Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Progress in Plainfield ?

I recently commented that, in spite of some bumps in the road, Plainfield was making progress. To which a citizen wrote back:

"You state that Plainfield has made much progress. Would you please tell me what progress has been made? I've lived here for 20 years and do not see any. To the contrary, the town has continued to decline. ..something I didn't think was possible."

I stand by my statement. Here's why:
  • in the last 10 years, after decades of neglect, we began to rebuild our infrastructure. We installed storm drains and repaved North Avenue. We have a roads program underway. We have replaced police and fire division equipment. We have new equipment for road maintenance which will save Plainfield millions of dollars into the future.
  • we improved tax collections significantly from 87% to 95% within a 6 year period
  • we removed two of the three biggest obstacles to downtown development with the redevelopment of the Park-Madison and Teppers sites (perception of crime is the major obstacle left). Virtually all downtown stores are open for business, a far cry from 15 or 20 years ago.
  • Many of the abandoned buildings in town are now replaced or fixed up.

I could give more examples but these are the major developments.

But don't accuse me of wearing rose colored glasses. I see significant problems that we need to solve. Most of our roads need fixing. Downtown is still perceived by many as unsafe (even though crime stats reflect a much less negative picture). The tax collection rate should be more like 97%. We have eyesores and overcrowding problems in some residential areas and still no coherent plan to address this. Progress mentioned above is exactly that, positive steps towards outcomes we have yet to achieve.

Why is it so important to recognize progress and put it in a historical context? Because without understanding where we we started, how we got to the present state of affairs and where we are heading , we will never get where we want to be. You have a right to criticize the Park Madison or Teppers projects. I certainly didn't like some of the design features. But it is a big mistake to ignore what they mean to the future of downtown Plainfield. You have a right to be frustrated by the sorry state of certain roads. And our proposed solutions will not satisfy most residents in the near term. It will take many years to fix what took many years to deteriorate.

Criticism is important and we need more of it. There certainly is a reluctance in city hall to speak out on our problems. But criticism is only effective when backed up by facts, by understanding. Without the facts, criticism can be harmful. I got involved in local government because I got sick and tired of giving and hearing criticism that led nowhere.

Our progress has been slow and unsteady at times. But progress it is and it provides hope for Plainfield. That's what keeps me motivated.

I thank the person who posted the comment at the top of this blog. It would be a healthy debate to continue - are we moving forward or not. Successful businesses answer this question by tracking measurable objectives over time. I hope this debate is about that rather than blanket statements for or against the performance of government officials.

Cory Storch

PS - I recognize that the frustration of citizens is, in part, a lack of faith in their government at all levels. I will try to respond to this mistrust in the local levels of government in my next blog.


Anonymous said...

Councilman Storch:

As a fairly newcomer I keep hearing the comments of how Plainfield hasn't move forward but I must agree with you; these past three years even though slow, some progress has been seen. I tend to believe that more could be done if we only had the right people on place.

It is frustrating, even for newcomers, to see some areas of the administration not being transparent, efficient, or even welcoming. Many people I have spoken to feel alienated, not because of their past alliances, which in many cases don't exist, but because they have been ignored.

Efficiency and Transparency are a must to create a coalition that would enable our city to move forward and to stop on their tracks any critics of the local government.

We all like to be heard and feel that we are contributing to the betterment of our city, but until today little has been done to make even long time residents feel welcome and recognized.

Despite our differences I want you to know that I appreciate hearing your questions and statements on behalf of our community. Thank you.


Maria Pellum

Anonymous said...

Frustration stems from the lack of the administration to adhere to rules. Is it true that the City Administrator can only hold multilple positions for 90 days and then there must be a replacement? If so, how do we address the blatant disregard for that rule? That is the frustration. The administration doesn't know what they are doing, and the citizens can't get a handle on how to fix that. In addition, there will be no upgrade of Plainfield's reputation until we get a viable PR/Communications group who know what they are doing, and will get the positive word out about Plainfield.

Having said all of the negatives above, I see a noticable change in Plainfield, and the people here. We all want and are beginning to demand for better. And, we are getting it. I have inquired about inspections of houses which are not taken care of, and summons have gone out, and people have complied. Plainfield is a great city, and will continue to get better as long as we all work toward the common goal of demanding the best from our officials. If not, let's vote them out!