The needler in the haystack.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Mapp: City surging ahead

Mayor Adrian Mapp delivbers the State of the City Address
as Chief of Staff John Stewart coordinates the presentation.

Most of the Council was present for the special meeting.
(Councilor Williams teaches on Thursdays and could not make it.)

Unflapped by a late start caused by equipment problems, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp delivered the annual State of the City Address
to a packed house Thursday evening at the Plainfield Senior Center.

Council President Cory Storch opened a special meeting of the Council with members Goode, Rivers, Taylor and Toliver present and immediately turned the program over to Mayor Mapp.

Mapp summarized progress by various departments in the course of 2015 and laid out some themes for 2016 in the Address, which will be posted to the city's website. A taped version will be broadcast on PCTV.

The audience interrupted with applause at several points, especially with reference to the hard work of the DPW in cleaning up January's record 3-inch snowfall.

Some of the most detailed information concerned economic development initiatives, which are finally gaining steam after years of preparation. The city's new rebranding program to attract developers and businesses was also announced, as well as an RFP for developers for the Muhlenberg site.

Of special interest for First and Second Ward residents will be a public meeting with FEMA officials to hear about the updated flood maps -- which should give many property owners relief. I will post more on that meeting as the time approaches.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

State of City Address tonight

Among large-scale non-governmental projects affecting Plainfield
in 2015 are the reconstruction of the Park and Watchung Avenue
NJ Transit overpasses, soon to be completed.

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp will deliver the annual State of the City Address tonight, February 4, at 7:00 PM at the Plainfield Senior Center.

The annual address reviews the progress of the various city departments and initiatives in the course of the last year and looks forward to 2016 objectives.

At times in the past, the address was delivered at the annual Council reorganization meeting, which made that meeting overlong for many people.

Following the lead of many other mayors throughout New Jersey, Mayor Mapp is making this a standalone event.

The annual messages are then posted to the city website, and broadcast on PCTV.

The Plainfield Senior Center is at 400 East Front Street. Parking available in the East Second Street lot (mind not to park in residents' spaces!) and on the street.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Date set for Dottie Gutenkauf memorial

Dottie G. (seated) with Councilor Rebecca Williams
and Mother Carolyn Eklund at a Muhlenberg commemoration.

Longtime Plainfield
political and community activist Dottie Gutenkauf will be remembered at a memorial service set for Saturday, March 19 at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church.

As she was unique in life, her memorial will also be out of the ordinary. Dottie's son Jon is planning a multi-media event which will take place both in the church's sanctuary and in the parish hall.

Music being planned includes appearances by a Gilbert & Sullivan group from New York (Dottie and Joe were huge G&S fans), musicians from the Plainfield Symphony and the Plainfield High School Gospel Choir.

Dottie was also an accomplished poet and readings from her work will take place in the parish hall throughout the afternoon.

"We want to give people a variety of ways to honor my mother," Jon said Tuesday, while finalizing arrangements for the space.

Mark your calendars. I will post more details closer to the date itself.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Council gets forgetful

Some councilors seemed forgetful last evening.

Plainfield's City Council mostly plowed through a serious agenda on Monday evening without fireworks, and only one moment of confusion and chaos.

While the esteemed Councilors did some heavy lifting (two PILOTs for the South Second Street project, the municipal ID card, a slew of contracts for lawyers and the paid sick leave ordinance), there were odd lapses among several suggesting either forgetfulness, inattention -- or perhaps early onset Alzheimer's.

After the PILOTs for the South Second Street projects were discussed, Councilor Toliver commented that she wanted the Mapp administration to make sure that the first thing the "found money" was to be used for was to reduce property taxes. Director of Finance and Administration Ron West had to remind her that it was the Council's job to tweak the budget to affect the tax rate. Duh!

Municipal Clerk 'AJ' Jalloh noted that Thursday's "State of the City" address constitutes a special meeting of the Council, as the city's special charter requires it to be delivered "before the Council and the public." The Council had forgotten? -- or perhaps they have never read the Charter.

There was some discussion of a resolution setting a 2016 tax rate (2¢ per $100 valuation, or about $22 per ratepayer on average) for the Open Space Fund. Council seemed to have forgotten that once it established the fund by ordinance, a rate needs to be set each year. Last year's had mistakenly been set at
1¢, this year's rate was a correction. The trust fund is intended to accrue over the long term to be used for maintenance and acquisition of open space for the enjoyment of the community.

Council also seemed to have forgotten that in the kerfuffle over the South Avenue Gateway project, members had complained -- bitterly -- that they were unaware of the process the Planning Board had gone through with the project. So, when Economic Development Director Carlos Sanchez explained that the administration was bringing five parcels before the Council to consider for designation as in need of redevelopment, he had to remind them it was because this was the way they said they wanted things to happen.

Likewise, with the South Second Street project, several Councilors seem to have forgotten that the current proposal was not an allowed type of project and would need to be permitted through -- yet another -- amendment of the redevelopment plan for the area.

The most egregious example of Council forgetfulness was the discussion around ordinance MC2016-08, establishing a paid sick leave policy for employees of private businesses.

Councilor Taylor said she was opposed to putting the item on the agenda because "the business community had no input". She further said that a proposed revision was received by the Council but never acted on. She seemed to totally forget that she was the main mover in pushing for the business community to work with the Working Families people to come up with a compromise proposal and that several Council people were to be included in that process. When Taylor said that she was against moving it forward because the business community had been left out, she got pushback.

A spokesperson for Working Families pointed out that meetings had been held with the business community, that every concern they raised had been dealt with by a compromise and the group thought the revised proposal had the assent of the business community. By going around the process established by the Council and forwarding yet another proposed rewrite directly to the Council (leaving Working Families out of the loop), it seems clear the business community was negotiating in bad faith.

The only moment of chaos and confusion during the whole meeting came when a roll call vote was called on the paid sick leave ordinance. When the Clerk got to Councilor Toliver, she voted "Yes, but..." and started to discuss her reservations. Suddenly several Council members were talking all at once, over the top of each other. Councilor Taylor seemed to lose control of the process. Council President Storch banged the gavel but seemed unsure who had the upper hand at the moment -- himself or Taylor.

Finally, Clerk Jalloh intervened and reminded the Council that according to Robert's Rules of Order, there was to be no discussion during a roll call vote. Snapped back to attention, the vote was re-run with the ordinance forwarded to next week's agenda unanimously.

Despite that lapses and the last-minute momentary confusion, Storch can notch another session better run that in the past.

Council's business session is next Monday, February 8, at 8:00 PM in the Council Chambers / Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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