Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs has heard from the tenants of Connolly Properties about their many -- and justified -- complaints.
And here is what she proposes --
- Tenants should learn how to file complaints;
- If tenants would organize, she would offer City Hall Library for monthly meetings;
- Robinson-Briggs 'expects' to attend the July 17 hearing at which Connolly Properties is expected to appear in municipal court.
Good, but not good enough.
When I studied for the ministry, I was deeply impressed by the teachings about 'cheap grace' by the German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhöffer, brutally executed by the Nazis after he was implicated in the failed 1944 assassination attempt against Hitler.
Bonhöffer got the term from a sermon by the legendary Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., pastor of Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church, where Bonhöffer taught Sunday School while a student at New York's Union Theological Seminary.
As Bonhöffer put it, "cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross", in other words, getting off the hook scot free.
Mayor Robinson-Briggs needs to do more. This is no time for cheap grace, for the mayor or for Plainfield.
Mayor Robinson-Briggs and the Council need to address the root problem: failure to have ongoing, planned and purposeful inspections of multi-family rental properties as proposed by the ordinance she and the Council rescinded in 2006.
Inspections with teeth. Inspections that would go a long way to resolving issues with Connolly Properties and other neglectful landlords. Inspections that would help ensure the safety and well-being of Plainfield's 'other half' -- the tenants who make up half the city's residents, but are seldom thought of by elected officials.
Anything less would be settling for cheap grace.
Or, as President Obama would say, empathy is fine, but empathy demands more than this.