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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hidden Plainfield: It's in Plainfield, but how do you get there?

Days as 'starter' homes are long gone.
This quiet Plainfield neighborhood is truly off the beaten path, yet close to everything.

Over the years, it has shed its starter-home ambience, the original crops of kids grown and moved away, leaving it now with a quiet -- even sedate -- mien.

Where is it?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Plainfield sees two shooting incidents Halloween weekend

Locations of gunshots over Halloween weekend.
With Halloween weekend not over yet, Plainfield has seen two shooting incidents so far.

On Friday evening, shots were fired at the Allen apartment complex at Myrtle and Clinton Avenues. No one was hit, but at least one window was damaged. Shell casing were found in the area, I am told, as well as a handgun being recovered.

About 2:15 AM Saturday morning, residents were awakened by gunfire near Albert Street and West Front Street, according to one reader who called the police. Nothing more is known about that incident.

It is noted that this is the area which generated concern about being included in the proposed gunshot-detection technology proposal which has since been shelved because of Plainfield's fiscal situation.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Plainfield filmmaker Alrick Brown featured at today's P-PAL event

Plainfield PAL’s Youth Exposure program will host its first annual “Plainfield’s Promise” speaker series event with film director Alrick Brown today at 11:00 AM at Washington Community School.

Alrick will show clips from his soon-to-be released movie Kinyarwanda, a tale about the complexities in Rwanda during the era of war and genocide. He will also share his insight regarding his journey to success.

This event is co-sponsored by Wazito Freestyle, Omega Psi Phi Omicron Chapter, Tiaras to Crowns and Mother to Son. Performances will be made by En Pointe School of Dance and the Wazito Freestyle karate school as well. Local residents and film enthusiasts are invited to attend this exclusive and FREE event.

This event is geared to showcase success stories with Plainfield roots that have made, and continue to make, an impact on the community locally and globally. In addition, an invitation has been extended to local youth and community organizations to collectively “protect our youth, provide for our youth and prepare our youth.” Hence, on the stage and in the audience, organizations will be partnering to make a difference for the youth in Plainfield with our combined resources and wealth of knowledge.

Alrick Brown’s collective work has screened in over forty film festivals, national and international, and received numerous awards. He has written, directed, and produced narrative films and documentaries often focusing on social issues affecting the world at large. He and his co-producer received the HBO 'Life Through Your Lens' Emerging Filmmaker Award to produce their critically acclaimed documentary Death of Two Sons.

In 2004, Alrick was one of four NYU students featured in the IFC Documentary series Film School, produced by Academy award nominee Nannette Burstein. In 2007 he addressed the Motion Picture Association of America on C-SPAN. In 2009, he directed his first stage play “A Raisin in the Sun,” produced and presented at Plainfield's YWCA. At present, he is in post-production on his first feature film, Kinyarwanda, shot on location in Rwanda, and writing a feature thriller titled, The Shadows.

Alrick is a native of Kingston, Jamaica and was raised in Plainfield, where he graduated from PHS in 1994. A fluent French speaker, he has two degrees from Rutgers University -- a BA in English and a Masters in Education. He also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Côte d’Ivoire. He has a MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Plainfield PAL’s 'Youth Exposure' is a mentoring and enrichment program for Plainfield middle school students. Founded in 2007, Youth Exposure’s mission is to empower middle school students, encouraging them to strive for high levels of success through pursuit of education, leadership development and community service. Mentees are youth, ages 11-14, enrolled in the Plainfield School District. Mentors are young professionals who are dedicated to their community. Youth Exposure’s vision is to create a village of supporters for these students by organizing a locally-based network of mentors and like-minded peers. Through mentoring, tutoring, exposure to new activities, and support for scholarships and job opportunities, Youth Exposure provides a wide net of guidance and avenues for personal enhancement.

Youth Exposure is able to offer this program at minimal cost to community members through Plainfield Police Athletic League (PAL). Plainfield PAL is proud to announce a grant award in the amount of $20,580.00 in support of the Youth Exposure Program for the 2010-2011 program period.

Funding has been made possible in part by a sub-grant from the Police Athletic League of New Jersey Afterschool Initiatives, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Washington Community School is a key partner with Youth Exposure, offering space and support for our activities.

Youth Exposure meets every other Saturday at Washington Community School from 9 AM to 2 PM, unless there is a scheduled trip. There is a one-time fee of $50.00 per student for participating (scholarships are available). Transportation and admission fees for all trips are free-of-cost. Breakfast and lunch is provided. There is limited enrollment. For more information, visit the program's website at or send an email to

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Plainfield filmmaker returns to deliver a 'promise' to area youth

A press release just in from Lamar Mackson, community activist and chairperson of Plainfield Cable TV Advisory Board --


Plainfield native and film director, Alrick Brown, will be the featured speaker at the Plainfield PAL Youth Exposure event entitled Plainfield's Promise scheduled for Saturday October 30, 2010. The event, which is part of an on-going series, is a mentoring program for middle school students established in Plainfield, NJ. Mentees are students at local middle schools and mentors are recent college graduates who want to give back to the community. The mission is to empower youth, ages 12-14, to strive for high levels of success through pursuit of education, leadership development and community service.

As a graduate of Plainfield High School, Rutgers and NYU, Brown, always had the desire to tell the stories that would contribute to the healing of his community. His perspective as a filmaker and teacher were influenced during a two year period as volunteer in the Peace Corps serving the people of Cote d' Iviore ( the Ivory Coast) in West Africa. Interactions with the people of West Africa and Plainfield have informed his creative expression; an expression first fostered by his birth in Kingston, Jamaica and migration to, and upbringing in Plainfield, New Jersey.

Brown's first feature length film, “Kinyarwanda” is a story about life, love, and forgiveness during the Rwandan Genocide. Set during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, as the country became a slaughterhouse, mosques became places of refuge where Muslims and Christians, came together to protect each other. "Kinyarwanda" interweaves six tales that provide a complex and real depiction of life and human resilience in the face of unimaginable danger. The film, which was shot on location in Africa, has already received critical acclaim at film festivals including IFP's Rooftop Film Series.

Alrick Brown's commitment to give back to his hometown and its youth, as well as his academic and professional successes, are primary reasons for him being chosen by the organization to make the presentation. Plainfield PAL Youth Exposure Organizer , Lucy Sanchez (Abreu) stated, " Alrick's core values and demonstration of those ideals is the message we need to promote to young people in Plainfield. Our children need access to examples of homegrown success. We are very excited about Alrick's appearance."

Plainfield's Promise- Plainfield PAL Youth Exposure Summit is Saturday, October 30th 2010,11am -2pm at Washington School, 427 Darrow Ave. Plainfield ,NJ. Admission is free.

CFO mess: State ducks, could have done better

The Division of Local Government Services oversees CFO matters.
OK Plainfielders, let's see if we can figure out the latest CFO mess development.

So, we live in a state where our new governor, Chris Christie, can shut down the nation's largest public works project with a snap of his fingers (well, OK, he had to snap TWICE).

Yet, when it comes to one of his departments (DCA) making sure a division (Division of Local Government Services) takes swift, decisive action to resolve a longstanding issue with fiscal leadership in an important but dysfunctional local community (our fair city), what does the agency do? It punts.

As Plainfield bloggers have alreday reported/discussed -- see Maria here, Bernice here, Olddoc here, and Councilor Burney here -- the DLGS has ordered that a CFO be hired within 30 days, or both Mayor Robinson-Briggs and the City Council members individually will face fines of up to $25 per day.

So, instead of problem-solving, we find the new governor's folks falling back on an old bureaucratic game: problem-ducking.

It is totally beyond me why the DLGS would threaten the Council members with fines when they have done their very best to resolve the matter -- and been stymied at every turn by Robinson-Briggs' evasiveness and recalcitrance.

Everyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the past three years knows that it is Mayor Robinson-Briggs' responsibility to nominate a qualified, permanent CFO to oversee Plainfield's finances.

And they know it is the Council's responsibility to advise and consent to such an appointment.

While only two candidates have been put forward by Her Honor (and those after Robinson-Briggs was previously backed into a corner by successive DLGS deadlines), neither was able to overcome Council questions that would have paved the way to consent.

I can understand the DLGS reluctance to APPOINT a CFO itself, which the Council's request would amount to.

But, given the increasing evidence of suspect financial shenanigans turned up with each month's financial reports to the Council, the question arises: 'Couldn't the DCA have done better?'

I have referred to the DCA for a reason, because with an issue of such long standing and as serious as it is, one has to wonder why the top honcho DCA Commissioner Lori Grifa was not brought into the mix.

Nevertheless, I think there is something better that could have been done by the Trenton bureaucrats.



It is quite clear that Mayor Robinson-Briggs is either unwilling or unable to attract a qualified candidate.

It is also quite clear that it is beyond the Council's authority to resolve the matter.

What would an
HONEST BROKER do? Two things.

First, why not solicit retired CFOs -- of which there are a goodly number -- for a candidate (or perhaps two) willing to come out of retirement for a year for an appointment at a salary the prospect feels is fair and which the state orders the city to pay?

This would provide a qualified CFO, not beholden to any local political powers-that-be, to come in and try to get the city's fiscal situation under control.

It would also give Mayor Robinson-Briggs yet more time to search for a qualified and willing candidate.

Secondly, require Mayor Robinson-Briggs (who has evaded Council inquiries every time they are made) to report in writing to the Council and the DLGS on a monthly basis exactly where ads are placed for a candidate and how many responses have been received and the qualifications of same.

Surely, holding the Mayor to a higher level of accountability can do no harm.

The Council has already shown its willingness.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dan to Renata: I am guilty

Board of Ed member Renata Hernandez maintains a personal blog.
Dan to fellow Plainfield blogger Renata Hernandez: I am guilty, on TWO COUNTS.

  • FIRST, of trying to make some sense of your often recondite posts in the same amount of time I devote to each of the other Plainfield blogs in the daily preparation of the CLIPS blog; and

  • SECOND, of trying to craft a 'clickworthy' teaser for your post in my headline to drive traffic toward your blog, assuming you do like to have readers' attention called to it.

The mysterious entry that got Dan in hot water.
 So, what happened?

Landing on your 'Dear Michael' post yesterday, it seemed to be clearly part of an ongoing no clue to your readers exactly WHERE that conversation was taking place. Given my time constraints and the fact that you did not point folks toward that conversation (which it turns out actually can be found here), I had to try and figure out -- QUICKLY -- who 'Michael' was and what blog was being referenced.

Since the topic obviously concerned the Board of Ed, but didn't state DIRECTLY AND CLEARLY whether it was about a SPECIFIC issue with a particular meeting notice or a GENERAL issue with the POLICY of giving public notices, the question became: How much time am I going to spend on this puzzle before moving on?

Answer: Not more than on grasping any other blogger's post.

All I was left with was 'MICHAEL' and 'blog'.

There is another Plainfield blogger, who chooses to be anonymous, but whom many think is a person named
MICHAEL. So, I wondered, is Renata referring to this supposed person? Is she carelessly 'outing' the purposely anonymous blogger? Or is it on purpose? Hence my headline teaser.

Turns out it was nothing of the kind, as I learn from reading your Wednesday post in response.

Which led me to Olddoc's post where you got into a back-and-forth and Olddoc asserted his right not to have his blog's comments highjacked (see here) --

Ras, I am not posting your comments in reply to MT since I do n ot feel that it is the function of this blogger to open his blog to a commentary tiff. Your points are appreciated and fortunately you have your well read blog to express them. That perhaps is a better venue than turning a commentary section of a blog into one which we find in the newspapers. (October 26, 2010 9:26 PM)
Each of us bloggers has the right not to have our blogs or comments taken over by others with issues not seen as germane to the blog's general intent. And to suggest that commenters take it elsewhere. Fair is fair.

This is not the first time that your blog has left things that could -- and should -- be made perfectly clear left unaddressed or clouded.

Two recent examples --

The public got a 'take that' whack for not attending a BOE presentation.

Would it not be reasonable to expect -- since you considered it so important -- that YOU would have promoted the 'State of the District' address on YOUR BLOG? If I read you correctly, you would have found out about it in your Friday packet before the meeting. That would have left you from Friday to Tuesday (since the meeting was held on Wednesday) to post something useful for your many readers inviting, encouraging or challenging them to come out for this key presentation.

Yet you did not.

However, you didn't resist a little tongue-lashing (and WHERE were YOU?) of the public after the fact (see here). What is YOUR responsibility for the admittedly low turnout?

And if the District's efforts to put the info in the little fluttery text box on its website and in a legal notice (I would want to see proof it was even mentioned in a legal notice) only netted TWO members of the public, why isn't it fair to ask why the District's public relations machine didn't do more?

Guess what, Mark Spivey is putting just everything that folks throw at him on the InPlainfield microsite. So, why not make use of that outlet, which is the best read of all Gannett's microsites in the whole state of New Jersey?

The event has a clear deadline, how should folks interpret today's post?

Then we have today's post promoting the P-PAL's event presenting the very talented Alrick Brown, hometown kid, PHS grad and successful film director and screenwriter in their 'Plainfield's Promise' speaker series.

THIS Saturday, at Washington Community School.

But one question is left UNADDRESSED.

Reading the fine print on the event's graphic, there is a notice that the deadline to register for this event was OCTOBER 15, nearly two weeks ago.

So, is the deadline in effect, in which case folks should disregard your notice?

Or has the deadline been waived, in which case those interested should go ahead and show up?

Why would you leave such a question up in the air?
Though being bloggers means we are free to express our opinions on all sorts of things and in as convoluted and obscure a manner as suits us, when any of us turns to PROMOTING MEETINGS OR EVENTS, we are subject to the same FIVE W's PLUS ONE of the mainstream media: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and hoW.

It's common sense. It's best practice. It encourages readers to take us seriously.

Bottom line: From now on, when I read your entries to summarize them for CLIPS, if I can't get the gist in the same amount of time I spend on the others, I'll take a pass. And that includes including you in the headline teaser -- with or without 'clickworthy' copy.

Life is too short, and there is so much ground to cover.

Especially in the Queen City, which has to be setting some kind of record to have TWENTY TWO blogs and counting.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seniors new bargaining chip in developer dispute?

Seniors fear being forced to park in open-to-the-elements lot.

Plainfield seniors who use the new Senior Center on East Front Street are not happy to contemplate that they may be used as bargaining chips in a dispute involving the center's developer and the Robinson-Briggs administration.

There are actually two open items: the completion of a parking plan to satisfy a requirement of the Planning Board, and an outstanding bill from the developer -- most recently known as P&F Management -- for $287,000 for 'outfitting' the space occupied by the Senior Center.

Funding the payment of $287,000 has been stalled since last spring, when the Robinson-Briggs administration was asked by the Council to explain in detail the charges and the process by which they were approved. To date, the administration has not complied with the Council's request. (Clarification: The Council has been supplied with answers to their questions, but the Administration has not made any further move to resolve the open item).

In the rush to get the Senior Center built, seniors pummeled both City Council and the Planning Board. At the time, issues about how the parking would be shared among condo owners, senior center staff, seniors and veterans who drive to use the center and visitors were simply skirted, with the Planning Board only requiring that a plan be worked out and presented.

Seniors worry now that they will be forced to park in the open-to-the-elements space at the rear of the property (toward 2nd Street) rather than in the sheltered space under the condos' roof garden/terrace.

With only 19 units said to be sold, seniors say there is no reason at present that they should be forced into the outer lot.

The Robinson-Briggs administration cannot be happy to contemplate possible slip-and-fall suits against the City in the event the seniors are forced into parking in the open lot in inclement weather.

Will this mean the Robinson-Briggs administration will finally complete its explanation to the Council, giving it a stronger hand in negotiating with P&F management?

One can only hope.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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League of Women Voters candidate forum tonight

Plainfield's League of Women Voters chapter will host its candidate forum tonight at Emerson Community School.

The forum will pit four candidates in two races against each other -- Democrat Rebecca Williams and Republican Jim Pivnichny in the Wards 2/3 at-large race, and Democrat incumbent Bill Reid against GOP challenger Sean Alford for the Ward 1 seat.

Celebrating its 90th year -- as well as the 90pth anniversary of women getting the vote -- the League's forum is always the best attended election season event, giving residents an opportunity to see, hear and question candidates for public office.

Owing to time constraints at League's traditional venue, the Plainfield Public Library, the forum has been moved to the new community school, where meetings can run as lated as necessary.


An opportunity to see, hear and question candidates for
City Council seats from Wards 2/3 at-large, and Ward 1

Tonight, October 27 | 7 PM

Emerson Community School
East 3rd Street and Emerson Avenue
Parking in school's lot and on street

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BREAKING: Gang wars continue with victimless shootings

At least two unreported shootings since last Thursday show Plainfield's gang warfare continues -- even if victimless for the moment.

Thursday evening I am told there was gunfire at Prescott Place and West 3rd Street, with two males being shot at though not hit. Shell casings were found at the scene.

Last evening -- Monday -- three males were shot at in the vicinity of Clinton and Myrtle Avenues. None of the intended victims was hit, but again shell casings were found at the scene.

The second shooting occurred in a neighborhood that was at the center of an uproar over the proposed gunshot-spotting technology which the Administration has had to table in light of the city's current fiscal situation.

Police regard both areas as gang territories as evidenced by gang activity.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Will affordable housing reform be Jerry's legislative legacy?

Jerry's bill targets affordable housing.
When I told Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green at last week's cocktail fundraiser for City Council candidates Rebecca Williams and Bill Reid that plenty of folks thought he was crazy to pick such a public fight with Sen. Ray Lesniak last spring over affordable housing reform, Jerry quickly said, "Well you see who the Senator has lined up with now, don't you?"

And he is right.

Back in June, Jerry vowed not to take the Lesniak road of railroading the bill through, but to give all sides an opportunity to be heard, as he was quoted in a Ledger story at the time (see here) --

"We we will do this right, with input from everyone," said Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Union), chairman of the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee. "I don’t want to be back here next year debating yet another affordable-housing bill. I don’t want an endless court fight. I want a system that works, and if that means taking time to do it right, then that’s what we’re going to do.

"With that in mind, the committee will not be moving legislation during Thursday’s hearing," Green continued. "We will discuss the bill and all our options, and I an assure everyone that their opinions will be welcomed and heard."
The June 30 deadline that Lesniak and Gov. Christie wanted came and passed. Without Jerry's committee signing off on the Lesniak bill.

Over the summer, Jerry reworked the bill (Lesniak tells the Philadelphia Inquirer -- see here -- he had a big hand in it) which his Housing and Local Government Services committee is preparing to report out to the Assembly.

The bill will abolish COAH (the Council on Affordable Housing), which is universally despised for turning the quest for affordable housing into a bureaucratic quagmire -- hated by towns, developers and elected officials in equal measure.

Jerry's version of the bill addresses an issue that has been on my mind for a long time -- what to do about cities like Plainfield, mostly built up and with little vacant land and with a sizeable population eligible for free school lunches, but with great swaths of housing that need to be upgraded or rehabbed to make their neighborhoods more attractive to residents and those looking to buy in the Queen City.

Jerry's bill excuse these communities from providing more affordable housing, but would require them to adopt a rehabilitation plan and would provide a channel for funds to help get the rehabbing done.

Jerry's bill would also phase back in over five years fees for developers to fund these rehab plans in the poorer cities.

Those are the good parts.

I worry that the formula for funding affordable housing in more upscale communities will not provide many -- or any -- units and will instead be a big loophole for developers to drive through.

However, the bill makes steps in the right direction. We will see if there are further adjustments as a result of hearings in Jerry's committee.

In the meantime, this may well become Jerry's legacy contribution capping a long legislative career.

None of us is getting any younger -- myself and Jerry included.

Wouldn't it be nice to cap a long legislative career not only with the gavel of the speaker pro-tempore, but with legislation that will affect -- and improve -- New Jersey's housing situation for decades to come?

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Neighborhood Health Center gets $1.5M in federal grants

Plainfield's Neighborhood Health Services Center (known to all by its old moniker of Plainfield Health Center) has been awarded over $1.5 million in federal grants, according to the Health and Human Services website (see here, and details for New Jersey here).

$1.114 million is earmarked for capital improvements to the health center, which has numerous trailers in its parking lot for overflow program space, and another $436,677 for staffing for increased demand for services, which is partly predicated on the shunting of patients to the health center after the closing of Muhlenberg in August 2008.

Though the Obama administration is loath to refer publicly any longer to the 'stimulus' and 'recovery' monies previously appropriated, the website prominently refers to these grants as part of the RECOVERY program.

As with much of the rest of the 'stimulus' monies, they have been slow reaching the communities for which they were intended (Plainfield's neighborhood stabilization program monies are also just coming online), and are of uncertain benefit in creating jobs.

The announcement, while welcome (the Ledger ran an item here), is not likely to benefit the Obama administration's push to get Democrats re-elected (or elected) next Tuesday.

The wheels of government turn ever so slowly.

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Two new charter schools would further erode District's enrollment

The Plainfield school district would take a further hit in enrollment if two proposed new charter schools are approved by the state. The number of students attending classes in the district's buildings has already gone down by eight hundred from the 7,200-plus figure circulated in the early part of the decade, before the advent of Plainfield's charter schools.

The latest numbers are cited in Courier reporter Mark Spivey's story on the 'state of the district' presentation at last week's Board of Ed meeting -- see here -- showing the district with 6,448 students and 1,047 enrolled in the city's four charter schools.

New charter school proposals for Plainfield include the HOPE Leadership Academy application, with an opening enrollment threshold of 102 students in grades K-2. Projecting out, the school would be expected to max out at 204 students in K-5 in three academic years.

Contact person for the HOPE application is Anthony D. Kirkwood. Rumors have been circulating for some time that the Rev. Gary Kirkwood, whose King's Temple Ministries has worked out an agreement to take over the YWCA on East Front Street, has been interested in the space as a site for his private Christian academy.

A charter school would be funded by public monies, but any relationship with the church would come under public scrutiny as pointed out online today in an NJSpotlight story (see here), which points out --

...New Jersey is explicit in its regulations on charter schools. They cannot be operated by religious organizations, nor are they permitted to include religious instruction in the curriculum, the same as traditional public schools.

“Charters have been housed in church facilities, churches have raised funds to help charters and church members have volunteered their time,” said Alan Guenther, spokesman for the state Department of Education. But they remain public schools, governed by the same laws and regulations.”

And by and large, nationwide they have kept to those lines, experts say.

“It has been an area of some tension in the charter school movement, and there have been some instances where the boundaries were crossed,” said Katrina Bulkley, an associate professor of education at Montclair State University. “But on the whole, religious organizations are very aware of this concern and tried to keep them separate.”
The second Plainfield application, also for the elementary grades, is the CLASS Charter School (Character, Leadership, Academic and Social Skills) which if approved would open with a threshold of 160 students in grades K-3 and top out at 288 students in two academic years in grades K-5.

The contact person for that proposal is Benjamin Fox, listed with a Sparta, NJ address and contact information.

Together, if approved and successful in launching, the two charters would pull 262 students away from the District's enrollment in their first year and top out at 492 when they reach their enrollment caps.

Another charter school, not in Plainfield but involving a well-known Plainfield figure, is proposed for Trenton. The Visions of Destiny Academy for Academic Excellence is being championed by Bishop Herbert Bright, long active on the Plainfield scene and a member of the Black Ministers Conference according to the NJSpotlight report.

Clearly, every child enrolled in a charter school is a sign of a family that has given up hope for the public schools, and this is a great problem facing the public school districts -- the Ledger reported last week that a record number of 51 applications for new charter schools were received by the state (see here).

As a product of the public schools (though admittedly of a different time, place, and educational philosophy), I find the loss of faith in one of America's greatest contributions to democracy very distressing.

School boards of elected (or appointed), volunteer, non-education-professional (for the most part) residents have a heavy lift ahead in their communities if they are to reclaim the trust of their districts' families and stakeholders.

Are they up to it?

HOPE Leadership Academy for Academic Excellence of Plainfield Charter School
Focus / Students: K to grade 2: 102 to open
Projection /Students: K to grade 5: 204
232 East Front Street, Plainfield, NJ 07060
Telephone: 908-756-3500 ext. 175
FAX: 908-756-1304
Lead Person Email:
HostDistrict(s): Plainfield
Contact: Mr. Anthony D. Kirkwood


CLASS (Character, Leadership, Academic and Social Skills) Charter School
Focus / Students: K to grade 3: 160 to open
Projection /Students: K to grade 5: 288
58 Summit Road, Sparta, NJ 07871
Telephone: 908-464-4878
FAX: 908-753-7740
Lead Person Email:
HostDistrict(s): Plainfield
Contact: Mr. Benjamin Fox

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shooting overnight Saturday

Received word of a man shot and wounded in the 500-block of West 3rd Street Saturday evening.

This is the West End Gardens neighborhood which has been the site of many of this year's shooting incidents and two of this year's five homicides, one in a West End Gardens parking lot and another at Plainfield Avenue and West 4th Street. (1 PM: This corrects my original post, which inadvertently referred to Grant Avenue instead of Plainfield Avenue -- dd.)

The shooting comes on the heels of a community forum led by Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Brggs on Thursday at Shiloh Baptist Church, a block away from the shooting site.

Residents expressed strong concerns with what is being done to combat crime, according to a report by reporter Mark Spivey appearing in the Sunday Courier (see here).

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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New Dems host 'call party' today in answer to President's call

Plainfield Democrats are urged to come out this afternoon for a 'call party' in support of Democratic candidates nationwide being hosted by the New Democrats for Plainfield at the campaign headquarters for City Council candidate Rebecca Williams. They will be joined by fellow Democrats from surrounding communities responding to the invitation through the network.

'Let's make a party to show our support for our president and Democratic candidates everywhere,' said candidate Williams, adding 'President Obama needs us all to lend a hand to keep New Jersey blue!'

Participants should bring their cellphones. Calling lists and message scripts will be provided, as will refreshments.

The event marks the kickoff of Williams' campaign headquarters for the general election, which will be held on Tuesday, November 2.


Sponsored by New Democrats for Plainfield
Inviting  support for Democratic candidates nationwide

Today, October 24 | 4 - 6 PM

New Democrats HQ
110 East Seventh Street
(Scott Drugs Building)
Parking in city lot next door

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

New Dems 'call party' Sunday part of national effort

Plainfield Democrats are urged to come out Sunday afternoon for a 'call party' in support of Democratic candidates nationwide being hosted by the New Democrats for Plainfield at the campaign headquarters for City Council candidate Rebecca Williams.

'Let's make a party to show our support for our president and Democratic candidates everywhere,' said candidate Williams, adding 'President Obama needs us all to lend a hand to keep New Jersey blue!'

Participants should bring their cellphones. Calling lists and message scripts will be provided, as will refreshments.

The event marks the kickoff of Williams' campaign headquarters for the general election, which will be held on Tuesday, November 2.


Sponsored by New Democrats for Plainfield
Inviting all Democrats to support candidates nationwide

Sunday, October 24 | 2 - 4 PM

New Democrats HQ
110 East Seventh Street
(Scott Drugs Building)
Parking in city lot next door

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Developer interested in Muhlenberg will present to Planning Board

A developer is interested in the 14-acre Muhlenberg campus.
Between mid-afternoon yesterday and last night's Plainfield Planning Board meeting, there was a change in the agenda: the addition of a discussion of Muhlenberg under 'new business'.

Chairman Ken Robertson and board member Ron Scott Bey filled in other Planning Board members on a meeting last week between the developer's team, city staff and themselves.

Lacking a formal letter of intent from Solaris declaring an interest in selling the shuttered acute-care hospital, Robertson emphasized that the discussions are in a very preliminary stage.

The mayor's hesitancy to move forward without such a formal indication of interest is uncharacteristically wise of the Robinson-Briggs administration, given that a mishandling of Muhlenberg could be a political third rail for the mayor and her mentor, Assemblyman Jerry Green.

According to Robertson, 'everything is on the table' from the developer's point of view -- including possible use as an assisted care facility with a nursing home component, residential apartments, a wellness center and/or an adult daycare center. These were given just as examples of the range of possibilities on the table, and Robertson noted the developer was also exploring whether the Summit Medical Group would be interested in using part of the facility.

Board member Ron Scott Bey outlined three concerns he saw for any proposed development --

  • Apartments -- fewer would be better;

  • A medical model should be used everywhere possible; and

  • Parking issues would need to be addressed
Board attorney Michele Donato opined that given the size and complexity of the project -- the Muhlenberg campus is about 14 acres -- it would be better if there were to be a project if it were overseen by the Planning Board rather than the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

There was agreement among Board members to invite the putative developer and his team to make a 30-minute presentation at the Board's December 2 meeting.

Scott Bey was emphatic that the group be told to have their act together and to keep it to the time allotted.

Chairman Robertson also noted there would be a necessity of a meeting for the public to weigh in at a later date.

The fate of the Muhlenberg campus is a danger zone for elected officials, since there is widespread feeling in Plainfield and the surrounding communities that they more or less accepted the hospital's closure as a fait accompli back in 2008.

Muhlenberg's closure meant the loss of jobs for many unskilled and low-level employees among its 1,100 employees; many of these have been unable to find full-time or equivalent employment ever since.

Among the issues that will have to be addressed, should the process be moved forward with a formal letter of intent from Solaris, would be the fate of the Satellite Emergency Department (SED), responsibility for which Solaris is only committed to into 2013.

Other concerns the community has raised with Solaris in the past include the matter of an ambulance for the community and whether it should be supplied to the Plainfield Rescue Squad in some sort of arrangement, as well as the fate of the Muhlenberg Foundation about which there are great anxieties that monies given for Plainfield needs should not be siphoned off by Solaris to JFK.

And I would like to add one more, now that it seems there may be a real possibility of development: Centennial Hall. I think this excellent meeting facility, which can be isolated from the main buildings, should be made permanently available to the Plainfield community as a public meeting space as part of any deal that is worked out.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Plainfield's Fall DPW Pickup Schedule: It's in the mail...and online

When autumn leaves begin to fall, Plainfielders' thoughts turn to just one thing -- where is the DPW's pickup schedule mailer?

It's in the mail, according to a conversation with DPW factotum Marie Davis, who says some folks have received theirs already and the rest should have them today or tomorrow.

If you haven't gotten yours yet (like me), you can get the information online in the DOWNLOADS area of the city's website (see here -- PDF).

It will come just in time -- BRUSH AND YARD WASTE is scheduled for pickup throughout NEXT WEEK. So, if you haven't gotten organized, you have the weekend to do so. Remember to play nice and tie your items in bundles no more than three feet in length.

Each zone will also get TWO leaf pickups, a month apart, beginning the first week of November.

The online posting also includes a list of streets in the service zones. You may find this of less use than the map that has always accompanied the mailer -- the online form is organized BY ZONE, then listing the streets covered. So, if you don't know your zone (for instance, you're new to town) you're in for some time-consuming fun figuring it out.

Maybe the Director can get the Planning Division's mapmakers to make a ZONE MAP which would serve for both the DPW and the PMUA and post it online. (If it costs more than $85, they can call the Governor and sound off!)

Ready, set, go!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Is Jerry sabotaging Dem campaigns in Plainfield?

One Green stalwart snubs part of the local Dem slate.

With three concurrent Democratic electoral campaigns in Plainfield -- Congressional, county and City Council -- questions are arising about the quality of the Regular Democratic Organization's campaign effort and whether it is being sabotaged.

New Dem city committee member shows support for local slate.

While the New Democrats have announced the opening of their campaign hub in support of candidates from Congressman Pallone down to county and local candidates (see InPlainfield story here), the Regular Democratic Organization has yet to announce its plans for the general election campaign endgame.

The New Dems will operate out of their former space in the Scott Drug building at 7th and Park. A space adjacent to Assemblyman Jerry Green's legislative office that was previously used for RDO campaign activities has a few signs propped in the front window, but the metal gate has been locked and no lights have been seen in the evenings.

Meanwhile, City Committee members who carry out the 'retail' campaign activities of walking their districts to make face-to-face contact with voters are complaining that Green's subordinates have given the campaign information to unknown individuals, leaving them out of the loop.

When one committee person did finally get their list, it was accompanied by a walking map for the WRONG DISTRICT.

Comedy of errors or sabotage?

There is some question whether Assemblyman Green is really taking a hands-on role in the campaign, or whether, for health reasons, he has delegated the responsibilities to underlings who don't know the complexities of managing an effective campaign.

The Democratic City Committee is sponsoring a fundraiser reception for candidates Bill Reid (Ward 1) and Rebecca Williams (Wards 2/3 at-large) tonight at Cafe Vivace. Monies raised will be spent on the local Democratic City Council campaign, covering the cost of signs, mailings and election day support.

Plainfield's 4th Ward will vote only for Congress, county candidates.

City Council member Linda Carter is the hometown candidate for Freeholder, along with incumbents Dan Sullivan and Betty Jane Kowalski. While Carter has walked in Plainfield's 2nd and 3rd Wards with council candidate Rebbecca Williams, Kowalski and Sullivan have not been seen doing the door-to-door work so fundamental to electoral success.

Though there is no doubt that the county Democratic ticket will cruise to victory in Plainfield, the question that must worry County Democratic strategists is whether Assemblyman Green's organization will put real oomph into getting out the vote to bolster the Freeholder numbers, which sagged noticeably in the face reform Democrats' challenges in the June primary.

Some Plainfielders find it hard to curb their enthusiasm, displaying signs for North Plainfielder
Ed Potosnak, who is in the 7th District race, in which Plainfielders cannot vote.


Plainfield is unique in being the only Union County municipality included in the gerrymandered 6th Congressional district, where Congressman Frank Pallone is -- for the first time in the ten years we've been in his district -- in a REAL race for his seat against Tea Party favorite Anna Little, mayor of Highlands.

An online article at PolitickerNJ yesterday (see here) pointed out how close the race is according to a poll commissioned by the GOP, but at the end of the article was rather dismissive, suggesting it was a ploy to get Pallone to dump money into the campaign.

Whether or not that is true, I have noticed the COMPLETE ABSENCE in the past month of stories trumpeting polls in favor of Pallone. Longtime political activists know that this probably means the internal polling done by the Democrats shows negatives for Pallone and the better part of wisdom is to remain silent (this has been the experience when the Union County Dems polled in relation to Assemblyman Green in the past).

One Plainfield campaign worker asked about Pallone's green campaign sign, whether that was a wave in the 'O' in his name. When told it was a wave and was suggestive of the Congressman's excellent record on the environment, it seemed to make sense. Especially in the light of the BP oil spill, the promise of renewable energy programs for New Jersey, and the nagging presence of SuperFund sites throughout the state, there is good reason not to want to lose a champion in Washington to an angry anti-government Tea Party candidate who would not have -- or WANT -- any clout in the Congress.
So there you have it, three complex campaigns in our little city. Will the 'Green Team' manage not to sabotage the effort needed for hefty numbers across the board?

Check back on November 3rd.

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Plainfield cable TV starts 7th week without active programming

Today marks the beginning of the SEVENTH WEEK without regular programming on Plainfield's cable TV stations (channels 34/FIOS or 96/Comcast).

There has not been any regular programming since September 7, when two hard drives failed at the time of a 'brownout' in the City Hall Annex, which was detailed on the Cable TV Advisory Board's blog (see here).

Advisory board chairperson Lamar Mackson advised a week ago that the consultant, who was owed approximately $2,300 by the City, had been paid, and the new hard drives were set to be shipped two weeks ago tomorrow.

"Once they are here and installed," Mackson said, "the station will be up and running."

Checking this morning, I still find the scrolling message advising programming is down and will resume 'as soon as possible'.

The city's website has no mention of the problems with or status of the cable TV station or when regular programming might resume.

Should you stay tuned?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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