Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Something new for Plainfield: Coping with success

Food, music and cerveza have brought tens of thousands of visitors
to Plainfield, and some conflict...

While listening to the squabbling at Plainfield City Council's special meeting Monday evening to (re)consider allowing Edison Garcia's Central American Independence Celebration festival to go forward, it occurred to me that everyone -- Council, merchants and public alike -- are learning to cope with an unusual situation for Plainfield: Success.

Some merchants and plenty of residents have complained about the sound levels of the amplified bands. Disinformation and misinformation has been spread about whether attendees are kept within a specific area while drinking cerveza (and the propriety of having children witness adults drinking beer). There are complaints that the food vendors are all from out of town (not so, others say).

One business owner's petition against allowing the festival is said to contain some fictitious names; others are said not to have known what they were signing. After a lengthy discussion at a SID (Special Improvement District) board meeting, the board adopted a resolution asking the Council to deny Garcia permission, suggesting a location away from the central business district. In the end, the Council agreed to grant permission for the Festival, with modified hours and a shutdown of amplified music at 9:00 PM (Storch and Williams were the only 'no' votes).

Some grumble that Garcia seems to have a special access that allows for circumventing the Council's decisions. Dottie Gutenkauf suggested to the Council that one problem was the inconsistencies in how it treats different instances coming before it, including allowing Rodney Maree's event longer hours.

Councilor Mapp argues (and no one disputes him) that the festivals have brought thousands of visitors to Plainfield's downtown. But there is no evidence that the influx has had any positive impact on the downtown businesses (aside from the two sponsors' bars: Faraone's and Chez Maree).

Not only do we have the festivals, now the City is bombarded with requests for street closures for everything from a bike show on Front Street and 'customer appreciation days' for Hugo's Lounge on Church Street, to another bike extravaganza on several blocks of North Avenue between Richmond and Berckman Streets, and at least two religious groups seeking encroachments or street closures.

The Robinson-Briggs administration has not even attempted to assess the situation, let alone offer guidelines for coping with the impact of the large-scale events. And just as nature abhors a vacuum, so the Council feels it must address the issues since it is caught in the crosshairs, though the issues are complex and not easily resolved around the Council table.

Everyone has some reason to complain, but no one seems to take into account that if the festivals (and the other events mentioned) were not so successful, there would be no reason to complain because they would have disappeared.

Perhaps Councilor Mapp has taken the best approach by recognizing that the influx of visitors is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Now, what needs to happen is for all the stakeholders to sit down and work out some measures that bring a measure of fairness and economic benefit to everyone. That is certainly within grasp, but it is clearly not within grasp of the Robinson-Briggs administration.

So, folks will have to be patient and look forward to a better response to the challenges and opportunities that success will present to a new Plainfield mayor come January 1.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Bob said...

I agree that we need some guidelines and every petitioner must be treated fairly. I don't want unending festivals and events, no matter how successful, otherwise we may as well be a six flags. If you live in an area where you have to listen to the loud music all day, 9 p.m. is not a good ending time for loud music. Since our mayor was never one to work things out with anyone, I hope our future without her will bring many positive changes. Lord knows we need it.

Anonymous said...

Lets move these festivals to your neighborhood. They do nothing to enhance Plainfield. Unchecked speeding, DUI, loitering, noise and the like would go over we'll in ur neighborhood.