Saturday, October 1, 2011

Eliminate the Invisible Tax on Plainfield Residents

Important City Council meeting Monday, October 3 at 7:30 at Plainfield City Hall

There is a long standing tradition in New Jersey government to give professional services contracts to preferred vendors who in return make campaign contributions to political leaders of the party in power. Ethical? No, but legal? Yes.

Plainfield is no exception. I have been advocating for "pay to play" reform since I joined the Council. It appears the time is right to finally move on reform legislation. Not only are there enough Council members interested in reform but enough of them to finally buck the system.

The problems with pay to play are many. It enables the party and people in power to amass huge war chests that are a disadvantage to outsiders, newcomers and non-incumbents who want to run for office. It creates a lack of confidence in government among voters. And it is an invisible tax on the average person.

Professional services includes work done by attorneys, engineers, insurance brokers and architects. New Jersey gives cities and counties the ability to purchase these services without going out to bid for them.

You can become a favored vendor by making campaign contributions to politicians in power who have the ability to influence the awarding of contracts. The cost of these contributions gets passed on to the taxpayers through the contracts approved by municipal councils and freeholder boards. This is a double whammy because the incentive for vendors to do good work is diminished - why try hard to please the customer when you get the contract through an insider arrangement behind closed doors.

The Plainfield City Council will be hosting a presentation on pay to play reform this coming Monday at 7:30 pm. The Center for Civic Responsibility, a leader in the reform movement, will present four model ordinances that have been adopted by municipal governments around the state. Please come out to learn and show your support for reform.

The invisible tax provides a real benefit to those who want to maintain the status quo. There will be an invisible push back on Council. Let your representatives know how you feel about the invisible tax.


Alan Goldstein said...

This is all good in theory, but how does it square with all the votes you and your fellow Council members have cast awarding pay-to-play contracts?

In fact, you and your colleagues hand over the money with regularity to nearly every category of vendor you mention, despite the contributions they've made, and make with regularity. That list would be easy to compile, and it propagates itself almost monthly as we speak.

The United Plainfield PAC, from which you and others received funding in the past, showed a remarkable ability to take the same money too.

Is this the dawn of a new day, or just some election-year razz-ma-tazz? EVERY single one of you on the City Council has approved the 'Invisible Tax', or benefited from it. This would be like an exorcism.

Anonymous said...

I have heard rumors that developers do not want to do work in Plainfield because the pay to play process is on steroids in Plainfield.

I hope Reid, Rivers and Greaves look at this very hard and if they have objections they voice them with specifics.

Outside of NJ people gasp when I tell them what is allowed in this State. Perhaps it is time to start looking at the real cost to the corrputness in this state and take action to stop it.

Anonymous said...

Did you take money from vendors? Either directly or indirectly?

Cory Storch said...

To Alan G - any elected official who has ever done any good in our country, state and city had to get elected to make a positive difference. You need $ to run a campaign. That is why the pay to play reform legislation I support limits but does not shut off contributions from vendors.

Purist thinking on pay to play reform may be right in theory but not useful in the real world. The Obama presidential campaign was balanced in that many people of average and limited means gave a significant % of money. The fundraising rules still favor the wealthy and corporate donors, but Obama brought some balance to a bad system.

That is what we need in Plainfield, not politicians claiming they will never take a drop of vendor money. For myself, I have taken very little vendor money and when I have, it has never, I repeat, never influenced my voting on contracts. Alan, if you were following my voting back to the beginning of my Council service, you would know that I have voted against pay to play contracts, especially for engineering services. And I have consistently spoken against the so-called "fair and open" contracting process, regularly calling it the sham that it is.

I think we are on the same side on pay to play. I do think that your cynicism is getting the best of you. You should consider that change will come in municipal government when elected officials do the right thing. But they do have to get elected first.