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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Council: Officials' benefits; Liquor licenses; North Avenue fire aftermath

' the cause of just and capable government'.

With a new leadership team in place, Plainfield City Council's first agenda setting session of 2012 was held Monday, with Adrian Mapp as new Council President and Bill Reid as Chair of the Committee of the Whole at the head of the Council table.

Among the items discussed --

Moving right away on his legislative agenda for 2012, Council President Mapp opened a discussion preparatory to introducing an ordinance to eliminate health benefits for all local elected officials.

While the conversation mostly referenced Council members (of whom, it turns out, only two take advantage of the benefits), Mapp had to remind everyone at least twice that the proposal was to eliminate benefits for ALL local elected officials -- which would include the Mayor. (State law already provides that no future part-time elected officials -- such as Plainfield's Council and Mayor -- are eligible.)

After discussion, it was agreed to move forward and the ordinance will be introduced for first reading at next Monday's Council business meeting.
In his report on economic development, Councilor Storch mentioned that the downtown developer Landmark Properties was interested in obtaining two liquor licenses for proposed businesses downtown.

There followed some discussion about trying to craft restrictions that would require holders of licenses for bars to be primarily engaged as restaurants and not as bars only, which Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson said he would look into.

Concern about liquor licenses is a constant theme with the Council, though Councils have seldom attempted to actually seriously function as the local Alcoholic Beverage Control unit.

In my humble opinion -- as a no-longer-drinking member of the public -- liquor licenses should be considered by elected officials as a PRECIOUS RESOURCE, vital to any remaking of Plainfield as a 'transit village', to be conserved and wisely administered since they are irreplaceable.
After questioning led by Councilor Storch, the Robinson-Briggs administration indicated that there had been 'false starts' on resolving the matter of whether the burned-out building would be restored rather than being torn down.

Public Safety Director Hellwig did not seem enthusiastic about having the DPW board up the building and put a lien on the property, even though the property owner has not got a good track record on even maintaining the building before the fire.

There also didn't seem to be any sense of urgency on the part of the Robinson-Briggs administration to get the situation resolved as quickly as possible, and open the street to traffic (if not parking) by way of offering some relief to the merchants.

Look for some signs of action by Thursday, or expect the merchants to press the Council further.
VIDEO: With the old videography contract lapsing, Council and audience were treated to the city's media staff undertaking the video. This delayed getting the meeting started while they set up. One suggestion, if the work is to be done by city staff, is to have all the lighting set up in the room BEFORE the Council has its executive session prior to the public meeting, so that time is not lost in setup.

EXECUTIVE SESSION: Though the meeting was delayed by twenty minutes getting started, the Council did go back into executive session after the public meeting. I hope the Council will take seriously the prodding by NJ courts that the public meetings should start at the stated time and the public should not be inconvenienced by the governing body's need to discuss matters in executive session. The only Plainfield agency currently engaging in the best practice in this area is the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA). It would be nice if the Board of Ed and the Council followed suit.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Bob said...

Don't we already have an over abundance of bars and liquor stores in Plainfield. When I went to college near Trenton, on of the things that gave me a poor opinion of Trenton was that almost every intersection had a bar of liquor store. Let's not label ourselves the alcohol capital of the state.

Bob Bolmer