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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Robinson-Briggs administration's watchword: Stonewall

If anyone thought Plainfield's City Council had worked out an amicable let's-get-things-done-together arrangement with the Robinson-Briggs administration, last night's performance would certainly disabuse them of THAT SILLY NOTION.

After last month's d├ętente, in which the Council and the Administration each gave something the other wanted (a salary ordinance setting up an IT position for the Administration, and approval of a transit-oriented visioning process to be led by Rutgers and NJIT for a Council majority), the
Administration returned to its recalcitrant, stonewalling ways at last night's marathon meeting.

(Parenthetically, the Council really needs to reconsider this once-monthly schedule. Their executive sessions always run over, then there is dawdling before the formal meeting gets under way, and there are presentations and unannounced walk-on items and correspondence. It just isn't working and must be exhausting them as much as it is the public. Seems to me far better to expand the schedule and ease the congestion, at least if anyone wants a serious attempt at governance around here.)

But back to the Robinson-Briggs administration's stonewalling.

Here we go again. After a flap in which the Council was very testy with the Administration over giving details on the progress of the Robinson-Briggs efforts to turn the drug rehab program over to a qualified nonprofit, and a promise by City Administrator Marc Dashield to update the Council at each meeting, the net-net last night in response to queries was 'We're working on it'. Now, what the hell does that mean?

Councilor Storch pressed for details, but was parried with 'We'll have something in place by December 31st, or the program will be gone.' (Technically, it already 'gone' -- staff are working in other, non-related positions and there are no clients.)

Councilor Mapp tried another tack, asking if negotiation were under way. 'Yes', was Dashield's extended reply.

Councilor McWilliams opined they should discuss this in executive session, which I think was the right move all along, and it was agreed.

Can't get my arms around what the issue is here. They've got a bona fide, certified nonprofit agency interested. The City has fixed up the building to meet specs. What keeps a deal from being sealed? Is the Robinson-Briggs administration holding out for jobs for hangers-on? That is the only thing that comes to mind, other than its usual tendency to procrastinate on everything.
Item: The Rutgers/NJIT Visioning Study
Councilor Reid pointedly noted that though the Council had resolved last month to go forward with the transit-oriented visioning process, he was voicing concerns of the Robinson-Briggs administration that more should be known about the team's track record, saying 'after all, we're spending $80,000 of our money'. (Actually, it's 'our' money -- the taxpayers' -- and not the Council's, and I don't have the problem with that that Councilor Reid and the Administration seem to.)

Reid was followed up by City Administrator Dashield, who said 'there has to be a purpose' for the exercise, and that we didn't need another study sitting on a shelf, and besides, 'we've got a lot of development going on'.

In case you've missed it, there are a lot of plans out there, but there is only ONE actual project brought to fruition in Robinson-Briggs' entire first term: the Senior Center/condos on East Front Street. And that is hardly a happy situation as things stand now (the proposed tax abatement and the success or failure of the project are all up in the air).

Councilor Storch was measured in his reponse to the questions and said he would arrange to have the Rutgers/NJIT team come before the Council and answer any questions they wanted to ask.

He also pointed out that the project did not involve outside experts writing up a 'plan', but rather an intense process that would involve ALL the stakeholders -- residents, businesses, property owners, developers and city government -- in hammering out an agreed-upon basis for moving forward.
No wonder the Robinson-Briggs administration is resistant, it goes utterly against the ram-and-cram style employed over the past four years.

(Does anyone remember the 'transit-oriented development' map the mayor was schlepping around to all who would look at it? It showed circles that indicated the distance from stations that the State would consider as 'transit-oriented development' areas. Nothing within those circles has happened yet.)

All this might be laughable, if the same agenda had not included an item authorizing $100,000 for 'the provision of rehabilitation services for the neighborhood security program' on a contract that showed no evidence of having been bid. And an unspecified amount proposed to be awarded to two insurance companies jointly for 'insurance/broker/risk management consulting services'.

Does the Robinson-Briggs administration hold itself to the same purpose-requiring standard here?

What do you think?

-- Dan Damon

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Anonymous said...

Dan, About the final item for the $100,000 no bid contract and the other item for an unspecified amount for the insurance companies--do you know the names of the insurance companies and whether they made POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS to Green and or Mayor Robinson-Briggs? Who are the principals in the firms? I ask because it seems that a lot of political officials have financial stakes in title companies, insurance companies, and so on, and that they also take contributions from these companies.

Anonymous said...

I think we should vote for Pivnichny, Vastine and Marks in November.

Can anyone tell me what this mayor, Jerry Green and Linda Stender have done to deserve your vote?

Anonymous said...

I have had enough with mayor robinson and her TEAM. This year for the first time in my life I will be voting republican. I will be voting for the republican mayoral candidate and I have encouraged my voting family to do so as well. It is crazy that we have to continue to suffer stupidity, when it's our money that is paying for it. I say enough is enough. Kick her out.