Monday, January 28, 2008

Council members Named to Committees

City Council President Harold Gibson followed the example of the late Ray Blanco this month by naming council members to numerous committees.

The committee system was part of a comprehensive “Rules of Order” document adopted in 2006 at Blanco’s behest. While many Central Jersey governing bodies have a committee system, Plainfield did not have one until the 28-page city document was adopted. Previously, there had been certain council liaisons.

The rules call for one standing committee, Finance. Members for 2008 are Harold Gibson, Rashid Burney, William Reid.

Then there are five Oversight Committees that are supposed to stay in place “until their respective subject matter has been accomplished,” according to the rules. Details are not spelled out. For 2008, they are:
Bridges Oversight Committee: Cory Storch, Don Davis.
Code Enforcement Oversight Committee: Harold Gibson, Rashid Burney, William Reid.
Roads Construction Oversight Committee: Harold Gibson, Rashid Burney, William Reid.
Technology Infrastructure Oversight Committee: Rashid Burney, Harold Gibson, Linda Carter.
A fifth one, Public Safety and Economic Growth, was split into two:
Public Safety Committee: Harold Gibson, Linda Carter, Elliott Simmons.
Economic Growth Committee: Harold Gibson, Rashid Burney, William Reid.

Council liaisons to existing boards and commissions are as follows:

Mayor’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee: Harold Gibson, Linda Carter.
Planning Board: William Reid.
Board of Education/City Council Liaison: Don Davis, alternate Linda Carter.
Green Brook Flood Control Commission: Cory Storch, Elliott Simmons.
Union County Community Development Revenue Sharing Committee: Cory Storch.
Plainfield Cable Television Advisory Committee: Harold Gibson, Rashid Burney, Linda Carter.
Senior Citizens Center Funding Sub-Committee: Linda Carter, Elliot Simmons, Harold Gibson.
Plainfield Housing Authority: Linda Carter, alternate Harold Gibson.
Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority: Donald Davis, Harold Gibson.
Special Improvement District Board: Linda Carter, Elliott Simmons, William Reid.
Shade Tree Commission: Rashid Burney, alternate Cory Storch.

Only a few of these committees and liaisons made reports to the full council in 2007 as required by the Rules of Order. Cory Storch made several reports on Economic Growth and Planning Board activities. Storch asked to be on the Economic Growth committee for 2008, but was denied.

There are eight rules for committees and liaisons, covering duties, notice and agendas, too many to repeat here. The general council rules also include a comprehensive schedule of reports from all the committees and liaisons.

The Rules of Order in general were presented in a hasty way in March 2006 and although they are meant to reflect the council’s commitment to “open and transparent government,” few members of the public have seen them. Veteran council-watchers Dottie and Josef Gutenkauf got a copy and produced a point-by-point critique of the document, which contains both permanent rules and others specific to 2006. For example, at the time, the question of how to fund a new senior center was a hot topic. But a private developer is now building a new center at no cost to the city as part of a mixed-use condo project.

There are many more nuances in the Rules of Order that even after almost a quarter-century of covering City Council meetings, this writer would be hard put to explain succinctly. After Blanco’s untimely death in 2006, council adherence to some of the rules faded. For example, after three “working conference” meetings in 2006, no further conferences have been scheduled.

The rules call for each committee to develop a written agenda for the year stating goals and priorities. Plaintalker will check on whether committees did so in 2007. If these assignments are just more bureaucracy, they should be reconsidered.

--Bernice Paglia


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