The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Plainfield under siege. What is Mayor Sharon doing?




Plainfield is under siege.

In the past few days I have received emails concerning dramatic police actions involving pullovers of motorists with multiple police cars -- marked and unmarked -- racing to the scene with sirens and lights flashing.

Streets mentioned are Leland Avenue, Richmond Street and Netherwood Avenue.

Yesterday afternoon, I witnessed two such incidents on Front Street, one on the edge of the downtown shopping district.

Last week's shooting/cop chase/accident (see Courier story here and pictures here) is another case in point. On my way to that incident, I passed an empty compact car, its driver's side rammed in, blocking the eastbound lane of West 3rd Street between Spooner and Grant Avenues. A solitary police car was sitting sentinel. When I retraced my steps from the Grant/South Second accident scene, hoping to get a picture of this vehicle, it had been towed away. No mention by the police of this vehicle ever appeared in the print stories. Was it the car originally shot at? Was it an innocent driver caught in the melée?

Lastly, reports of gunshots continue unabated.

There was an email in my inbox at 5 AM today reporting gunshots in the area of Park Avenue and Woodbine.

Earlier this month, residents learned from police that several gun casings had been found in the street near Hillside and Prospect Avenues.

Is Plainfield under siege by drug dealers and gangs duking it out over territories?

It's impossible to tell.

But there is one way that Plainfield IS UNDER SIEGE: By not keeping the public informed about what is going on, Mayor Robinson-Briggs and her administration are leaving Plainfielders under siege by doubt and fear.

Why not do something about it?

Why not put her crack communications team to work posting regular updates, say weekly, concerning police activity and crime fighting on the city's website?

What would be the harm in that?

Unless, of course, Mayor Robinson-Briggs doesn't want to talk about crime.

What do you think? Vote in the poll at the top of the right-hand column: 'Does Mayor Robinson-Briggs have a duty to update the public weekly on crime fighting?'



-- Dan Damon

Monday, March 30, 2009

D-Day for Abbott Districts: April 28




Plainfield and the thirty other school districts covered by the Abbott v. Burke ruling are anxiously watching the calendar as the critical moment for the future of the ruling approaches

The New Jersey Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments on the new school funding formula supported by Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green for April 28. The new formula would do away completely with the Abbott District funding distinction, meaning that local Abbott schools such as Plainfield's would face rising school tax levies or service cutbacks.

Read more here.



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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ledger furloughs mandated, news outsourced



A Ledger byline showing the story is by a Ledger staffer.





This byline shows the Ledger story has been outsourced.


Plainfielders concerned about the ever-shrinking print editions of the Star-Ledger may have noticed one change, but be unaware of a second.

The graphics above illustrate the bylines of two different stories in recent days. The first is by Union County Ledger reporter Alexi Friedman, whom many will recall seeing on a frequent basis up until a year ago as he went about covering Plainfield's city hall, city council and school board beats.

In recent months, he was moved from the Ledger's Union County offices in Kenilworth to a desk in Elizabeth, from which he frequently writes about topics all over the county.

The second graphic illustrates what is happening to the coverage of local news by the Ledger: it is being outsourced.

Ledger editor Jim Willse admitted to E&P last month (see here) that an organization was being built outside the Ledger newsroom (and presumably outside of union contracts and benefits liabilities, too) to provide local coverage to the Ledger and its online presence, NJ.com.

Those stories identified as being 'for the Star-Ledger' are emanating from this newly-formed organization, known as Local News Service.

This past week, Advance, the Ledger's parent announced that it was mandating a 10-day unpaid furlough (see more here).

At the same time, E&P reported that Gannett, the Courier's parent company, was ordering a second round of one-week furloughs to be taken before July (see story here).

The Gannett papers, unlike the Ledger, put a brief story about the furloughs in their local papers.

The furloughs are undoubtedly very hard on the news staff, and there seems to be no end in sight as both Advance and Gannett continue to report steepening losses in advertising revenues -- especially national accounts such as automobiles, and locally in classifieds, both of which traditionally gave a hefty boost to a newspaper's bottom line.

Lurking in the wings are other, and more drastic measures, that may yet have to come. Some Advance papers have gone to three-day schedules. Other large newspapers have disappeared entirely or gone to Web-only opeations.

The Times, they are a-changin'...



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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Symphony Pops Concert tonight; After-party honors Jean & Lois Mattson





This year's Plainfield Symphony Orchestra's Springtime Pops Concert is tonight at 8:00 PM. Longtime Symphony supporters Jean and Lois Mattson will be honored at the 'Conductor's Circle' party following the concert.

Alan Baer, principal tuba with the New York Philharmonic will be featured as the soloist in John Williams' Concerto for Tuba.

Guest conductor Chris Wilhejm, of the Ridge-Wood Concert Band, will lead the orchestra in Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring and other pops favorites.

The 'Conductor's Circle' after-party will be at the home of John DeMarco and Alan Cohen and will feature a buffet supper and open bar. Tickets available at the door.



PSO Springtime Pops Concert

Today, 8:00 PM.
Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church
East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue
(Parking at Swain's or on 1st Place)
Tickets: $25/person, $15/seniors and students. 12 and under free.

'Conductor's Circle' After-Party

Immediately following the Concert
At the home of John DeMarco and Alan Cohen
940 Glenwood Avenue.
Tickets: $35/person, available at the door

-- Dan Damon

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Mapp kickoff undeterred by dark, stormy night




It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, but supporters of Plainfield mayoral candidate Adrian Mapp were undeterred.

They showed up in droves at a kick-off reception at the home of Bobby & Jennifer Gregory to munch tasty hors d'oeuvres while sipping a glass of wine and chatting up new friends and old involved in Plainfield's unending struggle to purge local Democratic politics of the continuing ill effects of one-man rule.

Speaking of the tremendous losses Plainfield has suffered in the past year, from the closure of Muhlenberg to the loss of jobs and homes, candidate Mapp urged attendees to work hard to ensure that Plainfield puts in place a new mayor who is prepared to lead Plainfield competently and energetically in planning to take advantage of the good times that will return when President Obama's efforts move the national economy forward.

Mapp introduced Rick Smiley, who is running for the 22nd District Assembly seat currently occupied by Asm Jerry Green. A former Board of Education member and lontime city employee, Smiley drew rounds of applause from the group when he reminded them that the thirteen communities devastated by the closure of Muhlenberg are mostly within the legislative district and are filled with people who are upset over the closure and the failure of the current Legislative team to do any effective to prevent it.

Attendees running for seats on the Democratic City Committee were recognized and activist Flor Gonzalez was presented with the 'Communitarian Award' from United Plainfield, a community advocacy group.

The invitation Mapp issued to interested Plainfield Democrats to volunteer to run for the City Committee was underscored once again (see more here).

Petitions for all elected offices are due on April 6.


-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Abbott District funding: Jerry's vote comes home to roost





Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green.


A little over a year after Plainfield's Assemblyman Jerry Green admitted he wouldn't have voted to dismantle the Abbott Districts if he had understood the consquences (see here-- including clips of his remarks when the vote was taken), the chickens are coming home to roost.

Today's Ledger reports that Superior Court Judge Peter E. Doyne, sitting in Hackensack, ruled the legislation that Jerry Green backed to do away with the Abbott District funding is legal (see story here).

Doyne was assigned to the case by the NJ Supreme Court and asked to review the new legislation and the Abbott District ruling and make a recommendation back to them.

Although Doyne recommends continuing extra funding for Abbott Districts for at least three years, the Corzine administration wants to hear nothing of it.

The impact on Plainfield taxpayers -- whether or not they favor the Abbott ruling -- may be devastating over the long haul. Abbott Districts are staring down a double-barreled shotgun, facing either reduced funding by the State or the necessity of raising local school taxes substantially, or both.

Being an Abbott District has sheltered Plainfield taxpayers for over a decade from the real impact of having to fund the 7,000-student school district.

Jerry, how can we ever thank you?

Hmmmmmmmmmm......


-- Dan Damon

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Mapp: Let's end Green's secretly picking City Committee members




Adrian Mapp kicks off his campaign for Plainfield's Democratic mayoral nomination at a 'friendraiser' event this evening, to which all supporters are invited.

Mapp will speak to guests this evening about his efforts to end Democratic City Committee chairperson Jerry Green's longtime habit of secretly hand-picking members of the committee.

In a post on his campaign blog (see here), Mapp asks interested Plainfield Democrats to contact him about running for a City Committee seat on a slate the New Democrats are putting together.

'Jerry Green just doesn't get it,' Mapp says in opening the piece, continuing --
...under Green's chairmanship ... [City Committee] members are given no active role, little advance notice of meetings, and are usually asked to simply rubber stamp decisions made by Green without their input.
He then contrasts Green's methods with Obama's, after which Mapp models his own --
I think [Green's style] is a miserable way to do business, and want to offer an alternative, one that is consistent with Barack Obama's commitment to openness and transparency and one that looks to involve new people with new ideas in the political process.
Mapp outlines the role of the Democratic City Committee and what is expected of candidates who want to run on the New Democrats line.

Mapp and other City Committee candidates will be available this evening to discuss the City Committee and the attempt to open it to rank-and-file Plainfield Democrats.




Mapp For Mayor 'Friendraiser' Reception


Tonight
5:30 - 7:30 PM
At the Home of Bobby & Jennifer Gregory
1010 Rahway Road

Suggested Donation: $25



-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

About leaf and brush pickups




I've
had several emails inquiring about the city's leaf pickup schedule and noticed some folks have already started bagging their leaves and putting them curbside.

Plainfield's Spring brush and leaf pickup schedule should be in your mailbox shortly, according to Superintendent of Public Works John Louise, who I saw at Mayor Robinson-Briggs' forum on Tuesday evening.

Will Mayor Sharon have it put online?

For that, you will have to check with her communications staff.




-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jerry Green does a [push] poll?




The current poll may remind you of fabled Flatland.


Is Plainfield's premier push pollster, Jerry Green, at it again?

Facing another run for the Assembly and having to make his vice-mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs run the gauntlet again, it seems the chair of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee may have turned to his favorite tool -- the 'push poll'.

Reports began coming in early last evening that a hired service was rolling out questions to registered Democratic voters.

Though there were several questions aimed at teasing out opinions on Jerry's performance, it seems there wasn't any interest in hearing opinions on his efforts in relation to saving Muhlenberg. The voters may have more to say on that later.



In Flatland, everything is arranged around His Majesty's perceptions.


As for the mayoral race, respondents were asked how they would vote if faced with several candidates, including the current mayor, Councilor Adrian Mapp and PMUA chairperson Carol Brokaw.

But the most uproarious question came later: "If you knew that the murder rate had gone down 300% while Sharon Robinson-Briggs was mayor, would you be more or less inclined to vote for her?"

Let's see, if the rate goes down 100%, that means all murders are erased.

So, an additional 200% decrease means...?

...a negative murder rate?

Has Mayor Robinson-Briggs managed to 'unmurder' people?

Or has that wily old polling scientist, Jerry Green?




In Flatland, His Majesty sees Lineland as a point.


-- Dan Damon

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Rash of car break-ins, thefts spoils first Spring weekend




Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs may tout a reduction in violent crime, but there is a different kind of crime wave you never hear her speak about: car break-ins and thefts.

This past weekend provides an example, as reported by a reader, in whose neighborhood a van stolen from Fanwood was found on Sunday.

Seems whoever abandoned that van had traded up by stealing the Camry of another resident of the Hillside Avenue neighborhood near Muhlenberg.

Neighbors learned from police investigating the stolen van that there had been a rash of car break-ins over the weekend citywide, and that the van contained items stolen from a car on Carnegie Avenue.

Storal of the mory: Lock your car. Always. If you have an alarm system, use it. If you have a garage, make room for your car in it.

Oh, and when listening to Mayor Robinson-Briggs listing her accomplisments, remember that WHAT IS NOT SAID may be more important than what IS said.


-- Dan Damon

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

State accuses Verizon of FIOS bait-and-switch



Verizon began rolling out its FIOS network in Plainfield last summer.


Plainfielders have seen Verizon's FIOS service roll out considerably since workers began installing the fiber optic network last summer.

And I know of several who have the service and are pleased enough that it is cheaper than Comcast.

So, I made a mental note when a small item about AG Anne Milgram suing Verizon over FIOS advertising cropped up in the Ledger the other day (see here) to print it out and go back and read it later.

Hitting the 'print' button, I went back to work on CLIPS, only to be distracted by hearing the printer whirring as it printed page after page after page after page. What on earth was going on?

Turns out I was printing from the Ledger's 'blog' entry or early posting of the story, in which the comments made by readers are appended. And that was the answer the mystery: The half-page item was followed by more than 27 pages of comments. At an average of 5 comments per page, that meant nearly 150 readers had taken the time to log on and comment on the FIOS situation.

The Attorney General outlines the complaints as follows --
  • Billing customers at a higher rate than the originally quoted price

  • Billing inconsistent amounts for the same services

  • Failure to provide promotional gifts, and

  • Failure to honor requests to cancel the service.
Milgram says the state has received 266 complaints.

Verizon says it's a rollout glitch.

Who ya gonna believe?


-- Dan Damon

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Star-Ledger ponders unpaid furloughs




Plainfielders can probably count on even less coverage by the Star-Ledger if a report on Editor & Publisher's website (see here) turns out to be true.

Citing printouts said to be of email exchanges between Publisher George Arwady and Editor Jim Willse, the story details how a proposal to furlough employees for ten days between now and the end of the year -- as well as changes to pension and 401(k) plans -- would be undertaken.

Maybe they'll want to update that logo to 'Some Things Jersey'.


The Star-Ledger headquarters in Newark.


-- Dan Damon

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Does Mayor Sharon want to cut library funding in half?




Plainfielders are justly proud of their public library, and they show it by using it heavily.

And a story in last Sunday's NY Times (see here) noted that New Jersey's libraries are being heavily used in these challenging economic times. This reminded me of another story on New Jersey libraries that ran in the Courier about a month ago (see here), which struck me as a little odd because I couldn't quite figure out why the NJ Library Association's executive director, Pat Tumulty, was beating the drums so hard about library services.

After all, there had been a spate of stories nationwide about how important a resource libraries have become in these tough times for those who use their free Internet connections and access to resume-writing software to stay on top of the job market.

A little digging turned up the story behind the story: an effort by the NJ League of Municipalities (on whose Executive Board Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs sits) to reduce legally required funding of public libraries by 50% (see League resolution in PDF here, and letter to mayors here).

That would, to put it mildly, cripple the state's public libraries and make life even harder for those who depend on its services.




The League shopped around for a sponsor in the Legislature and found one, writing to the state's mayors on February 12 of its success (see here) and citing the bill number, A3753 (see here).

The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Bergen), the Deputy Majority Whip. You may view his legislative profile here.

Two questions come to mind:

  1. Since the League resolution passed unanimously, are we correct in assuming Mayor Sharon supports cutting library funding by half?

  2. If she supports cutting library funding, why hasn't she said so in Plainfield?
Is Mayor Robinson-Briggs really this mean-spirited? Or is she just careless and inattentive to details?

Oh yes, there may be another question: What's become of the proposed bill?


NJ League of Municipalities --
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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stender for Lt. Gov.? Running on her Muhlenberg record?




Linda Stender and Jerry Green at last night's
Middlesex County Dem meeting. Photo: PolitickerNJ


New Jersey's first Lieutenant Governor, to be elected in November, should be a woman, says Assemblywoman Linda Stender.

Plainfielders and voters in the 13 other communities (nearly all in Stender's legislative district) that depended on Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center may just agree.

Stender made her comments at the Middlesex County Democrats meeting last night at the Pines Manor, where she and Jerry Green were nominated -- again -- for their Assembly seats. The meeting was reported in today's PolitickerNJ (see here).

But area voters may not agree that it should be Stender, who inexplicably lost the race for the 7th Congressional District seat last November.

The reason?

Plainfielders and other Muhlenberg supporters have been fuming since the beginning of the struggle to save the 131-year-old hospital that Assemblywoman Stender has been 'missing in action', having never attended a single rally or public hearing or even making a supportive comment in the media.

So, a woman may well be a swell idea for New Jersey's first Lt. Governor, but around these parts it may be a hard sell for one particular woman: Linda Stender.


-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Poll Results: Folks say 'rein in the PMUA'



The PMUA poll closed this morning.


Thanks to all who voted in the poll based on Adrian Mapp's OpEd in the Courier.

Here are links to the related stories --

-- Dan Damon

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Recession comes to South Avenue with Drug Fair closing



Plainfield patrons are advised to go to Walgreen's.

The recession continues its impact on Plainfield with the closing of the Drug Fair, across from Cafe Vivace and Freshwaters.

As reports began to surface over the weekend of Drug Fair closings, I wondered about the fate of the Plainfield store, in which I never ever saw a crowd.

On my morning newspaper run today, I decided to stop by and check.

Sure enough, the store is now closed, and patrons are advised to have their prescriptions filled at Walgreen's, just down the block at the corner of South and Leland Avenues.


Drug Fair is the second to close of three stores
located in the former FoodTown building.


This is the second closing among the three businesses located in the building once occupied by a FoodTown, before that store's Dutch owners consolidated the chain into its Stop & Shop division. Previously the Family Buffet, which specialized in Chinese cuisine, closed.

The Blockbuster remains open as the only outlet of that chain in the area since its Route 22 location in North Plainfield was closed about a month ago.

Hard times are here for Plainfield businesses.

And the Green/Robinson-Briggs administration seems not to have a clue as to what to do.



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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dan's blogs and the Mayoral Race: 1 for, 1 not




Plainfield Today, where Dan is partisan.




CLIPS, where he is not.

Plainfielders are passionate about their city and its politics.

And they like to know what's what and who's who.

As we enter the primary campaign season, with the mayor's slot among those up in the June 2 election, blog readers want clarity and full disclosure. Fair enough.

Here it is: Of Dan's two daily blogs, one will be partisan, one will not.

On Plainfield Today, I am endorsing, supporting and rallying for Adrian Mapp to be the Democratic nominee for mayor.

CLIPS is another kettle of fish entirely. It is a nonpartisan blog run as a service to the entire community, posting links to essential online news of interest to its readers. Links. To online news. Got it?

The other bloggers to whom CLIPS links are totally independent. They have their own views, political or not, and they alone are responsible for them. They do not 'work' for Dan or have anything to do with what Dan says or does with Plainfield Today. The links are there for the convenience of readers and no other purpose. Got it?

The 'What's Happening' calendar is also strictly for the community. Anyone's events will be publicized, providing only that they are open to the public.

To be more explicit: any declared candidate in this primary season is free to submit their events to the calendar and they will be posted. Fair enough?

This also holds true for candidate blogs and other Web presences. Submit me a link (email me here) and I will put it on a campaign blogroll. The only requirement is that the link must be submitted by the candidate themself. No anonymous blogs. Fair enough?

For ease of reference, this statement will appear at the top of the right-hand sidebar of each blog for the duration. Fair enough?

And now, ludi incipiant.


-- Dan Damon

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Morehouse Glee Club at Shiloh Baptist tonight




Atlanta's Morehouse College Glee Club will offer Plainfielders a rare treat this evening with a concert at Shiloh Baptist Church.

Working their way through a 14-concert tour that has taken them from Indianapolis to Buffalo to Boston, the group comes to Plainfield fresh from its concert on Sunday at New York's famed Abyssinian Baptist Church.


Founded in 1911, the Morehouse College Glee Club has grown world famous through its performances at Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral and President Jimmy Carter's inauguration, leading to tours in Africa and the Caribbean, as well as Russia and Poland.

Many may be familiar with the group's sound as it appeared on the soundtrack for the movie School Daze, which was directed by Morehouse alum Spike Lee.

Tonight's concert, at which a freewill offering will be taken, is sponsored by Shiloh Economic, Entrepreneurial and Lifelong Development Corporation. Proceeds will benefit the organization's community outreach activities.

Morehouse Glee Club Concert

Tonight | 7:00 PM

Freewill Offering

Shiloh Baptist Church

515 West Fourth Street
Info: (908) 754-3353
or visit the website at www.shilohplainfield.org/



-- Dan Damon

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

The last word on Courier obituaries




Plainfielders like myself who check the obits daily to see if we are in them may have noticed a change in the obits as they appear in the Courier News.

Managing editor Paul Grzella did everyone the favor of explaining the changes in a column he wrote recently (see here).

You may have noticed that some have become quite long, something that was rare in the old days. This can be traced to the fact that all obits are now PAID and the family may put in as much or as little as they wish -- but on a Dickensian per-word basis.

There is an opportunity buried here (mea culpa!): You can pre-write your own obit to guarantee you are remembered just as you wish to be.

After all, it's the last time your name is likely to appear in print, and you would like it just right.

Right?

So what are you waiting for?



-- Dan Damon

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Plainfield Humane Society needs volunteers today




The Plainfield Area Humane Society is having a volunteer work day today to help prepare the facility for the construction of new fencing and kennels.

The public has responded generously to the financial needs of the long-established agency, though it is not out of the woods yet.

Volunteers today will be helping to demolish old fencing and kennel areas, preparing them for new construction.

The all-day event gets under way at 9:00 AM.

Volunteers should bring work gloves and eye protection and dress in old or work clothes.



Volunteer Workday at PAHS
Today - Starting at 9:00 AM.
Bring work gloves and eye protection and wear old clothing
The Plainfield Area Human Society
75 Rock Avenue
(Between the PMUA Transfer Station and the Green Brook bridge)

Info: (908) 754-0300


-- Dan Damon

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Mayor Sharon: Erstwhile Muhlenberg buyer still welcome




Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs found time recently to chat up a reporter from the Press of Atlantic City about the Muhlenberg closure (see here).

The occasion was news that erstwhile Muhlenberg buyer Dr. Reddy Dandolu had surfaced as the last-minute savior of Kessler Memorial Hospital in Hammonton. The loss of Kessler, near the boundary between Atlantic and Camden counties, would leave South Jersey residents in the largely rural area with hospitals ranging from 13 to 33 miles distant.


Map from Press of A.C.

Dandolu had surfaced in April 2008 as a potential buyer for Muhlenberg, but was never regarded by its corporate parent Solaris Health System as a serious contender, though as late as mid-August Robinson-Briggs was 'thrilled' with the possibility of a Dandolu purchase (see Courier story here, and PT entry here).

In the Press story, Robinson-Briggs is quoted --
Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs said [the deal to buy Muhlenberg] dissolved due to an apparent disagreement between Dandolu’s DBR Healthcare and Muhlenberg officials over the terms and prices of the agreement. While Robinson-Briggs said her city helped facilitate the negotiations, she did not know how far along in the negotiation process the parties got.
Note Mayor Sharon says she did not know how far along the negotiations got.

This just underscores the rap against her in the whole Muhlenberg closure business -- that she has never engaged in the
BEST way that was open to her: AS A MEMBER OF THE MUHLENBERG BOARD, in which she still has not participated TO THIS DAY.

As president Teddy Roosevelt would have said, 'if you have a bully pulpit, why not use it'?

Nevertheless, this blithe spirit --
. . . [Robinson-Briggs] only had positive things to say about Dandolu and expressed a desire to still welcome him — and the acute-care facility he’d bring with him — to Plainfield.

“I wish him the best of luck and support with his new venture,” she said. “I wish he had enough money to buy both hospitals.”

The mayor's crystal ball must be unplugged; Dandolu failed to deliver a $300,000 payment that was promised and necessary to stave off the hospital's closure.



This morning, both the Press of Atlantic City (see here) and Cherry Hill's Courier Post (see here) report that Kessler has definitively closed.

Looks like Dandolu doesn't eve have money enough to buy ONE hospital.


-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Plainfield school aid from state to top $100M




State aid to the Plainfield public schools for the 2009-10 school year will push the district over the $100M mark, according to a story in today's Courier.

Written by Gannett State Bureau reporter Michael Symons, with inserted material by local reporters, the PRINT EDITION carries a section on Plainfield that is missing from the ONLINE version.

I am transcribing the missing section below, without comment.
CHARTER HIT

Plainfield Public Schools, the lone Abbott district in the Courier News coverage area and one of two in Union County, will receive a one percent state aid increase. The move pushed the approximately 7,000-student district's aid over the $100 million mark, from about $99.2 million to $100.6 million.


The district was one of 10 Abbott districts (out of 31 statewide) to receive an increase at all, as four of the state's largest urban school systems -- Newark, Jersey City, Trenton and Camden -- failed to see aid figures rise. But Superintendent Steve Gallon III said the news was tempered by a stark budget reality facing the district.

"We're very pleased that the state made provisions for us to realize a one percent increase, keeping in mind that several (Abbott districts) did not receive an increase at all," Gallon said. ". . .however, we are very, very cognizant that with the influx of charter schools into the city's landscape, that increase will be mitigated."

Gallon explained that the district's charter school budget has spiked from $8.6 million in 2008-09 to $11.4 million for 2009-10, a $2.8 million hike that more than eclipses the $1.4 million rise in state aid. Most of the aid increase will be used to offset the charter-school hit, Gallon said, and it will not "have a significant impact directly on students in (the district)."

Plainfield has Union County's only four charter schools. The district's budget for such facilities has increased almost tenfold, from $1.2 million to more than $11 million, in a span of seven years, according to Gallon.

If the online version is updated, I will post the link to it later.



Screenshot of Plainfield aid from state's website.
(Click on image to enlarge or print.)


You can search the state's database of aid by any school district here.



-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Should the PMUA be reined in?




Democratic candidate for mayor Adrian Mapp has an OpEd in the Courier which they have titled "City must rein in PMUA excesses" (see online here). It is also on Mapp's campaign blog (see here).

Mapp proposes to --
  • Save Plainfield ratepayers money
  • Make PMUA services tax-deductible
  • Safeguard frontline PMUA workers' jobs
  • ...and more
-- by re-integrating PMUA services into the city.

So Plainfielders have an opportunity to weigh in, I am posting a POLL (see the top of the right-hand column): 'Should the PMUA be reined in?'

What can YOU do?
  1. Vote on this important public issue.
  2. Email this post to all your friends, encouraging them to a) Vote, and b) pass the email along.

-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Burned Plainfield boy airlifted to St. Barnabas




A young boy who was burned by scalding was airlifted from Hub-Stine to St. Barnabas about 8:30 PM on Monday.

Running late getting to the Council's agenda-setting session, I happened upon the scene at the corner of North Avenue and Gavett place around 8 PM, outside the Islamic study center, where there were several police cars and Muhlenberg's Mercy 6 ambulance.

As I pulled past the gathering and looked for a place to pull over, the Plainfield Rescue Squad came up North Avenue from Park.

The youngster, who bystanders said lived on the block, was quickly driven away to Hub-Stine Field where a medevac was waiting.

When I got home, there were two emails in my inbox from neighbors in the Hub-Stine area advising of the medevac.

There is a breaking news item in the Ledger online here.



-- Dan Damon

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Burney moving to give Mayor Sharon the keys to the family car again?




Give Mayor Sharon the keys to the family car again?


With
the IT proposal her administration is expected to present -- make that RE-PRESENT -- at tonight's agenda-setting session, Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs wants Plainfield's City Council to give her administration the keys to the family car once again.

Plainfield City Council President Rashid Burney has a couple of good points about the Information Technology (IT) situation.
Writing on his blog As I See It last Saturday, Burney says --
...Leaders of organizations do not do plans. They lay out goals and objectives. To the citizens, employees and shareholders, they explain the benefits of taking the recommended steps and the pitfalls of NOT taking the recommended steps...
Using the example of President Obama's Iraq strategy, he points out --
...to increase the odds of success [Obama] has to lay out the following:
1. Clear, time bound objectives
2. Get the best people for the job
3. Make sure the people have the tools, the authority and the resources.
4. Ask his people to come up with a plan
5. Get periodic updates
All this is good and pretty much unexceptional stuff, but Councilor Burney's thrust is problematic.

What it seems to be doing is setting the public up for a light and fluffy presentation this evening of what the Robinson-Briggs administration is going to RE-PROPOSE for Plainfield's IT situation.

Not addressed is WHY the Robinson-Briggs administration should be given the green light to FIRST HIRE a pricey IT director (as a cabinet-level employee, mind you) and THEN give that person the assignment of developing a plan, building a bureaucracy staff, and implementing the plan.

It appears we are being faced with an attempt by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs to hire someone ALREADY PRE-SELECTED, whose job performance is said to be the subject of intense scrutiny by the agency for which this person works.

Mind you, this is the same administration that has --
  • Run through FIVE Directors of Finance and Administration in a little over three years, has
  • No full-time Chief Financial Officer, and has been
  • Cited by its accountants for spending funds without purchase orders.
Wouldn't Plainfield taxpayers be better served by exercising a little fiscal responsibility? Say by hiring a consultant with PROVEN COMPETENCE IN THE FIELD (read: references, plenty of 'em, that you actually CAN and DO check) to put together a REAL IT PLAN for the city?

And then, with a plan in hand, to conduct a REAL JOB SEARCH for a REALLY EXCEPTIONAL CANDIDATE?

Who knows, in today's market and with all the tech weenies who live in Plainfield, the Robinson-Briggs administration just might find someone. Just not the someone they already have in mind.

Why should this gang be given the keys to the family car yet again?



-- Dan Damon

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Four options for budget-strapped towns like Plainfield



Paterson's Joey Torres has an idea: Cut!

With a final budget not yet on the horizon and only three-plus months to go, the Robinson-Briggs administration might want to take a page from Joey Torres' playbook.

That's Joey Torres, mayor of Paterson, which is facing a $3 million shortfall in state aid.

In today's Bergen Record (see story here), Torres lists four options facing the city -- and, by extension, other cities such as Plainfield that are similarly situated:
  1. A furlough plan (expected to save $2 million for Paterson in the remaining 3 months of the fiscal year)
  2. A salary deferral plan
  3. Freezing overtime
  4. Reducing operating expenses
So far, the Robinson-Briggs administration has come up only with a layoff plan for one.

Welcome to the Queen City.


-- Dan Damon

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