Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Special Council Meeting: A lesson in compromise?

Plainfield's special Council meeting went ahead as planned Monday evening, with little snow falling and no fireworks.

It was a model of what government can be about -- compromises in which all sides get something, but none gets everything they want.

For instance, Mayor Adrian Mapp was finally able to replace Malcolm Dunn and Cecil Sanders (they of the $1 million giveaway) as PMUA commissioners. It is not clear if both the candidates approved were Mapp picks or whether one was a compromise candidate.

One person whom Mapp had repeatedly put forward on several occasions was not mentioned, indicating there was some backroom back-and-forth to get a resolution. In any event, the stage has been set for possible reform of the PMUA. The vote was 4-1-1, with councilors Storch, Toliver, Williams and Rivers in the affirmative; Taylor voted no and Brown abstained. (Councilor Vera Greaves was not present at the meeting; Taylor and Williams participated by phone.)

Some saw significance in the arrangement of the items on the agenda -- with the PMUA nominations coming first, then the confirmation of Eric Watson as Director of Public Works and Urban Development. In the event, Watson was confirmed by a 4-2 vote, with only councilors Storch and Williams voting no -- as they had said they would when he was first appointed as acting director back in September 2014.

Readers will recall that Council President Bridget Rivers led Council opposition to previously suggested DPWUD directors. Some have thought there was some horse-trading here. Well, hello!

Personnel Director Karen Dabney did a much better job of explaining the Mapp administration's rationale for proposing a manager for the city's motor vehicle pool than when the proposal was originally brought up.

She explained that a police lieutenant and a fire lieutenant each had responsibility for managing those divisions' vehicles and that Superintendent of Public Works John Louise was responsible for the rest of the city's vehicles. According to Dabney, the city is currently spending over $300,000 on salaries for this jerry-rigged management situation and having a single person responsible would ensure better management of procurement, maintenance, insurance and disposition of used vehicles.

Public Safety Director Carl Riley spoke to the issue, saying that creating the new position would allow him to re-assign the public safety officers to more pertinent functions within their divisions; he also noted that under his leadership the Police Division has implemented a planned maintenance schedule as opposed to simply waiting to fix something when it's broken, which was past policy.

Councilor Storch was not convinced, however, remarking that the Mapp administration hadn't even given the Council a number for the total of vehicles in the city pool.

When finally brought to a vote, the proposed ordinance passed 4-2 on first reading, with Council President Rivers and Storch opposed, and Brown, Taylor, Toliver and Williams voting yes.

A lighter moment came during the passage of the accompanying salary ordinance, in which Councilor Toliver -- who had voted for the creation of the job -- abstained. When City Administrator Rick Smiley pointed out that one ordinance was connected to the other, Toliver asked to switch her vote to a 'yes', which was duly recorded.

The final piece of business was an ordinance renewing the Comcast cable franchise. Director of Administration and Finance Ron West summarized highlights including an increase in the franchise fee from 2% of the basic cable subscriber rate to 3.5% (amounting to about $100,000 per year); an additional $5,000 grant per year for equipment and training; plus new lines for the school district and all city-owned buildings.

Councilor Storch pressed West for clarification on street openings -- pretty much a non-issue since all the Comcast lines in the residential portions of the city are aerial, and the City provided conduits under the sidewlaks downtown under the McWilliams administration.

The Comcast ordinance was passed unanimously on first reading and the meeting adjourned without further comment.

The compromises may not have been pretty, nor totally satisfying to either the Council or the Mayor, but the only questions to be answered are "Did the city move ahead?"
and "Can we do this again?"

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Bill Michelson said...

Dan - you neglected to tell us WHO the new PMUA Commissioners are. But I can take several good guesses at those who are NOT.

Anonymous said...

Now let's see who this Fleet Manager Position was created for