Monday, April 23, 2012

Budget Hearings and Public Safety: Fire Division

Fire Chief Tidwell
I attended the recent Public Safety budget hearing—the police, fire, and signal divisions, which take up the greatest amount of your tax dollars every year. The Fire Division under Chief Frank Tidwell did themselves proudly. They always show up polished and well-prepared and are able to answer the questions from council members easily and in detail. This year, the chief pitched a proposal for the East End firehouse near the Netherwood Train Station to be replaced by a new structure. The old station has serious structural issues, including a failing floor that is unable to support heavier modern firefighting equipment.

Firehouse #4
Under the fire division's proposal, the present building would be demolished and a new facility would be constructed using the bonding authority of the Union County Improvement Authority on a larger piece of land. The capital project would improve firefighting capability in the East End and would be reflected in better ratings by the insurance companies. This proposal would obviously benefit the community, but there are other issues that we need to examine as well regarding public safety, such as how the fire division can be a resource to help meet Plainfield residents' emergency medical needs.

There is also the question of how the mayor intends to pay the additional costs in deferred pensions that are due after she accepted a deferral plan a few years ago. 

Next up (on Wednesday): Budget hearings are scheduled for Recreation, Inspections, the Mayor's Office, and City Administrator's Office. I will keep you posted.

Yours truly,

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Explaining Plainfield's Budget Process

As I have been out walking and knocking on doors all across the city, some residents (including some of my students at the high school!) have asked me to explain how the budget process is supposed to work with the switch from a fiscal year to a calendar year.

Here is a brief explanation: Every year, the city council meets for budget hearings and departments come before them to present and defend their expense proposals for the coming year. What is different is that with Plainfield switching to a calendar year budget, this is the first time in many years for the city council to be presented the administration's budget proposal in the spring. The introduced budget is drawn up by the administration, projecting its wants and needs for the twelve months that began in January. However, the final decision on how much the total budget will be and how it is allocated between the different departments is, by law, the council's decision. I hope that explains it!

Yours truly,

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ready to run, ready to win!

Welcome to my campaign! I am a lifelong Democrat, and I am running to represent you as your City-wide council representative. Community, commitment, collaboration, and consensus—those four ingredients, I feel, are necessary to successfully serve the residents of Plainfield. For my entire adult life, I have worked for the betterment of the Plainfield community—as an elected leader as well as by serving as a volunteer.

I have a proven record of leadership as a citywide public servant in Plainfield. While in my twenties, I ran for and won a seat on the Plainfield Board of Education, where I served for ten years as an elected member. As a member of the board, I attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Urban Superintendents Program Internship Seminar, where I was honored to serve as a panelist on "Urban Education and Parent Leadership." 

Also during my board tenure, I successfully campaigned for community passage of a $33 million bond to build Washington Community School and worked with the local unions to fairly negotiate differences and completely avoid strikes. I also led the successful struggle to get the tennis courts named after Plainfield’s legendary Donald Van Blake, our most ardent advocate of youth tennis.

I worked for fifteen years as the Director of Housing Services for the Plainfield Area YMCA, working directly with our residents as well as other supportive housing organizations and neighborhood stakeholders to help meet the housing needs of all those in our community. I also served as a Commissioner of the Plainfield Housing Authority. I was recognized for 20 years of service as a volunteer with Plainfield’s Habitat for Humanity. I am a longtime member of the League of Women Voters of Plainfield, where I served a term as chapter president. 
I have been politically active all my life, supporting the efforts of a number of successful local officials, including the late Al McWilliams, for past council members Rayland Van Blake, Ray Blanco, Linda Carter, and for current council representatives Cory Storch (with whom I served on the school board), Annie McWilliams, Adrian Mapp, and Rebecca Williams. All of these public servants can tell you that service takes commitment! 

I think the best public servants are those who can demonstrate that they are working for the people of this city, not against them. I am running because I know that I can work effectively to improve our city. By working at the grassroots level with other Plainfield activists, by putting in the hard work that we owe to the residents, we can make Plainfield a better place. I look forward to earning your vote!

Yours truly,