Monday, July 17, 2006

Order Lacking At Council Meeting

City Council President Ray Blanco’s push for order took a hit Monday (July 17, 2006) when Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs again came up with a raft of last-minute items.

Blanco formulated his “Rules of Order” for the council in March, preceding an historic change away from Monday-only meetings. The council now holds agenda sessions on Mondays and regular meetings on Wednesdays. All matters to be considered at the agenda sessions are supposed to be presented a week ahead of time.

But Robinson-Briggs handed out a packet at Monday’s meeting that included nominations for several boards and commissions, testing Blanco’s patience with late submissions. The nominations had in fact only been forwarded to the council in an e-mail after 1 a.m. Monday, Blanco said. In council questioning, it came out that some nominations were for one board that does not exist and some reappointments were for seats never filled in the first place.

Robinson-Briggs promised to have missing information forwarded to the council by the close of business Tuesday, in time for the regular meeting Wednesday.

Among other fits and starts, the developers who built the Park-Madison office building sought an unscheduled hearing, but were gone after a confab with the mayor outside the council meeting room.

Other communication glitches emerged when representatives of the city’s Special Improvement District asked council permission to erect a 30-foot flag pole at Plainwood Square Park on South Avenue in time for an Aug. 3 event. It was not clear who had the power to grant permission for the flag pole and Blanco asked to table the matter.
The group wanted to have an American flag at the top and a SID logo flag below.

In a report on the Planning Board’s activities, Councilman Cory Storch said the board is working on the master plan, which sets general goals for the city, and the Zoning Ordinance, which sets exact land use limits.

Storch described some “transit village” plans that would focus density around current or proposed rail and bus hubs. He cited parking as a particular concern that might be met by a parking deck on a current city lot off East Second Street.

Storch said the Planning Board was working on the master plan revision as well as the Zoning Ordinance that upheld the goals of the master plan. One of its goals was to ensure more green space, he said. The city is currently developing a greenway along its northern border with the Green Brook.

Council members also vowed to proceed with the budget process for the 2006-07 fiscal year. Councilman Rashid Burney gave a brief report from the Finance Committee, which will soon bring its findings to the entire council for comment.

“My goal is to contain the budget within the rate of inflation of New Jersey,” Burney said.

Councilwoman Linda Carter asked for the Finance Committee to share its findings with the whole council.

“We’re starting from ground zero and you guys are way ahead,“ Carter said.

The council has a schedule of budgets sessions, starting in July and going through November.

Burney said he saw no point in waiting until November for state aid to settle the budget, noting the aid might only be $100,000 or so, just a fraction of the city budget.

The regular City Council meeting is Wednesday (July 19, 2006) at 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

--Bernice Paglia


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