The needler in the haystack.

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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33 comments:

Anonymous said...

The fact that this candidate displays the same attitudes toward candor and transparency as the Mayor is truly frightening. Should she win the election, Plainfield will suffer in ways we cannot begin to imagine.

Anonymous said...

Dan, you may want to check with the now defunct Media department to see if the footage will be aired on PCTV. All the seasonal employees in the media department were let go 2 weeks ago.

Bob said...

As a very interested citizen of Plainfield, I sat in the second row. I though Roni Taylor was fresh, knowledgable, and showing some emotion in her responses. Rev. Brown on the other hand looked drawn and tired. I had several people who know her who said she always looked that way. Council President Mapp was able to be focused on most of the questions he answered and give concrete answers. Mr. Haqq, who I deeply respect, showed quickly that he was out of his league and clearly not prepared for the office he is seeking. He was unclear about bringing businesses to Plainfield and had some idea that a flea market would generate jobs and taxes. He thinking was not as bold or knowledgable as I was hoping.

Overall, Roni Taylor and Councilman Mapp showed the most knowledge on issues and had the most concrete ideas on how to move Plainfield forward. It wasn't even close. I hope people vote for Plainfield and not friends, party, or friends of friends.

Anonymous said...

She isn't even an elected official. Her PMUA position is an appointment.

She isn't even an elected official!! Why does she need a lawyer?

Anonymous said...

A very biased report Dan. I was there. She did not frown all the way through. She gave very understandable reasons. She is currently a board member of PMUA as was your partner Nat at one time. She is not in a position to answer all questions.

She is very well versed and she came across as one of the most competent person at the table.

I was not sure but now I know I will be voting for her.

Anonymous said...

How come you did not mention that it was YOUR candidate, Mapp who voted for Dunn?

That was the real problem!

The American Race said...

I was looking forward to some real concrete answers to solutions needed here in town. I like all the candidates personally, however I wasn't impressed.

Perhaps more of these type of forums must take place before elections. Haqq & Brown really should have been more prepared. I came hoping they would change my mind, but my choice is clearer than ever.

Anonymous said...

To 10:28am. She is not in a position to answer questions on events that are public and have already taken place?

Take another look.

Anonymous said...

I also attended the meeting last night, as well as the forum with the NAACP on Sunday. I happen to be a bit discourage at the fact that Ms. Taylor skip and refused to comment on several issues on sunday and had a great boost of confidence on wednesday but i didn't read that last week. Please stop making PMUA the greatest issue, it is indeed an important issue, however my children being safe in there own neighborhood is just as important to me .healthcare is very important, crime is one of the biggest issues we have and unfortunately PMUA can not make or break any of these issues. We need to adress them all not just one..And as far as Council president Mapp i have yet to hear him in either forum answer one question directly He is rude, arrogant, and very disrespectful and i have witnessed this at both forums. If that's his way of getting me to vote for him i respecfully decline. The picture posted of Rev. Brown looks as if she is disgusted and i must say there were a few times last night i proably had the same look!!!!!!!Please don't be bias it is unfair to all candiates.I WILL BE SUPPORTING REV.BROWN...

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is, there are people in Plainfield who will vote for this hack only because her name is under the Democrat slot.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand. Any of us common folks who would go to a job interview would have to answer questions about our pass experiences and previous jobs. How come Mrs. Brown thinks she can interview for a job and believes she'll be hired?

Anonymous said...

Let's get the facts straight.

Was the 1 million the Revs fault? She was absent for the meeting. She did not vote for for the package and she has consistently said she would have vote for arbitration. She was not on Dunn's side at all.

Adrian Mapp and Annie McWilliam voted to put Dunn on the board. Dunn has been a long time ally and cohort of the PMUA so his actions are of no surprise.

Mapp and McWilliams knew this history and still voted to put Dunn on the board.

So who is really to blame here?

Anonymous said...

10:28 AM- you've got to be kidding. Brown is a commissioner, appointed with the advice and consent of the City Council, to oversee an "agency and instrumentality" of the City of Plainfield. If she won't answer questions about PMUA on the advice of council, maybe its because the commissioners might be criminally liable for some of the misdoings undertaken by PMUA under their watch. Its really unconscionable, and shows her to be evasive and insincere.

Abdul-Haqq, on the other hand, still hasn't awoken from the policy trance he was in at the NAACP forum.

If this is the best Jerry Green, Sharon Robinson-Briggs, and John Campbell can muster up, it says a lot about why Plainfield is plodding along to nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Most of these candidates and current elected officials have been involved for too long in the political chaos of this town. Under their watch nothing has changed nor gotten better. Based on Muelenberg and the PMUA it should be clear that who ever wins thr primary should not serve in any capacity because all they are out for is themselves

Anonymous said...

Dear 10:28,
If you believe that the Rev. Brown appeared to be competent all I can say is "business as usual". Just how much does one have to endure before you realize that the city needs a clean sweep of the dirt it has accumulated.

Keeping It Real said...

What I liked best about this forum is that at the end of the evening, there were clear and defined lines as to each candidate's position on the issues and the level of competency among them.

I can't agree that Ms. Brown frowned all night, but her body language and facial expressions did speak volumes.

Besides her unwillingness to address PMUA issues, what concerned me most about Ms. Brown's comments, were all the social initiatives she indicated she would like to implement, including more affordable housing.

Plainfield has suffered long enough from the effects of "affordable housing" and everything that comes along with it. Plainfield has also suffered from the effects of all the social programs and charity it's provided, for decades, at this point.

Plainfield cannot move forward if we keep getting dragged down with new social initiatives. All the money Ms. Brown would try and save us on property taxes would be needed to subsidize the programs she wants to implement.

Perhaps Ms. Brown would consider getting together with the leadership from the multitude of other tax exempt worship houses in Plainfield and address these social issue about which they feel so strongly.

I'm all for helping those less fortunate and have done my share of volunteering, but I'm tired of my tax dollars funding failed social initiatives that keep people in welfare's vicious cycle.

Most of us in Plainfield didn't start out being homeowners with a car in our driveway; we've worked very hard to attain what we have, no matter in which ward we live -- nothing less should be expected of anyone else.

We all have to start somewhere --self-respect, pride and humility come to mind.

Anonymous said...

Tracy Brown’s body language alone speaks for itself. Every time someone mention the Mayor and how incompetent she was Tracey frowned. I would think she would be more concerned with herself and not the mayor after all she is the one running. She also started by calling people hateful and mean-spirited, is this an off-the-cuff assessment a Reverend should be making? She came across as incompetent for the position she is running for and ignorant to the facts of politics. What I got from her, she was only concerned about the people in the 4th ward who are in desperate need of nice, new affordable housing, news flash (moving the people that helped create an environment is not a solution), helping the drug addicts, jobless, homeless people that come to her church. While this in itself is very righteous and honorable, what about the rest of the residents in Plainfield? Do we not matter or should we not complain about the disgraceful PMUA bills we receive quarterly along with the ever rising taxes that are forcing a great deal of people out of their homes. A vote for Tracey would be rubber-stamping the Mayor’s bad behavior over the years.
Veronica Taylor is a no-brainer and clearly the right choice for this position. We need to move forward and we cannot do it with a Mayor Robinson-Briggs clone.
On another note, while Haqq didn’t do as well as hoped, Mapp was way out of line at the end when he made reference to the Campbell’s having a vendetta against him. Haqq should have made a rebuttal that Mapp was not running against the Campbell's but against him and that’s what he really needs to be concerned about.

Anonymous said...

As each day goes by, I now realize that the people of Plainfield vote with their emotions/loyalty. I am not voting for a candidate because he/she is my neighbor, pastor, friend, etc., I will be voting for the person who shares my views for making Plainfield a better place. I have a strange feeling that the majority of Plainfield voters vote the party line regardless of the facts set forth time and time again. I have been doing my research on the history of Plainfield and, once upon a time, Plainfield was truly the "Queen City." What happened?

Between the BOE, City Council, PMUA, Green and the Mayor, I say vote all of these individuals out because it seems as though they are all connected one way or another and, we will continue to get the same poor representations.

Bob said...

Rev. Brown tried to smile once, but it never quite made it. Whether she was personable or not, she was not up on her issues and gave too many general answers when the people wanted concrete ideas. Her unwillingness to talk about the PMUA is concerning. She seemed to be hiding behind a lawyer and that smacks too much of the mayor's type of behavior. I think we've had enough of that.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 10:28 -

You already knew who you would vote for before reading Dan's blog or attending the FOSH forum. You are trying to play readers stupid.

I will agree Rev. Brown is very competent, and she is an excellent pastor and I love her as my pastor. But Reverend Brown failed to do her research.

So -why ruin all that she worked so hard for by running for office? Why ruin your congregation's belief in you to be there for them as our pastor?

Reverend Brown -Respectfully, I know you SAID you don't read "the blogs", however I find that very hard to believe. Running for Plainfield's City Council at Large seat, I believe you would or you should read as many newspapers, articles and yes the internet, which includes the blogs regarding what's going on in Plainfield and view as much of the news as you can possibly stomach to know the needs of your fellow Plainfielders.

I came to support you at the NAACP forum and I watched you at the FOSH forum and it troubles me knowing that because you have the line you could possibly win this election.

I own a home and am unable to pay the high PMUA fees. I am concerned that I may lose my home because of something so stupid as garbage. The hospital is very near my home -I don't want affordable housing there.

I need you as my pastor and I need Ms Taylor to work with the council on the PMUA mess and making sure NO affordable housing goes up!

Anonymous said...

I was there too. I didn't see Rev Brown smile, but I saw big smiles from the mayor. A smile of contempt for the people she serves. A smile of approval for the way Rev. Brown slithered out of answering the most important questions.

Anonymous said...

Politics and religion don't mix. I can't imagine how a pastor can be involved in politics without compromising his/her honesty and ethics. She is a servant of God and should be dedicating herself to God and her church. Pastor, remember we will all have to account to God on judgement day. Think carefully about what you're doing.

Pat Turner Kavanaugh, for FOSH said...

I am delighted to see all the attention last night's forum generated, and I urge those unable to attend to watch the video on local cable channels, or watch excerpts posted on U-Tube by Rev. Jackson. Here is part of the note I received from Dawn Clarke, moderator for the event: "The crowd was great, involved, questioning but respectful; I was impressed! Glad to be a part." FOSH is also glad to be part of an opportunity to educate all of us in the City about important matters.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like brown defending her self.

Anonymous said...

@2:12 I really admire you for putting the truth out there. It is refreshing to know that you will not vote for Rev. Brown simply because she is your Pastor. You are intelligent enough to know that a good pastor does not necessarily mean she would be a good council woman. I suspect that she will have some comments about your post on Sunday. She will not be direct, but talk about it indirectly and aimed at loyalty, "our" City, etc. I hope other members of your congregation can learn from you. Rev. Brown did very little to stand up publicly and voice her opinion on the wrongs of the PMUA. How are you in a position of power and silent when you see wrongs as a pastor? She also can get very vicious with people who disagree with her which I also think is in direct contradiction with the faith she is supposed to represent. That is terrible and truly concerned me about her even as a pastor. She is letting the enemy get a foothold and it shows in her conduct and demeanor. Too bad that a woman of God let politics distract her from her mission!

Anonymous said...

Brown can't handle answering questions before the election.... HMMM what will happen after the election if she is chosen? Give me a break the PMUA is a bloated agency that Ms. Brown has ASSISTED! They overcharge for services PERIOD! They need to be dissolved. Any candidate who says differently is out of touch and isn't interested in saving Plainfielders from losing their homes

Anonymous said...

I attended the Forum and was very disappointed with the non-answered questions. I agree the candidates are nice people but I need someone in the seat that have the same concerns as I do for my city. When you can't answer questions I need some type of resolve, then I can't vote for you. I must confess I came to the forum with an open mind to see what each candidate was really about, I found 2 that was clear and decisive, I found one skirting around the issues and I found just out of touch. If you think the answer to economic development is a flea market there's a problem. Well after I left that meeting my mind was made up as to who will get my vote and if you came to the forum I hope they get your vote as well. That will be Veronica Taylor and Adrian Mapp. As to Pastor Brown continue to Pastor your church I'm sure they need your undivided attention and as to Mr. Haqq Take care of your health because you seemed very tired and your health is much more important than a council seat. I hope all agree and vote as I will.

Anonymous said...

Lets just hope though that NO Republicans get elected, things would be ... on wait that is not possible is it.

Anonymous said...

The photograph that was shown on this blog was a picture from Sunday at the NAACP forum.
I believe that Rev.Brown and Mr.Haqq were very well prepared and had excellent points on how to make the city better. As far as the PMUA for Rev.Brown to answer those questions she previously stated that those questions would be a conflict of interest. I WILL STILL BE SUPPORTING REV. BROWN !!!!

Anonymous said...

At 6:03... Does it matter which day the picture was taken? Whether Ms. Brown answers questions about the PMUA, the facts are clear. She has been part of an agency that has abused and continues to abuse its power. - All at a major cost to the property owners. The only reason I can think of that is a conflict of interest is that Ms. Brown has been taking full health benefits from the PMUA. Hmmm...

Anonymous said...

Plainfield is a Council ran city. Many things that are currently in place had to be voted on and resolutions had to be presented, then voted on once again. This city and its officials currently do not work in unity! We are looked upon by other local and non-local cities as a joke! We all are aware that the Governor is investigating PMUA so let's move on til the results are determined. I also pay the high cost of PMUA and was not pleased with those who received large amounts of money and retired. But, our city is not going down because of PMUA, it's because we are neglecting the other major
issues that we see on a daily bases. I have attended city council meetings, forums and FOSH. I ask for the
citizens of Plainfield to watch or attend the council
meetings so that you can see how it is conducted and
the behavior of lack of working together as a whole (not
just the friends who hold council seats) is demonstrated.
This is why we see the major issues of the City go
unattened. We need a major health facility within our
city and we definitely need our library funds not to be
cut. We also need to look at other resources of funding
that are available that this city has not taken advantage
of (non-fedral and federal grants that are available).
Cooper University Hospital received $2.8 million federal
grant (see njspotlight article dated May 9, 2012).
Plainfield is in great need of a change and we the
people can bring this about. Let's vote someone in
office that will really listen and address the major
concerns to build up our City! We just keep getting
promises and poor representation! Also, there are major businesses that are willing to come to Plainfield to assist in our economic development but, we are too busy fighting over one issue to see this!

Anonymous said...

Many Pastors and religious leaders were involved in the concerns and governing of the people (politics). Please do some research before making such comments! Just google Pastors in politics and see for your self how many religious leaders are listed and how their congregations and ministries did not suffer! We need someone that can and will hear from God to govern His people...all of His people in a non-bias manner. We need someone that can keep things moving forward in Plainfield even if they don't agree! We need someone that will be the voice of all of Plainfield...not just sections or just one issue but all issues! I support Rev. Brown...follow Gods plan for the city!

Anonymous said...

The photograph does matter because there misleading people. Rev.Brown is a wonderful, loving, and caring person . The health benefits was in the agreement she signed not knowing later on down the road it would be a conflict of interest because i believe she would never accepted the health benefits.