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Friday, August 31, 2007

Suspect captured hour after break-in

Published in the Star Ledger, Friday, August 31, 2007

Suspect captured hour after break-in

PLAINFIELD: A North Plainfield man was charged with breaking into a house and scuffling with the homeowner, who confronted him, police said yesterday.

Detectives arrested 28-year-old Christian Gerena about an hour after they say he broke into a home in the 600 block of West Front Street Wednesday afternoon.

The homeowner told police he returned to his house about 2:15 p.m. and noticed the door had been broken. When he went inside, he heard noises coming from the second floor, then saw a man bound down the stairs. The two scuffled before the intruder escaped.

The 29-year-old resident called police and gave a description of the intruder, whom he didn't know. Detectives Eugene Goldston and Jean Calvin spotted on Plainfield Avenue and West Front Street about an hour later. The resident identified him as the assailant, police said.

Gerena was charged with burglary and robbery, authorities said.

Transcribed by DD from print edition, not placed online by Ledger.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

With perfect timing, Dem attacks pay-to-play

Bergen County's top Dem, Joe Ferriero, is launching a personal campaign AGAINST pay-to-play reform, according to a report in the Bergen Record.

His timing is impeccable.

With Democrats from Hillary Clinton to Gov. Jon Corzine and Sen. Frank Lautenberg struggling to throw away tainted money from contributor Norman Hsu, Ferriero's assault on New Jersey's pay-to-play regulations may become front-page news in the coming days.

But probably not until after the Labor Day Weekend, a traditional pol-fest of activities.

Meanwhile, the national stories cite Hsu's contributions as having gotten through their 'vetting processes'.


My experience of 'vetting processes' was this: You got the check. You deposited it. If it cleared (not always a sure thing), it was 'vetted'.

-- Dan Damon

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Mortgages: Foxes in the henhouse

One of the culprits in the subprime mortgage scandal is FINALLY beginning to be dragged into the light -- the credit ratings agencies. That includes S&P (Standard & Poor's) and others like Moody's and Fitch's.

Breaking news from Reuters as of 7:21 this AM indicates that McGraw-Hill, which owns S&P, has replaced the president of S&P, effective immediately --
Publisher McGraw-Hill Cos Inc is replacing the president of Standard & Poor's, the company's financial services division, effective immediately, amid questions about the role of credit-rating agencies in the subprime mortgage crisis.
An example of possible ratings culpability caught my eye the other day.

The NY Times reported that S&P had cut a British firm's credit rating by a whopping SIX NOTCH DOWNGRADE, that may --
[force the ]London money management firm, Cheyne Capital Management ... to liquidate the assets backing its $10 billion commercial paper program in the latest casualty of the jittery credit market.
This downgrade comes, as the Times notes --
Just two weeks [after], on Aug. 15, S.& P. declared those same notes to be the highest investment grade.
These same ratings agencies rate municipal bonds such as Plainfield's. With the same level of professionalism, ethics and care.

Comforting thought, eh?

-- Dan Damon

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Another rabid animal confirmed

Several confirmed rabies cases in the Plainfield area -- the most recent a rabid raccoon in Dunellen -- combined with the biting of a woman at 4th and Watchung by a rabid cat recently, should alert residents.

The Middlesex County Health Department is circulating the following tips to protect yourself and others from this life-threatening virus.
  • Immediately report a BITE from ANY wild or domestic animal to your local health department.
  • Immediately report any wild animal showing signs of unusual behavior, including increased drooling, difficulty moving or swallowing, or aggressiveness.
  • Be sure that all family pets are up-to-date with their rabies vaccinations.
  • Animal-proof your home and yard by keeping garbage containers on tight, not leaving pet food or water outside and not allowing rain water to collect in outdoor containers.
  • Do not FEED or HANDLE wild animals.
  • Avoid contact with stray animals or pets other than your own.
  • Try to prevent your pets from coming into contact with wild animals.
  • Screen off vents to attics and other areas that could provide shelter for bats.
To report a bite, a rabid animal sighting or for more information, call Plainfield's Animal Control Officer at (908) 753-3610.

Courier: "Raccoon tests positive for rabies in Dunellen"
More Information: CDC | Wikipedia | eMedicineHealth
-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

School Violence: Plainfield up sharply in 2005-06 year

The state released its annual school violence and vandalism report for the 20005-06 school year yesterday.

Given the issues -- especially at Plainfield High -- that have filled the papers in the year just past (which will be in NEXT year's report), Plainfield parents and residents will draw no comfort from the report.

Violence in the Plainfield schools for SY2005-06 is reported as 111 incidents, with an increase of 33 incidents over the previous year -- a 30% jump in ONE YEAR.

When vandalism is included, the number of incidents for SY2005-06 is 205, an increase of 65 over the previous year -- or a 32% increase.

The Ledger makes much of the fact that bullying and harassment have increased significantly everywhere, but while that is certainly an issue in Plainfield -- as I hear anecdotally -- the reports in the media concerning Plainfield in the last year have focused on actual assaults, which truly are incidents of violence.

These numbers should be a cause of grave concern to everyone in the community: Taxpayers, parents, teachers, administrators and the Board of Ed. We already know the students are concerned.

Can a grip be gotten on the situation?

Trenton Central and Paterson Eastside were previously listed as 'persistently dangerous' and have improved to the point they have been taken off the list.

If those schools, arguably more violent than Plainfield's can do it, why not Plainfield?

Meanwhile, the mainstream media chose to spin the story in ways that suited them, but leaving Plainfield totally out of the picture.

The Courier touts the improvement at Bound Brook, which got a special look-see after reporting a significant decrease the previous year.

The Ledger touts two schools that improved so much they have been taken off the 'persistently dangerous' list -- Trenton's Central High and Paterson's Eastside High.

The NY Times, ever above the crowd, takes the 50,000-foot view: violence increased 'slightly'.

You can read the state report yourself here.

More --
-- Dan Damon

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Will life as we know it survive the market turmoil?

Now that the subprime mortgage crisis has brought the kite crashing down, mere mortals such as you and I are left trying to figure out what happened, what IS happening and what may YET happen. The stakes are large. Missteps by those in charge can lead to worldwide recession -- or worse. It will pay for us to ponder a bit.

Not being an economist, but interested in analysis and explanation that is accessible to common folk like us, I submit the following recent articles for your perusal.

You will have to draw your own conclusions.

James Grant, a financial writer and observer, points out in a NY Times OpEd the essential scheme of the Fed's approach to markets --
What could account for the weakness of our credit markets? Why does the Fed feel the need to intervene at the drop of a market? The reasons have to do with an idea set firmly in place in the 1930s and expanded at every crisis up to the present. This is the notion that, while the risks inherent in the business of lending and borrowing should be finally borne by the public, the profits of that line of work should mainly accrue to the lenders and borrowers. [Emphasis added.]
Now that the bill is coming due, Grant thinks Fed chair Bernanke may be --
...seeing the light that capitalism without financial failure is not capitalism at all, but a kind of socialism for the rich.
However, Grant thinks the Fed's recent activity --
[In] jiggling its interest rate, the Fed can impose the appearance of stability today, but only at the cost of instability tomorrow. By the looks of things, tomorrow is upon us already.
does not solve any real problems.

Over at The Economist magazine, which has been looking over these issues for a century and a half, a clear-eyed view and crisp tone are taken. [Note: 'Sold on' is a Britticism; Americans might more readily say 'passed along'.]

First, The Economist points out a price that is now coming due for innovations in the financial markets over the last two decades --
Because lenders expected to be able to sell on the risk of default to someone else, they lent too easily. After all, they would not have to pick up the pieces. In theory, that risk should have been borne by the people best able to carry it. But with everybody having sold on the risk to everyone else—and the risk often being carved up, repackaged and sold again—nobody is sure where the losses are.
Now that markets have rediscovered the old capitalist principle of RISK, we can better understand what is going on --
Bankers and investors need to suffer precisely because the methods of modern finance have been found wanting. It sounds Darwinian, but the brutal demonstration that you pay for your sins is what leads the system to evolve. Markets learn from their mistakes. Only fear will spur investors to price risks better and get them to put more effort into monitoring their counterparties.

If these lessons are to sink in, central bankers must stand back...

In a second article, The Economist turns to the OTHER as-yet-undropped shoe: Collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), the tool by which things like subprime mortgages have been made to appear more valuable than they may really be -- the past few weeks have shown, the financial system remains brittle. Hedge funds, for example, have ventured into thinly traded securities, such as collateralised-debt obligations (CDOs), that nowadays are easy to dispose of only in the mathematical models they use to value them. On the other side of the balance sheet, the funds have short-term financing from multiple sources. If a fund starts to show losses, its backers may lose faith in its trades. But even if they believe it will eventually make money, they might grow nervous about the fund's other backers. Just like a nervous depositor eyeing the queues in front of a bank, one hedge-fund creditor may demand its collateral before everyone else grabs theirs. If, to muster collateral, a fund is forced to sell assets into a falling market, a profitable trade can quickly become unprofitable. In this way, seasons of alarm “beget the calamities they dread,” as Bagehot put it.
So, we have more to look forward to.

Lastly, Willem Buiter, a professor at the London School of Economics, offers suggestions in his private blog, Maverecon.

He proposes that central banks (of which ours is the Federal Reserve), can help ease the crisis by becoming 'market-makers of last resort', setting prices for securities -- such as CDOs -- that can no longer be sold in an 'orderly' fashion because panic sales have pushed prices below actual values.

How to sort out what actual values are? How to decide what CDOs are merely 'illiquid' and which are truly without value?

Thorny questions indeed.

Well worth pondering.

That should include the Dems in Congress who seem to be looking for a quick fix that may do more damage in the long run than letting those who have sinned in the market place pay for those sins.

More --
-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

BREAKING: Serial gas station robber nabbed at Plainfield Police HQ

10:08 PM.

Someone at Plainfield's police headquarters is paying attention. REALLY paying attention.

A Trenton Times breaking item posted online about 8 PM this evening credits a sharp-eye police employee with identifying Albert W. Smith, who has Plainfield and Edison addresses, as a serial gas station bandit wanted in four central Jersey counties.

Smith stopped in to inquire about some Plainfield traffic summonses he had received.

Congrats to the employee and the Police Division!

Read the Trenton Times blog entry here.

I'll post the story on CLIPS tomorrow if it comes through.

Remember, you read it here first!

Trenton Times: "Serial gas station robber nabbed in Plainfield"

-- Dan Damon

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Join Club 1877

An early Muhlenberg Hospital ward.
Paul Collier Collection, Plainfield Public Library.

Muhlenberg has been serving the Plainfield area since May, 1877.

The hospital was inspired by the reaction of a visiting Episcopal clergyman, Augustus Muhlenberg, to seeing the amputation of a man's leg after an accident -- performed without anesthesia.

The Muhlenberg Foundation is offering Plainfielders a way to say 'thank you' for one hundred thirty years of service to the community, with Club 1877.

Join with others in making a gift to continue and extend the impact Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center has on Plainfield and the surrounding communities, whether with a one-time gift or a pledge over a period of time.

So, whether you can make a one-time gift of $18.77 or a monthly gift of $1,877.00 for a year, take time to think how important Muhlenberg is to our community and consider pitching in.

Contact the Muhlenberg Foundation at (908) 668-2025.


Per the letter of the Foundation, donors' names will be published in the Foundation's annual report and on the Muhlenberg Foundation website as a way to show its gratitude. Those not wanting public recognition should contact the Foundation at (908) 668-2025.

The Foundation's solicitation has been filed with the Attorney General's office. Information may be obtained by calling (973) 504-6215.
-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A&P On The Road to YouTube Folly

Screen grab from 'Produce Paradise' video.

A&P, the financially trouble supermarket chain, has stepped in a public relations cowflop over the unorthodox role of their veggies in a YouTube flick.

The venerable grocery chain is suing brothers Mark and Matthew D'Avella, who filmed a 4-minute parody of gangsta rap titled Produce Paradise.

The brothers worked at the Califon store, where they also produced the video. But no longer, they were fired August 23rd.

Watch the video here, read the Courier story here, and check out the brothers' blog here.

A&P: Don't get sore, get a grip.

-- Dan Damon

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Newly planned police captain to replace Chief Santiago?

Mayor Robinson-Briggs proposes replacing Police Chief with a Captain.

Plainfield's police chief is to be eliminated, replaced by a Captain styled the 'Executive Officer' who reports directly to the Public Safety Director, according to a plan presented to the Council June 18th.

The room was stunned with the audacity of Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig's proposal; the Chief told reporters that evening that the Director's remarks took him completely by surprise.

Notwithstanding that the elimination of the police chief position is still in the talk stage, rumors are circulating that the Green/Robinson-Briggs administration is preparing to create another Captain slot in the Police Division in preparation for moving the newly-minted Captain into the 'Executive Officer' slot proposed by Mr. Hellwig.

The proposed 'Executive Officer' would report to the
Public Safety Director.

This flies directly in the face of the 2004 findings by the Division of Local Government Services of the Department of Community Affairs, which found the Police Division overburdened with captains and specifically recommended the following staffing reductions through attrition --
a. Recommend the reduction of the police captains ranks from seven to four.

b. Recommend the reduction of police lieutenants ranks from 10 to nine.

c. Recommend the reduction of police sergeants ranks from 25 to 23.
So now, the Administration proposes to create an ADDITIONAL Captain.

It is not clear how this Administration plans to eliminate the chief's job.

There is a difference of opinion as to whether a CHARTER CHANGE would be needed (necessitating action by the Legislature, and perhaps opening the door to a Charter revision that could prove dyspeptic for the Green/Robinson-Briggs regime) or a simple ORDINANCE by the City Council (it is by no means clear the Council wants to play the heavy in this matter, which is essentially the ADMINISTRATION'S game).

Meanwhile, one of the two cases involving the Chief and the City has again been postponed -- I am told the City has not even begun to take depositions yet. Part of a strategy of attrition? Who knows.

Expect to hear more.

DCA Recommendations,
Courier, 8/11/2004: "Police Division: Summary of recommendations"
Plainfield Today, 6/19/2007: "Plainfield mayor wants to get rid of police chief"
Administration's 2007 Plan: "Police Reorganization Plan, 6/18/2007"
-- Dan Damon

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Monday, August 27, 2007

A fair and balanced Courier story on Plainfield

Complaining that the Courier News doesn't treat Plainfield fairly in its stories is something of a longstanding parlor sport in the community.

Today, however, brings a story treating the recent state QSAC report on the Plainfield school district and its problems in what I can only say is an EXEMPLARY fashion.

If you haven't read it, you should.

The story contrasts the difficulties cited in the state report with contrasting -- and positive -- experiences of Plainfield residents, business people and students.

A second story complements the main one by focusing on the New Horizons College Club, a volunteer organization dedicated to helping Plainfield High School students plan on and prepare for college.

I must say that coverage of difficult issues in the community in the past has not always been as finely-honed as these two pieces are.

Do we owe this treatment to the changes being made as the Courier apparently is absorbed into the larger Home News operation?

I don't know, but whatever they've decided, they should do more.

Kudos to the Courier and Bernice on this one!

More info --
-- Dan Damon

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Geraud Avenue: A bridge over troubled waters

Are you a gambling person? What are the odds that the DOT directive on bridges will resolve the fate of the long-closed Geraud Avenue bridge between Plainfield and North Plainfield?

According to a recent Ledger story, owners of all NJ bridges (including Counties), must make sure spans comply with national standards by the end of September.

Does that mean that the long-unresolved matter of whether to reopen or eliminate the Geraud Avenue bridge, at the rear of the Drake House property, will finally be resolved?

The bridge, one of the oldest crossings over the Green Brook at the spot that eventually became Plainfield, was closed after the flooding associated with Hurricane Floyd in September, 1999.

The Geraud Avenue bridge was 'temporarily' closed in 1999.
(Click on image to enlarge.)

The maintenance of bridges between the two towns is an interesting compromise, since they join not only two separate communities, but two separate counties -- Union and Somerset.

Here's the deal: Maintenance expenses are jointly shared by the counties. However, bridges EAST of Somerset Street are maintained by Union County; those WEST of Somerset Street are maintained by Somerset County.

When the Geraud Avenue bridge was closed as an emergency measure, the two counties and the two towns held a series of meetings to decide what to do.

The proposed plan for abandoning the bridge.
(Click on image to enlarge.)

I recall being at one such meeting in North Plainfield's Vermeule House community center in 2000. Somerset County and North Plainfield were in favor of permanently closing the bridge. Union County, as I recall, deferred to Plainfield. And there the matter has sat for the last seven years.

Basically, Plainfield has been unable to decide conclusively what it would like to do.

Permanently abandoning the bridge would ease the traffic flow in the West Front Street Marino's redevelopment plan area, where THREE streets tee into Front Street (Plainfield, Geraud and Sycamore Avenues).

I recall being told that DOT would view the closing of the Geraud Avenue bridge as a favorable circumstance in planning for traffic control as the Marino's site is developed -- meaning that one traffic light at Plainfield Avenue would suffice, as at present.

A plaque notes the first bridge was built in 1804.
(Click on image to enlarge.)

But, if Geraud were to be left open to filter traffic down from Route 22 through North Plainfield to a future supermarket and strip mall, the whole traffic control scenario on Front Street would be much more complicated, requiring multiple traffic lights and essentially throwing a monkey wrench into the flow of the street, which is also Route 28, a state highway.

In all of this, there is something of a 'sweetener' on the table for Plainfield -- I recall a figure of somewhere around $1 million being offered for giving up the crossing, whose first bridge was erected in 1804.

Will the deadline imposed by the DOT speed up a resolution of the long-standing impasse?

Are you a gambling person?

More info --
-- Dan Damon

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Not even in office, Torricelli still torches pols

Former US Sen. Bob "Torch" Torricelli is in the news again.

This time for making donations from his campaign fund. Though most of the $900,00 he has donated (out of a total of $2.9M) went to nonprofits and charities, the papers have picked up on a couple of interesting POLITICAL contributions in New Jersey.

The Times of Trenton focuses on a contribution to the campaign of Mayor Doug Palmer and several city councilors. Torricelli gave $10,000 to the campaign.

At the time, Lambertville-based Woodrose Properties, in which Torricelli is a partner, was engaged in dealing with the city over redeveloping several properties.

Palmer swears the quids and the quos don't align, but I am nevertheless intrigued -- as always -- by the sale of a property the City of Trenton bought for $149,000 to the developer for $1. That, plus the assorted extra funds and considerations Woodrose got from the city.

Meanwhile, over in Jersey City, the Jersey Journal points out that "Torch" gave a council slate backed by Bayonne Mayor (and Assemblyman) Joe Doria $5,000 -- at a time when he had business before the Legislature involving his client Verizon.

Guess the outcome of his Trenton business.

More details --
-- Dan Damon

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Eating Out: Queen City Diner

Published in the Courier News, Thursday, August 23, 2007

[Eating Out]
Nothing could be finer
Queen City Diner in Plainfield has unique dishes

Ever on the move, Queen City Diner owner Brian Schoenberger, has added pizza to his menu. Ho hum, you say. Think again. He installed high tech pizza ovens, got a secret recipe for the dough and put together a very interesting pizza menu. Like the Boston Bean pizza.

I was really in a quandary about ordering the aforementioned. I mean really, Boston beans on pizza?Added to this mix are onions and salami, and I have to say the result is excellent.

The crust is almost wafer thin, something I can really go for. And as you can tell, the toppings are original to say the least. I loved the California ($9.75) a mix of scallions, barbecue chicken, peppers and barbecue sauce.This may sound odd, but it really works.

Donald Duck always like the Hawaiian pie which sounded grotesque to me, really, pineapple is a strange item, but with the Canadian bacon, once again, it works.

You can tame it down and just get a cheese pie for $7 or a Margherita ($9) with fresh mozzarella, fresh tomato sauce and basil. Or try the Popeye ($8.50) with spinach, ricotta and tomato.

Pizzas are about 12 inches in diameter and big enough for two, but of course you’ll want to try at least two so come hungry.

1324 South Avenue (between Leland Ave. and Terrill Rd.)
(908) 756-7900

HOURS: Mondays to Fridays 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
PAYMENT: Major credit cards.
DRESS: Casual.
ATMOSPHERE: Diner in strip mall that has been redone and spiffed up.
VALUE: Inexpensive.
FOOD: Upscale diner food, bordering on healthy, and now pizza! Also, check out the amazing buckwheat pancakes.
FAVORITE REPAST: Boston bean pizza (!) and a glass of the wine you brought.
By Lois Mattson

Transcribed by DD, story did not appear online.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

PoliticsNJ post by Wally Edge recovered

Below is a reconstruction of the 'disappeared' Wally Edge item from PoliticsNJ that was put up and taken down on August 22nd, as captured by a reader.

Read it over and see if you can figure out why it should have been yanked. My only question is the headline, which kind of infers that D'Elia is feeding from a trough -- something I have not said.

-- Dan Damon.

Oink, Oink Sebastian D'Elia

By Wally Edge

- August 22, 2007 - 9:10am
Tags: Sebastian D'Elia , CHARLOTTE DEFILIPPO

The County Watchers, a blog that monitors Union County government, makes an interesting case of an appearance of a conflict concerning Sebastian D'Elia, the Union County Public Information Officer and a member of the Union County Improvement Authority. It seems that the UCIA is building a 63-unit senior citizen housing project in Plainfield and signed up Century 21 Atlantic Realty Inc. to sell the units. The problem, as the blog sees it, is that D'Elia is a licensed realtor who works for the same firm. Just to make things more interesting: the UCIA Executive Director is Union County Democratic Chairman Charlotte DeFilippo.


This Is Getting Out of Hand


Real estate offices have tons of real estate agents listed with them. Many, many people in this day and age have real estate licenses in order to supplement their income. The PIO is allowed to have outside employment. Unless there is some evidence that D'Elia had something to do with the UCIA project, was involved in the awarding of the contract, or will benefit from the sale of the units there is no conflict. It's just more efforts to make insinuations and create doubt without evidence and for political gain. I don't know D'Elia, or the development in question. For all I know there is something here, but the website and this post don't provide any evidence of the fact other than some real tenuous connection. Rooting out corruption is important, but just throwing everything against the wall and hoping something sticks is creating so much cynicism and public doubt of government that good people are no longer interested in public service. And then the media, including PNJ, trumpets the baseless accusations to draw readers. When there is EVIDENCE, nail the corrupt. But let's stop the constant attacks that have no basis in fact.

08/22/07 9:33 am

real conflict?

. Democrat

did D'Elia vote on the contract giving Century 21 the listings? If he recused himself....what else would you like him to do? Do we know if he'll personally be selling any of these units?

08/22/07 10:43 am

It should also be noted


That the County Watchers blog is far from impartial; the two women who run it are Tina Renna and Patricia Quattrocchi. Ms. Renna's husband, Joe Renna has run twice for Freeholder, once as a Republican (in 2004); Ms. Quattrocchi is making her 4th consecutive run for Freeholder this year as a Republican candidate. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that as Republicans (and in Ms. Quattrocchi's case as a frequent GOP candidate), they would be eager to paint their opponents in the most negative ways possible. My advice for the editor is to stop paying attention to "County Watchers" - because their eyes need examination, and perhaps new pairs of glasses.

08/22/07 11:11 am

Sebastian the Spinner


It is so obvious that Sebastian D'Elia is getting people to spin for him today. How pathetic. Wally says there is an APPEARANCE of conflict and he is right. Of course there APPEARS to be a conflict when some realtor gets a lucrative listing from a government agency that one of their own guys serves on. Good job to the Republicans for finally getting the word out. Someone tell Sebastian D'Elia to give us all a break!

08/22/07 12:28 pm

FrankJBartello -- HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA


right. Any time someone says something in defense of a Democrat it is because we were paid off. When anyone attacks a Democrat it is because they are pure of heart and have only the benefit of the public in mind. What a load of crap. I have a problem with ALL the innuendo and slanted partisan attacks made in the guise of fighting corruption. It's been done against Republicans -- see Don DiFrancesco -- and Democrats. It's just that this one was bout a Democrat.

08/22/07 1:22 pm

Does PoliticsNJ kowtow to Charlotte DeFilippo?

'Wally Edge' is the pseudonymous columnist for PoliticsNJ.

When Plainfield Today found a connection between C21 Atlantic
Realtors®, who are the exclusive brokers for Plainfield's new Senior Center/condos complex, and UCIA executive director Charlotte DeFilippo (who is also the Union County Dem Chairperson), it intrigued the good folks over at CountyWatchers, the blog that keeps an eye on Union County government.

Billboard for the Plainfield project shows C21 Atlantic as the exclusive realtor.
(Click on image to enlarge.)

The connection?

Sebastian D'Elia, a spokesperson for Union County AND a commissioner on the Union County Improvement Authority -- who ALSO happens to be a salesperson with C21 Atlantic.

Business card of Sebastian D'Elia.
(Click on image to enlarge.)

CountyWatchers posted on these connections (see here) and forwarded the information to their press list.

And then it got interesting.

According to Pat Quattrocchi of CountyWatchers, Wally Edge, the very popular and widely followed pseudonymous columnist for PoliticsNJ picked up the item.

When Quattrocchi noticed it, the item had netted tags to Charlotte and D'Elia in the 'tags' box and four or five comments.

Curiously, the item disappeared within a few hours, says Quattrocchi, along with the tags and the comments.

But, as Karl Rove and others have learned to their chagrin, stuff on the Internet never quite disappears.

Results of a Google search for the two items.
(Click on image to enlarge.)

Doing a Google search for 'Wally Edge' and 'Charlotte DeFilippo' snagged the missing item as its second link (see circled item in image above) --
"By Wally Edge - August 22, 2007 - 9:10am. Tags: Sebastian D'Elia, CHARLOTTE DEFILIPPO,. The County Watchers, a blog that monitors Union County government, ... - 55k -"

Cache header for the Google search.
(Click on image to enlarge.)

So, now the question is: Why did PoliticsNJ take down the post, the tags and the comments?

Was it pressure from Charlotte DeFilippo? Or some other Democratic figure?

What are we supposed to make of PoliticsNJ's independence and integrity in light of this incident?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Plainfield Today --
CountyWatchers --
Google: "Search for 'Wally Edge'+'Charlotte DeFilippo'"

-- Dan Damon

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Realtors and New Projects: Conversation Just Begun, Not Ended

The matter of Plainfield Realtors® being iced out of sales of the new Senior Center condos came up again at the Council meeting Wednesday evening.

Councilor Carter was correct when she remarked that developers often rely on a single
Realtor® to sell the units, whether stand-alone houses (as at Hovnanian's at Woodland Avenue or Shiloh Court on West 7th), or townhomes (recently on East Front Street and currently on Spooner Avenue).

The difference between the cases I mention above and the Senior Center project is that all the above are PRIVATE development projects, not REDEVELOPMENT projects, which by definition are structured with the City -- both Administration and Council -- as major players in setting the deals' parameters.

That is, unless they relinquish their responsibility for oversight and due diligence.

Which is the question with designating Century 21 Atlantic
Realtors® of Roselle Park as the sole real estate agent for the East Front Street project.

As traditionally structured, local
Realtors® would not be able to collect a commission for bringing clients in to purchase a unit.

And this has some in the real estate community hopping mad -- and if they had known the discussion would come up at Council, you can bet they would have been there.

At least one agent has spoken with Assemblyman Jerry Green, who promised to 'see what he could do,' as I was told.

I don't think he will be able to do anything.


Because the decision is probably controlled by the
Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA), whose commissioners number among their members Sebastian D'Elia, Union County spokesperson, and C21 Atlantic real estate agent.

And who else?

Do you really have to ask?

Our erstwhile friend, Executive Director of the UCIA, the City's redevelopment agency.

Oh, and chairperson of the Union County Dem Committee, in case you forgot.

Charlotte DeFilippo.

Plainfield Today: "Jerry Green's million-dollar poke in the eye"
CountyWatchers: "What a Coinky - Dinky....."

-- Dan Damon

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'Back to School Jam' Saturday

Volunteers assembled school supply bags Friday.

Plainfield youngsters preparing to return to school -- which begins Thursday, September 6th -- will be able to load up on free school supplies Saturday at the 21st annual Roger K. Cassett Back-to-School Jam.

Volunteers are expected to distribute over 750,000 free items to help students between the ages of 5 and 18 with materials for school.

Organizer Martin Cox, a member of the Plainfield Board of Education, says the event distributed over 18,000 bags of school supplies to children from 72 communities last year.

The bags include such items as notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, filler paper, binders, report folders and erasers.

Besides the school items, there will be information booths for nonprofits and businesses with a school and family orientation.

The event is at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, rain or shine.

21st Annual School Supply Giveaway
Saturday, August 25
10 AM - 2 PM
Rain or Shine

St. Mark's Episcopal Church
1430 Park Avenue, Plainfield

-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Storch provokes substantive discussion at Plainfield Council

Councilors Cory Storch and Don Davis
with the late Council President Ray Blanco.

Thanks to Plainfield Councilor Cory Storch, there was public discussion of conflict-of-interest matters, environmentally sustainable development, and questionable bidding practices at last night's business meeting.

If it weren't for Councilor Storch, there would hardly ever be any substantive discussion at City Council business sessions.

As the Council casually voted approvals for hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts by 'consent' resolution -- where one vote passes a string of resolutions -- Storch exercised a Councilor's prerogative to pull three items off the consent agenda and put them up for discussion before voting.

That made the evening interesting.

First up, R 386-07, was a $100,000 contract with Remington & Vernick of East Orange to provide planning services for FY2008. The firm has been on board since the beginning of the Green/Robinson-Briggs administration.

Storch's concern was that the firm works both for the City -- providing planning services to the Planning Division in regard to redrawing the Master Plan -- and the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA), the city's designated redevelopment agency.

The Councilor raised the question of conflict of interest, saying that he was speaking the mind of several on the Planning Board. The Administration parried that this was the first it had heard of such questions, which prompted Storch to say that Planning Board chair Ken Robertson has assured him he raised it with the Administration several times and that Storch himself has raised it with the Administration on several occasions.

It hardly makes the Administration look good to be caught in such an apparent fib -- and you must remember it ONLY came out in the open because Storch had the guts to raise the issue publicly.

Storch's motion to table the resolution, however, failed 6-1. That means the contract goes forward, but the public (and the Administration) has notice that there are potential -- and maybe actual -- conflicts of interest here.

The second item Storch flagged, R 390-07, concerned executing a redevelopment agreement for the next piece of the Tepper's redevelopment plan, which involves developing condos where two properties currently stand.

Here, his issue was that LEED language (concerning environmentally-sensitive development practices and materials) in this agreement had simply been lifted from that in the North Avenue redevelopment plan.

And THAT language, as Storch pointed out, was a watered-down version of an original proposal, essentially asking the developer to try his best. Scout's honor.

As Storch reminded his fellow Councilors, that was compromise language, with which the Council was not really happy, and that they had promised themselves they would insist on tougher language in the next development project.

Well, Storch pointed out, this IS that NEXT project.

The Administration countered on this one,too: 'Trust us'.

Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson basically said to the Council: 'We hear you. Trust the Administration to redraw the contract language, in consultation with the developer, and then let Mayor Robinson-Briggs and the Clerk execute it.'

Williamson didn't think there would be a need to bother the Council by coming before it again with revisions before execution.

My heart stopped. Corporation Counsel was asking the Councilors to abandon their due diligence?

Perhaps having second thoughts (visions of lawsuits perhaps?) over the enormity of his proposal, Mr. Williamson asked to confer with Jennifer Wenson-Maier, Director of Public Works and Urban Development.

After a few whispered exchanges, Williamson announced that the Administration was withdrawing the matter and would present a revised resolution at the Council's first September session.


Lastly, Storch wanted a discussion on R 392-07, which is the award of a bid contract for $459,000 to Solid Rock Construction, a Plainfield firm headed by George Lattimore, for fitting out the basement of the Tepper's building, which is city-owned space by terms of the redevelopment agreement.

Storch's concern is that there was only one bid submitted. Oh, pooh! Spoilsport!

He urged the Administration to improve the way it gets the word out so we avoid single-bid contracts in the future.

Dream on, Councilor Storch.

At least, Plainfield didn't just have to return the money to the Feds, unspent. For which I think the City owes Pat Ballard Fox and me at least a nod.

There isn't a jot of evidence the Robinson-Briggs Administration paid the least bit of attention to Ballard Fox's transition memo or was even aware of the money or the need to spend it by a date certain
-- going so far as to say there wasn't even a memo -- until Plainfield Today brought it up. Even then, they had to wangle an extension because they were up against the original June 30 deadline.

Plainfield taxpayers should be thankful that Cory Storch is asking the difficult questions.

Otherwise, we would only be learning that Councilors think feeding pigeons is not a good thing.

-- Dan Damon

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