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Thursday, October 31, 2013

LWV Forum: Moore disses teachers union; Campbell's ethics challenged

2013 mayoral candidates at LWV forum (left to right):
D. Scott Belin, Adrian O. Mapp, Mustapha Muhammad and Sandy Spector.

2013 Board of Ed candidates (left to right): Wilma Campbell,
Deborah Clarke, Richard Lear, Annabella Melgar,
Frederick Moore, Sr., and David Rutherford.

The Emerson School cafetorium was packed as interested Plainfielders turned out for a three-part candidate forum hosted by the city's chapter of the League of Women Voters.

By way of contrast with the school board contest, the four mayoral candidates were nearly cordial, sharing wide areas of agreement on the issues facing the city (economic development, police effectiveness, the future of the Muhlenberg campus, and more).

Republican candidate Sandy Spector and independent Mustapha Muhammad betrayed a lack of knowledge of New Jersey's public contracts law when they complained of seeing out-of-town companies doing work for the city.

'Scottie' Belin is a different case. Knowledgeable on several issues, people are scratching their heads that he would run now on a slogan of 'change', when as chairperson of the Zoning Board, he has been a willing partner and enabler of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who is repsonsible for the mess things are in. There must be more to this than meets the eye; it just doesn't add up.

Of the four, Democratic nominee (and current Councilor) Adrian O. Mapp is the only one who projects the knowledge, the experience and (what is so important in landing resources in the NJ political landscape) the connections to effectively unite and lead Plainfield forward.

The Board of Ed candidates' forum, which opened the evening, was more contentious -- and with good reason.

There was some confusion in getting under way as the LWV moderator, Marlene Sincaglia of Berkeley Heights, asserted her right to control the order in which candidates responded to questions.

Challengers Richard Lear, Annabella Melgar and Deborah Clarke did their best to hold incumbents Wilma Campbell and Frederick Moore Sr. feet to the fire (newbie David Rutherford is more or less along for the ride) over the increasing number of schools under direct state supervision, abysmal standardized test results, ethical lapses in awarding contracts and the District's overall ranking among NJ public schools.

Campbell simply ignored the fact that these issues have only grown more serious over the nine years she has been on the Board of Ed.

When Lear pointed out the District's low ranking compared to other districts and the downward trend in standardized test scores, Campbell would only assert his figures were 'out of date' (he cited current data from the State's Department of Education), but she would not give any figures of her own.

One question about budget matters misstated the District's budget as 'over $100,000'. This was clearly an error -- the moderator picked up on it -- but neither incumbent Campbell or Moore offered a correction (the budget is on the order of $100 million). To further muddy the waters, the moderator initially threw the question to Ms. Melgar, who as a challenger could hardly be expected to have the knowledge to answer a budget question that incumbents Campbell and Moore should.

Lear attacked the matter more substantively, pointing out that the NJ School Boards Association holds that local Boards of Ed are supposed to function primarily as policy-setting bodies which have a responsibility to 'oversee' the budget, the responsibility for preparation of which lies with the Superintendent and staff.

The moderator made what I consider another misstep when posing what appeared to be a simple question: How many school board meetings have you attended?

To be fair, it would have been appropriate to make it an 'apples-to-apples' question by asking the incumbents to describe their attendance BEFORE having been elected. Of course, they will have attended more meetings as elected officials than even the most dedicated observer!

The law sets the conditions for service. While one must be a resident of the community for one year before taking office, there is no other requirement -- including attendance at meetings before being elected. It would have been fairer if the question were not even asked.

The most sparks of the evening were generated when Lear took on Campbell's ethical lapses in orchestrating a sweetheart contract with a law firm with which her husband has business dealings. The law firm overcharged the District tens of thousands of dollars, as pointed out by Lear based on a report by the NJ Comptroller. This threw Campbell off her stride.

The most appalling remark of the evening came from incumbent Moore who, responding to a question about the fact that teachers and support staff are working under the terms of an agreement that expired in June 2012: 'You have to have two sides to negotiate'.

If I were a teacher or aide or support staff person in the District, I would not be happy to be dissed by an elected official in this way. And I would make sure I let them know on Election Day.

The entire evening was taped by a crew from PCTV and should be available for viewing on Channels 34 (FiOS) or 96 (Comcast) by this weeked, as promised by city staff. The taped version will include 4th Ward Democratic candidate Bridget Rivers' opening remarks (there was no debate, as her opponent was not in attendance). Election Day is Tuesday, November 5.

You can view biographical info on candidates and their answers to questions posed by the LWV at the local chapter's blog (see here).

Each of the mayoral candidates has a website where their platforms are more fully explained: Adrian O. Mapp (here), Sandy Spector (here), Mustapha Muhammad (here) and D. Scott Belin (here).

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

LWV candidate forum tonight at Emerson School

Plainfield's League of Women Voters has been presenting
candidate forums for 93 years.

Plainfield's League of Women Voters chapter will hold its 2013 General Election candidates' forum this evening beginning at 6:30 PM (note time) at the Emerson School cafetorium.

The eveninhg kicks off with an hour with the six candidates for three three-year seats on the Board of Ed. There are two slates running. Though school board elections are nonpartisan, the two slates in the race have distinctly Democratic and Republican alignments.

Incumbent board president Wilma Campbell and current board member Frederick Moore Sr. have been joined by political newcomer David Rutherford. Rutherford takes the place of original 'Grandslammer' Renata Hernandez, who has chosen not to run for re-election.

This slate is opposed by three newcomers: Annabella Melgar, Richard Lear and Deborah Clarke. The threesome have been stumpig the community for weeks to get their names and point of view out.

You can view biographical info on candidates and their answers to questions posed by the LWV at the local chapter's blog (see here).

Following the Board of Ed forum, the League will turn the public's attention to the contested municipal races: the Ward 4 council seat and the mayoral race.

While Democratic candidate (and incumbent) Bridget Rivers was the only Council candidate at the NAACP forum (her opponent Barbara Johnson ws absent because of health issues), League of Women Voters rules require opposing candidates to both be present in order to participate. (This rule was highlighted during the primary race when incumbent mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs failed to appear, causing the LWV moderator to declare the forum closed, but with attendees gathering round candidate Adrian Mapp, giving him a solo opportunity.)

The four mayoral candidates will then have their say.

These include Democratic nominee (and incumbent Councilor) Adrian O. Mapp; Sandy Spector, who is both the Republican candidate and chair of the local GOP; and independent candidates Mustapha Muhammad and D. Scott Belin.

Each of the mayoral candidates has a website where their platforms are more fully explained: Adrian O. Mapp (here), Sandy Spector (here), Mustapha Muhammad (here) and D. Scott Belin (here).

Emerson School is at East 3rd Street and Emerson Avenue. Parking available in the school lot or on the street.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Plainfield teachers protest lack of contract

Members of the Plainfield Education Association picketing Monday evening.

Could this be the Plainfield Board of Ed's worst nightmare?

As election day approaches (it is next Tuesday) for incumbents Wilma Campbell and Frederick Moore, Sr., and their running-mate David Rutherford, teachers and support staff have taken to the streets to protest that they are now in the second year of working without a contract.

The Board has taken an unhurried pace which has left Plainfield Education Association (PEA) members chafing at the virtual reduction in take-home pay as healthcare costs continue to escalate while paychecks are frozen at the levels of the contract which expired in June 2012.

About fifty members of the PEA, which represents the district's teachers, aides and support staff, gathered outside Plainfield High School Monday evening to protest the delay.

I am told that the last bargaining session between the Board of Ed and the union was to be October 21 and that the state mediator who is helping in the negotiations was supposed to be in Plainfield Monday evening.

The Board of Ed is remaining mum on its position, but many teachers are convinced the board is stalling, hoping the union will cave.

Monday's evening's informational picket was high-spirited but polite. While several cars honked their horns in passing while I was there, the picket became less and less noticeable as dusk deepened.

What the Board of Ed has to worry about is when the teachers decide they are fed up not only with the pace of the negotiations, but with the genteel evening picket lines, and decide to picket in broad daylight while the students are on their way to school in the morning.

That would catch the eye of everyone driving to work along Park Avenue as well as creating a 'teachable moment' in democracy and fair play for the students.

Something the Board of Ed would rather not have, I'm sure.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Buono rallies Union County Dems at L'Affaire breakfast

Candidate Barbara Buono revved up Dems on Sunday.

Plainfield Dems had prime seats as gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono delivered a feisty speech knocking the policies of her opponent, incumbent governor Chris Christie at L'Affaire on Sunday.

Buono joined Sen. Bob Menendez and a host of Union County Democratic officials in a rally emceed by Sen. Nick Scutari, whose district includes Plainfield.

Noting that the media and may people portray Christie as likeable, she warned that just because he is likable 'does not mean that he is on your side'.

She also sounded a note that has bee repeated throughout her campaign, that as a woman she has had to constantly battle the suggestion that she should step aside, or wait or hold off until all the 'boys' in line have had their turn.

She rejected that line and pointed out that each time she ran -- against long odds -- she pulled off an unexpected win: first as Assembly candidate, then Senator and finally, chair of the Budget Committee.

And she urged, with the help of ordinary people it ca be done in the race for governor.

Assemblyman Jerry Green, chair of the Union County Democratic Committee (and also Plainfield's) proposed he expected Union County to be among the highest-ranking for Buono votes. Green also got off a sly poke at Union County's only 'Christiecrat', Scotch Plains mayor Kevin Glover, when he thanked the county party for being 99% behind his backing of Buono, whom he has supported since she first announced her run.

Among the other speakers was Plainfield's own Freeholder chair Linda Carter, who is seeking another three-year term. Plainfield's Democratic mayoral candidate, Adrian O. Mapp, was also singled out by Chairman Green for recognition.

The capacious banquet facility was jammed to standing-room only. When I stopped at the check-in table, I was told -- 'Oh, Plainfield! You'll be at tables 1, 2 and 3'. What a difference from the days when Plainfield would be located off in a far corner of the room.

Being near the speaker's tables meant that Buono had to pass us as she left for her Trenton rally. As she did, she shook hands with those at our table. A good, firm handshake with a look straight in the eye of each person.

Gubernatorial, I thought.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sunday features debate, rally, concert, talk

'tis the season...
Plainfielders have a plethora of cultural and political opportunities this Sunday afternoon.

In the order of times they begin, here is the roster --

From 1:00 to 4:00 PM, Democratic candidates will appear in a rally targeted to Latin American voters at the Plaza at Park Avenue and Front Street.

Besides gubernatorial candidate Sen. Barbara Buono, those making appearances will be Sen. Nick Scutari, Assembly candidates Jerry Gree ad Linda Stender, Freeholders Linda Carter and Sergio Granada and Mayoral candidate Adrian O. Mapp.

The rally will feature music, food and T-shirts, as well as artists and others.
The Drake House Museum will host author L'Aura Hladik in a talk on ghost hunting at 2:00 PM.

Learn about the hot spots of ghost hunting in New Jersey and New York City based on the America's Haunted Road Trip series. Among the highlights: Proprietary House, the Spy House, Manhattan Bistro and more.

Seating in the Gallery is on a first-come basis (it will fill quickly), and light refreshments will be served after the talk.

The Drake House is at 602 West Front Street, at the foot of Plainfield Aveue. Parking on site and on Geraud Avenue.
The acclaimed Norfolk State University Concert Choir presents a concert at Shiloh Baptist Church at 4:00 PM (doors open at 3:30).

Under the leadership of Carl Haywood and Terry Butler, director and assistant director of choral activities at the University, the 60-member concert choir will present a varied program of sacred and inspirational music.

The concert is open to the public; a freewill offering will be taken.

Shiloh Baptist Church is at West 4th and Liberty Streets. Parking in the church lot on West 5th Street.
The Plainfield Chapter of the NAACP will hold its candidate forum at 5:00 PM at the Mohawk Lodge.

Since the school board election has been moved to the November general election, the forum will include the four candidates for mayor (Adrian Mapp, Sandy Spector, Mustapha Muhammad, D.Scott Belin), two candidates for the 4th Ward Council seat (Bridget Rivers, Barbara Johnson), and the six nonpartisan candidates for the Board of Ed (Annabella Melgar, Richard Lear, Deborah Clarke, Wilma Campbell, Frederick Moore, David Rutherford).

The Mohawk Lodge is at 1357 West 3rd Street (corner of Rushmore Avenue). Parking available in the club's lot and on the street.
This weekend marks the home stretch in the fall general election, which takes place on Tuesday, November 5. The next, and last, opportunity to see and hear all the candidates will be at the League of Women Voters forum, Wednesday, October 30 at the Plainfield Public Library (oops! at Emerson Community School) at 7:00 PM.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Evening of Jazz at Library Saturday

Swing to the music of Ellington, Porter and other greats.

The Plainfield Public Library will swing on Saturday evening to the strains of hits from Duke Elligton, Cole Porter and other jazz greats (plus some Broadway shows) in an evening of jazz in support of the Friends of the Plainfield Public Library.

Phil Amarante and his Manhattan Jazz group will hold sway in the Library's fabled pool courtyard in a cabaret with music for dancing.

Snacks and non-alcoholic beverages will be supplied' bring your own wine.

The event is being orchestrated by Friends' officer Belinda Smiley who always puts together show-stopping evenings of fun and music in support of the Library. The Friends of the Plainfield Public Library is dedicated to raising additional funds to support library program and services above and beyond the City's obligation. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extend allowed by law.

Tickets are available in advance at the Library checkout counter or at the door on Saturday evening. $30/person, $50/couple. The fun begins at 7 PM and runs to 11 PM. Parkinng available in the Library's two lots or on College Place.

For more info, see the Library's website here.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pranking with a purpose: About that Plainfield historic designation story

A view of downtown Plainfield, Illinois, courtesy of its website.

Steady readers of Plainfield Today will know that I have a prankish streak, and yesterday I pulled another -- but with a purpose.

The story on the designation of Plainfield's downtown on the National Register of Historic Places post in CLIPS (see here) referred -- as several folks noted -- not to Plainfield, New Jersey, but to Plainfield, Illinois.

The Illinois village is situated in Chicago's western suburbs and was originally settled in the 1820s. With a current population of 39,581, it is somewhat smaller than the Queen City. Of note is its transformation in the past twenty years from a sleepy village of fewer than 7,000 residents to a bustling community that projects a population of 50,000 by 2030.

There are several reasons the story caught my eye.

First, the Village had determined to pursue the strategy of historic designation for the downtown as part of an economic development and revitalization plan which the Village has pursued for over a decade.

Contrast this to Plainfield, where the North Avenue Historic District was designated as Plainfield's only commercial historic district more than thirty years ago, but little has been done to take advantage of the designation to leverage development. We can count ourselves lucky that the Historic Preservation Commission has at least been able to keep the area in a holding pattern awaiting better times. Hopefully, these are on the way.

The Village has evidently done a good job of presenting the advantages of federal tax credits of up to 20% for improvements that include not only facade recoveries, but also remodeling and updating interior and systems to meed code.

As Plainfield looks forward to a new administration that is committed to downtown development and redevelopment, perhaps we can also look forward not only to capitalizing on the North Avenue District, but consider the advantages of leveraging the renewal of Front Street -- where Urban Enterprise Zone funds were used for an old-fashioned streetscape makeover a number of years ago, and where the architectural mix includes everything from Victorian to Art Deco structures -- using the same sort of tools as our Illinois counterpart.

Apart from the historic designations and plans, the Village has shown a flair for using modern technology to help promote appreciation of the downtown's heritage. Besides developing the standard walking tour brochure and enhancing the Village's website with detailed information, each building in the newly designated historic district will hava a label with a QR code (those ubiquitous black and white coded squares that are popping up everywhere).

Using a smartphone, shoppers and visitors may take a photo of the QR code and be whisked to the Village website where they can check out the details of that particular building and its history. Neat!

So, I apologize for the prank, but hope it inspires readers to think about downtown Plainfield and its revitalization in new and creative ways, as well as suggesting to owners and developers a financial tool they may have previously overlooked.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ignoring pedestrians in crosswalk can cost you ... big

With or without the sign, the law requires you to stop
for pedestirans crossing the roadway.

It will cost you to ignore pedestrians in crosswalks ... big time.

Plainfield police are conducting a pedestrian safety campaign with officers dressed in plain clothes testing drivers adherence to the law by stepping off the curb as vehicles pass.

The tab? $230 per violation.

A couple from Long Island got a ticket when driving on South Avenue to Cafe Vivace after leaving a viewing at Memorial Funeral Home in Fanwood. The couple say they saw a man in dark clothes wearing something reflective and carrying a flashlight. They dispute that he was attempting to cross the street but are not sure if he was on the curb or had stepped onto the pavement. They were pulled over several car lengths past the man and issued a summons.

City Council took note recently of the receipt of a small grant for the Plainfield Police Division to conduct the pedestrian safety campaign.

Police sources indicate at least one hundred tickets were issued during that evening operation (Tuesday, October 15) and that 'it was like shooting fish in a barrel'.

I will never forget the admonishment of the man who administered my New Jersey driving test after I moved to Plainfield from Brooklyn: In New Jersey, said he, the pedestrian is king. Makes no matter if they are crossing at an intersection or a pedestrian crossing or even jaywalking; your obligation is to stop (not yield, stop) until they have cleared the roadway.

And that's the way I've always done it since.

So, be forewarned. It's costly to ignore pedestrians.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Some news the PMUA is NOT sharing

Going over the numbers ... carefully.

The Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) Fall 2013 newsletter arrived several days ago and contained some interesting news, but there seems to be some news the PMUA is NOT sharing.

Though noticeably thin on news, there was a story on educating about recycling with high-density customers (read: large apartment buildings and complexes), a writeup on the Environmental Fair and two-thirds of a page devoted to crediting its sponsors.

Noteworthy is the announcement that residents may now drop of leaves for FREE on Saturdays from now to December 28. The transfer station is open Saturdays from 8 AM to 2 PM and is located at 95 Rock Avenue. Customers must show proof of Plainfield residency. No commercial customers (i.e. lawn services). No brush. No trash. Leaves brought during the week will incur a charge.

The news that the PMUA is NOT sharing?

Word in the street is that since July, state investigators have been conducting a forensic audit of PMUA finances. While residents are angered by the $1 million payout engineered to former employees Eric Watson and David Ervin by commissioners Malcolm Dunn, Cecil Sanders and Alex Toliver, the buzz is that investigators are looking into allegations of long-term criminal activity involving purchases and contracts.

Seems one of the favorite nobbles was to order sets of tires -- allegedly for PMUA vehicles -- but then mount them on scamsters' own vehicles. Beginning at $1,000 or so per set, this can add up to a considerable bilking of the ratepayers.

Will there be a prosecution ... or just a report?

Stay tuned.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Parking, recreation, public safety concerns aired at Council

What would 'just and capable' look like?

The administration that takes over from Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs in January will have plenty of unresolved issues to tend to, as evidenced by comments at last Tuesday's City Council meeting.

A resident of the 800-block of East Second Street complained about parking conditions in the area near Watchung Gardens. The resident says that because owners of the large rental complex are now charging tenants for using on-site parking spaces, many tenants are now parking in the street, encroaching on homeowners' driveway aprons and making it dangerous to exit one's driveway because lines of sight are obscured and correct turning is impeded.

The new administration may want to look into on-street parking generally in the city. After the infamous David Connolly instituted paid parking spaces at all his apartment properties (cash only, off the books, mind you!), Plainfield's streets became flooded with renters who resisted (or could not afford) the extra parking fees.

Some communities, such as Montclair, have turned the parking lemon into lemonade by instituting mandatory parking permits for on-street parking. Plainfield took a step in this direction when parking near Seidler Field became an issue after NJT farmed out the parking enforcement at Netherwood Station a number of years ago.
A Pop Warner football coach addressed the Council over issues at Seidler Field. His complaint was that the gas line to the concession stand was shut off, leaving volunteers unable to use it to prepare hot dogs for the games.

This is not the first time there have been complaints about concession stands at recreation facilities. The feud between Mayor Robinson-Briggs and the Queen City Baseball League centered in part on the shabby condition of the concession stand at the Rock Avenue ball fields.

A thorough review of the Recreation Division, from top to bottom, is certainly called for in light of other issues and abuses that have come to light.
Community activist Flor Gonzalez also spoke to the Council. Among the concerns she cited was her contention that the Police Division is not forthcoming about the race and ethnicity of victims and perpetrators of crime in Plainfield, especially of muggings and strong-arm robberies.

Summoned to the mike by Councilor Storch, Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig said that such stats are indeed kept, but there was no explanation as to why they are not shared.

One of the things a new administration can look at is more transparency on the part of the Public Safety Director on such matters. Chicago puts its crime stats online in near-real-time.
One thing is for sure, there is no lack of issues for a new administration to address that the current one has ignored.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cory Booker weds?

Artist Norman Rockwell famously portrayed the chain of gossip.

As the 'race to the altar' by same-sex couples revved up (see Ledger story here), we are still waiting for news of Plainfield's reaction to the changed situation resulting from the NJ Supreme Court's refusal to block  same-sex marriages.

While Plainfield did not open City Hall to wedding license applicants over the weekend as some towns have done, Councilor Williams (see here) expects the city's registrar of vital statistics, Barbara Wynn, will begin issuing the licenses on Monday morning (note to those making plans: bring proof of residency in Plainfield and a witness).

In the midst of all this hubbub comes word that Senator-elect Cory Booker has wed.

According to a Plainfield Today reader who picked up her grade school chum's mother at Newark's Penn Station the other day, the friend's mother's best friend's daughter recently got married at Newark City Hall and was told that her appointed time came 'just after Cory Booker'.

The chain of people involved immediately brought to mind Norman Rockwell's famous illustration of the circle of gossip (see top of story).

Has Booker wed?

Or is he just the victim of a rumor?

What do you know? '

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hubbard School students 'hug' their neighbors

Hubbard School students delivered fall flowers to neighbors.
A Plainfield Today reader who lives on Stelle Avenue reported an interesting story.

One recent morning, she thought she heard noises on her front porch. By the time she got to the door and opened it, she saw a group of boys pulling a utility cart heading down the street.

At her feet was a beautifully wrapped pot of fall-blooming chrysanthemums. Tucked into the flowers was a handmade label saying simply 'Hubbard School students respect their neighbors'.

The students evidently blanketed all the homes between Plainfield and Grant Avenues on both Stelle Avenue and West 8th Street, the school's 'neighbors'.

Nice touch, Hubbard students!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Kickstart Plainfield movie

Plainfield filmmaker Alrick Brown looks to 'kickstart'
a film in which Plainfield would be one of the stars.

Anyone who has seen film maker and Plainfield resident Alrick Brown's award-winning 'Kinyarwanda' knows he has the talent to pack a terrific emotional punch.

And anyone who knows Plainfield author J.M. Benjamin can tell you that he knows how to pack a punch into his best-selling novels that draw on his own life experiences: crime, prison and redemption.

Together, they have a film project ('My Manz') based on a Benjamin novel that Brown wants to bring to the screen.

An added note of interest is that plans would include shooting most of the film on location in Plainfield, using local residents as extras.

The hitch?

Films are expensive and filmmakers often devote years of their lives to bringing a project to the screen. That was the case with Brown's 'Kinyarwanda', and looks to be the secnario for 'My Manz' also.

However, there is an important difference.

Since the days when Alrick first started to dream of a hit, the internet site Kickstarter (see here) has come into play. Kickstarter depends on a phenomenon known as crowdsourcing to spread the cost of launching a project out among many -- even thousands -- of supporters and friends.

The way it works is this: An artist proposes a project and develops a pitch video. Kickstarter sets up a framework to promote the idea and allow contributors to pitch in. The artist sets a goal of dollars to be reached and a certain amount of time is given to reach the goal. If the pledges reach the goal in the time allowed, the artist gets the money to proceed. If not, the pledges are cancelled.

Alrick has until October 23 to make his goal of $60,000. The money will be used to produce a ten-minute clip that will then form the basis of an appeal to the big money for underwriting.

You can help these talented young Plainfield artists.

View their project pitch video above and then visit the Kickstarter website (see here) and consider making a pledge of any amount to help 'kickstart' what might become a world-class film with Plainfield itself as one of the stars.

Take a minute and check it out now.

You'll be glad you did.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Plainfield delivers for Booker (with ward-by-ward results)

Unofficial results per City Clerk AJ Jalloh for U.S. Senate Special Election.
(Click to enlarge or print.)

Plainfield voters delivered big time for Cory Booker in Wednesday's special election, helping to ensure the Newark mayor's victory over Republican rival Steve Lonegan for the US Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg. The NJ Spotlight website aptly called it a 'showdown over the shutdown' (see here).

Municipal clerk 'AJ' Jalloh outdid himself by finishing and delivering the unofficial vote totals by email Wednesday evening. The results (see image at top of story) show Plainfield voters going 15-1 for Booker.

While the statewide total gave Booker the edge with 55% of the vote (see the NJ Spotlight online election map here), he is projected to carry Union County by 64% when all counting comes to an end.

Unfortuantely, County Clerk Joann Rajoppi's website does not yet have the unofficial numbers up yet, but Plainfield bids fair to repeat its performance in the special primary by giving Booker the most votes of any municipality in the County.

Results from the August 2013 Special Primary Election.
(Click to enlarge or print.)

In the special primary this past August (see my post here), Plainfielders cast 3,372 of the 18,757 final vote tally for Booker in Union County, as noted by Assemblyman Jerry Green in his remarks at this past Sunday's rally.

Congratulations Cory!

Now the real work begins.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Election Day: Your chance to send Washington a message

Booker and Dem national chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz
campaigned in Plainfield on Sunday.
Today Plainfield voters get a unique chance to send Washington a message.

US Senate candidate Cory Booker, campaigning in Plainfield this past Sunday, noted the irony that Chris Christie's attempt to sideline the special election to fill the Senate vacancy caused by Frank Lautenberg's death has actually put the special New Jersey election in the center of the national stage as the Tea Party faction is holding fast on a government shutdown.

Besides that, Tea Party wingnuts are stymying Republican efforts to avoid the United States' default on its public debt that would occur tomorrow if no resolution is achieved.

Booker suggests that Democrats and moderate Republicans tired of Tea Party posturing should vote for him to send a message that shutdown politics is not the politics of New Jerseyans.

I agree.

The polls are open now and close at 8:00 PM.

Do it!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Campaign notes: Sign thievery, Sharon's split vote, Scott's HQ

'Independent' D. Scott Belin has taken over Sharon's primary headquarters space.

  Though tomorrow's special US Senate election should be on everyone's radar, there are a few other Plainfield campaign updates to share.

The mystery of who will use Sharon Robinson-Briggs' primary campaign headquarters across from City Hall has been solved. On my way to the Plainfield Symphony concert Saturday evening, I saw Scott Belin signs in the window and a few campaign workers gathered around a table inside.

The same flag is in the window that hung there when Sharon used the space, but it looks to be otherwise much more sparsely furnished. Belin's campaign signs are taped to the windows, but you can see inside (which you couldn't when Sharon had herself cocooned there). I had noted back in August that folks were wondering if Belin would get the space (see post here), especially after I spotted Mustapha Muhammad's headquarters at East 2nd Street and Netherwood Avenue.

But if you thought Belin's getting Sharon's old headquarters meant he was getting her endorsement, you would be wrong.

Sharon splits her ticket, sporting GOP Campbell
and Independent Muhammad signs in her yard.

Driving by Robinson-Briggs' mayoral manse on Pemberton Avenue Sunday afternoon, I noticed she had two lawn signs, splitting her ote. One regular-sized sign was in support of independent Mustapha Muhammad. The other, oversized sign was touting the Republican Assembly candidate, young John Campbell. These are the signs that caused a discussion at a recent Planning Board meeting. Large by Plainfield standards, they are still dwarfed by those they ape that are seen in front of South Plainfield homes.

Speaking of signs, Democratic mayoral nominee Adrian Mapp has been noting for weeks that his campaign signs were being uprooted and disappearing -- especially in the First and Fourth Wards.

Monday morning about 6:30 AM, a resident on her way to work spotted a tall Black man in a suit removing a Mapp sign from in front of a house and putting it inside a silver hatchback vehicle.

Wearing a suit to steal campaign signs? Now, who would wear a suit to steal a sign?

Can the tone of Plainfield politics be gentrifying?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Booker, Wasserman Schultz rock Plainfield

US Senate candidate Cory Booker rallied Plainfielders Sunday.

A man of his word, US Senate candidate Cory Booker kept his date with Plainfielders Sunday afternoon as he conducts a four-day bus tour of the Garden State leading up to Wednesday's special election.

Though grieving over the death of his father this past Thursday, Booker used his father's determination and resourcefulness as themes to invite his hearers to contemplate their own determination and resourcefulness in the face of the current government shutdown and Gov. Chris Christie's attempt to dampen voter turnout by scheduling a special election for a mid-October Wednesday.

Speaking of his father's hardscrabble life as a child in Depression-era North Carolina, the crowd roared with laughter when he quoted his father as saying "We were so poor we couldn't even afford the 'or' and were just plain 'po'".

Florida Congresswoman and Democratic National Party chairperson
Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaks at Sunday's rally.
(The geezers in the background? Yours truly and Councilor Bill Reid.)
Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, warmed the crowd with a feisty speech recalling how she knocked on 50,000 doors in her first election, in which the 'old boy network' refused to give her a chance.

Focusing on New Jersey and the current race, Wasserman Schultz tagged Booker's Republican opponent Steve Lonegan as 'Shutdown Steve' for his defense of the GOP-driven government shutdown now entering its third week.

Booker continued the theme in his remarks, launching a frontal attack on Lonegan's policies as having monstrously cruel outcomes -- especially in Lonegan's attacks on the Affordable Healthcare Act.

In the end though, Booker suggested that fate may have dinged Chris Christie in a way he could hardly have expected.

Noting that Christie went to great lengths to ensure the Senate race would not crowd out Christie's own coveted re-election by being on the same ballot, hence the move to spend $20 million in taxpayer monies to have the election on a mid-October Wednesday (this Wednesday).

'We have an opportunity,' Booker said, 'to send a message to Washington that we in New Jersey reject shutdown politics and the Tea Party faction of the Republicans'.

This brought the crowd -- which included some stalwart Plainfield Republicans -- to its feet for a resounding conclusion.

To send that message, you must vote.

The polls are open this Wednesday, October 16, from 6 AM to 8 PM.

You know what to do.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Activist and preservationist Victor Quinn dies at 64

Preservationaist and activist Victor Quinn
passed away Thursday unexpectedly.

Word came Friday that Plainfield preservation and neighborhood activist Victor J. Quinn III passed away suddenly on Thursday, October 10.

A resident of Plainfield since 1986, Victor was a founder and longtime president of the Netherwood Heights Historic District.

He had also served as president of Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield (RSVP), Plainfield's original gay and lesbian social and community service organization. During the 1990s, he sat on the Historic Preservation Commission.

Victor was a self-employed accountant who had a specialty in forensic accounting and auditing (how Plainfield could have used that skill!).

Besides his professional and community activist interest, Victor would also regale friends and neighbors with his performance on his Hammond B-3 electronic organ.

Victor is survived by his partner of 29 years, Bill Michelson. Michelson, who sits on the Historic Preservation Commission, is also widely known in Plainfield as the attorney who successfully argued the case of the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District against the owners of the former Abbott Nursing Home a number of years ago.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Booker resumes campaign after father's passing; will be in Plainfield today

Booker resumed campaigning Saturday, after his father's passing.

NOTE: US Senate Candidate Cory Booker resumed his campaign schedule Saturday that will include today's Plainfield event on a four-day bus tour. Booker's father, Cary Booker, died on Thursday.

Plainfield's Democrats will rally for U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker and the slate of candidates for office in Union County on Sunday, October 13, at 4:00 PM.

Booker, who has almost rock-star popularity, will join the Union County slate to rev up the ground troops for Wednesday's special election in which he faces off against wing-nut Steve Lonegan.

Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota and a Tea Party leader, has been busy during the current campaign painting himself as less radical than he has been to this point.

Appearing with Booker will be Union County candidates, including Plainfield's own Linda Carter, who is running for re-election to the Board of Chosen Freeholders.

Plainfield's Democratic headquarters is on West Front Street near Park Avenue (next door to Dunkin' Donuts). Parking available on the street or in the county parking lot on East Second Street.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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