Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Council: Redistricting, Planning Board, emergency appropriations

Plainfied City Council's agenda-setting session Monday evening included the following items --

Dennis Kobitz, administrator of the Union County Board of Elections, made a straightforward presentation to the Council on the redistricting processes under way (or soon to be so) in New Jersey. With the legislative districts due to be realigned by April 4, the next phase will be the examination and realignment of Plainfield's four wards. (All of this confirms my previous posts on the topic here and here.)

Kobitz expected that the Census data would be officially 'promulgated' with the establishment of the new legislative districts (meaning the county would officially be given the Census data and the clock would start to run). The County Board of Elections would have fifteen days to convene to begin the process and 90 days from that date to finish. Kobitz estimated completion by early- to mid-July.

Wards will be realigned according to POPULATION figures from the Census, with a variation of 10% allowed. (There is some confusion about what this means; we were taught in Clerk U. that it means a variance of 5% in either direction from the mean population per Ward, or a total range of 10% between largest and smallest Wards.)

Districts will be taken up by the County Board of Elections once new Ward lines have been established (meaning AFTER July 15th). He emphasized that the current Wards and Districts would govern this June's primary and hence the November general election. (Districts are only important electorally in the primary, where political party committees are elected, with Dems and GOP electing members in alternate years -- this year is Dems.)

George Gore, of Plainfield's Human Relations Commission, announced that he had spoken with Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and that the Commission would be holding hearings on redrawing Ward and voting district lines.

What is interesting to note here is what a change there has been over the past decade. In previous years, redistricting was an arcane and secretive matter about which the general public knew or cared little. With the growth of the Internet's importance and continuing citizen demand for transparency and accountability from government, there appears to be a much higher interest in the process, and the hope of having some say in it. So, even though you may not have heard about Plainfield's Human Relations Commission for years, or  know how many seats are filled or how many appointments are current, I say 'welcome to the fray'!
Councilor Storch made a report as liaison to the Planning Board, summarizing five areas of interest:
  1. Mixed-use zoning;
  2. Safeguarding master plan intent through zoning changes (childcare in the midst of 'restaurant row');
  3. Capital Improvements Plan (a good early start, even if the Administration has gotten buggy before horse);
  4. Transit-oriented development (zoning changes near the train station; managing potential conflicts in mixed-use areas); and
  5. Parking (discussing the advisability of a citywide parking authority)
Councilor Storch offered to provide his report to the Council in writing.
The Robinson-Briggs administration continues to push for an emergency appropriation for the Recreation Division, Purchasing Division and the mayor's office, despite the Council's adopted budget having set limits on funding for these areas.

Council President McWilliams reminded acting City Administrator Dan Williamson of the amount the Council had had consensus on at last month's meeting (it was none of the amounts mentioned by Williamson Monday evening). After some back-and-forth, including questions by Councilor Rivers and special pleading by Councilor Reid, it was noted a resolution would go forward in the amount of $33,000, the only figure on which there were at least five assenting Councilors (the minimum number needed to amend the adopted budget).
You will also want to read my separate post on the confusing, amusing Constable proposal.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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