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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

75 Plainfield nonprofits in danger of losing tax-exempt status

According to the IRS, 75 Plainfield nonprofits are in danger of automatically losing their tax-exempt status if they don't act by October 15.

You may be surprised to find that several well-known Plainfield organizations are on the list of those who should have filed with the IRS between May 17 and October 15 of this year.

Among well-known groups that the IRS says must take action soon are --

  • Prince Hall Lodge, F&AM
  • COFFEE (the Firefighters organization)
  • Crescent Educational and Cultural
  • FMBA Local #7 (Firefighters)
  • Frontiers International
  • Kings Temple Community Development
  • Masjidullah Soup Kitchen
  • PAYTDA (the community Tennis Foundation)
  • Public Education Foundation of Plainfield
  • VFW Memorial Post #7474
The list also includes less well known groups (Juneteenth African-American Heritage, the Welsh Society of Central Jersey, the Young Men's and Young Women's Polish Association of Plainfield) as well as several that were once very active in Plainfield but have since passed from the scene --
  • Ars Musica Antiqua
  • Ballet Folklorico Sentir Criollo
  • Grant Avenue Community Center
  • PEDCO (Plainfield Economic Development Corporation)
The IRS notice page is online (see here) and there is a link to the complete New Jersey list in Excel spreadsheet format (see here).

To make it easier for Plainfielders, I have saved out just the Plainfield section of the IRS spreadsheet and put it online (see here, or the embedded document at bottom of this post).

IRS policy automatically revokes the tax-exempt status of nonprofits which do not meet their requirement of annual filing for THREE CONSECUTIVE YEARS. One-time relief is being offered to the organizations on the Plainfield list, but action must be taken quickly.

Though there has always been a rule about the filings, in the days before the Internet, it was usually honored in the breach (I have been associated with several small nonprofits over the years which often forgot to file the 990s). Now, however, with modern databases published online, your organization can disappear forever without even the touch of a button, and that's a little scary.

Organizations concerned about their status or believing the IRS is in error can also call (877) 829-5500.

    -- Dan Damon [follow]

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    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Development: Interactive, historical maps for Plainfield area

    So, OK, the headline is slightly misleading. These great interactive maps are for the whole of New Jersey, including Plainfield.

    They come from a link in yesterday's NYTimes story about New Jersey's 'last million acres', which I finally got time to read last night (see here).

    Unless you've been living under a rock for the last thirty years, you know that
    SPRAWL has been the dominant New Jersey story for years.

    Even mostly-built-up Plainfield has not escaped. Literally hundreds of units of housing -- from condos and townhomes to the luxury offerings of Hovnanian off Woodland Avenue above Muhlenberg Hospital -- have risen over the past couple of decades, proving that change is everywhere, Plainfield included.

    Left hand pane shows point selected, right pane shows aerial view
    in slideshow of several historical photos.

    Not only that, more is on the way, or at least proposed to be on the way.

    Whether you are concerned about what the complete 'building out' of New Jersey may mean for our future quality of life, or if you are just curious to get a historical perspective on development in our area, you will want to check out these interactive maps.

    The project (see website here) is a project of Rowan University's geospatial labs and Rutgers.

    In addition to the interactive maps (here), there is a downloadable report (here, PDF) on the study.

    The maps have two panes -- the left-hand map preview, and a right-hand view of the subject area with several historical aerial views.

    Simply zoom in on the left hand map to the detail you are interested in and click to center the view. The right hand window will reflect the location you clicked. You can click to re-center as often as you like, and it accepts the tiniest of moves. If you are interested in an area that is 'off screen' simply drag the map when a hand shape appears in any direction you like. (It's a hybrid of Google maps and historical aerial views from Bing.)

    There is also a feedback mechanism (see here) for you to offer more information, corrections, or to report problems with the data.

    Map geeks, on your mark!


    -- Dan Damon [follow]

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    Two new blogs swell Plainfield blogger ranks

    Nat Singleton's blog debuts today.

    Two new blogs join the Plainfield blogosphere today: Nat Singleton, prompted by Jerry Green's misinformation, is blogging back at Dumbed Down America, where his 'Welcome' post sets out the reasons he is blogging and his vision for the blog.

    Vashon Hill's student blog joins the lineup today.

    Vashon Hill, president of the Leadership Project, is blogging at A Student's Prospective, with a host of topics looking forward to the new school year. The Leadership Project, which is serving both Jefferson and Cook schools has a mission statement that includes --

    The Leadership Project is an investment in the future of the Plainfield Public School District and it’s community. Its purpose is to broaden awareness and develop leadership skills in a select group of students, motivating them to become positive role models, active and committed to their community responsibilities.

    "We are prepared to do whatever it takes to help our future students achieve high academic standards"
    I hope you will find them both interesting, informative and another part of your essential daily Plainfield 'fix'.

    This brings the total number of regular (and semi-regular) Plainfield bloggers to NINETEEN as far as I can tell. Can any other community of similar size boast so many?

    Beginning tomorrow, both will be integrated into the daily updates on the CLIPS blog here.

    -- Dan Damon [follow]

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    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    Sandford Avenue bridge reconstruction

    This sign was my first clue the bridge was being reconstructed.

    Plainfield's location as a transportation crossroads helped make it a regional market town in the days before the insult of highway strip malls and regional shopping centers.

    And that was facilitated by the large number of crossings (20) of the Green Brook, which separates Plainfield and North Plainfield, Union and Somerset Counties.

    Coming home the 'back way' from Watchung Square Mall recently, I came upon the roadblock pictured above, the first I was aware that the Sandford Avenue bridge was being reconstructed. (Later I noticed a sign on East Front Street -- at the foot of Westerveld Avenue -- announcing a detour via Richmond Street.)

    Though signs do not indicate a completion date, if previous experience is a guide it will probably be late spring of 2011.

    Since the bridges benefit both counties, I have been told the arrangement for maintenance and reconstruction is that all bridges from Somerset Street east are Union County's responsibility and those from Madison Avenue west are Somerset County's. That would mean Union County is doing the work.

    Unresolved is the fate of the Geraud Avenue bridge, which has been closed for many years after structural damage from flooding. The two councils and county officials have had several meetings but no final decision has been reached about what to do, leaving the street essentially a dead end (if crude and unsightly) in each community.

    Equipment used to strip away old  road surface.
    If you're curious, the TWENTY bridge crossings of the Green Brook are, from west to east: Jefferson Avenue, Rock Avenue, Clinton Avenue, West End Avenue, Geraud Avenue (closed), Sycamore Avenue, Washington Avenue, Grove Street, Madison Avenue, Somerset Street, Watchung Avenue, Roosevelt Avenue, Westerveld Avenue, Sandford Avenue, Norwood Avenue, Farragut Road, Netherwood Avenue, Leland Avenue, Raymond Avenue and Terrill Road.

    There are also FIFTEEN railroad bridges on the Raritan Valley Line of NJT, which passes through Plainfield: Rock Avenue, Clinton Avenue, Grant Avenue, Plainfield Avenue, Liberty Street, New Street, Central Avenue, Madison Avenue, Park Avenue, Watchung Avenue, Roosevelt Avenue, Richmond Street, Berckman Street, Leland Avenue and Terrill Road.

    These have all been reconstructed and repainted, as a result of public pressure on New Jersey Transit by longtime Plainfield activist (and current Board of Ed member) Rasheed Abdul-Haqq.

    (It would be nice if NJT got around to taking down the many detour signs still left at various points around town.)

      -- Dan Damon [follow]

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      Pedestrian struck, medevaced

      Overnight Saturday in Plainfield, a pedestrian was struck and seriously injured at the corner of Park Avenue and Randolph Road -- the site of the Muhlenberg satellite ER.

      The victim was medevaced to RWJ Medical Center in New Brunswick owing to problems getting an ambulance in timely fashion, I have been told.

      This just underscores once again the medical transportation difficulties. If the Plainfield or North Plainfield Rescue Squads are on a call -- meaning to JFK or Overlook or RWJ -- they are essentially 'out of the water' for an hour or more due to travel times to and back.

      And upwards of 70,000 residents of the two towns are left without coverage.

      -- Dan Damon [follow]

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      Saturday, August 28, 2010

      Library: Book sale, appeals for 'Library Champions' kick off

      Dad was shelling out for this brother-and-sister team's selections.

      The Plainfield Public Library's annual -- and MONSTER, this year -- Book Sale kicked off Friday morning with a preview for 'bookies'.

      Intending to take some pictures to illustrate this post, I nevertheless succumbed to the lure of the 6,000+ books neatly arranged in categories around the pool area. Some shoppers carried shopping baskets over their arm, which were filling up as they cruised around the pool. I knew that would be deadly -- as it was, I escaped with only four books. (But I know I will be back!)

      Part of the irresistible lure is that several thousand of the books available (most in pristine condition) were donated by Plainfield activist Mike Ramos who had been asked to clean out the apartment of the late Robert Kern, where they were discovered. Many will remember Mr. Kern from his long service as factotum to Vicky Griswold in the Plainfield Music Store.

      Banner inviting all to become 'Library Champions'.

      Visitors could also become a 'Library Champion', joining the Library's new advocacy organization. Those who join sign on to be counted and pledge to tell others how the library has helped them personally, to remember that support for the Library now helps the children of tomorrow, and to lobby elected officials -- if needed -- for better funding.

      The little brochure outlining the 'Champions' program has some great quotes about the importance of libraries (at least one quite unexpected) --

      Pete Hamill, columnist --
      In hard times, libraries are more important than ever.
      Maya Angelou, poet --
      My encouragement to you is to go tomorrow to the library.
      Ward Burton, NASCAR driver --
      Teenagers can discover the pleasures of reading and gain the power of knowledge by going to libraries. With that power, they will be invincible.
      Craig Silverstein, Director of Technology, --
      My guess is it will be about 300 years until computer are as good as, say, your local reference library in search.
      Oh, yes, what did I find so compelling I just HAD to have them?

      • Len Deighton's City of Gold, a mystery-thriller centering on the hunt for the Nazi general Rommel's master spy in wartime Cairo;

      • Richard Lingeman's Small Town America, a narrative history of same from 1620 to the present (I'm a small town kid at heart);

      • Richard Hooker's History of Food & Drink in America, especially looking forward to the sections on 'drinking and drinks' at various periods; and

      • Joseph & Frances Gies' Life in a Medieval Castle, where I expect to learn all about cooking and sanitation.
      So, what's waiting for you with your name on it?

      Plainfield Public Library Book Sale

      In the Pool Area on the Ground Floor
      During Regular Library Hours

      Park Avenue at West 8th Street

      All are welcome!

      -- Dan Damon [follow]

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      Friday, August 27, 2010

      Has Logan-Leach exposed BOE (=taxpayers) to liability?

      BOE President Lisa Logan-Leach and member Renata Hernandez,
      at right in photo of May 7 joint Council-BOE meeting.

      [A power outage yesterday delayed this post.]

      Have the actions of Plainfield Board of Ed president Lisa Logan-Leach around the abortive 'emergency' meeting of May 7th exposed the Board (read: taxpayers) to legal liability?

      Maria Pellum has posted a large cache of emails between Logan-Leach and various parties obtained through OPRA requests. I find the sequence dealing with the May 7 'emergency' meeting of particular interest (see post here).

      What can we learn from the emails and what questions do they raise?

      Logan-Leach sent the text of the resolutions (a scan of the original handout is online here; the text of the resolutions is at the top of Maria's string of emails) to the Board office at 12:35 PM the day of the 'emergency' meeting.

      • Question: Who composed the text of the Resolutions (suspending Gallon and Kemp, appointing Ottman acting CSA, terminating Hunt, Hamlin and Ridley, and appointing Weiner Lesniak as Counsel?

      • Question: If the Resolutions were composed by Weiner Lesniak and Logan-Leach relied on that firm's advice rather than the contracted Board attorneys, did Logan-Leach expose the Board to liability in case of civil actions regarding any of the resolutions?

      • Question: Were the conditions for an emergency meeting met (under the criteria of the Open Public Meetings Act)?

      • Question: Was the Board going to be under the protection of 'acting on advice of counsel' if it met and took up the mysteriously-prepared resolutions?

      • Question: Why is the proposed switch of Board attorneys to Weiner Lesniak an emergent matter?
      Logan-Leach asserts that the 'request and direction for [the meeting] come directly from the County Superintendent's office' and 'every aspect of this meeting is in full compliance as per the county and the commissioner's office'.

      • Question: Does this mean the County Superintendent was aware of, and approved, the inclusion of the hiring of Weiner Lesniak and the termination of Hunt, Hamlin and Ridley as Board attorneys?

      • Question: Does this mean that Commissioner Schundler was aware of, and approved, the inclusion of the hiring of Weiner Lesniak and the termination of Hunt, Hamlin and Ridley as Board attorneys?
      The naked grab for the Board's business implied by Weiner Lesniak partner Mark A. Tabakin's (see profile here) emails to Logan-Leach raises the question of attorney ethics, in my opinion.

      Do not lawyers have any code of ethics about soliciting business from parties who have an existing contract with another firm?

      Even real estate professionals (of which I am one) have a Code of Ethics forbidding the solicitation of a client's business while they are under contract to another broker. With the penalty of a fine.

      Do not lawyers rise to even this level of ethical accountability?

      Are lawyers no better than used car salesmen?

      No wonder Shakespeare held the opinion of them he did (see here).

      Regardless of all that, the chief question concerning Plainfielders (and their pocketbooks) is whether Logan-Leach's actions will yet cost us dearly.

      And that we may not know for some time.

      -- Dan Damon [follow]

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      Thursday, August 26, 2010

      Happy Birthday, Bill!

      Pomfret No. 4 School, where I learned some of life's most important lessons:
      Reading, writing, arithmetic and citizenship.

      A very happy birthday to my brother Bill, for whom Plainfield might as well be on the far side of the moon -- living as he does in hot, sunny and dry Tucson, Arizona, with my lovely sister-in-law Barbara (BJ to all).

      His present this year was two vintage photographs: one of the three-room country school we attended as kids (Town of Pomfret School No. 4, Laona, NY) and a photo of his teacher, Mrs. Hortense Ellis, with her Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 students.

      Mrs. Ellis' 'Room', 1948.
      Many happy returns!

      -- Dan Damon [follow]

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      Wednesday, August 25, 2010

      Are angry homeowners a sign of historic preservation's demise?

      A mansion in the Hillside Avenue Historic District.

      Angry Plainfield homeowners crowded last night's Historic Preservation Commission meeting, protesting a rumored new historic district and presenting a petition in opposition to Commission chairperson Sandy Gurshman.

      Is this robust negative reaction a sign of
      historic preservation's demise in Plainfield?

      I wouldn't go that far, but it does seem that historic preservation is in trouble.


      When I landed on these shores going on thirty years ago, I was thrilled one day to find Gail Hunton (now the HPC's technical consultant) photographing my West 7th Street Victorian for inclusion in a citywide study of historic buildings NOT in Plainfield's historic districts. (A copy of that study is available in the Planning Division and at the Plainfield Public Library.)

      Moving out from New York City, we were part of a significant number of newcomers who were gambling that an investment in a Plainfield home would be paid off as the city recovered from the economic tailspin that had been brought about by the flight of downtown stores to Route 22 strip malls which was exacerbated by the riot of the 1960s.

      Plainfield's historic districts (at that time Crescent Area, VWB, Hillside and North Avenue) were new, enthusiastically embraced, and held out the hope of being engines of Plainfield's recovery.

      I think it fair to say those hopes were instrumental in driving Plainfield's real estate surge through the 1980s and 90s and into the new century.

      But as real estate appreciated and handsome profits were extracted from homeowners' investments, Plainfield's situation changed.

      Though issues persisted (primarily the public schools and crime), Plainfield was no longer 'iffy'. It attracted a far different clientele, many of whom were content to live in Plainfield and shop elsewhere, who did not use the public schools, and whose main concerns were neighborhood safety and cleanliness.

      For those who lived outside the existing historic districts it is safe to say that historic preservation was not even on their radar.

      This was a very different Plainfield from when the Historic Preservation Commission was established.

      When I first moved here, one of the other enticements of historic preservation was the prospect of TAX BREAKS for preserving old buildings. Those tax credits have long fallen by the wayside, and with them any real economic incentive to get on the bandwagon.

      The only historic districts in the community with active membership groups are Van Wyck Brooks and Netherwood Heights. None of the others has a real core group of advocates and supporters who maintain an organizational presence and have regular meetings and programs -- though Maria Pellum struggled in vain to get one going (again) in the Crescent Area.

      Details of the Governor Runyon house in the Crescent Area HD.

      There are probably many reasons for robust support groups to have fallen by the wayside -- issues may seem less urgent with the HPC to enforce the rules, people work harder and longer with less time for such activities, and the much-touted 'value boost' for historic properties seems to have vanished along with the overall market as we grapple with the Great Recession.

      Meanwhile, the HPC, which has never really lived up to its mandate to EDUCATE around historic preservation and has never turned its attention to residential neighborhoods north of 7th Street (except for the proposed 'St. Mary's HD', which never came to fruition), seems to have come to view itself more and more as the arbiter of facade issues with properties in the existing districts, with occasional forays over issues with potential economic impacts (such as the case of the proposed Abbott Nursing Home expansion in the VWB district). And that's it.

      It's almost as if there were parallel worlds, that of the HPC and that of everyone else.

      So, when folks began to get the idea that a new historic district was in the works, and there was no communications effort (flyers, informationals, news items in the press) by the HPC, the stage was set for last night's encounter.

      Discussion of the study proposal of an area roughly bounded (it seems) by Woodland Avenue and the blocks facing Kensington Avenue, and from Hub Stine Field to Watchung Avenue, broke out into the open at last night's HPC meeting.

      The Commission did not seem to be prepared for the intensity of homeowner opposition to any proposed district.

      On their part, many of the homeowners who spoke were uncharitable toward the Commission and its motives and misinformed or uninformed about the process in which the HPC was engaged, certainly making it difficult for respectful dialogue.

      Where will things go from here?

      The HPC has 'might' on its side. It has the power to study and propose a new historic district to the Planning Board, which would then have to decide to recommend its creation to the City Council.

      Homeowners last night repeatedly used the word 'fair' -- or rather the LACK of fairness -- to describe their feelings about the current state of affairs.

      Is it too late for the HPC to mount a communications and education campaign?

      It may not be too late, but there may not be the will for such an effort (this is, after all, a volunteer group, with limited resources).

      And, when all is said and done, will Council members be willing to commit to a district in the face of intense organized opposition by homeowners?

      What do you think?

      -- Dan Damon [follow]

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      Hispanic gangs feud in weekend stabbing, machete attack

      MS13 gang tag spotted at 6th & Arlington.

      Plainfield, it appears, is also facing rising violence among Latino gangs, as witness two incidents from this past weekend.

      I am told that the stabbing incident on West Front Street on Saturday reported in Plainfield Today on Sunday (see here) and in the Ledger today (see here) was gang-related.

      Saturday's stabbing (and stomping) is said to be by members of a local branch of MS13 who attacked a man said to be a member of the 18th Street Gang.

      On Sunday afternoon an Hispanic male said to be a member of MS13 was attacked in the 500-block of West Front Street by a group of Hispanic males, one of them hacking his arm with a machete and nearly severing it.

      This attack, not yet publicly reported, is said to be by members of the 18th Street Gang in retaliation for Saturday's attack.

      I am also told that a previous incident on North Avenue several weeks ago may be related to the same feuding groups.

      Tag showing MS13 as killers of 18th Street Gang.
      MS13, or Mara Salvatrucha (see here) is a gang that originated in Los Angeles but is now found countrywide, also being involved in the deadly drug wars taking place in the Mexican states along the border with the U.S.

      18th Street gang tag.
      The 18th Street Gang also originated in Los Angeles (see here) and has spread throughout the U.S. as well. It is sometimes referred to as 'The Children's Army' because of its recruitment of school-age youngsters.

      While these two gangs may operate relatively invisibly from the point of the view of Plainfield's dominant 'Anglo' culture, we do not yet have any idea of their impact on the city's growing Latino community.

      Meanwhile, as the Robinson-Briggs administration contemplates making the expensive (starting at $1M, with annual fees of $100,00 or so) foray into gun-spotting technology, it is important to note that NEITHER of these incidents involved guns.

      ShotSpotter, it seems, will be no defense against machetes and knives.

      -- Dan Damon [follow]

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      Tuesday, August 24, 2010

      Historic Preservation Commission: Several key properties up tonight

      340 Franklin Place among properties on tonight's HPC agenda.

      Plainfield's Historic Preservation Commission will take up three key properties at tonight's meeting that may be of interest to readers --

      200 Park Avenue

      Once the headquarters of United National Bank, this magnificent building is an anchor of the North Avenue Commercial Historic District. Developer Frank Cretella is proposing to add a fifth floor on the roof of the building (not visible from the street level) to house a nightclub. Ah, dining and dancing under the stars in Plainfield. Why not?

      209 West Second Street

      The Titsworth-Sutphen House is another element in the
      North Avenue Commercial Historic District. It served for quite a number of years as United National Bank's Community Resource Center (one of the best outcomes of the Community Reinvestment Act locally I can think of). In preparation for his proposed West Second Street Commons, Cretella and PNC Bank are proposing relocation of this early 19th-century structure. Any takers?

      340 Franklin Place

      This magnificent Victorian, which has suffered two decades of indignities -- including the removal of its wrap-around porch and the gutting of its original interior details -- has new owners who are looking to convert it to a four-family. Assuming the HPC will guard the building's exterior, allowing the conversion is certainly a better solution for the neighborhood than tearing the building down.

      Historic Preservation Commission

      Tonight | 7:30 PM

      City Hall Library
      515 Watchung Avenue
      Parking and entry at the rear of the building

      Public welcome

      -- Dan Damon [follow]

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      Lesson for Plainfield IT? Westerville goes to Google Apps

      Home page of City of Westerville, Ohio.

      Is there something for Plainfield to learn from Westerville?

      Westerville, Ohio is shifting its network operations to Google Apps.

      The city is considerably smaller than Plainfield (at 35,318 vs. 47,829 in 2000), but has an EQUIVALENT WORKFORCE of about 500 who rely heavily on email, according to a notice on Google's enterprise website concerning the shift (see here). (The item caught my eye because Westerville is home to my alma mater's sister institution, Otterbein University.)

      After issues with scaling Novell's Groupwise to the increasing needs of the city's networked workforce reached a crisis point, their two-person IT team reconnoitered possible solutions. (For an outline of their IT objectives, see here.)

      Here is how they addressed the challenge --

      ...[w]hen we decided that GroupWise was no longer feasible for our city, we conducted a comprehensive evaluation that included the top hosted solutions, including Microsoft's hosted BPOS. We came away impressed with Google Apps' value and features. Google's solution was platform-agnostic, so we could easily support users on a variety of platforms. It was also less costly and came with capabilities like document sharing and Google Sites for building intranets. We felt that we could accomplish more with Google Apps for less money.

      Our migration of all city departments – which included bringing over every single email, as well as calendar events and contacts – took just six weeks. We didn't lose data and we never had a major issue.

      Our move into the cloud has freed IT staff time to focus on projects that provide more value to the city, departments, and the residents. We now have time to invest in new IT initiatives to help us grow our economic base. For example, we are working to build a newly-approved community data center – or 'community cloud' as we call it – which will provide access to services for small and medium business owners that typically only larger corporations enjoy. As far as we know, it is the first community data center in the country...
      -- as detailed on the Google Enterprise blog (see here).

      Google is hosting a live webinar this afternoon at 2:00 PM, at which Westerville's IT team of Todd Jackson and Bryan Mundy will discuss how they came to their decision to move 'to the cloud', how it is freeing them up for additional IT initiatives, and how it is saving their city money.

      The webinar is free, but you must register. If you are interested, check it out here.

      While you're at it, check out Westerville's well-organized and attractive website (see here).

      -- Dan Damon [follow]

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      Plainfield Art Festival: Will rain deal a death blow?

      Festival used to draw artists from the tri-state area.

      The 47th Annual Plainfield Outdoor Festival of Art is slated for Saturday, September 4 at Library Park.

      Whether rain will be the death of the fair is an open question.

      It is raining as I write this, which caused me to review the festival's in-case-of-rain arrangements on the event flyer (downloadable here, PDF).

      I have commended the Robinson-Briggs administration before for taking on the Festival after the original Central Jersey Chamber of Commerce committee disbanded.

      Unfortunately, the festival -- once renowned for drawing artists from the tri-state area -- has suffered declining participation by artists and craftspersons ever since, as well as declining attendance.

      I don't know whether it is because of the change of date from mid-July (many artists and craftspeople are booked years in advance), the challenge of recruiting is too big (it must be carried on all year-round), or the marketing needed is beyond the abilities of the Recreation Division (targeted advertising is a must, meaning MONTHS in advance of the event). In any event, the festival is struggling.

      And the in-case-of-rain arrangements could be the coup-de-grĂ¢ce.

      Once again, vendors and the public will be directed to Washington Community School in the event of inclement weather.

      What's wrong with Washington School?

      Nothing, except that it's too far from Library Park, not easy for vendors or visitors to find, and has extremely limited parking.

      I raised these issues with the Recreation Division the first year they ran the festival, suggesting that the Plainfield High School cafeteria makes more sense.

      Consider these advantages --

      • PHS is right up the street from Library Park (you can actually SEE it);

      • The PHS cafeteria is spacious and accessible directly from the parking lot;

      • There is more than enough parking for vendors AND visitors; and

      • Signage needed in case of a venue change would be easy -- how much simpler than an arrow can you get?
      Alas, the flyer remains unchanged despite promises that Rec would consider it.

      Maybe they did consider it, and decided the convenience to the vendors and public was just not all that important.

      And maybe the whole festival was so important that it didn't even demand a fresh flyer.

      Just a repeat of last year's with updated date info.

      Now there's a real recipe for success.

      47th Annual Outdoor Festival of Art

      Saturday, September 4
      10 AM - 4 PM

      Library Park
      West 8th Street and Arlington Avenue

      -- Dan Damon [follow]

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      UPDATE: South Plainfield shooting death Plainfield gang-related

      Authorities have charged Plainfield resident Harold Tucker in a gang-related
      South Plainfield murder.

      The shooting death of Plainfield resident Qadir Ali-Muslim, originally reported by Plainfield Today yesterday (see here), is said to be gang-related according to South Plainfield mayor Charles Butrico as quoted in the Ledger (see here).

      Authorities have charged another Plainfield resident, Harold Tucker (see above) with the murder.

      The Courier reports that the woman who was reported shot on Sampton Avenue, also yesterday by Plainfield Today, evidently took her own life
      (see here).

      -- Dan Damon [follow]

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      Monday, August 23, 2010

      Jawdropper at gunshot-detection technology hearing

      During last Thursday's Plainfield Planning Board presentation on the proposed gunshot-detection technology, a jaw-dropping statement was made concerning response times.

      Councilor Storch was closely quizzing Director Hellwig about the percentage of gunshot incidents responded to currently and response times, as compared to the proposed technology.

      The statement was made that the Police Division currently responds to 25% of gunshot incidents, but would be responding to 100% with the new technology. (Left unexplained was whether the 25% current number represented an ESTIMATE of the total number of incidents, or whether there is only a 25% response to  KNOWN incidents -- an important distinction that should be clarified by someone.)

      But the jawdropper came when Storch was quizzing about response times and Capt. Steve Soltys offered an example of a call coming in about gunshots on West 8th Street but the Police Division's response being delayed because the Spanish-speaking caller spoke no English and 'the language line' had to be deployed (presumably a live, interactive phone translation service), which added to the response time.

      Does this mean that Plainfield's 911 team has shifts on which there are no Spanish-speaking operators at all?

      That is not a good situation for the public's safety.

      Something more the Council needs to look into?

      -- Dan Damon [follow]

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      Plainfield man, woman shot to death Sunday

      A Plainfield man was shot to death in the South Plainfield Best Western motel Sunday night, I have been told.

      In a separate incident, a Plainfield woman was shot on Sampton Avenue, also in South Plainfield, and died at JFK Medical Center after being rushed there by ambulance (see here).

      It is not known if the incidents are related, or if they are related to the ongoing gang warfare in Plainfield.

      One small benefit to Mayor Robinson-Briggs and Public Safety Director Hellwig is that these two homicides will be reflected in South Plainfield's crime data, not Plainfield's, since it is where the deed is done that counts, not what may have led up to it.

      -- Dan Damon [follow]

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      Sunday, August 22, 2010

      Gang shooting, other violence and possible arson Saturday

      Four gang-related incidents in recent days are highlighted in red.

      Plainfield's string of shooting incidents continued overnight Saturday, with a male being shot in the leg in the 600-block of Clinton Avenue.

      This followed an earlier incident at West 3rd Street and Rushmore Avenue, where shots were fired. No one was hit, but police recovered a handgun at the site.

      I'll bet both are gang-related -- the shooting incident is just steps away from Lyman Place where a man was shot in the back Thursday night. A car had been stolen in front of a convenience store in the same area last weekend, possibly to be used in the gang shootout that took place in front of a West Second Street building in the Housing Authority's Elmwood Gardens complex.

      Last night's shootings bring the total since early May to at least 22 shooting incidents, with at least 18 persons injured and one death.

      Mayor Robinson-Briggs' Tuesday night walks through various neighborhoods continue. The administration went before the Planning Board for a second time on Thursday, trying to get the gunshot-detection technology put on the city's capital improvements plan.

      To date, the Robinson-Briggs administration has not come up with an overarching plan for addressing the root issues behind the rise of gangs and any concerted effort to head them off.

      Everyone agrees there is no possibility of arresting our way out of this, so what is Robinson-Briggs going to do?

      As if the gang-related violence weren't enough, early Saturday evening saw two other incidents --

      • The playground equipment at BUF's daycare at West 7th and Central Avenue was burnt up completely, possibly arson, and

      • A Hispanic male was stabbed and beaten by a group of Hispanic men on West Front Street; the victim was transported by ambulance to RWJ.

        -- Dan Damon [follow]

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        Attorney General avoids Friday night Plainfield 'ambush'

        Fewer than a dozen people were on hand at Plainfield's St. Mary's School Friday evening for an announced meeting of Attorney General Paula Dow with the Hispanic community, when organizers told those present that the AG would not be coming.

        Sources later told Plainfield Today that the Attorney General's office made inquiries and, upon finding that no other local Hispanic groups had been invited (other than Carmen Salavarrieta's Angels in Action, which organized the event) and that there was no agenda for the meeting, the office declined to make the Attorney General available.

        While there certainly are real issues to discuss in the matter of relations between Latinos and the police -- as well as other issues in Plainfield (gangs?) -- the Christie administration is apparently prepared to rebuff the Robinson-Briggs administration if it will not engage the broader community in attempting to address the issues.

        Salavarrieta and the Robinson-Briggs administration need to take note that 'ambushes' are not a good tool for problem-solving, in Plainfield or anywhere else.

        -- Dan Damon [follow]

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        Saturday, August 21, 2010

        Kean U. website boasts historic Plainfield photos

        Home of Alexander Gilbert, early Plainfield mayor, at West 8th Street and Central Avenue.
        While an apartment complex is now on the site, the home to the right is undergoing restoration.

        A treasure trove of early Plainfield photographer Guillermo Thorn's pictures is being mounted by Kean University Library on its ContentDM website (see here).

        Many thanks to Plainfield Public Library Director Joe Da Rold for the heads up.

        Thorn (1837-1920) was an early photographic chronicler of Plainfield life and people, operating out of his home and studio on East Second Street with a long career that spanned the decades of Plainfield's explosive growth as a post-Civil War railroad suburb attracting a wealthy elite of Wall Street bankers and financiers and executives in some of America's largest corporations.

        The Plainfield Public Library holds a sizeable collection of Thorn's images, some of which have been organized as part of its online survey of Plainfield in photographs from 1870 to 1970 (see online exhibit here).

        Kean's images are from a collection of more than 300 Thorn items that came into the possession of Prof. Frank Esposito in the late 1980s and are now part of Kean's holdings. He and his colleague Donald Lokuta organized the material into both an exhibit mounted in 2005 and a book (published by Kean U. Press as Victorian New Jersey: Photographs of Guillermo Thorn and released on the 100th anniversary of Kean's founding) -- see more here.

        Plainfield's own Jean Mattson, former president of the Historical Society of Plainfield, worked with Esposito and Lokuta to research much of the Plainfield material. Much background information on the photos was supplied by Mattson, who at the time was also on the faculty of Kean University.

        To use the Kean collection website, go to its home page (here) and click on the BROWSE link which will take you to the two pages of items currently online. Clicking on any image will bring up a large version of that item, with the available background information.

        Note that the CONTACT US link at the bottom of the page is not yet set up (you get a blank email). For more information regarding the collection or to supply background information on any of the images, contact the Kean University Librarian, Luis Rodriguez, at (908) 737-4646 or by email here.

        -- Dan Damon [follow]

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