Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Council passes Community ID Card, moves sick leave forward

The city's seal will not be allowed on privately issued ID cards.
The hottest topics at Monday's Plainfield City Council were, as expected, the Plainfield Community ID Card and the proposed sick leave ordinance. A fiscal maneuver provided a little comic relief.

Plainfield's new Community ID Card ordinance (MC201601) generated an unusual amount of comment at the hearing on its second reading.

The Council chambers were packed with supporters of the ID card measure rallied by Flor Gonzalez' Latin American Coalition and PACHA, the city's advisory commission on Hispanic affairs (which she also chairs).

Speakers at the public hearing on the ordinance were uniformly in favor of an ID card. There was some special pleading by Carmen Salavarrieta of Angels for Action, who has been issuing an ID card since the administration of former mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. (Some of the confusion arises from Robinson-Briggs' loosey-goosey management style; she never bothered with establishing an ordinance, rather designating Salavarrieta by fiat, somewhat as Queen Elizabeth selects her TP vendors.) Her supporters questioned why Salavarrieta was never contacted for input as the Administration had said it would do. A concern was also raised about what office would handle the program.

Those in favor of the ordinance included Maritza Martinez, owner of Maritza's Boutique on East Front Street, who is also VP of the SID, and Randy Schaeffer, chairman of the board of El Centro Hispanoamericano, the city's oldest Latino community service organization.

At the end of the hearing, Council President Cory Storch did something marvelous -- he neatly and objectively summarized the question he wanted the Administration to address and passed the ball to City Administrator Rick Smiley and Corporation Counsel David Minchello.

Minchello gave brief answers: Can expired documents be used in applying? (No.) How many forms of ID are needed for a card? (One.)  It was made clear that only the city could use its seal on ID cards.

Smiley indicated that possible offices to issue the cards were Plainfield Action Services, the Clerk's office or Vital Statistics, but that no decision had been made yet.

When asked why Salavarrieta had not been consulted, Smiley said the Administration had determined that the city would issue and administer the cards and there was no need to have input from Salavarrieta. It was also pointed out that while she is barred from using the city seal, she is free to continue issuing her cards as she has done in the past -- though they cannot be deemed the city's official card. The latter point was underscored by Councilor Bridget Rivers.

After Councilor Brown said there was "confusion over an important point," the Council took a five-minute break to clarify the issue.

When the vote finally went down at 8:48 PM, it was unanimous in a roll call vote.
The paid sick leave ordinance (MC2016-08) was introduced on first reading -- after a long journey to the action phase.

Speaking against the ordinance in its present form were SID president Nimrod Webb, SID VP Maritza Martinez, SID administrator David Biagini, a local pastor and the owner of Ped-Eze. There were several complaints that a proposal forwarded to the Council was not addressed (I have posted that proposal online here; thanks to Terri Cabbell for supplying a copy).

Forwarding the proposal to the Council was clearly not in line with the way the Council set the process up, which was for representatives of the business community to meet with the Working Families of Plainfield group and hammer out a compromise proposal. Working Families has said meetings were held and they believed there was consensus (after changes were made) on the version now before the Council.

When the vote finally went down, the tally was 5 for and one abstention (Councilor Toliver). Councilor Taylor was absent from Monday's meeting. The ordinance will be up for second reading and final passage at the March 14 Council business meeting.
A little comic relief was provided by a fiscal maneuver regarding Resolution R079-16.

The fly in the ointment was the 19 resolutions awarding contracts to various law firms for work to be done. Corporation Counsel Minchello explained that in order to ensure a smooth flow of the work without interruption, he was proposing the contracts be "frontloaded" in the first quarter's temporary budget appropriation (which can amount to no more than 26.25% of the previous year's budget).

It was necessary to take the resolution out of order --because it adopts the amended temporary budget -- so that the 19 contracts could then be awarded in due manner.

This seemed to mystify a couple of Council members who had trouble grasping that the amount requested by Corporation Counsel was not going to be quadrupled going forward. And these people go through this every year! It really shows when elected officials decline to take the instruction offered by Rutgers to bring them up to speed on the process of governance and their responsibilities.
The Council's next agenda-setting session will take place Monday, March 7 at 7:30 PM in the Council Chambers / Municipal Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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