The needler in the haystack.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Smiley, Stender & Green to face off on Harvest Radio


One unexpected result of the Plainfield mayoral candidates' forum last Wednesday is a faceoff on Harvest Radio (1070 AM) between three candidates for the 22nd Legislative District's Assembly seats -- Rick Smiley and Jerry Green of Plainfield and Linda Stender of Fanwood.

Smiley, who had not received an invitation to the forum organized by the newly minted and Sharon-friendly Women For Progress in Plainfield, had challenged the sponsors as to why Linda Stender was not present and had not been invited to the forum.

Harvest Radio, Plainfield's only AM station, picked up on the oversight and invited all three candidates to appear on Monday afternoon's 4 PM talk show, where listeners can call in.

Smiley had pointedly noted that though he is viewed as running against Jerry Green since both are from Plainfield, the fact is that Assembly seats are at-large in the district, so technically he is running against both Stender and Green for one of the two seats.

Stender, though she was given the line by the Union County Democratic organization, has not campaigned, nor have I spotted any signs for her around the district. Jerry does, however, mention her name on his signs -- which are paid for by HIS campaign committee. (How this must gridge him!).

Meanwhile, word in the street is that Stender is not really interested in the Assembly seat at all and has been actively lobbying for an appointment to the Board of Public Utilities, which would protect her state pension.



-- Dan Damon

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mapp gets threatening phone calls after candidate forum



Adrian Mapp shares a moment with activists Carol Bicket
and Dorothy Henry at Senior Center dedication.


Plainfield Councilor Adrian Mapp, running against Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs in the June 2 Democratic primary, told authorities on Friday that he had received two threatening phone calls after the Wednesday candidate forum held at the Plainfield Public Library.

In an email to the media Friday afternoon, Mapp says he alerted both Plainfield Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig and Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow.

Mapp continued, saying he thinks the language indulged in by Mayor Robinson-Briggs and Assemblyman Green may have encouraged the phone calls --

...[i]t saddens me that the kind of personal invective indulged in by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs at Wednesday's candidate forum -- and by Assemblyman Jerry Green on his blog -- may have encouraged an unstable person to believe they are furthering the cause of Mayor Robinson-Briggs or Assemblyman Green with this sort of behavior.


Incidents like this underscore how important it is to keep campaign rhetoric focused on issues and facts, and not demagoguery.


I told the authorities that though I did not know the name of the person making the calls, I thought I recognized the voice and believed I could point the person out. I believe it to be the same individual who made disparaging remarks to me at the end of Wednesday’s candidates forum at the Plainfield Public Library...

It would be nice to know that neither the Mayor nor the Assemblyman condone such harassment.


-- Dan Damon

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Mayor Sharon coddles City Hall criminality




A close examination of criminality at City Hall raises the question of why Mayor Sharon -- who touts herself as having 'reduced crime in Plainfield by 300 percent!' -- coddles criminal activity when it takes places at City Hall.

Here is a partial list of City Hall crimes and Mayor Sharon's involvement --
$135,00 SPENT WITHOUT COUNCIL APPROVAL

Mayor Robinson-Briggs' first City Administrator, Carlton McGee, with her approval was inclined to spend city funds without going to the Council, as I reported back in December 2006 (see here) -- involving payments to an Information Technology consulting company in which McGee was said to be an undisclosed principal, and whose bid documents were incomplete. McGee is long gone, but Mayor Sharon is with us still.


$25,000 PAYMENT BEFORE SERVICES PERFORMED

Mayor Robinson-Briggs also let McGee pay an insider consultant friend of his $25,000 to help float bond anticipatory notes he had forgotten were rolling over -- IN ADVANCE and WITHOUT COUNCIL AUTHORIZATION (see here). I tell you, people go to jail for this stuff, but not under Mayor Sharon.


$41,000 MISSING FROM TAX COLLECTOR'S OFFICE

Mayor Robinson-Briggs has never brought the person who stole an entire deposit (approximately $41,000) from the Tax Collector's office to justice. I originally reported back in 2006 (see here) and was told by police sources that a 'forensic investigation' was under way. Mayor Sharon has resolutely avoided answering questions about the missing money, what she knew or when she knew it, and why she didn't do anything to the perp.


MISSING HEALTH DEPARTMENT CASH RECEIPTS

When it became known that the monies paid in cash by a restaurant for its Health Certificate renewal were never deposited, even though the employee had given the owner a receipt for the cash, a ruckus ensued. What did Mayor Sharon do? She fired the Health Officer who was pursuing the matter. Though the Health Officer later won reinstatement, with back pay, by an Administrative Law Judge, no employee was ever prosecuted for the theft. How's that for protecting Plainfield's taxpayers from crime?


MAYOR'S BODYGUARD & MISSING PBA FUNDS

When one of Mayor Robinson-Briggs' personal bodyguards was charged with writing checks on the PBA's accounts for his personal use, it is said that the Mayor intervened with the Prosecutor's Office on behalf of the cop, who has since had to resign from the force, though in a plea deal no guilt was admitted.


MISSING CHANNEL 74 EQUIPMENT

When Mayor Robinson-Briggs fired PCTV 74's original staffer, an inventory of thousands of dollars worth of equipment was signed off on by Craig Smith, then the City's purchasing agent, when the staffer inventoried the equipment and went over it with Smith. After Robinson-Briggs hired new staff, reports began to circulate that much of the equipment -- including cameras, VCRs, editing decks, computers, and software to run the community bulleting board -- had disappeared. After inquiries, the Mayor has yet to give a reply or match any current equipment with the inventory submitted by the departing staffer and certified by Smith.

So, with a record of coddling City Hall criminality, what should the voters do on Tuesday?

How about voting for a candidate who truly stands for law and order?

Adrian Mapp.



-- Dan Damon

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Jerry Green bullies Board of Elections?



Recently, I learned that a poll worker who has worked the Neighborhood House polling stations for over twenty years was inexplicably reassigned for this year's primary to Maxson School.

Upon calling their contact at the Union County Board of Elections (website here) to inquire as to why the move was being made, the poll worker was told that Assemblyman Jerry Green had called and personally requested the transfer.

Another perk of power?



-- Dan Damon

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Message from Darlene McWilliams about Relay for Life



I am reprinting below an email from Darlene McWilliams, chairperson this year's Relay For Life, which begins tomorrow at 6:00 PM. Please come out and support this event. You can read the Courier story online (see here) and get more information about how to participate at Annie McWilliams blog (see here). Also note that the ReMax Hot Air Balloon will be present in support of the event from 5:00 PM onward, offering tethered balloon rides in support of the cause (thanks to Robert K. Graham!).

Hello All,

If you have received this message twice, I apologize. I recognize some duplications in my email list.

I can't tell you how excited we all are! We are quickly approaching our Relay for life Event in Plainfield. We have some exciting events planned. Participating in this years event are our own Former Governor Jim McGreevey, Our School Superintendant Dr. Steve Gallon, The award winning Soumas Heritage School of Music, some outstanding jazz and R&B Bands, Mr. Donald Van Blake, many of Plainfield's outstanding youths, and many more!

Since moving to Plainfield over 22 years ago, my family and I have thrown ourselves into the community. But upon the loss of my husband Al, I for a moment didn't see how I could move on with my life, I didn't want to do anything but "lay down and die." I can't believe that it has been more than 2 years now. During those two years I discovered that almost everyday I was approached by someone who had experience cancer themselves or had been the caregiver for a loved one. I have been touched and renewed by their stories and I am more convinced than ever that Plainfield's fighting spirit is needed in the effort to fight this evil disease. WE NEED YOUR ACTIVE SUPPORT.

For those of you who know me, you know that I am not afraid of asking for the dollar! We need your financial support. We can wish all day, but we need the funds to fight the disease and to provide services for those who are in need. The funds raised by our community will be used to support the people of our community.

Yes, these are tough times. But if we can get another 1000 of our citizens and their friends to give 25 dollars each, that would be another 25 thousand dollars. These are tax deductions!

By logging onto our website (see here), you can still participate. It is not too late! See the attachments above for even more opportunity to participate. Go on and find a team that you want to support...and by putting in a few dollars you can help us to meet our goal of $65,000.000.

Thank you a million times for anything that you can do. We hope to hear from each of you.

Respectfully,

Darlene McWilliams

Come on out!




-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mayoral meltdown in front of packed forum. Why was Jerry there?


Mayor Sharon lost it in front of the large audience at
Wednesday evening's candidate forum, but don't let me get ahead of myself.

The Plainfield Public Library's meeting room was jammed to the rafters for Wednesday evening's candidate forum (though at perhaps 150-60, the turnout was less than half that at the Shiloh forum on May 12).

There were several jaw-droppers during the course of the evening.

Folks (including even most of the Mayor's claque) were startled upon arriving to find Assemblyman Jerry Green sitting smack dab in the middle of the crowd of candidates.

This had, after all, been billed as a MAYORAL candidates' forum.

Jawdropper #2: It turns out Rick Smiley, running against Jerry as the New Dem candidate did NOT receive an invitation to the event. A quick-witted attendee called him (what ever did we do before cell phones?) and Smiley rushed over from a campaign event in another 22nd District community.

Arriving after the others had made their opening remarks, Smiley related how he came to know of the forum, saying everything he knew about it was that it was supposed to be a MAYORAL forum. He continued, asking where the 4th Ward candidates were, and why Linda Stender was not present since she is also running in the 22nd District and -- technically -- Smiley is running against both she and Green. He concluded his review of the circumstances by saying that he felt 'set up'. The crowd murmured in agreement.

All seven mayoral candidates, including Jim Pivnichny, the only Republican candidate were present, seated in semi-alphabetical order: Carol Ann Brokaw-Boles, Sharon Robinson-Briggs, Martin Cox, Bob Ferraro, Adrian Mapp, Pivnichny, and Tom Turner. (By rights, Robinson-Briggs should have been filed under 'R'.)

The questions were more or less of a general sort and candidates pretty much stuck to their guns, with talking points they have previously put out in their literature or on their blogs (see links here).

There were some fireworks, however.

A question on the PMUA was perhaps the liveliest of the evening, and the moderator threw the ball first to Brokaw-Boles.

Let it be said that while she is a highly-educated and evidently capable person, she is no public speaker and could hardly be heard past the first few rows (failing to use the orator's standby of rising to be able to project and be better heard -- which Smiley did quite effectively).

Her speaking manner aside, Brokaw-Boles came across in an us-vs-them manner ('Some of you are even putting dead animals in your garbage.') and caused another jaw-drop moment when she closed her remarks in defense of the PMUA by saying 'JUST WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR...THERE'S A DOUBLE-WHAMMY COMING'. Not exactly a phrase to warm voters' hearts.

(Aside: Brokaw-Boles said that part of the problem with the PMUA's rates arises from the fees it must pay to the Union County Utilities Authority for dumping Plainfield's solid waste. This would be a VERY SORE POINT with Plainfielders if they understood the POLITICS of the matter -- the PMUA could haul its trash to other outlets that are CONSIDERABLY CHEAPER, but Union County politics demands that Plainfielders get scalped by the Union County Utilities Authority. This is a point that Brokaw-Boles failed to bring out.)

Cox suggested cost-cutting alternatives such as fewer pickups. Pivnichny thought ratepayers would benefit from use-based fees: Use it heavier, pay more; use it less, pay less. Ferraro probably should not have spoken on the question, since he cost the City a quarter million dollars defending against his frivolous lawsuit when the agency was set up -- and failed to mention that he has been on the PMUA payroll the past few years thanks to Jerry Green's intervention.

Robinson-Briggs and Tom Turner took aim at management issues and the lavish trips top executives and Commissioners are accustomed to taking on the public dime to questionable conferences.

Mapp graciously acknowledged the points made by the others about the PMUA, but pointed out that it was he -- in March -- who not only pointed out issues with the agency, but proposed that Plainfield taxpayers could save doubly by folding the agency back into the city: First by reducing the fat in the executive salaries and perks, and secondly, by putting the fees back onto property owners' tax bills, opening the possibility for deducting on income taxes.

He also got off a good line on the PMUA's lavish lifestyle by noting that last year the PMUA submitted a $6,000 bill to the Council, asking to be reimbursed for the wining and dining by a former Council member while on PMUA junkets.

The applause that erupted during the various comments on the PMUA signaled that this is a BIG issue with voters, without regard to the camp they are in (with the possible exception of Brokaw's supporters).

In discussing roads, Robinson-Briggs had an uphill battle convincing anyone she had done much of anything about the issue -- despite reading through a long printed list -- since the real thrust of Mapp's argument is that she basically dropped the ball for three whole years and is now trying to play catch-up while voters have their fillings shaken loose driving across town every day. Good luck!

With time growing short, the moderator asked the audience to vote by a show of hands on three remaining questions: Muhlenberg, business development and police and security. With only one hand raised for police, the audience was pretty much evenly split between Muhlenberg and business development.

The moderator chose to go forward with business development.

And that is where I have questions about the structure of the whole evening.

The freshly minted Women for Progress in Plainfield, which put together the forum, turned out dressed in red -- the mayor's signature campaign color -- and this show of partiality could not be eclipsed by the 'faux League of Women Voters' procedures: pencils and cards, timekeepers, and a literature table.

In the first place, campaign literature was allowed -- which the LWV would NEVER do, and which the Library forbids.

Secondly, the moderator was the first person to applaud, after Mayor Robinson-Briggs' remarks, setting the stage for further applause throughout the evening. The LWV moderators are always very strict about this, warning audiences that applause cuts into candidate time -- and what, after all, are we really there for?

Third, several people called my attention to the fact that the moderator already had pre-prepared question cards when things began, and that Mayor Robinson-Briggs had prepared sheets from which she read, giving the impression the questions (and her responses) were scripted.

I will give the moderator points for adhering to the time limits and not allowing ANY candidate to digress in their answers.

Why wasn't the Muhlenberg question taken up instead?

Several attendees commented in the parking lot that they thought it was purposely avoided because this is an issue on which both Robinson-Briggs and Jerry Green are vulnerable.

In fact, when Robinson-Briggs was detailing (at excruciating length) her organizational activities and memberships, she OMITTED ANY REFERENCE to the fact that she is a member of the Muhlenberg Hospital Board and that she has NEVER ATTENDED SO MUCH AS ONE BUSINESS MEETING of same. (She did, however, say she 'teaches' at Essex County College, which a faculty member in attendance last evening disputes as false on its face. Turns out she gave a guest lecture. Hardly counts as 'teaching'.)

But the final jaw-dropper of the evening was the MAYORAL MELTDOWN.

Closing remarks were somewhat rushed because of time constraints, and when the Mayor's turn came (she was second, after Brokaw-Boles), Her Honor jumped up and began to make PERSONAL ATTACKS on each of the other candidates, beginning with Brokaw-Boles and continuing -- alphabetically -- down the table. Except for Assemblyman Green.

Her voice rising almost to a scream, the audience was so taken aback that a hubbub broke out and people began to challenge what was being said.

The moderator saved the meeting from turning into a melée by shutting the Mayor down and moving on. Robinson-Briggs sat trembling and visibly agitated throughout the rest of the forum.

I have to say, it reminded me of the old days -- tons of folks, supporters of all sides and plenty of uncommitted folks, and lively interaction.

A good time, had by all -- or almost all.


-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Unanswered questions about Jerry's financial dealings linger






Jerry's page on the Alman Group website (click to enlarge).

Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green has never come clean with the voters about his clients when he was with The Alman Group, what payments he received, and what he did for the money.

Rumors have circulated for years that Green was on a $60,000 a year retainer to lobby on behalf of Muhlenberg Hospital, even before the hospital's corporate parent, Solaris Health System hired the Alman Group in 1999(citation).

Green resigned abruptly as the group's Vice President for Local Affairs after a Gannett series on influence-peddling broke the story of his previously undisclosed relationship with the firm (citations one, two, three).

Interestingly, in the story(citation) where Jerry defends his 'consulting' work, he is compared with Sharpe James, Wayne Bryant and Joe Coniglio -- three senators who all have since been convicted on corruption charges (they were all sitting at the time of the 2007 story).

While Jerry took pains to say he was only 'consulting' and not 'lobbying'
(citations one, two, three), reasonable people might find that a distinction without a difference.

Especially when you look back at the Courier's 2007 story on Jerry as 'King of the Queen City'(citation) --

"...Albio Sires couldn't help but laugh at the irony. The New Jersey congressman and former Assembly speaker had given Green the opportunity to be a deputy speaker in 2002. And Green gives Sires credit for "opening doors" for him.

But Green would still bust down his doors in his persistent effort to get state aid for the Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center in Plainfield.

"He was in my office every single day trying to save that hospital," Sires recalled...

In addition to getting charity-care funding for Muhlenberg, Green also saw to it that the hospital was able to conduct emergency angioplasties, even without cardiac surgery on site, after their application to do [so] was denied in 1997.

"Jerry was very helpful in petitioning the Commissioner of Health ..." said John P. McGee, chief executive officer and president of Muhlenberg...

In 2003, Jerry proposed a $150 million plan to build a new elementary school on the Muhlenberg campus and retire the hospital's (then) $24 million debt. The proposal would have involved building a multi-level parking deck to free up enough land for the new school. At the time Green said, 'If I can't put this proposal together, Muhlenberg is heading toward getting closed' (citation).

The plan, which would have sidestepped the state's monitoring process and put the awarding of contracts in local hands (a recipe for corruption if ever there was one), eventually came to naught.

As the voters approach whether to give Jerry the nod for another two years in the Assembly, it would be nice if he came clean with who his Alman Group clients were, what 'projects' (his word) he performed for them, and how and how much he was paid.

Oh, and why he resigned from the Alman Group so abruptly after he was caught out failing to disclose the financial relationship.



-- Dan Damon

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Jerry and Sharon try to mug Mapp over crime data


Like muggers waiting in an alley with aluminum baseball bats, Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and Assemblyman Jerry Green attacked mayoral candidate Adrian Mapp at a hastily called news conference Tuesday afternoon, trying to argue for an over-rosy view of crime in Plainfield.

The Courier (see here) and the Ledger (see here) both covered the media event, with comment by Mapp.

Keeping Robinson-Briggs on a short leash, Assemblyman Green inserted himself into what should have been merely a local event.

While Robinson-Briggs claims violent crime is down, she omitted mentioning a shooting over the holiday weekend that left a man with life-threatening wounds. Instead, Director Martin Hellwig goes to great lengths in today's Courier (see here) to point out that a 17-year-old who smashed several windshields after a fight with his ex-girlfriend is being sought.

This is the kind of twisting of Plainfield's crime situation that has voters so upset. Who knows whether figures cited by Hellwig are reliable, since he appears to give out only information that paints the Robinson-Briggs administration in a favorable light?

It appears from the news conference that Robinson-Briggs may have abandoned her laughable and unsupportable claim that violent crime is down 'by 300 percent' (an impossibility which,
politely, neither the Courier nor the Ledger refer to).

Mapp focuses on crimes that affect more residents more directly -- home invasions (like the one Maria reports today -- see here), burglaries and car breakins and thefts -- and makes a simple claim:

"The people of Plainfield need to feel safe from burglaries and property crimes, too. It's appalling to have a mayor who calls a press conference to dispute numbers that were put out by the uniform crime statistics."
The Mayor may get another chance to talk about crime tonight -- in response to questions at the candidate forum (6:30 PM, Plainfield Public Library).


-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Will Sharon show for Wednesday's candidate forum?




Some Plainfielders wonder if Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs is trying to avoid debating her rivals in the five-way Democratic primary race.

Since the campaign season began, she snubbed two previous opportunities -- a forum at Shiloh Baptist Church and a call-in program on Harvest Radio.

The Shiloh forum, organized by its pastor the Rev. Dr. Gerald Lamont Thomas and attended by hundreds, is the best-attended candidate event political junkies can remember.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs failed to show, claiming she had 'an important meeting with the Governor', a highly dubious statement at best (unless she has become one of his private dining companions) which I commented on previously (see here).

Before that, Robinson-Briggs failed to show up at a call-in program on May 7 at Harvest Radio, leaving candidate Adrian Mapp a half-hour's solo appearance. No explanation was offered.

So, will Mayor Sharon show up Wednesday evening?

Although other candidates are marshaling their supporters to attend, my hunch is Mayor Sharon would find it almost impossible NOT to participate, if only because the organizer of the event -- the newly-formed 'Women for Progress in Plainfield' -- is essentially a cheerleading group, sort of a 'Friends of Sharon' posing as a community-wide organization.

Does that mean you should skip the forum?

By no means!

Whether or not the forum appears stacked or unfair, anyone who considers the direction Plainfield will take in the next four years important owes it to themselves -- and to Plainfield -- to come out and hear the candidates and see for themselves how well-suited each candidate appears to become the city's next mayor.

And who is not.

Bloggers: Sharpen your pencils!


^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Mayoral Candidate Forum

Wednesday, May 27
6:30 PM
Plainfield Public Library


-- Dan Damon

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day observance at 10 AM



War Memorial, with inscription that troubled VFW.

Plainfielders will honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in a Memorial Day observance today at 10 AM, at the War Memorial on the corner of East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue.

The ceremony is co-hosted by VFW Post 7474 and American Legion Post 219.

For the history of Memorial Day and Plainfield's War Memorial flagpole, see previous posts here --


-- Dan Damon

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Plainfield's Memorial Day ceremony



Plainfielders will honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country on Monday, May 25, at 10 AM, at the War Memorial on the corner of East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue.

The ceremony is co-hosted by VFW Post 7474 and American Legion Post 219.

For the history of Memorial Day and Plainfield's War Memorial flagpole, see previous posts here --


-- Dan Damon

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Plainfield must return more than $400K to State



Plainfield will have to return more than $400,000 to the state after it mistakenly credited the 37 Urban Enterprise Zone communities with funds meant to go instead to the state's property tax relief fund, according to a list reported in Saturday's Ledger (see here).

Under Mayor Robinson-Briggs, the city's UEZ drawdowns have included paying for public entertainment and police salaries.

Though the story broke last week (see here), Mayor Robinson-Briggs has not publicly acknowledged that Plainfield has to return any funds.

The UEZ program is supposed to enhance the businesses of selected older communities.

Plainfield is one of the earliest cities to be placed in the program, a benefit of which is that consumers only pay half the state sales taxes at participating UEZ zone businesses.

For businesses, one of the benefits is that certain capital expenses by member firms are free of sales taxes, a selling point made by the late Mayor Al McWilliams in attempting to set up a 'Medical Enterprise Zone' in the area of Muhlenberg Hospital, a plan that was abandoned without explanation by Robinson-Briggs.

The Medical Enterprise Zone would have benefited medical practices and labs that have to invest in expensive equipment such as MRI scanners and other essentials. (On a $1M piece of equipment, the tax savings would be $75,000 -- nothing to sniff at.)

In turn, Muhlenberg would have benefited from more doctors affiliating with the hospital and referring patients to it. Instead, Robinson-Briggs simply turned her back on any attempt to forestall the closure of Muhlenberg when efforts at that time could have had beneficial results.

In contrast to Plainfield, communities like Vineland, where the UEZ was wisely separated from political control, have developed not only a long-range business growth plan, but a revolving loan fund for businesses that ultimately reached more than $50 million.

Under Robinson-Briggs, Plainfield has had no such long-term plan or vision, just treating it like a piggy bank for the mayor's pet projects.


-- Dan Damon

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Court strikes down standardized OPRA request forms, impacting PMUA




Life just got easier for Plainfielders who make use of the state's Open Public Records Act (OPRA) to request public documents -- including those of the PMUA -- thanks to a big boost from a state appeals court Thursday.

Ruling in favor of the Union County Watchdog Association, the three-judge panel ruled that standardized forms go against the legislative intent to give the public 'unfettered access to government records'.

The court ruled that custodians of public records -- which include the City, the School District and the PMUA -- must honor written requests however filed as long as they identify who is making the request and specifically what records are wanted.

This is interpreted to include requests by letter, fax and even email.

OPRA requests have been in the spotlight in Plainfield recently as the PMUA has stonewalled the citizens' group DumpPMUA (see website here) over requests for public records. While the city has put its downloadable OPRA request form on its website (see here -PDF), thanks to Municipal Clerk Laddie Wyatt, one will search in vain on the PMUA website's forms page to find an OPRA request (see here).

Today's Ledger reports the story (see here) and CountyWatchers has posted a statement on its website (see here). The full ruling is also available as a PDF file (see here).

Suffice it to say that Union County spokesperson Sebastian D'Elia is not happy at losing yet again to the feisty Tina Renna and the UCWA.


-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Comments: Mayor and 'cop caper', Jerry on Estevez


Plainfield Today has gotten a couple of interesting comments overnight --

  • Regarding the 'cop caper', someone who sounds like they might be a cop says there will be no consequences for the deed (see comments on 'Jerry confirms cop caper').

  • As for Jerry's attack on Estevez over his wife's employment by the school district, a comment notes Jerry's family member's salaries (see comment on 'Jerry's attacks on Estevez')



-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mayor Sharon photo opp at new Senior Center today




Plainfield senior citizens will get a first look at their new Senior Center at 11 AM this morning, when Mayor Robinson-Briggs is scheduled to host a ceremony there.

It's a good thing that the Seniors are finally getting their new center, and I certainly hope they enjoy it.

It's a bad thing that it is not what they were promised (size) or need (parking).

It's also a bad thing that it is not 'free' as Assemblyman Green is constantly touting. The city is now a glorified renter in the new building with a 13% share of the operating costs -- in perpetuity. Some 'free'!

This is in contrast to the original plan for the Senior Center, where the City would have owned the building outright and used rents from commercial/professional tenants to pay off the bonds, eventually turning the Center into a load-free asset for the City.

So much for the Assemblyman's 'positive' contribution. (Well, it is maybe, but to the UCIA, and not to the City.)

Jerry also said at a Seniors' meeting back when the project was being discussed that the Dornoch building would be 'just like Cranford Crossing', the condo project which is mere steps from that town's train station, includes a sizable parking deck, and is in an attractive shopping district.

Assemblyman, I know Cranford Crossing. I've been to Cranford Crossing. I've seen the Cranford Crossing shopping district. Assemblyman, this is NO Cranford Crossing.

And this is without taking into account the questionable transfer of the property to the UCIA for $1. (Since this was a 'development' project and not a REDEVELOPMENTproject, word is the property should have been offered to the HIGHEST BIDDER. Certainly it would have fetched more than a measly dollar, no?)

The builder, the politically well-connected Fishman family's Dornoch organization, which can't get it up in Rahway (see ongoing troubles with their Savoy project here), is delivering the goods for Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. Could it be because there is no mayoral race in Rahway this year?

Despite the fact that with upwards of twenty redevelopment plans on the books and seemingly countless projects being proposed, the fact remains that after three and a half years, Mayor Sharon can boast of only this one project's completion.

But have no fear, somehow I feel a political mailer coming on -- with a smiling Mayor Sharon, in front of the new building, perhaps hugging a worker -- telling us how lucky we are to be Living In The Promised Land Through Unity In The Community.



-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jazz pianist Ernie Scott plays Smiley benefit Thursday




Love jazz? Think Jerry's gotta go? Plainfielders can kill two birds with one stone when Plainfield's living jazz keyboard legend, Ernie Scott, plays a benefit performance for Assembly candidate Rick Smiley Thursday evening.

Scott, longtime friend of Smiley and his wife Belinda, will play for the delight of Plainfield's New Democrats and their friends at the Mapp-Smiley headquarters at 117-B Watchung Avenue, from 7:00 - 10:00 PM.

Light refreshments and beverages will be served.

Suggested donation: $25 at the door.

Come on out, have fun, support Rick and Adrian (or oppose another candidate of your choice).



Art for Democracy
Keyboard Stylings Of

Ernie Scott
Thursday, May 21
7:00 - 10:00 PM
New Dem HQ, 117-B Watchung Avenue
Suggested Donation: $25



-- Dan Damon

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Mayor Sharon: Math-challenged Artful Dodger?




Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs is in full campaign mode, dodging crime facts, exhibiting a truly weird math sense, and raising questions about her understanding of respecting boundaries.

CRIME IS 'DOWN'?
In Mayor Sharon's carnival-mirror world, 'crime' is down.

Depends on what 'crime' you are talking about.

Gang and gun crime are down slightly (5% -- from 485 to 461 incidents, according to Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig -- see here).

But the fact of the matter is that NONVIOLENT CRIME (read: home invasions, burglaries, robberies, car breakins, etc.) are UP -- not only up, but UP BY MORE THAN 12% over the previous year (see the Ledger's April 22 story here, a recent Courier story here, and candiate Adrian Mapp's blog here), and these are the crimes of which Plainfield voters are most likely to be the victims.

MAYOR SHARON'S WEIRD MATH
Claiming that murders are down 300 percent shows Robinson-Briggs' math is even weirder.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, consider the chart below --




What it looks like to reduce something by 300%.


So as not to damage any brain cells in checking her math, let's use an example any taxpayer can grasp.

Suppose for the sake of illustration that your annual property taxes are $5,000.

Using the chart above, you can see that if your taxes are reduced by 100% they will be at $0, as in the second column in the chart.

If reduced by 200%, they would be negative 100% as in the third column, and if reduced by 300%, they would be 200% below the zero line.

This would make you very happy, since the City would actually be paying you $10,000 instead of you paying the City.

Translating this to murders, it means that Mayor Sharon has undone murders -- from a high of 15 in 2005, to having brought 30 murder victims ... back to life?

Weird math.

ABOUT MAYOR SHARON'S CAMPAIGN PHOTOS
In the two mailers she has put out so far, Mayor Sharon has chosen interesting photos. The crime mailer shows her posing with three smiling cops, in uniform, apparently at some event.

Her previous huggy-kissy mailing piece pictured her with youngsters.

Were these photos of the mayor performing official duties and taken by her house photographer, Laurence Rice? If so, why is Mayor Sharon using pictures paid for on the public dime? Isn't that cheating?

On the other hand, it would just be a continuation of her ongoing inability to get the boundaries right between the political and the official -- think of the banner of her sporting a campaign button that is stretched across the front of City Hall.

THE ARTFUL DODGER
Charles Dickens created 'the Artful Dodger', a cunning pickpocket who became the leader of a gang of child criminals in Oliver Twist.

Pete Seeger and the Almanac Singers recorded an American folk song inspired by this character in 1941 (see here), including the following lines --
Oh, the candidate's a dodger, yes, a well-known dodger,
Oh, the candidate's a dodger, yes, and I'm a dodger too.
He'll meet you and treat you and ask you for your vote,
But look out, boys, he's a-dodgin' for your vote.

We have a dodger on our hands, folks, but is she an Artful Dodger?



-- Dan Damon

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

PHS security guard suspended after strip search

A Plainfield High School security guard has been suspended after a strip search of a 15-year-old female student, according to a report in the Courier News.

The report, which appeared in Friday's print edition, has not appeared online as of Sunday, May 17, and was transcribed by DD and posted online HERE.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Working on email situation

Will be spending weekend working on email situation.

Hope to have everything up and running by Monday.

Go work in the yard!

-- Dan

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jerry confirms cop caper under investigation




Assemblyman
Jerry Green has confirmed that a Plainfield police officer is under investigation.

I reported yesterday (see 'Will Mayor sweep cop caper under carpet?') that stories were circulating concerning the use by the officer of a Police Division van while on duty and in uniform to move personal belongings to a location in an adjoining community.

As usual with Green, however, one has to be careful in assessing what he says. Green writes in his blog, Jerry Green's Page, the following --
...[r]egarding the issue with the Plainfield Police officer, it is my understanding that the matter is under investigation. That being said, the officer will either be charged or cleared. No one is trying to sweep the matter under the rug. Nevertheless, if the evidence shows that the officer broke the law, then like anyone else, the consequences need to be applied to the officer. There are no double standards here...
Let it be known that Assemblyman Green is the FIRST ONE TO SUGGEST that the officer BROKE THE LAW.

In my humble opinion, and not being a lawyer myself, my guess is that the misdeed doesn't rise to the level of criminality. However, I could be wrong.

In any event, my concern is that there be no POLITICAL INTERFERENCE by the Mayor to avoid potential embarrassment while she is facing the Democratic primary on June 2.

While it may comfort some to see the Assemblyman write that, if necessary, 'consequences need to be applied to the officer'...and 'there are no double standards here', readers might also note that the Assemblyman does not call for a speedy resolution of the matter.

In which case, you might conclude it will be decided WHFO*.


*When Hell Freezes Over



-- Dan Damon

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Jerry's attacks on Estevez: Is Jerry losing it?



Would a spy-catcher be useful?


Plainfield Assemblyman
Jerry Green has attempted to slime Board of Ed member Christian Estevez for three days this week.

Estevez posted a measured response on his blog yesterday, asking why Green doesn't respect the privacy of the District's students and employees (see here).

Reasonable people might wonder whether the Assemblyman is going around the bend.

Let's see if we can sort out any facts from his increasingly hysterical rants.

On Monday, the day BEFORE the Board of Ed's weekly meeting, Assemblyman Green wrote
(see here) --
I am researching the policy on the books regarding the criteria for security at the high school for searching students, female students in particular. It is my understanding that ...School Board member Chris Estevez [is] trying to cover up such activities at the high school, situations where student’s rights are being violated.
On Wednesday, the day AFTER the BOE meeting, he had this to say (see here) --
A few days ago, I brought to the attention of the public an issue dealing with a young female whose rights may have been violated by a security guard at the Plainfield High School. Because the Mapp team controls the Board of Education, their point person, Christian Estevez, who is running on the New Democratic slate as a Committee person, is working very hard behind the scenes to not allow this to become public knowledge.
Thursday, the Assemblyman continued his attack (see here) --
Secondly Dan, Adrian Mapp, and Christian Estevez: Was a young, 15 year old female’s rights violated in the Plainfield High School recently, yes or no?
Leaving aside the tortured grammar, what can we parse from all this?

1. Assemblyman Green evidently knows something about a search of a 15-year old female PHS student by security staff.
Questions for the Assemblyman: Was it drug-related? Was it weapons-related? Was it theft-related? Was it justified? Jerry doesn't enlighten us.
2. Assemblyman Green asserts a cover-up.
Questions for the Assemblyman: Why aren't you accusing Dr. Gallon of a cover-up, since he is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the school district? Or are you -- indirectly? What makes you think Estevez was even aware of the search when you wrote? As a matter of fact, I am told the matter was brought FOR THE FIRST TIME to the Board on TUESDAY evening, the day AFTER Jerry wrote about it. Now, if Estevez didn't know about it until Tuesday, why didn't Jerry accuse Board President Bridget Rivers (who might be expected to know more in advance than other Board members) of a cover-up? Or why not accuse Jerry's own handpicked Board member, Lisa Logan-Leach? Jerry doesn't enlighten us.
3. Assemblyman Green fails to mention any Police Division involvement.
Questions for the Assemblyman: How is it that you come to know so much before the matter is even brought to the Board of Ed's atttention at a Board meeting? Were the police involved? Was a police report on the incident submitted? Did Lisa Logan-Leach, who processes incident reports in the Police Division have improper contact with Assemblyman Green, supplying confidential details about the incident? Jerry doesn't enlighten us.
4. Does Assemblyman Green have an anti-Hispanic agenda here?
Questions for the Assemblyman: Does Jerry have an anti-Hispanic agenda here? I have noticed that Assemblyman Green has gone out of his way to go after Christian Estevez ever since Gov. Corzine had the temerity to appoint Estevez to a statewide Hispanic (correction) immigration affairs panel. It bothered Green so much that he pulled strings to get a nominee of his own appointed -- Carol Ann Brokaw-Boles, PMUA chairperson and currently a candidate in the mayoral primary. Jerry doesn't enlighten us.
5. Doesn't Assemblyman Green believe in the rule of law?
Questions for the Assemblyman: If incidents such as the one Jerry refers to are to be handled by policies set up by the school district, in accord with New Jersey law, shouldn't Jerry point out where the rules have been broken or the law transgressed? Instead of slinging mud? Jerry doesn't enlighten us.
6. Do these attacks on Estevez have anything to do with Jerry not being able to pick the new Board president?
Questions for the Assemblyman: Jerry made phone calls on behalf of having his candidate Lisa Logan-Leach elected BOE president at the recent reorganization. A majority of the Board resisted and Bridget Rivers was re-elected. Did he make the phone calls as a 'citizen'? (I am reminded of Orwell's distinction that all citizens are equal, it's just that some are 'more equal'.) Jerry doesn't enlighten us.

7.
Where does Jerry Green get his 'inside' information about the Board of Ed and the School District?
Is Lisa Logan-Leach the source of all his knowledge of confidential school district matters? If so, is that an ethics breach? Should an ethics complaint be filed? Perhaps the first thing to do is bait a trap. George Smiley would have been most adept at that. Maybe Dr. Gallon and the virtuous Board members should take a look at Alec Guiness' portrayal in the two BBC series featuring the famed spy-catcher.
So, dear reader, is Jerry losing it? Or is he a wily slimer?

Or perhaps a little of both?


-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Will Mayor sweep cop caper under carpet?



Word in the street is that a Plainfield police officer who is close to Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and whom some credit as instrumental in her 2005 election, was videotaped in uniform, on duty, using a Police Division van to move personal items to a business location the officer has in a neighboring community.

And that the videotape is in the hands of the Police Division's Internal Affairs unit.

Some say the whole incident will be swept under the rug until at least after the June 2 primary, in which Robinson-Briggs faces Councilor Adrian Mapp and four other contenders.

Or will it?


-- Dan Damon

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Was DeFilippo cash to Green a payoff?




Was Jerry Green paid off by Charlotte DeFilippo to the tune of THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION DOLLARS?

Many Plainfielders are intrigued by the question of whether Assemblyman Green has improperly benefitted personally from his relationship with Union County Dem chairperson Charlotte DeFilippo.

Not many people know that Jerry grossed
THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION DOLLARS in the sale of a property he owned to the Union County Improvement Authority, of which DeFilippo is the executive director.

The transaction, which took place quietly in 2007, came to mind when I came across the following written by Assemblyman Green in a recent piece he titled 'Real Politics' (see full story here) --
...some elected officials use their power for personal benefit, while real politicians use their influence for community betterment.
A noble sentiment, but I wondered which side of the equation the Assemblyman is on.

Have you been lucky enough to sell any of your multiple properties to a well-juiced political operative? Well, why not?!

Windfalls of this magnitude don't just happen by luck. The stars, as they say, have to be aligned.

There is an old saying, 'A politician who is poor is a poor politician'. And this certainly seems to be true of the Assemblyman.

What intrigues me, now that the heat is being turned up on the investigation into DeFilippo's wheeling and dealing -- especially in real estate -- is whether the trail is leading to Plainfield.

Was Charlotte's Camelot Title Agency involved in the transaction?

Was there any quid pro quo?

Has Jerry made his contribution to DeFilippo's legal defense fund?

And will he need to be starting one of his own?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Should Jerry come clean? Vote now in the poll at top of the right-hand column.


-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Robinson-Briggs, Watson diss public, skip forums




MAYOR SKIPS FORUM
Some say Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs disrespected the voters Tuesday evening by failing to show up for the candidate forum organized by Shiloh Baptist Church's pastor, the Rev. Dr. Gerald Lamont Thomas.

I beg to differ. I think Mayor Sharon's opting to dismiss the event is evidence of her disrespect for the democratic process, where those who seek to lead the community come before the voters to present -- and defend -- their platform, record and point of view on pressing issues.

It had been rumored for weeks that Robinson-Briggs might not attend the event. The reason given Tuesday evening was that she 'had an important meeting with the Governor'.

Unless she dined privately with Corzine after hours, I think not.

The Governor's published schedule for yesterday showed that he was booked for the annual Governor's Conference for Women in Atlantic City (see more here). If this is the 'meeting with the Governor' of which Robinson-Briggs speaks, it doesn't wash since the conference concluded at 3:45 PM, plenty of time for Her Honor to get back to Plainfield.

Was this a fatal mistake?

I'm not sure, but it certainly fits with her style of only wanting to appear in generally friendly circumstances and avoid being bruised by public questioning (sort of like events organized for George W. Bush?). She has been noticeably absent from recent Council meetings except for huggy-kissy opportunities.

In any event, ALL the other candidates were on hand, made their pitch to the voters and answered questions posed by attendees.

Courier News reporter Mark Spivey was present and you can expect a story online later and probably in print Thursday.

WATSON THROWS EMPLOYEES TO THE WOLVES
At the same time as the mayoral forum, angry residents packed the Library's meeting room to discuss their frustrations with the PMUA (Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority).

Though organizer Pat Turner Kavanaugh had originally expected that PMUA Executive Director Eric Watson would attend, he instead sent operations director Howard Smith and PR person Erin Donnelly. How unlike President Obama, who steps right up to the plate when the hot potatoes come his way.

As with the Mayor, this was a serious blunder.

The two were not up to the task, a fact that was exacerbated by Smith's chauvinism -- he seemed to think it was all about him and hardly acknowledged Donnelly's presence, let alone treating her like an equal member of a team.

It's been many years since I've seen anything so baldfaced as this. Maybe Watson should include some consciousness-raising and team-building training in future junkets.

The meeting was wild and woolly, in part because of the extremely loose hand with which it was guided by its organizers.

Assemblyman Jerry Green put in a cameo appearance and made brief remarks, saying 'I'm not here to be critical...but there need to be some changes', before he left for the candidate forum at Shiloh Baptist Church.

When Green assumed the podium and began speaking without either being introduced or introducing himself, a man in the back of the room interrupted him, calling out 'And who are you?', at which attendees guffawed. Somewhat flummoxed, Green identified himself as an Assemblyman. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Eventually most folks did get to ask their questions and get some sort of response from the PMUA staffers.


For the most part, however, Smith and Donnelly appeared tone deaf about ratepayer concerns and their 'answers' fell mostly into two categories: either not answering the question at all, or using the Dashield-like 'I'll have get back to you on that'.

A case of the former was the homeowner who is on a Monday-Thursday trash pickup schedule who asked what to do about extra garbage when Monday legal holidays meant that he had excess garbage for the Thursday putout? Answer: You must not fill the containers so much the lid cannot be pushed firmly closed. The answer simply did not address the question of what is essentially offering a whole class of residents (those with Monday pickups) less service than all others.

An example of the latter came when asked why the sewer charges are so much higher than water charges, and why they are calculated on the previous year's usage. Though you would think the hapless employees would have been ready to handle this common question, they were not, and Smith fell back on the 'we'll get back to you' shtick.

DumpPMUA founder Phillip Charles spoke at length about the frustrations he had dealing with the PMUA's rigid and defensive bureaucracy, citing the experiences as motivating him to start his website (see here) and monitor and publish his findings about the organization.

While the anger of the ratepayers may yet translate into action at the polls, Charles shone a spotlight on an issue that may have more direct repercussions for the PMUA's haughty methods.

One of the issues that led him to file a suit against the agency is the most recent rate increases -- which have gotten people plenty steamed.

Though the rate hearing was held on January 26, Charles stated that the new rates went into effect on January 1.

This appears to be a big no-no.

One has to wonder what kind of legal advice Watson and the PMUA commissioners were given that allowed them to arbitrarily jack the rates before the public got to speak out on the matter. And how much they are paying for it.

One last example of PMUA tone-deafness: the next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 2.

That would be Primary Election Day, in which PMUA chairperson Carol Ann Brokaw-Boles is a candidate and, presumably, would be busy.

Not to mention the ratepayer-voters.



-- Dan Damon

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