The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Clerk AJ puts Boards, Commissions online


Councilor Ray Blanco and Mayor Al McWilliams,
celebrating the passage of the Civic Responsibility Act in a 2005 ceremony.

Three cheers for Plainfield City Clerk 'AJ' Jalloh -- for getting the information online (see here) which is necessary to begin to implement the City's Civic Responsibility Act, adopted way back in 2005!

The
Civic Responsibility Act was Councilor Ray Blanco's signature legislative accomplishment in a life of public service tragically cut short by his passing in August, 2006 (see my remembrance of his life and contributions here).

John DiPane, who managed the City's website at that time, and I (as the city's public information officer) had put together a table of the boards and committees, with their duties and posted it on the City's website, in anticipation of then building up the list of members and their terms. This page suddenly disappeared during September 2006 (see here, under 'New and Improved Website') when the website was 'redesigned'.

Those with long memories will recall that the 'redesign' was a fiasco, with the vendor -- who collected about $135,000 in fees from the City WITHOUT a contract (a criminal offense?) -- being tossed out after considerable shenanigans, leaving the City without the passwords and the site basically non-functioning for months.

In early 2009, the failure of the Robinson-Briggs administration to implement the Civic Responsibility Act once again became a topic of discussion by the City Council (see here).

At the time, I outlined what would need to be done --

Though enacted several years ago in an effort to ensure an open and transparent process to citizens to volunteer for board and commission service, it has never come to fruition. The Council discussion made this seem more difficult than I think it really is. It's a very straightforward process (though a little time-consuming in setting up): 1) List every board and commission and its mission and membership requirements per the Charter; 2) List all seats, who holds them, and when their terms expire; 3) Provide an online form for submitting a request to be considered and a resumè. The concern that the information is private when submitted is easily addressed by having the submission form designed to be read only by authorized personnel in the Clerk's office. (Note though that once nominated, the information becomes part of the public record.) Time needed to create lists? Couple of work days by an existing City staffer at the most. Time to create web page? An hour or two once data has been set up. Cost? Data prep by in-house staff; web page consultant should cost less than $300. What is so frigging hard about all this?
Well, AJ, who is also the Clerk to the City Council, has shown that it is eminently doable.

At the Plainfield page on Clerkbase (see here), you will be able to view the complete text of the Civic Responsibility Act and browse a complete list of boards and commissions -- with current appointees and their terms.

Ray's original intent was that individuals interested in serving would also be able to make their interest known by an online filing which would only become a public record if the interested party was nominated by the Mayor or other competent authority.

That would be a logical next step now that AJ has got the ball rolling.

Again, congratulations to AJ who has shown Plainfield can make its way into the 21st century -- and empower its residents, too!



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cleary AJ read the book "Municipal Government For Dummies" maybe he should pass around copies!

Anonymous said...

And to think, he came from Jerry Green! I guess everyone deserves one pass!

Rebecca Williams said...

Excellent work by the Clerk's office. After perusing it, I see that many of the commissions are non-functioning. Most troubling is the Youth Commission. I serve as the council's liaison to the Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs. Apparently, all the commisoners appointed by the mayor have resigned. I have heard no word from the administration about this, in terms of confirmation, nor have any new appointments been put forward, as far as I know.

Rebecca

Anonymous said...

It is astounding what a person who knows what they are doing, and is ambitious can do.

How long until she is gone?

Anonymous said...

Why did it take half a decade to comply? This doesn't seem so hard....

Bob said...

It's good to see someone trying to make City Hall work, but it's too little too late. As far as commissioners quitting, most of these committees never or seldom meet. Why would you want to work with a mayor who is so beyond her means in this office. She is not the sharpest pencil in Jerry Green's box.

Bob Bolmer