Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Did Council stumble out of gate or was it planned?

Public participation in the deliberative process has been
arbitrarily removed without explanation.
Did Plainfield City Council stumble out of the gate at its first real business meeting of 2013 on Monday night ... or was it just all according to plan?

In what appeared to be a headlong rush to wind the meeting up in the shortest time possible, Council President Bridget Rivers rode herd on her fellow Councilors (though less so on Chairperson Reid, who seems not to have gotten the memo), deflected comments and questions away from the Robinson-Briggs administration and clashed over procedures with Councilors Mapp and Storch.

At one point Rivers had to rein in new Council member Tracey Brown, who seemed about to lose her temper over remarks made by resident Oscar Riba about property conditions in the 4th Ward.

The whole was not helped by gaps in the printed agenda, with several resolutions being brought forward during the course of the meeting. This is simply not reflective of the careful and methodical way that Municipal Clerk 'AJ' Jalloh has always approached the preparation of the agendas, and one has to wonder if the Robinson-Briggs administration and/or Council President Rivers were dilatory in their responsibilities.

None of this was helped by Chairman Reid's hurry to move along which led him to repeatedly skip over items, putting Rivers in the position of having to flag him down.

There were several surreptitious and unannounced changes which do not augur well for the transparent conduct of the public's business. I will take them up in a separate post, but the most egregious one should be touched on now -- and that is the removal of the initial public comment period in the agenda-setting session.

This first comment period was inserted several years ago (modeled after that in place in the business meeting agenda), allowing the public to comment on any item on the agenda in advance of the Council's discussion of same and determination of whether to place on the business meeting's agenda. This was a wise move, allowing for questions to be answered and imprecision cleared away by public input into the deliberative process. (For an example, see the Council's agenda-setting session of 3/5/2012, page 4, snapshot above, and archived on the city's website here.)

If this was an oversight, let's hope it is corrected. If it is by design, the public -- and the Council -- are being cheated.

In either case, it is a stumble out of the gate and not a good way to start off the new year.

My next post will take up some other clandestine -- and surprising -- changes, as well as a sleeping shocker or two from the Robinson-Briggs administration.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Dan sit back and watch the City of plainfield get some work done this year 2013. Don't be afraid to watch the miracle happen. The problem is that you guys are no longer in control and can no longer say the ADMINISTRATION do not work with the public. KUDOS to the council for doing thier job and not looking like a bunch of key stone cops sitting up there.just sit back andwatch the miracle happen.

Anonymous said...

The Rev Brown wasn't the only one sitting there upset. Councilmen Mapp looked pretty pissed off also. That is the same way he will be looking after the primary. Councilmen Mapp spent a year fighting the administraion and nothing got done. His year fof being the President was a complete disaster. My hat goes off to council women Mcwilliams she did a wonderful job. My verdict is still out for this year. i will form my opinion in 6 months.


Bob said...

As I stated yesterday, I was surprised at how dysfunctional the meeting was and that most of that dysfuntion came from the coucil president. It was also very obvious that Ms. Rivers is still the mayor's lacky and will defend her to the end.

I think the coucil president needs to remember that she is among equals and has no credentials to lecture the other council members. I was embarrassed and disappointed. I hope future meetings are more organized and the council president gets over herself. I know most of the citizens there left with the same impression I had.