The late Councilman Ray Blanco
established a set of Rules of Order that included the formation of special oversight and standing committees, with the idea of having three council members look closely at important subjects and report back to the entire City Council.
That was in 2006, and over the subsequent years not much has been heard from the various committees with the exception mainly of the Finance Committee. On Thursday (Jan. 15, 2009), the council will approve committee assignments again, as well as liaisons to external boards and commissions. The meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.
The council consists of one citywide at-large representative, Annie McWilliams
; Councilman William Reid
, First Ward; Councilman Cory Storch
, Second Ward; Councilman Adrian O. Mapp
, Third Ward; Councilman Elliott Simmons
, Fourth Ward; Councilwoman Linda Carter
, First and Fourth Wards at-large; and Councilman Rashid Burney
, Second and Third Wards at-large. As council president for 2009, Burney assigns members to committees.
Each committee has three members and is not subject to the Open Public Meetings Act. Members choose a chairman, set rules and arrange their own schedule.
Committees as listed on Jan. 12 agenda
Finance: Burney, Reid, Mapp.
Bridges: Storch, McWilliams.
Code Enforcement Oversight: Burney, Reid, McWilliams.
Public Safety: Reid, Carter, Simmons.
Economic Growth: Burney, Reid, Storch
Road Construction Oversight: Burney, McWilliams, Mapp.
Technology Infrastructure Oversight: Burney, Simmons, McWilliams
Muhlenberg: Burney, Carter, Reid.
Mayor’s Citizens Advisory Committee: Burney, Carter.
Planning Board: Storch.
Board of Education: Carter (alternate, McWilliams).
Green Brook Flood Control Commission: Storch (alternate, Simmons).
Union County Community Development Revenue Sharing: Storch.
Cable Television Advisory Board: Simmons
Housing Authority of Plainfield: Carter (alternate, Simmons).
Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority: Reid (alternate, Burney).
Shade Tree Commission, Burney (alternate, Storch).
Special Improvement District: Carter, Simmons, McWilliams.
Of course, these lists don’t mean much to citizens without context. For example, the Mayor’s Citizens Advisory Committee hears applications from local agencies for Community Development Block Grant funding and makes recommendations to Union County on allocations of the federal money. The Special Improvement District includes the downtown and South Avenue business districts, where property owners pay extra taxes for enhancements. That group’s main issue has been getting the city to approve its budget in a timely way.
Thanks to Rashid Burney, anyone can now look up the details of any city board or commission in the Municipal Code
online. The next big hurdle to understanding boards and commissions is implementation of the Civic Responsibility Act of 2005, which calls for a listing of all vacancies and obligations for boards and commissions so citizens can apply to serve. The listings were supposed to be placed online within one year of passage of the legislation. Burney is making it a priority for 2009 to carry out that goal.
Attendance was high at Monday’s agenda session. Snow and an Arctic chill may keep people home Thursday night, but 2009 may prove to be a good year overall for increased citizen interest in municipal government.--Bernice Paglia