The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Odd bits from the Council meeting


Do bits of shell mean they're the real thing?

 Plainfield's City Council met in a special session Monday evening to set the agenda for the Council's 2012 reorganization meeting, which will be Tuesday, January 3, at 8:00 PM in the Courthouse/Council Chambers.

I was reminded of a perpetual debate from my Air Force days.

I enlisted at the height of the Cold War, before the Bay of Pigs or Vietnam. While we were engaged in no active wars, America still had about 1.5 million men and women in uniform.

This meant bases with large numbers of servicemen and women being fed in huge dining halls. Our constant debate was about the endless large pans of bland scrambled eggs found at every morning's breakfast.

Rumor was they were made from powdered eggs, not the real things. And to fool us, it was said the cooks would crush real eggshells into fine pieces and stir them into the eggs. Whenever anyone got a little piece of shell in a mouthful, they would instinctively stop chewing and put the little speck on the edge of the all-in-one tray.

A few such hard little bits came up last night amid the generally bland but pleasantly relaxed routine of setting the reorg meeting's agenda.

Herewith some 'eggshells' --

CFO QUESTIONS?

When the Administration advised the expected financial reports were not being provided (check register, budget status, revenue report, overtime and vendor activity), Director of Administration and Finance Al Restaino apologized, said they would be on hand 'tomorrow morning' and that there were 'continuing issues'.


Later, Restaino advised the Administration would be bringing a resolution forward at the reorg to appoint Mr. Zilinski as Treasurer for calendar year 2012. There was no mention of appointing him Chief Financial Officer. (He has been holding two positions as a way of not endangering his retirement benefits, I have been told.) There has been grumbling from both the Council and the Administration about the amount of time Zilinski puts in (said to be two days per week) and overall progress in straightening out purchasing and audit and control, which are in his bailiwick.

Is Zilinski being eased out? Is Mayor Robinson-Briggs on the hunt for a new CFO? Maybe we'll learn more at the reorg meeting.

GETTING AGENDA-SETTING PACKETS TO COUNCIL MEMBERS

During a discussion of the 'standing rules of order', Councilor Storch made a plea for the Administration to get the packets for the monthly agenda-setting session to the Council earlier than late Friday evening, which leaves members only Saturday and Sunday to digest the material and part of Monday for the Administration to get answers together.


The discussion brought out that while Mayor Robinson-Briggs has weekly day-long cabinet meetings on Wednesdays, only the one immediately before the Council's agenda-session is used to set up resolutions. This leaves departments Thursday to get materials to the Clerk and the Clerk's office with a crush of work on Friday to get packets ready.

Councilor Mapp finally suggested that perhaps the Administration could move its cabinet meeting for that one week up to Monday or Tuesday instead, giving everyone down the chain more time and hopefully getting packets to Councilors by Wednesday night or Thursday.

Anything in this regard would be a benefit to everyone, including the Robinson-Briggs administration. Will we see a change in 2012?

TEMPORARY BUDGET APPROPRIATIONS AND BUDGET PROCESS

Pending the adoption of a budget for Calendar Year 2012, the city's first on the new calendar cycle, there will need to be a temporary appropriation to keep city government functioning.

The Robinson-Briggs administration proposed a three-month funding, which the state allows at 26.25% of the preceding year's budget. Councilor Mapp helped Director Restaino over a little rough patch here, explaining that the amount would be calculated based on the last half of the previous FY2012 budget, plus the total of the six-month interim budget. Mapp also noted that state law gave the governing body the prerogative of authorizing the temporary appropriations on a month-by-month basis. This has the effect of keeping an administration's toes to the fire, so to speak.

Mapp also asked City Administrator Berry if the Robinson-Briggs administration would cooperate in having the traditional defense by departments at Council budget hearings. The answer to both that question and the question of whether the budget would be delivered 'on time' was given in the affirmative by Mr. Berry. If 'on time' means on the state's stipulated deadline, we'll have to see about that as very few municipalities make that cut.

'MISSING' RESOLUTIONS

Those following along with the printed order of discussion could notice that several items traditionally found in the annual reorganization were missing --

No items for Administration/Executive Branch, usually an extensive list;
No items for Corporation Counsel (Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson advised verbally there would be resolutions for 3 prosecutors and 3 public defenders, per correspondence received from the Mayor).

NAMING DEPOSITORIES, ETC.

Councilor Mapp noted that there was no resolution for adoption of a
CORRECTION: CASH management plan tax management plan and that he wanted to see one presented as a matter of good form.

A discussion of depositories also ensued. These are the bank(s) that the governing body designates to hold the city's funds. Mr. Restaino said several had responded to requests for proposals and that the Administration was busy trying to align the services offered, the interest rates offered, and other factors to make the best proposals.

Everyone gingerly skirted around the elephant in the room -- that Mayor Robinson-Briggs had on her own initiative transferred all city accounts to Investor Savings when other banks decided they would no longer offer municipal depository services in New Jersey.

This will be another item of interest at the reorg meeting.
So, with all these pieces of 'eggshell' pushed to the edge of the tray, the question remains: Are the eggs powdered or the real McCoy?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Again, the mayor shows how she cannot manage herself out of a paper bag with both sides open. Any good administrator does not need a full day, every week, to meet with heads of departments.

You create a strategy, and your work through it. I wouldn't mind it so much, but what on earth gets done? Anyone see a better Plainfield?

Anonymous said...

Dan its Christmas time a joyful holiday please stop all the negativity please

olddoc said...

Of course they were reconstituted dry egg powder. The only time we had a choice of real eggs fried or steak for breakfast was before takeoff for "Varsiy". A condemned man's meal. Most of us chose the eggs.

Bob said...

With Robinson-Briggs, you never know what's real or not. She is not a good mayor, but when it comes to the art of BS, she is outstanding. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Tom said...

I was in the Air Force a couple of years after the Korean conflict into the 60's. We had real eggs. Assigned to KP duty for 7 straight days, we had to break the eggs into a large cauldron each morning. Being half awake or hung over, there were definite egg shells in the mix.