Thursday, October 8, 2015

We need to retain our Planning Division staff

I was against moving this to the agenda for an October 13 vote.  The administration has not adequately justified outsourcing the Planning office.  My questions have not been answered, namely:
  • why weren't the bids immediately sent to the Council upon opening on October 1? - so we could see them for ourselves prior to the agenda fixing meeting.  After all, this initiative has generated many questions and concerns, not just from me, but from Plainfield residents and particularly land use board members.
  • what would the staffing schedule and staffing positions be, including qualifications and experience of outsourced planners?  What would  the response time be for residents and developers needing their services?
  • would the outsourced planners provide services for our brownfields projects, our Shade Tree Commission, our Historic Preservation Commission?
The administrations argument for outsourcing is the cost savings.  But I believe that will only be true if we drastically cut services.  The administration officials responding to this concern are giving assurances to the contrary, but not with a credible explanation. We cant take chances, hoping they are right.

I support Mayor Mapp wholeheartedly.  He has been good for Plainfield.  With his administration, we have become more business friendly and that is important for creating jobs and increasing tax revenues.  But there are better ways to make Plainfield business friendly than outsourcing Planning.  An example - the Planning Board, with the support of the Planning Division, is currently working on revisions to the Zoning Ordinance.  These changes would make it easier for businesses, developers and our residents to do what they need to do with their properties - with less need for governmental approvals.  Our Zoning Ordinance has to reflect Plainfield needs.  We are not Elizabeth or Westfield.  Bringing in outsiders to work on the Zoning Ordinance in a city of 50,000, poised for development, is a bad idea.

If we eliminate the knowledge that exists in the Planning office, it will take 10 or more years to replace it.  I am not referring to knowledge of the law but of facts on the ground.  Plainfield is unique and benefits tremendously from the knowledgeable professionals we have in place.

This is one of those times I disagree with my Mayor.  I promised I would give his administrators the opportunity to make their case.  They have not been convincing.  Adrian Mapp does not have a supportive City Council and I feel strongly about my obligation to support him in any way I can - for the benefit of the city.  But this outsourcing initiative is not the way to benefit the city.

I urge Mayor Mapp and my Council colleagues to take the lay-off plan off the agenda and retain the Planning Division staff.   


Unknown said...

" Plainfield is unique and benefits tremendously from the knowledgeable professionals we have in place" is a powerful argument. A budget is derived after determining the best for a city. Not the reverse " What can be done based on a fiscal bottom line". I'd willingly pay a little more to be assured of superior service. Further, not convinced savings will happen as proposed James Plummer

Unknown said...