The needler in the haystack.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Council should resist Mayor Sharon's IT flim-flam

Why is it that proposals from Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs always remind of the three-card-monte con games one used to witness along 42nd Street in the old days?

The 'inside man' or con, works with the 'outside man' to fleece the mark, the person with the money. Supply your own labels.

The latest, greatest from the Robinson-Briggs administration is the proposal to create a 'cabinet-level' Director of Information Technology, using the old sky-is-falling gambit on the Council and public.

My post yesterday on the Pension Payment Deferral Plan (see here) garnered some thoughtful comments on the IT proposal. Here is a sampling --
Anonymous said...
I do need to disagree with you about the IT Director position. Investing in IT, and making sure the employees use it is an investment, not an expense. We are losing money as we speak because of lack of efficieny in processes and productivity of workers.
Plainfield City is not in the business of babysitting. All those programs should be outsourced to a non-profit and monies used to fund IT.
If you don't think IT is needed, just look at the budget mess. If you had efficient tracking, processes and trained personnel on the applications, determining where the money is spent is much easier.
February 11, 2009 9:02 AM

Dan said...
To Anonymous 9:02 AM --
I didn't say IT wasn't important. I just think the administration has some nerve trying to bring it up NOW, when it won't even seriously consider a budget adjustment.
Were you there when the administration sold the Council on all the IT investment they wanted approval for? I was.
Where was the administration's concern for an IT person then? I can't recall any.
There are other ways to fix this than drink the Sharon/Dashield Kool-Aid. Stay tuned.
February 11, 2009 9:15 AM

Anonymous said...
The City definetly needs an IT management, but if the Mayor and Administrator want to hire in-house why can't it wait until the next budget year which begins July 1? Another possibility is to hire a consultant to assess, structure and manage the IT system(s) for the City. A neighboring municipality actually uses Rutgers for their IT management. Has anyone looked into that? A reliable, knowledgable consultant can save tax if the contract is structures correctly because there will be no expense for benefits (health, pension, etc) incurred by the City.
February 11, 2009 9:43 AM

Anonymous said...
In response to Anonymous who said "If you don't think IT is needed, just look at the budget mess. If you had efficient tracking, processes and trained personnel on the applications, determining where the money is spent is much easier".....
There's no IT person in the world that can resolve the City's budget mess. The financial software used by the Comptroller's Office does provide for efficient tracking of where the money is spent. The City is in more of a need of a Comptroller than an IT person.
Overseeing the finicial applications is the responsibility of the Comptroller/CFO. Once a budget is struck and entered into the system, the software simply does not allow you to make a purchase within a division buget that exceeds the budgeted amount for a specific budget category. What causes the problem is that the Comptroller can simply transfer funds between lines to accomodate a purchase. Then as you get to the end of the fiscal year, money from other division budgets can be transferred to another budget to meet the anticipated shortfall.
And too many times we have heard that the budget is just a guide. It is definitely not a budget that is followed.
February 11, 2009 9:51 AM
As I responded to one of the commenters, I remember being there when the Council was asked to approve spending enormous sums of money on IT infrastructure. I do not remember ANY moaning or groaning by the Robinson-Briggs administration about high-cost IT personnel.

The Courier is quite right to editorialize today (see here) that the Council should 'not spend money you don't have'.

I have a modest three-point proposal for the Council's consideration --
  1. Get the Robinson-Briggs proposal and its justification in writing. These people are notorious for being unwilling to put pencil to paper. Make them work for it. Maybe even sweat a little.

  2. Slow down! Is the sky really falling? Make them justify every single contention.

  3. Why a full-time job? Why now? Elsewhere today, we learn that job losses in New Jersey are expected to hit 265,000 in the current recession. Might that not mean there are well-qualified people out there other than whoever the Mayor seems to have in mind? What about a short-term consulting contract? There's plenty of talent around, willing to work on a short-term or consulting basis.
The Council should be mindful of not being the 'mark' in the Robinson-Briggs' administration's little three-card-monte game.

Or of letting you, dear taxpayer, become the 'mark'.

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Rob said...

thought, research, sweat equity & accountability...4 of the reasons she would never do it the way you suggested..She has a band-aid mentality and is unable to think and plan beyond the NOW...Plainfield voted for her and we have her lack of vision past her nose to guide us. Lucky us..

Anonymous said...

I agree with the writer that the budget mess will not solely be mitiaged by IT, but I content that if you get rid of the non-essential programs in Plainfield, you will have plenty of money for an IT department and taxpayers will not have to foot a heavy tax burden.

Having said that, good for you, Dan, to keep pressure on making sure the money for IT is spent wisely. Now I would appreciate it if you could do the same about economic development in this city, and getting Landlords to take care of their property.