Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, March 22, 2019

Mayor Mapp's State of the City Address: No one will be left behind

Cover of the handout for Mayor Mapp's
2019 State of the City Address.
(Excuse the spots, it got wet in the rain.)

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp delivered his 2019 "State of the City" address Thursday evening at the Plainfield High School Auditorium.

I was reminded of a rock concert with the various warmup acts for the main event.

an invocation by the Rev. Paul Dean, presentation of the colors by the Police Color Guard, a rendition of the national anthem by the talented young Ronnell Harrison, remarks by Council President Joylette Mills-Ransome and the introduction of City Council members, a Gospel number by the Visions of God Praise Team,  and an introduction by Chelsea Young (who was the Town Crier at the January City Hall event), Mayor Mapp took the stage.

His speech (which you ought to be able to find on the city's website, though not just yet) was delivered to a PowerPoint presentation projected on a theater-sized screen suspended above the stage.

You should look for the presentation on the City's website
(though clearly not tonight). Interestingly, the search
did not return *any* of Mapp's previous SOC addresses.

The presentation proceeded flawlessly. Some in the audience were puzzled by the two teleprompters that were placed on the stage in front of the mayor, because he moved around in making his presentation and did not appear to be using the teleprompters, suggesting he was making the delivery from memory.

In any case, it was a bravura performance.

Using the overarching theme "Smarter - Safer - Stronger", Mayor Mapp reviewed the City of Plainfield's progress (sometimes in the past year, sometimes -- as with crime statistics -- since he has been mayor) through all the major departments and divisions.

He effortlessly recited the various stats on crime, roads, economic development, and other matters. (He is after all a CPA and the Director of Finance in Orange, and has a demonstrably good head for numbers.)

One of the main points of the evening -- and he repeated it with stress several times -- came in his report on Economic Development.

In extolling the development projects that are in progress and planned ones coming down the pike, he repeated over and over, almost as if it were a mantra: "No one will be left behind."

The peroration included a moving recital of Mayor Mapp's personal history, rising from poverty in his native Barbados to a position of political prominence and public service in the state of New Jersey.

He ended with a rousing paean to American democracy quite unlike any I had ever heard before.

At the conclusion, the Mayor invoked God's blessing on all present and the City of Plainfield and left the stage.

The audience stood in applause until he came back three times and took bows.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

McKenna tossing his hat in the ring, making a contested Ward 2 Primary

Sean McKenna's Facebook post announcing his candidacy
and showing a campaign account check.

Second Ward resident Sean McKenna posted on Facebook Monday evening that he is circulating his petition and offered a photo of a check with his campaign heading by way of underscoring his seriousness.

A run by McKenna has been rumored since last fall's general election, when he and Ward 2 committeeman Jim Spear helped Ron Johnson run against Elton Armady for the citywide at-large seat. That contest was widely viewed as a proxy for this spring's contest -- as a way of seeing how a second candidate would do in the Second Ward.

Unfortunately, Johnson did not take a single district -- even in the Second Ward -- but not because he and his team didn't work hard.

As I pointed out in a post ("Despite Armady's overwhelming victory, Chairman Mapp has great cause for concern"), Trump trumped everything local last November -- meaning that New Jersey voters (including Plainfield) were intent on sending Donald Trump a message. And they did -- to Johnson's detriment.

McKenna will be running against incumbent Cory Storch in the Primary. Storch is a four-term councilor who, once he vanquished the late Bob Ferraro, has never faced real competition in the Second Ward.

That will not be the case this Spring.

There are no federal contests, no governor's race. The highest office in New Jersey will be the Assembly.

Our Assemblywoman, Linda Carter, is not being opposed (at least not publicly so far).

Freeholder races in Union County are a lock. So, the local races are the only place where there is action -- and maybe traction.

This will be an interesting contest as it unfolds. Besides traditional retail politics, it is likely to be the first in which social media will play a large role, as the medium has really finally come into its own as a virtual "water cooler" with a number of active Plainfield Facebook sites as well as other platforms.

The other Council seat in the Primary is Wards 1/4 at-large. Councilor Barry Goode is the incumbent and is looking for his second term.

Word in the street is that former Ward 4 councilor Bridget Rivers is circulating a petition, as is resident Terri Briggs. If they both submit petitions, it will be proof positive that they don't understand politics. In a town like Plainfield, there would be no hope for TWO candidates to run off the line for a seat which has the City Chair's backing. Period, full stop, end of discussion.

Nevertheless, Chairman Mapp will have his hands full, as will the candidates. This will certainly not be a rest-on-your-oars campaign season.

Petitions for the Council seats -- and the Plainfield Democratic City Committee -- are due on April 1.

We will see how things shake out at that time.

I am not cracking wise about the petition due date.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Public has two hearing choices Wednesday: Wawa and Green Acres

Residents may attend two hearings Wednesday.

Plainfield residents have a choice between two public hearings on Wednesday at which they can weigh in.


At 6:00 PM, the City Council meets in special session to conduct a public hearing on the annual Green Acres grant application, which must be in the County's hands by March 31.

See my post about that meeting here. The hearing will be at the Council Chambers / Courthouse, Watchung Avenue at East 4th Street at 6:00 PM.


The Planning Board will also meet Wednesday evening (March 20) to hear the Wawa application for South Avenue that was move from last month's Planning Board to March. The public will be able to ask questions and comment.

NOTE: The Planning Board meeting has been bumped to Wednesday because of the Mayor's "State of the City" address being scheduled for Thursday (the Planning Board's regular meeting night).

Hardcore attendees can probably make both.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Plainfield snags $100K innovation grant from Economic Development Authority

Plainfield is one of only 5 communities
to win competitive grant.

Plainfield won a competitive $100,000 Innovation Grant from the NJ Economic Development Authority, the agency announced last week.

Plainfield was one of only five communities statewide to be given a grant in the second round issued by the agency (the others were Newark, Hoboken, Paterson and Cape May County).

The grants are part of Gov. Phil Murphy's plan for making New Jersey "the State of Innovation".

According to the City's application --

The city will conduct a technology-needs assessment of the community’s underutilized and vacant industrial and commercial properties. The goal of the assessment will be to determine the feasibility of creating a network of commercial, industrial and mixed-use corridors within the city so that it can be an epicenter of New Jersey’s innovation economy.
Hoboken, Paterson and Newark all mentioned partnerships with higher education institutions and private business as part of their project design, something that was strongly highlighted in the transition plan for Mayor Mapp's first term.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Mayor Mapp presents 2019 State of the City address Thursday

The annual "State of the City" address is set for Thursday.

Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp will present his annual "State of the City" (SOC) address Thursday evening (March 21).

Under Plainfield's special charter (Article 3, Section 4) --

He [the Mayor] shall annually report to the council and the public on the work of the previous year and on the condition and requirements of the city government...
For many years, the address was simply made by giving the Mayor the floor for a portion of a Council meeting and thus mimicked the President's annual message to the Congress.

But in recent years, the fashion has become for mayors deliver their addresses in a special venue and at a time separate from a City Council meeting (for example Newark Mayor Ras Baraka's recent SOC at NJPAC) and to couch it more as a report to the public.

(Those present will note that the Mayor faces the audience and not the Council when making the address, though technically -- as the charter states -- it is supposed to be addressed to them.)

In a flyer posted to the City's Facebook page, the address is billed with the heading "Smarter - Safer - Stronger" and promises that Mayor Mapp will "outline the successes and progress of the City of Plainfield in this 150th year of its incorporation, and share the vision for 2020 and beyond."

The event will be held in the Plainfield High School Auditorium and is slated to begin at 7:00 PM.

Note the change in venue. While the SOC has been delivered in the Senior Center Meeting Room on East Front Street, seating was always an issue when there was a large crowd -- not to say parking, which is difficult at best at that location.

The public is warmly invited.

Plainfield High School Auditorium is at the corner of Stelle and Park Avenues. Parking available on the street and in the Stelle and Kenyon Avenue lots. The auditorium is handicap accessible from a ramp at the Park Avenue entrance.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Special Plainfield City Council meeting Wednesday

A Green Acres grant application is the sole agenda item.

There are two oddities about a Special Meeting of Plainfield City Council called for Wednesday evening (March 20).

The meeting is a public hearing on a Green Acres grant application to Union County that is due by March 31.

The first oddity is that this is a PUBLIC HEARING, at which the public is invited to speak concerning the grant and its uses -- and it is scheduled for 6:00 PM.

It's hard enough for the public to make it to the new Council meeting time of 7:00 PM (many must skip dinner in order to attend a Council meeting), but 6:00 PM makes one think the public isn't even wanted at the meeting. Whoever's convenience this suits, it can't be the public's.

The second oddity is the phrase "Formal action will not be taken".

If you've noticed with grant resolutions, the Council resolves to apply for and, if successful, accept grants. In cases where matching funds are required of the City, the Council also affirms by resolution that the City will make the required match.

So, if no formal action will be taken -- that is, no resolution adopted -- how will the resolution be approved in time for the grant application's submission?

Or am I missing something?

City Council in a Special Meeting at 6:00 PM Wednesday, March 20, in the Council Chambers / Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street. Parking available on the street and in the lot across from Police Headquarters.

NOTE: I have seen officers in patrol vehicles allow Council attendees to turn onto 4th Street in front of Police Headquarters to enter the public parking. Exiting is no problem. Be cautious.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, March 15, 2019

Longtime Board of Ed attorney Victor King passes

Plainfield attorney Victor King in a family favorite photo.

Hilary Harding, wife of longtime Plainfield Board of Ed attorney Victor King, reached out to me on Sunday to tell me that Victor had passed away suddenly early that morning.

I had known Victor almost since we moved to Plainfield 36 years ago.

He was great friends with Councilor Cory Storch and his wife Lois Mattson, who are among my first friends in Plainfield. This was long before Storch's public life, and he and Victor hiked and biked together for many years, until Victor was no longer able to enjoy those activities.

Victor with fellow hikers at Squam Lake, NH,
one of his favorite hiking spots -- and where
"On Golden Pond" was filmed.

In 1986, when I first got into real estate with the former Burgdorff Realtors in Fanwood, I turned to Victor and his firm -- King, King & Goldsack -- for legal services in closing my real estate transactions.

Over the years I took hundreds of real estate deals to Victor and his partner, John Wood Goldsack. The partnership was one of Plainfield's old-line law firms and very prestigious, doing a lot of wills and trusts in addition to real estate. (They had something of a reputation as a "blue hair" firm -- referring that is to their clients, not members of the firm.)

In the 1990s, when I became active in school board affairs -- working to get Rick Smiley, Lynn Richard, Veronica Taylor, Beulah Womack, Randy Bullock and others elected to the Board, Victor was the attorney for the Board of Education.

This was in the days when Dr. Larry Leverett was the Superintendent, regarded by many as a "golden" age for the District, when morale was high, the community supported Dr. Leverett's initiatives, and the District was on the move academically.

Victor's work with the Board was exemplary (this was in the days when the Board attorney was apolitical, the job being based on a broad knowledge of the law as it related to public education).

Working alone as the attorney, Victor along with Rick Smiley (who headed the Board of Ed's negotiation team) helped ensure an unprecedented nine-year stretch of contracts with the Plainfield Education Association (PEA) without lapses, contention or strikes.

In the mid-1980s, I began to attend Grace Episcopal Church at the invitation of a friend who was a member.

After my confirmation in 1985, I was elected by the congregation to the Vestry -- the parish's governing body -- where I served alongside Victor for a number of years.

It was there that I got to observe his lawyerly style up close. Though he did not represent the parish in legal matters, his attention to detail and often probing questions undoubtedly steered us from some blunders.

If no one ever said thank you for that service, I will publicly say it now -- "Thank you Victor, for your service to Grace Church."

But dearer to Victor's heart than serving on the governing body was singing in the choir. Victor was a faithful, long-serving member of the choir and lent real sturdiness to the bass section in the challenging repertoire which is standard fare in Episcopal worship.

He was also an eager supporter of Grace Church's two musical outreach programs of the 80s and 90s: The Plainfield Boy Choir, and its successor, The Plainfield Girlchoir.

In addition to loving biking and hiking, for many years Victor kept several beehives in the spacious side yard of his Hillside Avenue home. The bees frequented the gardens of the homes in the areas and produced wonderful honey.

Lastly, I remember a Thanksgiving dinner Victor and Hilary and Lois Mattson and Cory Storch hosted for a large number of friends and family.

It was quite a crowd and we spent the afternoon and long into the evening enjoying a groaning table of turkey and fixings and then endless desserts.

There were so many people that the enclosed back stoop was pressed into service as an impromptu refrigerator to chill the white wine and craft beer that flowed freely.

It was truly an unforgettable meal, made more so by Victor and Hilary's graciously opening their home.

While a dedicated and competent attorney, I always felt Victor's real sense of freedom came when he was with friends and either hiking or biking.

Plainfield has lost a dedicated public servant. Grace Church has lost a talented voice. And all of us have lost a special friend.

Rest in peace, Victor E.D. King.

NOTE: Condolences may be sent to the family at --
17 Bayard Road, Somerset, NJ 08873

Hilary has advised that there will be a memorial service scheduled after the scattered King and Harding families can come together. I will post further information once I get it.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Layoff ordinance withdrawn, but that's hardly the end of the matter

City Council honored several women in recognition
of Women's History Month.

In the only dramatic moment in an otherwise ceremonially full Plainfield City Council meeting, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp announced that his administration was withdrawing the contentious layoff ordinance M2019-07.

After Councilor Ashley Davis presented a resolution of congratulations to Plainfield High School's wrestling team for winning its first ever title, Council President Joylette Mills-Ransome presented resolutions honoring a number of Plainfield women in celebration of Women's History Month.

Those honored (not all were present) were --

  • Assemblywoman Linda Carter
  • Freeholder Rebecca Williams
  • Julia Porterfield
  • Vonda McPherson
  • Patricia Ann Fields
  • Nancy Piwowar
  • Donna Albanese
  • Bintu Sachdeva, MD
  • Anita Kishen, DDS
After all this, Council President Mills-Ransome asked to take the ordinance out of the regular order of business, to which Council agreed.

Mayor Mapp then was given the floor and announced to the Council that the Administration was withdrawing the ordinance, saying he wanted a "decent and healthy working relationship with [the Council] ... not an adversarial one." He added, "I don't want always to be right, but to be successful."

At this, the audience -- which included heavy representation from the city's employee unions -- erupted into applause and cheers.

Councilor Storch remarked to Mayor Mapp that he considered the withdrawal "a good move", a sentiment that was concurred in by Councilor Goode. Councilor Hockaday said that the audience could draw from this whole incident that the Council does listen carefully to the public's concerns, and Councilor Davis seconded Hockaday's sentiments.

Municipal Clerk "Ajay" Jalloh then announced, "For the record, ordinance M2019-07 has been withdrawn."

A few members of the audience didn't realize that since it was no longer on the agenda, it could not be discussed in the public comments on agenda items. Those who attempted to address the matter were promptly ruled out of order.

I was intrigued by an almost unnoticed remark by Mayor Mapp in announcing the withdrawal that it would be "wise for the Council to have no walk-ons this evening."

To me, this seemed to confirm my suspicion that the blank half-page on the agenda had indeed been supposed to contain a number of new items to be taken up at the meeting (see my post on that matter here).

By no means does any of this mean that the matter of layoffs has gone away.

There is still evidently a sizeable budget shortfall and it will have to be addressed, meaning that layoffs are potentially on the table.

And with the Council's longstanding role left intact, they will have to weigh in on any layoff plan. But all that will only come after the budget is introduced, which is expected to be in April. (We are already past the time the State expects budgets to be introduced.)

Finally, PMEA president Cynthia Smith took to the mic and, while she thanked the Mayor for withdrawing the ordinance, she made it clear that her union's members were still suspicious and will be vigilant in case any effort to retrace this ground comes up again in the future.

Another quiet night at City Council.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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