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Monday, February 28, 2011

Hidden Plainfield: Trolley track location

Where is it?

Am really glad everyone had so much fun with yesterday's Hidden Plainfield, the trolley track uncovered by a force of nature.

I really enjoyed the reminiscences about routes and locations (since I still haven't located my digital map), especially  Dr. Yood (olddoc) and Bill Garrett, who saved gas and suspension risks by paging through their memories instead of adding to the greenhouse effect, as well as Dorrie Neisel Johnson and the unsigned comment recalling the 'jog' where Park Avenue and Somerset Street joined Front Street.

The little piece I found exposed is on West Front Street, directly in front of the Horizons complex (formerly Tepper's).

Here's a long shot, with the County Office building and Park Avenue in the rear.
Until next week, maybe  you'll want to cruise on by the Plainfield Public Library's online exhibit about the history of transportation in Plainfield, Plainfield On The Move (the trolley section is here).

Where shall we go next week? 

Front page of the Library's online exhibit on 200 years of Plainfield transportation.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hidden Plainfield: A trolley ran through it

Lo and behold! A trolley rail in a pothole.

Indulge me in a different, non-architectural Hidden Plainfield this week, wouldja?

With pothole season in full flare-up, one proceeds cautiously. Yesterday, I saw a glint off something in a pothole as I approached. Passing over it, I thought perhaps it was something special.

After circling around the block and finding a parking space, I got out to check out my find.

Just as I thought, a large pothole had popped out to reveal trolley track that had been paved over.

The trolleys (or interurban electric railways, to be technical) were an affordable means of mass transportation in the days before buses and cars crowded them off the scene.

Plainfield was criss-crossed with several trolley routes (can't find my map; will keep looking), so today's track could have come from many different streets within the community.

Do you have any idea where I found it?

Answer tomorrow.

An undated photo of a Plainfield trolley that appeared in the Ledger,
from the collections of the Plainfield Public Library.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Signs Of The Times: Library's Children's Room being reinvented

The much-loved (and fondly remembered) 'story pit' will be reinvented.
Reinvention of the Plainfield Public Library's Children's Room is well under way, with the new room expected to open in late spring or early summer, according to Director Joe Da Rold.

These are a couple of shots I grabbed as the room was being stripped of its old carpet and walls in preparation for the do-over.

I won't spoil the surprise of the changes, but let's just say I'll bet the kids will be wowed.

Da Rold says adults may get a sneak peek by way of a fundraising reception before the room officially reopens to the public.

Stay tuned.

It's a to-the-walls reinvention!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, February 25, 2011

What loss of UEZ would mean to Plainfield

Plainfield businesses were aware last year that warning shots about New Jersey's Urban Enterprise Zone program were being fired, shortly after Gov. Chris Christie took office. Now, the governor has received a report recommending the 37-town program, of which Plainfield's is one, be wound down on the grounds it is 'bureaucratically cumbersome' and success of projects is nearly impossible to measure.

Though Christie has not endorsed the report (yet), it gives him a handy excuse to drain the fund created by the setting aside of sales tax receipts collected by member businesses. (These funds are controlled by the state, and individual projects are approved after a defense before state watchdogs, the tone of which has changed decidedly under the Christie administration, I have been told.)

Over the years, Plainfield has benefited in a variety of ways from UEZ funded projects -- from hiring police officers to patrol the business districts to street sweeping equipment to be used in the UEZ to major projects such as the downtown streetscape improvement, which has been implemented in stages over the past six or seven years.

Though Plainfield's business participation rate is kept down by the cumbersomeness of the process (the statewide rate is 20%), those who do participate have benefited in two ways: the appeal to customers of paying half the sales tax (Appliance-arama swears by its allure to upscale appliance customers from out of the area), and the waiver of sales tax by participating members with regard to certain (capital) purchases.

On the other hand, there have also been essentially frivolous projects -- Music In The Plaza comes to mind -- which have been poorly designed, poorly promoted and with no way to measure any ECONOMIC impact.

Plainfield has run a relatively lean operation (two people), but it seems possible the Christie administration may take a baby-with-the-bathwater approach and eliminate staffing along with winding down the program.

One thing I can say from observation of Plainfield businesses over the years since Plainfield became one of the earliest UEZs, is that they are nothing if not resourceful.

Despite some still-empty storefronts, Plainfield is a far-busier (and hopefully, more profitable) place than it was in 1983.

And my hunch is that it will reinvent itself if it has to.

It's the lesson of Picasso's Guernica.

Even in destruction, Picasso saw irrepressible hope.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

School Aid: 2010 and 2011 (proposed) compared

Figuring out state aid comparisons is so simple!
With Maria (see here) and Olddoc (see here) keeping an eye on Plainfield's school budget (Renata does not discuss Board of Ed BUSINESS on her personal blog), I usually leave it to them to do the digging and reporting.

However, since the vast bulk of the school budget comes from state aid, and Gov. Christie's proposed FY2012 budget INCREASES state aid to most school districts, including Plainfield, I thought to do a simple comparison from the state documents for last year and the proposed budget to see where the increment comes in.

'Simple' comparison? Not on your life.

Going to the State's website, it was easy to find the PROPOSED state aid figures for 2011-12 (see here).

Getting last year's numbers was another matter altogether. After mucking about on the website for a few minutes and not finding anything, I did a search for '2010-11 State Aid', exactly matching the term under which the propose aid is found, except of course for the years. The search returned 11,071 results (see here), ranked by relevancy, with my desired document coming in NINTH, after items going back as far as 2003-04. Guess what, someone changed the file naming protocol since last year. Go figure!

Opening the documents and printing out the Plainfield page should give me an apples-to-apples experience, right?

Guess again. The two years do not line up exactly, as you can see from the table below (links to the data are at the end of this post).

Equalized Aid
Educational Adequacy Aid
Choice Aid
Transportation Aid
Special Ed Aid (no line in 2010)
Preschool (no line in 2011) 0
Security Aid (no line in 2010) 1,862,131
Other Aid (no line in 2011) 0
Adjustment Aid 0

First off, PRESCHOOL AID is not included in the 2011-12 proposal (which truthfully advertises itself as covering 'K-12'), but is in the previous year. If it has not been cut, as Maria says, you can't figure it out from this data set.

Next up, I noticed that the
2011-12 proposal includes over $4M for 'Special Education Aid' and nearly $2M for 'Security Aid'; with  no corresponding line items in the previous year's aid data.

Last year's aid also included a line of over $9M in 'Other Aid', with no comparable line in the proposed data.

2011-12 proposal and Maria both cite the difference as an increase of $1,245,342 for the upcoming year.

That is, in fact, the difference between the figure for last year shown in the
2011-12 proposal, $94,378,350, and 2011-12.

But you'd never figure it out from looking at LAST YEAR'S AID DATA SET (see here), where no such number can be found or interpolated.

So, is it on purpose that we aren't given an apples-to-apples picture year over year?

In the 'Boardwalk Empire' state?

Are you serious?!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On reading Renata on youth employment issues

Three generations of Albaneses: Donna, her parents Adele and Joe, and her son Richard.

Plainfield youth could certainly do worse than have Renata Hernandez in their corner.

Renata, a Board of Ed member who also mentors a group of young women, posted on her blog (see here) regarding youth employment issues in the Queen City as she sees them, citing some of her experiences.

Renata is right that young people need to be given that 'first' job opportunity, and the kinds of local businesses she mentions (C-Town, McDonalds, Dairy Queen) are often the point of entry into the job market for Plainfield youngsters.

But Renata links her less-than-ideal experience with C-Town to McDonalds and Dairy Queen in a way that can leave the reader thinking these businesses don't offer opportunities for youngsters trying to get into the workforce.

Nothing could be farther from the truth!

Both Angela Adderly (at her South Avenue and downtown McDonalds franchises) and the Albanese family make it a point of giving Plainfield youth their first jobs, and with them opportunities for picking up invaluable life skills that will serve them however far they go in their adult lives.

In particular, I can commend Donna Albanese (as if she needed it, having been recognized by the Dairy Queen organization for the family's OUTSTANDING community service), through my own personal experience.

In the early1990s, I helped form a community outreach nonprofit at Grace Episcopal Church. Among our programs was a girlchoir, composed of Plainfield girls from grades 4 to 12 who became part of a choir that concertized extensively throughout the tri-state area.  The girls received a small stipend and, besides singing, were given homework coaching, recreation activities and what I suppose you could call 'life skills coaching': timeliness, accountabililty, good grooming and carriage, leadership opportunities, and pathways to excellence and recognition through a recognized international musical organization.

Besides that, as the girls matured and move out of the girlchoir experience, several found employment with Donna Albanese at the Dairy Queen.

Over the years, many of Donna's employees (including the girls from Grace) would move on to college and other career options; but one of the amazing things is the sense of 'family' that the Albanese's former employees have, coming back for visits, even bringing their own children in and explaining this was where they got their first job opportunity.

Bernice Paglia, in a comment on Renata's post, pointed out all the Albaneses have done; Renata picked up on that without actually apologizing for included them in with her C-Town experience.

That is unfortunate, because advocating for a good cause (giving young people a crack at their first job) was marred by implying that McDonalds and Dairy Queen (along with other, unspecifed South Avenue businesses) are doing less than their share.

As for employing young people, I am surprised Renata doesn't mention the school-to-jobs opportunities that are open to high school students. I shop several times a week at Twin City on Seventh Street, and there is at least one young cashier there whom I have learned works there as just part of such a school-to-jobs program.

Business people have to run their businesses so that they can keep the doors open. It doesn't help the situation in a fragile economy to suggest -- without any detailed analysis, only an unhappy experience with ONE business -- that our young people are being let down and these businesses are putting their very futures in peril.

How is this helpful, and is the assertion justified or hyperbolic?

First of all, the unemployment rate among Plainfield ADULTS is higher than the state average of 9.1%, and many of these people have mouths to feed at home. What about them? And then there is the matter of UNDEREMPLOYMENT, folks taking on part-time or temporary work to get by when there are no full-time jobs available. What about these folks?

Employment -- youth and adult -- are big issues, big challenges and big opportunities in Plainfield.

Renata is right to challenge Mayor Robinson-Briggs to get to work on this matter; it is one that is only belatedly getting any attention from this Administration. And Renata's offer of help is reassuring.

However, berating businesses who may be doing everything you think is good -- and even more than you know -- is hardly a way to win friends and influence people.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Supporting Wisconsin workers

Tens of thousands of Wisconsin workers rally in Madison.
Here's some information for those Plainfield Today readers who have asked what can be done to show support for and solidarity with Wisconsin public workers.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has launched an attack on the very core of working peoples' self-defense: collective bargaining. (Except for the statewide police and fire unions, which supported his election.) Despite the public workers unions' agreement to cede on EVERY FINANCIAL DEMAND made by the governor, Gov. Walker is adamant he wants the Legislature to pass legislation stripping the unions of the most basic union protection.

Tens of thousands of public workers have massed at the state Capitol building, including the inside hallways and rotunda.

Workers worldwide are declaring their support and unions throughout the United States are holding rallies in support at THEIR OWN STATE CAPITALS.

Hundreds of pizzas have been donated through nearby Ian's Pizza.
Pizza has even been sent to those in Madison by Egyptian workers and hundreds of other donors.

Here are some sources for news and support opportunities --

If you want to help, check out the above.

Also, note that Gov. Christie will be hosting a counter-rally --

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Hidden Plainfield: February 20 home ID

Though visible, yesterday's carriage house did need some 'espying'.

The carriage house in yesterday's Hidden Plainfield is at the rear of the property immediately next door to United Presbyterian Church on East Front Street, and across the street from Richmond Towers.

I tried to give a little hint by describing the Wards, beginning with Ward One, in which this repurposed carriage house stands. Another little clue was using the persnickety 'espying' -- which, among other things, means glimpsing something partially hidden.

As with many other remaining carriage house in Plainfield, this one is partly obscured by a heavily treed property, but if you gaze directly down the driveway in passing, it is there is all its [diminished] glory.

Do you know the three I was thinking of that are now residences?

They are on Carlton Avenue, Stelle Avenue, and Madison Avenue.

Where shall we go next week?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hidden Plainfield: Where horses and carriages once lived

Horses, carriages, and sometimes staff, lived in outbuildings such as this one.

Plainfield's arrival as a suburban bedroom community of New York financiers and such (as opposed to a fresh air resort which it had been from the 1840s) came in the wake of the Civil War; its charter, received from the Legislature in 1869, kicked off a long period of growth.

It was no accident the wards were numbered as they were (and remain): the First Ward was the
FIRST Ward, where the wealthiest folks at first lived, East Front Street being lined with mansions. The Second Ward was where Job Male set his gaze as a developer and booster, with the district of mansionettes sited around the land he donated for the building of Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church. (A Unitarian himself, he reserved a much more modest plot for his own denomination; he was nothing if not pragmatic.)

The Third Ward was basically undeveloped until into the 1870s and 1880s, and the Fourth Ward was already where  much of Plainfield's industrial concerns were sited, and crowded with affordable housing for workers, except for a few grand Victorians on Myrtle Avenue.

One concomitant of this growth was the construction of CARRIAGE HOUSES
of all sizes and materials, to house the horses, carriages, hay, feed and tackle -- as well as,  sometimes, the help to manage same.

Though many are now gone and a few have been converted into striking homes (I can think of three off the top of my head), there are many still standing, some in quite good condition.

I enjoy espying them while driving around town, as I hope you do, too.

Do you know where today's example is located?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Signs of the times: Farewell, Beverly!

Despite the missing 'y', a strong Moderne personality for Beverly.
Here and there downtown, there are reminders of Plainfield's halcyon days as a downtown shopping destination for central Jerseyans.

e such has been the signage above the former Beverly Millinery shop on East Front Street near Watchung.

It has always caught my eye as a fine example of the Art Moderne sensibility which pervaded store design and signage in the late 1930s and 1940s.

Efforts being made to rent the vacant space.
Suddenly last September, when I took the picture above, there was a flurry of activity as the owner made some efforts to market the two vacant storefronts.

On a trip downtown yesterday, I noticed that the
Beverly Milliner_ sign has been removed, leaving a blank fa├žade, perhaps awaiting a new tenant's nameplate...

Farewell, Beverly!


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Jerry and Plainfield cable subscribers. What's wrong with this picture?

What's wrong with this picture?
Plainfield 'cable' subscribers appear about to get the shock of their lives, if a bill passed by the Assembly yesterday is also OK'ed by the Senate, as seems likely.

And what have you heard from Assemblyman Jerry Green about this? Nada.

I say 'cable' in quote marks because the bill will impact not only traditional COMCAST cable subscribers, but also VERIZON customers, as well as LANDLINE PHONE COMPANY customers (see NJ Spotlight coverage here, and Ledger coverage here).

The bill, which passed the Assembly 66-7 with 4 abstentions and three not present, will relieve Plainfield and NJ subscribers of the following consumer protections --

  • OUTAGES: Credit to consumers for outages over four hours would be abolished;
  • BILLING ERRORS: Law requiring correction of billing errors is lifted;
  • DISCRIMINATION: Law ensuring against discrimination or refusal of service is lifted;
  • SLAMMING: The prohibition against switching a consumer's phone company without permission would be lifted;
  • RATES: Cable and phone companies would be free to raise rates on basic services at will (they must currently be approved by the BPU).
The state's Ratepayer Advocate, who opposes the legislation, holds that 3 million households with basic cable and 1.4 million with basic phone service (local area and emergency calls only) will be left to the tender mercies of the telecom companies (see here statement here, in PDF; and video of an NJN interview here).

And there's a special kicker for MUNICIPALITIES: telecom companies would no longer be MANDATED to provide PUBLIC ACCESS CHANNELS, such as our Comcast and Verizon ones, to local communities.

I don't know if Assemblyman Green voted FOR the measure (the roll call wasn't posted yet when I looked online; see the bill here). If he did, he owes his constituents a full explanation of his support for killing these consumer protections; if he didn't support the bill, why hasn't he been crowing from the rooftops?

Approval by the Senate is the last step to the stripping of these consumer protections.

Here is contact information for the 22nd District's legislative team --

  • Sen. Nick Scutari
    1514 E. Saint Georges Ave., 2nd Floor, Linden, NJ 07036
    Phone: (908) 587-0404
    Fax: (908) 587-9312

  • Assemblyman Jerry Green
    17 Watchung Ave., Plainfield, NJ 07060
    Phone: (908) 561-5757

  • Assemblywoman Linda Stender
    1801 East Second St., 2nd Floor, Scotch Plains, NJ 07076
    Phone: (908) 668-1900
    Fax: (908) 668-9962

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

State: PMUA's lack of financial details its glaring website weakness

Despite lack of financial info, PMUA website beats the city's by a country mile.
The Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA)'s lack of financial details on its website (see here) puts it in cahoots with 569 of the state's local authorities that DO NOT POST FINANCIAL INFORMATION to their websites, or 97% of the total of such organizations.

The information is found in a
just released report by the State Comptroller's office on transparency in authorities' websites (the full report is available here, in PDF).

All of the state's local authorities are measured against the following criteria --

  • Website
  • Meeting Information (posting of agendas AND minutes)
  • Financial Reports (budgets, audits, bills, check registers, etc.)
  • Officials Listed (Executive staff, Boards of Commissioners)
  • Contact Information (address, phone, fax, emails)
  • Mission Statement
Amazingly, at least 195 local authorities DO NOT OPERATE A WEBSITE at all.

Considering that these authorities mostly operate relatively unobtrusively, it is troubling that there is so little ONLINE FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE, given that collectively they spend about $5 billion a year, not to mention many millions in bond indebtedness (for all of which the taypayers are ultimately responsible).

Here is a table of the local authorities with which Plainfielders have some sort of contact --



PMUA Yes Partial No Yes Yes Yes
PARSA Yes No No Yes Yes Yes
UCIA Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
UCUA Yes Partial No Yes Yes Yes
HAP Yes Partial No Yes Yes Yes
UCWIB Yes Partial No Yes Yes Yes

Agencies (initials above are links to websites): PMUA (Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority), PARSA (Plainfield Area Sewerage Authority), UCIA (Union County Improvement Authority), UCUA (Union County Utilities Authority), HAP (Housing Authority of Plainfield), WIB (Union County Workforce Improvement Board)

Besides not posting financial information, the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) is given only a 'partial' on providing MEETING INFORMATION.

While there is a note on the front page of the time and place of the next Board of Commissioners meeting, I could find no MEETING SCHEDULE on the website. When one looks under THE AUTHORITY |MEETING AGENDA one finds the current/most recent agenda but no others. There is also no option to download (as with the Council agendas), and when printing is attempted, words at the ends of the lines are dropped because what is being printed is the web page (with sidebar) and not the document itself.

While basic contact information is provided, there is NO LIST OF THE EXECUTIVE STAFF and how to reach them (at least as far as I could determine), so I am curious at how the Comptroller arrived at a 'YES' for 'Responsible Official Listed'. Quirkily, the Commissioners are listed under 'Leadership'.

All of this being said, the PMUA website is miles, make that MILES, ahead of the City's in terms of its organization, presentation and efficiency. Missing, thankfully, are the artsy-fartsy gimmicks that strew the front pages of the City's and District's websites (is this what shared services means?), in favor of a straightforward Joe Friday 'just the facts, m'am' presentation which suits me just fine.

The PMUA could take some pointers from the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA), where there are links DIRECTLY FROM THE HOME PAGE to the Commissioners list, their Meeting Schedule (though it needs to be updated to 2011), Agendas (current), Minutes (through 2010), and Approved Bills.

Further there is an Executive Director's page with contact info (though no email) and a link to a (stale 2008) Annual Report.

Despite all this, the UCIA -- as with all the other local authorities -- fails to post its financial information.

The absolute last-of-the-pack locally is the Plainfield Area Regional Sewerage Authority (PARSA), which can barely be said to have a presence online (the last time anyone updated any info was January 10, 2011). It does, however, list its executive staff complete with emails. You might ask yourself what PARSA is and does, how it affects you and what it costs you as a taxpayer. You might be surprised. Especially if you can get the information from its website.

The Comptroller's report is a valuable tool, and you can find a wealth of links to other online info on its 'transparency' web page (see here).

There are some things related to transparency, however, that the Comptroller DID NOT MEASURE -- most importantly whether the OPRA CONTACT (custodian of records) was listed and any evaluation of the website's ACCESSIBILITY to Internet users with special needs.

Per aspera ad astra, just so nobody rests on their oars.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No Plainfield school construction money; Christie payback to Jerry?

During his campaign stop in Plainfield, Christie visited
with a number of local business owners, including author J.M. Benjamin.
NOTE @ 11 AM: The following additional stories have come online:  "NJ Spotlight" | "Ledger"

Plainfield school officials have been on tenterhooks for months about state funding for school construction projects in Plainfield.

On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie finally released the list of schools getting funding this year and Plainfield was not among them (see here).

In its coverage, PolitickerNJ notes that the new procedures, adopted after a lengthy review of the Schools Development Authority ordered by Christie, are supposed to be 'politics free' (see story here).

This being New Jersey, you can file that in the 'tooth fairy' folder.

What does appear to be happening is that all the proposed projects are being evaluated by the same criteria, which is a good thing. Also, that it appears the SDA will have available a variety of 'templates' for schools.

That is also a good thing, I think. Under the Corzine administration, a lot of money went down the drain for politically-connected contracts to individually design and construct schools.

While the new regimen does not mean there will be no politically-motivated contract awards (this is New Jersey, after all), the excesses which previously brought the agency to its knees seem to be addressed in the new plan.

As for why Plainfield didn't get tapped for this round, one has to wonder if it isn't because of the famously embarrassing public scene Assemblyman Jerry Green made when Christie campaigned in Plainfield in July, 2009 (see my post at the time here).

Christie is known to have a long memory and eventually settles scores, as the Ledger's Tom Moran has recently noted in his columns.

But of course the Christie administration will deny it, plausibly.

Puts me in mind of the quip J. P. Morgan once made: 'A man always has two reasons for the things he does; a good one...and the real one'.

During the campaign stop, Christie worked the crowd at Bill's Luncheonette
and chatted with Lisa Cohen of Suburban Jewelers.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Congratulations to 'AJ' Jalloh, Plainfield's new Municipal Clerk

Movin' on down the road to 'just and capable'...
Congratulations to Plainfield's new city clerk, Abubakar Jalloh, who was confirmed and sworn in at Monday's City Council meeting by Freeholder Linda Carter.

AJ, as he is known to one and all, earned his spurs under just-retired clerk Laddie Wyatt.

His appointment comes at a crucial time for the City and for the Clerk's office. AJ will have plenty on his plate, managing the responsibilities of the Clerk's office with reduced personnel AND moving the office ever forward in the new digital age of access to documentation.

This last will actually make AJ's life easier in the long haul, as everything that is done by City Hall employees -- from contracts to agendas to applications, permits and records of every department and division -- is increasingly done DIGITALLY, making access to this information structured, easy, and transparent will significantly reduce the need to spend time at the counter servicing resident requests.

Though appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the  Council, the Municipal Clerk's duties are structured by the state, and New Jersey's municipal clerks are thus set free from local petty politics to serve the peoples' needs, and are answerable for their conduct and the performance of their duties not to local elected officials, but to the state's Department of Community Affairs.

It is a considerable responsibility, and will play a key role in helping the Queen City move forward into the challenges of the 21st century.

One word of advice as AJ moves from being an employee to being in charge, and effectively becoming a public figure (which I received once when preparing for the priesthood):

You will get credit for many things which are not of your doing; and you will get blame for many things which are not your fault. Success will come with learning to live with both...
To AJ, best wishes for much success and a long, useful and fulfilling career as Municipal Clerk!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Would-be burglar discovered frozen to death

Body of would-be metal thief was found in a vacant North Avenue industrial building (Google  maps).
A would-be copper thief was found frozen to death in a vacant Plainfield industrial building I learned Monday evening.

I was told that a male who had apparently fallen from a ladder while trying to strip copper wiring from the vacant Howell Electric Motor building on North Avenue near Johnston Avenue was found dead yesterday, presumably from hypothermia.

This is the building that my PSE&G meter reader told me a few weeks ago he had found open on his rounds and discovered metal thieves at work. He notified the police and I am told arrests were made.

Copper, which has increased in price about 50% over the last year, is fetching around $4.50 per pound, making it quite attractive to both those who are 'professional' metal thieves and others who may engage in such theft casually out of economic circumstances (for a news story on copper theft running today, see here).

There have been reports over the past year or two of such thefts, mostly from vacant and foreclosed homes, scattered around Plainfield, but industrial buildings offer richer pickings.

Will post more about this hapless would-be thief as details emerge.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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