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Monday, April 30, 2012

Will paywall scheme save the Courier?

Ten year circulation figures for the Courier,
based on a spreadsheet prepared by blogger Jim Hopkins.

Plainfielders will be interested in whether the Courier's new paywall subscription scheme due to be introduced tomorrow will save the ever-shrinking newspaper or simply delay its demise.

What exactly the parameters of the paywall scheme are will only be known as of tomorrow, but the model many newspapers -- most notably the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal -- have adopted is a set number of free articles viewed per month, with a subscription (online only, or online plus print) required for further reading.

Poking around the website, I'm beginning to wonder if the paywall proposal (about which there is no detailed information I can spot) is ready for prime time.

Add to this the fact that the article touting the new scheme, which has been featured on the MyCentralJersey website since April 15, suddenly disappeared as of Sunday night; and links to self-published stories -- such as Act IV's current production of J.B. Priestley's mystery 'An Inspector Calls' -- suddenly return the notorious '404 - Page Not Found' error message.

Secondly, when I started down the 'subscription' pathway online, the only option given was Home Delivery. There was no Digital-only subscription offered. (Though I must say, at $13.26/month, or approximately 44¢/copy, it is quite a savings over the daily newsstand price of $1.00/copy -- exclusive of Sundays.)

While the story says the Gannett papers are also tailoring the online offerings for other platforms, such as smartphones and iPads, one wonders if there will be sufficient dazzle and sizzle to overcome the cancellations that come as a matter of course when both the hard copy prices and the online experience (hitherto 'free') go up.

The Courier News is in the unenviable position of having the largest percentage decline of all Gannett's daily newspapers nationwide in the period 2000 - 2010, per a spreadsheet prepared by Jim Hopkins of the Gannett Blog (see here). It lost a total of 22,917 subscribers or 55% of its 2000 circulation figure.

It is no small irony that Gannett's justification for moving the Courier from Plainfield to Bridgewater in the 1970s -- that subscriber numbers would soar in the boom projected for Somerset and Hunterdon counties -- has turned out to be hollow. In hindsight, the final Plainfield-based circulation number was a high-water mark for the newspaper.

Will the coming changes rescue the Courier?

Only time will tell, but I'm less than sanguine.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

du Cret Art Sale, Plainfield Garden Club benefit Sunday

Plainfield photographer Richard Lear finds beauty and abstraction
in flowers from around the world.
Two fine events Sunday...perhaps the perfect opportunity to pick up a truly unusual Mother's Day gift or two --

duCret Students Annual Art Sale, 2 - 4 PM
This annual festive event features the artwork of duCret students. Meet and help support these emerging artists by purchasing one-of-a-kind pieces including, sculpture, jewelry, stained glass, photography, oil, pastel, mixed media, acrylic & water color paintings! [Winning students from this year's show will be featured at Swain's Art Galleries this coming summer.] There will be live musicians & refreshments, including a special performance of 5 original songs by emerging recording artist and duCret student Rae Cawley! Free admission! Lots of fun! Bring the whole family.

duCret is at 1030 Central Avenue, Plainfield. There is plenty of parking on site at the rear of the campus.
Drake House Benefit for the Plainfield Garden Club, 2 - 4 PM
Richard Lear's exhibit of flower photographs from around the world continues at the Drake House with a a sale of Lear's photographs in various print sizes for the benefit of the Plainfield Garden Club. Richard has traveled the world looking for extraordinary flowers to photograph. Through his lens he has found beauty as well as abstraction from New Jersey to Fiji.

Plainfield's Drake House Museum is operated by the Historical Society of Plainfield and is located at 602 West Front Street, at the foot of Plainfield Avenue. Parking available in the Museum's lot.
Take your checkbook along -- the mother(s) in your life will thank you!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Plainfield Vulcans Fish Fry Today

If you're a fried fish sandwich fanatic, as I am, you won't want to miss the Plainfield Vulcans Fish Fry which begins at Noon and runs until the fish is sold out (which means if you come too late, you waited too long).

You can get a fried Whiting sandwich for $5; add $1 for french fries. The event is at Club Cosmo, 1209 South Second Street (next door to the carwash at Clinton Avenue).

The Plainfield Vulcan Pioneers is an organization of Black professional firefighters dedicated to justice and fair treatment in firefighting recruitment and service and good relations between firefighters and the communities they serve.

The Vulcans draw their inspiration from the very first Black firefighters group, The Vulcan Society, formed by New York City firefighters in 1940 at the inspiration of Chief Wesley Williams, the third Black firefighter ever to be recruited to the FDNY, who was determined to see racial discrimination in recruitment and treatment of firefighters brought to an end.

The Plainfield chaper of Vulcans is part of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters (see their website here).

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shred or Plant? Why not both?

Aging cherry trees at the Library will be replaced.

Confidential documents can be shredded and recycled.
Plainfielders have two options this Arbor Day morning, both good for the environment -- no matter how you define that term.

Plainfield's Shade Tree Commission and the Plainfield Public Library will celebrate Arbor Day with the planting of new cherry trees to replace some that have lived well beyond their better years. The flowering cherries make a distinctive entryway for the Library each spring, and soften the somewhat harsh angularity of the landmark building, which is a modern interpretation of a classic Greek temple in the style of mid-20th century architect Edward Durell Stone. Kindergarteners will be on hand to help.


Union County's mobile paper-shredding program comes to Cedar Brook Park. Union County residents may bring up to four 10-lb. boxes or bags to be shredded. The program is intended for confidential materials that one would not simply put in the recycles (think old tax records and legal documents). You may watch your documents being shredded over the closed-circuit television system. No plastic binders. This is not the place to recycle old magazines, which should be bundled and put out on Wednesays with your regular recylables.

If you plan carefully, you can make both events.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Mayor's budgetary attack on Library worst ever

'Does Plainfield really want to have the equivalent of the Fanwood Public Library?'
the Council was asked.

To my knowledge, Plainfield's Public Library has always been funded substantially beyond the statutory minimum. (Disclosure: As a former Plainfield Public Library employee, I was somewhat aware of the funding history through contact with the late Anne Louise Davis, longtime Board president and library champion since at least the 1950s.)

So it was breathtaking to hear the Mayor's budget consultant (and former city administrator) David Kochel argue forcefully for the Mayor's proposal to cut funding back to the statutory minimum of 3 mils, reducing proposed City funding from $1.7 million to $967,000.

This despite Library accomplishments that include --

  • Zero percent contract increase over the past two years;
  • Zero overtime costs in 2011;
  • New Job Assistance Center to open this summer;
  • Only GED program in the county outside of Elizabeth;
  • Intensive use of computers by Plainfielders without home access to computers or Internet;
  • Increase of 3,000 new Library cardholders;
  • Only basic math and language literacy program in Plainfield;
To add insult to injury, it came out in the deliberations that, as in previous years, the Library was kept out of the budgetary planning process and only found out they were on the agenda when the City Clerk's office called last Friday.

Asked pointedly by Council President Adrian Mapp to explain, Administration and Finance Director Al Restaino said it was an 'inadvertent omission'.

Kochel listed several points in a bill of complaints by Mayor Robinson-Briggs that he insisted justified her desire to cut the Library funding.

Anne Robinson, the Board's president, did not hesitate to come back to Kochel point by point.

As to financial reports, she said that indeed the last audit was done in FY2009, and in light of an audit's cost of about $25,000, the Board decided to do an annual review 'to save the Library and the taxpayers money'.

That did not mean that the Library failed to supply the required financial information, she said, adding 'I guess it's been overlooked' (echoing Restaino's plaintive excuse and drawing guffaws from the audience).

Robinson also noted that she was the only unexpired Board member and thus the only one who could speak to the Council, as the Mayor has not acted on many names that have been put forward to serve, an inaction that left Robinson perplexed.

Council members were generally supportive of the Library in their comments.

Councilor Williams felt there were other places that could be cut, but 'certainly not the Library'. Councilor Greaves said 'we need to have the Library funded'. Councilor Reid, unsurprisingly, proposed that the Administration and the Library sit down and work out a compromise before May 10 (never addressing why the Administration didn't sit down with the Library in drawing up its proposal in the first place).

Council President Adrian Mapp assured Robinson and Library Director Joe Da Rold that the Council is supportive of the Library and would continue to be so.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs' animosity toward the Library is as hard to understand as her resistance to the Council hiring Mr. Kochel as budget consultant.

Certainly the Library is a model of service to the entire community, which makes her hostility perplexing. And she could have no better defender of her budget proposal than Mr. Kochel, to whose appointment she was quite cool.

Citizens Budget Advisory Committee Dee Dameron summed the whole Library discussion as 'déjà vu'.

At least Robinson-Briggs watchers can look forward to an end to her era.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

MassMutual teams with Plainfield YMCA to offer FREE life insurance for kids' education

MassMutual (Masssachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company) is teaming up with the Plainfield YMCA to offer free life insurance to qualified working people for the benefit of their children's education.

One worry of parents who plan for their children to attend college is what will happen to the child's education if the breadwinner dies.

Through its LifeBridge program, MassMutual issues a FREE ten-year term life insurance policy to qualified applicants** in the amount of $50,000 to be paid into a trust for the benefit of the education of the insured's children.

The simple application forms may be picked up at the Plainfield YMCA or downloaded
from the MassMutual website DIRECTLY (see here). Completed applications must be returned to the YMCA by Wednesday, May 2.

Applicants must also attend a meeting at the YMCA on Tuesday, May 8 at 6:00 PM at which MassMutual representatives will help complete the application process.

Applicants will need to bring the following items to the meeting --

  • Copy of most recent 1040 (to confirm income)
  • Most recent pay stub (to confirm employment)
  • Social Security numbers of children you wish to insure
  • Proper identification (driver's license, photo ID, green card, etc.)
A medical professional will also be available to take blood and urine samples to confirm health status. (All information gathered for eligibility purposes will be kept confidential.)

If you have children who will need money for their educations in the next ten years, why not take advantage of this opportunity for free dedicated life insurance?

**Eligibility criteria: Between ages of 19 and 42; parent or guardian of one or more dependent children under 18; permanent legal resident of the U.S.; currently employed with an income between $10,000 and $40,000 (part-time OK), in good health.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

FOSH candidate forum will go forward

Mark your calendar now!
I learned Tuesday afternoon that the FOSH candidate forum slated for May 23 (see my previous post here) will go forward as planned.

This means that the Rev. Tracey Brown will be participating, as the League of Women Voters requires all contesting candidates be present in order for a League member to moderate the event.

The Democrats jockeying for selection in the June primary have committed to the forum --
  • Council President Adrian Mapp, who is running for re-election to the Ward 3 seat;
  • former Board of Ed member Rasheed Abdul-Haqq, who is challenging Mapp;
  • PHS teacher and community activist (as well as former three-term Board of Ed member) Veronica 'Roni' Taylor who is running for the Citywide at-large seat; and
  • The Rev. Tracey Brown, ally of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, commissioner of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA), and pastor of Ruth Fellowship Ministries, who is the Democratic city committee's candidate.
The moderator supplied by the League of Women Voters will be Dawne Clarke, who has moderated many forums in Plainfield over the years.

The forum is slated for Wednesday, May 23, 7:00 - 9:00 PM, at Emerson Community School, Emerson Avenue and East 3rd Street (parking in the school's lot and on the street).

The community owes a vote of thanks to FOSH volunteers for pulling the event together, especially Pat Turner Kavanaugh and Jim Spear, and to the candidates for being willing to chip in to cover costs.

Mark your calendar now. See you at the forum!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Safely dispose of unwanted prescription drugs Saturday


Union County is taking part in the National Take Back Day this Saturday, when Plainfielders and other county residents may safely dispose of expired and unwanted prescription medications.

Now is the time to go through your medications and get rid of those you no longer need or use or which are beyond the recommended 'use by' date.

Though the police departments in several communities in the county are acting as drop-off points, Plainfield is not among them -- even though the event is prominently advertised on the city website's home page.

The closest point for Plainfielders to drop off unwanted prescription drugs is the Union County Police Department at 300 North Avenue East in Westfield. (For a complete list of drop-off locations, see the county's website here.)

The hours are 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM this Saturday (April 28) only.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Richmond Street, South Avenue traffic alerts

If you use Richmond Street or South Avenue on a regular basis, here's a heads up --

Continuing its long-term program of rehabilitation of its bridges in Plainfield, NJT is expected to begin work on the Richmond Street overpass this week.

The street will be closed to vehicular traffic for the duration. A passage for pedestrian traffic is expected to be available after work hours.

Folks who use Richmond Street as a bypass to Norwood and Route 22 will need to make alternate plans, and can consider Roosevelt Avenue or Berckman Street, each of which has its pluses and minuses.

NJT has previously said that historical features of the bridges will be preserved and their appearance improved (that's where the paint comes in!). The project is a continuation of the bridge rebuilding program begun in 2007 and working its way eastward through the city.
Though there have been some slight delays, expect the reconstruction of South Avenue between Leland Avenue and Terrill Road to get into full swing shortly (it was supposed to start today, but there have been equipment problems).

Work on Atlantic and Pacific Streets has been under way and will be completed before contractors turn their attention to South Avenue.

Donna Albanese and the South Avenue merchants have been working closely with the contractors and the engineers to make sure that signage is clear and unconfusing (and perhaps the misspelling of Dunellen will even be corrected!).

Traffic will flow in one direction only while work is under way, so please follow the signs and develop a plan for navigating the situation until the work is completed, which should be only a matter of a few weeks.
As Roy Rogers and Dale Evans used to sing, "Happy Trails To You".

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

What's Blaenwern got to do with it?

Prince William and Kate Middleton sang Blaenwern at their wedding in Westminster Abbey.
While digging for material to write about Saturday's concert at Plainfield's Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, I came across a list of tunes to which the hymn 'Love divine, all loves excelling' is sung (see here).

American congregations are most accustomed to singing this fine hymn to the Welsh tune 'Hyfrydol', but I noticed that many hymnals also include another Welsh tune, 'Blaenwern', and that got bells ringing.

Those who watched the broadcast of the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey last April may recall this hymn was sung after the couple solemnized their vows (see video below).

But the tune took me back in time to the spring of 1957, where a farm boy was finishing his first year at Albright College in Reading, PA. It was the first time I had lived in what I considered a 'big' city (its population, which has since declined, was about 120,000 then).

One of the treats of such a large town for students for the ministry was the large number of different kinds of churches, which we were encouraged to visit and draw lessons from.

And one of the churches several of us were drawn to was Holy Cross Methodist Church, whose minister, Charles Yrigoyen, was known for his dynamic preaching. The congregation was also known for its excellent music program, having had a boychoir for many years that echoed the Anglican tradition. (The church building is of the same vintage as Plainfield's Seventh-Day Baptist Church on Central Avenue, with some of the same exuberance which came from wealthy members returning from Europe with ideas about things to add luster to their new church buildings -- in Holy Cross' case a huge but decorative fireplace on one wall of the 800-seat octagonal sanctuary).

It was fortuitous, then, that Holy Cross' strong music program and Yrigoyen's intense musicality and Welsh heritage resulted in the congregation's hosting of a Gymanfa Ganu, a traditional Welsh hymn-singing festival. For someone like myself, who loved to sing hymns and found Welsh tunes mesmerizing, this afternoon-long festival was like sitting down to an entire wedding cake of one's own.

Between congregation members and Welsh cultural enthusiasts, the sanctuary was packed. We sat in huge blocks according to the part we sang and the whole assembly was led by a director. Much of the singing was a capella, with only a pitch pipe to get us started, but rousing it was.

And one of the tunes we sang that memorable afternoon was 'Blaenwern', sturdy and foursquare, yet made dramatic by the shift in the second half of the verse, which lends opportunities for contrast. The tune is the only one for which its composer, William Penfro Rowlands, is today remembered. (For an example of a Cymanfa-type performance by a thousand-man chorus, see the video below from London's Albert Hall.)

But my introduction to Welsh hymnody had another lesson to teach me, and that was the Anglican tradition of embellishing the final verse of a hymn with a free accompaniment which transformed the harmonies of the hymn (of which the congregation was singing the melody only) -- sometimes beyond recognition.

Though I was enamored of the technique, and studied it years later under my organ teacher Duncan Phyfe, I was never really proficient at it. In fact, my apogee as an organist was to be summer fill-in at Grace Church, while the choir was on hiatus and the morning service was somewhat simplified. (Grace's then organist, Andrew Moore, now at Christ Church, Short Hills, was an absolute master of free accompaniment. A sample of the technique can be heard in the final verse in the video below, recorded by the parish organist at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Hanwell, London.)

And it is in those free accompaniments of last verses that one can glimpse the meaning of Charles Wesley's phrase 'lost in wonder, love and praise', which is what worship at its finest is about.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Concert at Crescent Saturday night benefits Drake House

'Cast our crowns at Jesus' feet' by Jim Janknegt.

'Lost in Wonder, Love and Praise.'**  Those three words open up a world of great music to be presented by the Crescent Choral Society Saturday evening.

Three giants in the musical world are surely Felix Mendelssohn, Ralph Vaughan Williams and the contemporary British composer John Rutter, and the Society has pieces from all three for your listening pleasure!

The program begins in wonder with Mendelssohn’s sacred cantata Hear My Prayer with the haunting soprano solo “O for the Wings of a Dove,” and follows with his stirring setting of Psalm 42 also called “As the Hart Pants,” with more soprano solos and a men’s quartet.

Then on to love and it’s the men’s turn to solo in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs, which concludes with the mighty Antiphon “Let All the World in Every Corner Sing.”

Finally, in praise, the Society gives you Rutter’s joyful Te Deum, first performed in Canterbury Cathedral in 1988.

Now that’s a line up of truly engaging music!

Tickets available at the door. A portion of the proceeds from tickets sold by Historical Society members will go to benefit the Drake House Museum.

At Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue
(Parking in church lot, on street, or in Swain Galleries lot)

**The words 'lost in wonder, love and praise' are the concluding phrase of the final stanza of Charles Wesley's famous and much-beloved hymn 'Love divine, all loves excelling' (see more here).

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Will FOSH forum fail for lack of a fourth candidate?

The League of Women Voters has set the 'gold standard'
for voter education through forums and outreach since its beginning.
Unless you've been living in an undiscovered Plainfield cave for the last eighteen years, you will have noticed that the outcome of the June Democratic primary has been pretty much determinative of the outcome of the November general election.

Which means that having an opportunity for candidates contesting for the party line in the June primary to be seen and heard by the electorate are few and far between.

The League of Women Voters, which has conducted candidate forums in Plainfield since 1920, has a policy of not conducting forums during the primary season, saving their efforts for the autumn general election.

The Plainfield chapter of the NAACP does have a forum during the primary season, but in the thirty years I've been in Plainfield, it has been a relatively small event.

So, Plainfielders concerned about the state of the city's elected leadership have FOSH (Friends of Sleepy Hollow) to thank for organizing a spring candidate forum. Taking up the task of offering a service to the entire community, FOSH once again has moved to organize a candidate forum for the 2012 primary election.

The group has set a date (Wednesday, May 23), arranged for a venue (Emerson Community School), engaged a LWV-trained moderator (guaranteeing the 'gold standard' of forum protocols), and secured the commitment of the candidates.

Well, most of the candidates. As of yesterday, three of the Democrats jockeying for selection in the June primary had committed to the forum: Council President Adrian Mapp, who is running for re-election to the Ward 3 seat; former Board of Ed member Rasheed Abdul-Haqq, who is challenging Mapp; and PHS teacher and community activist (as well as former three-term Board of Ed member) Veronica 'Roni' Taylor.

The agreement to participate of the fourth candidate, the Rev. Tracey Brown, ally of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, commissioner of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA), and pastor of Ruth Fellowship Ministries is awaited.

As FOSH forum organizer Pat Turner Kavanaugh noted in an email Thursday, 'the FOSH event remains tentative until Rev. Brown agrees to take part'.

This is because the League of Women Voters will only allow one of its trained moderators to participate if candidates for all of the contested seats are present. (Because the Republican candidates are uncontested, they will not be seated at the table, but will be acknowledged if they are present at the forum.)

So, it is within the power of the fourth candidate to ensure that a forum goes forward or does not.

Will it?

Though the Rev. Brown could scuttle this community opportunity by not participating, there is ANOTHER option for the FOSH organizers: pick another moderator who would be fair and even-handed but for whom an empty chair would not be a deal-breaker.

Someone of great stature and experience and well-known in the community.

Dottie Gutenkauf comes to mind.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Muhlenberg advisory group meeting tonight

Map showing Muhlenberg's original service area.

The Community Advisory Group, chaired by Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs is scheduled to meet tonight at 6:30 PM in City Hall Library.

A reminder notice was circulated by City Administrator Eric Berry's office Wednesday that included a note apologizing for cancellation of several recent meetings and including a schedule for what appears to be the rest of 2012.

Those concerned about Solaris' performance under the agreement with the state allowing Muhlenberg to be closed will be able to get updates at these meetings, which are supposed to be open to the public. (Don't be surprised if you can't find mention of the meetings or a schedule on the City's website.)

Tonight's agenda includes --

  • JFK-Muhlenberg Campus Annual Self Assessment
  • Discussion on the [Development] proposal from Solaris
  • Discussion re: Two potential buyers
  • Open Discussion and Updates
Note the projected dates of CAG meetings for the balance of 2012 --
  • July 21, 6:30 PM, City Hall Library
  • October 20, 6:30 PM, City Hall Library
Note that City Council has a budget hearing scheduled for 7 PM tonight also, so one or the other meeting may be moved to another room. 

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Breaking: Man dies after being stabbed Tuesday

A man was stabbed in front of the Family Health Center at 38 Watchung Avenue in Plainfield early Tuesday evening.

He was transported by EMTs to Robert Wood Johnson and I am told he died a short time later.

Have not learned anything of circumstances or identity of the slain man. More when more  information becomes available.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Welcome to the first campaign blogger: Roni Taylor

Roni and her daughter Savannah and son Kenny
brought 'T.J.' to visit when I was at JFK.
Once again, Plainfield can expect a lively primary election. As in previous years, I have offered to link to the blogs, websites or other online presences of the candidates for City Council who have filed this year.

On the Republican side, Bill Amirault is running for the citywide seat and Randy Bullock, a former school board member, is running for the Ward 3 seat. Since they are running unopposed, you may not expect to hear much about their campaigns until the Fall, when they will oppose either incumbent Adrian Mapp or Rasheed Abdul-Haqq as the Democratic Ward 3 candidate and either Rev. Tracey Brown or Veronica (Roni) Taylor as the citywide at-large candidate.

The Rev. Brown, who is both Mayor Robinson-Briggs pastor and best friend, is running on the Democratic Party line. She is also a PMUA Commissioner and served one year of a three-year term on the Board of Education.

Roni Taylor and I have counted each other the best of friends for over twenty years, since way back when Dottie Gutenkauf and I helped to coordinate several successful Board of Ed candidacies -- including both Roni's and Randy Bullock's.

You can check out Roni's blog here.

As I have said (and done) before, though I am ardently partisan in PLAINFIELD TODAY, the CLIPS blog is for the community and I will gladly put up links to any candidate's web presence and include any campaign events they forward me in the Community Calendar, without editorializing.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Robinson-Briggs: 'Knew her before she was a virgin'

Perhaps an appropriate gift for Mayor Robinson-Briggs?
Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs wasted no time getting out a flyer (mislabeled a 'press release') shouting from the rooftops that because she won't be indicted over the WBLS mess, she '[knew] all along that I did nothing wrong' (you can read Mark Spivey's Courier story here).

Problem is there are two things she DOESN'T want to talk about --


Far as I'm concerned, and as far as the Investors Bank people have told the Council investigator and Councilor Storch has also repeated: Investors Bank gave the money for the July 4th Celebration and nothing else. They are being nice people in not signing a complaint against her for misappropriation of funds -- which is what it appears to be, by my lights. Investors is the party that would have to complain, not the Council. The fact that they haven't hardly makes Mayor Robinson-Briggs innocent.


She stepped in it when she claimed to be acting in light of a public emergency. The conditions under which a Mayor may take emergency actions are quite circumscribed and include memorialization by the governing body subsequent to the emergency. You will note our Sharon did not follow the rules in either regard.

I am reminded of Oscar Levant's famous remark about the squeaky-clean girl-next-door image of actress and singer Doris Day, 'I knew her before she was a virgin' (see here).

Something many of us can also say about Mayor Robinson-Briggs.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Dan gets his marching orders

Tuesday will be my last day at Plainfield's Norwood Terrace rehab center.

I've been given my marching orders.

After the stitches and staples were removed about ten days ago, it was just a matter of making sure the amputation wound was completely cleared before I would be sent home for the interim between rehab and the fitting of my first prosthesis.

The first one gets me up and running -- or at least walking -- while the stump continues to shrink to its final dimensions and I learn to maneuver with the extra weight on my left leg.

For that I will go to outpatient therapy at JFK until the final prosthetic device -- the one that really looks like a leg and won't make people go 'Eeek!' -- is ready for fitting. At that point the plan is to put me back into JFK as an in-patient for intensive training on the final device and then turn me loose on the world.

I have paid the price for neglecting healthcare, and have apologized to those my neglect has cost grave worry and more -- especially my partner of nearly 36 years, Nat. And I'm moving on, thankful for a second chance to enjoy the rest of life's adventures.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Four things to do on a Spring weekend

Leland Avenue Park is site of the popular
FOSH Blessing of the Animals event each October.
Looks to be a promising Spring weekend for Plainfielders. Here are some things to do this weekend --



9:00 AM - 1:00 PM. Bring rakes, bags and gloves. Wear comfortable shoes and yard clothes and join with friends and neighbors to spruce up this popular neighborhood park.


Noon - 4 PM. Join members of the community in a celebration of diversity in the arts, hosted by the sisters of the Delta sorority. At Washington Community School, 427 Darrow Avenue (parking in the Spooner Avenue lot).



2:00 - 4:00 PM. Plainfield photographer Richard Lear exhibits his floral photography from around the world. Meet the artist in an opening reception at the Drake House, 602 West Front Street (foot of Plainfield Avenue).


3:00 PM. Members and friends of the Plainfield Music Club present Primavera XII, the twelfth annual Spring concert for the Plainfield community. More than a dozen musicians will perform instrumental and vocal music for the delight of members and guests. This free annual concert is always a crowd-pleaser. At Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Six Plainfield schools highlighted in new state list of troubled schools

Though New Jersey has been given a waiver from the much-hated No Child Left Behind Act, six Plainfield schools appear in the newly named categories of New Jersey's troubled schools (for the full state list, see here).

Hubbard Middle School and Stillman Elementary School are listed as 'Priority' schools, meaning they are among the lowest-performing in the state. Issues with Priority schools may be addressed by replacing the building's leadership team, the teaching staff or new curriculum and/or mandated training.

The other four schools are now classified as 'Focus' schools, meaning that there are specific problem areas that need to be focused on. For both Plainfield High School and the Barack Obama Academy, the issue is low graduation rates. For both Maxson Middle School and Jefferson School, the problem area is listed as 'lowest subgroup performance'.

Both Priority and Focus schools are expected to get new levels of state attention, though it's not exactly clear what that will mean.

Perhaps we can celebrate the fact that more than half our schools are deemed to be middling as will be given considerable leeway in executing their mission.

For my money, the search for a new Superintendent is of key importance, and it is quite distressing that the Board is conducting everything in such a shroud of secrecy -- you will search in vain to find any news on the District's website.

It is now Spring Break, long past the time we could have expected to get a progress report.

So far the only word is through the grapevine -- that the choice will be the current interim superintendent.

How Plainfield will ever solve its problems -- whether with the schools or the PMUA -- by simply relying on homegrown choices is beyond me.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Dunn consolidates control of PMUA with Williamson appointment

Happier days: Councilors Dunn (right) and Mitchell
congratulating resident Mahendra Budhan for beautification efforts in 2000.
Make no mistake about it, Commissioner Malcolm R. Dunn consolidated his control of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) with Tuesday evening's appointment of the erstwhile corporation counsel Dan Williamson as the agency's executive director.

In a matter of months, Dunn has engineered a coup that --

  • subverted an arbitration process that former executives Eric Watson and David Ervin seemed likely to lose;

  • handcrafting a $1 million 'golden parachute' settlement for the former exectuives;

  • sidetracked interim executive director Duane Young, who was making progress with controlling rates and reforming the agency structure;

  • and made it clear he is going after the unions -- which means wages and working conditions.
Anyone who thinks Mr. Williamson's tenure at the PMUA will bring serious positive change would disabuse themselves of the idea after reflecting for a moment on his six-plus years of service to Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs.

That does not mean Dunn has a completely free hand -- yet.

As long as Commissioners Harold Mitchell and Carol Ann Brokaw are in place, it looks like there is a possibility of struggle over policy decisions, remembering that Comissioner Sanders is an alternate and only votes in the absence of a full commissioner.

It is clear to observers that Commissioner Dunn finds reason to push back against the agency's counsel, Leslie London, at every turn -- challenging her on almost every statement. However much Dunn may wish to cashier the very capable Ms. London, who has spent most of her career working on the PMUA account, my guess is that Glenn Scotland's ace will trump Dunn's knave every time (see here).

Will anything come of the 're-examination' of the Interlocal Services Agreeent setting up the PMUA? I am skeptical, believing all this sudden interest in palaver has to do with heading off the Council's moves toward studying the question of re-absorbing the PMUA into the city's fold.

One last word: Councilor Storch gave the PMUA employees fair warning at Monday's Council that their main danger was from the Board of Commissioners.

Commissioner Dunn made it quite apparent (see here) at the board's January meeting that he is a union-buster in the way he attacked interim executive director Duane Young for there being union organizing going on.

This can only mean trouble for the employees: attacks on working conditions, downward pressure on wages and a loss of job security.

Meanwhile, those who stop by the Stone Square Lodge bar in late afternoons may have a chance to catch old drinking buddies Dan Williamson and Eric Watson in their customary seats at the wall end of the bar, sipping some single-malt Scotch and musing on Plainfield and how good life here can be -- for the in-crowd.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Councilor Reid owes everyone an apology

Hon. William Reid, Councilor, Ward One.

 Plainfield Councilor Bill Reid's performance at Monday's Council meeting marks a low point for a man with whom I often disagree but whom I have always respected for a certain courtliness in his demeanor as well as a tenacity in expressing his beliefs and opinions.

Councilor Reid embarrassed himself, the Council and the City of Plainfield by his rude and abusive behavior and owes everyone an apology.

First he should apologize to Councilor Cory Storch, who had the floor when Reid interrupted him, attacked him personally and ignored the chair's gavel.

Second, he should apologize to Council President Adrian Mapp for disrupting the order of the Council and ignoring the President's gavel, which is a universally recognized summons to order and a warning that an officer of the law may be called upon to enforce that order.

Third, he should apologize to the entire City Council for behavior that brings the governing body into disrepute. His outburst on Monday cannot be edited out, and will stay there for the world to see as long as it is televised.

Fourth, he should apologize to Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, whose strong supporter he usually is. The Mayor's purposes cannot be well-served by a Councilor who seems unable to control his intemperate outbursts. If for no other reason than hoping to advance her policies which he supports, Reid should have been in a better frame of self-control on Monday.

Fifth, he should apologize to the audience of Plainfield residents and taxpayers that was present as well as the unseen audience who will witness his outburst on the city's cable TV channel. This is hardly why he was elected to represent the residents of the First Ward. They and all voters have the right to expect better from an elected official.

Lastly, I remember Councilor Reid once giving a moving testimony to the role that his mother played in shaping his life, particularly his life in public service. He told the audience that he could still hear her voice, many years after her passing, urging him to do the right thing. If he hears that voice at all now, he should pay heed to it and restore the respect for order which he has always previously shown.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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