Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Monday night's (Council) Theater of the Absurd

Frame from an early Looney Tunes cartoon (pre-Technicolor)
titled 'Porky in Wackyland'.
Ever since Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp took office in January 2014, City Council agenda sessions have increasingly included an element of what is called in playwrighting circles "Theater of the Absurd", in which --
what happens...has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down, in fact alerting their audiences to pursue the opposite. Logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech and to its ultimate conclusion, silence ... (for more, see here).
Although it can crop up anywhere during a Council meeting, the usual spot is the section titled "Discussion/Action Items". This is where Council President Bridget Rivers allows discussion of an item of interest, either by the Council (which may take action) or some person or persons (often representing a group or an issue).

This Monday's agenda-setting session contains two such items --

  • Appointment of City Council budget consultant; and

  • Appointment of legal counsel to investigate North Avenue emergency demolition.
The online backup materials for this week's session are very skimpy, and might not have been expected to contain any details, anyway, but both items are backward-referencing, so we can guess at how they will unfold.

After following the disastrous advice of last year's Council budget consultant, who recommended over $1 million in cuts to the Mapp proposal (see my post here), including shorting insurance and pension payments by more thn half a million dollars and cutting staff positions by almost half a million dollars, the Council was later left with egg on its face when the City faced a crisis mid-year involving problems generated by the skimped payments.

Though the obstreperous Councilor Bill Reid is no longer there to muddy the waters or use delaying tactics, it will be interesting to see WHO the Council hires this time around (could they possibly go back to the same flacks?), how much that consultant recommends to be cut, and the Council's gyration when it finally gets around to the budget.

Timelines don't look good. When the "discussion" of Council nominees for the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee came up last month, there was stony silence -- not a single name was put forward. Though it is on Monday's agenda, I could find no backup online, so we'll have to wait and see who is appointed.

Meanwhile, Council President Bridget Rivers has made no indication of scheduling any budget hearings. Are you reading this, Trenton?
Word in the street is that Assemblyman Jerry Green called DPWUD Director Eric Watson recently, read him the riot act for joining the Mapp administration and "betraying" Green, and threatened "I will destroy you".

Green usually keeps his word, or at least tries to, on such threats.

So, expect Monday's discussion of the Council's hiring of an attorney to investigate the recent North Avenue demolition brouhaha to be Act I, Scene 2, in this melodrama (Scene 1 was last month's special meeting to take up the demolition -- which Council refused to do.)

In snubbing Corporation Counsel Vernita Sias-Hill, Rivers is using as the precedent for this action the Council's hiring of an outside attorney to investigate the misappropriation of a $15,000 check from Investor's Bank meant to help fund a July 4 Parade but instead used by former mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs to pay for a WBLS broadcast of a community meeting on violence at which Rev. Al Sharpton made a very brief appearance. Investor's never gave permission for the switcheroo, and, in fact, did not know about it until the issue blew up in public.

The parallel between the two situations is tenuous at best, but that illogicality will not bother a Council majority, I am sure.

What this really portends is that, apparently at the instigation of Assemblyman Green, Council President Rivers is organizing the pitchfork-and-torches brigade to throw Director Watson under the bus.

Even though the Mapp administration is statutorily in a superior position and the bills must be paid -- eventually.
City Council meets for its agenda-setting session on Monday evening, April 6, at 7:30 PM in the Council Chambers/ Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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