Council Meets on Public Safety
Wednesday will mark the first of four scheduled City Council "working meetings" for 2009.
The late Councilman Ray Blanco initiated the concept of special meetings on a single topic in 2006, when he was council president. He called them "working conferences." Three were scheduled, but only two were held. Blanco died unexpectedly while in office and in subsequent years no such meetings were held.
Council President Rashid Burney brought back the notion this year and the first one, on Public Safety, will be 8 p.m. Wednesday at Washington Community School. But don't look at the city's web site for reminders. The meeting is neither on the February city calendar nor on the council's list of meetings. The first meeting is apparently falling through the public info cracks, perhaps due to a calendar transition that Burney is also instituting.
The other three scheduled topics are Information Technology on April 27, the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority on July 27 and Economic Growth on Oct. 19.
Originally the PMUA was first up, but Councilman William Reid, a former PMUA commissioner and now council liaison to the PMUA, told his colleagues he was "getting a little resistance" from the authority about the proposed meeting. The PMUA reluctance is not surprising in a way, because the purpose of the meetings as stated in Blanco's 2006 "Rules of Order"is policy development for the council. The PMUA is an autonomous body governed by its board of commissioners. It serves the city by providing sewer and solid waste services through an interlocal service agreement. The other three topics concern matters over which the governing body has direct policy input. Perhaps by July, city and authority attorneys can agree on ground rules for the meeting.
The proposed format for the Public Safety meeting is presentations by law enforcement entities, council questions and one hour set aside for public comment. Gun violence, gangs and quality of life issues such as how to handle public intoxication are likely topics for the discussion.
I will not be able to cover the meeting, as I have a commitment to attend the Shade Tree Commission's meeting the same night. More information on presenters may be available Monday, when the City Council holds its agenda session at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.