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Thursday, May 31, 2012

'Condition Critical' flyer floods Muhlenberg neighborhoods

Neighborhoods around the closed Muhlenberg Hospital are being leafleted.
As Plainfield's June primary election draws close (it's next Tuesday), flyers citing 'Condition Critical' have begun circulating in the neighborhoods surrounding the closed Muhlenberg Hospital.

The flyers are identified as from 'Residents Uniting to Save our Homes (RUSH)', a previously unheard of group.

JFK, the remaining corporate entity after Solaris Health System closed Muhlenberg and then dissolved itself, has a proposal to build a 660-unit apartment complex on the campus of the former critical-care hospital. Though JFK has conducted a public relations blitz during this past spring, formal procedures to seek city approval have not yet begun.

However, residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the closed hospital and which would be most heavily impacted by the demolition of the current hospital buildings and construction of a massive high rise apartment complex in its place, have been keenly interested in -- and opposed to -- the project, turning out for numerous meetings at which it has been discussed.

Besides its impact on the immediate neighborhood, the whole project is tied up with continuing questions about provision of healthcare services in this city of 50,000. With the state mandate to keep the Satellite Emergency Department (SED) open set to expire in the summer of 2013 and a proposal by JFK to renovate the former nursing school dormitory Kenyon House as a new, standalone ER, concerns are quite high throughout the community.

The flyer is critical of City Council candidates Tracey Brown and Rasheed Abdul-Haqq; Brown in particular, because she spoke in favor of the project at the NAACP forum as providing needed 'affordable housing'.

It must be said that Brown clarified her position by the time she appeared at the subsequent FOSH candidate forum, saying she was opposed to the apartment proposal as it stands. (It did not mollify the audience that she was so woefully uninformed about such a serious community issue in the first place.)

The flyer appeals to area residents to consider the changes the project would wreak on the quiet residential character of the neighborhoods and suggests a negative impact on property values.

Those with long memories will recall the impact residents in the portion of the area referred to as 'The Woods' (roughly bounded by Randolph Road, Woodland and Park Avenues and South End Parkway) had in the debate surrounding the erection of a new Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall between South End Parkway and Sloane Boulevard a number of years ago.

The flyer urges voters to support Adrian Mapp for re-election to Ward 3 and Veronica 'Roni' Taylor for the citywide at-large seat. (The entire section from Randolph Road to the South Plainfield line -- including 'The Woods' -- is in Ward 3.)

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What Council candidate Tracey Brown does NOT bring to the table

Council candidate Tracey Brown refuses to discuss details of her public service.
By all accounts, Plainfield city council candidate the Rev. Tracey Brown is a dynamic and successful leader of a growing congregation that is engaged in service to the community in which it is set.

And she has chosen to run for public office, a seat on the City Council through which she would represent voters and residents citywide.

A fair question is what basis voters can use in deciding whether or not to cast a vote for Rev. Brown.

Is it because she supports President Obama's re-election bid? But all Democrats support Obama, including Brown's opponent Roni Taylor and the other candidates in the Democratic primary -- whether on the official party line or not. So, that is not reason enough to decide.

Is it because she has received 'numerous proclamations and resolutions'? How does that show voters what they will get if they vote for her?

There is one place voters look when a candidate has a record of public service -- to their record in the public role they freely accepted.

The Rev. Tracey Brown has served both as a member of the Board of Ed and as an appointed commissioner of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA), yet she has declined to discuss the nuts and bolts of her service in either capacity.

Consider that Tracey Brown has served as a PMUA commissioner when all the following happened and she never once raised the teeniest, tiniest voice of challenge or resistance --
  • Explosive growth of PMUA staff from 122 to 173 in three years (2007 - 2010);

  • Abuses by the Commissioners of travel, entertainment and conference expenses;

  • Support for annual solid waste and sewer service rate increases (this year being the exception, where interim exec Duane Young managed a slight reduction in rates -- his thanks? being bumped from consideration for the permanent position);

  • Refusal by the Commissioners to meet annually with the City Council as provided for in the Interlocal Services Agreement establishing the PMUA;

  • Supporting an unprecedented four-year contract with former executives Eric Watson and David Ervine (all previous contracts had been for one year only) that laid the ground for an illegal $1 million settlement to them after they voluntarily resigned;

  • Failing to speak out against the illegal derailing of the arbitration process by Commissioners Dunn and Sanders, and setting up the conditions of the $1 million cash settlement;

  • Enabling the passage of the settlement by failing to take part in the vote -- whether or not she was able to be physically present -- which ratified the $1 million cash settlement;

  • Actually proposing that PMUA workers should be forced to take unpaid furloughs in order to generate cash for the settlement to Watson and Ervin.
These are all matters of candidate Brown's public service and relevant to how voters should decide who to vote for in next Tuesday's primary. Yet she refuses to discuss them.

What candidate Tracey Brown fails to bring to the table is openness and candor about the decisions she has taken as part of her public record.

At the FOSH candidate forum last week, Tracey Brown refused to take any position that would put her at odds with Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, her friend and parishioner. All this with full knowledge that there are many points of contention between Her Honor and the Council, involving everything from responsible use of the public purse to fairness in administering recreation opportunities for all the city's young people.

One can only surmise that her silence on such issues means that she would follow Mayor Robinson-Briggs' lead on such policy issues, the taxpaying public be damned.

In that light, it is refreshing to note that Annie McWilliams, the current at-large councilor, who is not running for re-election endorsed Brown's opponent Veronica 'Roni' Taylor in the following words --

...Sitting on the Plainfield City Council is not an easy job.  A good councilor must be balanced and fair in decision making.  Yet, she must be strong on those issues that are critical to Plainfield residents...A good councilwoman must be willing to listen to all constituents, understand all viewpoints and represent the needs of every resident.  She must also be willing to make tough decisions and face public criticism...It is for these reasons that I am proud to endorse Roni Taylor for Councilwoman At-Large.  (See McWilliams' complete endorsement here.)
Those who are tired of the dysfunctionality of the Robinson-Briggs administration will do well to consider what candidate Tracey Brown does NOT bring to the table.

'Going along to get along' cannot be a path to a better future for Plainfield.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2012 Budget: An update from a Citizen's Budget Advisory Committee member

The Robinson-Briggs administration's sloppiness has made a mess
for the Council to clean up.
Below is a personal email received from Citizen's Budget Advisory Committee (CBAC) member Jeanette Criscione catching us up on some of the details and the status of the 2012 budget --

I want to make you aware of the city budget and how your tax dollars are being used.

First, some background.  The Plainfield budget transitioned from a fiscal year to a calendar year (January 1 – December 31).  The budget process starts with the mayor and the department heads preparing the budget.  The budget is sent to Trenton for review and presented to the City Council.

The budget was sent to Trenton, and the City was notified by the State on April 5th  that there were errors and omissions in the administration's 2012 budget, which meant that the governing body needs to find ways to come up with an additional $1.5 million or more in revenues.  A State review of the Mayor’s budget statement introduced in March revealed the flaws.  Errors included $550,000 allocated for various kinds of insurance when the actual amount should have been $1.7 million.   In addition, individuals were left out of the budget, including a prosecutor and Municipal Court staff as well as police personnel.

Adjustments must also be made for salary increases due to union settlements.  The amount of retroactive pay put in the 2011 budget was less than required. Even 2011 employees who have since left must receive the retroactive pay for that year.

 The administration was advised of the errors by the State on April 5th .  The budget meetings started April 12th, with neither the City Council, nor the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee knowing about the State’s report that that Mayor’s budget was short from $1.5 to $2.0 million dollars.
As there is a 2% cap on tax increases, the money will need to come out of surplus and budget cuts.
In light of these events, the Mayor asked for an INCREASE for her department and she choose to fund the library with the minimum funding required by the State, thus cutting the library’s budget by 40%.  Her reason for cutting the library was that austerity was needed in these times.

The Recreation department has a $775,000.00 budget, which does not include pension and benefits.  The Recreation Department reaches less than 10% of Plainfield’s children (I am being generous with that percentage – with the figures we have gathered it actually looks more like 1% - 4%).   The YMCA has indicated that they can absorb the children into their programs.   The YMCA has tried for 3 years to reach the Recreation Department to try to discuss shared services and they have received no response.

Bi-lingual Day care services 69 children.  This social service, as well as Plainfield Action Services, and Women Infants and Children, can be run by non-profits.   Many of these services are funded by grants, which are still our tax dollars, and the Plainfield taxpayers pay for pension and benefits for all the employees of these programs.  Why does the administration not look into relieving the citizens of this tax burden and allow a non-profit to run it?  Dudley House is an example of a service that was on the Plainfield City pay roll, and transferred to a non-profit.  It continues to operate in Plainfield and offer services to those who need it.  Again, I am NOT talking about eliminating services, just getting them off the city payroll.

The list goes on and on.

If you are as outraged as I, please send your feelings to your council member (link below provides emails, although I believe not all members read their emails)
The mayor
Hon. Sharon Robinson-Briggs

Office of the Mayor
515 Watchung Avenue
Plainfield, NJ 07060
908-753-3310 / Fax: 908-753-3634

And the city administrator

Eric Berry
City Administrator
515 Watchung Avenue
Plainfield, NJ 07060
908-226-2574 (F)

[It's always a good idea to CC or BCC yourself on any email communications with public officials -- DD]
Also, if you can, please attend the special budget meeting on May 31, where the Finance Committee will present its recommendations to the full council, and at another special meeting on June 6, where the council hopes to adopt amendments (some pertaining to the budget).  The council hopes to pass the budget on June 18.

The blog below will have the locations of the meetings [see the Community Calendar section].

Please email me if you have any questions.
Thank you.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Roundup: Town Hall meeting tonight; Budget hearing Thursday (correction)

Burning questions? Bring 'em on!
Catching up on a couple of items now that Plainfield's long holiday weekend is over --


Continuing its series of Town Hall meetings throughout the city, City Council gathers with residents citywide tonight at 7:00 PM at the Plainfield Senior Center, 400 East Front Street (mind where you park, not under the building in the rear!).

These Town Hall meetings are being conducted throughout the community as a matter of convenience for residents and are not intended to be for residents of the ward location only. Councilors will take questions and concerns from residents about any issue, so if there's an answer you need or a problem you see, come on out and share with the Council and your neighbors.


Owing to the nasty surprise delivered by the Robinson-Briggs administration last week that the its budget proposal is riddled with gaps, omissions and errors, the City Council has felt the need to set a special extra budget hearing meeting before wrestling with the question of amendments.

The special deliberation will take place Wednesday, May 30 Thursday, May 31 (date corrected), at 7:00 PM in City Hall Library. One of the features of the budget deliberations is that once the Council has interviewed officials or discussed an issue, the members of the Citizens Budget Advisory Commission are asked to weigh in with their observations and opinions.

Given the mess the Robinson-Briggs administration had made of things this year, you will want to hear the Council's thinking on how it is going to pull Robinson-Briggs' chestnuts out of the fire.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, May 28, 2012

2012 Photo Contest: Plainfield, Eating Out, Eating In

Busy food stall at Independence Day Festival.
What better time than Memorial Day weekend for Plainfield shutterbugs to begin snapping away for the Plainfield Public Library's 2012 photo contest -- especially when the theme is 'Plainfield: Eating Out, Eating In'?

After all, the weekend kicks off the summer season of barbecues, picnics and outdoor receptions, all of which are rich grounds for snapshot prowling.

But don't let your photos be limited to outdoor activities, it's a wholly food thing: Indoors, outdoors; at home, in restaurants or at festivals; shopping, prepping, cooking and eating.

For entry forms and guidelines, see the Library's photo contest page here.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day: Freedmen's gift to the nation

Hillside Cemetery's GAR Bivouac is a circle where Union veterans
of the Civil War are buried, including four Plainfielder who served in the U.S. Colored Infantry.
As Plainfield prepares to honor once again its war dead, it bears remembering that we owe this national day of reflection to the custom begun by Black freedmen in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865.

David W. Blight, a history professor at Yale, has written up the story of the first Decoration Day (as Memorial Day was once known), in which 10,000 freed Blacks in Charleston rallied at the former slaveholders' race track to honor the Union soldiers who died there when it had been made an outdoor prison. You can read Blight's telling of the story here or watch the YouTube video below.

Though there were 'Decoration Days' celebrated at various cemeteries on various dates in the spring of each year, the Charleston celebration seems to have been the impetus to which we can trace our Memorial Day.

Hillside Cemetery has a GAR Circle, where Plainfielders who served in the Civil War are laid to rest, among them Prince Carmen, Martin Herling, Enoch Milford and George Sutphen, all members of the 'U.S. Colored Infantry'.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

UPDATED time, locations for Memorial Day ceremony

The flagpole at 7th and Watchung is a memorial to those who died in WWI.
An UPDATE to the Courier's online Memorial Day listings Friday afternoon now shows the following information for Plainfield --
A Memorial Day Day service will be hosted by VFW Post 7474 and American Legion Post 219. It will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Plainfield City Hall, followed at 9:45 a.m. with a flag-raising at the World War I memorial at Seventh Street and Watchung Avenue, and then a 10 a.m. prayer service at St. Mary Parish at Sixth and Liberty streets.

There is still no notice on the City's website.

The newspapers list voluminous details on ceremonies in central New Jersey communities (see the Courier here, the Ledger here) -- now including informationfor Plainfield.

For the history of Memorial Day and Plainfield's War Memorial flagpole, see previous posts here --

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Should heads roll over surprise budget shortfall?

Robinson-Briggs' breathtaking incompetence deserves its reward.

Plainfield's budget mess caused my phone to light up Thursday evening. The question now is: Should heads roll over the surprise $1.5 million budget shortfall?

Though I decided not to go to Thursday's budget hearing, I got an earful afterward, when it came to light that the state had flagged the submitted budget for errors and that the Robinson-Briggs administration had known about it since April 5 -- without telling the Council, the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, and maybe even its own budget consultant (and former acting city administrator) David Kochel.

For the skinny from one who attended the meeting, see Bernice's report here, where she details the E&O's (realestatespeak for 'errors and omissions'): personnel left out of the budget, salary increases not taken into account, insurance premiums incorrectly calculated and more.

And then there is the matter of the $5 million deferred pension payment due this year. (Mayor Robinson-Briggs opted in 2009 to defer a then-due pension payment until 2012 -- guess what, it's now 2012 and the money is due. Surprise!) How that will be handled is still not clear.

On top of all this, the honchos are absent: City Administrator Eric Berry is 'off until June 2' and Director of Administration and Finance Al Restaino is out due to his mother's surgery (though it is doubtful either would have been helpful; Restaino never has the answer to any question he is asked, and Berry always does a Hail Mary pass to someone else).

The budget proposal is arguably the most important item the Mayor is responsible for from year to year; it is what ensures the wheels go around -- for everything from salaries for secret employees like Mr. Muhammad to cellophane-wrapped candies for visitors waiting in her reception area.

The biggest load the Mayor's chief assistant, the City Administrator, must lift each year is assembling and shepherding the annual budget to passage by the City Council. Bar none.

How could Mayor Robinson-Briggs let the man take off at this crucial time? How could she hope to have a successful outcome to the budget process if someone fully prepared and fully informed weren't available for the Council's deliberations? (Mr. Jackson is a good soldier for stepping into the breach, but Berry and Mayor Robinson-Briggs are ultimately responsible.)

Worse still, if the Robinson-Briggs administration knew by April 5 of the state's questions about errors in the proposed budget, why is the Council finding out on May 24?

Did Mayor Robinson-Briggs keep her own budget consultant Dave Kochel in the dark also? Kochel is an honorable man and I find it difficult to believe he would have spent weeks at the Council's deliberations without bringing such relevant information to light -- if he knew about it.

Did City Administrator Berry know about the shortfall and decide to keep it from the Council? Or was he equally in the dark?

I have been told in the past that important documents come to City Hall addressed to Mayor Robinson-Briggs and then sit on her desk unread and unresponded to for weeks. Is it possible that the issues with the budget have been sitting on her desk in plain sight while she has been busy prancing and posturing about less important matters?

In any event, the budget process is delayed, the budget now exceeds the state's allowable increase cap (2%), too much of the year is past for much savings from trimming the budget, and the Council is left to resolve the Mayor's mess.

Whose head should roll for this incompetence? Berry's? Restaino's? Or Mayor Robinson-Briggs'?

Not much doubt about where I stand.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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UPDATED time, locations for Memorial Day ceremony

The flagpole at 7th and Watchung is a memorial to those who died in WWI.
An UPDATE to the Courier's online Memorial Day listings this afternoon now shows the following information for Plainfield --
A Memorial Day Day service will be hosted by VFW Post 7474 and American Legion Post 219. It will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Plainfield City Hall, followed at 9:45 a.m. with a flag-raising at the World War I memorial at Seventh Street and Watchung Avenue, and then a 10 a.m. prayer service at St. Mary Parish at Sixth and Liberty streets.

There is still no notice on the City's website.

The newspapers list voluminous details on ceremonies in central New Jersey communities (see the Courier here, the Ledger here) -- now including informationfor Plainfield.

For the history of Memorial Day and Plainfield's War Memorial flagpole, see previous posts here --

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Candidate Brown refuses to discuss her PMUA role at FOSH forum

For much of the evening, candidate Rev. Tracey Brown frowned and scowled.
The Rev. Tracey Brown, who was given the Democratic party's line for the citywide at-large Council seat in the June primary, refused to discuss her role as a Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) commissioner at Wednesday evening's candidate forum.

Sponsored by FOSH (Friends of Sleepy Hollow) and moderated by League of Women Voters state vice president Dawne Clarke, Brown and the other three candidates answered questions from the capacity audience at the Emerson School cafetorium.

Brown, who appeared uncomfortable much of the time, was in desperate need of a smile transplant as she frowned and scowled her way through the evening.

As each candidate gave their opening remarks, including the obligatory summary of the candidate's experience in public service, I noticed that Brown, who has been a PMUA Commissioner for about six years or so, omitted any reference to the PMUA among her lengthy list of activities and honors.

The second question addressed to the candidates concerned the PMUA (the first had been about the fate of the Muhlenberg property), which Brown declined to answer, saying that on advice of an attorney she would not answer as there was 'a conflict of interest'.

Nonplussed, moderator Clarke asked the other candidates if they could explain what the conflict might be. Veronica 'Roni' Taylor, who opposes Brown for the citywide at-large slot asked how someone could run for public office without answering questions about their public service. Mapp said he was constantly asked questions about his actions as an elected official.

Brown would not budge, nor would she define what the supposed 'conflict' was, except to eventually say that she had voted for arbitration (of the separation issues).

To my mind, this is a bogus position.

It is beyond the pale to ask voters to give you a seat at the table of the governing body and to mark off areas of your experience as off limits to questions.

Everyone who follows public meetings understands there are items that are temporarily off limits until they are settled (contract negotiations, lawsuits, personnel actions), but once settled they become part of the public record along with any comments and votes taken by the participants in open public meetings.

The notion that one's actions in discharging one's public duties would be beyond inquiry boggles the mind.

Among the questions I am sure voters would find of interest are --

  • Brown's role in the approval of the contract which made it possible for former executives Watson and Ervin to walk away with over $1 million of the ratepayers money;

  • Her non-participation in the settlement vote (though she was not present, she apparently made no effort to participate by phone as her friend and supporter Councilor Bridget Rivers so frequently does with City Council business);

  • Her role in proposing that PMUA employees take unpaid furloughs to generate the cash necessary to make the $1 million payments.
But her PMUA record was not the only place Brown came up short.

Where candidates Taylor and Mapp were able to cite their direct experience with problems of governance (the school board in Taylor's case, the Council in Mapp's), Brown's answers to questions of policy and long-term issues had a vague and sketchy air to them.

She repeatedly said 'there are grants for' such things as divergent as road repairs, summer youth employment, a youth center and a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Anyone who has been paying any attention to government funding of programs over the past several years knows that the money has become scarcer, harder to qualify for and funded in smaller amounts if an agency is lucky enough to be funded at all (Brown never touched on why, with such monies allegedly available, her friend Mayor Robinson-Briggs has not taken advantage of it, nor, for that matter, why she has not led her church to take on some of these projects). All of which made Brown's proposals somewhat surreal to those who know the actual situation. The danger is that uninformed voters might be duped by such talk.

On the question of disposition of the Muhlenberg property, Brown waved a packet of papers, saying she had done her 'due diligence' since Sunday's NAACP forum and that she was opposed to the proposal for 600-plus rental units at the site.

However, when it came to Mayor Robinson-Briggs' proposal to cut the Plainfield Public Library's funding by 40 percent, Brown's comments revealed an appalling lack of understanding of the Library's importance to the community. Her suggestion that it was a matter of trimming the Library's budget or laying off police also showed that she was uninformed about the budget proposal currently under consideration by the Council and which does not include any layoff proposal.

Ignorance of the issues facing the Robinson-Briggs administration and the City Council is not a confidence builder.

This was further compounded by a question concerning how service on the governing body would affect each candidate's personal life.

Brown said she had pulled together a meeting of her church's board and some members and had gotten their support. She said that she currently has two meetings per month (as a PMUA commissioner) and was prepared for that kind of a schedule as a Council member.

She would be quickly disabused of such simplistic notions once she had her first Council meeting that ran into the wee hours of the next day. Not to mention mandatory service on two or more Council committees, and duties as the liaison to one or more community agencies (such as the PMUA), training as an elected official, and the mandatory baby-kissing and ribbon-cutting duties.

It would not be long before either Brown or her parishioners would question the time needed to fulfill a Council commitment responsibly.

(There is at least one member of her church who does not see things her way, thinking there should be a separation between church and politics. And there are other churchgoers who are willing to make an allowance for a minister without a congregation to have a political role but draw the line at an active pastor whose responsibility to a congregation's is a 24x7 obligation.)

Thankfully, the city's cable channel crew, under the leadership of Lamar Mackson, was on hand and taped the complete event. You should be able to view it shortly and can draw your own conclusions.

Meanwhile, make plans to vote on Tuesday, June 5.

Plainfield's future depends on it.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why Republican John Campbell backs Democrat Abdul-Haqq

Why is Plainfield's Republican 'king maker' organizing support for this Democrat?
Many Plainfielders are intrigued that Republican 'king maker' John Campbell is backing the run of community activist Rasheed Abdul-Haqq as a challenger to incumbent Adrian Mapp for the Ward 3 Democratic nomination in the June 5 Primary election.

In fact, Republican Campbell is serving as chairperson of Abdul-Haqq's Democratic campaign committee, according to papers filed with the state's Election Law Enforcement Commission (see here, especially form R-1). Though unusual, there is nothing wrong here; it's just another indication of the spaghetti bowl that is Plainfield politics.

At first glance, one might guess that Abdul-Haqq's run has to do with his forced displacement from the Board of Ed by dint of legislation personally crafted by his old nemesis, Assemblyman Jerry Green. Indeed, there is no love lost between the two, and Abdul-Haqq has needled Green for years.

Green, as chairperson of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee, has given the Ward 3 line to incumbent Council President Adrian Mapp and Abdul-Haqq now resides in Ward 3, ergo Abdul-Haqq can get back at Green by challenging the regular party's candidate, no?

But this is Plainfield, and that scenario would be too simple.

Why Campbell as Abdul-Haqq's chairperson? That's the real question.

Suppose Campbell recruited Abdul-Haqq and not the other way around. And also suppose that Campbell has a score to settle -- with Mapp, and not with Green.

That would mean that Abdul-Haqq is being played like a chess piece.

Consider these points--

  • Campbell and Green have been partners before: In 2004, Campbell and Green were the largest individual contributors ($2,000 each) to the school board campaign of a team that included Campbell's wife Wilma, longtime Green operative Barbara James and then-newbie the Rev. Tracey Brown;

  • Campbell and Abdul-Haqq attended a fundraiser for Green's candidate Tracey Brown: Campbell and Abdul-Haqq recently attended a fundraiser for Green's candidate for the citywide at-large seat at the Spain Inn, and were seen by all yukking it up with Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, whose pastor and best friend Brown is, and Assemblyman Green;

  • That score Campbell has to settle with Mapp: Campbell has told others that he was miffed at Mapp for making an issue of the PMUA (Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority) when he last ran for office, putting unwanted attention and heat on another of Campbell's old pals, former PMUA executive director Eric Watson.
Add to this the fact that Mayor Robinson-Briggs, herself a former Republican operative, has been campaigning on behalf of her pastor Rev. Tracey Brown AND Abdul-Haqq and you have a 'spaghetti bowl' worthy of Plainfield politics at its most convoluted.

Meanwhile, the good Rev. Brown has been sitting as a PMUA commissioner for years now, without speaking out against the excesses and abuses of that agency's executives, including Campbell's old pal, former PMUA executive director Eric Watson, who got a $1 million separation package through Rev. Brown's connivance.

And she is running for the citywide at-large Council seat, apparently with the blessing of Mr. Campbell.

So, a vote for Abdul-Haqq or the Rev. Brown is a vote for who?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wednesday forum is last chance to quiz all Dem Council candidates

With the June Primary just two weeks away, Wednesday evening provides the last chance for voters to quiz all four Democratic candidates together before the election.

In a town where the outcome of the Democratic primary pretty much determines the November election, this is an important opportunity -- especially for those concerned about the 3-ring circus that is the Robinson-Briggs administration and its Council allies.

The forum for the whole community, sponsored by FOSH and Netherwood Neighbors, gets under way at 7:00 PM at the Emerson Community School. It will be moderated by League of Woman Voters member Dawne Clarke and conducted according to League procedures.
Clarke is familiar to many Plainfielders from having moderated LWV forums here before.

Candidates are incumbent Councilor Adrian Mapp and challenger Rasheed Abdul-Haqq for the Ward 3 seat and PMUA Commissioner Tracey Brown and former long-time Board of Ed member Veronica 'Roni' Taylor for the Citywide at-large seat (incumbent Annie McWilliams is going to graduate school and decided not to run again).

Voters will want to hear the candidates for themselves, especially since it's been reported that PMUA Commissioner Brown attacked her running mate Adrian Mapp at the NAACP candidate forum this past Sunday.

Brown also reportedly refused to discuss her role as a PMUA Commissioner -- especially concerning the $1 million settlement with former executives Eric Watson and David Ervin brokered by fellow commissioners Malcolm Dunn and Cecil Sanders.

Because there is no contested primary on the Republican side of the ballot, candidates Bill Amirault (At-large) and Randy Bullock (Ward 3) will be acknowledged if they are present (Bullock is recovering from recent surgery and is not expected to attend).

City Council Candidates Forum
Sponsored by
Friends of Sleepy Hollow
and Netherwood Neighbors

Wednesday, May 23, 7:00 PM

Emerson Community School
East 3rd Street and Emerson Avenue
(Parking in the school lot on Emerson and on the street)

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

A fitting moment: Dan gets his prosthesis

Mine will be similar to this, except the shoes won't be as classy.
Am posting Plainfield Today early as I must be at JFK's prosthetics/orthotics facility at the crack of dawn on Monday to be fitted for my prosthesis.

The cast was made last Wednesday, and they told me it would be ready Monday. I am told that's a pretty fast turnaround.

The next step will be admission as an inpatient at JFK's rehab center in Edison for about a week, after which I will be free to walk out.

I am ready.

-- Dan Damon [follow]
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NAACP City Council candidate forum at 5 PM

As it does each year, the Plainfield Branch of the NAACP will offer a forum for City Council candidates this afternoon at the Whitney Allen Young Community Center.

All the candidates for City Council have been invited --

  • Citywide at-large: Rev. Tracey Brown and Veronica 'Roni' Taylor (D), Bill Amirault (R)

  • Ward 3: Adrian Mapp and Rasheed Abdul-Haqq (D), and Randy Bullock (R).
Please park on the New Street side of the complex, there is no parking allowed on Central Avenue.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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100 locations in FOSH/VWB Garage Sale today

Something to delight everyone can be found at today's annual Garage Sale.
Thousands of visitors are expected to flood Plainfield today for the FOSH/VWB Garage Sale which runs from 9 AM to 4 PM.

One hundred homes have signed up to participate. Homes can be spotted easily by the balloons flying at the curb. Maps will be available at each site.

While many are individual homeowners offering personal stuff, several sites are always dedicated to raising money for a favorite charity or cause, such as animal rescue programs, the Plainfield Symphony and other organizations.

In addition to the many homes in the Sleepy Hollow area that are participating, a number of locations in the Van Wyck Brooks Historic Disrict have signed on in this year's joint effort.

A good place to start would be along Watchung or Central Avenues and then use one of the maps to scout out the rest.

NOTE: Upper Watchung Avenue is in the process of being readied for repaving, so mind the edges of the street, which have gravel fill for now. Spike heels are definitely NOT recommended!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Triple header today: LWV event, Superintendent screening, Library wine tasting

As Plainfielders head into official 'summer' at the end of the month, the calendar is crowded with must-do events.

Today includes three such --

League of Women Voters voter project

Plainfield's chapter of the LWV offers two workshops today on registering to vote, and what to expect if you are a new voter. The workshops are identical, 10 - 11:30 AM and Noon - 1:30 PM. Lunch will be served from 11:20 to Noon. At Plainfield High School, 950 Park Avenue. Special guest: Joanne Rajoppi, Union County Clerk.
School Superintendent candidates forum

The Board of Ed will present the two finalists for the vacant Superintendent's position. Each will make a presentation and take questions from the public. Though the Board has refused to make the names public, word in the street is that the Interim Super, Anna Belin Pyles, is one of the two finalists. At Emerson Community School, East 3rd Street and Emerson Avenue. 1 - 3 PM.
Wine Tasting at the Library

The Friends of the Plainfield Public Library present their 10th annual wine tasting event from 4 - 7 PM this afternoon at the Library. Special wines, special music, special eats! See separate story "Live jazz highlights Library's wine tasting event".
And be sure to reserve tomorrow for the FOSH/VWB Garage Sale!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Live jazz highlights Library's wine tasting event Saturday

Jazz legend Carrie Jackson will be featured.
Jazz legend Carrie Jackson will headline the Plainfield Public Library's annual 'Wine Discovery' wine tasting event this Saturday at the Library from 4 to 7 PM.

Usually also showcasing one of Plainfield's grand homes, this year's event -- the 10th annual tasting -- will be at the Plainfield Public Library itself, where the award-winning new Rain Forest-themed Children's Room will be featured.

Ms. Jackson and her Jazzin' All-Star Tio will be performing poolside in the Library's signature atrium, which will serve as one of three tasting stations for the event.

Plainfield's own Harry Ailster will perform Gershwin favorites in a café setting in the Anne Louise Davis room, where a photography exhibit of East Coast blues musicians currently graces the walls.

The PAAAS Jazz Octet debuted at January's Friends' annual meeting.

The third tasting station, in the Reading Rainforest, will feature the PAAAS Jazz Ensemble. This octet of students at the Plainfield school district's Plainfield Academy for the Arts and Advanced Studies features tenor and alto saxes, trumpet, trombone, bass, piano, drums and guitar. Under the leadership of director Greg Williams, who is also mentor, coach and champion, the young men made their debut in January at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Plainfield Public Library (FOPPL).

This year's tastings will highlight the wines and wineries of New Jersey, including two Pinot Grigios, a Riesling and a Barbera. The buffet will feature fancy hors d'oeuvres, entrees and desserts.

Sponsored by FOPPL, the annual event raises funds in support of Library programs. This year's projects include --

  • The Adult Literacy Program, offering basic literacy, ESL and GED instruction;
  • Reading is FUNdamental, offering youth the opportunity to own books and build their own library;
  • The Local History Program, offering historical Plainfield resources online for researchers and genealogists.
In 2011, the Friends raised $37,500 in support of Library programs.

Tickets are available at the door at $60/person or $100/couple.

I'll be there, and look forward to seeing you there, too.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Step on it!: Dan needs to find a [used] car

Simple, thrifty and stylish would be ideal.
It has felt like I plateaued after getting home from Plainfield's Norwood Terrace rehab center just a month ago, but now things are beginning to move again and I have to get to work on finding another [used] car, since one cannot drive a stick shift in NJ with a prosthesis.

And it occurs to me that Plainfield Today readers may be aware of deals that I should look into (or maybe even have been thinking of getting rid of their own older car).

So, here are some of the ideas I have in mind -- you can email me (click here) privately if you don't want to leave a public comment...and,
as always, I thank you...


I am partial to low riders (with blue under-belly lighting), but am
mindful that Plainfield still suffers from potholes.
Interested in my stick shift? It's a peppy little 4-cylinder 2001 Toyota Echo in good shape, with 175,000 miles (my last Toyota was totaled in my driveway and had 280,000 miles -- I was shooting for 300,000). Let me know.

My thanks to Dr. Ted T. for the photo inspirations!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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