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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

'Fast and Furious' flick not only issue in Plaza concerts

With Friday's 'all-day, end-of-summer bash' (the Courier News, see here), Plainfield's concerts at the Park-Madison plaza completes the transformation from an event planned to foster downtown businesses and shopping to an event that ... ?

That does what, exactly?

It seems the Robinson-Briggs administration does not know.

Has the thought of improving business traffic downtown been utterly dropped?

The original noontime series, begun last year with UEZ (Urban Enterprise Zone) funding, was supposed to lure workers from the County Office Building to the plaza for music, and then hopefully to shopping in neighboring stores or eating in nearby restaurants.

Attendance was anything but stellar, and anecdotal evidence from the downtown business community was summed up with the comment, 'What improvement in business'?

Of course, if there is no plan, then there is no way to know how to measure success. But, of course, that is nothing new around here.

The City Council was singularly unimpressed with last year's series and pushed back against the Robinson-Briggs administration on this year's funding, asking for more clearly defined objectives and other changes.

Although Recreation Division director Dave Wynn is quoted in today's Courier as saying the event is funded 'without tax dollars', that wasn't really the objection.

Among other things, I am told by Council contacts, the Robinson-Briggs administration promised that at least one of this year's concerts would be held on the plaza in front of the North Avenue train station. Not in the cards, as you can see.

This summer's initial concert probably did nothing to allay Council hesitation about the whole idea.

Originally scheduled for July 31 and abruptly canceled the day of, the first concert took place the following Friday, August 7, with a notice posted on the City's website at 7:38 AM, again the day of (see my post here).

With all of that advance publicity, the two concerts that day drew an attendance of 34 at the noontime one (counted about 1:10 PM), and 32 in the evening (counted about 6:45 PM), both times including sponsor employees, and at noontime, about a dozen or so city employees.

Hardly anything to write home to Mother about.

While finding corporate sponsors is laudable, and the music is good (though somewhat misaligned with the actual downtown shopping crowd), and I am a sucker for car shows, it seems now to have lost all connection to its original purpose.

Especially given the EVENING concert hour, at which there are no workers in the County Office Building, and most of the shops' business winds down well before 8 PM.

So, just exactly who are the later events -- the car show which runs on after the concert, and the movie, which is slated for 'dusk' (according to the Courier) or '9:30 PM' (according to the flyer on the city's website -- see here) -- meant for?

Now that the issues of the violence, sex and language of the 'Fast and Furious' flick have been raised (see Bernice here, and Maria here; you can find more about the movie here and the violence, language and sex here), Director Wynn is replacing it with a sanitized version. To which my reaction is the same as with decaf coffee, 'What's the point'?

If it was a good choice when it was made, why back down just because of some silly bloggers? After all, it was screened for appropriateness in advance, right?

Even if encouraging lawless drag racing does seem in bad taste just weeks after a horrendous motorcycle fatality at Watchung and Kensington Avenues, the partying should be allowed to go on, shouldn't it?

Even if downtown businesses that could have desparately used a shot in the arm from a well-focused business development program didn't get it.

Here I am thinking of Cousins restaurant, within spitting distance of the concerts and no longer with us, and two longtime Front Street businesses closing their doors as I write this -- WearHouse and Hyper-City.

Let's hope Friday night's movie is in better focus than this whole 'Music in the Plaza' program has been.

-- Dan Damon

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Anonymous said...

Dan, comments/questions: Dave Wynn says that no taxpayer's money will be used for this event. Does that mean that the police presence is being funded privately? Will there be extra police on hand? What is the cost/benefit to the community? I am all in favor of fun, but Plainfield has great parks at which real fun could take place. What is the benefit to downtown merchants? Will they be patronized for water, candy, popcorn and other snacks, or is the mayor taking away even this little bit of revenue by giving out free food? It's fortuitous that Bernice just did a report on the library's "Red Box"--I think I'd rather rent the film and see it in the SAFETY of my own home. I do feel a concern about going to see this event, given the tension in the air about the violence at the YWCA. If the weather is nice, there could be a lot of young people there, including some who will come just to make trouble. Do those under 18 have to be accompanied by a parent? Do you know the curfew laws in Plainfield?

Anonymous said...

Its simply pathetic! I bet some young ones driving will be on the mood to start racing right after the event is over. Im staying home!

Anonymous said...


Am I missing something, or is this a blatant attempt at buying votes at the expense of the city?

Anonymous said...

The concert in Plainwood Square last Thursday was very well attended. Very different from the attendance the month before. What was the difference? Many block assocations urged their friends and neighbors to come. Now, I cannot say for sure that made the difference, but there were certainly more people there in August than in July.

My point, good PR (which we do not have), good communications (which we do not have), and thoughtful planning (are you kidding?) is needed to make the downtown event successful.

I hope people vote for a change in November, because I am sick of the sloppiness and ineptmess of this administration.

Anonymous said...

To 8:45 - Was thinking exactly the same thing after reading Dan's article. I know when I was a kid and after leaving the stock car races, we would drive like crazy kids on the way home and I see the same thing happening here.

Only a 20% chance of rain Friday - Please let it rain - Please let it rain.

Anonymous said...

Actually the ART Festival was held Downtown for the purpose of bring shoppers, viewers and outsiders to the BUSINESS District. But now it seems to be a tax funded vote getting event like this movie, bike rodeo, etc.

Dan said...

10:33 AM --

You mean as in 'panem et circenses'?

My heart, be still!!!

olddoc said...

The Romasn' had a word for it- actually at least two'The Games" and "The Circus"

The principle hasa not chamged, throe bread to the masses.

Anonymous said...

If you vote for this administration, or do not vote, or throw away your vote in November, people, no complaining about this! It's your fault.

Yep I Said It said...

It is time for the town of Plainfield to campaign a WRITE IN vote. We cannot allow or just sit back and watch Jerry Green and Sharon Robinson Briggs get RE-elected.

There are choices.

WRITE IN Campaign, which requires work, but hey -the work can pay off.

OR . . . vote Republican -Pivnichny for Mayor. Hey- when I think of the current mayor . . . he is looking pretty good. I doubt if he can be any worse than Sharon.

I haven't a clue on who is running for Republican Assembly.

OR . . . we can sit through another F O U R years of misery with Sharon Robinson Briggs.
And another T W 0 of Jerry Green.

The choice is yours.

Anonymous said...

Will the show go on? Will there be a tent in the event of rain?