Monday, November 19, 2007

Van Blake Resigns

City Council President Rayland Van Blake, pictured above at the 2007 annual reorganization, has resigned as of Friday, according to a letter released at Monday's agenda session.

The letter gave no reason but said he was announcing the resignation "with extreme mixed emotions."

In the Nov. 6 general election, Van Blake won a three-year term on the Union County Freeholder Board, but normally would have stayed on in Plainfield until Jan. 1, when he will assume the new post.

The Democratic City Committee must now submit three names to the council to fill the vacancy in the 1st Ward, which Van Blake represented since 2002 after vanquishing 16-year incumbent Elizabeth Urquhart. The council expects to interview the nominees in closed session Dec. 3 and may vote on someone to fill the vacancy at the Dec. 5 regular meeting.

OK, now Plaintalker will veer into speculation.

Although possible nominees were not identified Monday's council meeting, two Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority commissioners are believed to be in the running. They are PMUA vice-chairman William Reid and treasurer Alex Toliver. It may be that Richmond Towers President Hattie Williams is the third name.

Whoever fills the vacancy will have to run in the 2008 general election to serve for the balance of Van Blake's term, which expires at the end of 2009.

In past political practice, the device of appointing someone for a vacancy has served to showcase the person for the upcoming general election. But seldom has the need arisen before Jan. 1.

By stepping down, Van Blake loses not only the balance of his annual $10,000 council salary for the next 45 days, but also his city benefits.

A call to his number Monday evening was not returned as of 11 p.m.

The 1st Ward occupies the city's northeast corner among the four wards and has not been as politically active as others. It includes residential areas as well as part of the downtown.

One thing to watch for is a possible trend to fill vacancies with loyal Democrats who will never question council decisions. The free flow of opinions is greatly to be desired in Plainfield, where once the Democrats offered three members of the Scott family to fill vacancies. The council at that time perversely picked a junior member, when they knew the senior member was the desired choice. There were reasons why the mother/wife could not serve.

Let us hope there will be a free and fair decision on the council appointee, without political machinations.

--Bernice Paglia


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