Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp and the Plainfield City Council want a raise. Most notably, Mayor Mapp would like he and his mayoral successors to make $75,000.
The $145,000 in raises for elected officials come with no increase in responsibilities. They are still part-time positions.
If this ordinance passes on second reading, our part time mayor will make roughly $23,000 more than the median household income in the City of Plainfield. That’s for so-called public service – for part-time work.
Mapp sweetened the deal for the governing body he needs to vote for the measure. They’ll get their cut, too. The city council salary will rise from roughly $10,000 to $25,000.
Perhaps most offensively, Council President Rebecca Williams last month compared public service to wage labor. During the November 8th City Council meeting, she described their work as “far below minimum wage.” I never thought I’d hear a self-proclaimed radical progressive compare public service to the real labor of minimum wage workers who often live paycheck to paycheck. Workers who usually aren’t compensated for a day of missed work.
Plus, her math is way off.
At the New Jersey minimum wage of $8.44 per hour, a worker would have to put in 22 hours and 46 minutes per week to make $10,000 over the course of the year. That means members of the City Council would have to put in over 4 1/2 hours of daily work on top of their full-time jobs – for those, like Williams, who are still in the workforce – to sit them at minimum wage. Let alone “far below” it.
If City Councilors count their workload anywhere near twenty three hours weekly, they are not only including meetings and learning the issues, but public appearances and a host of other activities, much of which we’d define as political campaigning and non-council community service.
Questionable math aside, part-time public service should never be compared to working to feed one’s family. Rebecca Williams should know this.
Council President Williams does know that this is a politically unpopular move, which is why it didn’t surface until after the general election. These proposed raises would have sunk Mapp’s narrow 639-vote victory against Tracey Brown in June of 2017, an election where he received barely half of the vote. This proposal would have even made his general election win last month more uncomfortable than necessary. Mapp and his five City Council members – McRae, Williams, Mills-Ransome, Storch, and Goode – know that the time to strike is now.
Because Plainfield only has a part-time Mayor, he is backed up by a full-time City Administrator and, now, a “confidential aid to the mayor”. Whether the City needs both a confidential aid ($87,460, including benefits) and a City Administrator ($134,007, including benefits) was a big point of contention in early 2014. The confidential aid post was Mapp’s own creation, to which he appointed campaign contributor John Stewart.
Regardless, the salaries of the city administrator and other cabinet level staff is at least somewhat justified by the mayor’s part-time salary of $35,000. As you may have guessed, there are no administrative salary cuts built into the mayor’s plan of $145,000 in raises.
In last month’s City Council packet, the administration provided a list of mayors of other municipalities who have larger salaries than Plainfield. This dishonest representation failed to consider whether these mayors were full or part time. Elizabeth, Trenton, Camden, Passaic, and Hoboken all have full-time mayors.
It is only bastions of unfettered corruption, like Irvington and East Orange, who pay part-time mayors such high salaries. Even there, I doubt their Mayors are backed by both a city administrator and a confidential aid. If this passes, Plainfield might be one of a kind in the political cesspool of New Jersey – or at the very least, we will be in bad company. That says a lot.
It’s worth noting that Mayor Mapp himself is wrapped up in unsavory Essex County politics. He is the head of finance in Orange, under mayor Dwayne Warren. Mapp in turn hired Warren as a prosecutor for the City of Plainfield. I think that’s known as “quid pro quo.”
Full disclosure, I don’t believe in anything more than a solid stipend for any part-time city-level elected officials. Any more than ten or fifteen thousand for the City Council is completely inappropriate, in my opinion.
Public service is public service, and sitting on a City Council, in particular, is something one can manage with a full-time job. Just as serving on the Board of Education, as I do, is a position suitable for those who work. The Board of Education has a larger budget than the city, yet all members unpaid – and rightfully so.
That’s not to say all members of the City Council have agreed with taking a salary. As a councilor in the 1980s, current Board of Education member John Campbell gave his entire $5,000 salary, every year, to Plainfield students as part of a scholarship.
But even if you do believe in salaries for local, part-time community service, these massive raises ought to give you pause. The proposed mayoral salary is appropriate for a full-time employee, one who spends his or her day in City Hall and does not employ a confidential aid and a city administrator.
To really grasp how underhanded the Mayor’s plan is, consider how he’s tried to slash costs in the past.
The same man who proposes $145,000 in senseless salary increases tried to outsource the entire planning department in late 2015 (story here) – firing several long time employees – to save $200,000. Two hundred thousand dollars wasn’t worth it for this city to have its own planning department, even as developers continue to break ground in every town up and down the entire Raritan Valley Line. But somehow it’s worth almost that much, annually, for raises – for self-compensation.
Earlier this year, Mayor Mapp tried to sell the city’s Bierstadts paintings (story here) – irreplaceable gifts to our city. He claimed they’d be worth several million dollars, and proposed the sale as a way to fund an awfully ill-conceived election year ploy, a scholarship program called Plainfield Promise, in which he’d put a few hundred dollars in an account for pre-schoolers to teach them money management.
Perhaps if he really wants to fund this half baked idea, he still can. It would only take four years of eliminating these bloated mayoral and council salaries – the length of his term – to save a million dollars.
Of course, the planning department still exists, and Plainfield still owns its paintings. It’s because the public stood up and said a resounding “no”, as you must do here.
The public outcry, on the other hand, wasn’t strong enough to block Mapp’s hypocritical reversal of local pay to play regulations in January. This really all depends on you.
On Tuesday, there will be a community meeting – “Stop the RAISES” – in the Anne Louise Davis Room of the Plainfield Public Library. Attendees will discuss a plan to oppose these raises before next week. The event will start at 7pm but must be finished by 8:30, so please plan to be there on time. You can RSVP on Facebook here.
Stop the RAISES’ plan will undoubtably include showing up to the Plainfield City Council joint agenda fixing and regular meeting to be held on December 11 at 7pm in municipal court. If nothing else, please be there and make your voice heard. If this passes on second reading, it is law.
In the mean time, here is the contact information for the entire City Council.
Voted yes on raises:
Rebecca Williams firstname.lastname@example.org (908)705-2282
Charles McRae email@example.com (908)208-0217
Barry Goode firstname.lastname@example.org (908)295-2486
Joylette Mills-Ransome email@example.com (908)524-9540
Cory Storch firstname.lastname@example.org (908)565-3741
Voted no on raises:
Bridget Rivers email@example.com (908)202-9448
Diane Toliver firstname.lastname@example.org (908)421-1425