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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Layoff ordinance withdrawn, but that's hardly the end of the matter

City Council honored several women in recognition
of Women's History Month.

In the only dramatic moment in an otherwise ceremonially full Plainfield City Council meeting, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp announced that his administration was withdrawing the contentious layoff ordinance M2019-07.

After Councilor Ashley Davis presented a resolution of congratulations to Plainfield High School's wrestling team for winning its first ever title, Council President Joylette Mills-Ransome presented resolutions honoring a number of Plainfield women in celebration of Women's History Month.

Those honored (not all were present) were --

  • Assemblywoman Linda Carter
  • Freeholder Rebecca Williams
  • Julia Porterfield
  • Vonda McPherson
  • Patricia Ann Fields
  • Nancy Piwowar
  • Donna Albanese
  • Bintu Sachdeva, MD
  • Anita Kishen, DDS
After all this, Council President Mills-Ransome asked to take the ordinance out of the regular order of business, to which Council agreed.

Mayor Mapp then was given the floor and announced to the Council that the Administration was withdrawing the ordinance, saying he wanted a "decent and healthy working relationship with [the Council] ... not an adversarial one." He added, "I don't want always to be right, but to be successful."

At this, the audience -- which included heavy representation from the city's employee unions -- erupted into applause and cheers.

Councilor Storch remarked to Mayor Mapp that he considered the withdrawal "a good move", a sentiment that was concurred in by Councilor Goode. Councilor Hockaday said that the audience could draw from this whole incident that the Council does listen carefully to the public's concerns, and Councilor Davis seconded Hockaday's sentiments.

Municipal Clerk "Ajay" Jalloh then announced, "For the record, ordinance M2019-07 has been withdrawn."

A few members of the audience didn't realize that since it was no longer on the agenda, it could not be discussed in the public comments on agenda items. Those who attempted to address the matter were promptly ruled out of order.

I was intrigued by an almost unnoticed remark by Mayor Mapp in announcing the withdrawal that it would be "wise for the Council to have no walk-ons this evening."

To me, this seemed to confirm my suspicion that the blank half-page on the agenda had indeed been supposed to contain a number of new items to be taken up at the meeting (see my post on that matter here).

By no means does any of this mean that the matter of layoffs has gone away.

There is still evidently a sizeable budget shortfall and it will have to be addressed, meaning that layoffs are potentially on the table.

And with the Council's longstanding role left intact, they will have to weigh in on any layoff plan. But all that will only come after the budget is introduced, which is expected to be in April. (We are already past the time the State expects budgets to be introduced.)

Finally, PMEA president Cynthia Smith took to the mic and, while she thanked the Mayor for withdrawing the ordinance, she made it clear that her union's members were still suspicious and will be vigilant in case any effort to retrace this ground comes up again in the future.

Another quiet night at City Council.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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