Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Non-Meetings and Community Forums

Like Dr. Yood, I inquired Monday about the City Council meeting agenda, only to be told there was no agenda and no meeting. No reason was cited.

My e-mail to Council President Harold Gibson asking the reason was not answered, but Gibson told Courier News reporter Mark Spivey "scheduling conflicts" were involved and that the meeting was not originally scheduled.

Lack of a quorum should have been known by Friday, barring any last-minute emergencies. And by Friday the agenda should have been ready to send out to council members. Furthermore, the Aug. 25 agenda session was on the council's published schedule. Because regular meetings are normally on the first and third Mondays of each month, agenda sessions are on the preceding Mondays. On Aug. 25, the council members would have decided on agenda items to be voted on at the Sept. 2 meeting. Because Sept. 1 is Labor Day, the meeting falls on a Tuesday. But now that meeting will also be skipped.

Something just doesn't sound right here. My calls to other council members were not answered. It is not like the council members, armed with their analog and electronic calendars, to be so dim about meeting dates. There should be a simple answer as to why the business of the city in September will now be compressed to one agenda session and one regular meeting as it was in June, July and August for the so-called summer hiatus.

Tonight is the mayor's forum, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Washington Community School. The school's official address is on Darrow Avenue, but access to the cafetorium is best made from the Spooner Avenue parking lot. Originally billed as featuring presentations on public safety and fiscal governance, the forum may turn out to be another session on issues related to the closing of Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center. The Save Muhlenberg group that meets every Monday is now the Restore Muhlenberg group and will attend the forum, activist Dottie Gutenkauf said Monday. If so, the Courier News will undoubtedly provide ongoing coverage.

On Thursday, Schools Superintendent Steve Gallon III will lead a Town Hall meeting on the school district, from 7 to 9 p.m., also at Washington Community School. As Maria Pellum has pointed out, since July 1 the district is in full gear, communicating with staff, parents, and all other stakeholders in the school system. There are three other Town Hall meetings set at locations across the city, so some may wait until one is held in their own neighborhoods.

The newly-improved district web site includes a count-down clock to the opening of school, which one hopes will be much happier than the close of school in June. The Park & Seventh neighborhood at that time saw a full police response to dismissal from the high school over several days, with crowds of students running through parking lots and fights breaking out. Most older people around here try not to be out at dismissal time anyway, mindful of their frailty when large groups of youth are dominating the sidewalks, but the end-of-school disruptions were truly appalling.

The community will be watching as the 2008-09 school year opens, when students return to a district full of new promise among its adult stakeholders. The 6,600 students, especially the 1,800 at the high school, will be called on to do their part as learners and "the best human beings they can be," as the new saying goes. They, too, will be expected to deliver "tangible and measurable" results.

Note: I am advised by Chairman Peter Briggs that the Aug. 28 meeting was rescheduled to Aug. 21 and the next meeting may be in October. The first Town Hall date coincides with the August meeting date of the Plainfield Cable Television Advisory Board, which is scheduled to give a report this month on the three-year ascertainment portion of the franchise renewal process. Verizon has begun soliciting customers for its FIOS service, in competition with the current franchise holder, Comcast of the Plainfields. The board did not meet last month and people with questions about the local access channels may be looking for answers Thursday.

It's shaping up as kind of a spotty week for meeting mavens. But then there will be the three-day weekend to rest up and relax before school opens and the politicking for November and June begins in earnest.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernice, I too fine the Council Meeting schedule information peculiar. Now that the Calendar of Events on the City website is up, it appears that the Council meeting for August 25 was on the calendar. In addition, if you go to the minutes of the August 18, 2008 Regular Council Meeting it states “THE NEXT REGULARLY SCHEDULED MEETING IS AN AGENDA FIXING SESSION TO BE HELD IN THECITY HALL LIBRARY ON AUGUST 25, 2008.” So why did Mr. Gibson say it was not. Also, you mentioned that because of the August 25 meeting was cancelled, that the September 2 meeting would be skipped. If you look at the Calendar of Events, that meeting is still on...how long will it take to update the calendar?

3:24 PM  

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