Delivered to 15,000 Plainfield "doorsteps" Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Baseball shenanigans: Mayor pours water on open wounds

QCBL supporters lined up to address the Council.

Having failed to derail the Queen City Baseball League (QCBL) by throwing up roadblocks despite the QCBL's vow to cooperate with the city's rec division, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs was forced to take another tack at Monday's Council session.

As reported by Plainfield Sports News in August, 2008 (see here), with the demise of the P-PAL league the QCBL was created to fill the gap in youth baseball programming not then being filled by the city's recreation division (see the QCBL website here).

The Rec Division, despite its wonderful fields, facilities and lighting at Rock Avenue, did not offer any baseball league in the 2009 season.

This past October, QCBL supporters came to the Council crying foul when the city's rec division -- with a grant for uniforms and equipment in hand -- announced plans to establish a rec division baseball league which would monopolize the city's fields, leaving the independent, volunteer-based, and successful QCBL in jeopardy.

In December, when coaches, players and supporters of the Queen City Baseball League spoke to the Council, the Council, visibly annoyed with the Administration's handling of the matter, voiced support for the QCBL, suggesting the city should hold off on creating a rec division league until the QCBL was oversubscribed.

Matters bubbled over again in March, with the rec division reserving all the city's field's for its own league
(see here), prompting further protests by QCBL supporters.

This past Thursday, mysteriously changed locks (even the DPW didn't know they had been changed) at the Rock Avenue fields led to the cancellation of one of two games, sending half the young baseball players home in tears (see here).

While Council President Annie McWilliams had made room at the beginning of the meeting to hear from QCBL representatives, as the proceedings went on a few speakers spoke on behalf of the Rec Division League, provoking murmurs from QCBL supporters.

It is hard to understand why these non-QCBL speakers took to the floor since the existence of the Rec Division league is not contested and the QCBL has no quarrel with the rec league -- unless they were put up to it by the Mayor.

The whole thrust of the QCBL's remarks to the Council were that differences between adults should not keep kids from playing baseball. QCBL speakers repeatedly said they were willing to work things out equitably and fairly with the City so that both leagues could use the public fields and amenities.

Council President McWilliams had to remind several speakers favoring the Rec Division league of the need for respect of the Council, telling a man at one point that if he did not stop interrupting and step back from the table while another person had the floor that she would have to have a police officer remove him. Giving the impression he was not used to being told what to do by a woman, the man edged backward in the smallest 'step' I have ever seen. But he did then remain silent.

QCBL youngsters sat patiently while the adults talked.

When supporters of the QCBL had finished airing their concerns, Council President McWilliams offered the floor to Mayor Robinson-Briggs to respond.

As if her remarks were scripted by an email of complaint that had been widely circulated, Mayor Robinson-Briggs addressed QCBL's concerns, offering an apology for the Thursday evening episode, assuring everyone there was no maliciousness involved, and that the QCBL banner which had gone missing would be replaced by the city.

Rehearsing her version of a history of the interactions between herself and the QCBL (in which she is the one who is always timely and gets back to people), she concluded by saying that 'everybody is not going to get everything they want', but that she had an 'olive branch' to offer.

Wherewith, in best Lady Bountiful fashion, Mayor Robinson-Briggs reached under the table at which she was sitting to produce bags overflowing with peace offerings -- bases for both leagues ('not suitable' someone said sotto voce), lots of other baseball-related goodies, and topped it all off with word that she was also donating eight cases of water.

(As if anticipating a question from fellow blogger Jim Pivnichny, she turned toward him and said that everything was paid on her AmEx. The mayor did not make clear that she would not be asking for reimbursement.)

While Councilors Carter, Storch and Burney had comments and questions, attempting to clarify and resolve the situation, it was Councilor Mapp who annoyed Mayor Robinson-Brigg by saying, ' the end of the day, the buck stops with you; unless you give direction to [the Recreation Division], we'll be back at this table again...the QCBL didn't come here tonight looking for handouts, they came looking for a solution...'

Mapp hit the nail on the head.

Unless Mayor Robinson-Briggs gives UNEQUIVOCAL DIRECTION to Rec Division Director Dave Wynn to be fair and equitable in allocating fields and other resources -- AND holds him accountable -- everyone will be back at the table again.

It will be frustrating for the QCBL coaches, parents and supporters.

It will be traumatic for the youngsters who just want to play baseball and don't understand why adults do the things they do.

And it could be a nail in the coffin of a very stubborn mayor who wants to portray herself as supportive of all Plainfield's children when in fact, she favors some and is unspeakably mean to others.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.


Anonymous said...

I must admit Dan, there are wonderful sports fields in this town. Two hurrahs for whoever takes care of them. Now if only the Yankees would come to the Green Brook Park field [as I was told as a child] I would be truly happy. Opps the walking bridge to Plainfield was washed out, need to call the County!

Anonymous said...

They mayor never offered a concrete solution to the problem.

When is she going to meet with the QCL to work things out?

Who is she meeting with from the league?

Who is the point person for the city to whom the QCL should speak with?

Why cannot the taxpayers use their field?

Who is responsible for this fiasco and will they be held accountable?

And as for the mayor's highly unprofessional remark to Councilman Mapp that the election is over - Well mayor, we know that. You won and we are paying dearly for it.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the field paid for by the taxpayers? Who is this person who refuses to allow taxpayers to use their field?