The needler in the haystack.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

NJT Bridge Work: Central Avenue, New Street closed

Just like clockwork, NJT has closed Central Avenue (two-way traffic) and New Street (southbound only) to vehicular traffic as part of its ongoing program of Plainfield bridge renovations.

The barricades went up on Saturday and are expected to remain in place until next Spring.

Readers who use Central Avenue as a quick and easy route to and from Route 22 and other points should make alternate plans.

Meanwhile, Liberty Street (northbound) and Madison Avenue (southbound) are once again open to vehicular traffic.

With the recent completion of the Duer Street bridge work over the Green Brook, the Duer Street/Madison Avenue route will help those who want to avoid the Central Avenue headache, but only on the SOUTHBOUND trip.

As Roy Rogers and Dale Evans used to sing, "Happy Trails To You".


Plainfield Today: "An overview of the 2007-2009 NJT bridge renovations"
-- Dan Damon

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Verizon Wireless will share ALL your information unless you opt out



Verizon Wireless customer alert: Verizon is preparing to share your 'proprietary' (I would call it 'confidential') information with just about the whole world unless you OPT OUT.

That includes everything from your cellphone number to the type, destination, location and amount of services you purchase -- including billing information.

If you DO NOT OPT OUT, you are considered to have given your consent.

It's very simple. I recommend you do it right away to preserve what shreds of privacy you have left.

Here's the drill -- from the insert I received in my most recent bill --
  1. Have handy the following information: your 10-digit cellphone number, your 5-digit ZIP code, the last 4 digits of your Social Security number (or your company's tax ID number, if it's a company phone).

  2. Call this number and follow the voice prompts: (800) 333-9956.
It's a very simple process and takes probably less than 30 seconds.

Opting out does not affect the status of your services or your account.

Lesson number two: You know those little inserts that frequently come in your phone and credit card bills that you never read? You need to read them.

-- Dan Damon

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21M pounds of Topps frozen hamburger patties recalled



The ground beef recall took a serious turn Saturday with the recall of 21.7 million pounds of ground beef products of the Topps Meat Co., which is based in Elizabeth.

Authorities are investigating 22 cases of E. coli in a number of states ranging from Maine to Florida and from New Jersey to Indiana.

All packages with a 'sell by' or 'use by' date between September 25, 2007 and September 25, 2008 and packed by 'EST 9748' (Topps ID number) should be discarded.

According to a press release by Topps, the 'sell by' and 'EST' information are located on the back panel of the package and/or in the USDA legend.

More information in the New York Times story here.



NY Times: "Ground beef recall is expanded"
Topps Meat Co.: "Homepage"

-- Dan Damon

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7th Annual Hispanic Heritage Festival Sunday




7th Annual
HISPANIC HERITAGE FESTIVAL

Sunday, September 30
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
West Front Street
Between Park and Madison Avenues

FREE ADMISSION
Ethnic Foods
Traditional Dances
Music
Rides
Professional Entertainment
Information: (908) 753-7155 or www.njlac.org/

Sponsored By The
LATIN AMERICAN COALITION


-- Dan Damon

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Friday, September 28, 2007

[Breaking] Another mayor busted - Guttenberg




Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna.

[Breaking - 11:15 PM] Guttenberg's mayor and his wife were arrested by the FBI today, charged with diverting campaign funds (as in: for personal use) and taking money from a bar owner to get a zoning variance.

After the mandatory perp walk and arraignment, Mayor David Delle Donna and his wife Anna were each released on $100,000 bond.

As The Ridge Nightfly, a Somerset County blog which posted on the story earlier this evening puts it so well --
As usual, the most astonishing thing is not that they were corrupt, but that they put their futures into the toilet for “plastic surgery, dog accessories and gambling trips to Atlantic City…about $1,000 in department store gift cards and bottles of liquor”. In New Jersey it seems that failures of ethics are accompanied by failures of imagination and a sense of proportion.
Sooner or later Christie's darts have to start hitting the Union County map.

Don't they?


AP (breaking news): "Guttenberg mayor and wife indicted on corruption charges"
The Ridge Nightfly: "Petty Crooks"
PoliticsNJ: "Guttenberg mayor indicted"
NY Times: "New Jersey Mayor and Wife Accused of Extortion"
-- Dan Damon

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Intervention sought to protect citizen rights at Council meetings

An Orange City Councilman has asked for outside intervention by the state and the federal governments to ensure that citizen rights to make their opinions known at City Council meetings are respected.

After a man who silently protested Orange Mayor Mims Hackett's refusal to resign by holding up a letter-sized flyer during the Council meeting was evicted and charged with disruption, Councilman-at-large Donald Page asked for the outside help.

See more in the Ledger story.


Ledger: "Protection sought for protesters"
-- Dan Damon

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NJ nonprofits fight disclosing political contributions

New Jersey nonprofits were supposed to start filing reports on their political contributions with the state's Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) this month, according to rules promulgated last Spring.

ELEC has extended that deadline to October 30, but is facing pressure from politicos (why am I not surprised?) and the nonprofits to drop the requirement, according to reports in the Ledger and the Courier.

The jawdropper is that even Harry Pozycki, Mr. Get-Rid-of-Pay-to-Play, is agin' it.

Huh?!

I don't get it.

If you're a nonprofit and you're making political contributions (which I happen to think you should not), you should report. Pure and simple.

And, yes, I know it's a pain in the butt. Been there, done that.

And if you think that public knowledge of your nonprofit's contributions would disaffect your financial supporters or create bad publicity for your organization, why on earth are you doing it in the first place?


Ledger: "Nonprofit groups get reprieve on campaign donation rules"
Courier: "Nonprofit groups get extension to file forms"
-- Dan Damon

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Costume your Halloween witch or monster - Cheap!

The best Halloween costume bargains abound at the Summit Junior League's Thrift Shop, reports today's Star-Ledger.

But they won't last.

If you've got little ones to costume and are running on a budget, check out the shop -- first thing tomorrow morning.

Thrift Shop
37 DeForest Avenue
Summit, NJ 07901
Phone: (908) 273-7344


Ledger: "Where the savings are scary"
Junior League of Summit: "JLS Thrift Shop"
-- Dan Damon

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Will Plainfield's Senior Center condos sell?




Rendering of 62-condo Plainfield Senior development.


Kenilworth is in an uproar over rumors concerning a proposed condo development -- with interesting implications for Plainfield's Senior Center condos.

As the Ledger reports this morning, the town is abuzz over rumors the condos will be offered at $350,000 for a two-bedroom unit. (Is it a coincidence that our Senior Center condos were mentioned as being offered at the same number?)

Not so fast, says developer Harold Abrams, "No one knows what you can sell for a year from now."

Which brings us to OUR condos.

Will they sell?

Probably.

Will they sell at $350,000.

Probably not.

Make that 'Not very likely.'

The market has sagged like a fallen arch since the developers began beating on our doors a year ago.

Whether they are offered at $350,000 or, more likely, $250,000, there is a real question about how well they will sell -- especially if the thought is that they will be found attractive by Seniors.

Who in their right mind would sell a house on which they are paying taxes on a value assessed at something like $125-140,000 to move into a new condo which will be assessed at the sales price?

The line forms on the right.


Ledger: "Kenilworth developer says age-restricted project not set"
-- Dan Damon

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Misprision: Are you guilty?

Word comes this morning that Philip Russell, who had been the attorney for a church embroiled in a child pornography case, admitted yesterday to one count of misprision of a felony.

What, you say?

Misprision, as Merriam-Webster holds, is "concealment of treason or felony by one who is not a participant in the treason or felony."

Mr. Russell got in trouble for destroying the church computer on which the music director of Christ Episcopal Church in Greenwich, CT, kept child pornography.

New Jersey being New Jersey, what are the odds that politically engaged adults over the age of 18 have committed misprision at some point or other?


ConnPost.com: "Lawyer pleads guilty to destroying evidence"
-- Dan Damon

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Coffee and muffins with mystery writer M.E. Kemp Saturday AM



Mystery writer M.E. Kemp will be chatting with all who are interested at a coffee-and-muffins breakfast at 9 AM Saturday (tomorrow) morning at The Pillars, 922 Central Avenue.

The author, who is promoting her recent mystery, Death of a Dutch Uncle, covers the world of Colonial Puritans (more worldly than you ever imagined) with her two Puritan snoops, Hetty and Creasy.

Here is a blurb from her website for the latest book --
Death of a Dutch Uncle is a funny, historically accurate picture of the Albany Dutch and their Mohawk allies in 1691. When the Patroon’s nephew drops dead on Boston Common on training day, my two nosy Puritan detectives, Hetty Henry and “Creasy” Cotton meet some eccentric Dutch characters in their search to uncover just who poisoned the poltroon of a nephew.

Hetty and Creasy face Indian raids, kidnapping and piracy on the High Hudson before they uncork the killer with a doctored dram of their own.

So whether you're a mystery or history buff, you can get a chance to hear about naughty Puritans and saintly sinners. Plus, she'll have books along for signing.

To ensure a muffin, call Nancy and Lamont, innkeepers of The Pillars, at (908) 753-0922 to let them know you're coming.

If you miss the breakfast, you can catch the author at 1 PM at the Bound Brook Library, 402 East High Street. (Free, no registration required.)


M.E. Kemp: "The Website"
Amazon: "Death Of A Dutch Uncle"
Amazon: "Murder, Mather and Mayhem"
-- Dan Damon

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$7M BUF Bond May Leave Plainfield On The Hook

With the County Counsel saying that perhaps the City of Plainfield is on the hook if BUF defaults on the UCIA bonds but that the County certainly wasn't, the Board of Chosen Freeholders voted last night to consent to the offering of $7M in bonds by the UCIA to underwrite BUF's pre-school project.

The only 'no' vote was from Freeholder Mapp, who earlier said that while he was pleased to see funding coming toward Plainfield, this kind of investment deserved buy-in from the City Council, who know nothing about the project or the bond.

Mapp further said that he wanted "to be assured that some study has been done to show a revenue stream that will support the bond" and moved to table the ordinance pending further information.

Freeholder Sullivan, taking issue with Freeholder Mapp, said "we have to approve any and all projects they [the UCIA] put forward ... they have done their due diligence or they would not have presented it to us."

Apparently flummoxed by Mapp's motion to table, the chair
dithered. Finally the Board voted to suspend the rules. Mapp was then allowed to move to table the ordinance. His motion died -- are you ready for this? -- for lack of a second. The ordinance was then quickly passed.

Where are we?

THE BOND

We have a quasi-governmental public authority -- the UCIA -- now authorized to bond $7M for a nonprofit organization, referred to in the ordinance as the 'Black United Fund-Plainfield Project'.

No one knows who is responsible for paying off the bonds should BUF default. But we do know it is NOT Union County, and it may be the City of Plainfield, per the County Counsel.

Question: Does BUF have to put up the 5% up-front money -- that would be $350,000 -- before the bond is issued, as the City does when it bonds?

THE CITY'S 'SUPPORT'

Freeholder Mapp stated that the "governing body [of Plainfield is] unaware of the project and the bond. He also said he believed there should be "buy-in" from the City Council.

Yet all we have to show the City's support is a letter from Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, dated August 7th. I have put in an OPRA request for that letter, which is due today, and will report on the letter later once I have a copy. Suffice it to say, a support letter from the Mayor cannot bind the City to repay the bonds should BUF default on them.

THE PROJECT

No one -- except for Mayor Robinson-Briggs, the UCIA, and, presumably, Assemblyman Green -- knows about the nature of the BUF project.

Is it new construction or the expansion of the existing facility?

Will it be at the BUF Center at West 7th and Central Avenue or at the former Grant Avenue Community Center site at Grant Avenue and West 6th Street or at another site altogether?

How can a project of this scope -- $7 million -- be envisioned without the knowledge or review of the Planning Division or the Zoning Board (or perhaps the Planning Board)?

How can bonds be issued if there are no plans? If there are plans, why have not the Council and the Planning Division seen them?

FURTHER QUESTIONS

Let me say that I'm not necessarily opposed to this project. How can I be, since I -- and everyone else -- know only what we read in the ordinance that has come to light. What DOES concern me is the lack of transparency.

When Assemblyman Green and I chatted at the Friends of the Library's wine-tasting last weekend, I asked him if he had any idea why so many people find this story of interest (it has rated nearly 5 times the normal page views for a 'hot' story). The Assemblyman said he couldn't guess, as hardly anyone would have known about it except for Plainfield Today.

But there are FURTHER questions.

Who is "the Torain Group" cited in the ordinance as having asked the UCIA to bond BUF's project? I have been told they are financial advisors to BUF. But I find it curious that Googling them only turns up one reference --
a PDF of the legal notice of the ordinance, published in the Westfield Leader on September 13, 2007.

By way of contrast, Googling the late Leona Helmsley's dog 'Trouble' nets 265,000 links -- and 'Trouble' only got $12M. Shouldn't the Torain Group get at least a few more hits?

Having been surprised to find the Senior Center project using non-union labor, is it fair to ask if BUF will be required to use union labor?

Lastly, we need to know if BUF will be exempt from the requirement of following the state's Public Bidding Law. If it need not, does that mean that the letting of contracts for the work can be done solely at the discretion of BUF's board? If so, it could provide a wonderful opportunity to reward 'friends'.

Whose friends, you ask?



-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Real Estate Bomb: Foxtons Folds




Foxtons signs have been a familiar sight.

Foxton's, the West Long Branch-based subsidiary of a London real estate company known for its discounted commissions is filing for bankruptcy, according to this morning's Asbury Park Press.

Plainfield's full-service realtors will not miss it. In fact, their reluctance to show Foxtons' listings may have helped contribute to the firm's demise in today's tough market.

The same can't be said for Foxtons customers, caught in the middle, as the firm shuts down.

Not a good sign for the New Jersey real estate market.

Question: Who's next?




The ubiquitous Foxtons Mini Cooper will be seen no more.


-- Dan Damon

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IRS drops investigation of church over sermon




All Saint's Church hears IRS news. (Phot, LA Times.)

In an important First Amendment case, the IRS has dropped its attempt to rescind the non-profit status of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, over a sermon delivered by a former rector in 2004 in which he was critical of the war in Iraq and of President Bush's tax cuts.

Parish leaders are confused, however, by the IRS letter closing the case, in which the IRS holds -- still -- that the sermon was illegal.

The church wants a clarification -- and an apology.

This is only church's most recent tussle with the government -- it has a long history of social activism, dating back to World War II, when it's then-rector preached against the internment of Japanese-Americans and the theft of their property by official government action.

I'm glad for them they won they fight.

I'm not holding my breath on the apology.

Plainfield connection: Former Plainfield residents Debby (costumer of the stars) and Jerry (you've seen him in many, many commercials) Lancaster are members of All Saints Church.


-- Dan Damon

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Rat: Dems sell out union at Plainfield's Senior Center site?




Laborers union members -- and their famous rat -- picket the
Plainfield Senior Center's construction site. (Click to enlarge.)


The giant rat could mean only one thing: Non-union labor is being used to build Plainfield's new Senior Center.

Driving down Front Street from the funeral of Democratic stalwart Irene Leath, where Jerry Green had just delivered a eulogy, New Jersey's most famous balloon was noticeable from two blocks away as laborers' union workers picketed the Dornoch construction site.

In a Democratic town -- on a project where the developer got the property from the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA), whose executive director Charlotte DeFilippo is the chair of the Union County Democratic Committee; and where the City's legislative representative is Plainfield Democratic City Committee chair Jerry Green -- how could this happen?

Democrats and trade unions go together like 'love and marriage', as the old song says.

So, how did our Democratic leaders let this happen?

What difference does it make if they are sure to place the union label on all their printed materials if, when push comes to shove, they don't see to it that union workers are employed on construction?

Something is seriously wrong here, folks.

This is not an embarrassment, it is an outrage.

I learned from my father, who went to work in a locomotive factory during the Great Depression at the age of seventeen and became involved in the SWOC, which fought for the 40-hour work week, Social Security, and unemployment benefits (important when factories would periodically, and without notice, shut down for extended periods), how important unions are for the protection of basic rights of working people.

And the Democratic Party was the standard-bearer for those rights. FDR said so.

When did the Democrats in Union County decide to sell them down the river?

And when did they tell you they were doing so?



Pickets are members of Union County
Building Trade Laborers Local #394.



-- Dan Damon

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Attention Map Freaks: NJ Special in Aisle 9




Offer for lots in original Netherwood development,
detail from 1891 map. (Click to enlarge.)


While researching old Plainfield maps (ain't the Internet wonderful!),
I stumbled upon Rutgers University's huge online map collection.

There isn't a way that New Jersey has been sliced and diced cartographically that is not available at this site.

You want ice age New Jersey? Got it.

Colonial settlements? Snap.

Old State Route 29 (now US 22)? E-Z.

County by county, town by town? Breeze.

Let your mouse do the walking.


-- Dan Damon

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Candy police come to Woodbridge



The candy police have come to Woodbridge. With all the real dangers in your child's world, you'll be happy to learn the Woodbridge Council is restricting the sale of candy cigarettes and those toy look-alikes that light up when 'puffed'.

The Ledger reports that the township, at the urging of councilman Charles Kenny, is pondering extending the ban it already has on sales by licensed event vendors to include all shops in New Jersey's fifth largest municipality.

There is actually a group, The Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids, which dedicates its energies to the banishment of these dangerous candies.

John Winthrop would be proud.


-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Piscataway Council attendees are now frisked


Welcome to the Piscataway Council meeting. Raise your arms. Spread your legs.

For five months, according to a Ledger story on Monday, guests at the Piscataway council meetings have been patted down and subjected to wand searches. Yikes!

Piscataway is the only community in the state to frisk those attending Council meetings, and it's raising plenty of eyebrows.

Mayor Brian Wahler insists it's a sign of the times, but opponents argue it is an intimidation tactic.

Though some security 'experts' may argue this is the wave of the future (after all, it's a bread-and-butter issue to them), others in the security field don't see it that way.

The Ledger cites Vincent Smith, head of Long Island University's Homeland Security Management Institute, who says --
"It doesn't make any sense, the level of security should be tied to the level of threat," Smith said. "Piscataway is very pastoral, a nice place to live. It's not Newark or Camden. It doesn't have that level of threat."

"A basic American liberty is the right to go down to city hall and literally stand on the steps," he said. "To attend a town meeting, that is the bedrock of American democracy. So we have to be very careful with the level of security we implement, because we don't want to discourage people from participating in government."

Wahler was unmoved by the criticisms, saying "Get used to it."

That is certainly an attitude that I don't think would play well in Plainfield, where there is a long tradition of active participation in Council meetings, and a sense of community that recognizes people have a right to express their opinions -- even angrily -- to their elected officials.

Thank God Plainfield has not been fear-mongered.

Yet.



Ledger: "Security gadgets gaining upper hand"
Piscataway: "Piscataway Township"

-- Dan Damon

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The Wine Goddess tips her hat to Plainfield



Debbie Miller Nelson, aka the 'Wine Goddess', who blogs for the Star-Ledger on all things oenophile -- from wines and other pleasant libations, to happenings and gear -- gave a tip 'o the garden hat to the Friends of the Library's wine-tasting this past weekend at the home of former Governor Jim McGreevey and Mark O'Connell.

If you're a lover of wines, you owe it to yourself to visit -- and bookmark -- her blog.



Star-Ledger: "The Wine Goddess"
-- Dan Damon

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YWCA 50/50 Thursday - Up to $10,000 in prizes



Though unforeseen circumstances have meant the rescheduling of the YWCA's 100th Anniversay Reception originally set for Thursday evening, the 50/50 drawing that was set for the evening will still take place -- at 7 PM at the YWCA, East Front and Church Streets -- to be accompanied with wine and cheese.

A limited number of tickets is still available at $100 apiece. If all tickets are sold, the
50/50 is estimated to pay $10,000 in prizes.

Since
50/50s are licensed by the state, and the license is for a specific date, the drawing must be held on Thursday evening.

The rescheduled 100th Anniversary Celebration will take place in December. Details will follow later.

Ticket holders have the option of converting their ticket into a
50/50 chance or getting a refund. To exercise your choice, call the YWCA at (908) 756-3500 x121.

-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

City-owned foreclosed properties auction Wednesday

The City of Plainfield will conduct one of its periodic auctions of foreclosed properties on Wednesday, June 26, at 10:00 AM at City Hall, 515 Watchung Avenue.

Four buildable vacant lots and an existing one-family house are slated for the auction.

An auction booklet may be obtained from at City Hall after 9:00 AM. The booklet contains complete information on the properties and terms and conditions of participating in the auction.

For more information, call the office of Tax Assessor Tracy Bennett, (908) 753-3203.

-- Dan Damon

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White supremacist backlash over Jena case

This morning's Chicago Tribune reports on the buildup of a white backlash over the Jena 6 case, being led by white supremacist groups and individuals. Here is the complete story --

"White supremacist backlash builds over Jena case"

By Howard Witt
Tribune senior correspondent
6:59 PM CDT, September 24, 2007

HOUSTON


No sooner did tens of thousands of African-American demonstrators depart the racially tense town of Jena, La., last week after protesting perceived injustices than white supremacists flooded in behind them.

First a neo-Nazi Web site posted the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the six black teenagers and their families at the center of the Jena 6 case and urged followers to find them and "drag them out of the house," prompting an investigation by the FBI.

Then the leader of a white supremacist group in Mississippi published interviews that he conducted with the mayor of Jena and the white teenager who was attacked and beaten, allegedly by the six black youths. In those interviews, the mayor, Murphy McMillin, praised efforts by pro-white groups to organize counterdemonstrations; the teenager, Justin Barker, urged white readers to "realize what is going on, speak up and speak their mind."

Over the weekend, white extremist Web sites and blogs across the Internet filled with invective about the Jena 6 case, which has drawn scrutiny from civil rights leaders, three leading Democratic presidential candidates and hundreds of African-American Internet bloggers. They are concerned about allegations that blacks have been treated more harshly than whites in the criminal justice system of the town of 3,000, which is 85 percent white.

David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, last week announced his support for Jena's white residents, who voted overwhelmingly for him when he ran unsuccessfully for Louisiana governor in 1991.

"There is a major white supremacist backlash building," said Mark Potok, a hate-group expert at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group in Montgomery, Ala. "I also think it's more widespread than may be obvious to most people. It's not only neo-nazis and Klansmen—you expect this kind of reaction from them."

Controversy over the Jena 6 case has been percolating for months but it exploded into national view last Thursday when a crowd of at least 20,000 peaceful demonstrators from around the country marched through the central Louisiana town.

They came to support the six black high school students who were initially charged by the local prosecutor with attempted murder for attacking Barker, a white classmate who was beaten and knocked briefly unconscious last December. The charges were later reduced to aggravated second-degree battery.

The incident capped months of racial unrest after three white students hung nooses from a shade tree at the high school after black students asked permission to sit under it. School officials dismissed the noose incident as a prank, angering black students and their parents and triggering a series of fights between whites and blacks. The whites involved were charged with misdemeanors or not at all while the blacks drew various felony charges.

McMillin has insisted that his town is being unfairly portrayed as racist—an assertion the mayor repeated in an interview with Richard Barrett, the leader of the Nationalist Movement, a white supremacist group based in Learned, Miss., who asked McMillin to "set aside some place for those opposing the colored folks."

"I am not endorsing any demonstrations, but I do appreciate what you are trying to do," Barrett quoted McMillin as saying. "Your moral support means a lot."

McMillin declined to return calls seeking comment Monday.

Barker's father, David, said his family did not know the nature of Barrett's group when they agreed to be interviewed, adding, "I am not a white supremacist, and neither is my son."

But Barrett said he explained his group and its beliefs to the Barker family, who then invited him to stay overnight at their home on the eve of last week's protest march.

Rev. Jesse Jackson told the Tribune that he had grown so concerned about white extremists' threats against the Jena 6 families and perceived injustices in the town that he called the White House over the weekend to ask for immediate federal intervention. Jackson said the acting head of the U.S. Justice Department's civil right division phoned him Monday to say that the agency had begun investigating the Jena situation.

hwitt@tribune.com



Chicago Tribune:
"White supremacist backlash builds over Jena case"
-- Dan Damon

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Plainfield 2006 crime stats

Plainfield's crime stats are a good news/bad news story.

The FBI's annual Uniform Crime Reports stats were released yesterday, and today's papers -- except for the Ledger -- are carrying the story (see links at end).

The good news is that violent crime in Plainfield dropped in 2006, going AGAINST the national trend -- which saw a steeper than expected 2% increase.

The bad news is that OTHER CRIME
didn't.

Uniform Crime Reports - 2005-2006
PLAINFIELD, NJ


2006
2005
MURDER
10
15
RAPE
12
16
ROBBERY
260
244
AGGRAVATED ASSAULT
289
242
PROPERTY CRIME
1615
1577
BURGLARY
494
371
LARCENY
947
853
CAR THEFT
174
353


Murder
s dropped significantly from 2005 -- which I think was an anomalous year -- as did rapes. Perhaps surprisingly, auto thefts (though not a violent crime) dropped 50%, from 353 to 174.

The shocker comes in what DID NOT drop.
  • Burglaries up 33%.
  • Aggravated Assaults up 19%.
  • Larceny up 11%.
  • Robberies up 7%.
  • Property Crimes up 2.5%.
Let's hope the violent crimes continue to drop.

The others need to, too.


-- Dan Damon

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The Grey Lady Cries Uncle!



The New York Times, which put its Op-Ed columnists and some special articles behind a pay-for-access barricade has knuckled under to market pressures.

Or lack of them, actually.

I'm guessing that Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert (my favorites, your mileage may vary) had quite a few choice words for the management over their readership being whacked by the Times' quixotic policy.

Here is the announcement as it appears on the Opinions page --
A Note to Our Readers

We have ended TimesSelect. All of our Op-Ed and news columns are now available free of charge. Additionally, The New York Times Archive is available free back to 1987. Learn More »

The struggle to monetize online news access will no doubt continue as the Times (and plenty of other newspapers) try to figure out how the Wall Street Journal makes it work and they can't

For now, it's all-you-can-eat reading for free.

Oh, and there's a bonus -- the Times has made its archives back to 1987 available FREE also. And that's a real bonus if you use it for research.

-- Dan Damon

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Plainfield wine-tasting at McGreevey's a hit -- even with teetotalers




Friends of the Plainfield Public Library's 7th Annual 'Wine Discovery'
was hosted by former Governor Jim McGreevey and Mark O'Connell.

Four hundred ticket-holders thronged the garden and grounds of the home of former Governor Jim McGreevey and Mark O'Connell, the gracious hosts of this year's (the 7th) 'Wine Discovery' event of the Friends of the Plainfield Public Library.

"This was definitely the biggest and best we have ever had," said Library Director Joe Da Rold, after finishing his tour of duty as a 'celebrity' pourer.

I can attest to the crowd and the feeling that this was a very special event -- and that as a teetotaler (as was my 'pouring partner' Sharri Effman, a realtor, volunteer and community activist).

At our station -- Number 6, featuring a 'very, very dry' Pinot Noir and a 'yum!' Cabernet Sauvignon (the evaluations were offered by those who tasted the proferred goodies) -- Sharri and I gleefully poured away for the crowds who jammed each and every table, where a wide selection of reds, whites and sparkling wines were available.

There was even a table of chilled bottled waters for non-imbibers -- a truly thoughtful touch.

Servers passed through the crowd with platters of hors d'oeuvres prepared by ever-creative caterer Sandy Spector, and there were also tables of crudites, a buffet, and a dessert table. And a silent auction.

Of course, the big hit of the day was getting to chat for a moment or several with the gregarious and affable former governor, who greeted attendees as they arrived at the garden's entrance.

Though most of the Plainfielders there were just having a good time, without much pretension to oenophile expertise, the perhaps a hundred or so who may have come as readers of the 'Wine Goddess' blog were quite serious about the tasting -- though they usually loosened up and enjoyed some good-natured banter and laughs with the locals upon prodding.

Two observations --
POLS: The only elected official spotted was Assemblyman Jerry Green who, FOPPL member Carol Bicket proudly announced, had BOUGHT four tickets. (Elected officials have something of a reputation for freeloading, so this was a pleasant bit of news.) Readers may be interested to know that the Assemblyman and I had a perfectly cordial chat and I got to meet his gracious wife, Wanda, for the first time ever. All other elected officials were MIA -- including Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs.

REALTORS: Surprisingly, there were relatively few real estate professionals spotted, though I did see my colleague Darlene McWilliams and several other Burgdorff ERA pros and most of the gang from Sleepy Hollow Realtors scattered about and chatting with one and all -- making sure, in truly professional fashion, to talk with the guests and not just each other. (Jean Burgdorff, my real estate mentor, would smile approvingly.) This was a pleasant contrast with other events -- such as house tours -- which are often clogged with realtors handing out their business cards.

Congrats to the Friends Of The Library and all who worked on the various committees -- and a special nod to Peter and Libby Price, whose recruiting of tons of volunteer 'pourers' ensured that everyone got a chance to contribute to the event's success by volunteering AND a chance to be released from duties to enjoy the event. Bravo bravissimo!


-- Dan Damon

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Human trafficking and Plainfield redux




1212 West Front Street,
from which girls were rescued.
Photo by DD, taken day of NYT story, Jan. 25, 2004.


The Washington Post has a major Page One story on human trafficking today. Plainfielders have bitter memories of the city's brush with infamy over this issue.

After the hatchet job by writer Peter Landesman in the January 25, 2004, NY Times Magazine article about the Plainfield Police Division's bust-up of a human trafficking ring that had lured young Mexican girls into forced prostitution, Plainfield faced a battle against hyperventilating national media over how widespread the phenomenon was and how important the Plainfield story was in the picture as a whole.

I was never satisfied that our concerns the story was being hyped on a basis of very scanty facts were ever dealt with seriously by the NY Times -- with whose public editor I was engaged in an email back-and-forth -- and I went over this ground again in Plainfield Today when Attorney General Milgram was nominated (she had been the federal prosecutor overseeing human trafficking cases).

Now, finally, a mainstream media story that throws a properly skeptical eye on this matter.

Don't get me wrong: One person trafficked is too many. But shouldn't there be some regard for facts?

Thank you WashPost, for advancing the discussion!


More information --
-- Dan Damon

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Mortgage 'workouts' information?

How bad is the subprime mortgage situation in Plainfield and New Jersey?

While we await the definitive story from real estate reports, there are accruing hints that it is serious indeed --

  • Testimony before the State Senate last week that only 200 of 1,600 borrowers who contacted the state for help may get it;
  • A story on the danger of a Roselle councilwoman losing her home to foreclosure;
  • A CNN story predicting double-digit price declines, leaving many borrowers without enough equity to refinance or sell their homes;
  • An NAACP suit alleging subprime lenders targeted minorities.
At the very least, it is not yet as bad as it is going to get -- since only the first wave of 'resets' of adjustable rate mortgages has kicked in.

So, it is something of a surprise that an opportunity to get information from the FHA on dealing with lenders is literally BURIED at the end of the Ledger's legislative story from this past Tuesday.

Here's the news -- The FHA will be helping people understand dealing with lenders at Essex County College, 303 University Avenue, Newark, on Saturday, September 29, from 9:30 AM - 2 PM. To register, call 1-800-CALLFHA (225-5342).

The State's Department of Banking and Insurance is attempting to address the issues of subprime loans and foreclosures with the issuance in Spanish and English of a 'Homeowners Guide To Subprime" -- available from its website in PDF format (see links at end of story).

Meanwhile, today's Ledger reports on the difficulty in getting a workout arranged.

No matter how difficult, a workout cannot be gotten without trying.

And the moral of the story is this: If you're in trouble, call your lender.


More information --
-- Dan Damon

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

'N' word on store receipt raises questions




Detail of store receipt. Photo, Afronerd blog.


Will the US1 Wireless store at East Front and Watchung Avenue survive the publicity over the sales receipt prominently featuring the 'N' word?

Good question.

After the Courier's front-page story of yesterday garnered other media interviews (I saw the story on CBS Channel 2 News last night), plus a front-page story today featuring Assemblyman Jerry Green calling for 'calm', that is a very good question indeed.

A Google search this morning turned up several links for media items concerning Mr. Southerland and the infamous sales receipt.

Though Assemblyman Green called for an investigation by Union County Prosecutor Romankow about why the disturbing phrase appeared on the sales receipt, the Prosecutor's office seemed caught off guard by the Courier's inquiry.

Southerland and his family say they are pursuing the matter in the courts, and that a "heavy, heavy, heavy" apology is wanted.

I'm curious about the 'unspecified' charge of $25. What is that about? Is the store doing this to other customers? All customers? Is it a ripoff? Is that an angle to pursue with state Consumer Affairs officials?

Meanwhile, the clerk has gone into hiding. The owner is unavailable. And T-Mobile, of which US1 Wireless is a franchisee, won't come to the phone.

However, standard franchisee contracts provide escape clauses for the franchisor if the franchisee brings disrepute on the brand or its image.

Guess who is probably going over their contract in great detail this weekend?


More information --
-- Dan Damon

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Library photo contest deadline extended




Spectators at the 2007 July 4th Parade.


NOTE: The deadline for entries to the photo contest has been extended to OCTOBER 12.

The Plainfield Public Library wants to beef up its collection of photography reflecting contemporary life in Plainfield.

What to do?

Hold a contest, of course. Last year's photo contest was such a hit that Library Director Joe Da Rold decided to make it a regular affair.

Residents are invited -- regardless of level of photographic skill -- to submit photos of Plainfield life, activities and people reflecting this year's theme: 'Plainfield - A Multicultural Community'.

Swing by the Library and pick up a copy of the Call for Entries, or give Local History Librarian Jessica Myers a call at (908) 757-1111 x136.

Or check out the Library's website and download an entry form (PDF).

The deadline for submissions HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO OCTOBER 12th.

Get cracking!

-- Dan Damon

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