Monday, April 17, 2006

New Meeting Schedule Kicks In

The City Council’s new meeting plan began Monday (April 17, 2006) with an agenda session in City Hall Library.

On Wednesday, the council will act on items brought up at the agenda session.

Interestingly, one of the items up for a vote Wednesday is amending the 2006 calendar.

Even though the revised calendar has been under discussion since early February, it seems the change will be formalized after the fact.

Last week’s meeting, listed on the January legal notice as an agenda session, was in fact a new entity, a “working conference” meeting on crime issues. The location of the April 10 meeting was cited by city officials on the previous Monday and Tuesday as City Hall Library but then was changed to Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center’s Centennial Hall for the conference on crime issues.

Monday’s meeting was listed on the official Jan. 1 calendar as a regular meeting, to be held at Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

When asked what notice of Monday’s meeting at City Hall Library was published, City Clerk Laddie Wyatt said it was the Jan. 1 notice.

At the risk of quibbling, the meeting may not have been properly noticed.

Several regulars found their way to City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave., for the actual first agenda session of the new schedule. The Wednesday meeting at 325 Watchung Ave., not acknowledged on the city’s web site or on the official notice posted in the City Clerk’s office, is the first regular meeting on the new schedule - and the one at which the council will vote to adopt the revised schedule.

Plaintalker’s question is, why, if these changes were discussed as early as Feb. 2 and endorsed by Feb. 17, they were not properly noticed under the Sunshine Law as to the kind of meeting and location, so that citizens could attend if they wished?

This situation echoes a general hastiness that has become evident since Jan. 1, with quite a bit of last-minute legislation and numerous so-called “walk-ons” for City Council votes.

Recently the late addition of recognition of the good work done by the Boys & Girls Club of Plainfield led to its hearing by only a dozen or so regulars who attend the council meetings. Surely the club deserved better.

Other measures, such as numerous attempts to better the prospects of young people, have been clouded by multiple changes in the legislation, so that the news media wishing to highlight the positive aspects of the new laws found challenges to timely and thorough reporting.

In the interest of the Sunshine Law and citizen participation, the City Council needs to give more forethought to changes in its schedule and to explanation of proposed new laws.

--Bernice Paglia


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