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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Plainfield Violento: Mayor being set up for ambush?

Wilter Sanchez, a 34-year-old Colombian was attacked
by a group of 5 blacks in January 2009. (Photo, El Diario.)

[CORRECTION: New Jersey's Attorney General is, of course, PAULA Dow, former Essex County Prosecutor. Deborah DOWE is a Plainfield activist, supporter of the restoration of Muhlenberg Hospital and former City Council candidate. Apologies for the mistake. Also see my Friday post HERE updating the AG's visit. -- DD]

'PLAINFIELD VIOLENTO' screamed the front-page headline in Wednesday's El Diario (see story here, and in Google's 'translation' here).

The story features mayoral pal Carmen Salavarrieta prominently and my initial reaction was to remember the role Salavarrieta played in the 'ambush interview' North Plainfield mayor Janice Allen found herself caught in back in 2004 with Curtis Sliwa concerning the beating of resident Oscar Romero-Figueroa.

'My God,' I thought, 'is Mayor Robinson-Briggs being set up? Or maybe even Attorney General Deborah Dow?'

Word in the street for days now is that the Attorney General is scheduled to make a visit to Plainfield on Friday. Why? Guesses are that it's about the gang violence which has plagued the Queen City in recent months, AND police/Hispanic relations.

So, is the El Diario story a set-up, designed to embarrass the Robinson-Briggs administration?

Is it designed to cast the discussion of muggings and assaults against Hispanics EXCLUSIVELY as a matter of bias and thus set the parameters of any discussion the Attorney General may have?

I may be too paranoid.

The story rehashes mostly old -- I mean OLD -- incidents from 2004-2005, though one is from January 2009.

El Diario paints an incomplete picture, implying that ALL the incidents were bias attacks, saying then-Police Chief Edward Santiago 'preferred' (se prefiriĆ³ considerar
) to regard theft as the motive.

completely ignores the finding at the time by then-Attorney General Peter Harvey (see here) after a lengthy meeting in Plainfield with community leaders -- and despite claims to the contrary at the time by Salavarrieta -- that only one of the crimes in that time period involved bias, all the rest being considered 'crimes of opportunity' involving robbery with or without assault.

(State law requires some direct, explicit statement or utterance to qualify a crime as a 'bias' incident.)

The El Diario story also points to two related issues: language difficulties between police and Hispanic crime victims, and fear and distrust of the police by Hispanics.

The Police Division has made great strides over the years with regard to Spanish-speaking officers and at least a dozen can communicate with Hispanics in Spanish. This is at odds with the assertion by newly appoint HAAC committee member Norman Ortega in the El Diario story that the Division has 'never been accessible' (nunca ha sido accesible) to Spanish-speakers.

If the Attorney General does come to Plainfield and does meet with at least some community leaders, there is one other issue that needs to be discussed.

There are persistent rumors among those working with Latinos in the community that there is a quiet relationship between ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the Police Division, where it is alleged local undocumented persons who are not accused of indictable crimes have been swept up and taken away in contravention to the Attorney General's guidelines.

It would behoove Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig and Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs to put this rumor to rest.

If it is true, any hopes for cooperation by Hispanic victims of crimes will bear no fruit.

If it is false, why not just say so. That would be a positive step to encourage trust by the Latino community.

As for whether Salavarrietta will 'ambush' Mayor Robinson-Briggs or Attorney General Dow, we shall have to wait and see.

NOTE: I have sent several emails to Mr. Ortega inquiring when the Hispanic Affairs Advisory Committee, nominations to which were approved unanimously by the City Council at its June 21 meeting (see here, PDF), will publish its meeting schedule and time and place of meetings. The Clerk's office informs me that several members have been sworn in, but they have no record of the committee's having organized or met. To date I have no reply from Mr. Ortega. As soon as the schedule is announced, it will be put on the CLIPS calendar.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

I wish the AG was coming to town to investigate the Mayor and Jerry Green.

Rob said...

Dan...c'mon...Sharon Robinson-Briggs has many other things to be embarrassed without worrying about being "jumped" and "surprised" by this
Let's see.....
1) CFO
2) Criagslist/Hellwig
3) Dave Wynn
and fyi....I am on vacation and didn't feel like putting much thought into this reply hence only 3 listed

nat singletonj said...

Since I doubt that Jerry Green will have the courage to publish this response in his blog, I am sending this post to other relevant blogs in the Plainfield community.

This is from Jerry Green's Page of 08/19/10

'...I can understand why Dan is bitter, when the last administration lost, he lost his job that paid over $50,000/yr, his partner was let go from the PMUA...'

My response.

I don't normally respond to political invective. But when a person systematically distorts the facts -Jerry Green, I feel duty bound to correct those distortions.
Here are facts:

1. Dan Damon did not lose his job. He retired and was asked to stay by Mayor Briggs.

2. I was not let go from PMUA. I never worked for them. I served as a commissioner for approximately 8 years and received $400 per month for my time as did every other board member. When my term was up, I was not reappointed (I think this was illegal, as I thought my term had another year but why argue, I could be wrong.)

3. As to what I cost the citizens during that period of time in terms of trips, conferences, etc., I doubt if over a the period of 8 years that my total expenses exceeded $1000.00 ( I think they were much less but we did have a cell phone for a while.) This can be checked by an OPRA request, just make sure you request expenses for each commissioner and compare them to mine. I will bet no one has a lower expense record.

4.This year, I was asked, by a member of the city council, if I would be interested in serving as a commissioner(not Cory, Annie nor Adian.) My answer was no (who the hell wants all that grief)
but if they could absolutely get no one they could put my name forward.

These are the facts.

Anonymous said...

Truthfully I believe that if you are Black in Plainfield, your lot is much worse than that of Hispanics or Latinos. Blacks are treated somewhat shabbily by the current administration, especially if they are under educated or uneducated, while they bend over backwords not to offend our Latin community! Whites are basically ignored! I have many Latino friends and neighbors here in town, and am told by them that at least 1/4 are illegally here if not more. Now being here without proper permission is basically a disorderly persons offence, but when they use false papers or lie to obtain benefits or to stay ahead of the law, I believe it is now a felony! This is a very complex issue indeed!