Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A regular Mad Hatter's Tea Party


It's getting so you can't tell who's the Mad Hatter, who's the March Hare and who's the Dormouse at the tea party any more. Even WITH a magic decoder ring.

Stick with me through the following whirlwind tour around the Mad Hatter's tea table...

Yesterday morning, several of PT's Newark readers report, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs showed up at a press conference called by US Senate candidate BOB MENENDEZ to tout his proposal to invest billions in tackling gang violence nationwide. (The Ledger posted a brief to its blog last night, but it never showed up online. PT has archived it here.)

Her Honor,
along with the ever-present confidential aide Barbara James, was one of a few mayors from cities alleged to have gang problems that were present, say PT's sources.

It's starts getting IRONIC right away. Gangs? What gangs? As you may have noticed, Plainfielders no longer get any word about gang violence, shootings, muggings, rapes, burglaries, car thefts, or other crime-related news. Followers of the Courier's online POLICE BLOTTER will notice the UTTER ABSENCE of reports from Plainfield.

Rumor has it that this media vacuum IS THE MAYOR'S POLICY -- that PUBLIC DISCUSSION of crime, IF AVOIDABLE, is to be avoided.

So, was she there because it was ABOUT GANGS or to show SUPPORT FOR MENENDEZ?

As you know, PT has been needling about the visible support -- OR LACK OF IT -- from the local Dem establishment for Menendez' candidacy.

NOT A WORD from the City Committee Chair or the Mayor. You can be sure that if Ray Blanco were alive, there would be a more visible presence.

Which leads to the NEXT IRONY.

Ray Blanco would NEVER have let the Administration diss the Latino community, yet it seems to PT that it very well may have -- just last week.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs attended the opening event of Hispanic Heritage Month in September. PT saw her there, though she left part way through the program. (To his credit, Assemblyman Green stayed for the whole thing, which was a bit on the LONGISH side.)

So, PT was looking forward to THE MAYOR'S REMARKS at the closing event -- a presentation of Flamenco and other Spanish dances by the Alborada Dance Theatre troupe -- at Washington School last Saturday evening.

Dr. Paula Howard, the Superintendent of Schools, was there and gave brief remarks -- including a short message in Spanish that was warmly received by the crowd.

It was said that the Mayor was "unable to attend and sent her regrets."

PT was intrigued that there was NO MAYORAL PROCLAMATION, standard issue at these events.

Now, you should understand PT's association with proclamations is long and intimate -- probably having written hundreds over the course of eight years at City Hall.

Proclamations are one of the things that groups and individuals are very proud to receive and hold onto as keepsakes. When well-crafted they illustrate for the community the values and contributions of these groups and individuals.

So, PT probed about WHY there was no Proclamation. A little digging turned up that not only was there NO proclamation, there had been
NO REGRETS from the Mayor about not being able to attend or speak. There had been no RSVP to the invitation at all.

Now, PT understands that the actual RSVP call or note may come from the Mayor's SECRETARY, but the DECISION to attend or not attend must be THE MAYOR'S.

So, was the Mayor DISSING THE LATINO COMMUNITY -- at least a third of the city's residents? Or had her staff BEEN SIMPLY INCOMPETENT?

In any event, for this year's annual celebration of Hispanic Heritage, there was no Mayoral Proclamation...

Meanwhile, further around the table at this Tea Party, City Administrator CARLTON McGEE was making his moves.

PT broke the RUMOR last Friday morning -- noting the job title, the city, the salary increase, and the potential communications lapse -- leaving it for the media to flesh out the details. It's a matter of professional courtesy, you know.

Bernice took the lead with her Friday evening post. The Courier had a brief on Saturday (hmmm...someone reading the blogs?), but today is really the first crack the LEDGER and the COURIER have had at the story.

But it gets real interesting if you try to align all the stories -- like holding the images on three sheets of tracing paper up to the light and trying to get them to square up.

WHO KNEW WHAT WHEN? McGee told Bernice that "he 'had the blessing' of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs in accepting the job and even put her down as a reference."

Yet today we learn in both the dailies that the Mayor seems not to consider the job resigned without a letter stating same, NOT YET received. The Ledger suggests the Mayor bristled at any in-depth discussion of the suddenness of McGee's departure. There is no mention of HER BLESSING.

The Mayor opines that once McGee REALLY RESIGNS, she'll have to get down to looking for a replacement. AND FIGURING OUT WHAT IS REQUIRED TO FILL THE POSITION.

As you read through these stories, you begin to wonder if the Mayor and the Administrator actually KNOW EACH OTHER, whether they ACTUALLY HAVE A WORKING RELATIONSHIP, whether there is ANYONE IN CHARGE HERE.

In any event, as McGee begins his exit solus, he would like to be remembered for what he considers his major contributions -- "stressing the need for a modernized information technology network" and beginning, with the Mayor's permission, "the process of long-range planning" (Ledger).

PT hasn't seen ANY EVIDENCE of LONG-RANGE PLANNING -- certainly the puff-piece shown at the '100 Days' event can't be counted (at any rate, it has vanished into the ether) -- so it's something of a mystery what McGee means here.

As for the INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY matters, PT learned through the grapevine recently that the Administrator had committed in excess of $100K to putting consultants in place and at work -- MORE THAN A MONTH BEFORE THE COUNCIL EVEN GOT TO LOOK AT A RESOLUTION FOR SAME.

Where was the open public bidding process? Who are these people? What is their track record? What are they doing? What connection does McGee have to them from his previous public employment?

There seem to be a lot of questions in search of answers here.

Meanwhile, McGee attempted to shoulder to the trough TYSHAMMIE COOPER, another old Jersey City connection, as Acting Director of Finance and Administration. With McGee about to leave, there seems to be some question about whether she will actually take up the position.

PT has his own list of contributions for which Mr. McGee ought to be remembered--
  • Bringing the City to the EDGE OF FISCAL RUIN by overlooking the rollover of last year's BANs (Bond Anticipatory Notes) until it was almost too late -- necessitating high-priced help and questionable maneuvers with the Council;
  • Proposing to balance the FY2007 Budget by USING THE RAINY DAY FUND -- which would trash our bond rating for future borrowing;
  • Rolling last month's BANs over as 6-MONTH NOTES -- meaning more fees and the danger of higher interest rates next March when the notes become due (and McGee will conveniently be gone);
  • Turning to his CRONIES for jobs and services.
His offer to help with the 'transition' to a new hire should give everyone pause.

PT wishes both him -- and Atlanta -- well.

As the Red Queen put it to Alice, "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

-- Dan Damon

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought it was interesting that Mr. McGhee stated that he had not been actively looking for other employment and yet in the paragraph preceding that statement in the CN today, it said that he had been on two interviews previously in Atlanta. What's up with that double-speak????