The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

With Storch as Council president, new era a possibility


Mayor Adrian Mapp poses with newly installed Councilors Cory Storch (Ward 2)
and Barry Goode (Wards 1/4 at-large).
Storch was elected Council President for 2016.

Plainfield's 2016 City Council started off with a bang as Cory Storch was elected Council President in what appeared to be an upset.

Storch, who begins his thirteenth year (and fourth term) of service with this year's swearing in, has always been a moderating influence at contentious points in the Council's history ever since he has been a member.

Traditionally, the wrangling over who will be council president and chair of the committee-of-the-whole takes place out of public sight, with unanimous votes being recorded in the public ritual -- along with the obligatory smiles.

Not so this year.

When time for nominations came, Councilors Rivers and Storch were offered. Surprise registered on the faces of Rivers and Brown as Councilor Taylor joined Goode, Storch and Williams in voting "no" on Rivers nomination. That set the stage for Storch's election by the same 4-3 split.

Councilors Tracey Brown and Gloria Taylor were nominated for chair of the committee-of-the-whole. Brown was defeated by the same 3-4 split; with Taylor then getting a unanimous vote. Both Taylor's and Brown's terms will end December 31 of this year.

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp swore in both Storch and Goode (who replaces Vera Greaves as the Wards 1/4 at-large representative) to their Council seats. Judge Joan Robinson Gross administered the oaths for Council President Storch and chair of the committee-of-the-whole Taylor.

In his impromptu remarks as Council President, Councilor Storch stressed that he expects to improve communications between the Council and the Administration. Along this line, he suggested that he would have Department heads make frequent updates before the Council as part of revamping the shape of the Council meetings.

Storch also suggested that each ward host one Council session (not a Town Hall) during the year. This sounds good, but could be a logistical nightmare given the school district's current hostile attitude toward city government.

Storch also proposed a strategic planning retreat for the Council and the Administration, where the top goals for the year can be arrived at in a public discussion and a broad road map for 2016 set forth.

Hopefully, the overly dramatic and highly embarrassing comportment of Council meetings in recent years will come to an end with a firmer hand on the gavel and an eye to the Council's minding its own rules of conduct.

In a highly unusual move, two items of old business from 2015 were taken up: Budget transfers (a bookkeeping maneuver) and the cancellation of the 2015 health insurance line. Resolutions are generally viewed as governing actions taken during one year that govern that year's business, while ordinances bind the city going forward on a permanent basis. Every effort is usually expended to close the Council's "resolution" business by year's end. For some reason that did not happen in this instance. Councilor Goode, who did not hold office in 2015, abstained from voting, while the other six members sustained both resolutions.

The ritual business of designations and appointments then went forward smoothly with unanimous votes on all items.

Among elected officials recognized by Council President Storch were Union County Freeholders Linda Carter and Sergio Granados (Granados is the new Freeholder Vice Chair), and newly elected Plainfield Board of Ed member Emily Morgan as well as members Wilma and John Campbell and David Rutherford. Assemblyman Jerry Green, a longtime presence at Council reorganization meetings -- often swearing in various officials -- was absent.

Mayor Adrian Mapp made brief remarks, congratulating Storch and Goode on their elections as councilors and Storch as Council President. He said that the traditional "State of the City" address would be offered this year at a separate time and place, as is done in many of New Jersey's major cities.

Notable among the public comments at the meeting's end were Siddeeq El-Amin, which I will take up separately, and Mary Burgwinkle, who noted the passing of Democratic activist Dottie Gutenkauf and how much she would have enjoyed seeing this evening.

With that the Council adjourned, in what is probably record time for a reorganization meeting.

Now the work begins. Council's agenda-setting session will be next Monday, January 11, at 7:30 PM in the Council Chambers / Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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