Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, May 31, 2013

Lively discussion at Charter Study Commission last night

Two guest interviewees at Plainfield's Charter Study Commission made for a lively discussion at Thursday evening's session. After being interviewed separately, both took the table to answer questions from the audience which included a half dozen young men and women from PHS who have recently become engaged with the political process.

James White, Township Administrator for the Township of East Brunswick represented the Mayor-Council option available under the Faulkner Act and Christopher Raths, Township Administrator for Roxbury Township explained the Council-Manager option that is also available.

East Brunswick's Mayor-Council form (sometimes called the 'strong mayor option') most closely resembles Plainfield's special charter. Under Roxbury's Council-Manager form, the Manager is the true executive for the municipal government, while the Mayor is primarily a ceremonial office and presides over the council meetings.

Both men have deep experience and were complementary in their emphases. Raths is a strong proponent and very capable explainer of the strengths of the Council-Manager form, while Smith found the Mayor-Council form quite workable.

Both jointly emphasized several points --

  • Local government works best when both elected officials and administrative leadership understand their role and function and 'play by the rules';

  • Local government works best when policies are jointly decided by all responsible;

  • Local government works best when those charged with executing policy do so professionally;

  • There will always be personality frictions -- the point is to manage them (no form of government will eliminate them);

  • Open communications are key to building good working relationships.
Raths noted that good managers learn to publicly take the blame for an issue or mistake, and give the Council credit when an outcome is upbeat. This complemented Smith's idea that 'we [administrators] live behind the scenes'.

Their upbeat views of their skill sets and their particular forms of government (each of which is an option for Plainfield) helped me to see more clearly how dysfunctionality in Plainfield's governance is only partly explainable by the limitations of its charter.

Fixing that dysfunctionality will mean more than just 'fixing' the city's charter, but I believe it can be done.

If there's a will, there's a way.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Oh Magic 8 ball tell us all Will we rid of the scourgein City Hall