The needler in the haystack.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Slimemeister Green avoids Gibson's true cost to taxpayers



Plainfield's slimemeister strikes again!

Assemblyman Jerry Green's political style (you didn't think these campaign mailers flooding your mailbox were the candidates' idea, did you?) rears it ugly head in the final weekend's REALLY NASTY mailings.

On behalf of Council President Harold Gibson, who COULD NOT WIN A SEAT IN AN OPEN ELECTION (he ran and lost against Councilor Burney, who still sits in the seat Gibson could not win), the same Harold Gibson who had to serve the party machine for 50 years before -- at age 72 -- he could get a seat on the Council, Jerry Green attacks Annie McWilliams for her YOUTH.

As if being young and savvy were a crime.

And as if being old and toeing the Democratic machine's line were a virtue.

Sadly, Assemblyman Green fails to give Gibson credit for the REAL service he has given to the UNION COUNTY DEMOCRATIC MACHINE.

While trying to give Gibson credit for everything except inventing sliced bread (who knows?) -- singlehandedly reducing crime (does his undershirt have a Superman logo on it?) and working (once he woke up) alongside Jerry Green (once HE woke up) on the Muhlenberg closing -- he fails to mention the most compelling example of Gibson's UNPARALLELED FINANCIAL EXPERIENCE, costing the taxpayers $650,00 for his partisan political activity.

Huh?

As Union County's Public Safety Director, Gibson approved the appointment of a political hack, the unqualified son of a Democratic mayor, as Superintendent in the Division of Weights and Measures, part of the Public Safety Department.

The well-qualified longtime employee who was passed over sued Gibson and Union County and won $300,000 in her first suit, which alleged discrimination job. In a second lawsuit to compel Gibson and the County to appoint her to the job instead of the mayor's son, the County agreed to a settlement of $200,000 in her favor plus a pay raise to the Superintendent's level, but without giving her the job.

Another applicant who was more qualified than the mayor's son who was appointed also sued. He won a settlement of $150,000 for Gibson's and the County's discrimination against him. (You can read about the whole sleazy business on The Countywatchers blog here.)

So, I would agree that Council President Gibson has
UNPARALLELED FINANCIAL EXPERIENCE: his partisan behavior has cost you, dear taxpayer, $650,000.

Skip the cornball sleaze in the last mailings from Assemblyman Green's team (including one for Don Davis due in your mailboxes today) and focus on the real question: Do we need a change from the 'same old, same old' in Plainfield?

I think so.

That is why I will be voting for Annie McWilliams (6E) and Adrian Mapp (7E) on Tuesday, June 3, and hope you will too.

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-- Dan Damon

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Plainfield's 'Corruption Tax', the Platters and You



"The fact is that the residents of New Jersey pay for the misdeeds of government decision-makers by paying in effect, a “corruption tax.”"
-- Jon Corzine (more here).

Prosecutors who deal with corruption cases will tell you that taxpayers pay a premium of anywhere from 5% to 40% as a result of New Jersey's infamous pay-to-play culture.

Plainfield is no exception.

That is money that finds its way -- legally -- into the campaign accounts of machine politicians running for everything from City Council to the state Assembly and Senate. And illegally, into the pockets of pols throughout the state who haven't any ethical sense.

But even when it is 'legal', pay-to-play functions as a 'corruption tax' that burdens Plainfield taxpayers, you included.

How?

Mainly through three methods: patronage hiring, inflated costs, and shoddy work.

PATRONAGE HIRING

If you've been a fan of City Council meetings in recent years, you will have noticed that very few contracts go out to bid any more. Open public bidding was devised many years ago to correct the abuses of Boss Tweed-type machines controlling local politics just doling out public monies to their friends and supporters. An irony of the supposed 'pay-to-play' ordinance that the Council passed under the Robinson-Briggs administration is that a list of vendors is vetted, adopted by the Council and -- Presto! -- public bidding is circumvented. Nice trick, huh?

Think Remington & Vernick, the politically juiced South Jersey engineering firm you never heard of before Assemblyman Green got hundreds of thousands of dollars 'wheeled' to him to pay for the election of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. Money that came from South Jersey pols, with whom Remington & Vernick is entwined. Thanks to votes by Jerry's City Council, you not only have them as City engineers, you pay for their hotel stays when they have to overnight away from home in order to huddle with Administration biggies the morning after Planning Board meetings. Can you say 'corruption tax'?

INFLATED COSTS


So, now that we have gotten rid of public bidding and have the vendor who has paid for the privilege in place, what next?

The vendor will study 'em and change-order 'em to death, that's what.

Engineers love to bill taxpayers for 'studying' the community's problems. Consider the road rebuilding program adopted by the Council when Adrian Mapp was its leader. That perfectly adequate plan has been 'restudied' by the new engineering firm (Remington & Vernick) -- of course, as billable hours. You can bet your bottom dollar any changes are cosmetic. But you will pay -- dearly -- for them.

And once work on infrastructure projects begins, vendors have the change-order route, adjusting the agreed-upon prices as projects go along -- always for a 'justified' reason, of course.

Always reminds me of the lady who ran the Red & White grocery at the crossroads near where I grew up. She routinely put her thumb on the scale when weighing your hamburger or sliced cold cuts.

SHODDY WORK

Under Remington & Vernick, you may have witnessed their hired hand trying to hustle a redevelopment plan by portraying a mattress in the street as a sign of blight, justifying declaring an area 'in need of redevelopment'. The Planning Board sent him packing on that one. Is it any coincidence that some of the members involved in that fracas were not reappointed by the Robinson-Briggs administration -- to which the Council responded by meekly accepting the new, presumably more amenable appointments?

Another incident sticks in my memory.

There was, when I was still employed by the City, a vendor who Jerry Green foisted on Mayor McWilliams -- to the tune of a 'retainer' fee of $5,000 per month for a year's contract -- who was supposed to find grant monies for city programs.

Working late one evening, I heard the fax machine several cubicles over alerting that it had run out of paper while receiving a fax. Going over to reload the paper tray, I found over a hundred faxed pages strewn on the floor, having filled the in-tray and then spilling over. Picking them up and looking for the cover sheet, I discovered that the hundred-plus pages (including copious copies of newspaper articles, handwritten notes, and copies of emails) were a submission package for a grant application whose deadline was the next day. Talk about shoddy work! Need I say the City never got the grant?

(Interestingly, today's Bergen Record carries a story of U.S. Attorney Chris Christie starting a criminal investigation of Bergen County Dem kingpin Joe Ferreiro, for just the same sort of scheme.
A consulting firm linked to Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferriero and politically connected lawyer Dennis J. Oury raked in $11,000 in fees for securing a $50,000 state grant for Lyndhurst, according to township records obtained Thursday.

The firm, Governmental Grants Consulting, billed the township for an initial $6,000 retainer fee, plus 10 percent — or $5,000 — of the overall grant amount, after the money was secured in 2003.

Read more here.)

Lastly, a majority of this City Council voted to hand over its responsibilities for redevelopment projects to the Union County Improvement Authority -- one of those agencies that Jon Corzine characterized as New Jersey's "invisible government" -- where the cylce of
patronage hiring, inflated costs, and shoddy work is continued on a higher level and with even less public scrutiny. (Except, of course, that the UCIA's executive director, Charlotte deFilippo is currently under investigation by the Attorney General's office.)

ONLY YOU...

Isn't it time to get rid of Plainfield's 'corruption tax'?

Annie McWilliams and Adrian Mapp are truly grassroots candidates, not beholden to any pay-to-play vendors. When you put them on the Council, they will be there to guard against the picking of the taxpayers' pocket that the 'corruption tax' represents.

But first, you must put them on the City Council.

I woke up this morning with Elvis singing in my head (Why? I'm NOT an Elvis fan, and it was THE PLATTERS who own the song.) --
Only you can make this world seem right
Only you can make the darkness bright
Only you and you alone...
-- Whether The Platters or the Elvis version....
That is why I am asking you to join me in voting for Annie McWilliams (6E) and Adrian Mapp (7E) on Tuesday, June 3.

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-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gibson and Muhlenberg: Sleeping through the crisis



Sign by Muhlenberg supporter in front of his house, Watchung Avenue.

If Plainfielders want evidence that Council President Harold Gibson slept through the Muhlenberg crisis until it was out of control, he gave it at Tuesday's candidate forum.

In response to a question about Muhlenberg, Gibson said he had been to every rally.

That's it?

That's it.

While yesterday's Courier editorial made the point that Muhlenberg is a 'microcosm' of the state of New Jersey's hospitals (see more HERE), Council President touts his attendance at rallies.

The issue here is that Harold Gibson is in a position of power unlike that of ordinary citizens. Why hasn't he used it?

As Gibson himself pointed out, he has access to information ordinary citizens do not. Average citizens like us did not have the opportunity of secret information about how dire the situation at Muhlenberg was.

Harold Gibson did, though he did nothing with it.

We do not have the power to force Solaris to stop shutting Muhlenberg down.

Harold Gibson does, though he will not use it.

As Council President, Gibson could use his power to sue for an injunction to prevent Muhlenberg's shutdown by Solaris.

But he does not.

Why not? Gibson had no problem going to court -- expensively -- to get rid of Police Chief Ed Santiago, so why not to save our hospital, save 1,100 jobs, save Plainfield's business community?

There is ONE glaring reason -- it would put Gibson's patron, Assemblyman Jerry Green, in a more difficult spot.

Jerry Green is already between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand, he has profited greatly over the years from his association with Solaris, pushing its agenda in Trenton, posturing as a 'rainmaker' and basking in the glory of being Muhlenberg's champion.

On the other hand, he now faces angry voters. Voters who feel he blindsided them by keeping Muhlenberg's difficulties from public view. Voters who feel he betrayed them by organizing a task force to shut the hospital down rather than use his clout in Trenton to keep it open.

Gibson, who owes his seat on the City Council to Assemblyman Green, finds himself in the position where using the power he has to force Solaris to keep Muhlenberg open would embarrass the Assemblyman.

What do you think he's going to do?

For an idea of what Council President Gibson thinks is the REAL use of his power, we have to go no further than Tuesday's candidate forum.

To illustrate his idea of real service to the community, Council President Gibson cited the matter of a resident who had a bus stop in front of her house. People waiting at the bus stop would routinely litter the area with trash. In response to her complaint, Gibson got the bus stop moved.

The garbage didn't go away, it just went in front of someone else's house. This is how to solve problems?

Among other things, representatives on the City Council have a responsibility to be good stewards of Plainfield's resources. That includes jobs, services, and institutions serving the community.

Every Councilor should leave Plainfield a better place than when he or she found it.

That can only be done by being proactive, by using the special knowledge and power one gets from elected office to actually BENEFIT Plainfield.

Plainfield needs someone who will not sleep through its crises as Harold Gibson has.

Someone with energy. Someone with new ideas. Someone who will not sleep through a community crisis like Muhlenberg.

Someone who will not ever let Plainfielders be blindsided again.

That is why I will be voting for Annie McWilliams (6E) and Adrian Mapp (7E) on Tuesday, June 3.

And I hope you will, too.

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-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tuesday's Primary: The Buying and Selling (out) of Plainfield



I left off yesterday's post with Plainfielders wondering about the money being spent by Assemblyman Green on next Tuesday's primary election.

Well, you need wonder no longer. Jerry himself revealed all. Or at least more than he ever meant to.

At last night's very well attended candidate forum hosted by the Netherwood Heights Neighbors, the candidates were just finishing up a question. Here's the scene:

Annie McWilliams was pointing out that her campaign was truly grass roots, supported by the many small contributions of homeowners and taxpayers across the city, leaving her beholden only to the voters and residents.

Annie contrasted that with the funding of her opponent, Council President Harold Gibson, whose team's bankroll is many times larger and doubtless includes money from vendors -- those pay-to-play lawyers, engineers and providers of costly services who bankroll the campaigns of machine incumbents in the expectation of lucrative contracts once the election is past.

Gibson avoided the thrust of McWilliams' point, saying any contributions he took would pass scrutiny.

In the silence before moderator Joan Van Pelt of the League of Women Voters could ask the next question, Assemblyman Green was loudly heard to say "It's my money ... MY money, $200,000 of it."

Now, gentle reader, just when was the last time YOU sat down and wrote a check for $200,000?

Kind of explains the slick commercials on Comcast and the glossy mailers which are starting to fill our mailboxes, doesn't it?

And where do you think 'Jerry's money' comes from?

A pol may be forgiven if they sometimes confuse the money they can dole out and the SOURCE of the money they can dole out.

The $200,000 Jerry says he is spending on the campaign is 'his' in the sense he can write a check for that amount.

But make no mistake, this isn't JERRY'S MONEY, it's the money of those same vendors that Annie McWilliams was talking about.

Producing those slick commercials takes money -- for photographers, lighting, editing and coaching, rehearsal and makeup for the 'actors'. Yes, makeup.

And those glossy mailers from the good folks at 491-A Washington Avenue in Carlstadt? They cost plenty of money, too.

The bottom line in this election is that Assemblyman Jerry Green has a bottom line -- to continue to control the City Council by electing the best (in his mind) Councilors money can buy.

And there is the problem in a nutshell, isn't it?

Buying -- and SELLING OUT -- Plainfield.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday's Primary: A Referendum on Assemblyman Jerry Green

NOTE: For a REAL candidate forum, hosted by a REAL organization, come out tonight to the Plainfield Public Library at 7:00 PM. A candidate forum hosted by the Netherwood Heights Neighbors, the association for the Netherwood Heights Historic District.
For Plainfielders, next Tuesday's Democratic Primary election will be a referendum on Assemblyman Jerry Green's rule of Plainfield's political and economic life.

Assemblyman Green makes no secret of this in making sure he mugs with his team of Council candidates -- Harold Gibson (at-large), Don Davis (Ward 3) and William Reid (Ward 1) -- in both mailing pieces and TV ads running on Comcast.

I will devote the next few days to reviewing the reasons this primary election is so crucial for Plainfield and what you can do to stop the ripoffs and conflicts of interest.

Jerry Green is, as the Courier noted, the 'King of Plainfield.' Make no mistake about it, since his proxy Sharon Robinson-Briggs took office in January 2006, every decision of importance has been made as Jerry Green wished. When Council votes were called for, Jerry's team of Gibson, Davis and -- since January -- Reid have been there for him every time.

Here are just a few samples of Assemblyman Green's decisions that have picked your pocket --
  • THE MAYOR'S MILLION-DOLLAR BODYGUARDS: While you struggle to pay your property taxes, Jerry Green has seen to it that Mayor Robinson-Briggs has bodyguards soaking up your tax dollars. Without ever proving they are needed, the public has been saddled with the expense of their salaries, overtime and fancy cars. They were recently spotted 'guarding' Her Honor at 10 PM in New Brunswick's theater district;

  • THE 'CORRUPTION TAX': By turning Plainfield's development and redevelopment over to the Union County Improvement Authority, which is headed by Union County Dem chair Charlotte deFilippo, Jerry Green has assured her of the ability to pick Plainfield taxpayers' pockets to give bloated contracts to politically connected developers. As a result, Plainfielders can pay up to 40% more for equivalent services and products -- what is commonly called the 'corruption tax';

  • POLITICIZING THE POLICE: Jerry Green used the Council's ability to legislate to fulfill a personal vendetta to remove Plainfield Police Chief Ed Santiago by eliminating the position (and New Jersey's first Hispanic police chief), which had been in place since Plainfield became a city 139 years ago. In this, he had the special help of Council President Harold Gibson, himself a sworn officer of the law. While Gibson engineered the passage of the ordinance eliminating Santiago's position, he was able to safely duck having to vote on it since Green already had enough votes to pass the ordinance. The Police Division is already suffering the effects of political influence as a result; and

  • TRASHING PLAINFIELD WITH ILL-CONSIDERED PROJECTS: Jerry Green forced the Planning Board to adopt flimsy redevelopment plans such as that for East 3rd/Richmond/Cottage Place (where the engineer accidentally revealed the deal had already been done before the Planning Board even voted), taking away property from longtime businesses in order to benefit politically juiced developers and their shoddy projects.
Does Jerry Green think a lot is riding on this election?

Why else is he spending so much money on his candidates?

What to do?

Since the winner of the Democratic primary in Plainfield only has to show up in November to get elected, the real decision facing Plainfield voters is the ballot the cast in June.

A vote for Jerry's team is a vote for four more years of the same.

Something we DON'T NEED.

That is why I will be voting for Annie McWilliams (6E) and Adrian Mapp (7E).

Click HERE to email this story to your friends.


-- Dan Damon

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Services




Memorial Day will be honored by Plainfield's veterans' organizations today as follows --

9:00 AM - Memorial Services at the Evergreen Cemetery, Plainfield Avenue

9:30 AM - Memorial Services at St. Mary's Church, Liberty and West 6th Streets

10:00 AM - Services at the War Memorial, Watchung Avenue and East 7th Street

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Muhlenberg: But what happens to the $7.3M?



Several readers pointed out in reponse to yesterday's post on the media's ignoring Muhlenberg in the news of FY2009 aid for hospitals that Plainfield's Muhlenberg was indeed scheduled to get aid -- $7.3 million, and 11% increase over the previous year.

The fact is noted, but the point of my post was the media turning its backs, collectively, on Muhlenberg by not even referencing the most contentious hospital situation in the state at all.

A new question now must be pondered: What will happen to the $7.3 million if Solaris gets its way and Muhlenberg closes on June 15?


-- Dan Damon

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Muhlenberg not even mentioned in hospital aid cuts



Is Muhlenberg becoming invisible? Plainfielders will find no comfort whatsoever in the fact that Muhlenberg is not even mentioned in today's stories about the proposal to chop $143 million off proposed charity care reimbursement to the state's hospitals in the coming fiscal year.

With scarce resources allocated on a tiered level -- Tier 1 hospitals giving the largest percentage of charity care and will get slight increases; those who give less charity care are either having their reimbursement cut or eliminated altogether.

Because the state is set up to look at the situation on a county-by-county basis, Trinitas in Elizabeth, the county's largest charity care provided will get an $8.8 million increase.

Muhlenberg, whose market area straddles three counties, isn't even on the radar.

Probably for two reasons --
  1. The above-mentioned County focus
  2. It's an indication the decision to close Muhlenberg is moot
This does not mean that JFK is doing any better -- according to the Courier story, it is looking at a gap of over $5 million.

All the talk of 'safety net' hospitals utterly leaves out of the picture Muhlenberg. To my mind, Muhlenberg is the POSTER CHILD for a 'safety net' hospital. Am I wrong?

So, here's the way it looks to me: Plainfield and its hospital population are being redlined once again, this time by the State.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.


Has Assemblyman Green simply stood by and let this happen?



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Friday, May 23, 2008

Green's plan for Muhlenberg will abolish charity care



The solution backed by Assemblyman Jerry Green for Plainfield's Muhlenberg Hospital, as presented by developer Drew Piscatelli at a public meeting on Wednesday, is to ensure that charity care will no longer be offered at the 'new' facility, according to a report in today's Ledger.


Read more here: "'
Medical mall' proposed for Muhlenberg".

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Green's Muhlenberg proposal: Statement by McWilliams and Mapp

Below is the text of a statement issued to the media by Plainfield City Council candidates Annie McWilliams (Citywide at-large) and Adrian Mapp (Ward 3), who were unable to attend Wednesday night's presentation on Muhlenberg by developer Drew Piscatelli at an event organized by Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green.



The people of Plainfield and the surrounding communities are dismayed and angered by the proposal of Solaris Health System to close Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center.

The impact of such a closure on Plainfield will be devastating. Not only would the critical acute-care facilities be lost to those who rely on them, over 1,100 employees will lose their jobs. Many of these will have great difficulty finding jobs to replace the ones they have had at Muhlenberg.

Our business community will also be severely impacted -- not only through the loss of doctor's offices on Park Avenue, but through the loss of business throughout the community by those shops and services which depend on Muhlenberg employees and the dollars they spend.

While Assemblyman Green is to be applauded for finally getting behind efforts to keep Muhlenberg open, we are skeptical of his proposal that it should be taken over by the City of Plainfield and run as a "doctors' mall". Whether or not the idea has merit as a business proposition, it is clear to us that it will take too long a time to put in place.

In the meantime, if Solaris has its way, Muhlenberg will be shut on June 15 as planned, and the net effect on the community will be the same as if the Assemblyman's scheme had never even seen the light of day.

We have held from Day One that closing Muhlenberg is in violation of the state's own criteria for shutting down hospitals, since Muhlenberg's presence is vital to an UNDERSERVED COMMUNITY and there is no surplus of hospital beds in the Muhlenberg market area. As we see it, the state has a moral and ethical responsibility to keep Muhlenberg open.

We believe that the Assemblyman's efforts would be better spent demanding that the State stop the closure process and give emergency funding to Solaris to tide it over until a more rational and equitable approach to managing New Jersey's hospital crisis can be arrived at.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What did the Mayor learn? Will she enlighten us?



Plainfielders will be interested in a statewide mayors' meeting yesterday in Trenton to confront reduced municipal aid from the State (read more HERE).

Sponsored by the League of Municipalities, mayors pressed the Corzine administration for an update on last year's proposal by the League to give municipalities the right to make up lost ground on revenue by imposing 'local option taxes'.

It got nowhere last year, but is still a live topic as mayors must grapple with reduced state aid, increased fixed obligations (salaries, pensions and healthcare), and -- in Plainfield's case in particular -- FALLING TAX REVENUES.

There are only three questions:
  1. Was Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs there?
  2. Did she learn anything?
  3. Will her most excellent communications staff give us the news?



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Faux 'Forum' v. Real Thing: It's Silly Season, Folks


FAUX FORUM TONIGHT
REAL THING NEXT TUESDAY


Sharp-eyed Plainfield Today readers caught the faux forum being hawked for after this evening's presentation by Assemblyman Jerry Green on Muhlenberg at the Washington Community School.

Here is what one wrote (you can read all their comments HERE) --
Hello Dan,

I opened my email a little while ago to see that Joan Hervey sent me an email about a forum tomorrow following the meeting about Muhlenberg. It's by a group calling itself Women for Progress in Plainfield. Do you know who this group is?

Some may also have spotted a tiny community notice a few days ago concerning another faux forum, by the same group, for First Ward candidates.

Posing as a 'nonprofit', these 'Women for Progress in Plainfield' flim-flammed the Courier into running a piece in yesterday's edition for tonight's faux forum (see HERE). For a REAL Plainfield forum, see the end of this post.

This is the same sort of partisan trap set up three years ago, during Mayor Robinson-Briggs' contested general election campaign. At that time, these 'progressive women' scheduled a faux forum for the same night as the League of Women Voters' forum, also at the Washington Community School.

Now you should know that Plainfield's League of Women Voters, one of the oldest in the country and in the forefront of women's struggle for the vote in the early 20th century, has been holding candidate forums as a regular part of the November general election season for nearly ninety -- that's 9 - 0 -- years. And without any competing event until Assemblyman Jerry Green's handpicked candidate had to face a questioning public.

Like the 2005 'group,' you can expect these progressive women of 2008 to vanish like the mists over Lake Woebegon when the sun shines bright on them.

This time around, 2008, it is the Assemblyman who is really on the hotseat. While busy engineering a smooth closing of Muhlenberg for Solaris Health System, with which he has had a longstanding -- and profitable -- relationship, he was caught off-guard by the rage and dismay of his constituents over the Solaris proposal.

Not wanting to endanger his handpicked -- again -- candidates for City Council, it should come as no surprise that the 'silly season' has led to another faux forum á là 2005.

But Plainfield voters WILL HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR A REAL FORUM.

A real community organization -- Netherwood Heights Neighbors -- has scheduled a REAL FORUM for Tuesday, May 27, at the Plainfield Public Library. 7:00 PM sharp.

Being held in the Public Library's Anne Louise Davis Meeting Room, it will be conducted in a truly non-partisan way by following the League of Women Voter forum rules --
  • An independent moderator with NO ties to the community and NO axe to grind, which increases confidence in the forum process;
  • An agreed-upon format: opening statements, questions from the audience, closing statements, with strict timekeeping;
  • Candidates address the audience, not each other;
  • Written questions from the audience; and
  • No partisan literature or signs allowed.
For good measure, being held in the Public Library -- where partisan political activity is forbidden -- just reinforces that this will be a fair forum for all candidates.

Here is the complete comment of a second reader, who has seen it all before --
Regarding the earlier post about the group Women for Progress in Plainfield I read a brief bit about it in today's Courier. It is listed as a nonprofit organization but there is no mention of its members, board of trustees, or even the event organizers. This is puzzling, as nonprofits are supposed to be registered with the state. There is no state listing either. I checked on the lists of non-profits in the city and there is no listing for them. There is also no contact information in the press release about this group, which is VERY unusual. Is this yet another one of Jerry Green's "sham" organizations set up to promote his political candidates? If not, why do they not mention their names and the group's mission, goals and what they have done for progress in the community? If so, it sure does smell. It will backfire on him in a bad way. I plan to go just to see if the same old stale divisive political cronies and faces that usually surround Jerry are there. You can usually tell by the tone of the event. I remember a few years ago a group called Women Across the City, also a fake nonprofit group. It will be immediately clear if this is some more political grandstanding on the backs of the residents of Plainfield who are truly concerned about Plainfield. If so, shame on Jerry Green, his candidates, and all these so-called Women for Progress in Plainfield. Jerry Green has for years shown that he will go beneath the gutter to get his candidates elected. Let's see if this is more of the same.
With eyes wide open, you will not be fooled.


-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Saving Muhlenberg or Saving Jerry?



Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green is one wily politician. Which makes it all the more important to parse
today's news (see here) that Jerry has a 'serious developer' who will outline a plan to rescue beleaguered Muhlenberg hospital by having the city become the owner and 'streamlining' it so that it does not compete with JFK or RWJ -- and all this two weeks before a primary election in which Green's political status is (by proxy) on trial.

So, what to make of Jerry's proposal?

It raises more questions than it answers, but here are some that Plainfielders may want to ask on Wednesday evening, when Jerry's developer -- make that SERIOUS developer -- Drew Piscatelli outlines his proposal for Muhlenberg.
  1. WILL MUHLENBERG CLOSE BEFORE ANYTHING IS DONE? I am told that Solaris cannot even contemplate anything except a sale as an acute-care hospital until after the State grants a certificate of need to close the hospital. So much for the patients, medical and support staffs.

  2. HOW WILL THE CITY COME TO 'OWN' THE HOSPITAL? And how will it pay the $2 million/month carrying charges? And why is Plainfield ownership better than ownership by 13 communities -- which Jerry refused to consider earlier?

  3. WHERE DID THE $18M PRICETAG COME FROM? How did Jerry come up with $18M? What happened to the $48M Solaris talks about?

  4. IF THE 'NEW' MUHLENBERG IS NOT TO COMPETE WITH JFK or RWJ, WHAT WILL IT OFFER? Will there be actual 'non-compete' agreements with the other hospitals forbidding the 'new' Muhlenberg from cutting into any of their (profitable) businesses?

  5. WHERE WILL THE MANAGEMENT TEAM COME FROM? What does 'Whoever will step up' mean? Does that mean the Mayor's management team? Her communications team? Who?

  6. HOW WOULD A 'DOCTOR'S SHOPPING MALL' WORK? Will they just have offices? And why would they move their offices there? What about the doctors' offices already on Park Avenue? Would they become vacant properties?

  7. WHAT ABOUT CHARITY CARE? You know, the people without insurace, who aren't going to go away just because Solaris wants to close Muhlenberg? Where will they go?

  8. WILL THE HOSPITAL BE TURNED INTO AN ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY AS PISCATELLI PLANNED ELSEWHERE? Jerry's 'serious developer' has a track record elsewhere. Has anybody checked it out? How has he done in South Amboy? In Millville?

  9. WHAT IF SOLARIS DOES NOT SHARE ASSEMBLYMAN GREEN'S VISION? Who holds the winning cards here?
Plenty of questions to be answered before sipping any Kool-Aid.

Without even going into why Jerry's dog-and-pony show is immediately followed by a forum for his candidates in the June Primary.


-- Dan Damon

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Jerry Green's Muhlenberg proposal: The complete Courier story



[Note: Only the initial part of the story was published online by mycentraljersey.com; balance transcribed by DD.]

Published in the Courier News, Tuesday, May 20, 2008.

Online headline: Solaris may be willing to negotiate a selling price for Muhlenberg Medical Center

Print headline:
Muhlenberg to stay open?
Solaris offers proposal to keep hospital running


By CLEM FIORENTINO
STAFF WRITER


Solaris Health System might be willing to negotiate a price for keeping the acute-care facility at Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center open until a management team can be put in place to run a streamlined facility that would ensure basic health-care needs for the people of Plainfield and its surrounding areas.

This dramatic development emerged Monday when Assemblyman Gerald Green (D-Union) announced that he would introduce a "serious developer'' who would outline his plans for keeping Muhlenberg open at a special community meeting set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Washington Community School, 427 Darrow Ave. in Plainfield.

According to Green, the developer -- Drew Piscatelli of South Amboy -- would be willing to partner with either Solaris or Somerset Medical Center in Somerville in a plan that would give ownership of the medical center to the city of Plainfield and turn management of the facility over to "whoever is willing to step up.''

"Initally, Solaris was asking for $48 million,'' Green said. "That amount of money was chasing away every potential party. The numbers are a lot different now. We're down to $18 million. That's a big difference. Investors have shown tremendous interest.''

In outlining his plan for a streamlined facility, Green said that people will just have to realize that this is the direction that health-care is taking in the state of New Jersey.

"Short-range, we might have to downsize,'' Green said. "Long-range, we have to have the services that are really needed.''

Green said that would include an emergency room, an acute-care facility and other central services that don't necessarily compete with larger hospitals like JFK Medical Center in Edison (another Solaris facility), Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick and Somerset Medical Center in Somerville.

"It would be more like a shopping mall,'' Green said. "We would be providing ample services where we can turn a profit.''

[Below this point transcribed by DD.]

Again, Green see this as part of the way health care is evolving in today's world.

"Already, we have a lot of doctors who are performing services off-campus," Green said. "We need to find a way to generate tax dollars for the city."

Green convened a task force of concerned citizens and administrators from surrounding hospitals in the wake of the Solaris announcement in February.

In the streamlined "medical mall" setup, Green envisions perhaps 100 beds in the acute-care facililty. Primarily, however, Green wants to make sure that Plainfield residents do not have to travel an extra half-hour or more to get the services they need -- especially for coronary care and childbirth.

On Wednesday, Gree said he expected Piscatellil to lay out a plan for the community and explan to the public what can be done.

In addition, Green is asking the state not to rush into ruling on the Solaris application to close the acute-care facililty. he also wants the state to keep the acute-care license open and Solaris to leave Muhlenberg intact until a decision can be made.

Solaris, however, does not share Green's vision.

"Solaris appreciates all that Assemblyman Green is doing in regards to Muhlenberg," said Solaris spokesman Steven Weiss. "Unfortunately, we are seeking a buyer who is capable of running the facility as an acute-care hospital. We continue to move forward with an orderly closure that allows Solaris to provide health-care services to the residents of the community."

On May 6, the State Health Planning Board conducted a public hearing on Solaris' application for a certificate of need for closure of the acute-care facility at the 130-year-old hospital. More than 1,200 people attended the hearing. Given the overflow crowd and the fact that not everyone who wished to speak could be heard, both Green and Judy Donlen, chairman of the board, asked for a second hearing. That is now scheduled for 6 p.m. June 5, also at the high school.

Solaris' announcement of its intention to close the acute-care facility and leave behind a satellite emergency roon, the school of nursing and several ancillary facilities touched off a round of protests, prayer vigils and rallies, both in Plainfield and at the statehouse in Trenton.

In addiiton, a "Buy Muhlenberg" movement was created by city Council candidate Olive Lynch, who last week convened a meeting of potential investors at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville. The investors met with two other members of Lynch's committee, Green and Ken Bateman, CEO of Somerset Medical Center, who had expressed interest in a potential partnership that would enable Muhlenberg to stay open.

"We needed to know that their interest was real," said Lynch, who thought that everyone at the meeting was excited by the possibilities and appeared to be on the same page. "We should be hearing back from them in the next few days."

Online story here.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(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.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Should Chris Christie look into Don Davis DWI?

[Apologies to Hotmail readers -- emails from Comcast are not getting through.]

One of the unresolved issues in the Don Davis DWI case is what happened to the paperwork the Plainfield Police Division says it faxed to the Scotch Plains prosecutor.

Here is an email to me that asks an interesting question --

Dan,

Do you think that U. S. Attorney Chris Christie should be called in to investigate what happened to the paperwork the Plainfield police faxed to the Scotch Plains prosecutor in Councilman Don Davis's DWI case?

Plainfield police officers are fuming that they are made to look like they dropped the ball when they faxed over to Scotch Plains everything they were asked for.

Would Christie be able to find out if someone is pulling political strings to get Scotch Plains to undermine this case?
Isn't confidence in the fairness and competence of the courts undermined when simple things like faxes go astray? What do you think?

Why haven't the Scotch Plains judge and prosecutor put this whole thing to rest by disclosing what happened to the faxes?


-- Dan Damon

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Slideshow: FOSH, VWB, Lifeline Yard Sales


Earlybirds, as usual, drove hosts crazy for several Plainfield organizations' annual garage sale events yesterday.

Though the official starting time was 9:00 AM, several hosts told me they had earlybirds at 7:00 AM, while they were getting their first cup of java and figuring how they were going to arrange their wares.



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FOSH's annual sale is truly the biggest, with over a hundred homes participating. The Van Wyck Brooks Historic District is planning to use the proceeds of donated items at one of its participating homes to bolster their funds for an expected court battle (yet again!) over the proposed Abbott Nursing Home expansion. The Homeless Animal Lifeline organization got a nice boost with several hundred dollars raised at a multi-home yard sale on Watchung Avenue.

Attendance was brisk in the morning at almost all the venues, though by the time I got out around noon it had clouded over and crowds were thinning somewhat. Even so, at 3:30 PM I still got caught in traffic jams on several streets as gawkers hit the brakes to pull over and load up on 'necessities'.

Thanks again to all who participated in drawing a big crowd to the Queen City!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A gorgeous day for FOSH, VWB, Animal Lifeline garage sales




FOSH's Garage Sale is a major Plainfield event.

It's a gorgeous day for a garage sale -- or a hundred-plus garage sales!

With over a hundred homes and thousands of attendees, the FOSH (Friends of Sleepy Hollow) garage sale is the grandaddy of them all. Cleverly marketed by FOSH over the years with lots of paid publicity, and with all the paperwork centralized to make it easier for homeowner participation, the event draws the largest crowd of visitors to Plainfield of any annual event except the July 4th Parade.

The success of the FOSH garage sale has led others to hitch their wagon to 'the star'.

The Van Wyck Brooks Historic District will host a district-wide garage sale, same hours as FOSH tomorrow as will a multi-family sale on Watchung Avenue in support of homeless animals.

Several nonprofits use the sales to raise funds for their worthy causes, and you may want to consider starting your day's shopping at one of the following --
  • FOSH: The Plainfield Symphony will benefit from sales at 900 Charlotte Road
  • FOSH: The Plainfield Humane Society benefits from sales at 1443 Evergreen Avenue
  • VWB: The Van Wyck Brooks Historic District benefits from sales at 935 Madison Avenue
  • Homeless Animal Lifeline: This nonprofit benefits from sales at 1326 Watchung Avenue
The sales run from 9 AM - 4 PM (2PM for the Homeless Animal Lifeline), and maps for the locations of the FOSH and VWB participants are available at each location.

[A special note on the VWB: This group has won a significant battle against expansion of the Abbott Nursing Home in its district, which leaves it facing legal bills once again, since the nursing home owners have appealed the decision. Proceeds will help greatly to preserve the district's character and integrity.]

You know what to do...

Shop! Like Plainfield depended on it!




And you can even find FREE stuff!


-- Dan Damon

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

FOSH, VWB garage sales tomorrow




FOSH's Garage Sale is a major Plainfield event.

Looks like the weather gods will favor Plainfield's huge garage sale day tomorrow.

With over a hundred homes and thousands of attendees, the FOSH (Friends of Sleepy Hollow) garage sale is the grandaddy of them all. Cleverly marketed by FOSH over the years with lots of paid publicity, and with all the paperwork centralized to make it easier for homeowner participation, the event draws the largest crowd of visitors to Plainfield of any annual event except the July 4th Parade.

The success of the FOSH garage sale has led others to hitch their wagon to 'the star'.

The Van Wyck Brooks Historic District will host a district-wide garage sale, same hours as FOSH tomorrow as will a multi-family sale on Watchung Avenue in support of homeless animals.

Several nonprofits use the sales to raise funds for their worthy causes, and you may want to consider starting your day's shopping at one of the following --
  • FOSH: The Plainfield Symphony will benefit from sales at 900 Charlotte Road
  • FOSH: The Plainfield Humane Society benefits from sales at 1443 Evergreen Avenue
  • VWB: The Van Wyck Brooks Historic District benefits from sales at 935 Madison Avenue
  • Homeless Animal Lifeline: This nonprofit benefits from sales at 1326 Watchung Avenue
The sales run from 9 AM - 4 PM (2PM for the Homeless Animal Lifeline), and maps for the locations of the FOSH and VWB participants are available at each location.

[A special note on the VWB: This group has won a significant battle against expansion of the Abbott Nursing Home in its district, which leaves it facing legal bills once again, since the nursing home owners have appealed the decision. Proceeds will help greatly to preserve the district's character and integrity.]

You know what to do...

Shop! Like Plainfield depended on it!




And you can even find FREE stuff!


-- Dan Damon

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

Friday, May 16, 2008

Council candidates McWilliams and Mapp host porch party Saturday




Plainfield landmark The Antique Castle is candidates' headquarters.

Democratic City Council candidates Annie McWilliams and Adrian Mapp will launch their campaign headquarters on Saturday with an open house and porch party from 1:00 to 3:00 PM.

The public is invited to stop by to visit with the candidates and other supporters and get a peek at the campaign headquarters in the historic mansion that anchors the corner of Park Avenue and West 9th Street, just behind the Plainfield Public Library.

Light refreshments will be served and yard signs will be available for pickup.

Come out and meet the candidates who are bringing NEW IDEAS and NEW ENERGY to Plainfield politics.

These are definitely NOT your business-as-usual candidates!

See you tomorrow!



Annie McWilliams and Adrian Mapp,
definitely not business-as-usual candidates.


-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Plainfield mayor tacks into more trouble?




Replacement for Roberto Clemente Playground,
under construction earlier this year.


After Plainfielders learned yesterday that the Robinson-Briggs administration couldn't get a simple press release out ahead of time about the
Statewide Double Dutch contest of May 3, today's Ledger brings us news -- via a press release -- that the Mayor will be cutting a ribbon at the refurbished Madison Avenue playground. 11:00 AM, TODAY. (See more here.)

Interesting coincidence that word was gotten out AHEAD OF TIME this time around.

In sailboating, they call it tacking -- veering from one direction to another to make way against a headwind.

The city's press release indicates renovations include, besides recreational equipment, landscaping and new sidewalks and curbs, AN EXPANDED PARKING LOT.

The playgournd project was originally promised by the McWilliams administration as part of an agreement with the state over the Park-Madison redevelopment project, in which the former 'Roberto Clemente Playground' was lost to the new County parking deck.

As part of an agreement (sealed by a resolution of the City Council) between the City and the State, a playground area was to be constructed on the block bounded by Madison and Central Avenues to replace the lost one -- AND PARKING THERE WAS TO BE REDUCED TO HELP OFFSET THE LOSS OF OPEN SPACE by the Park-Madison County office building project.



The City set aside parking for a projected condo project,
which is as yet unrealized.


So, now we have the City touting the EXPANSION OF PARKING, which would probably be in violation of the agreement the City signed with the State and the ROSI, or state inventory of open space in the community.

Not to mention that -- in an increasingly Hispanic neighborhood -- all mention of Hispanic sports hero Roberto Clemente, who had been honored by the earlier playground, is dropped. Why is that?

Veering from one direction to another hardly seems to be moving the Robinson-Briggs administration forward.

Is it tacking, or perhaps 'tackying'?


-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Plainfield mayor stumbles in Double Dutch



Plainfielders may be momentarily amused to read in today's Courier (print edition only, sorry!) that Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs hosted the Statewide Double Dutch contest. Nearly two weeks ago!

The amusement may fade quickly when they learn that her public relations staff -- for which the annual tab is what? $200,000 now? -- managed to get neither an advance story nor a picture story in Plainfield's paper-of-record.

How can that be, you ask? Good question.

Thirty-three teams participated in the event, which took place on May 3 -- nearly two weeks ago. According to the Courier, the 16 teams given first-place honors will go on to the world finals in North Carolina.

Personally, I would have found a picture story compelling. I'm sure the parents and team members who participated would have been thrilled.

Even Mayor Robinson-Briggs might have been thrilled for the photo-op.

Did it take THAT long for her crack staff to write up the event? If so, who dropped the ball?

Or, metaphorically more appropriately, who got tangled in the ropes?



-- Dan Damon

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Plainfield Councilor Davis' DWI trial postponed -- again [updated].




Ward 3 Councilor Don Davis.

[NOTE: This post updated after a conversation with Don Davis. See end of story.]

Three weeks to the day before Ward 3 voters are set to decide whether he should get another four years as Councilor, Don Davis' potentially embarrassing DWI trial was postponed yet again. A conviction no doubt would have been influential in determining the outcome of his candidacy. Davis is being challenged by former City Councilor and Union Country Freeholder Adrian Mapp.

The charges stem from an incident on the evening of March 28, 2007.

Davis has retained an attorney from the firm of Wilentz, Spitzer -- one of New Jersey's most politically juiced AND most expensive law firms. That fact alone has raised speculation that Davis' bills are being covered by other political players who may have an interest in seeing the Ward 3 seat held by a member of the Democratic party organization controlled by Assemblyman Jerry Green.

Proving the adage that 'you get what you pay for', one of the counts against Davis -- refusing a Breathalyzer test -- was dropped by Scotch Plains municipal court judge Antonio Inacio on March 12.

At issue were allegations that the defense did not receive all the information requested of the Plainfield Police. Plainfield's then-police chief, Edward Santiago, insisted that everything requested had been faxed to the Scotch Plains prosecutor. The matter has never been publicly settled.

As the Courier reports in today's edition (see here), no reason was ascertainable for the postponement as the prosecutor claimed not to know the reason and Davis' defense did not respond to a request for an explanation.

The trial, if it actually takes place, is scheduled for June 18, two weeks and one day after the fateful day of judgment by the voters.

UPDATE: 12:50 PM -- Just got off the phone from a long conversation with Councilor Don Davis, who advised that he, in fact, is paying his legal bills himself. I'm happy to pass that along.



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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Plainfield tree politics: Rotten to the core?




A large 'city' tree fell on Kensington Avenue last week.






Dead 'city' tree at Watchung and Carleton Avenues.

Are Plainfield's tree politics rotten to the core?

First, you are probably asking 'tree politics'?

With the recent fall of a huge street tree on Kensington Avenue across the roadway, taking down lines and leaving the neighborhood without power, it became a matter deserving attention.

And then, when I was taking pictures of the signs made by the owner of 1101 Watchung Avenue in support of Muhlenberg, I noticed a dead street tree leaning perilously into the roadway.

As we all know, nothing in Plainfield is ever as simple as it first seems.

The launch of Plainfield's participation in the state's 'Ten City Tree Program' a few years ago was greeted warmly by the community as well as tree enthusiasts.

Saplings were gotten and planted in various locations around town as street repairs were done, and curbs and street trees were replaced.

Ceremonies were held at City Hall as specimen trees were planted.

Youngsters gathered at a city-owned lot in the First Ward which was to become the city's own tree 'nursery'.

And then came the harder part.

One of the goals of the state program is that each community should assess their street trees (also called 'city' trees, because they are planted between the sidewalk and the roadway on property that is considered 'public' and the responsibility for these trees' upkeep belongs to the city) and prepare an inventory for maintenance and replacement by identifying those that are dead, those that are dying, those in need of trimming and other attention, and those that are fine.

And this is where the wicket is sticky.



Closeup of dead street tree at Watchung and Carleton.

Seems the Administration of Mayor Robinson-Briggs does not want to do an inventory. Because, the argument goes, this would make the City liable if a dead tree fell on someone or something before the City got it attended to.

Never mind that, by the state's reasoning, preparing the inventory and adopting a plan of action and beginning to execute it would be prima facie evidence of the City's good intent.

So here we are. With perhaps hundreds (who knows?) of dead trees lining both sides of Plainfield's 120 miles of roadway, and many more in need of attention.

What is to be done?

Well, if the Administration doesn't feel the need to get going, it doesn't mean residents can't pitch in.

Documenting tree conditions with photographs and sending copies of same along with a REGISTERED letter detailing the location, date and condition of the tree(s) in question puts the Administration legally on notice, I am told.

Then, if the Administration does NOTHING, they will indeed be liable.

Is there a better way to get something going?



-- Dan Damon

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