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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Barbara Buono to campaign in Plainfield Saturday

Presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate
Barbara Buono
will visit Plainfield Saturday.

State Sen. Barbara Buono will campaign in Plainfield this Saturday afternoon, according to a report by Assemblyman Jerry Green, chairperson of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee.

The Senator is expected to be in Plainfield
between 4:00 and 5:30 7:00 PM [note change] on Saturday and will visit the Plainfield Democratic headquarters office on West Front Street, according to a campaign source.

District 22 candidates Assemblyman Green, Assemblywoman Linda Stender and Sen. Nick Scutari are also expected to make appearances. Plainfield mayoral candidate Adrian Mapp will be unable to be present as he is with his family in Barbados this weekend, where a memorial service is being held for his wife Amelia's mother, who just passed away.

This will be the first opportunity for Plainfield-area Democrats to see and hear the presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee, who has not previously campaigned in the area.

Heavily Democratic Plainfield is expected to boost her plurality in the June Primary, and will be critically important in the November election where Buono is expected to face off against incumbent Gov. Chris Christie. Normally off the GOP campaign radar, Christie did make a campaign tour of downtown Plainfield businesses in 2009, creating a media stir.

Plainfield's Democratic Headquarters is on West Front Street near Park Avenue, next door to Dunkin' Donuts. Parking is available in the public parking area of the Union County office building and in the PNC lot next to Appliance-a-rama on West 2nd Street.

Chris Christie, here seen outside the Union County office building,
campaigned in Plainfield with District 22 candidates 'Bo' Vastine and Marty Marks in 2009.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Hellwig interview leaves unanswered questions

If 'just and capable government' were not so important,
why would we put it over the entrance to City Hall?
Plainfield's Charter Study Commission interviewed Public Safety and Police Director Martin Hellwig and Councilors Cory Storch and Rebecca Williams at its April 25 meeting.

Director Hellwig's interview was quite informative, yet at the same time unsatisfying, with many unanswered questions.

Hellwig's answers to the Commission's standard list of questions were well-formed and gave evidence of considerable thought by the Director on the issues the Commission is investigating. He is an excellent interviewee, putting his interlocutors at ease and delivering information in a manner that shows he is informed but at the same time is not overbearing or condescending. This is not an easy thing to do, and Hellwig excels at it. Kudos.

On the other hand, Hellwig's delivery is seductive in that it is a highly polished form of special pleading. Hellwig recounted his own personal experience as a sworn officer with adminisrative responsibilities and his interactions with chiefs of police -- which he cast as independent power centers that don't always have the taxpayers' interests at heart.

In fact, Hellwig, concluded, he really thought that there should be civilian directors of both the police and fire divisions as a way of countering negative aspects of these organization's 'cultures'. I was wondering whether that wasn't supposed to be the job of the Public Safety Director as Plainfield has up to this point envisioned it? So, why would yet another layer of administration make things better?

Besides that, Hellwig's well-woven responses left out of consideration entirely the question that was most bothersome when the Robinson-Briggs administration rejiggered the Public Affairs and Safety Department a few years ago: Will a civilian police director be unduly subject to the whims and willfulness of a Mayor?

Which led me to consider that under Hellwig's watch the following have cropped up --

  • Mayor Robinson-Briggs had two bodyguards assigned to her personally for over two years from July 2006 to October 2008, allegedly for death threats that Hellwig ultimately admitted were unsubstantiated (see my posts on the bodyguards here, and here). Is it too much to say that episode turns out to have been a fraud perpetrated on the taxpayers, and that the civilian director did nothing to stop it earlier?

  • In June, 2007, when Plainfield attorney Cassell (Sonny) Wood was killed traversing the intersection of Hillside and Putnam Avenues, only the briefest mention was ever made in the media, with no record of a prosecution of the driver of the car which struck Wood's vehicle, though skid marks I measured at more than 125 feet indicated the car was speeding. Nor do we know why there never seemed to be a presentment to the grand jury for a charge of vehicular homicide. Why was that?

  • In 2009, when Hellwig made a PowerPoint presentation to the Council on reorganizing the Police Division, he included a slide indicating that with the Chief of Police position eliminated, under the Public Safety Director (a civilian position), an 'Executive Officer' of the rank of Captain would be appointed to run day-to-day police operations. It is not clear to this day that anyone is permanently appointed to the position (see my post here).

  • Allegations that Director Hellwig used his position of authority to punish police officers involved in reporting on the imbroglio with a male prostitute that involved using police computers on city time to arrange an assignation and using a police vehicle to travel to the alleged assignation (see my posts here, and here), notwithstanding the Director's brief suspension in the matter.
These incidents indicate that simply having a civilian director in place is no guarantee that the office will be executed with independence, without spite, and without fear of a Mayor's disapproval.

Which leaves us pondering whether in its review of the City Charter, the Charter Study Commission can possibly find ways -- through a charter -- to improve the governance of the City.

The search for 'just and capable government' continues.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Answers to Church Tour questions

The elaborate terra cotta decorations and roof of the Seventh Day Baptist
Church were fabricated by member George Babcock's terra cotta works.
Plainfield saw a number of successful events yesterday.

The TOUR OF PLAINFIELD HOUSES OF WORSHIP sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce drew a good crowd who took the self-guided tour and ended up at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church for a reception. If you were following the questions I posed (see here), here are the answers --

  1. Which congregation got its start on Church Street, though it is no longer there?
    Grace Episcopal Church began in a wooden frame building on Church Street before moving to its present location in 1892.

  2. Which building's site was part of an economic development plan for the city of Plainfield?
    The site for Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church was laid out by Plainfield booster and developer Job Male, who also founded the Plainfield Public Library and was the city's first mayor. Though himself a Unitarian, he was shrewd marketer and envisioned the Presbyterian congregation anchoring his new Crescent Avenue neighborhood.

  3. Which congregation is the 'mother church' of its denomination in Plainfield?
    Mt. Olive Baptist Church is considered the 'mother' of Black Baptist churches in Plainfield.

  4. Which congregation is a merger of two congregations and now located at a third site?
    First Baptist (at Central Avenue and Grove Street) merged with Park Avenue Baptist Church (Prospect and Park Avenues) merged with Stone Baptist and relocated to the present site at Central and West 7th as First-Park Baptist Church.

  5. Which congregation was formerly known as All Souls' Church?
    When its building was completed in 1892, the congregation was organized as All Souls Church; it is the oldest Unitarian-Universalist congregation in New Jersey.

  6. Which congregation houses one of Plainfield's most successful charter schools?
    Shiloh Baptist Church houses the Union County TEAMS Charter School, one of the city's most successful. TEAMS stands for Technology, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics and Sciene, which are the school's areas of focus.

  7. Which congregation hosts the national headquarters of a church renewal group?
    RENEW International is a ministry devoted to the renewal of parish life in Roman Catholic churches and has its national headquarters in the former convent of St. Bernard and St. Stanlislaus Kostka Church.

  8. Which congregation's cemetery is burying place of some of the area's original settler families?
    Many members of the Vail family, one of the settler families of the Plainfield area, are found in the Burial Ground of the Friends Meeting House on Watchung Avenue, inluding -- surprisingly -- one Friend who fought in the Union Army in the Civil War.

  9. Which building is inspired by a medieval Italian baptistry?
    Plainfield entrepreneur George Babcock was a member of the Seventh Day Baptist Church who traveled Europe seeking inspiration for their new church home. It is said the twelve-sided building was inspired by an Italian baptistry. Babcock's other contribution still prominent in Plainfield is his home, now the Higgins Home for Funerals (see more here).

  10. Which congregation was involved in creating a service organization for refugees?
    United Presbyterian Church was built in 1954 as First Presbyterian, which was joined in 1972 by the members of Grant Avenue Presbyterian to form United. The church opened its doors and hearts to refugees from the political turmoil of Central America in the 1970s and is the home of both El Centro Hispanoamericano and Iglesia Presbiterian Nuevas Fronteras.
The DOWN HOME BREAKFAST offered by residents of Cedar Brook Apartments nearly ran out of food, and everyone had a grand old time.

The Plainfield Garden Club's SATURDAYS AT THE SHAKESPEARE GARDEN kicked off with enthusiasm (see coverage by Bernice here).

The YMCA's free HEALTHY KIDS DAY drew a crowd of enthusiastic and energetic youngsters and their families for fun and fitness.

The PLAINFIELD SYMPHONY'S 93rd SEASON FINALE CONCERT -- an evening with Verdi -- played to a standing-room-only crowd at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Feast of things for body, mind and spirit today


 There is truly a feast of things for Plainfielders' bodies, minds and spirits today.

You can start off with a DOWN HOME BREAKFAST offered by residents of Cedar Brook Apartments: Scrambled eggs, grits, ham or bacon, homemade biscuits, apple or orange juice and tea or coffee. All for $5. From 9:00 AM to... Cedar Brook Apartments, a senior residence, is at 1272 Park Avenue; use the rear residence. They will deliver, too! For information or home delivery, call (908) 361-8533.

After breakast, join the ladies of the Plainfield Garden Club at THE SHAKESPEARE GARDEN between 9 AM and 11 AM as they spruce it up for the spring season. (See my post here.) Wear old clothes and bring some gloves and tools to work with. This is the debut of their Saturdays at the Shakespeare Garden program, where volunteers can join with memnbers to groom and care for Plainfield's rare botanical jewel. Just show up, no need to call, but you can get more information at their website

Kids and families will find plenty to do at the YMCA's free HEALTHY KIDS DAY from Noon - 3 PM. There will be fun and games, tours of the facility and music and refreshments. The national YMCA promotes this event to help promote children's health and leisure-time habits as well as to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity. The YMCA is at Watchung Avenue and East 6th Street. Parking available in its lot or on the street. Info: (908) 756-6060.

Also beginning at 12:30, you can take a self-guided TOUR OF PLAINFIELD HOUSES OF WORSHIP sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Registration begins at Noon at St. Bernard/St. Stanislaus Kostka Church at George Street and Sumner Avenue. Tickets are $20/person, $10/Seniors and students. There is a reception after the tour at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church. (For more info, see my post here.)

You can wrap up the day with the PLAINFIELD SYMPHONY'S 93rd SEASON FINALE CONCERT AND CONDUCTOR'S CIRCLE PARTY -- an evening with Verdi -- at 7 PM at the orchestra's permanent performance home, Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church. Besides a sumptuous concert, you can end the day with the equally sumptuous Conductor's Circle Party after the concert, where the orchestra's principal flautist Leslie Pruess will be honored. (For more info on the concert, tickets and the after-party, see my post here.)

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Houses of Worship Tour Saturday

Terra cotta angels summon all to the Final Judgment.

Plainfield's Chamber of Commerce is hosting a tour exploring several of the community's historic congregations and the buildings in which they worship on Saturday afternoon.

The tour runs from 12:30 PM to 4:30 PM and is self-guided. Tickets may be purchased the day of the event at St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church at George Street and Sumner Avenue. Wristbands will be given out which will allow entry to all the buildings on the tours as well as the reception at the end at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church. Participants may take their own route and spend time as they wish at each location, where the host congregation will have materials concerning the building as well as the congregation and its history.

Courtesy of Julia Porterfield of Amaker & Porterfield Bus Company, a free bus will be provided for any needing transportation. The bus will pick up passengers at three of the city's Senior Citizen residences between 11:30 AM and 12:30 PM and will shuttle them to each location where they will spend approximately twenty minutes per building. The pickup locations are: Cedar Brook Towers, 1272 Park Avenue; Tower West, 601 West 7th Street; and Richmond Towers, 510-520 East Front Street. Bus seating is limited and must be reserved by calling Pat Fields (908) 369-1152.

A tenth congregation, the Seventh Day Baptist Church at Central Avenue and West 5th Street observes Saturday as the Sabbath and will instead be open for visitors on Sunday afternoon from 1:00 to 3:00 PM.

This is a great opportunity to visit some of Plainfield's cherished and architecturally significant buildings as well as to learn more about the congregations whose homes they are. The nine congregations open on Saturday are, in alphabetical order --

  • Crescent Avenue Presbyterian
  • First-Park Baptist
  • First Unitarian Society of Plainfield
  • Grace Episcopal
  • Mt. Olive Baptist
  • Plainfield Friends Meeting
  • St. Bernard of Clairvaux/St. Stanislaus Kostka
  • Shiloh Baptist
  • United Presbyterian
  • Seventh Day Baptist (open Sunday)
Though you will be learning a lot about the congregations and their buildings, I have thought of a number of questions you may find interesting. See if you get the answers on the tour -- and check back at Plainfield Today on Sunday for the answers.
  1. Which congregation got its start on Church Street, though it is no longer there?
  2. Which building's site was part of an economic development plan for the city of Plainfield?
  3. Which congregation is the 'mother church' of its denomination in Plainfield?
  4. Which congregation is a merger of two congregations and now located at a third site?
  5. Which congregation was formerly known as All Souls' Church?
  6. Which congregation houses one of Plainfield's most successful charter schools?
  7. Which congregation hosts the national headquarters of a church renewal group?
  8. Which congregation's cemetery is burying place of some of the area's original settler families?
  9. Which building is inspired by a medieval Italian baptistry?
  10. Which congregation was involved in creating a service organization for refugees?
Thanks to the Plainfield Chamber of Commerce and to events coordinator extraordaire Pat Fields for putting this tour together. I'll be looking for you there!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Get down and dirty in the Shakespeare Garden Saturday

The Shakespeare Garden is an inspiration to all.
The ladies of the Plainfield Garden Club are looking for folks who like to get their hands dirty! This Saturday morning marks the launch of the Club's 'Saturdays in the Shakespeare Garden' slated to run two Saturdays a month through early November, from 9 AM to 11 AM, leaving plenty of time for your regular Saturday chores.

This is an unmatched opportunity to those with green thumbs to get to work with the plantings in the garden, all of which are mentioned in Shakespeare's writings and some of which are quite strange and unusual to modern American gardeners. Not to mention what you can learn about their folk and medicinal uses. The weeds are less rare and exciting, but you can help with them, too!

The Shakespeare Garden, designed by the famed Olmsted firm, is celebrating 87 years and is on the National Registry of Historic Places and New Jersey's Womens' Heritage Trail.

You will also want to mark your calendar for Saturday, June 1, when the Garden Club will put on its annual 'Shakespeare in Bloom' -- this year with special activities, which I will cover in a later post.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to the club for maintaining this botanical treasure for all these years. For more information about the Plainfield Garden Club and links to its many pages of historical interest, visit their website at

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Free paper-shredding at Cedar Brook Park Friday


Union County's free paper shredding service travels to Plainfield tomorrow for an event at Cedar Brook Park on Friday from 9 AM to 1 PM.

The program, offered by the Board of Chosen Freeholders, is meant to provide a means of disposal for sensitive personal and confidential documents. It is open to all residents of Union County.

To accommodate everyone wishing to use the service, there is a limit of four ten-pound boxes or bags per person. Documents should not be bound and should have plastic binders or paper clips removed. Paper that is wet or damp will not be accepted. Residents are encouraged to continue to recycle non-sensitive documents and magazines through their community's recycling efforts.

NEXCUT Shredding of Teaneck, which is under contract to Union County, will put the documents into 96-gallon containers which are then dumped onto a conveyor belt and shredded on site. Visitors may watch the entire process on a closed-circuit TV.

The mobile shredding program is paid for by a grant from the NJDEP.

For more information about recycling, or future events, call the Recycling Hotline at (908) 654-9889 or visit the website at

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Services set for Gloria Morris, mother of Amelia Mapp

Gloria Morris, mother of Amelia Mapp, was a longtime Muhlenberg employee.
Services for Gloria Morris, mother of Councilor Adrian Mapp's wife Amelia, have been set for Friday morning.

Mrs. Morris was born in St. George, Barbados, in 1932 and had lived in Boston before moving to Plainfield fourteen years ago. She was a long-time employee of Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center.

Besides her daughter Amelia, she is survived by her husband Timothy Morris, another daughter, Beverly Morris-Gill (Wilbert) and four sons: Desmond (Sandra) and Marvon Barrow, Rodney and Rawle Morris, as well as her brother Evans Gay and sister Doris Bleuman.

Her loved ones also include twelve grandchildren -- including Amelia and Adrian's daughter Ayisha, who has been a constant support -- and four great-grandchildren.

Services at St. Mark's Episcopal Church take place on Friday morning with a viewing at 10:00 AM and the funeral at 11:00 AM. The church is at 1430 Park Avenue, with parking in the lot behind the church and on Park Avenue.

Condolences and expressions of sympathy may be sent to the Mapp family at 535 West 8th Street, Plainfield, NJ 07060 or online at the Judkins Colonial Home website (see here).

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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FOSH Garage Sale early bird registration deadline is near

If you are planning on taking part in Plainfield
's annual FOSH Garage Sale, you better get a move on! The early bird registration deadline is this Sunday, April 28. Early bird registration is $25 per house; after Sunday, it goes up to $35. (The Garage Sale is Sunday, May 19.)

If you are new to Plainfield or have not participated before, this is THE Plainfield Spring community event each year, drawing thousands of bargain hunters and visitors to the community. In addition to making some spare cash from that stuff in your attic, garage or basement, it is an opportunity to do some good for the community through FOSH projects funded from the proceeds.


Payment of your registration fee gets you several marketing advantages --
  • First of all, FOSH gets the Garage Sale permit, saving you the hassle of a trip to City Hall;
  • Secondly, the Garage Sale is advertised statewide, something you would hardly do for your own little sale;
  • Thirdly, you are listed in a directory for attendees with a map of the area; and
  • Lastly, FOSH supplies a colored balloon to catch the eye of roving shoppers.

Visit the FOSH website here, where you can register AND pay online via PayPal; or download the Garage Sale Registration forms here, fill out and mail in with check or money order (no cash, please!). If mailing, send completed registration form and payment to: FOSH, P.O. Box 2711, Plainfield, NJ 07062. (Registration forms are also available at designated locations -- see list at end of post.)
By special arrangement with the City of Plainfield, FOSH will file the Garage Sale permit with the City on your behalf. (Note that the City of Plainfield will fine houses participating without a permit.)
Pick up your permit, balloon, directories and maps between 8:00 and 9:00 AM the morning of the sale (at 1332 Evergreen Avenue) and you're good to go!
As in recent years, FOSH has arranged for the Lupus Foundation to take away unsold items homeowners wish to discard after the sale. Speak to Shannon or Pat (numbers below) for more information if you are interested.


Besides publicizing the event, and providing you with a balloon to identify your site and directories to distribute to your shoppers, FOSH designates a portion of the proceeds each year to some of its outreach activities --
  • This year,helping erect signs to recognize the twice-state-champ PHS Cardinals Boys Basketball team, and state champion Cardinals Track Team;
  • An award to a graduating PHS senior for academic success and community service;
  • Tuition grants to Plainfield public schools students for courses at duCret School of the Arts; and
  • Maintenance and improvements at Leland Avenue Park.
For more information, email, or call Garage Sale chair Shannon Pacheco at (917) 204-2112 or FOSH president Pat Turner Kavanaugh at (908) 561-6046.
Do good by doing well!

Pickup locations for Garage Sale applications --

    • Dairy Queen, 1367 South Avenue
    • Netherwood Auto Repair, 1000 South Avenue
    • Swain Galleries, 703 Watchung Avenue (at East 7th Street)
    • ERA Reed Realty, 963 Park Avenue
    • Century 21 John Campbell Realty,  967 South Avenue
    • Sleepy Hollow Realtors, 1304 South Avenue

20th Annual

Sunday, May 19

9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Rain or Shine

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Plainfield Symphony's Joe Green (Giuseppe Verdi) program Saturday

Dashing, scandalous, and politically engaged, Verdi's 200th birthday is being celebrated.
The Plainfield
Symphony closes out its 93rd season Saturday evening with a program highlighting the music of Joe Green. OK, Guiseppe Verdi. (I couldn't resist.)

Verdi was not only one of the great Romantic composers of the 19th century, he was also politically engaged. His involvement in the reunification of Italy is legendary and many of his operas can be read as sly subversions of the reactionary censors (think of the Hebrew chorus from Nabucco, for example).

Celebrating the composer's 200th birthday, the PSO joins with the Oratorio Singers of Westfield to present an evening of orchestral, choral and vocal selections from the operatic master.

As is its tradition, the Plainfield Symphony follows the closing concert with its gala Conductor's Circle After-Concert Party, this year honoring Principal Flautist Leslie Pruess.

The concert will include selections from La Traviata, Nabucco, Aida and other operas. The PSO will be under the direction of Michael Avagliano, with the chorus prepared and conducted by its Director, Trent Johnson, familiar to many area music lovers as the organist at Westfield's First United Methodist Church.

Tickets for the concert are $50/person for reserved seating, $30/regular and $20/seniors and students, and may be purchased at the door. PSO performances are at the Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue. (Parking in church lot, on the street, or in Swain Galleries lot.) Info: (908) 561-5140 or visit the PSO website:

The Conductor's Circle After-Party is $45/person and includes a light buffet and open bar. It gets under way at 9:30 PM, and will be held at the gracious home of Tony Mitchell and Jenny Ciappa, 1419 Evergreen Avenue. Tickets to the party are separate from the concert and may be paid for at the door, but you must reserve in advance. Reservations can be made with Carolyn Wellington at (703) 624-1028 or email

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Leland Park Earth Day Cleanup - with pictures

Cleanup at Leland Avenue Park (left to right): Pat Turner Kavanaugh, FOSH;
Jennifer Popper, Netherwood Neighbors; Councilor Rebecca Williams;
Dan Damon; and Freeholder Linda Carter. (photo courtesy Michael Popper)

Plainfielders celebrated Earth Day with a cleanup at Leland Avenue Park on Sunday afternoon, organized by Netherwood Heights Neighbors and Friends of Sleepy Hollow (FOSH).

Led by Jeff Robbins of Netherwood Neighbors, about twenty volunteers, including adults and kids, spent a sunny (but chilly) Sunday afternoon busily filling trash bags, removing fallen branches and litter, cleaning up the walkway around the pond and generally giving the playground a tidying up. Among the items removed were a patio umbrella,  a car battery and an office chair!

The pond needing cleaning too! Left to right: Arthur Robbins-Geller,
Kevin Downey, Jessie Kayalo, and Evelyn Downey.
(photo courtesy  Sarah Muller-Robbins)

Elected officials who turned out to help were Councilor Rebecca Williams and Freeholder Linda Carter.

Netherwood Neighbors president Jennifer Popper and FOSH president Pat Turner Kavanaugh extended warm 'thank yous' to all those who volunteered.

For more information about these two Plainfield community organizations, check their websites: Netherwood Heights Neighbors and Friends of Sleepy Hollow.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Amelia Mapp's mother passes away

Plainfield Today has learned that Amelia Mapp's mother, Gloria Morris, passed away early this morning after a long illness.

Condolences and expressions of sympathy may be sent to Amelia and Councilor Mapp and the family at their home: 535 West 8th Street, Plainfield, NJ 07060 or posted to Amelia's FaceBook page here.

Details about the services and funeral as they become available.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Two Robinson-Briggs v. Mapp debates expected

If all goes well, Plainfield
ers will have two chances to hear Democratic mayoral candidates Adrian Mapp and Sharon Robinson-Briggs Mapp debate during this Primary Election season.

Mapp, who is currently Ward 3 councilor and is the Plainfield Democratic Committee's candidate, will face off against incumbent Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who is running off the party line.

The original debate, planned by Plainfield High School students along with a faculty adviser, was to have taken place this past Monday afternoon at PHS. Only after taking off from work and driving back to Plainfield for the 1:30 PM debate did Mapp discover that it had been cancelled (no one notified him in advance).

Volunteers with the Mapp campaign are working with PHS principal Otis Brown to put the debate back on track. I will post information as soon as available.

The second opportunity will be a FOSH-sponsored candidates' forum on Wednesday, May 22 (time and place to be determined). This will be the third Primary Election forum that FOSH has put on.

FOSH president Pat Turner Kavanaugh says that FOSH sees the forums 'as a civic responsibility', especially since the Primary victor in such a heavily Democratic community is tantamount to being the winner in November.

FOSH will use the League of Women Voters format -- the 'gold standard' for candidate forums -- and will be looking for volunteers to help for the evening. FOSH will pay for an LWV moderator for the evening.

I will post more details on each forum as received; be sure to check the community calendar on the CLIPS page (see here) frequently.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Leland Park cleanup Sunday celebrates Earth Day

Sign at Leland Avenue Park.
(Photo courtesy Jennifer Popper.)
Following the lead of several area children, Plainfield
's Netherwood Heights Neighbors and FOSH (Friends of Sleepy Hollow) are once again celebrating Earth Day with a cleanup at the Leland Avenue Park adjacent to the Cook School pond.

The idea of a cleanup came from some children who in 2012 urged their parents to help them clean up the park and the pond area. Four kids, their parents and other volunteers came together last year for the first Earth Day celebration.

In a few hours they had netted a small mountain of trash -- and even retrieved a basketball from the pond's drain. The path around the pond was cleared and bottles, cans and branches removed.

This year's observance is slated from 1:00 to 4:00 PM tomorrow, April 21. Volunteers are invited to wear old clothes and work gloves, bring a rake and lend a hand to beautify this neighborhood resource.

You can RSVP to or just show up. Parking on the street.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Checking on Sharon's ELEC filings

Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs continued fundraising for her 2013 re-election campaign with an event this past weekend at Spain Inn on West 7th in Piscataway, long famous as 'the' PMUA watering-hole of choice.

(While on the subject of fundraising, I must correct the post of March 27 -- 'Mayor's barstool-by-barstool campaign continues' -- that said Sharon held a fundraiser at the Stone Square Lodge. My informant was misinformed. A person who was present tells me that the event was a birthday party for a man who is a longtime friend of the Mayor.)

Now that the ballot positions have been drawn (Sharon is in column "E"), and we draw down to the finish line (the Primary Election is June 4), I thought to check on whether Sharons' ELEC report for the quarter ending March 31 has been filed yet.

Silly me.

As of today, no report filed for Sharon Robinson-Briggs since the quarter ending December 31, 2012.


Reader Alan Goldstein has noted that Adrian Mapp's campaign fund has made no report. The difference here is due to ELEC rules. Robinson-Briggs' campaign committee has been in existence since her last re-election campaign four years ago. Under ELEC regulations, she is required to make quarterly reports for periods ending March 31, June 30, September 30, and December 31 of each year. In the year of the actual election, her campaign committee must also file in the regular sequence: 29 days pre-election, 10 days pre-election, and 20-days post-election. Mapp's first required filing date, I am told, is the 29 day pre-election period in the current election cycle.

UPDATE 4/20/13: Prodded by Mr. Goldstein, I re-read the 2013 ELEC Manual on filings (page 11, section 2) and have concluded that the Mayor's committee is, in fact, excused from filing an April 15 report. Her first expected report for activity in 2013 will be the 29-day pre-election report, due in a couple of weeks.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

CouintyWatchers blogger's victory important for all bloggers


Judge Cassidy's ruling quashing the subpoena of Renna.

bloggers and bloggers elsewhere in New Jersey who try to bring news of their local communities can take heart from the ruling of Union County Judge Karen Cassidy this past Friday quashing a grand jury subpoena issued to CountyWatchers blogger Tina Renna.

Renna has been a thorn in the side of Union County's Democratic establishment for years. Her coverage of Freeholder Board meetings and Union County business has been prodigious. She is a master at using OPRA requests for public documents to shine light on County practices, winning many lawsuits over the release of materials.

The case in point involved Renna's coverage of the alleged personal use of County-owned generators after Superstorm Sandy by a number of Union County employees and the failure of the Prosecutor's office to bring charges against any of them.

Union County Prosecutor Ted Romankow wanted Renna's list of the employees who allegedly used the generators. Renna refused, contending that divulging the names might lead to discovery and punishment of her source(s).

[Full disclosure, Plainfield Today had its own brush with the Prosecutor's office back in 2006 over the question of sources, when I reported on supposed death threats against Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs being used to justify the assignment of two police officers as bodyguards to her full-time (see here); and Robinson-Briggs' respond by sicing the media on me (see here). Ultimately I was interviewed by investigators from Prosecutor Romankow's office, to whom I held that the story was based on gossip (as stated in the story itself). In 2008, I was justified in a backhanded way when Director Hellwig admitted to the media that there had never been an independent threat assessment and that the assignment of bodyguards had been made on an unsubstantiated basis (see here).]

Romankow presented the matter to the grand jury, which issued a subpoena compelling Renna to divulge the information. Renna then filed a motion to quash (or dismiss) the subpoena, which is the subject of Judge Cassidy's ruling. You can read the Ledger's news coverage here and editorial here; CountyWatcher's coverage here; and the Courier's story here. Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine even fired off a round in today's piece (see here).

It is instructive to read Judge Cassidy's well-reasoned and thorough opinion (see here, PDF). The Prosecutor's presentation seems focused on ancillary matters such as Renna's occasional lapses of syntax and grammar and sometimes hyperbolic descriptions of those on whom she is reporting.

Cassidy is intent on explicating the conditions under which a person can be shielded from forced disclosure of their sources, as set forth under New Jersey law and in case law on the matter.

On the question of whether the CountWatchers blog is similar to traditional news media, Cassidy, after examination which includes frequency of publication and types of stories, finds that it is.

On the question of whether it meets the necessary purpose to gather and disseminate 'news', Cassidy again finds that CountyWatchers does. She notes that it need not be the sole or primary purpose, but may be an 'alternate' purpose. Cassidy also points out that no need has been asserted by New Jersey courts for the reportage to be 'unbiased'.

On the question of whether CountyWatchers' materials are gathered in the course of professional newgathering activities, Cassidy cites talking with sources, attendance at meetings and use of OPRA requests as some of the methods used by traditional media and also by CountyWatchers.

Accordingly, Cassidy ordered that the Grand Jury subpoena be quashed.

The prosecutor may appeal the ruling, but as one of the commenters (Trochilus) on the CountyWatchers story on the ruling points out (see here), Romankow's assertion to the Ledger after the ruling that Renna had lied, puts him in a real bind if he tries to appeal, as he would have had to assert to the Grand Jury that Renna had knowledge of criminal activity by County workers.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Medevac story clarified

Central Street bounds Woodland, Maxson School properties.
The Plainfield
Today reader who alerted me to police and emergency vehicle activity early yesterday morning at Maxson School evidently was hearing the sounds of Plainfield Fire Division trucks and police and other emergency personnel responding to a two-alarm fire in a private dwelling on Central Street.

Central Street borders the school property alongside the Woodland Elementary School and the playing field of Maxson School.

The helicopter, which was not a medevac, appears instead to have been a news chopper from Channel 7 Eyewitness News. See the report and video here.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Medevac at Maxson School this AM


A Plainfield
Today reader contacted me at 7:00 AM this morning to report police and emergency vehicles were at the athletic field at Maxson School on East 7th Street and that a medevac appeared shortly thereafter.

No word yet on the reason for the helicopter, especially at this location, as medevacs usually use the Hub Stine Field unless the victim is in perilous condition.

Check back later for more information.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Ward 2 Town Hall meeting tonight

The Plainfield City Council's second Town Hall meeting of 2013 will take place at 7:00 PM tonight at the Cook School auditorium, 739 Leland Avenue (at Berkeley).

Meetings are traditionally held in each of the city's four wards as a convenience to residents. They are all open to all residents and taxpayers.

The format provides an opportunity for residents and business owners to share their concerns with Councilors and members of the administration, as well as to celebrate achievements in the community.

The remaining two meetings are as follows -

Ward 3
Wednesday, May 22 
7:00 PM 
Cedar Brook School 
1049 Central Avenue

Ward 4
Wednesday, June 19 
Jefferson School 
1750 West Front Street

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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