Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Officials Must Fill Vacancies Due To Blanco's Death

The process to fill a vacancy caused by the death of City Council President Ray Blanco will begin soon with a meeting of the Democratic Committee to select three nominees, Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green said Monday (July 31, 2006).

While it is necessary, officials are trying to keep the process low-key out of respect to Blanco, who died at age 50 on July 28 of an apparent heart attack. A memorial service will take place next week.

The names will be offered to the City Council, which will select an appointee to serve until the November general election. Whoever wins the Nov. 7 election will take the seat immediately and serve the balance of the term, to Dec. 31, 2008.

Green said he is having legal staff research the procedure to fill the unexpired term by election. As city-wide at-large councilman, Blanco represented all four wards. Candidates who file for the vacancy will appear on the ballot alongside two Democratic incumbents seeking re-election to four-year terms, 2nd & 3rd Ward at-large Councilman Rashid Burney and 1st Ward Councilman Rayland Van Blake. Republican Angela Perun is challenging Burney and Arlington Johnson is Van Blake's GOP opponent.

Blanco‘s unexpected death will trigger another selection, that of City Council president for the balance of 2006. Green said he is leaving that decision up to the six remaining council members.

As president, Blanco was responsible for meeting with City Clerk Laddie Wyatt to set the agenda for council meetings. The president’s role includes other powers. At the last council meeting in July, Blanco invoked his power as president to toss out numerous appointments sought by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, because the names were submitted late.

Blanco was the first Hispanic council member. In 2005, he sponsored legislation to establish the Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs, Among its charges are to advise the mayor and council on issues affecting the diverse Latino communities within Plainfield, to foster communication between Hispanic residents and the city administration and to educate them on ways to serve on boards and commissions. However, its seven seats are still vacant.

Green, also a state Assemblyman representing District 22, said the council will most likely choose one of the nominees for the temporary appointment at the next council meeting. The council is on summer hiatus and will hold only one agenda session this month, on Aug. 21, with the regular meeting on Aug. 23.

--Bernice Paglia


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