The needler in the haystack.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Free screening of "Hidden Figures" Saturday at PHS

The Black women who were indispensable to NASA's space flights.

Plainfield residents of all ages are invited to a free screening of "Hidden Figures", the recently released film based on the true story of three African American women whose contributions were crucial to the successful launching of astronaut John Glenn into space.

The women, Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle MonĂ¡e)- were three brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history.

Nominated for a slew of awards, including three Oscars (Best Picture, Best adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor -- for Spencer) and two Golden Globes (Best Supporting Actor -- for Spencer, and Best Original Score).

The movie is especially timely for Plainfield as we are in the midst of a discussion on how to improve chances for success for our young people.

The showing is being made possible by Plainfield Now, in partnership with the City of Plainfield and the Plainfield Board of Education.

The screening is set for Saturday, April 1, at Noon at the Westry Horne Auditorium of Plainfield High School. Doors open at 11:30 AM.

The PHS Auditorium is at the corner of Park and Stelle Avenues, with parking in the high school lots and on the street.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Plainfield Mayor's Race: Rivers counting on "alternate facts" approach

Mayoral candidate Bridget Rivers adopts Kellyanne
Conway's "alternative facts" strategy.

Plainfield mayoral candidate Bridget Rivers is borrowing a page from the Trump playbook: relying on "alternate facts" to bamboozle voters.

(You will recall that the first brouhaha of the Trump administration was his assertion more people attended -- later changed to "saw" -- his inauguration than ever before. In the blink of an eye, the media produced photos from the same perspective that showed Obama's crowds were much larger. Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway went on TV to defend Trump, saying he had access to "alternative facts", consciously misrepresenting the facts and exposing herself and the president to derision.)

Saying that "this is the last time that I will respond [to Mayor Mapp], because I need to get focused on this election," Rivers ran down a list of her complaints in speaking with New Jersey's newest political website InsiderNJ (see the story here).

Rivers claims that Mayor Mapp cut the basketball program when he came into office (in 2013). In the first place, that is not true, in the second place the matter came to a head much later, in 2015.

Here is some background
on Recreation and the basketball program, from a much longer blog post of Monday, November 9, 2015 (full post here) --

THE REC DIVISION AND BASKETBALL As you will recall, the Recreation Division was found to be a mess when it was taken over by Veronica Taylor as Superintendent in April 2014, which was after the 2013-14 basketball season. The Rec Division had basically operated without adult supervision ever since its former director resigned in disgrace after being faced with the possibility of having his alleged misconduct referred to the Union County Prosecutor's office. Taylor found records were missing or not kept at all, programs were favored or punished at the former Superintendent's whim (including a fake ordinance used to justify some policies), facilities had fallen into disrepair, and fiscal affairs in the Division were in complete disarray. The popular basketball program was not exempt from the mess. Taylor's first order of business was to bring some order and accountability into the Division's affairs -- including the basketball program. Coordinators of various programs -- including basketball -- are seasonal employees, as are the coaches. Seasonal employees are not full-time or permanent employees of the city and do not have the status that such employment would give. They are hired on an as-needed basis and the length of employment may not exceed six months. Taylor found abuse of these personnel parameters upon assuming her responsibilities and took steps to put an end to them. Among issues Taylor discovered in the basketball program were these --

  • Lax supervision. The coordinator is expected to put in 15 hours per week with hands-on supervision of the program at the various sites when in session. Out-of-town trips prevented Mr. Cathcart from fulfilling this obligation completely.

  • Failure to file coaching plans as required. The justification for spending taxpayer dollars on the program is predicated on helping youngster progress in their skills at the sport. Coaching plans are an essential component of program accountability to the taxpayers. Throughout the 2014-15 season, Taylor pressed for these. Only two coaches complied.

  • Failure to keep complete attendance records as required. This is really a no-brainer. The city is liable for the safety and well-being of program participants. Accurate and complete records are part of the city's risk management strategy. Nevertheless, Taylor found it impossible to achieve complete compliance by the program in her first season.

  • Fundraising issues. When fundraising is done in support of Recreation Division programs, those doing so are required to provide proof to the Rec Division of their IRS certification as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and that their annual reporting requirements are met and kept current. Taylor was never able to get the necessary certifications from Mr. Cathcart during the 2014-15 season.
At the end of the 2014-15 basketball season, Mr. Cathcart publicly stated to employees in the Rec Division that this was his "last season" and that he would not be returning to the program in the 2015-16 season. I am told he even posted that sentiment to his Facebook page, though such a post seems to have been withdrawn if it was made. In accordance with Mr. Cathcart's statements, Taylor laid out other plans for the 2015-16 season. Her hiring decisions in the program are based on the individual's experience, interest, performance and her professional evaluation. As a consequence of Mr. Cathcart's stated decision not to continue with the program, Taylor interviewed replacements. The two coaches who had submitted coaching plans were considered. Both had been recruited by Mr. Cathcart and had served in the program for many years. Taylor felt both were qualified, experienced and familiar with the program and its participating families -- and hired them for the 2015-16 season. Mr. Cathcart now changed his tune. He was interested, after all. Taylor met with Cathcart on Thursday, November 5, and explained that a hiring decision had already been made for the current season. She did, however, suggest an alternative. Mr. Cathcart had previously expressed an interest in setting up and coaching a "traveling" basketball team. This would broaden the scope of the program, include more children and allow participation by families that could not afford the expense of an AAU program. Taylor offered Mr. Cathcart the Recreation Division's support for two years to set up the program, with the proviso that he would provide proof of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to which it could then be spun off. The city's support for the two years would include stipend support, uniforms, partial underwriting of facility costs, and payment for referees. Mr. Cathcart asked to think about it overnight, to which Taylor agreed. In a text message to Taylor sent after hours to her city cellphone, Cathcart declined the offer.
In the meantime, the Rec Division's offerings for young people have grown and prospered under Ms. Taylor's leadership, with more offerings than ever before.

It would be nice -- in this campaign season -- if candidate Rivers held herself to a higher standard.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Will setting up ABC board be on Plainfield Council's April agenda?

Notorious liquor store at West Front and Clinton showed support
for Bridget Rivers and John Campbell, Jr. The store eventually
lost its license (a move which Rivers opposed) when the owner's
daughter was found to be selling drugs on the premises.

The annual renewal of Plainfield's thirty-plus liquor licenses will take place in June.

The Council voted earlier this year to give up its prerogative to sit as the local Alcoholic Beverage Control Board by passing an ordinance creating a standing ABC board which will assume its functions with this year's renewal season.

The ABC Board will work with the Municipal Clerk, who oversees the administrative aspects of license renewal and the Police Diivision, which generates reports and recommendations for penalties for licenses. Among the reasons a licensee may be penalized are sales to minors, not having employee documentation in order, after-hour sales, fights or other disturbances on the premises, and sales or use of drugs on the premises.

In the case of proposed penalties, licensees have the right to an evidentiary hearing, representation by counsel, and appeal to the state, which may uphold, modify or overrule the local ABC Board's decision.

The ABC's meetings and hearings are subject both to the "Sunshine Law" (requiring adequate public notice) and the Open Public Meetings Act.

Establishing the local ABC Board should do a great deal to ease the Council's business load at this time of year.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rummage sale Saturday at Cedarbrook Apartments

The tenants association at Plainfield's Cedarbrook Apartments will hold their first ever Rummage Sale on Saturday (March 25) from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. (No early birds, please.)

Among items offered are jewelry, glassware and china, kitchen wares, lamps, bric-a-brac, crafting supplies and craft items, and gently used men's and women's clothing (including plus sizes for women).

Proceeds will benefit the Cedarbrook Apartments Tenants Association, which provides activites and events for residents of the age-restricted tower throughout the year.

The Rummage Sale will be in the Community Room on the ground floor at the rear of the building.

Cedarbrook Apartments is at 1272 Park Avenue. Proceed down the drive to the parking lot at the rear of the building. Please use the area reserved for visitors at the rear of the lot. Entrance to the community room is directly off the parking lot.

For more information, call Tenants Association president Beverly Calland at (908) 361-8533.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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