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Thursday, April 30, 2009

PMUA Questions: Leaders on boondoggle? Customers get runaround?

Two PMUA items landed in my inbox that may interest fellow Plainfielders.

1. Trip by executives, commissioners and staff to Oakland, CA
The folks at DumpPMUA were alerted to a delegation attending a conference in Oakland, CA, that doesn't appear to have a direct connection to the PMUA's mission, which is management of the solid waste and storm [correction] sanitary sewer system for the city of Plainfield (see the updated DumpPMUA posts here).

Reading through the posts, you will learn that 14 people were booked at one hotel and others at another hotel (no details on the second hotel).

While attendees checked in as early as April 24th, there was no mention on the PMUA's website until a little before 2 PM yesterday (see image below), when an item on PMUA Chairperson Carol Brokaw's participation as a panelist in a discussion of integrating immigrants into communities was posted. There is no mention of how this relates to the PMUA's mission.

Graphic shows the PMUA item on Brokaw's participation
was put up at 1:40 PM on April 29. Click on image to enlarge or print.

You will also probably be interested in the total costs -- airfare, hotels, conference fees, and any extras -- and why such a large delegation attended.

This at a time when the PMUA leadership has both raised rates charged AND laid off workers.

Those with questions will be able to have them addressed at the next Board of Commissioners meeting on May 5, 7 PM, at PMUA headquarters, 127 Roosevelt Avenue.

2. Opting-Out Applications
Those interested in exploring opting-out of the PMUA solid waste services need to go through an application process. I simply assumed one went to a PMUA location and got a form and filled it out. Silly me. Here is the full text of an email forwarded to me on April 22 about the matter --
Dear Ms. Borsa Donahue,

On Wednesday April15, I went to the PMUA office on Roosevelt Ave. to get an opt-out application.
The reception instructed me to go to the Transfer station on Rock Ave. I informed her I was under the impression we could now get the forms here. She called the Transfer Station and was told I had to go there. There was another woman sitting on the other side of the Plexiglas ( I recognized from last months meeting) who was privy to the entire conversation but offered no input until I started questioning the lack of availability of the form. She questioned where I got my information, I explained from the website. She stated she had tried accessing the website but was unsuccessful. However I would have to pick up the form from Rock Ave.
The following day I went to the Rock Ave location, and upon approaching the entrance was told by one employees I had to get the form from Roosevelt Ave. When I informed him of what I was told, another employee told me I had to get the form from Human Resources @ 203 Park Ave. Unfortunately for them their attempts @ giving me the run around only made me more resolute. I went back to Roosevelt Ave and informed (the same people) of my experience. The receptionist called Rock Ave and spoke to the supervisor who informed her I had to request the form in writing, when received, myself and the new carrier were to complete the form then have it notarized and returned to the Transfer station. Needless to say I was not happy. I questioned why the rules changed overnight and why noone seemed to know what the policy was requarding the opting out. A gentleman who was also there the day before came out of another door and attempted to be helpful. I basically informed them, this is not personal this is business and I did not appreciate how I was being treated.
Finally when all all was said and done, and now everyone wanted to be of help, I I was told the opt-out forms should be accessible within the next few weeks. I was told the "attorney's" were reviewing the forms. I questioned if they would be available before the next PMUA meeting, he stated they should be.


The email was originally sent on April 17 and forwarded to me on the 22nd.

Since I cannot vouch for the assertions, I thought to take a look at the PMUA website and see if the opt-out form was available. It is -- but checking the date of its creation (see image below) shows that the opt-out form was created on April 22nd, five days after the customer got the runaround.

The PDF opt-out form shows it was created on 4/22/2009.
Click on image to enlarge or print.

Having always been a defender of the PMUA, I am at a loss. What is this all about?

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is Jerry Green a political Peeping Tom?

Plainfielders following the mayoral primary may have missed Assemblyman Green's poke yesterday at mayoral candidate Adrian Mapp and Jerry's own opponent in the Assembly race, Rick Smiley (see post here)
...We have mayoral candidates who would like to run for the office of mayor, and Mapp is trying to deny them the ability to run for technical reasons. My position to Mapp, Smiley, and all the other candidates, let them run and have the public weigh on and make the decision.
Is the Assemblyman asserting that the rules of the game shouldn't be followed?

Has he forgotten already that he, Jerry Green, thoroughly reviews petitions as they are filed, with an eye to challenging them?

And that a member of the public spotted him in the Clerk's office on the evening of April 6th (the filing date), during the Council agenda session, getting copies of the petitions made, calling me on their cell to relate the scene?

Now why would Assemblyman Jerry Green want copies of the petitions unless he was checking them for items to challenge?

Unless he's just a political Peeping Tom.

-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mayor Sharon's swine flu plan

With New Jersey reporting five possible cases (story here), and the swine flu threat raised by the World Health Organization to a '4' (out of a possible '6'), Plainfielders may well wonder what emergency plan Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs has in place.

And wonder. And wonder. And wonder.

While the front page of the city's website has a link to a Fact Sheet (PDF) on swine flu (see here), it gives the appearance of being a CDC fact sheet, with yesterday's CDC confirmations. Credit should probably go to the city's new Health Officer, whose name you will not learn from the city's website.

However, the fact sheet leaves unanswered a couple of questions that are the responsibility of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs --

  • Why is no press release from the mayor on this matter posted on the city website? (For that fact, there is no press release for tonight's -- apparently hastily called -- forum on recreation either.)

  • Why is there no mention of an emergency plan to deal with an outbreak, should one occur?
Is it because emergency preparedness is just not very high on Mayor Robinson-Briggs' agenda?

Back in May of 2008, the CountyWatchers' Pat Quattrocchi posted a thoughtful piece on the problems the closure of Muhlenberg posed for Union County's disaster preparedness plans (see here) --
The County’s Office of Emergency Management Director, Frank Guzzo, made an important observation at the March 6th Freeholder meeting when he commented that “[Muhlenberg's] closing affects the county’s disaster preparedness plans, which will have to be reviewed and revised.”
Plainfield is supposed to have its own Disaster Preparedness Plan as part of the county's overall emergency preparedness.

Last summer, writing about an emergency gas main leak on East 2nd Street, I noted that the event raised questions about Mayor Robinson-Briggs' disaster plan (full story here) --
[This event] raises questions about the general safety of Plainfielders should a disaster -- natural or man-made -- happen...[w]hich raises the question of the city's Disaster Preparedness Plan.

Where is it? Many cities have the public information component of their plans online. So, you can find Plainfield's online, right? Dream on.

The plan, which was massively updated during the simulated bioterrorist attack a few years ago, has as its major component a fully functioning and equipped acute-care hospital -- Muhlenberg.

Without Muhlenberg, the plan will need to be updated. Or maybe it already has been? With another hospital as the location to which the sick or wounded would be transported.

By the Plainfield Rescue Squad's only working ambulance.

Right past Muhlenberg for another 20 minutes or so to JFK. Or would it be over the highway and through the woods to Overlook? Or maybe a hop down traffic-clogged Rt 22 to Somerset MC. A zigzag through Piscataway's local streets to RWJ?

I'm sure it's all been planned out, and you can rest your little head without a worry.

I'm sure the Mayor has a plan.
Let's hope it's not called 'Unity through disaster'.

-- Dan Damon

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Judge rules Mapp and Smiley can be on same line

Superior Court
Judge William L'E. Wertheimer's courtroom was crowded with Plainfielders Monday as he heard a thicket of matters pertaining to the June Democratic primary ballot.

To mayoral candidate Adrian Mapp and Assembly candidate Rick Smiley, the most important question was resolved in their favor: whether they would be allowed to run on the same line (called 'bracketing') as they had filed to do.

After initially raising no objection, County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi had issued a letter last week denying the bracket, which would have left the two candidates on separate lines even though they are running on the same slogan 'New Democrats for Plainfield'.

Wertheimer's ruling means that Mapp, Smiley and the New Democrats' slate of 53 candidates for the Democratic City Committee will all appear in column 'F' on the official ballot.

The attempt to join forces with reform-minded Democrats from Elizabeth and Roselle was denied by Wertheimer as being filed too late.

Wertheimer, known for his razor wit, did not disappoint the crowded courtroom.

In a time when local governments are facing great difficulties, the judge noted the crowded field for the mayoral race and wondered aloud whether there should be a statute requiring psychological testing of candidates, bringing guffaws of laughter from the audience.

With regard to the challenges to the petitions of Bob Ferraro, Martin Cox, Tom Turner and Rebecca Kelly, here's how things sorted out --
  • Bob Ferraro, under oath, admitted that while he had been careless with the certification of one petition, the individuals listed on his petitions had all intended to support his nomination;

  • Martin Cox, also under oath, swore that while the first numbered block of four of his five petitions (reserved for the name and address of the person circulating the petition) did contain the names of other persons, he, in fact, had circulated the petitions and entered his name and signature above the printed block as an additional line '1' and swore before a notary that he had himself circulated the petitions;

  • Tom Turner -- the objections to his petition were withdrawn when it became clear there were sufficient signatures even with the challenged items stricken;

  • Rebecca Kelly's petition was held to have a fatal flaw in the circulator's oath; but Kelly lost her chance to stay on the ballot by failing to be present for the hearing.
In ruling to allow the candidacies of Cox and Ferraro to stand, Wertheimer made it quite clear that the outcome with regard to both might have been different had a handwriting expert been present to testify on whether the signatures on several lines on multiple petitions were made by the same hand.

"I think the judge was quite fair and even-handed," said Mapp, "and look forward to a vigorous campaign between the several candidates now that judge has made his ruling."

Asked why he thought there were no challenges to his petitions, Mapp said, "Like Martin Cox and Bob Ferraro, I have been at this for quite a while. But I have to say my team was methodical and scrupulous. Every person identified for me to approach was on the voter rolls as a registered Democrat and I never took my eye off the petition as they filled it out -- including making sure there was a signature as well as a printed name and address."

Thus showing one advantage of being detail-oriented.

-- Dan Damon

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Mapp and Smiley in court this morning over ballot

Plainfield mayoral candidate Adrian Mapp and Rick Smiley, candidate for the Assembly from the 22nd District, will be in court this morning, fighting for their right to be in the same column on the Union County Democratic Primary ballot.

That is just one of several intertwined matters that will be taken up by Superior Court Judge William L'E. Wertheimer with regard to the lineup of the Democratic party's ballot in Union County.

Mapp and Smiley are also joining with reform-minded Democrats from Elizabeth and Roselle in asking to be listed together in a single column -- a custom known as 'bracketing' -- under the slogan 'Union County Independent Democrats'.

Wertheimer will have to rule on County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi's move to deny bracketing to Mapp and Smiley as well as the other bracketing issue.

"I feel we did everything possible to comply with the filing guidelines," says candidate Mapp, "crossing every 't' and dotting every 'i' in filing our petitions. At no point in the filing process were we told that an Assembly candidate and a mayoral candidate could not be bracketed."

Assembly candidate Smiley, who hand-delivered his petition to Trenton on the filing date, confirms that State election officials only raised one issue about bracketing the two candidates.

"They told me that the bracketing letter from Adrian Mapp as chair of the New Democrats also needed to be filed with Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi before the close of business on filing day," says Smiley. "I called our team from Trenton and the document was in Rajoppi's hands within the hour. We have a receipted copy of the document, and nothing was said at the time to indicate there was any problem."

The three groups of Democrats -- from Plainfield, Elizabeth and Roselle -- are part of a growing shift in Union County Democratic Party affairs away from the go-along, get-along mindset which allows the lawyers, engineers and contractors who bankroll the 'regular' organization to feed at the public trough once their candidates are elected.

"I think President Obama's victory and his politics of change have given heart to reform-minded Democrats throughout the county," says Mapp.

Observers have noted that the winds of change are blowing in Hillside, stronghold of Union County Democratic chairwoman Charlotte DeFilippo, where the 'regular' organization is on the defensive, as well as in Linden, where the machine's power has been eroded by an end-run by Democrats working as independents.

"The Democratic Party statewide is aware that they are in difficult straits," says Mapp, "and they are painfully aware that voters are looking for fresh faces, intelligence and a commitment to more open and transparent government."

Mapp points to the challenge the independent Democrats face this morning as evidence of this conflict.

"Whatever the outcome on Monday, I think that the Union County Democratic organization knows that they are facing a shift of historic proportions, and that is what has them running scared," he adds.

Judge Wertheimer will also hear and decide on challenges by Mapp to several of the other mayoral hopefuls' petitions.

"I think that the great interest shown in running for mayor indicates the view that the current administration is bankrupt and cannot lead us forward," says Mapp, "and I welcome a contest between those of us who meet the requirements for running."

"In that regard, I have gone over the petitions of my opponents just as I am sure they have gone over mine, and I have submitted challenges to several of them regarding the validity of many signatures for a variety of reasons," he added, "and I look forward to Judge Wertheimer's ruling on these challenges, clarifying who has and has not met the requirements of candidacy."

-- Dan Damon

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another Plainfield landmark gone

Palladian window in carriage house at 525 West 7th.

Another Plainfield landmark has bitten the dust -- literally.

The wooden-framed upper story of the carriage house at 525 West 7th Street was demolished this past week. The wall containing the window pictured above came down on Friday. The carriage house once boasted a squash court/ballroom on the second floor.

Formerly known as the Tyler Mansion, the house has been undergoing a transformation that began in January of last year, and seems now mostly finished, though no one appears to live in the house yet.

A 1934 view of the Tyler Mansion.

The house, as reinvented in 2008.

The yards of the freshly subdivided three lots are just piles of dirt, not even graced by weeds.

Ah, progress!

-- Dan Damon

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

North Avenue crime scene?

Yellow tape keeps pedestrians away from North Avenue building.

Plainfielders using the main train station may have spotted the yellow tape in front of the vacant building in the center of the block across from the taxi stand.

When it stayed up for nearly a week, I checked with the cops to see what sort of crime was being investigated for so long a time.

The crime?

Debris falling from the building.

The building was once owned by Jayson Williams and his father, who touted their plan to convert it into luxury condos. That was then, this is now.

The windows are now boarded, presenting this attractive face
to Raritan Valley Line commuters.

The long-vacant building is now listed on the tax records as being owned by Slongu Enterprises, LLC. With sky visible through parts of the missing roof, the building has suffered greatly from exposure to the elements.

When I came by early Thursday afternoon to snap some pictures, workmen had nailed sheets of plywood over the windows, obscuring the fact of the open roof. Safer to pedestrians perhaps, but still a vacant and deteriorating eyesore.

And part of yet another languishing Robinson-Briggs redevelopment plan.

Just the 'face' Plainfield needs to present to the thousands of commuters who pass through the city daily on the Raritan Valley Line.

-- Dan Damon

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Friday, April 24, 2009

What does the Council do about defeated school budget?

Part of the reason for all the buzz about what Plainfield's City Council needs to do in regard to the defeated school budget owes to the rarity of such an event in Plainfield. I cannot recall a defeated budget in my 25 years, and even remember some horn-tooting when Plainfield voters approved a bond referendum for the construction of the Washington Community School when districts everywhere were losing bond votes.

While the new school funding legislation (which was promoted by Assemblyman Green, see here) may tie the hands of the local governing body with reference to CHANGING THE BUDGET, I am not aware that it supersedes the statutory requirement that the local governing body MUST adopt a RESOLUTION CERTIFYING the BOE's General Tax Fund levy when the voters fail to approve it.

(This matter is somewhat complicated by the fact that the constitutionality of the new funding scheme is being challenged before the NJ Supreme Court; oral arguments are scheduled for this coming Tuesday, April 28 -- see here and here. But let's assume the Court will uphold the new law.)

Councilor Burney takes up the matter on his blog (see here), and Plainfield Schools' Superintendent Gallon has posted a letter on the process -- including the state's position -- online here (PDF).

All of this notwithstanding, it seems clear (see NJSA 28A:22-37) that to fulfill its obligation, the municipality's governing body must pass a resolution. (Sidebar to all who think electronic info is sufficient: the State of New Jersey still believes that the 'real' actions of governing bodies are embodied in PRINTED DOCUMENTS ON PAPER WITH ATTESTED SIGNATURES. For now, anyway.)

Here's a little help from my studies at Clerk University: A Sample Resolution on a School Board Budget --


WHEREAS, the voters of the (Municipality) in a duly held election, did fail to approve the General Fund Tax Levy Budget of the Board of Education of the (Municipality) for the school year (20xx-yy); and

WHEREAS, the Education, Budgets and Appropriations Law, N.J.S.A. 28a-22-37, requires the Governing Body of the (Municipality), after consultation with the (Municipality) Board of Education, to determine the amount which is necessary to be appropriated in such budget and to certify to the County Board of Taxation the total amount so determined; and

WHEREAS, the Governing Body of the (Municipality) has consulted with representatives of the (Municipality) Board of Education, and has thereafter determined the amount necessary to be appropriated;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Governing Body of the (Municipality), (County), State of New Jersey, that the following determination is hereby made:
1. The original tax levy on the ballot for the base budget:

2. The amount of reduction to the tax levy for the base budget:

3. The amount of tax levy being certified for the base budget:

4. Specific line item reductions:

Account Number Description Amount




Supporting reasons for reduction: Based upon a review of all data provided by the Board off Education, meetings with representatives of the Board of Education, numerous public hearings and consideration of the public need, it has been determined that the reductions set forth herein can be effectuated without a reduction in programs or negatively impacting upon the education of the students.
The revised budget is sufficient to provide a thorough and efficient education.
There was no additional general fund levy considered by the voters.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that certified copies of this resolution be forwarded to the (Municipality) Board of Education, Superintendent of the (County) Department of Education, and the Administrator of the (County) Board of Taxation.

Does the governing body need to REDUCE the budget? The sample resolution presumes it will, but at Clerk U. we were not instructed it HAD TO. However, the governing body does have to allow the public to have a say at a properly noticed public meeting, and must pass a resolution certifying the budget.

Simple enough?

We'll see.

-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Plainfield's 'Stimulus Tracking' website debuts?

A Stimulus-tracking website for Plainfield?

The devil is in the details.

Hedged about with disclaimers like 'potential', 'may qualify', 'just a list...not an application for funding', Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs administration has launched a section on the City's website that is supposed to track ARRA (Stimulus Plan) money requested and received.

The Ledger covers the story in today's edition (see here).

City Administrator Marc Dashield told the Ledger that --
A futile search [by residents] caused some citizens to assume that Plainfield was not actively seeking financial assistance...
Should a distinction be made between monies funneled to Plainfield and those ACTUALLY APPLIED for by the administration of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs? I think so.

For instance, the Ledger says that more than $1.5 million has already been given to Plainfield.

True enough, EXCEPT THAT more than $1 million of that amount was to the Housing Authority, funded directly by the federal government. The City of Plainfield played no role in asking for or receiving those monies.

So now we're down to a little over a half million dollars.

Digging through the hokey navigation system for the Stimulus Plan subsite, it is possible to learn that the $341,635 for law enforcement was a formula grant that filtered down to the city from allocations made by Washington to states and counties. No hustle involved, just wait for grant, then spend the money.

Ditto the $186,300 for 'energy efficiency and conservation'.

Netting it out, the bottom line on monies received through grant applications made by the administration of Mayor Robinson-Briggs: Zero, nada, zilch.

Though the subsite is hokey (did Robinson-Briggs REALLY approve the unflattering graphic?), filled with enough wishlist smoke-blowing that you will need a top-grade gas mask, and organized bizarrely (why have to dig down several pages to find Plainfield stuff?), it is still of some use.

Should I mention that it was thrown together only after Plainfield Today had needled the Mayor in three previous posts (January, February and March)? Nah, that would be self-serving.

Of what use is Robinson-Briggs' new Stimulus subsite?
  1. The way it is organized (not to mention spell-checked) illustrates the forethought this administration brings to bear on problems;
  2. The order in which projects are presented betrays its sense of priorities;
  3. It allows the reader to see that jobs for unemployed Plainfielders are not on the Robinson-Briggs radar; and
  4. The quotation marks around 'shovel ready' are entirely appropriate -- some of these items are pure wishlist and the time to be 'shovel ready' is dubious at best (for instance, improving Somerset Street).
What more could be done to 'make information relevant to Plainfield easy to find online' (Dashield's words)?
  • First, why not put Plainfield's grant applications online for residents to read?

  • Second, why not get Plainfield listed on
StimulusWatch has become the de facto national go-to website for ordinary folks to track -- and comment on -- ARRA monies being spent at the local level. Many eyes watching makes for more transparency and accountability.

Isn't that a good thing?

And wouldn't it solve the problem that Dashield poses of Plainfielders turning up 'a futile search'?

-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Plainfield's Baptist Cemetery in foreclosure auction

Plainfield's Baptist Cemetery is scheduled for a foreclosure auction.

How's that for an Earth Day story?

The historic cemetery, paired with the Methodist Cemetery along a stretch of Plainfield Avenue between West 5th and West 7th Streets, is being auctioned off by Tranzon LLC (see website here) tomorrow evening at the Kenilworth Inn.

The Baptist Cemetery (tax map).

Tax records for the city list both cemeteries as tax exempt.

Cemeteries were often associated with congregations in earlier times. The Friends Meeting House is a fine example, with an 18th-century cemetery behind the historic structure on Watchung Avenue and East 3rd Street.

The 19th century saw two different trends. Roman Catholic parishes, where it was expected congregants would be buried in consecrated ground, often purchased large plots of land for a parish's cemetery. St. Mary's Cemetery at Berckman Street and St. Mary's Avenue is a local example.

The other trend, 'garden cemeteries', began with Boston's Mount Auburn (1831) and Brooklyn's Green-Wood (1838) cemeteries. It was more secular and developed beautifully landscaped sites with rolling hills, winding roads, and small lakes and groves where families were encouraged to spend time -- even picnicking -- amongst the mausoleums and gravestones. Plainfield's Hillside Cemetery (1886) is a fine local example, whose popularity eventually eclipsed the older, plainer cemeteries in town.

The popularity of 'garden cemeteries'
eclipsed the older religious burial grounds.

Burials stopped long ago at both the Baptist and Methodist cemeteries, which have been plagued over the years with vandalism and neglect. There have been volunteer cleanup efforts from time to time, but since they are not active cemeteries, parking is difficult, and there appear to be no families tending the gravesites, the two languish.

The mystery in the current situation is how -- and why -- a mortgage was placed on the cemetery property.

And who would want to buy a cemetery -- even if the bid threshold is only $10,000.

Perhaps Assemblyman Green knows a developer. After all, the area is zoned R-4, which means it would make a fine location for some new luxury condos.

And the owners would have peaceful views of the Methodist Cemetery next door.

Much more attractive than the Ben Franklin Liquor Store parking lot the owners of the Senior Center condos, The Monarch at Plainfield, will have to put up with.

-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Vote for School Board today...or be tormented by guilt forever

4 6 10
Pat Barksdale
Joe Ruffin, Sr.
Joanne Hollis
Tammy Westbrook

Yes, guilt can be a motivator. Plainfield School Board elections are today, 2:00 - 9:00 PM, in your regular polling place.

The graphic above is my vote reminder. For yesterday's endorsements -- mine, Jerry's and Christian Estevez's -- go here -- where you'll also find links to the PEPtalk profiles and the Courier news listing.

Go vote.

And don't forget to vote on the budget.

Friends and supporters of 'Team 1463' are gathering after the polls close (9 PM) for the returns and refreshments at their headquarters, West 4th Street and Arlington Avenue. Use the public parking lot next door.

-- Dan Damon

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Monday, April 20, 2009

School Board Endorsements: Dan, Jerry, Estevez

Pat Barksdale
Line 1
Joe Ruffin, Sr.
Line 4
Joanne Hollis
Line 6
Tammy Westbrook
Line 10

Plainfield voters go to the polls tomorrow to elect four members of the school board -- 3 for three-year terms, and one for two years to fill the balance of the term of Vickey Sheppard, who resigned.

Continuing the practice he began when he first ran now-mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs for the School Board, Assemblyman Jerry Green has endorsed a slate: Brenda Gilbert, Mahogany Hendricks, Lisa Logan-Leach and Katherine Peterson.

Would you vote for a team that can't even get its line numbers right?
Better think twice.

You should know there are alternatives to the Green Machine.

I am also endorsing a slate, though as an individual and not the leader of a partisan political party (school board elections are supposed to be non-partisan).

I am endorsing --
  • Pat Barksdale (line 1)
  • Joe Ruffin, Sr. (line 4)
  • Joanne Hollis (line 6)
  • Tammy Westbrook (line 10)
The four are running together as 'Team 1463'.

I have known and worked with these four in support of various community activities -- some for many years. They bring experience, intelligence and a commitment to improving the quality of educational outcomes in the Plainfield district.

They are the only candidates with an online presence. You can view their website (here) and individual profiles (Barksdale) (Hollis) (Ruffin) (Westbrook).

Christian Estevez, a current Board of Ed member, has also endorsed 'Team 1463' on his blog, which you can read here.

PEPtalk, the blog for parental involvement in the schools, has posted responses by all ten candidates to their questionnaire, which you can read here (the first nine are in the March archive, the 10th was posted April 2).

Additionally, you can read the candidates' responses to the Courier News online here.

Voters will also get to signify their approval or disapproval of the school levy to be raised from Plainfield ratepayers, which this year will amount to $19,862,563.

The total school budget, which includes state and federal aid, is $153,800,000 -- a sum that is orders of magnitude beyond the budget for City government.

Do your civic duty tomorrow and vote for school board candidates and on the budget question.

Polls are open from 2:00 - 9:00 PM.

-- Dan Damon

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mayor Sharon's pal runs for governor against Corzine

The Rev. Shannon Wright
Mayor Robinson-Briggs

An old pal of Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs has announced her intention to run for Governor against Jon Corzine.

Saying she can 'no longer endorse a candidate that (sic) has demonstrated inability to make the hard decisions necessary to put our state back on solid ground', PolitickerNJ continues to quote from the Rev. Shannon Wright's statement launching her candidacy --
“...Our state is in a crisis. This is not the time to be indecisive. We need a strong, clear thinking leader with a heart of the people, an ear for wisdom, and a spirit of the greater good. Politics can no longer be “me first,” too many families are hurting.”
Plainfielders with good memories will remember the Rev. Wright bursting upon the scene after Mayor Robinson-Briggs' inauguration in 2006.

In July of that year, the late Council President Ray Blanco lectured Robinson-Briggs for casually walking on appointments to a youth commission (created in March of 2006) that included the Rev. Wright, her children Chandra and Michael Jr., and Devon Walcott, son of Democratic party fixture Johnny Walcott, withdrawing the nominations from the agenda by fiat on the spot.

Wright and the others were subsequently confirmed, following Blanco's untimely death.

The youth commission raised eyebrows because no schedule of public meetings was ever announced and the rump commission (it was supposed to have 15 members, but only the four were ever appointed) went on to spend $3,000 in public monies without an accounting.

Although an annual accounting of its activities to both the Mayor and the Council is part of the ordinance, there is no indication any reports were ever made.

Then, as suddenly as she had appeared, the Rev. Wright vanished, though there were differing versions of where she had gone.

Not to worry.

We now learn that she was the campaign manager of Franklin Township's Republican mayor Brian Levine in his abortive attempt to get on the GOP gubernatorial bandwagon (his petition was bounced this past week for lack of qualified signatures).

Does this mean that Mayor Sharon might possibly be asked to run as an independent in the Rev. Wright's Lieutenant Governor spot?

Why not?

This is, after all, Weird New Jersey.

-- Dan Damon

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Invitation to New Dems campaign HQ launch Saturday

New Democrats HQ Opens Saturday

Plainfield's Grassroots Democratic Movement
Invites You To Meet

New Democrat Candidates
Adrian Mapp (for Mayor)
Rick Smiley (for Assembly)
and City Committee candidates from
YOUR neighborhood

Saturday, April 18

2:00 - 4:00 PM

117-B Watchung Avenue

Refreshments | Music | Voter Registration

Stimulus monies for Plainfield Schools detailed

Plainfield's public schools will benefit from stimulus monies being released to the states, according to a story in today's Star-Ledger (see here).

This will include the city's four charter schools as well as the school district overall.

In line with President Obama's warning that monies must be spent responsibly and transparently, Education Commissioner Lucile Davy has issued a memo (see here --PDF) underscoring this fact, as well as noting that districts should not plan on using the monies for long-term projects that will require repeated funding beyond the two-year period covered by the ARRA (Stimulus) funding.

Here are the figures for the School District --


IDEA Funds
Basic Stimulus Award $1,948,710
Preschool Stimulus Award

Title I Funds $1,662,896

And for the Charter Schools (in the order they appear in the State's tables) --

Pressman Charter School
Central Jersey Arts Charter School
Queen City Academy Charter School
Union County TEAMS Charter School

--Dan Damon

Thursday, April 16, 2009

LWV Board of Ed candidate forum tonight

Board of Ed Candidate Forum

Sponsored by the League of Women Voters


7:00 PM

Anne Louise Davis Meeting Room

Plainfield Public Library
Park Avenue and 8th Street

The Plainfield chapter of the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization which will celebrate its 90th birthday next year, has a tradition of presenting fairly run candidate forums for the community to meet, hear and question candidates for public office. The group also engages in studies of public policy issues, as in the recent program on Charter Schools it presented at the new Emerson Community School.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bedbugs: Coming to Plainfield?

Perhaps Plainfielders should prepare for what is probably inevitable: the invasion of bedbugs.

While bedbugs have gotten considerable attention in larger cities over the last few months (a search on the NY Times turned up 7,380 results), little has been said of New Jersey.

Until now.

Assemblywoman Joan Quigley (D-Hudson) testified at a national summit on bedbugs yesterday that they are becoming a scourge once again, and discussed her proposed legislation to require health inspectors to oversee extermination of infestations in New Jersey. Her bill, which passed the Assembly, is currently bottled up in the Senate.

Meanwhile, I have learned that bedbugs are already an issue in Elizabeth.

Does that mean their relentless march will reach Plainfield?

What did they use to say in the '60s: Arm yourself or harm yourself?

You may want to read some how-to tips here.

-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Democratic City Committee candidates

Click on map to view details or print on letter-size sheet.

Below is a listing of petitions filed to run for seats on the Plainfield Democratic City Committee.

Slates have been fielded by New Democrats for Plainfield and the Regular Democratic Organization of Union County, under its chairperson Jerry Green.

One female and one male are elected from each voting district. Males are listed first by Union County custom, not my choice.

Candidates for PDCC, 2009

Ward 1


New Dems


Trevor Barrow
Carolyn Barrow
Ellis Hester
Liz Urquhart
Derek Young
Wanda Jones
Darwin Rosario
Veronica Gay-Brown

Bernard Horner
Hattie Williams
Frank D'Aversa
Liz D'Aversa
James Dudley
Shari Darby
Andrew Mayorga
Ethel Coleman
George Rivera
Judy Ramos

Alex Toliver
Gwendolyn LeGrand
Noel Pyne
Chaunte Hackett
Christopher Awobue
Marie Davis
Terry Belle
Gaynell Belle
Harold Malone
Lillian Jamar

Ward 2

New Dems


John Vignoe
Maria Pellum
Ken Robertson
Brenda Pryor
Michael Pyne
Mari Bonini
Roger Politt
Joan Hervey
Shep Brown
Joanne Macaluso
Joseph Wallace
Vivia Henry
Joseph Stuczynski

Rashid Burney
Wendy Burney
Donald Van Blake
Carol Bicket
Allen McPherson
Karen McPherson
Kieran Anderson
Jeanette Criscione
Charles Eke
Danielle Fletcher

Dorothy Henry
Hugh Smith
Geraldine Smith
Rick Smiley
Belinda Smiley
Jeff Dunn
Wilma Lee
Greg Haworth
Rebecca Williams
Sidney Jackson
Janice Jackson
Dave Beck
Lois Mattson
Jacques Howard
Sally Benjamin

David Ervin
Brenda Gibbons

Ward 3

New Dems


Jerry Gainey
Jeanette Edghill
Joe Gutenkauf
Dottie Gutenkauf
Rodney Marino
Barbara Kerr
Cary Palmer
Cora Palmer
Bill Collins
Marion Fowler
Wajid Abdur-Razzaq
Barbara Abdur-Razzaq
Christian Estevez
Rosa Salinas
Andy Apu
Margaret Florence
Leroy Canady
Barbara Wallace
Cecil Sanders
Sharon Robinson-Briggs
Linden Barratt
Sandra Govan
Calvin Hale
Pamela Dunn-Hale
Joe Ruffin, Sr.
Ursula Liebowitz
Kaliym Islam
Brenda Gilbert
Nat Bender
Shirley Ayers
Sylvester Palin
Marva Palin
Adrian Mapp
Amelia Mapp
Jesus Colazzo, Jr.
Cynthia Crawford
Cristobal Sanchez
Veronica Taylor
Rashad Shabazz
Julia Porterfield

Ward 4

New Dems



Agurs Cathcart
Rose Marie Cathcart
Elvis Belle
Yvonne Belle
Winston Lewis
Ivy Joyner
Gabriel Atehortua
Luz Atehortua
Neville Greaves
Vera Greaves

Harold Mitchell
Mazie Wormley

Murray Brister
Mary Ann Fulmore

-- Dan Damon

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