Monday, September 10, 2018

My Position on the Proposed Plainfield Administrative Re-organization

I will not be in attendance Tuesday night for the vote on MC - 2018 - 22, the ordinance to re-organize city halls departments and set salary ranges for Directors.  So I want to make my position on the ordinance clear. 

I regret not attending or calling in for the Council meeting but as CEO of Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services, I must attend a Board of Trustees meeting in Fords.  This schedule conflict is a rare occurrence since most Council meetings take place on Mondays. 

The proposed re-organization will benefit the city.  Three departments may have worked in simpler times, like the 1950s.  But for many decades Plainfield has been forced to operate with a hodgepodge of offices and bureaus under the Public Works and Administration/Finance departments.  Increasing the number of departments is a long time coming and create a more efficient and cohesive city hall.  Public Safety will also benefit by splitting Police and Fire into separate departments.

For 2018, there is no budget impact. For the future, the re-organization does not need to incur a cost increase if the administration is sensitive to the property tax burden and Council is vigilant and committed to lean annual budgets.  Ultimately it is up to City Council to approve an annual budget and a property tax rate.

Although I support the ordinance, I proposed changes at the last meeting.  I am convinced that council could improve this ordinance and better protect the financial interests of taxpayers in future years.  Here's how:

1. Combine the positions of Director of Communications and Public Information Officer.  Nothing was presented by administration officials or the Mayor to justify having both positions.

2. Eliminate the 8 bureaus under Public Works.  This is existing language no longer relevant to delivery of city services (example - a bureau for sewer and waste management that was needed prior to the creation of the PMUA).  Administrations argument for keeping this language was "just in case we need to revert to the previous way of service delivery".  A weak argument at best.  We can make the changes if the need arises.

3. The appointment and supervision of the City Clerk should reflect what every other municipality calls for - the Clerk is nominated and approved by the governing body and works for the governing body.  Some have called Plainfield's government a strong City Council government because the Council has to vote on nearly every action of the administration.  That does not take into account that the administration and Mayor have staff to delegate work to and the City Council has only the Clerks office, which has many responsibilities beyond assisting the Council.

The benefits and concerns as I see them are not just in relation to the current Mayor, Council and administration.  I am concerned about future Mayors, Councils and administrations.  We are poised to approve a new ordinance that will affect Plainfield for years to come.  I predict it will be approved Tuesday night as proposed by administration.  Whether it does or not, the role of City Council is to balance the actions of other branches of local government and to approve budgets that the tax payers can live with.