Sunday, March 19, 2006

Monday's Meeting A Busy One

Monday’s City Council agenda is jam-packed with newsworthy items, including requests from Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs to confirm her cabinet choices.

There are also seven ordinances up for final passage, including one that would change the schedule of council meetings and another that would establish a Youth Commission to advise elected officials on the views of young people. In addition, a resolution on domestic partnership benefits is up for a vote.

The meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

Robinson-Briggs is asking the City Council to confirm the current acting city administrator, department heads and corporation counsel for full four-year terms concurrent with hers. Those up for confirmation are Carlton McGee for city administrator; Jennifer Wenson-Maier to head the Department of Public Affairs and Urban Development, which now includes responsibilities formerly carried out under the Office of Economic Development; Martin Hellwig in charge of Public Affairs and Safety, the department that includes the Fire and Police divisions; and Dan Williamson as corporation counsel.

The controversial change in the council’s meeting schedule is up for a final vote. It would alter the traditional schedule of regular meetings on first and third Mondays, with agenda sessions on preceding Mondays, to one that puts regular meetings on first and third Wednesdays, with agenda sessions on preceding Mondays. However, there would be only one regular meeting in June, July, August and November, with one preceding agenda session.

Objectors have said the new meeting schedule will clash with other important city meetings and will conflict with Wednesday Bible classes held in many churches. Officials have denied that the rejiggering of the schedule is meant to let Wenson-Maier out of a sticky situation - she must be in Rahway on second Mondays to serve as council president at the regular meeting there. At the March 13 agenda session, she was absent as the council discussed five Public Works and Urban Development issues and some questions went unanswered.

The new Youth Commission is the second group by that title to be proposed. The first one, established by ordinance MC 2006-10, calls for youth liaisons to city boards and commissions. The young people who serve would receive community volunteer credits.

A second Youth Commission, covered by MC 2006-13, would provide input to the governing body, suggest youth activities and serve as a link between city government and young people. Both are up for final passage.

Two resolutions on domestic partnership benefits will be up for approval. One provides health benefits and the other confers pension benefits to partners of city employees, both active and retired, as long as the couple has registered under the New Jersey Domestic Partnership Act.

The council will also honor Donald Moye, who retired from the Police Division Jan. 31 with 31 years of service. Moye is employed by the Plainfield Public Schools now and is in charge of Homeland Security within the school district.

Another item, Council President Ray Blanco’s proposed rules of order for the council, was mentioned at the agenda session and has since been revised. It was not listed on a preliminary agenda for Monday’s meeting, but may be added. The 28-page document covers council organization, meetings, role of the council president, handling of legislation, decorum, and many other aspects of council activity. It also includes a full schedule for 2006 that signals April 17 as the starting point for the new Monday-Wednesday schedule.

Resident Dottie Gutenkauf obtained a copy of the initial version of the rules of order and offered six pages of comments and suggestions, many of them pointing out that the city’s special charter, state law and Robert’s Rules of Order already cover many aspects of the proposed rules.

--Bernice Paglia


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