Tuesday, February 21, 2006

More Changes Proposed For Council

A plan to change the City Council’s meeting schedule drew fire from some citizens Tuesday and a promised amendment caught more flak.

The City Council first proposed to change the city’s hallowed schedule of Monday meetings to one featuring voting meetings on Wednesdays, but resident Robert Darden reminded the council that in many city churches, Wednesday evenings are devoted to Bible study.

Before the vote Tuesday (Feb. 21, 2006) on the plan to hold regular meetings on first and third Wednesdays, with agenda sessions on preceding Mondays, resident Dottie Gutenkauf called on the council to make sure the council would not conflict with other city agencies.

Later, when Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson said the ordinance might be amended to state regular meetings would be on Wednesdays after the first and third Mondays, Gutenkauf said the amendment “may actually have made matters worse.”

Williamson said after the meeting that if the adjustments didn’t work out, the matter might have to be tabled.

Resident George Smith, a past president of the Senior Citizens Center, said of the changes, “I don’t think it’s the proper thing to do.”

Smith linked the issue to changes suggested for the proposed new senior center,, telling the council, “It’s time you leave well enough alone.”

Seniors were promised a new center on East Front Street near the current leased space, but after the new administration of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs came in Jan. 1, seniors were told the center site and redevelopment areas were being re-examined for their best use.

“Stop making changes,” Smith said.

The council had already adopted a traditional schedule for 2006 when it became evident that there would be a conflict for new Public Works and Urban Development Director Jennifer Wenson-Maier, who is also the president this year of the Rahway Municipal Council.

She is expected to be in Rahway on second Mondays for that municipality’s voting meeting, which coincides with the Plainfield council’s agenda session at which department heads are expected to be on hand to answer questions about resolutions and ordinances related to their work.

Although officials say the change was prompted by a desire to compress the number of meetings, the perception has been that it may have been an accommodation to the conflict.

Another innovation offered at the meeting was a Youth Commission that would provide for liaisons to city boards and commissions. Students who spent at least two hours per month sitting in on municipal meetings would garner volunteer service hours that would enhance their college applications.

However, just as the meeting change schedule ordinance was in flux, so was the Youth Commission. The number of students taking part was still to be determined, said Councilwoman Linda Carter, who backed the ordinance.

The students must be enrolled at Plainfield High School and must be city residents. The must have parental or guardian approval to take part and must apply to the boards or commissions as their rules apply.

Although the council approved several appointments Tuesday, the city’s boards and commission have numerous vacancies and some are defunct. It remains to be seen what boards or commissions will receive student liaisons.

--Bernice Paglia


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