Some Input is Required
Just two weeks after the Hall Administration gave an "informational" presentation to the Service Committee on the potential benefits of having the County provide our police dispatching services, we have an official piece of legislation moving through the process. Remember that the last time we heard anything about this, the Safety Director kept insisting that "nothing is being proposed" as representatives from AFSCME and the FOP - each of whom were responding on short notice - attempted to encourage the council to slow down and do their research before making such a hasty change. Now, here we are with a formal proposal, and still lacking a sufficient amount of information to reach a reasonable conclusion. The citizens would do well to pay extra special attention to the events unfolding.
This past Monday, the Service Committee approved the Mayor's proposal for the power to negotiate a contract with the County. While the Democrats on the Committee - Rolletta (4th Ward), Blake (2nd Ward), and Cost (At-Large) - succeeded in amending the legislation to require (much to the dismay of their partisan counterparts, as well as the Administration) that the Mayor bring the contract back before Council for it's final approval, I maintain my serious concerns pertinent to the lack of information about the pros and cons as well as input from our officers, the dispatchers, and (most importantly) the people. There is no reason to rush this drastic change in the provision of our safety services. Then again, if all you are concerned about is saving $100,000 - a supposed budget perk that was mentioned during this past week's meeting - so as to balance the budget during an election year, then I guess I can understand the motive.
Are you, as a citizen of Newark, comfortable with the thought of your city letting the County take control of all our dispatching services? Would you prefer that those services become accountable to the County - answering to the 3 County Commissioners - as whole as opposed to just us here in Newark (where they answer to the members of Council)? If and when this change delays police response time by even one second (which would undoubtedly be life-threatening in some cases), would you be okay with that and losing home-rule accountability all in the name of saving some money in our budget? Is it okay with you that we're seeing these changes rushed through with little consideration of how it would affect our officers or the people they are sworn to protect?
If you ask me, once this contract is negotiated the Council ought to put it on the ballot. Since this change could have genuine consequences for the security of our city, only we the people should be giving it a thumbs up or thumbs down vote. In the meantime, each person reading this should plan on attending our council meetings (Newark City Building, downtown, 5:30pm on the 2nd and Last Mondays and 7pm on the 1st and 3rd Mondays) to make your presence and your feelings known. I hope you consider this to be an issue worth filling up council chambers for, and I hope that every off-duty officer makes it a point to show up in great numbers as well.
It's time that the elected get the message that they are being watched, and that an engaged citizenry stands ready to hold them to account.