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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Councilor Taylor searches for Satanic intent

Rob Campbell as the witch-hunting Rev'd John Hale
in the movie The Crucible.

As was to be expected at Wednesday's Plainfield
City Council agenda-setting session, opportunity was presented through three so-called 'discussion items" for Councilor Gloria Taylor, abetted by Council President Bridget Rivers and Councilors Tolliver and Greaves to mount a broad attack against the Mapp administration.

The items for discussion were --

  • The procurement process for purchase of vehicles (specifically the Mayor's and City Administrator's vehicles);

  • Constables; and

  • 2015 National Night Out
Let's focus today on the issue of vehicles.

According to the script followed by Taylor, the subject of vehicle procurement came up in the course of the budget deliberations. This is a clever gambit to legitimize the topic, but simplistic. A different story emerges upon a little investigation.

For example, a members of the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee told me that when the topic was broached, the CBAC tried to refocus the discussion on THIS year's budget -- the "offense" Taylor alleges occurred during the CY2014 budget, which is now history.

Though she could have done so more concisely and forcefully, Corporation Counsel Vernita Sias-Hill did finally put on the table the assertion that the Mapp administration had simply followed precedent in securing new vehicles for the mayor and city administrator -- to which they are entitled by an annual resolution adopted by the Council each January.

Nevertheless, Taylor persisted in insinuating that the purchases were "illegal" and done with an "intention" to avoid the rules.

It seems clear that the Mapp administration had simply proceeded along the path taken by the Robinson-Briggs administration in 2006, when Sharon got her shiny new SUV -- and there was no Council objection.

In fact, the practice may be traceable back past Al McWilliams, Mark Fury and Harold Mitchell to the time when Councilor Taylor's own husband, Rick Taylor, was Plainfield's second Democratic mayor. And perhaps even farther back. All, evidently, without Council  objection.

That does not mean that Taylor has not raised a valid point. When questioned by Taylor, CFO Al Steinberg stated that it would not be proper for a vehicle purchased by one division to be used outside that division.

Unless, of course -- and this is Taylor's point -- Council memorializes the use of the vehicle by resolution. Something which has NEVER been done before.

The cat was let out of the bag, however, when City Administrator Rick Smiley politely asked Council President Bridget Rivers a simple question: What do you want us to do?


He asked again, respectfully.

Rivers replied in a low voice, "I want you to give them back." Meaning to the Public Safety Division. And with that, she shut down the discussion and moved to the next item of business.

It became quite clear to everyone in the room -- and you can watch it on PCTV -- that a Council majority was NOT interested in fixing the problem, but only in creating a scene.

No resolution is proposed because resolving issues is not on Council President Rivers' agenda.

Taylor played her role superbly. She came across as a sort of 21st century incarnation -- in drag -- of the Rev'd John Hale, the 17th-century preacher and witch hunter of Salem, Massachusetts so memorably portrayed in Arthur Miller's play The Crucible. Let us not forget, though, that the "witches" of Salem were innocent of the crimes of which they were accused and for which their lives were forfeit.

I'm sure we'll see many more bravura performances by Taylor, stalking Satanic intention, before the end of her era.

Tomorrow, Constables.

Councilor Gloria Taylor, in search of Satanic intentions.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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