Thursday, August 11, 2011

August 8 Council Meeting: Recap

The agenda fixing meeting was attended by about 30 residents. I once thought that televising the meetings would decrease attendance but that does not seem to be the case, a credit to the citizens of Plainfield, who really care about what happens in their city.

Public Safety Director Helwig gave a very brief report on the recent shootings. I was disappointed that the entire focus was on police enforcement. We really need a Mayor who can rally the community around a comprehensive approach to public safety. Police enforcement should be one aspect along with a coordinated public education, jobs training, mentoring and recreation strategy. Mayor Bloomberg recently announced a program for minority youth that combines jobs with educational commitments and mentoring. Just what Plainfield needs. I would love to see such a program in the Mayors next budget. That would have my support.

Spotshotter - my ambivalence comes from the lack of an overall public safety plan. I hope this isn't just an expensive gimmick, presented to mollify public concerns. It appears to have enough Council support for approval so time will tell. If the administration is really serious about Spotshotter, don't send the vendor to tell Council how great the program is. We need an objective analysis of data.

PMUA Taskforce - the fifth and sixth members will be added: Wilbert Gill and Marion Clemons. These are Annie McWilliams and Vera Greaves appointments, respectively. There is still one more appointment to make because the seventh nominee was a PMUA employee and was turned down by the Council. This group needs to get started and I will push for that by the end of August, seventh member or not.

The item generating the most discussion was the Lampkin House on Terrill Road. The majority of Council members felt that this is a financial responsibility the city just can't handle at this time. I have no argument with the Council majority on the fiscal concern. The $92,000 match for the county grant would be hard to justify for the city at this time. And time is short because the house is in danger of falling down.

It is a real shame because this could be more than just another proposed history house/museum. The only way to save this opportunity is for a group of citizens to convince the city that they have the staying power to find private grants that can combine with county, state and federal resources to make this project successful. The city would have to make a contribution but it would have to be a small part of the fiscal package. Could the Drake House board of trustees expand to become a larger entity to bring the Lampkin House under its wing? Is there private money available very soon to bring down the purchase/stabilization match the county requires? How much of a commitment can we get from the county for the Lampkin House? We have all heard stories of how an old property was rescued and made into an important community asset. It takes a lot of work by community volunteers. If there is anyone who is serious about discussing these questions and making a commitment to the Lampkin House, please contact me.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Council Meeting of August 8: Preview

The agenda fixing session begins at 7:30, preceded by a special meeting at 7 pm. At 7the Council takes up the second reading of the ordinance to enable the extension of acting senior city managers in their temporary positions. I am in favor of this legislation because it continues the employment of David Kochel, an experienced City Administrator, for a second 90 day period. The Mayor has had real difficulties recruiting senior managers (CFO, City Administrator, Director of Urban Development and Public Works) and this buys her more time.

The agenda fixing meeting features an update from Public Safety Director Helwig who has been asked by the Council to discuss what the police division is doing about the continuing gun violence and tragic shooting deaths in 2011.

Also of interest:

* a resolution appointing Suplee-Clooney as the city auditor for FY 2011. They do a good job and have been Plainfield's audit firm for many years. At some point, this needs to be bid competitively but with the weak position Plainfield finds itself administratively, this is not the time for it.

* we only received one bid for banking services (you may recall the Council passing a resolution requiring the Mayor to put banking out to bid so Plainfield could be assured of getting the best deal possible) and the bid will likely be rejected so we can go back for more bids. When I get more information, I will report on this in a future blog.

* a resolution seeking approval to submit a Union County grant application for $92,500 to purchase and stabilize the Lampkin House on Terrill Road. Plainfield would have to put up a match in the same amount. I believe the city should weigh the match and ongoing costs if we purchase (maintenance and lost taxes) against the future benefits. Any time a fully developed community like Plainfield has an opportunity to add open/public land, it should be seriously considered. It appears to me that not taking action will result the collapse of the third oldest house in Plainfield. Given Plainfield's weak financial position and current obligation to support the Drake House, this will be a tough decision to make.

* liens against 13 properties in need of yard clean-up by the city. Kudos to the Mayor and administration for taking action to keep our neighborhoods looking good.

* executive session begins at 6 pm and has several items of interest that may get reported out at the August 8 public session and, if not, at a later date.

Enjoy the weekend!