Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Council Calendar May Be Revised - Again

The City Council schedule, tossed from its decades-old Monday dates this year, may be up for further revisions.

As far as this writer remembers, the old schedule called for regular meetings on first and third Mondays of each month, with agenda sessions on preceding Mondays.

But in April 2006, by request of City Council President Ray Blanco, the schedule changed to Monday agenda sessions followed by Wednesday voting sessions with a week off between cycles.

It was easy enough to remember, but also in conflict with other city schedules, such as Planning Board and Board of Adjustment meetings.

Even this month, the Wednesday council meeting conflicts with the Board of Adjustment.

The newest proposal is for Wednesday agenda sessions followed by a week off and then a Monday business meeting.

But trying to track the proposal on a real calendar, it just doesn’t work.

There just aren’t that many weeks in a month.

If the first Wednesday meeting takes place and then there is a week off, the regular meeting is in the third week. But then the next agenda session must take place in that week and the subsequent week off pitches the regular meeting into the next month.

Instead of clockwork, the effect is like a rickety, off-kilter, Rube Goldberg device. If agenda meetings ever get televised, the hapless citizen would have a hard time remembering when to turn on the TV set.

City Clerk Laddie Wyatt has an opinion. She wants the old schedule back. Wyatt said the turnaround from Monday to Wednesday is not enough time to do all the preparation for a council meeting. Wyatt called it “terrible” and “impossible.”

Normally the agenda is set by the clerk in consultation with the city administrator. But because Carlton McGee left the city at the end of October, another question arose Monday. City Council President Rayland Van Blake asked how the agenda was being put together.

Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson said since there was no city administrator and the mayor has not named herself acting city administrator, it was sort of being done “by committee.”

Van Blake remained concerned, saying, “It may not seem like a big thing, but it is a big thing.”

Williamson repeated that the mayor has not named herself acting city administrator and the work was being done by committee.

Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs then said, “Maybe some of these discussions could take place if we went back to having meetings to set the agenda,” which brought a frown and further look of puzzlement to Van Blake’s face.

The council met with a candidate for city administrator in closed session and will vote Wednesday on whether to confirm Marc Dashield for the post. Dashield is presently the chief finance officer in Franklin Township, Somerset County. So with any luck the agenda for the last meeting of 2006 – and maybe the day-to-day operations of the city – won’t have to be done by committee.

Wednesday’s meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave. Tonight there is a budget meeting in City Hall library from 6 to 9 p.m.

--Bernice Paglia


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