Sunday, January 24, 2010

Can We Get It Together, Plainfield?

Cory Storch makes some very good points on his latest blog post. It is past time to bring some common sense to the current budget crisis. Granted, the higher echelons of government don’t always help cities do their best – waste and abuse of public resources have largely replaced old-fashioned values of stewardship and thrift.

The early days of the mayor’s first term set a troubling tone in instances such as the naming of an assistant director of Public Works where there was already someone holding the title. Worse yet, the newcomer had a job in another municipality. After the city paid out around $90,000 each to the two people for a while, the imported individual left the city. Later the title was vacated and the longtime city employee, who had served at cabinet level in the McWilliams administration, was pushed further down the ranks.

In what appeared to be the final move to budge the unnbudgeable, the administration ordered a layoff plan for exactly one person – guess who. The person finally retired last year.

The savings for the layoff would have been a mere $10,000. Meanwhile, many times that amount was spent on fun and games at public expense.

The churn in Administration & Finance over the past four years may have contributed to the piecemeal, herky-jerky approach to city spending that prevailed. Late in the term, two highly-regarded fiscal consultants came in for stints in the absence of a permanent chief finance officer and department head. But whatever advice they gave was not shared with the public nor with the governing body, from what we hear, even though almost every governmental entity was realizing the party was over and hard times were upon us.

The mayor’s Jan. 1 announcement that Bibi Taylor was leaving left some council watchers bereft. Her obvious talent was something not seen in three previous heads of Administration, Finance, Health & Social Services, nor some would say in the beleaguered city administrator who had to fill in twice when the seat was vacant.

The good news is that Bibi Taylor will be staying after all, if the City Council confirms her. What remains to be seen is whether the administration will let her do the job without drawing her into politically-motivated schemes or disregarding her guidance on spending.

Storch does well to invoke the memory of former Schools Superintendent Larry Leverett, who was able to settle contract negotiations in a collegial process. Now we seem to be back to the adversarial mode, both in the school district and in city government. Taylor appears to have a grip on what is needed in negotiations, recently naming “trust and continuity” as two elements.

The sense of disarray in the school district over personnel issues may be cleared up soon. Once the city passes the FY 2010 budget, perhaps a new fiscal approach can be applied for FY 2011. Right now, turmoil is all around and the hope of a happy New Year is faltering. If Plainfield can’t get its business together soon, the new folks in Trenton may decide to step in and do it for us – their way.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been impressed with Ms. Taylor's thoroughness, people skills, and grasp of the details of the budget. However, I am disturbed by all the mystery surrounding the employment situation. She's leaving, she's not, she got a job offer in East Orange, she doesn't. Just what is going on here? The bottom line is she will remain a mayoral appointment- a city official doing the legwork for an incompetent administration that is odds with the City Council, is critically lacking a vision for Plainfield beyond business-as-usual, and sits, waiting for the next handout.

As they say, "sh_t or get off the pot". Plainfield needs a change. Either we have a full-time mayor from whom we expect superior management and leadership skills, a mayor who casts a tie-breaking vote on a even-numbered City Council, or a mayor who is simply a figurehead and community representative without any executive authority.

But this in-between stuff, as it stands today, is detrimental to our city. The cutting edge is we have invested too much authority in part-timers, and we've opened the door to be victimized by political power brokers who put their own financial interests and lust for power ahead of the welfare of the city. Council, it's your move.

7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Plainfield needs solutions. If the Mayor suggested closing the Planning Dept then the City Council should agree. Also, If the City Council wants to close Bi-lingual Day then the Mayor should agree. Its called "negotiations". Share pain needs to be felt by everyone and let's not pit one against the other.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's the political way of thinking. But you have to dig deeper. In your examples, is okay for the Mayor to shut down a Planning Department when the ultimate goal would be to give lucrative contracts to companies that support her campaigns to richen their pockets?

The Mayor wouldn't close the Bi-Lingual Day Care Center. Do you know what the Latino community would do to her future ambitions?
But if Council would approve its' shut down, the Mayor can always point the finger at Council saying they were the ones that voted to close the center.

Negoitions such as that do not benefit the people of Plainfield. It benefits those in power that think "What can it do for me?"

6:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look if you are concerned about campaign contributions, there is not an elected offical in this state who does not award contracts based upon campaign contributions.If the council wants to shut down Bi-lingual then lets see some real numbers? The cost of benefits, the cost to maintain the building, the sale of the building....etc.

6:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6 am- The cost to run bi-lingual daycare, when you include benefits and that portion offset by grants, comes to nearly $10,000 per child. As a reference point, but hardly a fair comparison, in-state tuition at Rutgers is $9546.

But more to the point- where is the Russian daycare, the Haitian daycare, and the Nigerian daycare?

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At first I thought bi-lingual day care should be moved to a non-profit to run. Now, I think we should shut it down all together.

The council, from the President on down, have repeatedly stated that they have no intention of shutting it down, rather transferring it from the taxpayers backs to a non-profit. The Latino community is still talking about the council shutting it down. Obviously, the English being taught does not work. Shut it down.

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im not sure if the $10K per child cost is accurate, but if it is, the city needs to transfer the operation to another entity to run. Day care should be day care, period. The kids I hope are getting a benefit from it, not just the teachers and administrators who are getting a paycheck. Do the students pay to go there? Or is this another benefit of my high property taxes? If it is, let them watch Sesame Street instead! Its cheaper and can accomplish the same thing. Sorry for the cynicism, but it seems to be another expensive day care at our expense.

2:35 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home