Friday, December 14, 2007

Council, Board Wrap Up 2007

Monday’s City Council meeting is the last one scheduled for 2007. It will be a combination agenda-setting session, special meeting and budget hearing on the introduced budget. It is not clear whether amendments to the FY 2008 budget will be ready for review Monday.

The meeting is 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

On Tuesday, the Board of Education will hold its last meeting for 2007. The district is ending the year with yet another change in leadership after the board voted Tuesday (Dec. 11, 2007) to accept Interim Superintendent Peter E. Carter’s resignation effective Dec. 21, 10 days earlier than the date his team set for their departure. The vote took place at the end of a work-and-study session, with Board President Patricia Barksdale and members Lenny Cathcart, Martin Cox, Bridget Rivers, Vickey Sheppard and Christian Estevez voting “yes.” Wilma Campbell abstained, Rasheed Abdul-Haqq voted “no” and Lisa Logan Leach was absent. The board then approved Garnell Bailey as interim superintendent effective Dec. 21 in the same 6-1-1 vote.

The Dec. 18 meeting is 7 p.m. at Cook School on Leland Avenue.

Over the council’s holiday hiatus and the school district’s winter recess, those who closely follow the doings of these elected officials will be free to concentrate on shopping, gift-giving, feasting with family and friends and making resolutions for the New Year.

The elected officials themselves would be well advised to make a couple of resolutions, first and foremost to fill vacancies in their top echelons. It may be that Tuesday’s meeting will bring forth a new business administrator/board secretary, but the district also needs a new treasurer since the departure of Peter Sepelya, who was also the city’s chief financial officer. The district’s legal staff is in need of attention as well. The firm of Hunt, Hamlin and Ridley was named general counsel for the school year, but its temporary assignments as labor and workmens compensation counsel ran out Oct. 31. No high school principal has been named to replace interim principal Walter Rusak and there are also gaps in the supervisory ranks.

The city needs to find a permanent chief financial officer and a new finance director. One of three department heads mandated in the city’s special charter, the finance director is in charge of city divisions including health and social services and the senior center, in addition to all its fiscal operations.

The city also needs to make good on a two-year promise to improve both its local cable channel and its web site, both potentially valuable ways to communicate with citizens, but so far largely ineffective.

Diwali and Hanukah came early this year, so over winter break we wish all a happy Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa and especially a Happy New Year.

--Bernice Paglia


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