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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Charter Study Commission recommends changes

Helping to make 'just and capable' possible.

Plainfield voters chose five fellow residents last November to study Plainfield's special charter and whether to recommend any changes to the city's foundational document.

Those five -- Rick Smiley, Mary Burgwinkle, John Stewart, Jeanette Criscione and Marie Davis -- have been hard at work since December and on Monday afternoon submitted their final report and recommendations to Municipal Clerk 'AJ' Jalloh, to be forwarded to the City Council for action.

The Commission set itself several tasks --

  • A line-by-line review of the charter;

  • Interviews with former administrators, elected officials and others (thank you, Dr. Yood!);

  • Study of other communities' special charters; and

  • Consultations with Dr. Ernest Reock, emeritus Rutgers professor and New Jersey's 'go-to guy' in charter study matters.
Sidestepping the power it had to recommend adoption of one of the Faulkner Act forms directly to the voters via a public question, the Commission instead opted to ask the Legislature to tweak the current charter.

Whatever the original thoughts of the members may have been, it was obvious as the interviews of former administrators and elected officials progressed through the Spring months that Commission members were impressed with the overall tendency of interviewees to suggest moderation in any approach to changing the charter.

The Commission finally -- and unanimously -- recommended the City Council adopt and forward its report and recommended changes to the Legislature, where it will have to pass in both the Assembly and the Senate and then secure the governor's signature before being made effective.

Recommended changes include --

  • Amending the language to make it gender-neutral;

  • Clarifying the residency and voter status requirements for mayor;

  • Appointment of the Municipal Clerk by the Governing Body; and

  • Ability to add or modify departments by ordinance.
Among items not being changed are the ban on dual office-holding, and the high bars set for petition and referendum, and the recall of elected officials.

The report is available in both print editions (at the Municipal Clerk's office and the Plainfield Public Library) and an electronic version will be posted on the city's website (see here) and the Commission's blog (see here).

A huge round of thanks is due to these dedicated citizens, who gave up their Thursday evenings (and many other nights and weekends) for the benefit of all Plainfielders!

While one might think their work is finally over, Commission secretary Mary Burgwinkle reminded all at last Thursday's meeting that the Commission is not actually discharged until the Legislature passes the changes and the Governor affixes his or her signature.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Hi Dan, Just wanted to clarify that we are recommending reducing the number of signatures of registered voters for Recall from 33 1/3% to at least 25%. We are also recommending giving the city flexibility regarding the city Departments. Thanks for covering us! Mary Burgwinklehat