SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The South Plainfield Borough Council, at a virtual meeting June 15, approved upon first reading an ordinance to create a ‘Human Relations Committee.’ The goal of the committee, proposed by Council President Christine Faustini, would be ‘dedicated to cultivating an atmosphere of understanding and acceptance in South Plainfield that ensures residents and visitors of all backgrounds and circumstances can feel safe and welcome’ in the borough.
“This type of committee has been near to my heart to accomplish for some time,” said Faustini. “Over the past year, I have had discussions with constituents, committee members, and residents about the creation of a committee with the primary focus that South Plainfield’s diversity is highlighted and expanded.”
Under Ordinance 2176, which is scheduled for a vote next month, the ‘Human Relations Committee’ – an addition to borough code Chapter 17, Article VII, ‘Boards, Committees, and Commissions’ –would work to ‘foster good will, cooperation and conciliation among the groups and element s of the inhabitants’ of the borough and ‘make recommendations to the mayor and council for the development of general policies and procedures as well as for programs of formal and informal education to aid in eliminating all types of discrimination.’
The committee, comprised solely of volunteers, would also work to ‘investigate, mediate and attempt to resolve without resort to the judicial system, or other form of adjudication any allegations of unlawful discrimination’ by borough residents. Additionally, the Human Relations Committee would ‘advise the mayor and the borough council on ways to promote social and cultural harmony; and propose educational and cultural programs to promote awareness and foster an inclusive sense of community within South Plainfield.” It will also provide guidance to the mayor and the council and other borough committees on ways to ‘encourage kindness, cooperation, and unity among the multicultural residents of the town.
The Human Relations Committee, according to the ordinance, shall be advisory in nature. ‘[Neither] it nor its members have authority to contract, bind, or act on behalf of the Borough of South Plainfield. Its sole function is to assist the mayor, council, committees, boards, agencies, and administration of the borough…in matters provided for the above…’ in the municipality.
“Over the past few years, the groundwork began working within our established committees and organizations,” said the council president, referencing partnerships such as the one between the South Plainfield Public Library and the South Plainfield Cultural Arts Commission who, together, work to sponsor several events and programs throughout the year that highlight various cultures.
“By partnering with Buddha’s Light International Association, the public was welcomed to enjoy two Chinese New Year Celebrations, and, this past year, the library, with partnership, coordinated a Hispanic Heritage Celebration that included community volunteers and professional artists as well as students and faculty from the South Plainfield School District,” she said.
“These events foster acceptance, education, and celebration of all the different people of South Plainfield and their traditions,” added Faustini, noting that the Human Relations Committee will provide residents ‘an additional platform to discuss ideas to promote cultural harmony and awareness.’ “The sharing of these ideas can be socialized within every facet our existing boards and committees,” she said.
As proposed, the Human Relations Committee would be made up of a total of 15 volunteer members. Four advisory members, who would serve alongside one representative from each of the following borough agencies: cultural arts commission, recreation commission, business and economic development advisory group, environmental commission, library board of trustees, housing and community development committee, public celebrations' committee, and mayor’s wellness committee, along with a representative from the board of education, borough council, and police department. The committee, according to the ordinance, would establish, amend, and supplement its own bylaws and meet regularly, at a minimum of bi-monthly and a chairperson, selected from within the membership, would be elected and preside over all meetings.
“These borough committees were chosen to nominate representatives to the Human Relations Committee as they are primarily responsible for providing events, services and outreach to the residents of South Plainfield,” said Faustini. “The advisory members will be selected by the mayor with the advice and consent of council in the same way many other committee members are appointed each year.”
According to the council president, the committee would serve to provide ‘two-way sharing of information.’ “First, it ensures each representative can provide information about current programing offered. Secondly, they can take the input and ideas from the Human Relations Committee back to their home committee, so to speak, as suggestions or ideas,” she said. “It will definitely be an additional and valuable forum to create and enhance existing programs as well as create new ones.”
If approved, appointments of representatives from the aforementioned groups would, for the initial year, be made by the respective commissions, committees, etc. by Sept. 1 with terms ending in Dec. 31 of said year; moving forward, each member would serve for a term of three years. The initial term of advisory members, who must be a South Plainfield resident 18 years of age and older, will be as follows: two members for a term of three years; one member for a term of two years; and one member for a term of one year. Interested community residents may apply during a December application period with appointments taking place during the borough’s annual reorganization meeting in January.
The South Plainfield Borough Council is expected to vote on Ordinance 2176 at its July 13 meeting.
“I hope that my fellow council members will support the creation of this committee. My expectation is that the Human Relations Committee will serve and hopefully soar for many generations to come, beyond anyone’s term of service,” said Faustini. “Thanks to everyone who has supported South Plainfield and its beautiful landscape of people.”
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