Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mayor's budgetary attack on Library worst ever

'Does Plainfield really want to have the equivalent of the Fanwood Public Library?'
the Council was asked.

To my knowledge, Plainfield's Public Library has always been funded substantially beyond the statutory minimum. (Disclosure: As a former Plainfield Public Library employee, I was somewhat aware of the funding history through contact with the late Anne Louise Davis, longtime Board president and library champion since at least the 1950s.)

So it was breathtaking to hear the Mayor's budget consultant (and former city administrator) David Kochel argue forcefully for the Mayor's proposal to cut funding back to the statutory minimum of 3 mils, reducing proposed City funding from $1.7 million to $967,000.

This despite Library accomplishments that include --

  • Zero percent contract increase over the past two years;
  • Zero overtime costs in 2011;
  • New Job Assistance Center to open this summer;
  • Only GED program in the county outside of Elizabeth;
  • Intensive use of computers by Plainfielders without home access to computers or Internet;
  • Increase of 3,000 new Library cardholders;
  • Only basic math and language literacy program in Plainfield;
To add insult to injury, it came out in the deliberations that, as in previous years, the Library was kept out of the budgetary planning process and only found out they were on the agenda when the City Clerk's office called last Friday.

Asked pointedly by Council President Adrian Mapp to explain, Administration and Finance Director Al Restaino said it was an 'inadvertent omission'.

Kochel listed several points in a bill of complaints by Mayor Robinson-Briggs that he insisted justified her desire to cut the Library funding.

Anne Robinson, the Board's president, did not hesitate to come back to Kochel point by point.

As to financial reports, she said that indeed the last audit was done in FY2009, and in light of an audit's cost of about $25,000, the Board decided to do an annual review 'to save the Library and the taxpayers money'.

That did not mean that the Library failed to supply the required financial information, she said, adding 'I guess it's been overlooked' (echoing Restaino's plaintive excuse and drawing guffaws from the audience).

Robinson also noted that she was the only unexpired Board member and thus the only one who could speak to the Council, as the Mayor has not acted on many names that have been put forward to serve, an inaction that left Robinson perplexed.

Council members were generally supportive of the Library in their comments.

Councilor Williams felt there were other places that could be cut, but 'certainly not the Library'. Councilor Greaves said 'we need to have the Library funded'. Councilor Reid, unsurprisingly, proposed that the Administration and the Library sit down and work out a compromise before May 10 (never addressing why the Administration didn't sit down with the Library in drawing up its proposal in the first place).

Council President Adrian Mapp assured Robinson and Library Director Joe Da Rold that the Council is supportive of the Library and would continue to be so.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs' animosity toward the Library is as hard to understand as her resistance to the Council hiring Mr. Kochel as budget consultant.

Certainly the Library is a model of service to the entire community, which makes her hostility perplexing. And she could have no better defender of her budget proposal than Mr. Kochel, to whose appointment she was quite cool.

Citizens Budget Advisory Committee Dee Dameron summed the whole Library discussion as 'déjà vu'.

At least Robinson-Briggs watchers can look forward to an end to her era.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Bob said...

I guess this mayor doesn't want Plainfielders to be educated and enjoy the benefits of one of the best city libraries in the state and perhaps the country. We are all proud of our library and don't want to see any cuts, and maybe even some extra money for programs. This mayor hates whatever she can't control, and perhaps that's why she is the biggest loser in this and will be at the next election.

Bob Bolmer

Anonymous said...

The mayor would rather throw a ton of money at recreation that pays staff to babysit a few children in its programs rather than the library that is producing quality programs and servicing many children as well as adults.
There were alot of blanks in the recreation budget that left questions that Mr. Jackson has to answer later.
I hope they persist in getting the answers. CBAC can remember the struggle they had last year getting answers.

Anonymous said...

Public Libraries are becoming non existant these days EVERYONE has a computer at home common now. Except for the programs I could understand why but with the use of technology now the Library has become nothing but a place to hang out.

Anonymous said...

Bob is right. Plainfield Public Library is a gem. It is also a resource for the city's youth and an alternative to getting into trouble on the streets.

Pat Turner Kavanaugh said...

Anon. 1.47 is living in a 1 percent bubble. Many poor Plinfield children and adults lack access to a decent computer and high-speed Internet. As I said yesterday, look at the vast jump in the mayor's budget, gearing up for the campaign means truck-loads of donuts and coffee for the voting masses. Needy children don't vote.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:47PM How about you go take a poll of the people using the computers. Ask them if they have a computer - with Internet access - at home to job search!

Anonymous said...

To 1:47pm Are you the mayor?

Anonymous said...

The children's room at Plainfield is extraordinary. An amazing space. truly a space to read and discover and imagine!

Anonymous said...

Plainfield Public Library has a all the information about the town. Local history librarians here are second to none. Thank you for your work.

Anonymous said...

I just recently saw the children's area that was renovated in the lower level and it is state of the art. Reminds you of something that Disney would design.

Take your kids there.

Anonymous said...

The work of the local history room is phenomenal. They have helped Plainfield keep it history alive and build on its foundation of innovation and community. Everyone rise up and keep the library going!

Anonymous said...

Everyone I am not the mayor I am what I call a Conservitive Plainfield resident lets be real here how many POOR PEOPLE are they in plainfield????? there are not that many, the percentage of poor in Plainfield is what about 5 pct or 10 pct where they actually use Library computers and those 5 or 10pct have friends or know people who have a computer they could use if they are really looking for a job. Commom people lets stop enabling people and stop making excuses yes the childrens room and special programs at the Plainfield Public Library is great but stop using the poor people's excuse.