The needler in the haystack.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sharpe has a point for Councils everywhere



Former Newark mayor Sharpe James, target of a federal corruption investigation, has a good point to make -- if not necessarily in his defense, then at least in embroiling the former City Council in the investigation also.

Buried in Friday's Ledger story on the testimony by his former travel agent and redevelopment director was this bit --
James did not respond yesterday to requests for comment, but on Wednesday he delivered a handwritten letter to the Associated Press, dated June 16, denying any responsibility for the cut-rate city land deals now being investigated by federal officials.

"No, no, no, the mayor is not a boss or a lord or can give away municipal land," he wrote in response to an interview request from the AP.

In a two-page letter written on stationary from his state Senate office, James made no blanket claim of innocence but implied any blame for the land deals rests with the City Council, which had the authority to approve or deny the sales.

"Only the Council set prices, only the Council meet and interview developers, only the Council can convey land to developers," James wrote.
Sharpe James is a clever man, and he makes a good point.

However corrupt or not, mayors and administrations do not on their own convey land to developers. In every New Jersey municipality, that responsibility lies with the governing body.

To me, James is saying he will drag the former City Council into any corruption trial. That should be interesting.

But it should also be instructive to governing bodies throughout the state: The fiduciary responsibility to protect the public's interest in these matters ultimately rests with them.

It is their responsibility to do due diligence, to ask the difficult questions, to probe the easy answers, to follow the chains of financial links and political pressure -- or face culpability when the time comes.

To paraphrase Dr. Johnson, “The realisation that one is to be prosecuted in the morning concentrates the mind wonderfully.”



Ledger: "Grand jury hears from James' travel agent, ex-official"

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Rebovich on Asset Monetization

Rider U.'s David Rebovich has a thoughtful -- as always -- post on Corzine's plan to campaign for asset monetization in spite of the fact that it makes the guys and gals who have to stand for re-election this Fall get butterflies in their tummies.

Good for him (Rebovich, that is). Good for us, but you gotta read it. (Like God told Moses: In order to win the lottery, you have to buy a ticket.)

Go ahead, get another cuppa java. Butter up a toasted English muffin, sit down, ... and dive in.

The chores can wait.

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Friday, June 29, 2007

Dina's Faulty Gaydar Dished At Dinner

Linda G.Rastelli, writing in the blog RedBankGreen, wastes no time in getting right down to what was on everyone's mind -- "OK, let's get right to it: How could she not have known?"

This was "not a Barnes & Noble cattle call" she says, and then lays out the fundraiser/dinner blow-by-blow.

On the one hand, this is a very nasty divorce, of which more than a few of us are getting tired.

On the other hand, $2,300 was raised for a Monmouth County child advocacy charity, and Dina might have made some more book sales (which she needs to). Check it out here.

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Blue Jersey's Lassiter's press pass yanked




Blue Jersey's Jay Lassiter

Blue Jersey's Jay Lassiter reported at 3:41 PM on Friday that Stuart Rabner had just been sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in a private ceremony.

At 4:04 PM, barely twenty minutes later, PoliticsNJ reported that one of Rabner's last acts as Attorney General was to yank Lassiter's press credentials. (There are already some comments on the post, more later I'm sure.)

Blue Jersey is a staple for political junkies -- regardless of political stripe -- because it's on top of the breaking news and incisive to boot.

Too incisive?

One has to wonder.

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Revamped ELEC website sucks




Election Law Enforcement Commission Homepage

In my humble, humble opinion, it sucks.

I use the ELEC site periodically -- which means at election times. Have done so for years, without problems.

Well, except the clunky way the search engine works, but that's another matter.

When I tried to get some reports during this past June's Primary Election cycle, it was like butting your head against the wall.

Clicking on the report search button caused my browser to freeze. OK, I fired up IE (NOT my browser of choice), and tried again. Ditto. I rebooted and tried over. Results consistent.

There were no indications on the site that indicated things had changed -- EXCEPT, there was a small note that the site was 'powered by Crystal Reports'. I didn't remember that from the last time I used the site.

I called the number listed on ELEC's front page and was quickly connected to what sounded like a young man who very politely asked what seemed to be the problem.

When I told him I was using Firefox as my browser, he said it was not supported. When I said that I had also tried Internet Explorer but that it, too, froze, he said that I needed to update my Java runtime environment.

OK.

That didn't work either, so I sort of gave up on the reports and wandered off. After all, there ARE other things to do in life, even for a political junkie.

A few days later, a friend, a candidate's wife, called to complain that she wasn't able to access the reports.

A day or two later, I ran into another friend on the way to a Council meeting. She said she, too, was unable to get at the reports.

So, I went back to take another look. This time I spotted TWO links I had never noticed before. One was to a help line specifically for WEB related questions. The other turned out to be a popup window entitled "Best Viewing Requirements"







That nice little popup window repeated the information the gent had given me over the phone.


What's wrong with this picture?

I can't believe the state government thinks we should all be using Internet Explorer. Firefox has about 13% of the market and is growing. What about Opera? What about Apple's Safari, including the new public beta of its Windows version?

Sheez!

Would be glad to hear if the mileage of other people matches my own.

dandamon at comcast dot net.

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Jersey Roads Rank Dead Last. Who knew?




West Front Street (State Route 28), Plainfield, mid-day

Dead last. 50 out of 50. Isn't that cause for a little 'road' rage?

I actually spotted the story last night on Newsday's AP feed, but the Courier News picked it up for this morning.

So now you know, driving on New Jersey's highways can be pure hell.

But then, you knew that anyway, right?

The real question is: Who the hell is the Reason Foundation?



More on Road Rankings --
Courier: "No surprise to Jerseyans: State roads most congested in nation"
The Rankings: "Study ranks states by highway conditions"
Reason Foundation: "16th Annual Report on State Highway Systems Performance"
-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Senior Center developer Fishman has hand in yet another pie



You gotta hand it to Glen Fishman of Dornoch, who is supposed to begin construction on the new Senior Center and condos next Tuesday.

He has his hand in every development pie worth looking at in New Jersey, it seems. Including now, the Ledger notes this morning, the rescue of Kara Homes from oblivion. You'll remember Kara. That is the developer whose crash-and-burn signified the collapsing housing bubble had come to New Jersey.

Kinda makes you wonder whether Fishman's angling to be the new Kushner, now that the old Kushner is cashing in his Jersey chips.

According to the Ledger --
...[N]ew details were spelled out in a revised reorganization plan Kara submitted to U.S. Bank ruptcy Court Judge Mark Kaplan yesterday.

Under the proposed plan, Kara's new owner will be Maplewood Homebuilders, a new company comprised of a Connecticut-based hedge fund, Plainfield Specialty Holdings II and Lakewood developer Glen Fishman, a managing partner in the master developer of Asbury Park's oceanfront development.

Plainfield, which lent Kara $7million to fund operations dur ing the bankruptcy, will put up $10million in equity, commit a re volving loan of $26million for construction and is in the process of buying $25million of debt in three developments, said Kara lawyer David Bruck. Fishman will be the point man for company operations.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Fishman and crew are scrambling to put up the performance bond (three hundred big ones, I'm told) for the Senior Center project and secure permits in order to actually START WORK on Tuesday, as Mayor Robinson-Briggs has promised.

Night sweats anyone?

Senior Center Groundbreaking Ceremony
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
11:00 AM
East Front Street (across from Bank of America)



More on Fishman, Kara and Maplewood --
Ledger: "Kara Homes getting new name"
-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Census hooey about Plainfield?



Thursday's Ledger ran a story on the updates to the 2000 population figures released by the Bureau of the Census, citing Plainfield as having a loss of 476 residents.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs doesn't think so. Neither do I.

She cites subdivision of older homes and the growth in school population.

These are certainly important indicators (more on the subdividing of homes -- much of it illegal -- at another time). To that we should add that the Census figures are an update, NOT an actual physical census.

The next ACTUAL count of people in Plainfield will be in April, 2010. City officials believe we were undercounted in 2000, despite an enormous public relations and community involvement program, but got no justice in appeals.

Will we fare better in 2010? Only time will tell, but I certainly hope the Mayor will plan ahead for a successful Census drive, whether or not she is elected to a second term.

On the other side of the question, I have noticed for years that many African-American residents -- not all of them older -- are selling and moving to the South. Among two I have spoken with recently who are planning such a move are a former Councilor and a former School Board member.

Reason? Lower home prices, lower taxes, lower cost of living, and less stressful living. What's not to like about that?

The struggle over an accurate count of residents is important for more than just reasons of pride of place, however.

Consider that if we can tip the scales at 50,001, we will be eligible to receive our Community Development Block Grant funds DIRECTLY and not through the County. That would be a nice difference, not having to give a cut of our portion to other communities!

We also want to know that more people are moving in than moving out -- and with ever higher incomes -- otherwise, how will we ever sell those hundreds and hundreds of condos on the horizon?




More on the Census --
Ledger: "Drop recorded in Plainfield, though County grows"
-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Jerry Green bats .666




Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22)

Well, the governor signed the budget -- and before the deadline.

But not without taking some whacks. About 10 million of them, actually.
(See the Ledger's breaking news story here.)

Leaving many people unhappy -- but I'll bet Jerry Green is not among them.

Reason? He got two out of his three big wishes.

Back on June 14, I posted his wish list on CLIPS --
Assemblyman Green's Proposed Budget Changes (also see stories under NJ section below): Go to Budget Resolutions page. Click on 'Show all budget resolutions' button. Assemblyman Green's main resolutions are:
  • 1422 - $1.1M for recidivism reduction in Union County
  • 1423 - $9M for Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center
  • 1427 - $450K for City of Plainfield for Operation CeaseFire
Looks like the only one that got cut was #1422, the recidivism reduction grant (complete list of cuts is here). Too bad, but two out of three ain't bad.

Who said three 6's is not a good number?



More on the budget --
Ledger (breaking news): "Corzine trims $10 million in grants from budget"
Complete list of cuts from FY2008 budget (PDF).

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

PARIS and Plainfield - Perfect Together?



PARIS and Plainfield together?

Yes, but make that P.A.R.I.S. -- Public Archives and Records Infrastructure Support -- the grants program of the state's Division of Archives and Records Management designed to give local governments the tools they need to preserve priceless and irreplaceable records concerning local history.

Plainfield received a grant of $50,000, as the Ledger noted in passing.




Table of 2007 PARIS grants. (Click to enlarge.)

But what is the grant for?

Plainfield had applied for a part-time records manager.

The state did not see it exactly that way -- the grant is being made on the condition that the City hire a FULL-TIME records manager, to start on January 7, 2008 or sooner.

And that the City submit to the state a) a revised budget reflecting a full-time position, and b) an outline of specific goals, objectives and job duties for the first year.

This is a good first step to getting a handle on both better routine records management and the preservation of irreplaceable artifacts. (I could tell you horror stories of the casual disregard in which the City's records have been held in the past -- including fires, water damage and plain old-fashioned rot.)



The grant award and its conditions. (Click to enlarge.)

Next question: Who is getting the job? And will they have any qualifications?

Other than knowing someone, that is.

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Cops guarding groceries?




New air conditioning unit being installed last year

Both Bernice and Maria posted on their experiences with the Twin City supermarket yesterday, and, since I shop there too, I figure I'll add my 1½¢ to the discussion.

Maria's take is as follows --
"The last thing that bothers me, but not the least, is the presence of police 24/7. I have been told they are employed on their own time, but yet they wear Plainfield police uniforms and a Plainfield police car is always there. Why? If they are employed on their own time, shouldn't they wear their own clothes and use their own cars? We pay, with our taxes, for their uniforms and the car and gas that they use. No questions or complains about this so far? Besides, by having police there 24/7 the image of danger of crime comes to mind, and do we have crime or not?"
And Bernice sees it somewhat differently --
"Years ago, when the A&P was in the building now occupied by Twin City, there was a mark-up for loss, but it turned out much of the loss was due to employee theft, not just shoplifting.

I don’t know whether New Yorkers get this kind of profiling when they go shopping in neighborhoods, but as for me, I think the presumption of guilt when I am just going to get a couple of empanadas and some household supplies is a bit much."
My mileage varies.

First, the cops.

'Shrinkage' is a serious problem for retailers of every stripe -- think of hearing the alarm go off at Borders or Target or Home Depot if you try to leave with some purchase that hasn't had its magnetic gizmo demagnetized by the clerk who checked you out.

But you can't magnetize the meat the butcher just wrapped up for you, or the fruits in the bin -- you get the picture.

Besides, supermarkets operate on notoriously thin profit margins -- 2-3% is the norm. At that rate, management has to take some measures just to stay in business.

As for the cops, they are needed. I go in every day and always stop to exchange a few words with the officers, many of whom I have known over the years of working at City Hall.

At first, it struck me as odd that most of the time they seemed to lounge near the ATM machine by the exit. But it turns out that is where most of the action is, since shoplifters have to get the goods out through this one door. And the tales the cops can tell about how creative the shoplifters are!

Some just try to stuff things in their clothing. Others will attempt to flim-flam the clerk about the quantities in the cart. The most clever work as teams, with one making a diversion that draws peoples' attention away from the exit and the other getting out the door with the stuff.

So, someone at the door is necessary. But why a cop?

Well, for one thing, shoppers who are casually tempted to pilfer may be put off by the sight of a cop as opposed to a store employee.

Secondly, a cop can bust you. That counts.

A store (or a street disruption -- think PSE&G -- or a private event needing traffic control -- think a wedding, funeral, or concert) pays the City for off-duty police to provide services needed.

Cops are not allowed to rent themselves out as cops. They are public servants. If they are needed, they are deployed by the City and they wear their uniforms; it's just a requirement. The payments are made to the City on a standardized basis, not to the individual cop. (It is not unheard of for cops to be offered 'tips' by merchants -- but it is a definite no-no, and makes serious trouble for both the merchant and the cop if discovered.)

Who pays for the uniforms? I think the officers do get a uniform allowance, but that is not unusual. Probably holds true for firefighters and other City employees who must wear a uniform, as well as the PMUA. (As a youth, I worked in the parts department of a Lincoln-Mercury dealer and also in a factory making glass lenses for military use. Both jobs required uniforms, which the employer supplied.)

As for the cop cars, sometimes the officers come in their own vehicles, sometimes not. I don't know the reason for the difference.

Second, the bag policy.

Since I settle for the plastic bags the store offers, and anything I have with me beforehand is left in the car, I never have a bag to 'park'.

But I notice what goes on.

Everyone who comes in with a bag from another store in hand is asked to park it. Doesn't seem to me that any one person is profiled more than any other. But I have noticed one thing -- women who come in with a personal tote bag slung on their shoulder do not seem to be challenged. Does that mean it's interpreted as a 'purse' -- an item that NO woman I know of would EVER surrender for ANY reason. Nor even be asked to. Dunno.

Third, why go to Twin City at all?

It's convenient. I shop there every day.

There are some things I wouldn't go there for. But there are some things you might not want to go anyplace else for: the produce is consistently better than in the national chains, imho, and more varied. There is a greater variety of spices and condiments -- and cheaper than the national chains. The meat department takes me back to my childhood. Actual butchers! Actually cutting the meat up to order, before your very eyes! And you can see it's fresh! And you can get more parts of the animal than you may want to know about! How's all that for a throwback to the good old days?

Besides, you can't beat the Muzak or the aisle-end displays, which are straight out of the A&P playbook of the 1940s.


-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

The Kiss: Praise for Marion Bolden

Marion Bolden's response to the furor around the yearbook photo that was blacked out shows that she is a stand-up person indeed.

ACLU-NJ, writing in Blue Jersey, contrasted her behavior over this incident with the writer's experience of poor decision-making by government employees --

I often share outrageous stories of poor decision making by government employees that costs the taxpayers big time. And, I usually tell people that of every category of government, no one digs their heels in on the wrong issues more than school superintendents.

Here are just a few of these stories: there was a school district in Washington State that didn't want to pay to mail the ACLU about 11 pages of public records, went to court and ended up writing the ACLU a check for almost $60,000 in attorney fees; or the school that suspended a student for having aspirin at school under a zero-tolerance policy; or the student suspended for having a chain on her Tweety Bird wallet to connect it to her jeans because they considered it a ''weapon.'' I could go on (The writer does -- DD).

But Marion Bolden turned out to be cut from different cloth -- and the ACLU write goes on to detail both the writer's experiences with other school superintendents and actions by Bolden that set her apart, concluding --
For the first time in my 15-plus-year career, I have witnessed a school superintendent putting aside her pride, leaving lawyers out of it and doing everything in her power to make it right. Her actions should serve as a model for others who find themselves in hot water over a poorly decided action. For the manner in which she ultimately handled the issue, she deserves our praise.
Amen!

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Plainfield Summer Pools Schedule

Coming off the summer's first heat wave, news of Plainfield's outdoor swimming pools' opening will be welcome to kids everywhere.

The following schedule was distributed to attendees at Wednesday's non-forum 'forum'.



POOL DATES & HOURS OF OPERATION

HANNAH ATKINS POOL
West 3rd Street & Plainfield Avenue

Open: June 22
Close: September 3

Hours
Mon - Fri: Noon - 8 PM
Sat: Noon - 7 PM
Sun: Noon - 6 PM


RUSHMORE PARK POOL
West 3rd Street & Rushmore Avenue

Open: July 1
Close: September 3

Hours
Mon - Fri: Noon - 8 PM
Sat: Noon - 7 PM
Sun: Noon - 6 PM


SEIDLER FIELD POOL
North & Garfield Avenues

Open: July 1
Close: September 3

Hours
Mon - Fri: Noon - 8 PM
Sat: Noon - 7 PM
Sun: Noon - 6 PM


-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Plainfield's press release 'problem'



As I entered last night's non-forum 'forum' on redevelopment, Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs was finishing making a point that the blogs have brought up: Press releases from the City.

She complained that it is untrue that her Administration does not file press releases with the media, claiming that many, many have been filed but we don't always see the stories.

I share her pain.

My guess is that 75% of the releases I ever filed never generated a story in the Ledger or Courier. It's not ALL the newspapers' fault. After all, they do have space limitations, and some standards about what is considered 'newsworthy'. Releases were often thought of as self-serving puffery by politicians -- say it isn't so!! And sometimes they found the item newsworthy but didn't have enough staff to cover all that was happening on that given day.

It goes with the turf.

What the County does is post ALL its press releases on its website, as I have pointed out in these pages before.

Hopefully the revived Plainfield website will do the same when it comes online.

Meantime, I am more than happy to put any and all press releases of the City up on the blog, exactly as received, with no comment or editorializing, as a public service.

All Her Honor has to do is tell her communications team to email the items to me (she has my email address).

Consider it part of being a good citizen.



Previous Plainfield Today comment on this Administration's communications issues:
-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Redevelopment 'Forum': When is a forum a forum?


We are certainly living in strange times. Last night's non-forum 'forum' on redevelopment hosted by Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs being a case in point.

I thought at once of 'Newspeak', the language of George Orwell's novel 1984, where words are repurposed so that citizens cannot commit thoughtcrimes.

The thoughtcrime citizens were prevented from committing at the meeting -- which the Crescent Times characterizes as a 'presentation' -- was actually getting to engage Mayor Robinson-Briggs and her team in an exchange by asking questions from the floor.

Instead, participants were told to fill out the 'comments card' in the handouts and take it to a table where representatives of various departments sat to answer questions or receive comments.

Huh?

Was it because Mayor Robinson-Briggs was afraid to take questions from the floor in a free-for-all, as is the case with bona fide forums?

Whatever her thinking, last night's performance has left a bad taste in the mouths of those to whom she has paid the least attention and most needs to win over: the business owners who stormed the Council meeting in May that led to last night's 'forum'.

Can you say 'wasted opportunity'?



Some definitions of 'forum' from the Web:
  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary: "A public meeting or lecture involving audience discussion"
  • Pacto-Convex Meetings Glossary: "Meeting or part of meeting set aside for an open discussion by recognized participants on subjects of public interest."
  • Princeton's Wordnet: "A public meeting or assembly for open discussion."

Some excellent online guides to planning forums:
-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Cellphone user alert: The #646# trick



On April 6th, my good friend and former boss, Plainfield Mayor Al McWilliams, passed away. For days I was on the cell from dawn to dusk helping the family and contacting political friends and community residents about his passing and the funeral arrangements.

My next phone bill gave me quite a shock. I have a generous allowance of minutes, which had NEVER been exceeded
EVER, and I was taken aback at a surcharge of over $150.

Vowing not to let it happen again, I began checking my account usage on my computer every couple of days.

A friend said all that effort was unnecessary.

All I needed to do, he said, was call #646#, which connects you with a voice recording telling you how many minutes of various kinds have been used in the current billing cycle, so you can guesstimate your next bill. It also sends a free text message with the details to your phone.

Nice, huh?

Who says the phone company doesn't take care of you?

At least Verizon Wireless, anyway.

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Corzine reassigns traveling companion?


"Well done, thou good and faithful servant...but you're reassigned."

Or words somewhat to that effect. According to Gawker, it seems Gov. Corzine has reassigned the young woman who was traveling with him the day of the fateful accident in which he was tossed about and gravely injured.

Gawker thinks she was not belted in, though I recall earlier reports that said Corzine was the only occupant not using a seat belt.

Hey, what can I say? He's the governor and we're not.




Gawker.com: "Results: accidents happen"
-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Redevelopment Forum: A lovely time was had by all




Leola Schroeder would have loved Plainfield Mayor Robinson-Briggs' forum on economic development and redevelopment Wednesday evening.

It had everything she adored about meetings: it was orderly and smoothly run, with nice refreshments, and lots of reassurance that all was well and everyone is included.

In my childhood, Leola was the local correspondent for The Grape Belt, a weekly broadsheet newspaper that circulated in New York's westernmost county, Chautauqua. It served the farmers who made their living from Concord grapes and dairy cows and the residents scattered among the hamlets of the mostly rural county. Her beat was our little hamlet of Laona and its environs, about a mile from my folks' farm.

Mostly she wrote up the meetings of the Ladies' Aid Society and the W.S.C.S. (Women's Society of Christian Service, to those who may be unfamiliar). The Ladies' Aid Society catered to women of a certain age, while the W.S.C.S. was for more 'modern' and younger women. Both groups relished good gossip.

Leola also made a staple of the Sunday afternoon 'motorings' of people to visit relatives or friends in other nearby hamlets, where the names of all those who made the trip and those who received the visit, as well as what kind of refreshments were served and whether or not cards were played, were scrupulously recorded and reported.

Typically, her dispatches would end "and a lovely time was had by all."

She did not write of Aubrey, who was on the church council and went to jail for embezzling from his car dealership -- leaving his wife bereft and mortified.

She did not write of Edith, who ran the local grocery store, with a heavy thumb on the meat scale and a padding of the entries in the little marble notebook where she kept the tally of purchases by those who could only pay monthly and to whom she extended credit.

She did not write of Irene, the married Sunday School teacher who was having an affair with the game warden and was discovered in flagrante delicto along a country lane, becoming the talk of all the ladies in the Ladies' Aid Society and the W.S.C.S. combined, as well as the gents at the blacksmith's shop.

No,
Leola was the voice of unity in the community.

No conflicts, no disappointments, no jostling agendas, no winners and losers.

Just the serenity of knowing -- and reporting -- that "a lovely time was had by all."

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Had any Smart Growth Kool-Aid lately?



Dustin Hoffman and Ann Bancroft discuss plastics in 'The Graduate'

When Gov. Jim McGreevey put forward 'smart growth' a number of years ago, I enthusiastically signed on: transit-oriented development (TOD) would revive our older cities (of which Plainfield is one), high tech infrastructure would lure hotshot technology-driven businesses, and citizen participation in the process would bring back Jacksonian or New Deal democracy (pick your flavor).

Time to reassess.

About transit-oriented development, I am reminded of the buzz around 'urban renewal' in the 1960s. Picture the scene. Highway strip malls and ever-expanding suburban settlements had sucked the life out of older downtowns. 'Urban renewal' was supposed to remedy that by making these older downtowns attractive once again.

In an homage to The Graduate, we might say the future was summed up in just one word: Parking.

Parking was to be the way out of the mess. Across the nation, tens of thousands of acres of retail blocks were flattened to provide parking lots and parking decks. Who can forget Paul Rudolph's brutalist parking deck near New Haven's Green? The one that became a template for all time? The one that was recently demolished as out of step with the times?

So, now we have
transit-oriented development, and parking is not the solution. It is, rather, the problem -- or at least a part of it. Things should be done 'greener', air and noise and emissions matter more now. People will walk, they will bike, they will take trains and buses everywhere they need to go.

Yeah, right.

What I'm beginning to see is a lot of developers lining up, salivating, really out to make a lot of money, covering up their shoddy designs with some frou-frou and squeezing planning boards and governing bodies down on parking requirements.

That's true whether it's condos wanting to piggyback on public parking lots or little townhouse cul-de-sacs with cars parked in the 1-car garage, the driveway, and the turnaround.

The devil take the hindmost.

Transit-oriented development might still be a good idea, however residents, businesses and governing bodies are going to have to fight for quality outcomes -- no wily developer is going to give them up willingly.

But the walk-everywhere mantra is just one of the 'smart growth' assumptions that could use a closer look. For instance, will there be a future for light industry and the workers who depend on it? And where are all the people going to come from for these pricey new condos?

More later.

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Gangs or no gangs, that is the question



Does Plainfield have gangs or not? That was one of the themes of Mayor Robinson-Briggs' campaign, but the theme seems to have withered away since her inauguration in January, 2006.

Yet, with constant reports of gunplay in the neighborhoods, six reported shootings so far this year, and several violent incidents in the schools, the question just doesn't go away.

Today's Asbury Park Press and Bergen Record both report on a conference of educators and social workers at Brookdale Community College yesterday, where State Police gang experts discussed the problem and their approaches to it.

I would take exception with the notion put forward by a retired Bergen detective that 'people just don't want to hear about it.'

Folks in Plainfield would like to have an accurate assessment of the problem of gangs and some information about what is being done, what works and what doesn't.

Trouble is, we're not getting it.

The papers are too thinly staffed to cover everything. The bloggers are like one-armed paperhangers with a surfeit of stories to explore. Block associations have a network among themselves but no way to share with the community at large.

The one place that leadership and communication could be expected to come from would be the Administration, with its soon-to-be-revived website and its public access cable TV station.

That would be the same Administration that has not thought it a generally bad thing that public notice of crime should wither away.

What is to be done?



Coverage --
-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

China's 'snake oil' capitalism




Early Coca-Cola ad

Before everyone starts hyperventilating about the safety of Chinese imports, a little historical perspective would be helpful.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for making sure that the stuff we import to eat, feed our pets, play with and ride on should be safe.

But it's not simply a case of unscrupulous Chinese companies trying to cut costs, shave corners and -- literally -- make a killing on their American customers. (Turns out they're doing the same to their fellow citizens, as today's NY Times reports.)

Think of today's Chinese entrepreneurialism as somewhat akin to our own burgeoning and unregulated 'snake oil medicine' period in the 19th century.

Many of the over-the-counter products -- especially health- and beauty-related -- that we take for granted as safe and effective today come out of that rather shadowy past.

And let's not forget Coca-Cola, whose original jolt of cocaine gave 19th-century Atlanta ladies a nice little pick-me-up in the afternoon.

As the Times points out today, the Chinese government is VERY interested in seeing that the wild and wooly aspects are toned down and put under stricter regulation.

All well and good, but what about OUR lovely outsourcing multinationals who take the approach that regulation of these products is somehow beyond their responsibility. Who's going to help them lay claim to their moral responsibility?

As they say, 'caveat emptor'.



Coverage --
-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Bolden's better instincts win out




Screenshot of Steve Goldstein's 'Breaking News' email

Marion Bolden admits she has learned a lesson from the yearbook kiss brouhaha.

As Garden State Equality reported in a 'breaking news' email yesterday evening, Bolden went to the East Side HS commencement rehearsal and apologized to Andre Jackson in front of the entire graduating class. (If you can find the news on the GSE website, please let me know -- I can't.)

And, Goldstein notes, in a phone conversation with him 'moments ago', Bolden agreed to meet at least four times a year with a task force on diversity and sensitivity that Goldstein is putting together with Newark's LGBTI community.

Goldstein also quotes Bolden as saying the yearbook incident is 'my lowest moment since I've been Superintendent.'

That's saying something, recalling the fight Sharpe James picked with her a few years ago that almost cost her her job.

Bolden seems to have drawn some 'life lessons', as teachers like to say, from the episode. She should be acknowledged for that, but don't fear -- there'll be some school official near you f***ing up in the near future.

Goes with the human condition, dontcha know.



Other coverage --
My previous posts:
Garden State Equality website: "Garden State Equality"

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Plainfield.com version 3.0 coming




Will you miss this friendly error message
every time you go to load a new page?


Plainfield's official city website is supposed to be resurrected at the end of this month, after being frozen in time since last October.

About time.

Begun in the mid-90s by John DiPane, the city's original website grew under his expertise in web design and management to include a wealth of information about the City and its activities, as well as information for visitors, businesses and residents. It was well-suited to Plainfield's needs.

But there was just one problem -- new City Administrator Carlton McGee. During his tenure, the site was rebuilt, at least partly, by people with whom it turns out he had a prior connection. As they say, follow the money.

When McGee left abruptly at the end of October 2006 -- or was he dumped? -- the website was literally frozen. No one in the City had access passwords or usernames to edit or update ANYTHING.

In an email to me, John, who runs a web development business, explained that he would be able to correct the situation quite quickly and easily -- if he were brought on to do so. Not a nibble from the Administration, which instead chose to embarrass the residents with the misbegotten site for going on eight months.

Here's a little gallery of screenshots, taken over the past couple of days, of seveal pages desperately needing to be updated. A complete catalog would glaze your eyes over. Be sure to check back after the relaunch.



The header is pleasant enough,
but what's the story with the 'Welcome' signs?



The Punt, Pass & Kick event
is still scheduled for September 30, 2006.



Tony Grey has been gone for months.



Dr. Warwas was unceremoniously fired last September,
leaving the Division in a turmoil from which it has not recovered.



The infamous 'email to nowhere' form.
Any business inquiring about Plainfield would get a bounce-back
message that the mailbox was inoperative.


Will version 3.0 be better? It better be. The world is watching.



Previous website coverage --

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Plainfield Tower West in $16M rehab



Plainfield Tower West, the high-rise at West 7th and Plainfield Avenue, has received a grant of $879,000 from a state affordable housing fund toward a $16M rehabilitation program planned by its owner, Presbyterian Homes of New Jersey, according to a report in the Ledger.

The 12-story building has 154 apartments for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities.

Included in the rehab will be thermal pane windows and the replacement of cabinets, countertops and vanities in all units. Additionally, the roof and the building's air conditioning and heating systems will be replaced.

Apartments must be reserved for low-income residents for at least 30 years, in exchange for which Presbyterian Homes will receive $7.5M in Federal low-income housing tax credits.

Questions about the PILOT for this facility were raised at an April City Council meeting (see my post), though to my knowledge they have not been answered.

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Lautenberg grant deadline looms




On May 21, I pointed out that Plainfield was in danger of having to give back to the Feds a grant of $460, 000 that had been secured by Sen. Frank Lautenberg in his first career as Senator.

The grant, one of two secured by Lautenberg (the other was to the Plainfield Public Library, long since expended) for the city, was to be tied to the Tepper's residential/commercial conversion project into Horizons at Plainfield.




Part of that deal was that the ground floor space -- approximately 17,000 square feet -- was to be rent-free in perpetuity to the City of Plainfield and put to a public use.

As part of her 'transition memo' to the Robinson-Briggs administration, Pat Ballard Fox, Deputy City Administrator for Economic Development under the late Mayor Al McWilliams, the expiration date on the grant monies was pointed out.

And I have pointed it out more than once (see my previous post), including in 2006, Robinson-Briggs' first year in office.

Initially, City Administrator Carlton McGee denied the Robinson-Briggs administration had been informed of the grant deadline.

Since his abrupt departure under a cloud, the tune has changed somewhat. The existence of the memo is no longer in dispute.

The line the Administration is now putting out is that the grant expires at the end of September. Not exactly so, as it was tied to performance within a stated period of the DATE IT WAS SIGNED IN 2002.

Word is that the Robinson-Briggs administration is laboring mightily to have the expire date reset.

I wish them well, but there is just one question.

Given this crew's track record, if the expire date is extended, what are the chances they will have a workable proposal by that date?



Plainfield Today (May 21): "Will city have to give $460K back to Feds?"

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Ex-cops turned into snitches?


Two Union County cops recently convicted of official misconduct in a fraud scheme may be forced to snitch on other members of their ring.

Roselle Boro police officer John A. Smith was sentenced this past Friday to a year's probation, a $5,000 fine and being permanently barred from public employment for his role in the auto insurance fraud scheme.

He joins his friend, former Plainfield police officer Samad Abdel, who received an identical sentence a month ago. The two are part of a ring that has defrauded State Farm Insurance and at least four other companies of millions of dollars in false claims.

State Farm filed a civil lawsuit in 2004, that paints the ring as --

a vast conspiracy that included 38 members who were strategically located in police departments, insurance agencies and auto body shops, making it "virtually undetectable."
With both officers now sentenced -- leniently, as some point out -- the question becomes, will they be snitching on the others in the ring?

That will be interesting to see.

Oh, and the name of the body shop the frauds were run through?

Creative Auto Body.

Worthy of Tony Soprano.



Archived stories--
-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/

Ka-ching! Homestead rebate applications on the way



Union County residents should find their homestead rebate applications in their mailboxes tomorrow (Wednesday), according to a story in today's Ledger.

Senior and disabled applications were mailed in May.

$2 billion has been set aside for tax relief, and the average property owner should see a $1,000 rebate, according to State Treasurer Brad Abelow.

Won't come in time for your shore rental, though. Betcha.



More --
-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
http://plainfieldtoday.blogspot.com/