The needler in the haystack.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Off to the peg-leg people...again

 

No Plainfield Today post today, am off to the peg-leg people for tweaking on the new and 'permanent' prosthesis.

Since the prosthesis and the 'action' of the foot are radically different from the initial one I have been getting around on all these months, it's like learning to walk all over again.

But the progress is steady.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Follow the money


So, did the City get any banking services proposals?
 
Plainfield residents may only wish they could take the advice of the Watergate scandal's 'Deep Throat' whistleblower and 'follow the money' -- the 'money' being Plainfield's banking depository arrangements.

The Robinson-Briggs administration revealed to the City Council in November that it had not received any qualifying proposals to its RFP (request for proposals) for banking services for 2013 issued on October 25, 2012. At the same time, Director Al Restaino advised Council that the Robinson-Briggs administration would re-issue an RFP, hoping for a better outcome the second time around.

Since then, the public has not heard anything about the disposition of the banking services question.

The re-issued RFP can be found on the city's website (see here).

The RFP states that proposals were to be received by January 8, 2013, at which time they were to be publicly opened. It is now more than three weeks past the due date and we have heard nothing about the matter.

Scanning through the document, I noted that 'Table 1', which outlines the anticipated procurement schedule, appears not to have been updated from the original October document and still shows a schedule of receipt of Proposals on 11/20/2012 with approval by the Council before 12/31/2012 for a contract for 2013 services. Kind of sloppy to repurpose the original document without updating the schedule.

The total property tax levy for 2012 was in excess of $87 million, nothing to sneeze at despite the low interest rates prevailing, and certainly of interest to SOME financial institution or institutions, wouldn't you think?

Director Restaino told the Council that the city never even received one written proposal on the earlier RFP, and only had one inquiry and that the City had to do a better job at getting the word out.

So, did they?

And if there are no Proposals submitted, can you guess what institution is providing banking services by default?

Having trouble? Think WBLS affair.




-- Dan Damon [follow]



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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

CORRECTION on Saturday shooting

 

A correction on the story concerning the Saturday night Plainfield shooting (see original post here).

Note that the location is reported in a story in today's Courier by Mark Spivey (see here) as being at a different address on West 3rd Street -- in the 600-block, as opposed to the 300-block which I had originally been told.

Tips regarding shootings are often sent to me at the time of the incident, and may have some details confused or incomplete because they are being passed along as the incident is unfolding. Subsequent information (often a story picked up by the newspapers) may clarify and/or correct the initial information.

In any event, I always try to point readers to followup stories as they become available.


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Getting info to Dan for Plainfield Today


Using the 'comments' option to send Dan information.
 
A Plainfield Today reader recently asked in an anonymous comment how to get 'info' to me.

Depends on what information you want to pass along and how important your privacy is.

Readers can always send me an EMAIL at plaindan at gmail dot com, including attachments such as photos or documents. Using that email address will reveal the sender's email to me.

If you want more anonymity, use the COMMENTS function on any Plainfield Today post (just click on the word 'comments' at the end of the post). Comments may be made anonymous by clicking the 'anonymous' option in the comments composition window (as in the illustration above).

You will not be able to send me a photo or document if you use the 'comments' option.

I totally understand that City employees may be concerned about harassment if their identity becomes known for passing information along. The anonymous comment guarantees that no one knows where it comes from.

In any event, I try to check out leads and tips with others to make sure of the facts of the matter, so not every tip makes it to a story -- remember my concern is the honest and competent performance of duties by elected officials and government employees; forget the personal stuff.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, January 28, 2013

More on Mayor's PACC


The Red Queen hosts a tea party.
 
Turns out Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs did have an event for her Plainfield African-Caribbean Committee Saturday evening at City Hall.

What?! You didn't get an invite? Don't feel too bad, it evidently wasn't designed to be for just anybody -- even if public money was spent on eats and drinks.


An interested citizen tells me there were about thirty folks in attendance and the mayor's remarks skirted the edge of political campaigning.

Meanwhile, a Plainfield Today reader says that while channel surfing recently they caught a glimpse of Her Honor presiding at a 'meeting' of the same committee in City Hall Library, which is interesting considering Mayor Robinson-Briggs hasn't been able to get the Council meetings to be broadcast for months and months.

I guess there are priorities.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Man wounded in Plainfield shooting as rallies urge gun control


View of Saturday's gun control rally in DC (from Politico).
 
Yet another shooting in Plainfield was logged Saturday evening about 10:40 PM.
 

The victim, wounded in the buttocks and shoulder, was found near the intersection of Central Avenue and West 3rd Street, just steps away from the Plainfield Fire Division's headquarters building.



Saturday shooting was found just steps from the Fire Division HQ.
Though a medevac had been called for, I am told it was cancelled after EMTs on the scene decided it was not necessary. 

One resident reported that several residents had called the gunshots in, and that -- thankfully -- ShotSpotter had picked up the gunfire.

What is unknown is whether the shooting is drug- or gang-related.

The shooting comes on the heels of large gun control rallies in Washington (see story here, photo gallery here) -- which included a delegation from Newtown, Conn. -- and Jersey City (see here) on Saturday and with Plainfield yet to hear a word from Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs about gun issues.




-- Dan Damon [follow]



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$500 reward for lost dog


Have you seen Fluffy?
 
Plainfield Today reader and Plainfield Public Library employee Claudia Flores sent the following message concerning her sister's lost dog. Please help if you can.

Dan, I would be really thankful if you could help me spread the word.  My sister's dog named Fluffy went missing Saturday evening. There's children and an elderly woman crying at home. I'm attaching his picture...
 
$500.00 REWARD For finding Fluffy
 lost 1/26/13 in North Plainfield.
He's a small white bichon named Fluffy,
 he's on meds, very friendly and loved by many.
If found please call (908)380-6000.

Thanks for helping out!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mayor pulling double bait-and-switch on residents?


Hunting the elusive Mayor's Address.
 
During her State of The City Address on January 3, Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs announced she was forming an 'African-Caribbean committee' and that there would be a 'meet-and-greet' on January 26.

My ears perked up at the words 'meet-and-greet' as this is usually shorthand for a political campaign event where someone invites friends and neighbors and opens their home to a candidate to make a pitch for the residents' support.

OK, so maybe Her Honor misspoke. Maybe it's not to be a political campaign event.

In any event, here we are on January 26, and I can find no notice of any such event anywhere -- neither on the scrolling briefs on the website's front page (see here), the community events page (see here), nor the events calendar page (see here).

So, was I dreaming it all up?

How about checking the text of the Mayor's State of The City Address to find the reference?

Fine, if you can find the SOC address anyplace. Notwithstanding Her Honor's assertion during the address that it would be posted online for the convenience of the public and to save trees used in printing, I poked around and was only able to find it by using the 'search' function for 'state of city address 2013'.

When it did pop up, it was filed with 2012 documents -- who woulda thunk it?

And when I clicked on the document link (see here), what should open up but ... the agenda for the Council Reorganization meeting.

A double bait-and-switch or what?


    -- Dan Damon [follow]

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    Friday, January 25, 2013

    Council gives $1M giveaway promoter a PMUA seat


    After six attempts and only with the realignment of Plainfield's City Council, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs was finally able to get Cecil Sanders appointed to a full commissioner's seat on the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) Tuesday evening.

    Sanders came on board first as an alternate in December 2011 and was responsible, along with commissioner Malcolm Dunn, in engineering a $1 million settlement to former employees Eric Watson and David Ervin, which involved trashing an arbitration proceeding that insiders say was well on the way to being resolved in the agency's favor and against Watson and Ervin.

    Councilor Williams asked the sharpest questions of nominee Sanders concerning his role in the $1 million settlement with former executives. Sanders, perhaps speaking out of school, said that there had been pressures on Watson and Ervin and there was some dispute about whether they had actually resigned, but that in the event the separation was 'by mutual agreement'.

    The appointment, along with that of Charles Eke as Alternate #1, came as a result of a 4-3 vote in which Councilors Brown, Greaves, Reid and Rivers voted for the duo and Councilors Mapp, Storch and Williams against.

    There was a moment of fluster as Councilor Storch reminded the Robinson-Briggs administration that the Council had been promised the week before that they would be supplied with the information about who was succeeding whom in the appointments -- information which was not yet supplied even as the vote approached.

    After a few moments' fumbling between City Solicitor Minchello, City Administrator Berry and Mayor Robinson-Briggs, Robinson-Briggs finally read out the answers: Sanders was being proposed for the unexpired term of newly-seated Councilor Tracey Brown, and Eke for a vacant alternate's seat.

    Councilor Reid, who himself sat for several years as a PMUA Commissioner, muddied the waters by confusing the matter of how many Commissioners participate in voting. (State law on public authorities provides for five full members -- with one to be elected every year for a five-year term -- and two alternates; alternates only vote in the event of the absence of a full commissioner.)

    The new lineup leaves in place Commissioners Mitchell (a holdover serving as Chairperson), Brokaw, Toliver and Dunn. The addition of Sanders as a full member and Eke as an alternate leaves one unfilled alternate seat by my reckoning.

    Yet to be seen is what action, if any, Mayor Robinson-Briggs will take to replace holdovers currently sitting on the board.

    If you're into D-R-A-M-A, the PMUA is the gift that just keeps on giving.


    -- Dan Damon [follow]



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    Thursday, January 24, 2013

    Charter Study Commission meets tonight


    Banner from the Commission's blog site.
     
    Plainfield's Charter Study Commission meets tonight at 7:30 PM in City Hall Library. The public is warmly welcomed to attend and participate in the Commission's discussions.

    The five-member Commission was elected by the voters as part of the public question on whether there should be a charter study. The group is charged with taking testimony on issues with the current charter and points in its favor, as well as investigating the pros and cons of alternatives that include tweaking the current charter, proposing the adoption of a new charter under the Faulkner Act, and doing nothing to the current charter.

    The Commission's work will be done largely in public meetings and public hearings (which are set aside solely for public input). The  Commission expects to end its work by early July and present its written report shortly thereafter.

    The Commission's meeting dates can be found on the CLIPS calendar, and more information is available on the City website (here) and the Commission's blog (here).


    -- Dan Damon [follow]

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    Wednesday, January 23, 2013

    Council 'gang of four' picks public's pocket


    A Council majority picked the public's pocket Tuesday
    to pay the Mayor's personal legal tab.
     
    Plainfield City Council's new alignment revealed itself in full Tuesday evening, when the 'gang of four' Robinson-Briggs supporters (Councilors Brown, Greaves, Reid and Rivers) voted as a bloc to pay Mayor Robinson-Briggs' personal legal bills incurred from her suing the Council over its investigation into the misappropriation of $15,000 given by Investors Bank toward expenses for the July 4 Parade in 2010, and used by Robinson-Briggs to partially cover the cost of a WBLS broadcast from Plainfield at a later date.

    Despite questions by Councilors Mapp, Storch and Williams about the propriety of using public funds to pay the mayor's personal legal tab of $22,126.34, the 'gang of four' did not bother to respond substantively before the resolution (R032-13) was passed on a 4-3 vote.

    Council President Bridget Rivers did ask about-to-be-minted Corporation Counsel Minchello before the vote whether the law firm (Schwartz, Simon, Edelstein & Celso, LLC) was likely to sue the city if the resolution were not passed. Minchello replied 'yes', though he added a lawyerly demurral sotto voce that he was 'not commenting on the [claim's] merits'.

    Councilor Storch's suggestion that the resolution not be passed and the City negotiate a settlement when/if the law firm sued wasn't even responded to by Council President Rivers or Mr. Minchello. One possibility is because a lawsuit would no doubt name both the City of Plainfield as well as the Mayor (as an individual), and that if the City were able to defend itself successfully, the Mayor would be left to face the bill on her own.

    (How different this episode is from one that confronted Al McWilliams when he took office in 1998. At that time, Sen. Lesniak's law firm, Weiner Lesniak, was demanding $800,000 for legal work performed at the behest of previous mayor Mark Fury. McWilliams refused to pay and insisted on a negotiated settlement -- to which Weiner Lesniak agreed. The final amount paid was in the range of $300,000, quite a comedown from the initial demand.)

    Here's a question for you: If the mayor's suit had been successfully concluded in her favor (instead of being dropped as she did), and damages were awarded in the matter, would those damages have gone to Mayor Robinson-Briggs personally, or would they have gone to the City?

    As Councilor Storch warned, this payment sets a dangerous precedent.


    -- Dan Damon [follow]



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    Tuesday, January 22, 2013

    Council: Rivers high-fives Mayor; Brown and contributors


    Those who left last week's Plainfield
    City Council meeting immediately after its adjournment missed the sight of Council President Bridget Rivers and Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs exchanging high fives over the conduct of the meeting.

    The Mayor has special reason for feeling good about the new Council alignment as she is expected to personally benefit from having the taxpayers foot the bill for her ill-considered lawsuit against the Council in the matter of the WBLS radio broadcast of August, 2010.

    COUNCILOR BROWN AND CONTRIBUTORS

    When resident Alan Goldstein spoke during the public comments section at last week's Council, he specifically referenced contributions to Councilor Brown's campaign by principals (and their wives) of Remington & Vernick, the engineering firm whose contract is up for adoption this evening.

    Brown's response was that she didn't know who 'Remington and Brown' (she was corrected by Council President Rivers on the firm's name) was.

    This may be true, but Councilor Brown should be aware that Mr. Goldstein does his homework. The records are all available online at the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) website, where contributions to all Brown's election campaigns are available, beginning with her campaign for school board in 2004 which was jointly bankrolled by Assemblyman Jerry Green and GOP 'kingmaker' John Campbell (see here), through her primary campaign for Council (see here) and the 2012 general election (see here).


    Plainfield City Council meets tonight at 8:00 PM at the Council Chambers/Courthouse, East 4th Street and Watchung Avenue for its regular business meeting, rescheduled from Monday on account of the Martin Luther King holiday.



    -- Dan Damon [follow]



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    Monday, January 21, 2013

    Grace Church marks MLK Day with special service

     

    The entire Plainfield community is invited to a Martin Luther King Day observance at Grace Episcopal Church at 3:00 PM this afternoon.

    Guest speaker will be the Revd
    C. John Thompson-Quartey, rector of St. Mary's-by-the-Sea, in Point Pleasant. Fr. Thompson-Quartey, a native of Ghana, is a Rutgers graduate and co-chair of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey's Anti-Racism Task Force.

    His master's thesis at General Theological Seminary in New York was on the life and theology of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    A light reception will follow in the parish hall. The event is free and open to the public. Grace Episcopal Church is at East 7th Street and Cleveland Avenue and is handicap-accessible. Parking available on the street and in the public lot across 7th Street from the church.



    -- Dan Damon [follow]

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    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    Robinson-Briggs to West Orange for MLK Day


    Mayor Robinson-Briggs will be speaking in West Orange.
     
    Plainfielders waiting to catch a glimpse of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs at Monday's 37th Annual Frontiers International MLK Breakfast (for more, see here) may be disappointed to learn that Her Honor will be in West Orange instead.

    Plainfield's mayor is the featured speaker for this year's West Orange Human Relations Commission MLK ceremony, which is also a breakfast event. Mayor Robinson-Briggs will speak on the theme 'Moving Forward With The Dream'.

    While there is no mention of Her Honor's MLK Day activities on Plainfield's website, there is no shortage of notice of the activity in media covering West Orange -- for instance, the Township website here and Facebook page here, and the Alternative Press' article here, and MLK calendar here. Uncharacteristically modest of a politician for our mayor not to toot her own horn on our website.

    Speaking of tooting horns, those who recall Robinson-Briggs' promise when delivering her State of The City Address at the Council reorganization on January 3rd that the address would be put online for all to see will have a hard time finding it. At least I could not find it. Anyone have any ideas what happened to it?


    PS: Many local Deltas, faithful attendees at the Frontiers event every year, will be noticeable by their absence this year. That is because they are in Washington, DC, celebrating both the Inauguration of President Obama and the 100th Anniversary of the sorority.





    -- Dan Damon [follow]


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    Saturday, January 19, 2013

    MLK Potluck, Frontiers Breakfast take center stage in Plainfield MLK celebrations


    Time was when celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday in Plainfield was a time of great community activity. Various groups organized events for their memberships and for the community, and the city published a calendar of all which was mailed to every household.

    This year has been particularly muted, however. Only the New Dems MLK Potluck Dinner/Food Drive and the annual Frontiers International MLK Breakfast are being promoted.

    There are no mentions on the official Plainfield website of any activities by the City recognizing the holiday or Dr. King's contributions. What can explain it?

    In any event, tonight's MLK Potluck will be a spot of conviviality with purpose, and Monday's Frontier Breakfast will provide an opportunity to view President Obama's second inaugural with friends and neighbors. See details below --




    SATURDAY · January 19 · 7 PM
    New Dems: 5th Annual MLK Potluck Dinner and Food Drive

    This must-attend communitywide MLK event becomes more popular every year. Join with old friends and new for food, fun and fellowship -- including opportunities for photos with the President. Donations of canned goods or non-perishable food items will benefit Shiloh Baptist Church's food pantry program.

    At the home of Council President Adrian and Amelia Mapp, 535 West 8th Street
    Sponsor: New Democrats for Plainfield
    No RSVP necessary. Invite your friends to this popular event.

    MONDAY · January  21 · 8:30 AM
    37th Annual Frontiers MLK Memorial Breakfast.

    Guests will have a double opportunity. Keynoting the breakfast portion of the day (which gets under way at 8:30 AM), will be Dr. Akil Khafani, director of the Africana Institute at Essex County College, speaking on the theme 'we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools'. The breakfast is also the occasion to highlight student groups, give out Frontiers scholarships, and recognize those in the community who have made outstanding contributions.

    Following the breakfast program, attendees will be able to watch as President Obama takes the oath of office for his second term and delivers his Inaugural Address. This will take place in the PHS Auditorium.

    At Plainfield High School Cafeteria, 950 Park Avenue (use Kenyon Avenue lot and entrance)
    Tickets: $16/person, $12/Students/Seniors
    Sponsor: Plainfield Area Chaper of Frontiers International
    Tickets: $16/General Admission, $12/Students and Seniors
    Info and reservations: (908) 756-4663 or (732) 968-7500

    --- Dan Damon [follow]


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    Friday, January 18, 2013

    MLK celebrations in Plainfield


    Monday is MLK Day and also the second inauguration of President Obama.
    Plainfielders will have several opportunities to celebrate the life and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as serve the community at large.


    SATURDAY · January 19 · 7 PM

    New Dems: 5th Annual MLK Potluck Dinner and Food Drive

    This must-attend communitywide MLK event becomes more popular every year. Join with old friends and new for food, fun and fellowship -- including opportunities for photos with the President. Donations of canned goods or non-perishable food items will benefit Shiloh Baptist Church's food pantry program.


    At the home of Council President Adrian and Amelia Mapp, 535 West 8th Street

    Sponsor: New Democrats for Plainfield
    No RSVP necessary. Invite your friends to this popular event.

    MONDAY · January  21 · 8:30 AM

    37th Annual Frontiers MLK Memorial Breakfast.
    Guests will have a double opportunity. Keynoting the breakfast portion of the day (which gets under way at 8:30 AM), will be Dr. Akil Khafani, director of the Africana Institute at Essex County College, speaking on the theme 'we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools'. The breakfast is also the occasion to highlight student groups, give out Frontiers scholarships, and recognize those in the community who have made outstanding contributions.

    Following the breakfast program, attendees will be able to watch as President Obama takes the oath of office for his second term and delivers his Inaugural Address. This will take place in the PHS Auditorium.

    At Plainfield High School Cafeteria, 950 Park Avenue (use Kenyon Avenue lot and entrance).

    Sponsor: Plainfield Area Chaper of Frontiers International


    Tickets: $16/General Admission, $12/Students and Seniors. Info and reservations: (908) 868-8704.

    -- Dan Damon [follow]


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    Gunfire Thursday evening


    Muzzle flashes can be seen at night.
     
    While we hear nothing about the progress of the ShotSpotter installation, Plainfield
    seems not to lack for gunfire.

    Coming out of the Twin City supermarket Thursday evening about 9:30 PM, I heard the distinct pop-pop-pop of gunfire coming from somewhere to the northwest of the 7th and Park location. As I drove down West 7th Street past Madison Avenue, I could see that the police had West 5th Street blocked off at Madison Avenue.

    A few minutes later, getting out of my car in my own driveway, I heard another gunshot fired. This one seemed to be coming from the direction of Plainfield Avenue and West 4th Street.

    Would be nice to have some official news or updates, wouldn't it?



    -- Dan Damon [follow]

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    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    Council President Rivers opening can of worms?



    Besides removing the initial public comment section at Council meetings, Plainfield Council President Bridget Rivers' proposed rules of order for 2013 provide that the public has no right to expect on-the-spot answers to questions posed to the Administration, nor should Council members comment on the public's questions.

    Instead, President Rivers proposes that the Robinson-Briggs administration be given an opportunity to answer the questioner in writing within some unspecified length of time.

    Over the years, I have come to appreciate the time of public questions to the current administration and the answers given.

    The call-and-response has given Administration members, who are supposed to have the qualifications necessary to execute their respective offices, an opportunity to show off their chops, demonstrating that they understand their responsibilities and authority and are in touch with the personnel, day-to-day issues and conduct of business in their respective bailiwicks.

    When well done, these public back-and-forths have had the sense of satisfaction that comes from watching a tennis match well and skillfully played.

    Not only does the new proposal provide an escape hatch for the Administration from facing the public, it emasculates the Council's conduct of the public's business.

    More than this, Council President Rivers may have opened a costly can of worms.

    A things have stood up to this point, the questions asked and answers given have been part of the public record. They are recorded and can be listened to by any interested citizen (and, theoretically, viewed on the public access channel if the Robinson-Briggs administration ever gets around to posting the previously taped meetings).

    Under Rivers' proposal, the answers would be severed from the questions, without any specific guarantee that -- if and/or when issued -- they would become part of the public record for that meeting. Barring that, how would the public come to know of the Administration's answers?

    Does the asking of a question at a public meeting create an obligation on the government's part to make the answer available as a public record?

    Would the Municipal Clerk have to transcribe each and every question and post same to the city's website with the answers generated by the administration? Would this be unfairly burdensome to the Clerk's office?

    Would the failure of the Administration to answer the questions, or not make the answers available as a matter of course as part of the public record expose the city to liability if challenged?

    These procedures seem to have been conceived in haste, and we all know what haste makes.

    OTHER SURPRISES AND NON-SURPRISES

    • What accounts for the sudden reappearance of Mayor Robinson-Briggs, who has boycotted Council meetings for months? Surely it can't be that she expects to be given the floor at meetings at which she is only a guest, especially in light of Council President Rivers' assertion that there will be 'no grandstanding or campaigning' at Council meetings.

    • Councilor Storch and Corporation Counsel nominee Minchiello crossed swords over why the city was relying on a no-bid contract to designate the City Engineer for 2013 instead of open public bidding as required by an ordinance the Council passed last year. Minchiello asserts the ordinance does not comport with state law, and the Robinson-Briggs administration feels itself under no compulsion to award contracts in any way other than it always has.

    • The Council will now be faced with paying Mayor Robinson-Briggs' legal tab for the WBLS investigation, something it had declined to do when Robinson-Briggs' allies were in the minority.

    • When resident Jeanette Criscione asked what was behind the removal of trash cans from downtown streets and whether the PMUA's shared services charges would be correspondingly reduced, she was greeted with puzzlement from the Council and administration. But was I imagining that I read in a recent PMUA newsletter that 51 trash cans had been removed because businesses and residents were using them improperly? And if the PMUA did put out such a story, why can't it be found on their website?

    • The sleeper surprise (to me) came in the discussion of the resolution setting interest rates for delinquent tax payments. Part of the discussion involved revealing that as of the first of the year, Plainfield no longer has a Tax Collector. When talk turned to catching up on checks that had been received but not posted to the electronic accounting system, Director Restaino casually remarked that at the time of posting, a clerk could simply date the payment with the date it was actually received, thereby negating any interest charges or penalty owing to a technical 'late payment'.

      This seemed innocent enough, but it did occur to me in a flash that if a clerk could do this when it was justified, what would prevent a politically-connected taxpayer who was late with a payment from having the payment date fudged by the employee?

      Can you see a potential for abuse here? Or does the system have protections of which Director Restaino is unaware?

      Either way, discomfiting.

    •  Lastly, the surprise statement by Councilor Brown that she didn't know anything about Remington & Vernick or contributions by the firm or its members to her campaign. More on that later.




    -- Dan Damon [follow]


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    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    More violence in Plainfield?


    Cop activity in the Kings Daughters' neighborhood Wednesday evening.
     
    While on my way Wednesday evening to Plainfield Councilor Adrian Mapp's home with
    nonperishable food for Saturday's MLK Potluck and Food Drive, I and other drivers were forced to the curb after leaving Supremo supermarket by a Plainfield police cruiser speeding west along Front Street with lights flashing but no siren.

    Not long after the Union County Sheriff's Crime Scene Investigation panel truck came trundling along in the same direction.

    As I prepared to turn south on New Street I could see that there was a gathering of police cruisers with lights flashing in the 500-block of West Front Street just past the Kings Daughters Day School and near Elmwood Place, the site of so much of Plainfield's violent crime.

    Will we be reading shortly about yet another shooting?


    Or stabbing?

    Or beating?

    -- Dan Damon [follow]

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    Did Council stumble out of gate or was it planned?


    Public participation in the deliberative process has been
    arbitrarily removed without explanation.
    Did Plainfield City Council stumble out of the gate at its first real business meeting of 2013 on Monday night ... or was it just all according to plan?

    In what appeared to be a headlong rush to wind the meeting up in the shortest time possible, Council President Bridget Rivers rode herd on her fellow Councilors (though less so on Chairperson Reid, who seems not to have gotten the memo), deflected comments and questions away from the Robinson-Briggs administration and clashed over procedures with Councilors Mapp and Storch.

    At one point Rivers had to rein in new Council member Tracey Brown, who seemed about to lose her temper over remarks made by resident Oscar Riba about property conditions in the 4th Ward.

    The whole was not helped by gaps in the printed agenda, with several resolutions being brought forward during the course of the meeting. This is simply not reflective of the careful and methodical way that Municipal Clerk 'AJ' Jalloh has always approached the preparation of the agendas, and one has to wonder if the Robinson-Briggs administration and/or Council President Rivers were dilatory in their responsibilities.

    None of this was helped by Chairman Reid's hurry to move along which led him to repeatedly skip over items, putting Rivers in the position of having to flag him down.

    There were several surreptitious and unannounced changes which do not augur well for the transparent conduct of the public's business. I will take them up in a separate post, but the most egregious one should be touched on now -- and that is the removal of the initial public comment period in the agenda-setting session.

    This first comment period was inserted several years ago (modeled after that in place in the business meeting agenda), allowing the public to comment on any item on the agenda in advance of the Council's discussion of same and determination of whether to place on the business meeting's agenda. This was a wise move, allowing for questions to be answered and imprecision cleared away by public input into the deliberative process. (For an example, see the Council's agenda-setting session of 3/5/2012, page 4, snapshot above, and archived on the city's website here.)

    If this was an oversight, let's hope it is corrected. If it is by design, the public -- and the Council -- are being cheated.

    In either case, it is a stumble out of the gate and not a good way to start off the new year.

    My next post will take up some other clandestine -- and surprising -- changes, as well as a sleeping shocker or two from the Robinson-Briggs administration.





    -- Dan Damon [follow]


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    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    Get your picture taken with Pres. Obama at New Dems Potluck Saturday


    Congressman Frank Pallone and President Barack Obama
    at the 2012 New Dems MLK  Potluck Dinner.

    As President Barack Obama prepares to take the oath of office for his second term on Monday, January 21 -- the 'official' Martin Luther King Day, Plainfield residents will once again have an opportunity to celebrate the life and contributions of Dr. King, congratulate the President on his re-election and raise much-needed supplies for one of Plainfield's most active food pantries.

    The 5th Annual Community MLK Potluck Dinner will be offered by the New Democrats club and hosted by Councilor Adrian Mapp and his wife Amelia at their gracious West 8th Street home.

    Members of the community are invited to bring a dish to pass and contributions of non-perishable food items to be distributed to the food pantry of Shiloh Baptist Church. (Contributions may be left on the Mapps' front porch at any time up to the party, or brought to the party itself.)

    This is always a treat for the whole community as the Mapps' gracious home is filled to overflowing with old friends and new. The dining table literally groans from the potluck offerings of attendees.

    And one of the treats of the evening will be to have your photograph taken with President Obama (well, OK, a full-size cutout photo of him that will be doing stand-in duty).

    Plan to come out Saturday evening and join Plainfield neighbors and friends in an evening of conviviality and service.



    5th Annual
    New Dems MLK Potluck Dinner and Food Drive

    Saturday, January 19, 2013
    7:00 PM
    At the home of Councilor and Mrs. Adrian Mapp

    535 West 8th Street
    Come one, come all! No RSVP needed.




    -- Dan Damon [follow]


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