The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

One list Plainfield schools are NOT on. Hooray!

A public school list on which Plainfield does not appear?

Yes. Thank God.

A study of American high school graduation rates done by Johns Hopkin University and commissioned by the Associated Press indicates that in more than one out of ten high schools in America, no more than 60% of those who start out as freshmen make it to their senior year.

There are 13 New Jersey high schools deemed 'dropout factories'. See the list -- without Plainfield -- here.

Would Thanksgiving Friday be Plainfield's 3rd rail?

News comes that our brave governor is making the troops report for work on Thanksgiving Friday.

Beginning this year. For sure (he caved after trying to do it last year).

Brave man.

But is such a move in the cards for Plainfield?

Not very likely, I think. It might prove more of a 3rd rail than taking away the police division's second drug plan.

Workaholic Mayor Robinson-Briggs may be, but my bet is this little city perk is safe.

For now.

Breaking: UBS posts $3.6B subprime-related loss

The suprime fallout continues to spread.

UBS, the Swiss bank, has released 3rd quarter results that show a subprime-related loss of 4.2 billion Swiss francs ($3.6B US).

CEO Marcel Rohner said, "The range of possible outcomes is widening," according to Reuters.

Reuters: "UBS Posts Larger-Than-Expected Loss"

Plainfield's 'National Night Out' garners national award




One of Plainfield's 2007 NNA activities.

Plainfield placed as a winner in the 15,000-50,000 population category in 2007's nationwide 'National Night Out' celebrations.

Headed up by Assistant Union County Prosecutor Tiffany Wilson and Councilor Linda Carter, a committee of nine that included representatives from block associations and the police as well as the mayor came up with an intensive program to involve residents and organizations on a ward-by-ward basis to build the kind of community bonds that are a frontline defense against crime in neighborhoods. See the Ledger story here.



Resident MaryEllen Chanda (l) chats with Tiffany Wilson (r)
while Councilor Linda Carter checks her camera.


Congratulations to Tiffany, Linda and crew for their hard work!

Ready for 2008?


-- Dan Damon

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Plainfield gangs: 20 indicted in Clinton Avenue posse probe

Plainfield's streets have been much quieter since last April's big bust of bad actors linked to the Clinton Avenue Posse.


The likelihood the streets will remain quieter for a long, long time took a big leap forward yesterday with the indictments of 20 arrested in the April sweep.

That roundup, conducted by the Union County Prosecutor's Office, the Plainfield police, the State Police, and 18 other agencies put a crimp in the gang's activities that has continued, in spite of the recent outbreak of a drug turf war in the city's West End.

Two facets of the prosecution are worth highlighting --
  • Gang members are being prosecuted under racketeering statutes, which could involve different sentencing outcomes than usual, and

  • 'Possession of a community gun' -- one that is shared by a group engaged in criminal activities, and subject to a new law recently passed.
Stories appear in both today's Ledger and Courier.



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Does Plainfield benefit from dwindling gay urban enclaves?



Are Plainfield and other suburban communities like Maplewood and Montclair benefiting from the diffusion of gays from urban enclaves like New York's, San Francisco's and Los Angeles' to more suburban and exurban communities?

What is this out-migration doing to those urban enclaves? And what is it doing to our towns?


That is the subject of an article in today's New York Times.

Read more here.



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Wiretapping: Studs Terkel taps into the conversation



Studs Terkel, an American voice like no other (and a hero to some of us with long memories), weighed in on the debate over warrantless wiretapping -- and the Bush administration's attempt to backdate a 'get out of jail free card' for the telcos who betrayed us -- with an OpEd in the New York Times --

EARLIER this month, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the White House agreed to allow the executive branch to conduct dragnet interceptions of the electronic communications of people in the United States. They also agreed to “immunize” American telephone companies from lawsuits charging that after 9/11 some companies collaborated with the government to violate the Constitution and existing federal law. I am a plaintiff in one of those lawsuits, and I hope Congress thinks carefully before denying me, and millions of other Americans, our day in court.

During my lifetime, there has been a sea change in the way that politically active Americans view their relationship with government. In 1920, during my youth, I recall the Palmer raids in which more than 10,000 people were rounded up, most because they were members of particular labor unions or belonged to groups that advocated change in American domestic or foreign policy. Unrestrained surveillance was used to further the investigations leading to these detentions, and the Bureau of Investigation — the forerunner to the F.B.I. — eventually created a database on the activities of individuals. This activity continued through the Red Scare of the period.

In the 1950s, during the sad period known as the McCarthy era, one’s political beliefs again served as a rationale for government monitoring. Individual corporations and entire industries were coerced by government leaders into informing on individuals and barring their ability to earn a living.

I was among those blacklisted for my political beliefs. My crime? I had signed petitions. Lots of them. I had signed on in opposition to Jim Crow laws and poll taxes and in favor of rent control and pacifism. Because the petitions were thought to be Communist-inspired, I lost my ability to work in television and radio after refusing to say that I had been “duped” into signing my name to these causes.

By the 1960s, the inequities in civil rights and the debate over the Vietnam war spurred social justice movements. The government’s response? More surveillance. In the name of national security, the F.B.I. conducted warrantless wiretaps of political activists, journalists, former White House staff members and even a member of Congress.

Then things changed. In 1975, the hearings led by Senator Frank Church of Idaho revealed the scope of government surveillance of private citizens and lawful organizations. As Americans saw the damage, they reached a consensus that this unrestrained surveillance had a corrosive impact on us all.

In 1978, with broad public support, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which placed national security investigations, including wiretapping, under a system of warrants approved by a special court. The law was not perfect, but as a result of its enactment and a series of subsequent federal laws, a generation of Americans has come to adulthood protected by a legal structure and a social compact making clear that government will not engage in unbridled, dragnet seizure of electronic communications.

The Bush administration, however, tore apart that carefully devised legal structure and social compact. To make matters worse, after its intrusive programs were exposed, the White House and the Senate Intelligence Committee proposed a bill that legitimized blanket wiretapping without individual warrants. The legislation directly conflicts with the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, requiring the government to obtain a warrant before reading the e-mail messages or listening to the telephone calls of its citizens, and to state with particularity where it intends to search and what it expects to find.

Compounding these wrongs, Congress is moving in a haphazard fashion to provide a “get out of jail free card” to the telephone companies that violated the rights of their subscribers. Some in Congress argue that this law-breaking is forgivable because it was done to help the government in a time of crisis. But it’s impossible for Congress to know the motivations of these companies or to know how the government will use the private information it received from them.

And it is not as though the telecommunications companies did not know that their actions were illegal. Judge Vaughn Walker of federal district court in San Francisco, appointed by President George H. W. Bush, noted that in an opinion in one of the immunity provision lawsuits the “very action in question has previously been held unlawful.”

I have observed and written about American life for some time. In truth, nothing much surprises me anymore. But I always feel uplifted by this: Given the facts and an opportunity to act, the body politic generally does the right thing. By revealing the truth in a public forum, the American people will have the facts to play their historic, heroic role in putting our nation back on the path toward freedom. That is why we deserve our day in court.

Studs Terkel is the author of the forthcoming "Touch and Go: A Memoir".



NY Times: OpEd: "The Wiretap This Time"
Studs Terkel: "Conversations with America"
(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.)

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Plainfield's Halloween Safety Plan



Plainfield's 2007 Plainfield Halloween Safety plan is as follows:
  1. Voluntary curfew at 7:30pm. Parents to call in minors and end trick-or-treating at 7:30pm.
  2. Homeowners are asked to stop giving out candy at 7:30pm.
  3. Report ANY and ALL inappropriate behavior to the Police right away.
There will be a full, visible Police deployment throughout the city. But for the Police to react and respond, you must call in all inappropriate behavior.

These simple voluntary guidelines were devised by a citizen committee after untoward events during last year's celebration, and will help ensure a safe and happy Halloween for everyone.

Question: What ever happened to 'Trick or Treat for UNICEF'? The program we participated in as kids is still around (see its website here), but I have never heard reference to it in Plainfield. Candy and good deeds.What could be wrong with that combination?



-- Dan Damon

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Halloween: A PSA from Plainfield's Public Safety Director

A Public Service Announcement from Plainfield's Public Safety Director:


The Plainfield Department of Public Safety wishes to advise all city residents to be especially watchful for any signs of abnormal activity regarding Halloween Festivities on October 30, 2007 and October 31, 2007.

The city's juvenile curfew law will be strictly enforced on both nights. Additionally, parents and guardians are advised to accompany their children during any "Trick or Treating" ventures. And, it is strongly recommended that those activities cease by 7:30 pm on Halloween Night.

On both evenings, extra Public Safety Personnel will be patrolling the city in both marked and unmarked vehicles. Residents are advised to immediately contact the police if they encounter any activity that is a cause for concern.

As Public Safety Director, I wish everyone a happy and safe Halloween. Be assured, both our police and fire divisions will work diligently to prevent or address any challenges to an orderly festive event. The public's support and cooperation, as always, is the key component to the success of our mission.

Sincerely,
Martin R. Hellwig
Director of Public Affairs and Safety



-- Dan Damon

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Courier Endorsement: Green and Gatto for 22nd

Published in the Courier News, Monday, October 29, 2007

[Editorial Endorsement: 22nd Legislative District Races]
Green and Gatto strong voices for 22nd Dist.

Voters have a right to be a little confused about their choices in the 22nd Legislative District.

The incumbent Democratic group consists of Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Linden, Assemblyman Jerry Green, D-Plainfield and Assemblywoman Linda Stender, D-Fanwood. But while they're all running for re-election, Stender is already concurrently gearing up for her congressional run in 2008, after being narrowly defeated by Rep. Mike Ferguson last year.

On the Republican side, only one of the three challengers bothered filing for the party primary in June -- Bryan DesRochers of Rahway, for Assembly. Rose McConnell, the former Somerset County freeholder, and Robert Gatto, both of North Plainfield, only mounted an 11th-hour write-in campaign for the primary in hopes of filling out the ballot in November. Each garnered enough votes -- McConnell for Senate, Gatto for Assembly -- to be listed on Nov. 6.

The Senate race is essentially uncontested. McConnell concedes that she only wanted to give the voters a ballot choice and had no desire to come out of political retirement. She says she doesn't believe anything can be done to reform Trenton's ways and that all she would likely do is pound her fist on the Statehouse tables and complain, if elected.

That's unfortunate, because Scutari would make a nice target for change; among other things, he was one of three legislators served with a subpoena during an ongoing federal probe of state budget grants allegedly being dispersed for personal gain. Scutari has tried to position himself as a reformer of sorts -- pushing some campaign ethics bills and co-chairing the committee on public employee benefits during last year's special session on property-tax reform. We can only hope he manages to get more done toward those reform ends in his second term.

The Assembly race does offer some interesting choices. Stender's attentions are primarily on Congress. Much of her campaign discussion has tried to tie more national issues like global warming to state concerns, which is no coincidence -- we're likely to hear much the same talk in next year's congressional race.

Stender has been a quietly competent lawmaker who seems content to just get along with the ruling team. Trenton needs more than that these days.

Green is a 16-year Statehouse veteran and, as such, must be considered part of the problem in Trenton. But unlike some others similarly tainted by their long tenure, Green seem willing, and even anxious, to be part of a solution as well. He describes himself as perhaps the most respected black legislator in the state. And his advocacy for urban issues and other concerns not always front and center on lawmakers' radar -- such as affordable housing -- will be sorely needed.

Gatto, a past candidate for North Plainfield Borough Council, and DesRochers, who has run for Rahway City Council, offer little political experience. They hit most of the conventional notes in demanding school funding changes and opposing the selling-off of state assets like the toll roads. Gatto, however, does it more loudly and with more conviction.

While some of Gatto's ideas are rather impractical -- like a complete repeal of the Abbott funding process for the poorest school district's -- he also offers the kind of angry, blue-collar voice that needs to be heard by the entitled members of the Legislature.

DesRochers provides some common-sense understanding of what's wrong with state government, although we're not sure he would be as effective as Gatto in trying to help turn that understanding into change.

Green and Gatto receive our endorsements for Assembly, while Scutari is the default choice for Senate.

The 22nd Legislative District includes Green Brook and North Plainfield in Somerset County; Dunellen and Middlesex in Middlesex County; and Fanwood, Plainfield, Scotch Plains, Clark, Linden, Rahway and Winfield in Union County.

OUR POSITION:
We support Assemblyman Jerry Green and Republican Robert Gatto of North Plainfield for Assembly in the 22nd Legislative District.

Editorial NOT online; transcribed by DD.

(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.)

Sneak preview of 'American Gangster' tomorrow



'American Gangster', starring Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington, is not scheduled for release until Friday.

But a special preview screening is set for tomorrow at the Loews Mountainside 10 cineplex. A portion of the proceeds of the sneak preview will benefit survivors of the three college students gunned down in a Newark schoolyard this past summer.

The movie is based on the true story of Richie Roberts, an Essex County assistant prosecutor in the 1970s who prosecuted a legendary Harlem hood, Frank Lucas. The story revolves around turning Lucas into an informant and his subsequent friendship with Roberts.

Roberts, portrayed by Crowe in the film, pushed for the special screening to help residents of Newark, where he grew up.

More in Ledger story here. Link to Loews cineplex, including directions and phone, is here.



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Kean U. debt downgraded over borrowing

Kean University, which many Plainfielders attend, has had its bond rating downgraded after a bond issue this past March, a report by the State Commission of Investigation released last week says.

The SCI, which can uncover prosecutable findings, did not say the school had done anything wrong.

But Kean, like the other New Jersey public colleges and universities are saddled by debt that is forcing tuition and fee increases.

Should the state step in to help the public colleges?

Can it afford to?



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Can Connecticut AG's probe affect Plainfield's bonds?

Plainfielders might want to watch this story if it veers into how municipal debt is rated.

Connecticut's AG is issuing subpoenas to credit-rating agencies S&P, Moody's and Fitch's in a probe into possible antitrust violations.

There are allegations that form three prongs to the investigation --

  1. Issuers of debt are rated against their wishes and threatened with a downgrade if they don't pay for it;
  2. Pressuring issuers of debt into exclusive contracts with a ratings agency or face a downgrade; and
  3. Offering discounts to issuers of debt for exclusivity deals with the ratings agency.
Ratings agencies hold them selves forth as impartial and untainted in assessing the risk of bonds they are rating.

This investigation will throw a spotlight on their impartiality, just as they are coming under further scrutiny for their role in the subprime mortgage meltdown (including giving AAA ratings to some CDOs just days before lowering the ratings to junk bond status).

Moody's and Fitch's rate Plainfield's debt, in addition to that of the Union County Improvement Authority, through which Plainfield participates in bonds for certain items.

If these anticompetitive allegations bear up in Connecticut, we should ask if the same practices are used in New Jersey -- and whether taxpayers have been negatively impacted if local governments and authorities have been subject to such pressures.


-- Dan Damon

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

22nd District races target dysfunction

Published in the Star-Ledger, Sunday, October 28, 2007

[22nd Legislative District Races]
Hopefuls focus on an ailing Trenton
22nd District races target dysfunction

BY ALEXI FRIEDMAN
STAR-LEDGER STAFF


The four candidates hoping to unseat two incumbent Assembly members from the 22nd Legislative District say this election is about fixing a dysfunctional government.

Cutting taxes, passing tough ethics reform and bolstering the public school system are priorities, the candidates say.

But the Nov. 6 election is also about effectively getting the message out. On that score the two Republicans, Bryan Des Rochers and Robert Gatto -- and Libertarian candidates Sean Colon and Dolores Makrogiannis -- face an uphill battle.

They oppose Democrats Linda Stender and Jerry Green, incumbents who are better financed and organized in the heavily Democratic district, which includes parts of Union, Middlesex and Somerset counties.

In the race for the district's Senate seat, Republican Rose McConnell faces a similar fight against Democratic Sen. Nicholas Scutari.

Gatto, 44, said "our state is in such terrible shape I don't know where to look first. There is stagnation in Trenton and debt is continually rising."

Des Rochers, 29, said the Legislature hasn't properly addressed political corruption and what he calls wasteful spending.

"We need to clamp down and get serious on ethics reform," he added. Des Rochers pointed to Assemblyman Green's recent resignation from a job at a lobbying firm as an example of the problem.

After reports by Gannett New Jersey, Green stepped down from the Alman Group, a Westfield company that represents more than a dozen hospitals, including Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center. Green is a member of the Health and Senior Services Committee.

Green, 68, said he hasn't done any work for Alman Group in the last year to avoid any potential conflicts, and added the Assembly ethics committee had approved his work.

First elected to the Assembly 15 years ago, Green said he will continue to address issues like taxes, health care and housing.

"We have to come up with policies that make housing affordable," he said, "not only to young people, but to people in general."

Stender has been an Assembly member since 2002, and said she is running on her accomplishments, chiefly o n the environment. Stender co-wrote the Global Warming Response Act, which has become law, establishing strict limitations on emissions.

Stender has been criticized by her opponents for deciding to seek re-election while also announcing her intention to run for Congress next year. Stender narrowly lost to Rep. Mike Ferguson in 2006.

"I'm focused on running for re-election to the Legislature," she said. "That's the immediate priority."

Libertarians Colon, 23, and Makrogiannis, 58, are running on several issues, including anti-corruption, education reform and tax relief. On taxes, Colon, who is secretary of the New Jersey Libertarian party, said: "What we need here is surgery and that means reform."

On education, Makrogiannis believes in "a separation of education and state," so the average taxpayer without a child in school doesn't have to carry so much of the burden. "We can start by endorsing more charter schools and making home schooling easier," she said.

In the Senate race, Scutari, 38, cited the state's "long-range fiscal stability" as his biggest concern. Noting the rising costs of government worker pensions, he said he would like future employees to receive a different set of benefits. "We can't continue to promise and promise and not pay for it."

McConnell has been involved in Somerset County politics for three decades. At 83, she is retired but volunteers with numerous community organizations and is a county parks commissioner.

The 22nd District includes Clark, Dunellen, Fanwood, Green Brook, Linden, Middlesex Borough, North Plainfield, Plainfield, Rahway, Scotch Plains and Winfield.


Story NOT online; transcribed by DD.

(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.)

Air freshener safety: Why you may want to glide away from Glade

Americans use all kinds of air fresheners to mask odors throughout the home -- sprays, stick-ups, plug-ins, wicks and more.


The National Resources Defense Council has released a study showing that many of these products contain high levels of phthalates, a chemical compound which can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive problems.

An article in the Ledger, based on the study, identifies several of the questionable products by brand name, including such popular brands as Air Wick, Febreze, Glade and Lysol. You can check out the study here.


About a year ago, someone brought a natural, orange-peel based air freshener called 'Pure Citrus' to my attention. They had found it at the Home Depot at Watchung Square Mall.

It is manufactured by Pure Citrus, Inc., of Kennesaw, GA, of concentrated oils from fresh oranges. It contains no chemicals and is non-aerosol. I have been very pleased with it. The firm does not have a website, and I ended up ordering a case of 24 by UPS. You can reach them directly at (800) 554-3014.

It's also available online at Drugstore.com -- see website here.



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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Foxton's Plainfield listings going to politically juiced Realtor?




A Foxtons sign on Watchung Avenue and Sleepy Hollow Lane


Foxtons, the bankrupt discount real estate company, was allowed to sell its thousands of New Jersey listings to Maplewood Homes, a New Jersey developer which has created a joint venture with C21 Atlantic Realty of Roselle Park, to market the properties.

The deal? A measly $100,000. That's less than $30 apiece. Not bad, huh?

Plainfielders will be familiar with C21 Atlantic as the real estate agent whose selection to market the new Senior Center condos rising on East Front Street was slipped over on the local Realtors® in a surprise move that became apparent when ground was broken for the new construction.

Estimates are that local
Realtors® stand to lose up to $1M on those commissions.

In what may come as a surprise to those who don't follow the convolutions of Glen Fishman, whose Dornoch organization is building the Senior Center condos project, Maplewood Homes is one of his newer ventures -- put together a few months ago to rescue the construction projects left high and dry when Kara Homes went bust.

I'm sure the local
Realtors® will all be rushing in to help C21 Atlantic and Fishman/Dornoch unload their Plainfield Foxtons listings.



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Friday, October 26, 2007

The PMUA, the blogs and the Courier

Plainfielders will find this morning's Courier has a story titled "Blogs question motives behind shooting of Plainfield employee".

Because the story is more complicated than can be gotten at in a 583-word article, I am including the background materials below, including links to all the blog posts, the PMUA's complete press release and my email to the
Courier in response.

One of the advantages of blogging is that there is no one looking over our shoulder and telling us that we have a word limit; bloggers can write and publish as much as needed to explain a point or an issue. Newspaper reporters generally do not get that liberty.

One of the other advantages is that bloggers also write their own headlines. Once you read this story and the backup materials, you may wonder how the Courier arrived at the headline for today's story (headlines are NOT written by the reporters), and whether it accurately reflects the whole story. But that would be the subject of another post.

Printed in full below the horizontal line --

  • The PMUA press release of 10/25
  • My email to the Courier of 10/25
Links to the background materials --


THE PMUA PRESS RELEASE

PMUA PRESS RELEASE

Contact: Public Information

Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority 908.226.2518 ext.223

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PLAINFIELD, NJ, October 25, 2007 – A Blogger’s Headline Question Infers a Deeper Purpose!

Does the PMUA have a problem??

A seemingly innocuous question, until you read further and find that the blogger, without a shred of evidence, attempts to connect two unfortunate, totally unrelated events to a broader national issue related to gangs, guns, drugs and criminal activities.

From the tone of the article, it appears that the writer wants to link PMUA services and employees with the issues of illegal drug activity and gang turf violence. The majority of PMUA employees, especially those in the field, are hard working sanitation workers who are providing valuable solid waste collection services to the City.

The unfortunate shooting of a new PMUA employee/trainee, while on duty, was and continues to be an active and ongoing police investigation, even though a suspect has been arrested. Speculation and rumor concerning the shooting will not help the police investigation. However, the shooting had nothing whatsoever to do with the frequent collections the blogger observed for a neighboring multi-family unit. The owner of the multi-family unit, mentioned in the articles, has requested and is being serviced by an enhanced collection schedule.

In general, the frequency of collection is determined by several factors, including number of units, the volume of garbage being collected, the size of container that can fit in the allotted space, accessibility, and the number of days required for collection of solid waste and recycling. Unlike residential households, which PMUA services on a three times per week schedule, multi-family units usually require more frequent collection - precisely the situation that the blogger observed but misinterpreted. The PMUA is a modern operation, and our collection fleet is routed, dispatched, and outfitted with GPS tracking units. Our philosophy is to know where our trucks are at all times.

Does the PMUA have a problem? The answer is yes, if we continue to be a targeted by a relentless stream of negativity by a handful of citizens who, unfairly, on mere speculation and rumor, paint actions of public agencies, public employees, elected and appointed public officials in a bad light for political reasons. Clearly, we know politics is a part of this equation; however, unsubstantiated commentary like this inflicts a terrible injustice, and is a disservice to many hardworking, honest public servants who have the best interest of their City at heart. Nonetheless, we will continue in our mission to provide a quality service at a competitive price, safeguard the public health, improve the quality of life, maintain a clean City, improve the City infrastructure, and be a source of employment for our worker/citizens who try each day to make difference.


DAN'S EMAIL TO THE COURIER

Thanks for forwarding the PMUA press release.

First, let me say I have no bone to pick with the PMUA. I have been a staunch defender of its existence and performance (both of which have been widely and bitterly attacked in the past) ever since its creation, including the years I dealt with it professionally as the city's public information officer.

It is a well-run organization with an essential mission that executes the same pretty much without fuss or bother. If anything, it has itself been a victim of recent political events when its plans for developing a new headquarters facility were thwarted by a redevelopment plan (which I would characterize as a 'land grab') naming [a developer] who has not been heard from in months.

A little background on my blog post is in order.

On Labor Day, the Plaintalker noted the increased frequency and unseemly hours at which PMUA trucks were backing up the driveway between her building and the apartment complex next door. On that day, she particularly mentioned trucks at 1 a.m. and another at 2:30 a.m.

Trucks are not allowed to make pickups at those hours in Plainfield.

What my post of October 23 mentioned was not only the frequency, but the unseemly hours, as noted above. The press release only speaks to the frequency of pickups, not the hours at which they are made.

It is perfectly within the landlord's prerogative -- and the PMUA's -- to arrange for more frequent pickups. But the question remains -- at the kind of hours cited in the Plaintalker post?

If, as the PMUA press release states, their equipment is outfitted with GPS tracking units so they can "know where our trucks are at all times," they ought presumably to be able to answer the question of whether their trucks were out at the hours about which Bernice complained -- hours at which they simply are not allowed to make collections.

As for the shooting of the PMUA employee, I was simply repeating what is being heard in the street: that there are rumors the man shot was a target in an ongoing battle over drug turf between two gangs. The turf battle is no secret. The three shootings in the West End, including this one, have been tied to it by none other than the city's public safety director. I merely said there were rumors the man was targeted.

The next day, the Courier referred to it as an "assassination attempt" -- in quote marks -- citing the police as the source of the assertion. Has the Courier compromised the police investigation? Heavens to Betsy!

What would be good to hear from the PMUA is that they know their trucks are going down Bernice's driveway at 1 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. in the morning -- on the same day -- and that it is part of the service the landlord has requested and is part of the PMUA workers' normal routine, even if city ordinances do not permit such activity at those hours.

When Bernice inquired, as noted in her Labor Day post, about these hours of pickup, her inquiry "did not yield any reason why this is happening." When she inquired of a supervisor, she was referred to as a "problem child" for asking.

Is there a connection between the untimely pickups that Bernice cites and a shooting in a drug turf battle? It's not an unfair question if the PMUA doesn't clarify why the trucks are there at those hours. They hadn't answered them when I wrote the post, and I don't think they have answered them yet, in spite of the press release.



-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Did anyone say 'zipper problems'?

This morning, the New York Times reports a sex harassment accusation against former Senate president, Acting Governor and Scotch Plains resident Donald DiFrancesco.

Known to many of us as 'Donny D'.

Are the New York Times and the Ledger reading my notebooks?

It was just yesterday, in a throwaway piece about political signage having lost its party identification this fall, that I noted (though I must admit 'Donny D' was not on my mind at that moment) --

With both parties up to their ears in corruption scandals, indictments and zipper problems, it may make some sense to hide one's affiliation from the general public, especially since 60% of New Jersey's 4.8 million registered voters are unaffiliated. (Emphasis added.)

'Donny D' was good to Plainfield back in the days when the GOP ran the legislative show and the Dems were relegated to the sidelines. It was Donny D who engineered having Plainfield added to the original Abbott school districts -- regardless of how others have attempted to take the credit in recent years.

I must say that today's news is not the first time I have heard allegations Donny D had 'zipper problems'.

In fact, I was introduced to the very term by a real estate professional familiar with Scotch Plains real estate and politics from long years in the business.

And that was over a decade ago.



-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Nonprofit disclosures will make ELEC data more interesting

Plainfielders may find a lot to like in ELEC's latest ruling.

With the ruling by ELEC (the Election Law Enforcement Commission), New Jersey's campaign finance monitoring agency, that nonprofits that receive state and local government contracts over $50,000 must disclose them, as well as political contributions over $300 made by their board members, spouses and living-at-home children, it's going to get really interesting rooting around in ELEC's electronic file cabinets.

After October 31st, when the first batch of reports is due.


-- Dan Damon

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Union Dems show Plainfield candidates how it COULD be done

Even having no opponents did not deter Union Township's Democratic candidates, who took part in a public meeting hosted by the local League of Women Voters chapter to outline their goals.

The story is in this morning's Ledger, and is an object lesson in how things can be done -- even if you're unopposed and will get elected provided you don't drop dead before election day.

Correction. You can get elected in New Jersey even if you're dead, as long as you're on the ballot.


-- Dan Damon

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Dems dropping Jerry Green?

Is the Union County Democratic organization dropping Jerry Green?

You might be forgiven for thinking so if you noticed that our suite of legislative candidates -- Nick Scutari for Senate, and Jerry Green and Linda Stender for Assembly -- have ditched the Dem designation.

In their signs, anyway.


I was intrigued by an AP story a few days ago about the number of candidates who are NOT mentioning their party affiliation in their campaign signs.

Turns out our local crew has joined the tide.

Why?
Peter J. Woolley, a pollster and political scientist at Fairleigh Dickinson has an idea --
"Candidates, especially incumbents, tend to build up their own brand, and they don't want to contaminate their own brand name with a party label that might turn somebody off."
With both parties up to their ears in corruption scandals, indictments and zipper problems, it may make some sense to hide one's affiliation from the general public, especially since 60% of New Jersey's 4.8 million registered voters are unaffiliated.

Ellen Karcher, who is running for a Senate seat in a South Jersey legislative district opines that people need to know "Ellen Karcher is [an] independent voice who fought against corruption no matter who did it."

May work for her, but the idea that 22nd District candidates Green, Stender and Scutari are independent and in the forefront of the fight against corruption, would go over like a lead balloon in local circles.

Nevertheless, not mentioning ANY party affiliation is the best bet for suckering the inattentive.


-- Dan Damon

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L.A. festival screens Plainfielders' award-winning flick



Plainfield filmmakers Andy Burroughs and Lamar Mackson are taking their award-winning feature film 'Algeny' on the road -- specifically to be screened at the prestigious American Black Film Festival in Los Angeles this week.


The film won Best Feature at the Martha's Vineyard Film Festival in August. Here's the movie's synopsis --
Justin Thomas is a walking mystery. An orphan trying to make a life for himself in adulthood, he yearns to create the family he never had. But when he discovers the secrets of his past, his hopes for the future and his life are put in jeopardy.

Justin finds out that his body is an experiment that could change the nature of the world for good or ill. Those who want him will stop at nothing. The chase begins. When it ends, Justin will either assist mankind or help along its ultimate destruction. Which way will be a way out? Either way, his world will be forever changed in this all-too-present-day thriller.

If you're going to be in L.A. this weekend, be sure to check out the screening and hang out with our local celebrities.

If, like me, L.A. is not in your plans just now, check out the trailer on the film's website.

Loyal fans are anxiously awaiting a Plainfield screening.


The Movie: "Algeny"
The Festival: "American Black Film Festival"
Plainfield Today: "Plainfielders garner HBO prize at filmfest"
-- Dan Damon

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Plainfield artist featured in celebration of Pru Center




To The Future


Painter, muralist and Plainfield resident Maria Mijares will be featured at a reception opening the exhibit 'The Modified History of Downtown Newark' this Saturday at NJIT.

Her triptych, created in response to the construction of the new Devils Arena, is the featured work. The center panel, 'To The Future' (see above), reflects the Newark skyline, including the Prudential building, in the new glass curve of Prudential Center, the Devils' new home.

Mijares, who has exhibited across the country and abroad, is well-known to Jerseyans for her four large scale porcelain enamel murals in Union City's Bergenline Avenue light-rail station.

She is also a participant in two other exhibits this fall.

Her painting of the abandoned Essex County Jail, titled 'Devil's Cathedral', is part of the Woodstock Biennial at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild in New York, and she is also featured in the exhibit 'Body of Christ' at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.



The Devil's Cathedral

Among her many other awards, Maria has been the recipient of two painting fellowships for the NJ State Council on the Arts. You can view her exhibit calendar and sample works on her website here.

Exhibit: The Modified History of Newark
NJIT School of Architecture
113 Summit Street (2nd Floor)
Newark

Artist Reception
Saturday, October 27
5:00 - 10:00 PM



Website: "Maria Mijares"
Woodstock: "Woodstock Guild"
(Info: 845.679.2079)
Washington: "Luce Center for Arts and Religion" (Info: 202.885.8674)
-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Does the PMUA have a problem?

Bernice notes this morning that PMUA trucks make DAILY visits to the apartment complex next to her apartment building. Would you feel lucky if the PMUA came every day to your property?

But I'm concerned it may be less about trash and more about something else.

When I first learned a few months ago that garbage trucks were backing up the driveway between these two buildings at unseemly hours, it was curious but could maybe be explained by PMUA worker assiduousness.

However, I'm beginning to wonder.

There are continuing rumors that the as-yet-unidentified PMUA worker shot in the back on South Second Street two weeks ago tomorrow was targeted as part of an ongoing drug turf battle between two Plainfield gangs.

Is there a connection between the shooting and the trips down Bernice's driveway?

It would help if the PMUA got to the bottom of these untimely and frequent garbage truck visits.

And told the public.


-- Dan Damon

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Block That Reality Transfer Tax!

Under a purplish headline concerning PAC donations, we learn of the impending peril of REALITY TRANSFER TAXES in New Jersey from today's Star-Ledger.

Sometimes I think we need a little more reality transfer around here.

Without the tax, of course.


-- Dan Damon

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Ledger's 'Blog of the day': Plainfield Trees



(Click on image to enlarge.)


The Ledger's Kelly Heyboer, who keeps an eye out for all things blogalicious in New Jersey, picked Plainfield Trees, the blog of our own Dr. Greg Palermo, as today's 'Blog Of The Day.'

The blog is a labor of love of Dr. Palermo, now serving as chairperson of our Tree Commission, but also known to many for his long involvement with the Historic Preservation Commission.

Congrats, Greg!

You can check out Kelly Heyboer's post here, and Greg's blog Plainfield Trees here.

-- Dan Damon

Christie's Union County probe delayed by Harrison inquiries?



Plainfielders who have been waiting for US Attorney Chris Christie to shift his attention to Union County may have to wait a bit longer.

A front page story in this morning's Ledger focuses on his latest target -- Harrison.

If you ever thought nepotism was a problem in Plainfield, your eyes will pop when you read this one.

But nepotism seems to be the least of the issues in Harrison.

As with all towns hell-bent on redevelopment -- and you can include Plainfield on that list -- REDEVELOPMENT is the vehicle of choice for corrupt pols, hungry developers and vendors on the make.

The first things that go are INDEPENDENCE and TRANSPARENCY --
"No one is truly independent in their decision-making," said John Pinho, an attorney who served three years on Harrison's redevelopment authority. "It breeds a culture of patronage that is not good for open government. It exists everywhere, but it's magnified in Harrison."
One of the other tricks used was to hire a retired school official to coordinate school construction projects, classifying the job as non-educational so the official would not be punished over his first pension and would become eligible for a SECOND one. (Puts me in mind of the proposal for construction management that came before the PMUA board a couple of years ago. Thankfully, those straight arrows saw it for what it was and shot it down.)

The article is a concise ABCedary of corrupt practices.

Oops! There goes
my Sunday School self again.

I forget -- this is Hudson County.


-- Dan Damon

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Candidate apathy forces Plainfield LWV to cancel forum



One usually hears complaints during election season of voter apathy. But you can count on Plainfield politicos to give things their own little twist.

How about this?

The Plainfield League of Women Voters has had to cancel its candidate forum, originally scheduled for November 1st, due to candidate apathy.

With apparently no Republican candidate in the Wards 1/4 at-large race, and no response from the Republican candidate in the Ward 2 race, Plainfield's League chapter had no choice but to cancel the forum, according to League officers.

Meanwhile, the League's candidate profile and questionnaire, scheduled to run in the Courier News also had to be cancelled owing to failure by the candidates to supply materials for the ad -- inclusion in which is FREE to candidates on the ballot.

"It is unfortunate that the candidates have failed to take this opportunity to communicate their positions on important topics to the voters," said Plainfield LWV chapter president Veronica (Roni) Taylor, "though we are certainly appreciative of Councilman Storch's willingness to participate."

The Plainfield chapter, which has hosted candidate forums for decades, and always provided the community's main occasion to see and hear all candidates at one time, will save a lot of money according to Taylor.

"The expense of running a full-page ad in the Courier is one of our major costs in a given year," she says, "and the upside of the candidate's apathy is that we will have more resources to use on other chapter projects, including the presidential campaign which is just beginning to heat up."

For my money, a one-party town like Plainfield can be said to be just like the Soviet Union only better -- the Soviets were quite proud of their 'fair and open' elections process -- and were always pointing out how superior their system was to the contentious American electoral system, and easier, since there was a single candidate for each office.

Just like the Soviet Union but better: we don't have the Russian winters.



-- Dan Damon

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Guantanamo cases 'banked' for 2008 presidential campaign

The Bush administration's former leader prosecutor in the Guantanamo cases says that 'sexy' cases have been banked for prosecution during next year's campaign, according to a Washington Post story in Sunday's edition.

Morris Davis, an Air Force colonel who headed up the prosecutorial team, said that Pentagon pressure to deliver convictions in what it considered the 'sexy' cases BEFORE the presidential election played a part in his decision to resign the post.

Proof positive the spirit of Karl Rove lives.


WashPost: "Ex-Prosecutor Says Pentagon Pushing 'Sexy' Cases in '08"
-- Dan Damon

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'Dirty Sexy Money' has a sexy Plainfield secret




Actor Candis Cayne


Fans of ABC's Wednesday night drama "Dirty Sexy Money" will be delighted to know there's a Plainfield angle.

Yes.

First, the plot: A family dynasty drama, featuring the
fabulously wealthy and politically powerful Darling clan of New York state. Carmelita (Candis Cayne), a transgendered woman, is having an affair with Patrick Darling (Billy Baldwin), scion of the family, who also happens to be the state's Attorney General and is running for the U.S. Senate.

Donald Sutherland and Jill Clayburgh head the cast -- so you know this is a serious show, with hard-working and very talented actors.

Joe Burris of Sleepy Hollow Realtors whispered to me that he sold Cayne a home in Plainfield last year and is pleased as punch that the actor is getting to be famous. As we all should be.

Will someone toss a brick through the window of the Darling mansion with a note exposing Patrick Darling's little secret?

You will have to stay tuned. Wednesdays, ABC, 10 PM.

The show, which premiered at the end of last month, has already been picked up in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and Spain.

What's that?

Where
does she live?

My lips are sealed.


-- Dan Damon

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