The needler in the haystack.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mayor Sharon and Margaret W: Polar opposites

Songstress and AIDS activist Margaret Whiting.
Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs
Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs' request of videographer Brian Cox to delete Councilor Reid's references to the CFO's 'health issues' wasn't her only bizarre request at the Council's December 27th budget hearing.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs also asked that he turn the camera off while she made her remarks concerning HIV/AIDS cases in Plainfield.

Why the secrecy? The information is completely public and easily available (see state data here, and Plainfield here).

Turns out Her Honor was using the little bit of drama for another purpose.

How different from Margaret Whiting, who had an intimate connection with Plainfield and the fight against HIV/AIDS!

Whiting, a singer whose career began as a teen-ager during World War II, died Monday in Englewood at the age of 86.

In the mid-1980s, as Plainfield and the rest of the country were trying to make sense of the mysterious epidemic that was sweeping away so many, Margaret Whiting highlighted a cabaret in Plainfield to raise money for the fledgling Hyacinth AIDS Foundation (see here), which pioneered outreach and services to those with HIV/AIDS in the Garden State.

Plainfield realtor John DeMarco, who is also an accomplished cabaret singer, was instrumental in recruiting Whiting (whose first big hit was Moonlight in Vermont in 1943, at age eighteen) as well as jazz vocalist Marlene VerPlanck to headline the cabaret, sponsored by RSVP.

RSVP (Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield) was formed in early 1984, after a successful Christmas party at Questover drew hundreds of Plainfield gays and lesbians. The formation of the group coincided with the deepening health crisis -- and the subsequent awareness that HIV/AIDS was not a 'gay problem', but a communitywide health issue of enormous proportions.

Thousands of dollars were raised by the Margaret Whiting event, at which the singer movingly talked about the friends and acquaintances she had lost to the AIDS epidemic.

RSVP members not only responded with the dollars at the event, but became active in supporting Hyacinth and in forming buddy groups pairing a volunteer with someone who was sick to provide companionship and help with chores, doctor's visits, etc.

Far from hiding the statistics from public view as Mayor Robinson-Briggs attempted to do, Whiting spurred RSVP members to get active in raising funds for medical research, providing social services and educating the community generally that what we were facing was a public health emergency.

Sadly, in those first years, hundreds of Plainfielders died without the care and help available, owing in part to an attitude of denial in the community -- especially with regard to the exposure of intravenous drug users -- against all of which RSVP members worked diligently.

Information was deemed essential to coming to grips with the epidemic and eventually lessening its deadly impact.

That is why it seemed so bizarre to hear Mayor Sharon try to make a secret of the current information.

At the end of her remarks, though, she revealed her real point: Mayor Sharon wanted a person from the Health Division slated for layoff to be spared to somehow deal with this public health issue.

Mayor Sharon made it sound like it was the Council's doing, and that they should undo it.

Truth to tell, however, the slot being laid off in the Health Division was proposed by none other than Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs herself.

What would Whiting think?



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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3 comments:

Bob said...

Every time I think Sharon has hit bottom, she proves me wrong. I wonder who the idiots were who voted for her. Wasn't me!

Anonymous said...

Would the RSVP and Questover people do a Christmas event again? It sounds like a great way to fundraise for a good cause.

Anonymous said...

Dan I sent this to Mr Mapp, Mr Storch, and Ms Mcwilliam please help in any way you can

I think its very important to know that the mayor have been relying on Dan Williamson, Aseemblymen Green, Al Restano and others to do the budget. I know for a fact that they have not contacted the City Adminstrator Mrs Taylor to help. Mr Mapp this lay off plan will not be fair to the entire city of plainfield. The mayor is only looking to save her own people whom sshe supports. I hope that the council please demand or reach out to the AG office because whats going on in the city of plaonfield is illegal. Please help us get Mrs Taylor back so all employees in plainfield can be treated fair.

January 15, 2011 4:34 AM