we have a local government that is operating as a single governmental branch – using processes and procedures only for the purposes of making things “official”. Our municipal government is set-up like all governments within the United States with three distinct branches – Executive, Legislative and Judiciary, each with its own role, responsibilities and authorities. The intent is that each branch performs their duties and acts as a check against the others – standard Civics 101 kind of stuff, or is it?

At the council meeting on Monday, the Mayor was straightforward about his approach to the changes in the city charter. (I won’t get into the background but information can be found on TapInto, Plainfield Today and Old Doc’s post). He clearly stated that the City Council performed their duty by passing (Made It Official) the recommendations as submitted by the Charter Study Commission (a publicly elected body established to study the cities charter and make recommendations for modifications) and then, without public announcement, citizen input or review by the Council, he had the legislation amended once it was in the hands of the NJ Legislature, giving the Executive branch the ability to greatly expand the operational structure and hire additional staff (up to 10 Confidential Aides) as desired. While some of the reorganization ideas are good (some not so much) and were part of the intent of the Charter Study Commissions recommended, and much narrower, modifications – the process for making these changes without proper public vetting is troublesome.

Even more troubling is our City Council’s apparent lack of understanding of their role and the lack of concern that the Executive branch usurped their authority (which they apparently are unaware they possess). Following the mayor’s presentation, the 6 Council members in attendance did not have a single question for the Executive Branch of which they are equals (i.e. they don’t report to the Mayor’s office). NOT… A… SINGLE… QUESTION. Imagine that – the legislation they passed, to in essence amend our cities constitution, was modified after the fact, without their consent or a public meeting and they were neither upset nor did they have any questions about such important factors as cost implications as a result of the added Department head positions and confidential aide positions, breaking apart the current Public Safety department or how the future Director of Communications and Technology is qualified to manage something as vital and sensitive as the city governments technology infrastructure (quick reminder – it was already hacked and held hostage for ransom once already.)

The administration (Executive Branch) seems to be under the impression that because the City Council (Legislative Branch) is composed of 7 democrats and six are aligned with the Mayor that his branch of government supplies the legislation and the Council just rubber-stamps it into law without question or oversight. For anyone that has been at a Council meeting they know that there are very few, if any, questions and little to no dialogue about resolutions or ordinances. This lack of separation between the primary branches of government in Plainfield reminded me of the candidate answers to the Plainfield League of Women Voters questions provided prior to the most recent forum in May. More on that in part two of Plainfield’s Branch of Government.

Plainfield Vision Blog Launch

Musings and Insights on The Queen City

As one of the many Plainfielders left frustrated and feeling the void of Bernice Paglia’s Plaintalker II blog, I have decided to channel that frustration with a blog of my own.  It would be impossible to come close to matching the many skills of Ms. Paglia – my ruminations are inspired by her aptitude and I can only hope to pay homage to her craft.

Last year, I was honored to be on the Executive Committee for the Plainfield Vision 2025 city-wide strategic planning initiative.  The experience was a wonderful opportunity to spend time all over our great city listening to Plainfielders share their ideas and vision for Plainfield by the year 2025.  For me personally, the variety of topics were fascinating and extremely educational and the experience greatly contributed to my appreciation of Plainfield residents hopes, dreams and aspirations for our community.  My hope, is that this blog will continue the open, honest and thought provoking conversations that were shared during the PV2025 project, along with the occasional humorous anecdote.

My goal is for this blog to create thoughtful discourse and conversation amongst my fellow lovers of Plainfield.  While I am not a reporter, I will work to provide content based on facts, figures and available information and leave rumor, innuendo and gossip to other sites.  That doesn’t mean a post may not be critical, but when it is, it will be done in a constructive and positive manner with a focus on opportunities for improvement.  With that in mind, I hope that readers (if there are any) will feel free to share their thoughts and opinions on issues and do so in a respectful and fact driven manner.  We all like a little gossip now and then but fact based conversations are much more beneficial in helping our community to continue to grow, prosper and improve.

I plan to blog regularly, but not likely on a daily basis.  In full disclosure, as a member of the Plainfield Planning Board, my posts will not include topics that could result in any legal or ethical issues for the city, myself or any of my fellow hard working board members.  For information and to ask questions on any Planning Board matters, I strongly encourage residents to attend Planning Board meetings (held @7:30 on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month in the city hall library).

Lastly, I welcome and encourage contributions by any other Plainfielders interested in sharing their thoughts and opinions on their favorite topics, pet projects or an Andy Rooney style humorous rant.