Can We Get It Together, Plainfield?
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.