The needler in the haystack.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

How Bill lost Kennedy's backing for Hillary





The cat is out of the bag: Bill blew it big-time for Hillary.

Washington Post reporter Mary Ann Akers, who blogs the D.C. dish as 'The Sleuth', put up a story last evening that Sen. Ted Kennedy had a 'meltdown' over perceived slights to the Kennedy family's civil rights legacy in Bill Clinton's now-famous remarks that it took President Lyndon B. Johnson to fulfill Martin Luther King's objectives.

Clinton's remarks -- the opening sally in a series aimed at candidate Barack Obama -- drew immediate heat at the time and put the Clinton campaign on the defensive. After rank-and-file Democrats pushed party leaders to get the Clintons to tone it down, especially in light of Bill's egregious remarks in South Carolina, a kinder, gentler Bill finally showed up in New Jersey Monday.

But Akers' story is sure to generate more heat for the Clinton campaign -- and no doubt some pillow talk that Bill would wish he didn't have to endure. Read the full story here.



-- Dan Damon

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Detroit mayoral scandal has Plainfield echoes





The mayor's two bodyguards pose with her in a campaign flyer.
Click on image to enlarge.


Mayoral security details seem to be in the news these days.

Plainfield Dem chair Assemblyman Jerry Green's push poll over the past weekend included loaded questions about Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs' bodyguards.

If you have been following the news out of Detroit, you will know that Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick may be facing perjury charges after testifying under oath that he did not have a romantic relationship with his top aide, Christine Beatty.

The perjury charges loom now that over 14,000 text messages -- many of them titillatingly romantic -- have been uncovered by the Detroit Free Press through a Freedom of Information Act request and summarized in the paper.

But Plainfielders will be interested in knowing that what set off the furor was the Mayor Kilpatrick's security detail.

Two police investigators looking into allegations of misconduct by members of the security detail, including collecting overtime that was not earned and covering up accidents with city-owned vehicles, were fired by Mayor
Kilpatrick in May of 2003.

In a whistleblower lawsuit, the two officers won what was later revealed to be a $9 million settlement from the city -- meaning, ultimately, the taxpayers. What seems to have brought the city to the table were the text messages between the Mayor and his aide which came to light in the discovery process and in which, besides all the romantic folderol and revelations of high living and hijinx at the public expense, they discussed firing the police officers who were investigating the security detail abuses.

The Detroit Free Press eventually learned of the existence of the text messages and obtained them from the city's messaging service supplier, SkyTel, through a Freedom of Information Act request. The story broke online last Wednesday and ran in Thursday's Free Press print edition (see here).

MEANWHILE, IN PLAINFIELD

Questions surrounding Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs' security detail have swirled since her bodyguards -- both of whom were prominently pictured with Robinson-Briggs in her campaign literature -- assumed their duties in 2006. That includes questions about overtime.

No justification for the assignment of two officers to guard Mayor Robinson-Briggs other than the say-so of Assemblyman Green has ever been offered, even though proper procedure -- both from a safety viewpoint and from the perspective of fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers -- would require a formal threat assessment by an independent, qualified authority such as the County Prosecutor or the State Police. Evidence that such a threat assessment was ever done -- or updated, as it should be periodically -- has never been offered by the Assemblyman.

Instead, Plainfielders get the push poll of this past weekend, in which the pollsters asked if the interviewees were aware of threats against Mayor Robinson-Briggs and to indicate whether they supported her having bodyguards or whether 'she should just ignore the threats'.

Sort of like the old 'Have you stopped beating your wife yet?' type question, in which the answerer really hasn't a way out.

The political powers-that-be are certainly aware that Mayor Robinson-Brigg' security detail is an issue about which the public has plenty of questions -- including both the necessity of it and whether or not there have been any abuses of the public trust.

At the very least, the public deserves to know that proper procedures have been followed in obtaining a bona fide threat assessment -- and having it updated -- to justify both the expense and the diversion of officers from fruitful crime-fighting duties.

Then, I'm wondering whether SkyTel is the supplier of the messaging service that was recently discussed at a City Council meeting. That might be interesting.



-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why Caroline Kennedy Endorsed Obama




Newsweek's Jonathan Alter posted a story this afternoon on the magazine's website telling how Caroline Kennedy came to support Barack Obama's candidacy...
The behind-the-scenes story of Caroline's journey into the Obama camp features her three teenage children, her uncle—and a long-forgotten controversy from the 1960 presidential campaign. The complicated tale involves an angry Sen. John F. Kennedy, Vice President Richard Nixon's "truth squad," baseball great Jackie Robinson and a group of stranded African students trying to book passage to the United States—including Barack Obama Sr., father of the presidential candidate. ...
Read the stirring story -- which only proves what a small, connected world it is -- by clicking here.


-- Dan Damon

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Plainfield push poll season getting a headstart?



Got an email from a reader about a phone poll conducted over the past weekend.

Seems the pollsters were trolling for information about opinions of four Plainfield personalities -- Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, Board of Ed president Pat Barksdale, former councilor and freeholder Adrian Mapp, and Darlene McWilliams, wife of the late mayor Al McWilliams.

One question asked which of the four the interviewee would vote for if they were candidates and the election for mayor were tomorrow.

Another question asked the interviewee to rate the four as to how effective they were in office. When the interviewee noted that Darlene McWilliams has never -- yet -- held public office, the pollster replied, 'Well, she must have in the past.'

In fairness to the pollster, they are totally ignorant of any background to their questions; they are merely working from a script. It would have been up to the polling firm's administrators to screen the questions proposed for glitches like this.

On the other hand, it may be that those who commissioned the poll are more interested in assessing the relative positive/negative standing of the four and are not concerned with any factuality about the questions.

While what I have learned so far is not conclusive enough to say whether there has been a push poll, I would be more than happy to hear from any readers who may have been polled about the kind of questions they were asked, and also whether anyone's Caller ID happened to catch the pollster's phone number. If you have information to share, email me here or leave a comment on this post.

Seems a bit early to be measuring Mayor Robinson-Briggs' potential against possible opponents in the 2009 primary, especially since Adrian Mapp is the only person who has declared themselves a candidate as of this moment.

However, paranoia is a staple of the local Democratic leadership, and if you're paranoid, it's NEVER to early to worry about who's out to get you.

On the other hand, as the old saying goes, you are NOT paranoid if someone IS out to get you.


To learn more about the difference between PUSH POLLS and legitimate POLLS, check out these resources --
-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Codey the Comic



Senate President Richard Codey has a reputation as something of a wit.

I am tickled to pass along this one-liner, delivered to a Morris County Chamber of Commerce meeting recently, and reported by The Auditor in his column this past Sunday.

Scoring on two GOP presidential candidates (after all, it WAS Morris County), Codey managed to bring Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani together in an unusual juxtaposition --
"There's something wrong when a Mormon candidate has one wife and a Catholic one has three."


-- Dan Damon

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Hundreds rally in Plainfield for Obama




Barack Obama got Sen.Ted Kennedy's endorsement yesterday.

Hundreds of enthusiastic Obama supporters from Plainfield and central New Jersey crowded the auditorium of Queen City Academy for a rally in support of the candidate last evening.

Local Obama coordinator Rashid Burney, Councilor-at-large for Wards 2/3, emceed the evening's event, which featured Akin Salawu, a founder of NJ for Obama, as well as remarks by Rebecca Widdick, co-chair of Union County for Obama, and local notables.

Attendees were given opportunities to volunteer in the Senator's grassroots New Jersey campaign as well as to receive email newsletters and alerts from the state campaign HQ.

Greeting scores of old friends, I was pleased to see several Republicans in attendance. News reports have consistently relayed information that Barack's appeal crosses party lines. I was surprised to learn that one longtime Republican friend, a former president of the Plainfield League of Women Voters, had changed her party registration to Democrat in anticipation of the presidential primary.

Local organizers include Union County Tax Commissioner and
former Councilor Liz Urquhart, Councilor Elliott Simmons, and activists Marie Davis, Linward Cathcart and Tai Lattimore. Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, said to be a Clinton supporter, was present to welcome the crowd. Local clergy participating included Pastor LaVerne Ball of Rose of Sharon Church; the Rev. Gary Kirkwood of King's Temple Ministries; Bishop George Benbow of Christian Fellowship Gospel Church; and the Rev. Oscar O. Turk of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Edison.

The New Jersey race, once considered 'in the bag' for Clinton, has become highly competitive and is now considered 'in play'. Though the most recent Fairleigh Dickinson poll (see here) shows a 45%-30% spread for Clinton over Obama, realities on the ground challenge taking the poll at face value.

The spread with unaffiliated voters -- registered voters without a declared party affiliation -- gives Obama the edge, with 16% to Clinton's 9%, with 44% still undecided.

As the South Carolina vote revealed, many unaffiliated voters are making their mind up in the last few days before the election, so we may see Hillary's lead evaporate -- especially now that the powerful Kennedy clan has thrown its weight behind Obama's candidacy.

New Jersey, like many other states, has an 'open' primary, in which registered voters with no party affiliation may declare an affiliation at the polling place and vote in the primary.

Observers note that the FDU poll was conducted over a 7-day period, from January 20-27, and that the results may prove less reliable because of fast-moving developments in the campaign, including rank-and-file Democrats' revulsion at Bill Clinton's bulldog tactics.

For Obama supporters to maximize his chances, though, volunteers will be needed to step up and man (person?) the phone banks and polling places as we head into next Tuesday's primary -- the first one since 1984 in which New Jersey's vote actually makes a difference.

See contact information below.


-- Dan Damon

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Plainfield rallies for Obama tonight on heels of Kennedy endorsements





Organizers of a Plainfield rally for Barack Obama this evening
(details at end of post) are expecting a large regional turnout after the Senator's smashing victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton in South Carolina's Democratic primary this past Saturday.

Yesterday, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated while in office, endorsed Obama in an OpEd piece in the New York Times (see here). She wrote --
Over the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president ...

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

Breaking news this morning is that Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, brother of the late president, and a Democratic powerhouse for 40 years, will endorse Sen. Obama at a rally this morning at American University in Washington, DC.

Kennedy became increasingly frustrated over the Clinton's campaign tactics during the past several weeks, as cited by both the NY Times --
Mr. Kennedy had become increasingly disenchanted with the tone of the Clinton campaign, aides said. He and former President Bill Clinton had a heated telephone exchange earlier this month over what Mr. Kennedy considered misleading statements by Mr. Clinton about Mr. Obama, as well as his injection of race into the campaign.
and the Washington Post --
Kennedy's decision came after weeks of his rising frustration with the Clintons over campaign tactics, particularly comments by the couple and their surrogates in South Carolina that seemed to carry racial overtones. Kennedy expressed his frustrations directly to the former president, but to no avail.
Sen. Kennedy has pledged to campaign hard for Obama and will be heading west with him after today's rally in Washington.

Though Sen. Obama will NOT be able to make the Plainfield rally this evening, representatives of his campaign and New Jersey backers will be present. I hope to see you there.



HOPE
A 'Stand For Change' Rally

Monday
January 28, 2008
7:00 - 8:30 PM

Join fellow Plainfielders and
other central Jerseyans to rally
for real change in Washington
by showing your support for

Sen. Barak Obama

Rose of Sharon Church
825 West 7th Street
(Just past Grant Avenue)



Thanks should be extended to the local organizing group under the leadership of Councilor Rashid Burney, including former Councilor Liz Urquhart, Councilor Elliott Simmons, and activists Marie Davis, Linward Cathcart and Tai Lattimore.


-- Dan Damon

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Clinton tag-team gets lesson in South Carolina

Not only did Sen. Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton by a 28-point margin in South Carolina, exit polls show that voters have a message for the 'Brass-knuckle Bill' and 'Velvet Shiv Hillary' tag-team: knock it off.

Voters are simply tired of the tone of the debate between Clinton and Obama and, while 56% felt that Obama had unfairly attacked Hillary, a whopping 70% feel Hillary has treated Obama unfairly (see more here).

New Jersey voters are no less smart and no less vocal than South Carolinians, and the message to the Clinton tag-team here should be the same: Knock off the sliming, stop using the race card, and let's get down to issues.

As someone who voted for Bill Clinton and supported him throughout the attacks mounted against him during his White House years, I have come to see why he earned the monicker 'Slick Willie'.

Hillary needs to get him under control and they both need to straighten up and fly right.

They need to remember that Americans' sense of outrage at perceived unfairness is as American as apple pie.

Meanwhile, don't forget that local Obama organizers have a regional rally scheduled for this Monday evening at Rose of Sharon Church (see more here).

-- Dan Damon

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Council President Gibson hospitalized

Word comes that Plainfield City Council President Harold Gibson has been hospitalized.

Councilor Gibson missed Thursday's Council meeting on account of illness.

He was admitted to RWJ Hospital and underwent unspecified surgery, I have been told.

I will post any news on his condition and when he is expected to return to his duties as I get it.

Get well wishes may be sent to --

The Hon. Harold Gibson
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
One Robert Wood Johnson Place
New Brunswick, NJ, 08903
(732) 828-3000


-- Dan Damon

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Of Assemblyman Green, Chief Santiago and Thomas à Becket

As Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green thundered 'I will not be intimidated' before a rump Council composed of four Councilors -- Linda Carter, William Reid and Elliott Simmons, with Councilor Rashid Burney presiding pro-tem -- the struggle between Henry II and Thomas à Becket came to mind.

Assemblyman Green's remark was electrifying, not because anyone was attempting to intimidate HIM, but rather because it was a frank and straightforward indication that the campaign against Police Chief Ed Santiago is the Assemblyman's own, and all the other actors through whom he makes his moves are mere pieces on his chessboard.

So, with clean hands and pure hearts, this rump Council adopted a resolution that contemplates a Police Division without a chief.

For those who have been watching, Thursday's move was foreshadowed in a presentation by Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig to the City Council last summer, in which he proposed a reorganization of the Police Division that would eliminate the chief's position. At the time, it was disclosed that Hellwig had not informed Chief Santiago prior to the meeting and the chief was caught completely by surprise. Ambushed, to put it in a word.

As much as speaking in favor of Chief Santiago last evening, the public was incensed that the resolution had not been divulged at Tuesday's agenda-setting session, but was revealed in a Star-Ledger article on Thursday morning, which included quotes from Councilors Gibson, Burney and Simmons that they were in favor of the action.

Buttery as Councilor Burney's words were last evening, it became clear from Assemblyman Green's statements that the move was long in planning, that consultations had been held with the state's Department of Personnel ALREADY, and that the Council was IN THE LOOP.

Councilor Burney has been providing a great service to the community in posting the Council agendas, resolutions and ordinances online through his website (since the Administration, now in its third year, cannot seem to get its act together).

However, you will look in vain for any mention of the resolution for a police reorganization plan on the Councilor's website (look here
"January 20-22 Documents"), which makes it look like there was collusion on the part of the Council in not making the move public in an effort to slip it by with as little public outcry as possible.

As it was a power struggle between Henry II and Becket, so it is between Assemblyman Green and his surrogates in the Robinson-Briggs administration with Chief Santiago.

This is made perfectly clear by Public Safety Director Hellwig, as quoted in today's Courier --

Hellwig said the reorganization is instead an attempt to add a level of performance accountability he said is mitigated by 'an overly protective bubble or shield around the office of the chief of police' that is regulated by the state Chiefs' Responsibility Act. A police director, Hellwig said, would report to him, the city administrator and the mayor.
Meaning that the Police Division's leadership would be emasculated and subject to control of politically-appointed officials.

It has seemed possible to me that this is all smoke-and-mirrors to get rid of Chief Santiago and NOT NECESSARILY to leave Plainfield without a police chief in perpetuity.

Why would I say that? Consider for a moment what Councilor Simmons is quoted as saying in yesterday's Ledger story --
"You can always correct the things as you go along. If it doesn't work, we do have the option. Nothing is set in stone."
So, is THAT the plan? Get rid of Santiago and -- after a decent interval -- reinstate the police chief's position, presumably with a more malleable person in the role?

As
the struggle between Henry II and Thomas à Becket worked its way to a seemingly inevitable conflict and resolution, Henry is said to have remarked at table 'Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?'

These words were interpreted as a command by four of Henry's knights, who betook themselves to Canterbury and assassinated the archbishop inside the cathedral on his way to evening Vespers, hacking him to death, and with one of them splitting his head open and, as the Catholic Encyclopedia says, "they slew him where he stood, scattering his brains on the pavement."




Earliest known representation of Becket's assassination.

But Becket had his revenge.

A little more than two years after his assassination, he was sainted, and a year after that Henry did public penance at Becket's tomb in Canterbury Cathedral, being stripped and publicly scourged.

Chief Santiago may yet have HIS justice served.



-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

ELEC says 'no' to Bryant chutzpah

Though ELEC did not take up my suggestion (see here), former State Sen. Wayne Bryant's argument that he was entitled to use leftover campaign funds to pay for his defense in a corruption case as 'a customary and necessary expense of holding public office' was denied by the board yesterday, 3-0.

Customary?! Necessary?!

The decision against Bryant's chutzpah gained wide notice, including the Ledger and Gannett papers as well as the New York Times.

Kelly Heyboer, who surveys New Jersey blogs for the Ledger, picked it up as her story this morning, citing several blogs throughout the state (see here).

Including Plainfield Today -- the only blog to actually offer a positive proposal about what to do with these leftover funds in the case of miscreant legislators (see proposal here).

Still haven't had any takers on the idea, though.



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Obama Rally Monday at Rose of Sharon





Average citizens are getting a chance to make a difference in the New Jersey primary -- at last. The local Obama team is hosting a rally next Monday evening at Rose of Sharon Community Church.

Whatever camp you are in, or even if you are not, this is a good thing.

Over the years, many New Jersey Democrats have come to resent the fact that national political figures simply consider us as nothing more than an ATM -- a convenient place to pick up some cash on the way to wherever is more important.

And Hillary had NO plans to come to New Jersey to campaign for the primary until Barack Obama and his citizen volunteers showed he is a viable candidate for the party's nomination.

Hence her visit to North Jersey last evening, and the more-than-timely endorsement by Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, designed to influence the votes of Jerseyans who rely on the Philadelphia papers for their news (see story here).

What! You weren't invited? Hillary's New Jersey support is primarily -- though not universally -- driven by the state's Democratic machine.

So, while my mailbox is regularly flooded with communications from the state Democratic party, I got nary a word about HRC's New Jersey appearances. You can probably figure that only apparatchiks -- party insiders -- were invited to last night two Hillary events.

Which makes it all the more refreshing that EVERYONE is invited to the Obama event in Plainfield next Monday.

You should consider taking advantage of the opportunity.



HOPE
A 'Stand For Change' Rally

Monday
January 28, 2007
7:00 - 8:30 PM

Join fellow Plainfielders and
other central Jerseyans to rally
for real change in Washington
by showing your support for

Sen. Barak Obama

Rose of Sharon Church
825 West 7th Street
(Just past Grant Avenue)



Thanks should be extended to the local organizing group under the leadership of Councilor Rashid Burney, including former Councilor Liz Urquhart, Councilor Elliott Simmons, and activists Marie Davis, Linward Cathcart and Tai Lattimore.



-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Plainfield Painted Lady Bares All

One of Plainfield's 'painted ladies' is suddenly baring all.

You may never have noticed the mansion at 525 West 7th Street, across from the United Synagogue and the Boys & Girls Club. Ever since I've lived in Plainfield it has been hidden behind a screen of dense ivy and saplings gone wild.




525 West 7th Street. Tree at left edge of image has been removed.

When its most recent owner, John Krause, passed away many wondered what the fate of the desirable 310-foot wide double lot might be, and whether the house would survive or be razed to give way to townhomes.

Suddenly, in the last week or two, there is a great buzz of activity.

A tree company has removed almost all of the trees to the left of the house, and over the holiday weekend seems to have attacked the vacant lot to the right of the house.

Dumpsters have come and gone and come again in the driveway, filling up with material from inside the three-story mansard-roofed structure.

At the rear of the property is one of Plainfield's most spectacular and spectacularly neglected carriage houses. One wonders if it is beyond reclamation.




The carriage house is spectacularly neglected.

Will the property once again serve as a grand single-family residence as it did in the early part of the 20th century, when the owner-occupant was one Cornelius Tyler?

On Monday, the official Martin Luther King holiday, I noticed that two of the first floor windows had been removed and covered with plywood. Good sign or bad sign?




A 1934 view of the house, once the Tyler Mansion.

-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Council President Gibson writes Dan about 'derogatory flyer'

On the eve of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, I received an email from Council President Harold Gibson concerning an anonymous flyer recently passed around the community attacking me personally, along with several business people who are community leaders as well as a sitting Councilor.

Council President Gibson's email is printed below, following which is my response to him --

Dan:

I was recently made aware of a horrendous derogatory flier dubbed "Plainfield Gazette", which contained what I concluded as biased comments about you and several other Plainfielders including one current member of the city council.

I want you to know I feel this nefarious document has no place in our fair city. I have taken the time to visit one of the businesses where the document was delivered so I could put my law enforcement background to use in an effort to determine the source of the document. While I could not come to any conclusive decision as to the origin of the document or the identity of the person who dropped it off, I contacted Chief Santiago to express my concerns. He indicated the police were in fact investigating the situation. I further took the time to contact the council member who was named in the document to express my outrage.

On behalf of the members of the Plainfield City Council I take offense to the perpetration of such an act and take the position that political differences do not open the door to heinous activity such as the spreading of the highly volatile comments in the printed flier that prompted my sending this writing to you.

There is a point at which "Freedom of Speech" simply is not a basis for certain action.

Harold Gibson


And here is my reply to Council President Gibson --
Dear Council President,

Thank you for your email concerning the anonymous flyer recently circulated under the authorship of 'The Plainfield Gazette'. I thank you for your concern that it represents biased speech and 'has no place in our fair city.' Your forthrightness in defending freedom of speech in expressing political differences could not come at a more timely moment, as we as a community pondered the impact of Martin Luther King Jr. on the American experience.

It put me in mind of an incident at Resurrection City, the temporary tent city pitched on the Mall in Washington in May and June of 1968, as activists rallied by Dr. King (and led by the Rev. Ralph Abernethy after Dr. King's assassination) lobbied Congress for several weeks on poverty issues affecting Americans of every race and ethnicity.

As a participant, I witnessed one of the SCLC marshals in no uncertain terms dress down a volunteer who had made a disparaging anti-gay remark about another volunteeer, telling him that if he didn't mind his tongue he would be barred from further participation, and citing Dr. King as his authority for such a mandate.

As far as 'The Plainfield Gazette' goes, you should be aware that this is the third outbreak of this anonymous pamphleteer -- the first was in support of then-candidate, now Mayor, Sharon Robinson-Briggs during the contested 2005 primary; the second being distributed via the literature table in City Hall last year; and this third appearance by hand-delivery to at least two downtown business people as well as on car windshields in the City Hall parking lot.

It is refreshing that at least some of our elected leadership stands firmly behind the First Amendment and the right of citizens to air their opinions in the debate around issues involved in the betterment of Plainfield.

I wish you all the best as you lead the Council for the year 2008 in addressing the multitude of issues and opportunities that face us.

And thank you again for your personal interest in speaking up for residents' First Amendment rights.

Sincerely,

Dan Damon.



  • King Encyclopedia: "The Poor People's Campaign" -- 'Resurrection City' was the tent encampment that housed those who gathered in Washington as part of the Poor People's Campaign.
-- Dan Damon

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Citywide MLK Service at Shiloh tonight



Citywide

Commemoration

Today - 6:00 PM

Speaker:
Rev. Dr. James Evans
Former President, Colgate-Rochester Divinity School

Music by the
Freedom Youth Choir

Sponsored by
Shiloh Baptist Church
Dr. Gerald Lamont Thomas, Pastor

Shiloh Baptist Church
515 West 4th Street






-- Dan Damon

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Dr. King on War




Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrestled for some time with the question of war, and in particular, the Vietnam War.

Aware that publicly criticizing the war in Vietnam would jeopardize his relationship with President Lyndon B. Johnson -- who had staked his political clout on securing passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and whose speech in support of the bill's passage electrified Congress and the nation -- King made little mention of the war throughout 1965.

But things began to change in 1966, and by the end of that year Dr. King's wife, Coretta Scott King, had joined publicly with Dr. Benjamin Spock in speaking out directly against the war in Vietnam.

Dr. King finally spoke out in April 1967 at a mass meeting at Riverside Church in New York City, where he articulated a seven-point program, implicitly urging Johnson to end the war. He ended that speech this way --
As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:
Once to every man and nation comes a moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet 'tis truth alone is strong
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace.

If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

King's stand -- which he stated was a personal one, and not as leader of the SCLC -- led not only to a rupture of relations with President Lyndon Johnson (see Newark activist Oliver Lofton's reminiscence here), but to a rancorous division within the ranks of civil rights organizations.

Nevertheless, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent the remainder of his life and ministry linking his civil rights and peace activities and focusing on what he saw as the three main issues facing the nation: racism, poverty and the Vietnam war.

Though great strides have been made against racism, much remains to be done.

Poverty is still with us, and today even the middle class feels on the edge of the precipice.

The Vietnam War is over.

But not war itself.

Which makes me wonder what Dr. King would have to say were he with us today.


-- Dan Damon

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

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Concerned Urban Clergy MLK service today




Ecumenical

Worship Service

Today - 5:00 PM

Speaker: Bishop George Benbow

Sponsored by
Concerned Urban Clergy


Ruth Fellowship
733 South Second Street







-- Dan Damon

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

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What is Plainfield impact of bond insurer's woes?



It's Saturday, do you know where your Plainfield bonds are?

You may want to.

Plainfield, like thousands of communities across the country, issues bonds to underwrite capital projects such as road improvements, facilities construction and capital equipment purchases. Plainfield recently issued bonds to finance road reconstruction and improvements.

News comes that yesterday Fitch Ratings downgraded bond insurer AMBAC from AAA to AA, rattling Wall Street.

How might this affect Plainfielders?

AMBAC insures bonds issued by local communities, reassuring investors who buy those bonds. In theory, if a municipality or other bond issuer defaults on the bonds, the insurer pays off. Many investors have restrictions stating that they may only buy bonds whose insurers have triple-A ratings.

Uh-oh.

Firms with those restrictions would have to unload bonds whose insurers were not triple-A rated, making the bonds less desirable and pricier. This will drive up the cost of future borrowing by municipalities, many struggling with lower cash receipts.

In the case of bonds already issued, the bond issuer -- for example, Plainfield -- already has the money, they are not currently impacted.

Unless they default on the bonds.

If the bond issuer defaults, normal practice would be that the bond insurer makes the investors whole by paying off the bonds. If the bond INSURER is unable to do so (and this is what has Wall Street rattled about AMBAC's situation), the bond ISSUER -- the municipality or other entity -- must pay off the bonds.

Now there is no suggestion that Plainfield is in any danger of defaulting on its bond obligations.

But that does not necessarily mean this situation has no foreseeable impact on Plainfield.

And that is where BUF comes in.

Still unanswered is the question of who is on the hook if BUF ever defaults on the $7 million on bonds recently issued by the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) for its planned construction of a new preschool facility.

As previously reported in Plainfield Today, county officials say the City may be on the hook (see more here and here).

So we may have an interest in knowing if AMBAC is the City's and/or the UCIA's bond insurer.

Perhaps the City or the UCIA can answer your questions about the impact of this matter.

But it's Saturday. And Monday is a holiday.

We'll have to wait...and wonder.



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

Friday, January 18, 2008

Thefts of gas from city pumps



Plainfielders feeling a pinch in their wallets at the gas pump these days may commiserate with Newark officials, who are charging five city employees with treating themselves and friends to free fill-ups on the city at the gas pumps used for city vehicles.

To my knowledge, no Plainfield city employees have been guilty of filling up their personal vehicles at the DPW's city gas pump.

Might not be able to say the same for politically connected private citizens, though. Word in the grapevine last week was that one such non-employee was spotted filling up at the city's expense recently.

The way gas prices are heading, this might no longer be considered PETTY THEFT.

Just a word to the wise.



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ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
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PMUA a model citizen, will City reciprocate?




Sign at PMUA's new Environmental Resource Center.

Plainfielders looking for a model corporate citizen need look no further than the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA).

Especially with its new Environmental Resource Center on Rock Avenue, formerly known as the 'Transfer Station' (see my previous coverage here and here).

This all comes to mind as I read of Sen. Lautenberg's stumping in northern Jersey, touting a new federal law that gives local communities more authority over waste transfer facilities (see more here).

Thankfully, the concerns of those North Jersey communities are not duplicated here, owing to the long-term vision and hard work of the PMUA Board of Commissioners and the agency's executive team, including executive director Eric Watson and his left hand person Dave Ervin, plus financial whiz Jim Perry. They have shown they know how to get things right.




Attendees outside new ERC's 'big house'.

One question does come to mind, however.

Can the administration of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs reciprocate? Will it be able to get things right in the same way?

Appointments to the PMUA Board of Commissioners are due.

This year's batch should include the regular annual appointment of an alternate, the statutorily required appointment of a commissioner to a full five-year term, and the appointment of a person to fill out the remainder of William Reid's term (Reid resigned when he was appointed to the City Council).

Shouldn't be much heavy lifting here. Let's see if the Robinson-Briggs administration is up to the task.

Oh, by the way. Jimmy the Greek is giving 20-to-1 odds that former Mayor and Councilor Harold Mitchell will replace Reid.



-- Dan Damon


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ARCHIVED POSTS OF PLAINFIELD TODAY FROM 11/03/2005 THROUGH 12/31/2006 ARE AT
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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Green and DeFilippo have right to 'smoke-filled rooms'




Plainfield Dem Chair Jerry Green


UC Dem Chair Charlotte DeFilippo

If ever local Democratic honchos Assemblyman Jerry Green and Charlotte DeFilippo had a reason to knock back a toast, this may be it.

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court ruled that --
"A political party has a First Amendment right to limit its membership as it wishes and to choose a candidate-selection process that will in its view produce the nominee who best represents its political platform."
Further, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the unanimous opinion --
"None of our cases establishes an individual's constitutional right to have a 'fair shot' at winning the party's nomination."
The case was about how New York goes about selecting candidates for its Supreme Court judgeships -- which, the Times points out, "is not the state's highest court, but its basic trial court" -- who are nominated by the political parties and elected by the general voters.

The ruling will warm the cockles of clubhouse pols everywhere, who occasionally must face party members with the temerity to believe that democratic processes should have a role in candidate selection.

As Scalia said --
"'smoke-filled rooms' and domination by party leaders, have long been an accepted manner of selecting party candidates"
I can imagine more than one local activist thinking 'If only we could have smoke-filled rooms'.


-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bonehead Dan learns a lesson



Bonehead Dan has learned a lesson: Readers rule.

Plainfield Today's companion blog, CLIPS, is what is known as an aggregator blog.

Unlike regular blogs, aggregator blogs are simply collections of links to other items on the Web. CLIPS links, as its tagline says, to "online stories of interest to the Tri-County area". That includes the local regularly publishing blogs as well as items from print (or 'legacy') media.

Aggregator blogs are held in disdain by some and are ignored by Google -- as I found out in the beginning when I tried to submit CLIPS to Google's 'crawler', its process of combing the hundreds of millions of pages on the Web to build the database that brings you those marvelous, near-instantaneous results.

Google's reasoning goes like this. If Google were to index aggregator blogs and aggregators were to simply put up blogs with nothing but links to their own posts, the Web would become a hall of mirrors, facilitated by Google, in which those wishing to game the system would rise in the search results by the use of these aggregator blogs. Makes sense to me.

On the other hand, there are those who think that aggregators are the online equivalent of a babushka, the Russian grandmother figure. You know, someone to remind you to wear your overshoes, eat your vegetables -- and read your news. And grownups don't need babushkas.

The question of CLIPS and linking to the local blogs was raised by a local blogger to me in a private email about a month ago. In my response, I offered to stop putting links up to that blog if the blogger desired. The favor of a reply was not granted.

A few days ago there was a post that singled out aggregator blogs and suggested readers had the choice of bypassing them by bookmarking sites they want to read, concluding "[t]
here is no need for a nanny to tell you what to read."

In a fit of scruples, I assumed the blogger no longer wished to be linked to by CLIPS and accordingly took the link down yesterday. (As any good politician will tell you, you should always beware attacks of scruples.)

That was when blockhead Dan got his lesson.

Seems that readers get different mileage. They actually LIKE the aggregated blog CLIPS just because it does what it says it does -- put all the links to local news and views at the reader's fingertips. And readers told me so, in no uncertain terms.

Usefulness!

What a concept!

Chastened, I am returning the other blogger's links to CLIPS as of this morning.

Whether or not it is nannyish.

Babushkas of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your usefulness.




-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Symphony fundraiser at the Bonefish Grill




Bang Bang Shrimp. Yum. Cajun Chicken Egg Roll. Yum. Bacon-wrapped Atlantic Scallops. Yum, yum, yum. Just some of the tantalizing fare at the Bonefish Grill.

You can enjoy all this and more -- and hang out with a friendly crowd of music lovers -- all in support of the Plainfield Symphony.

This Sunday, January 20, from 5:30 to 7:30, you can enjoy
hors d'oeuvres and entrée samplers at this renowned seafood establishment. Cash bar. Just make a $25 per person donation to the Plainfield Symphony (check or cash). Check out the Bonefish Grill menu online here (PDF).

No reservation required, just come along and enjoy the food and the company! Info: (908) 561-5140 or visit the symphony's website here.




Bonefish Grill
(732) 926-8060
215 Route 22 East
(Between Warrenville Road and Washington Avenue)

Greenbrook NJ 08812

-- Dan Damon

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Plainfield landmarks fall by the wayside



Two of Plainfield's most recognizable landmarks fell by the wayside over the weekend.

An fire of undetermined origin struck the Larry's Deli building on South Avenue Saturday afternoon.

The deli, one of the last reminders of Plainfield's once-vibrant Jewish community, was still thriving a decade ago when operated by the Scheckner family. The business has been shuttered more than a year, in spite of interest from several potential tenants.


Meanwhile, the Strand Theater on East Front Street is losing its marquee, the 'face' that theaters present to passersby.



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I noticed blue tarp going up last week and inquired at City Hall, where I was told the owners had gotten a permit to demolish and remove the marquee which has graced the theater since it opened in the 1920s.

Workmen were seen with acetylene torches behind the blue tarp on Friday and Saturday, and I resolved to get some photos on Sunday.

To my surprise, East Front Street was blocked off on Sunday between Watchung Avenue and Church Street, and I was told by fire and police personnel that the tarp had blown loose and the dangling beams of the partially disassembled marquee were deemed a danger to passing pedestrians.

By mid-afternoon, workers from Oveter's Construction were on the scene, scrambling to finish removing the marquee.


What is in store for the former theater is anyone's guess. One police officer told me that the owners had completely removed the 1400 theater seats and the sloping theater floor, leaving an enormous rectangular room with only the stage at the front remaining in place.

In any event, without a marquee it is hard to picture how the public would know what, if anything, can be taking place inside.




-- Dan Damon

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