Wednesday, March 4, 2015

March 2 Council Meeting Became a Blame Free Zone (for a while)

Council meetings have had a lot of citizen participation in 2015. The March 2 agenda fixing meeting was no exception. The Council chambers were packed with people interested in the Earned Sick Days ordinance which is up this month for second reading.  Here are some highlights:
  • the proposed ordinance creating a Manager of Motors (Fleet Manager) was not moved to the agenda.  I believe we have seen the last of it.  I previously did not support it.  The administration did finally answer my questions and I was satisfied with the rationale for the position.  Five Council members did not feel as I did.
  • the anti-tethering ordinance for dogs was moved for a vote next week.  I proposed an accompanying resolution making the ordinance effective immediately (normally there is a 20 day waiting period). Given the continuing cold weather, there is cause for limiting animals outdoor exposure time as soon as possible.  I believe both will have the votes for approval.
  • earned sick days ordinance - Its purpose is to increase benefits to workers who are not currently entitled to paid sick leave.  An additional reason for this ordinance is to increase the likelihood that sick workers will stay home and not spread germs to co-workers and customers.  These reasons make sense to me and I will vote in favor of the ordinance.  There were several dozen business owners who attended and many of them spoke during public comment period. Representatives from the Special Improvement District, Plainwood Square Merchants Association and the Plainfield Chamber of Commerce had concerns ranging from the severity of penalties for non compliance to recordkeeping burdens.  And of course the cost.  Proponents of the ordinance included Working Families, who have taken the lead and have seen passage in nine New Jersey towns so far.  An economist shared information on research demonstrating that businesses in cities that have the ordinance in effect, namely San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, have seen no ill effects from it.  I wonder if those cities reflect conditions in Plainfield where many businesses are very small, have no capital and little beside the sweat equity of their owner and perhaps some family members.   The Council, responding to the concerns of the business community, tabled the ordinance for one month to give time for input from local business people.  I voted with the majority to table although I pledged and do so again in this blog to support the ordinance in April.
The public discussion on earned sick leave was Plainfield at our best.  Many voiced their views, the views were diverse and the feelings were strong.  But absent were the negative emotions that sometimes impair relationships and decisions.  People were listening to each other and respectful to opposing positions.  I called it a blame free zone.  Let's think about how we can keep doing that - Council members and citizens in the audience alike.

There are a number of dividing points in Plainfield that we have to work our way through.  Many emanate from the political world and manifest themselves through topics such as youth baseball discussions.  That is for another blog.  The business community is also divided.  But they united around earned sick leave concerns.  I hope they can stay together and work more closely with the city. That is for another blog also, a blame free one.

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