Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Has Plainfield City Council forgotten its good manners?

Nada. Not even a cheap-ass supermarket cake.

Even when personal relations between them were at their chilliest (or most heated), Plainfield City Council members always respected the office if not the person and accorded each other a certain amount of civil acknowledgment of the contributions each made to the whole.

And when a Council member would depart, no matter the personal feelings between them all, good manners dictated that the departing member was always honored with a Resolution of Thanks from the Council detailing that member's particular passions and contributions (and sometimes a Proclamation from the Mayor), a hearty round of applause, and a small party afterwards upstairs in Police Headquarters.

So, eyebrows were raised on Monday evening -- the first Council session after Rebecca Williams had resigned to take up the seat made vacant on the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders when Linda  Carter moved up to the Assembly -- when not a word of thanks or recognition was uttered.

The gaffe was particularly eye-catching given that Rebecca played an outsized role in the election of five of the six councilors who were voting on Monday evening to fill her vacant seat and everyone is supposedly on the same team.

If the Council members were waiting for leadership on the matter, none was forthcoming from the Council itself.

Let's just hope it was a momentary lapse.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

9 Myths about separating families at the US border -- busted

Listen to audio of separated children crying for their mothers.

Because of the crisis involving the separation of infants and children from their parents when they arrive at the US border seeking asylum, I am stepping aside from my Plainfield focus today to reprint a Facebook post by Cal State - Fullerton professor Michelle Martin, PhD, who teaches and writes on the subject of immigration. You can find the Facebook post here. I have formatted her post to make it easier to read.

(Note that even though President Trump issued an executive order today (Thursday) stopping the practice of separating families, the government has no protocol for reuniting the thousands of families already separated (see CNN story on that issue here).

Here is Martin's Facebook post, and note that she provides links at the end of each section to further information undergirding her statements --

Have you heard that children were separated from their parents under Obama & Clinton? Then you need a little Facts vs Myths lesson. Michelle Martin, PhD Cal State Fullerton summed up the most important FACTS:

There is so much misinformation out there about the Trump administration's new "zero tolerance" policy that requires criminal prosecution, which then warrants the separating of parents and children at the border. Before responding to a post defending this policy, please do your research...As a professor at a local Cal State, I research and write about these issues, so here, I'll make it easier for you:

Myth 1: This is not a new policy and was practiced under Obama and Clinton

FALSE. The policy to separate parents and children is new and was instituted on 4/6/2018. It was the brainchild of John Kelly and Stephen Miller to serve as a deterrent for undocumented immigration, approved by Trump, and adopted by Sessions. Prior administrations detained migrant families, but didn’t have a practice of forcibly separating parents from their children unless the adults were deemed unfit.

Myth 2: This is the only way to deter undocumented immigration.

FALSE. Annual trends show that arrests for undocumented entry are at a 46 year low, and undocumented crossings dropped in 2007, with a net loss (more people leaving than arriving). Deportations have increased steadily though (spiking in 1996 and more recently), because several laws that were passed since 1996 have made it legally more difficult to gain legal status for people already here, and thus increased their deportations (I address this later under the myth that it's the Democrats' fault). What we mostly have now are people crossing the border illegally because they've already been hired by a US company, or because they are seeking political asylum. Economic migrants come to this country because our country has kept the demand going. But again, many of these people impacted by Trump's "zero tolerance" policy appear to be political asylum-seekers.

Myth 3: Most of the people coming across the border are just trying to take advantage of our country by taking our jobs.

FALSE. Most of the parents who have been impacted by Trump's "zero tolerance" policy have presented themselves as political asylum-seekers at a U.S. port-of-entry, from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Rather than processing their claims, they have been taken into custody on the spot and had their children ripped from their arms. The ACLU alleges that this practice violates the Asylum Act, and the UN asserts that it violates the UN Treaty on the State of Refugees, one of the few treaties the US has ratified. This is an illegal act on the part of the United States government, not to mention morally and ethically reprehensible.

Myth 4: We're a country that respects the Rule of Law, and if people break the law, this is what they get.

FALSE. We are a country that has an above-ground system of immigration and an underground system. Our government (under both parties) has always been aware that US companies recruit workers in the poorest parts of Mexico for cheap labor, and ICE (and its predecessor INS) has looked the other way because this underground economy benefits our country to the tune of billions of dollars annually. Thus, even though the majority of people crossing the border now are asylum-seekers, those who are economic migrants (migrant workers) likely have been recruited here to do jobs Americans will not do.

Myth 5: The children have to be separated from their parents because there parents must be arrested and it would be cruel to put children in jail with their parents.

FALSE. First, in the case of economic migrants crossing the border illegally, criminal prosecution has not been the legal norm, and families have been kept together at all cost. Also, crossing the border without documentation is a typically a misdemeanor not requiring arrest, but rather a civil proceeding. Additionally, parents who have been detained have historically been detained with their children in ICE "family residential centers," again, for civil processing. The Trump administration's shift in policy is for political purposes only, not legal ones.

See page. 18:

Myth 6: We have rampant fraud in our asylum process the proof of which is the significant increase we have in the number of people applying for asylum.

FALSE. The increase in asylum seekers is a direct result of the increase in civil conflict and violence across the globe. While some people may believe that we shouldn't allow any refugees into our country because "it's not our problem," neither our current asylum law, nor our ideological foundation as a country support such an isolationist approach. There is very little evidence to support Sessions' claim that abuse of our asylum-seeking policies is rampant. Also, what Sessions failed to mention is that the majority of asylum seekers are from China, not South of the border.

Here is a very fair and balanced assessment of his statements:

Myth 7: The Democrats caused this, "it's their law."

FALSE. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats caused this, the Trump administration did (although the Republicans could fix this today, and have refused). I believe what this myth refers to is the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which were both passed under Clinton in 1996. These laws essentially made unauthorized entry into the US a crime (typically a misdemeanor for first-time offenders), but under both Republicans and Democrats, these cases were handled through civil deportation proceedings, not a criminal proceeding, which did not require separation. And again, even in cases where detainment was required, families were always kept together in family residential centers, unless the parents were deemed unfit (as mentioned above). Thus, Trump's assertion that he hates this policy but has no choice but to separate the parents from their children, because the Democrats "gave us this law" is false and nothing more than propaganda designed to compel negotiation on bad policy.

Myth 8: The parents and children will be reunited shortly, once the parents' court cases are finalized.

FALSE. Criminal court is a vastly different beast than civil court proceedings. Also, the children are being processed as unaccompanied minors ("unaccompanied alien children"), which typically means they are sent into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). Under normal circumstances when a child enters the country without his or her parent, ORR attempts to locate a family member within a few weeks, and the child is then released to a family member, or if a family member cannot be located, the child is placed in a residential center (anywhere in the country), or in some cases, foster care. Prior to Trump's new policy, ORR was operating at 95% capacity, and they simply cannot effectively manage the influx of 2000+ children, some as young as 4 months. Also, keep in mind, these are not unaccompanied minor children, they have parents. There is great legal ambiguity on how and even whether the parents will get their children back because we are in uncharted territory right now. According to the ACLU lawsuit (see below), there is currently no easy vehicle for reuniting parents with their children. Additionally, according to a May 2018 report, numerous cases of verbal, physical and sexual abuse were found to have occurred in these residential centers.

Myth 9: This policy is legal.

LIKELY FALSE. The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on 5/6/18, and a recent court ruling denied the government's motion to dismiss the suit. The judge deciding the case stated that the Trump Administration policy is "brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency." The case is moving forward because it was deemed to have legal merit.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Introducing Plainfield's newest Council member: Elton Armady

Councilor Armady, a lifelong 4th Ward resident,
is a proud Penn State graduate.

By way of introducing Plainfield City Council's newest member Eltaon Armady, I am posting below the email he sent to PDCC committee members in anticipation of being one of three candidates recommended to the City Council.

On Monday, June 18, five of the six sitting Council members voted to seat Mr. Armady as the replacement for Rebecca Williams, who resigned the citywide at-large seat when she was appointed to the Board of Chosen Freeholders.

As you are all aware (this was addressed to PDCC committee members), Councilwoman Rebecca Williams was recently selected by the Union County Democratic Committee to fill the vacancy left by Assemblywoman Linda Carter on the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders. With her departure, the at-large seat on the Plainfield City Council has become available. As a result, I’m reaching out to all members of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee to seek your full support in being nominated to fill the vacancy and be the party’s candidate in November to fill the rest of her unexpired term.

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself and my background to those of you who don’t know me well. I’m the son of Nigerian immigrants who moved to this country in search of better opportunities. After meeting in Houston, Texas, where I was born, my parents moved to New Jersey. My parents, three siblings and I have been residents of Plainfield’s fourth ward for twenty-nine years. From an early age, my parents have always stressed the importance of getting an education to be successful in life. As a result, I’m a proud graduate of Penn State University where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Marketing in 2009, a Master of Business Administration in 2016 and am currently pursuing my Master of Public Administration through their online World Campus, which I hope to complete in 2019.

I believe that I’d be uniquely qualified to join the Plainfield City Council given my experiences at the federal, state, county and local levels of government. As an intern on Capitol Hill, I was given the opportunity to work in both Houses of Congress. While there, I was able to work for the late New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, former Congressman Rush Holt and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Through those positions, I was able to develop a deep understanding of the political process by working with legislative staff on national policy issues, attending committee hearings and tracking floor votes and debates.

After graduating with my MBA, I worked as legislative aide to the late Assemblyman Jerry Green. In that role, I advised the assemblyman on legislative and public policy matters, and provided constituent services to district residents. I currently work as a program analyst in the Department of Economic Development at the County of Union, where I manage all facilities and public improvement projects that are funded by the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). Notable projects that I’ve worked on include the rehabilitation of the Plainfield Public Library’s steps and the installation of a walking path at Milt Campbell Field. As the neediest community in the county’s consortium, Plainfield receives the lion share of the grant every year, which comes out to about 23% of $4.5 million (or ~$1 million annually). In addition to facilities and public improvements, the grant also funds many social services and housing programs in the city as well.

At the local level, I was elected to the Plainfield Democratic City Committee in 2017. I’ve also made it a point to regularly attend city council meetings starting in January to get a better command of local issues. Early this spring, I was nominated by Councilman Cory Storch and appointed by the city council to serve on Plainfield’s 2018 Citizen’s Budget Advisory Committee (CBAC). As a member of the committee, I worked with my colleagues to analyze the city’s budget and make recommendations on the administration’s funding priorities. At this month’s upcoming council meeting, I expect to be appointed to join the city’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) to offer my insights on the possible expansion of the historic district and work with members to address other issues.

As a 32-year-old millennial candidate, I pledge to bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to the council if I’m appointed. The initiatives that I’d focus on include the following:
  • Regularly attending public events and community meetings to understand and address resident’s concerns in order to provide a high level of constituent service;

  • Engaging our seniors with new programs (such as music, arts and exercise);

  • Collaborating with businesses and nonprofit organizations to provide jobs and career development opportunities for our youth;

  • Working with ALL of my council colleagues to ensure that timely and fiscally responsible budgets are passed and the city’s A1 long term bond rating increases;

  • Identifying ways for the city’s departments to use performance measures to determine how efficient programs are being run and where savings can be made;

  • Using the connections that I’ve developed over the years to liaise with all levels of government to advocate for Plainfield’s needs;

  • And partnering with the Mapp Administration to continue moving Plainfield forward!
I hope you will join me in welcoming Elton to the City Council and look forward to great things in the future.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Certified geezer here

This simple fob stumped a guy who has been driving for
68 years (I was 10, Harry Truman was president,
and it was legal for me to drive farm equipment).

Well, it's finally happened.

Technology has turned me into a geezer.

While I stay up to date on all things Internet and computer geekish, I appear to have let my cred in cars slip.

Had to rent a car recently because my Rav4 was in the shop. So I went to the Avis on Route 22 across the corner from the 7 Eleven in North Plainfield.

Small, but busy office with pleasant and professional staff. After handling a couple of customers before me (who had reservations), my turn came (I was a walkin). They had me booked and ready to go in about two minutes.

Out on the lot, I went to get into the Ford Focus that had been pointed out, when I noticed the fob I had been given had no key. I went back inside and told the young clerk he was going to have to give me a tutorial.

He politely did.  "As long as the fob is in your pocket, all you do is step on the brake and push this button. It will start. When you are finished driving, push the button again and the engine will shut off." Simplicity itself! Where have I been?!

But things only got worse when I went to return the car.

I've rented cars for decades, so I know the drill, right?

Return the car with the gas tank full, write down the mileage and go to the counter to close out.

Except? Where is the odometer?

Again, I had to ask a clerk. She took my ticket, went out to the car and showed me the screen on which the information (along with a lot of other stuff) was displayed. Duh!

So I admit it -- I am now a certified geezer.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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