The needler in the haystack.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Charter Commission interviews Bashe, Gibson and Davis tonight


'Just and capable' ... the search continues.

Plainfield's Charter Study Commission continues its work with a session this evening that will include interviews with three former City officials to get their views on the strengths and weaknesses of the current charter and ideas about possible improvements.

Tonight, the Commissioners will interview --

  • LARRY BASHE, who served as City Administrator from 1974 through 1981, under Mayor Paul O'Keeffe. Mr. Bashe took office barely five years into the current charter's life, when it was still 'new';

  • HAROLD GIBSON, who served initially as Director of Public Affairs and Safety beginning in 1986, and then as both City Administrator and Director of Public Affairs and Safety from June 1988 to September 1990; and

  • DON DAVIS, who served as at-large member on the City Council from 2005 through 2009.
The Charter Study Commission meets in City Hall Library, beginning at 7:30 PM. The public will have an opportunity to speak during the meeting.




-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe..

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Jerry Green supports package of gun-control bills

Legislature's website offers detailed look at items taken up.
 
Plainfielders who have not visited the Legislature's website for a while may want to check out how easy it is to track legislation and the votes of members on it.

As an example, take the package of 22 gun-related bills taken up by the Assembly last Thursday (2/21/2013).

With just a click or two, a reader is able to call up the action for any given day's session from 2000 to date (see page here).

Once a date is selected, the reader can choose an item from that date (as in the illustration at top of story). For instance, clicking on the 'Assembly Session' link for 2/21/2013, opens a page showing details on the 22-bill gun legislation package passed by the Assembly on that date, including the bill (or resolution) number, a brief abstract of the contents, and more.

But wait, there's more!

Interested in how a particular elected official voted?

You can have that, too.

For instance, clicking on the alphabetical roster (see here) takes you to a listing of all members, Senators first, then Assembly members.

Under Assemblyman Jerry Green's entry, you can click on votes by bill or by topic, where you can find that our Assemblyman voted 'yes' on the entire gun-control legislative package.

New Jersey's legislative website is one of the best organized and easiest to use, a very handy tool, and an example of 'your tax dollars at work' not being a joke.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe..

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mayor offers 'neighborhood meeting' Wednesday


Billed as a 'Neighborhood Meeting' to be hosted by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs tomorrow evening.

The meeting was promoted with the distribution of a flyer in selected neighborhoods (one Plainfield Today reader found his sticking out of the lid of his PMUA garbage container), as well as a note on the City's website.

The agenda includes an update on transit-oriented development plans, local development activity, roads, and public safety. Opportunity will be given for questions from the public.

It is interesting to note that Mayor Robinson-Briggs is hosting what is essentially a carbon copy of the Council's Town Hall meeting (slated for a couple of weeks later), though this one is planned for a star-turn by Her Honor only.

There is some irony in the fact that Robinson-Briggs will be taking a bow for transit-oriented development when she initially opposed funding a study on the same subject.

Funny how finding oneself in a re-election campaign changes one's perspective.

NEIGHBORHOOD MEETING
Hosted by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs
Wednesday, February 27
6:30 - 8:30 PM
Emerson School Cafetorium
East 2nd Street at Emerson Avenue

(This post has been corrected. DD)




-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe..

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Plainfield homicide casts pall on Oscars night


Quiet neighborhood near house of worship sceme of latest homicide.
 
Residents of a quiet Plainfield
neighborhood were just settling in for an evening of watching the Oscars, when police discovered an apparent homicide.

About 7:00 PM Sunday, Plainfield police found the bound and gagged body of an older woman in her home near the intersection of Watson Avenue and Earle Place.

As of this writing, the Plainfield Police Division and the Union County Crime Scene Unit are investigating the circumstances and looking for evidence. I was not able to learn whether the home had been robbed, but neighbors were shocked that the calm of their neighborhood had been broken. One person opined that whoever bound and gagged the woman must have known her and may have believed there was something of value in the home.

The neighborhood is quiet and tree-lined, with one of Plainfield's three Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Halls on Earle Place at the head end of two-block long Watson Avenue.


Look for more as details emerge.

See media coverage of the story (2/26/13) --
"Plainfield man charged with killing mother" -- Courier | Ledger | NJ Today | 2013's first homicide.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe..

Behind the scenes politics of electing a new pope


After each round of balloting, the ballots cast are burnt.
 
Plainfield
ers accustomed to finding that everything going on in our community has its 'political' angle may well wonder whether there are 'politics' to the election of a Pope, and if there are, how they unfold.

Well, now you can know. National Catholic Reporter, an award-winning monthly newspaper of Catholic news, opinion and culture reviews, gave the assignment to John L. Allen, Jr., its senior correspondent. Allen, the author of seven books, opened NCR's first office in Rome in 2000, and now covers Catholic Church news from the U.S. His name may be familiar to readers as CNN's senior Vatican analyst.

Read the very informative article, "A quick course in 'Conclave 101'" here.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe..

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Two clocks ticking: Rome and Washington


Benedict XVI steps down as Pope at the end of the month.
 
Plainfielders, along with the rest of the nation, are facing two clocks that are ticking down: those in Washington and Rome.

While we may be tired of the manufactured crisis of the impending sequestration, my suspicion is that most folks are wagering that the pols are just running a game and will work out some creaky compromise at the very last moment. This seems to be the only way business gets done any more in the nation's capital and helps to account for members of Congress being held in lower esteem that used car salesmen.

The other clock that is ticking down is probably more momentous, in my humble opinion, than the sequestration sideshow. Despite the huffing and puffing by the secular media to make the handing over of the reins of the Catholic Church to a new Pope a frightening and anxiety-producing occasion, it is an event which the Church has handled before, having centuries of experience in doing so.

I want to share two articles with readers that will help supply some context as a new Pope is elected.

Today, an overview of the reign of Benedict XVI by Dr. Michael Riccards, who is head of the Hall Institute of Public Policy, a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy research organization in New Jersey. Yesterday, he published the following on the Institute's website (see here) --
 
When I finished my most recent study of the papacy and management, I was asked to do a postscript on Benedict XVI.   I don’t generally like to pass off journalism as history, but there were certain obvious problems with the pope’s management style and his control of the Holy See.  Now that he is resigning, his critics and his fair- weather friends are saying that he wasn’t up to par, that he was a poor manager, a charge made against his predecessor John Paul  II.  The basic indictment is that they were intellectuals, men of ideas who can’t run the railroad.  Actually, when John Paul was in his twilight, he named three men to preside over the Church; Joseph Ratzinger was one of them.

First, one should ask what a good manager is.  He or she should be able to conceptualize a vision or a product, then implement his proposals, know how to delegate, and undertake feedback and review.  Still, there is missing the most important aspect of leadership—wisdom.  Our two greatest presidents, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, were both very poor managers. Our pope should not be in Germany quoting an emperor who was an enemy of Islam.

Staff - Benedict XVI (Ratzinger) needed to put in a good staff surrounding himself (especially at his advanced age), instead he was heavily dependent on Tarciso Cardinal Bertone, the Secretary of State, who was a detested by a good segment of the Curia, the bureaucracy.  But when several of the Cardinals asked the pope to fire him, Benedict said, “No, Basta—enough”   Paul VI named a chief of staff, Archbishop Giovanni Benelli,  to run the Vatican; he too was a detested.  Paul had himself been one of the two chiefs of staff (under-Secretary )under Pius XII, the imperial and regal pope who said he did not want collaborators, but simply people to do his bidding.  Things were a lot clearer in those days even during the war years.  But even this pope’s butler betrayed him, for the good of the Church he said.  The American papal nuncio was shipped to Washington DC because he wanted to root out corruption and incompetence.  Benedict sided with Bertone.

Vision - Clarity of vision is important, but it is not enough.  As Benedict said very astutely when he first was elected, the Church is seen as saying “no, no, no.”  There is no Christian joy there anymore.  The pope declared this year the year of the new evangelicalism, and no institution has been better at conversion, except for the Muslims.  But what is the new evangelism, what is its message, who are the evangelists?  The message is supposed to be the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, the evangelists are though who? The old orders like the Jesuits and the Dominicans, once the great missionaries, are full of old men, and they can’t do what they did in the 16th and 17th centuries.  When was the last time you saw a priest at home under 40?  The vision needs new creative ways to go into the marketplace and preach.  In the 1940s the Vatican ended the priest –worker movement in France because the hierarchy could not control the men, not that they were preaching heresy. Recently, the pope allowed an attack on the sisters and nuns.  They revolted, and the laity supported them, rather than the bishops.  The Vatican has backed off, a real embarrassment.  Are nuns really the enemies of the Church?

The Bureaucracy - The pope must be able to manage an Italian style bureaucracy, which means a lot of paper and great deal of personal connections that lead to unwholesome discretion.  When Benedict tried to clear up the Vatican Bank and make it more transparent to meet European standards, his own bureaucracy ignored him.

Loyalty - is important for a leader, and the pope suffered traitors and fools too gladly.  A bureaucratic leader cannot show too much mercy.

Ideas - These last two popes of strong  intellectual have been responsible for silencing over 80 theologians in the banner of protecting the orthodoxy, and advancing the restoration.  But because of this attitude the Church has been deprived of the thought to face major challenges.  In the Middle Ages, Aquinas integrated Aristotle into the Church thinking.  The bishop of Paris excommunicated, soon he was made a Doctor of the Church, and the new orthodoxy.  In the 20th century, Sister Faustina’s diary was put on the forbidden list, now she is a saint and her Divine Mercy cult is the fastest growing  devotion in the West.  The Church had a Jesuit theologian and scientist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who integrated Darwin into Catholicity; he was banned from publishing.  The Church is left with a terrible legacy of teachings on birth control, women’s ministry, divorced Catholics and the sacraments which need to be altered.  But the theologians who can do that are being held down.  Orthodox Catholics say that doctrine never changes, truth is the same forever.  Whatever happened to the Vatican’s approval of slavery, which now a capital sin; what about the death penalty which the Holy See used through civil authorities, John Paul II came out against it.  A change in dogma?

If in fact, Benedict knows well the bureaucratic pitfalls he was stepping in, what happened.  First, he was too infirm to do battle; age is cruel.  Second, he and John Paul II have pushed the anti- Vatican II agenda as far as they can go without being a source of scandal.  It has not had the effects they expected.  Sometimes lean and mean is not a good way to preach the gospel. So the Church is smaller, more orthodox, and weaker than a century ago.
Tomorrow, a story about what really goes on in electing a new Pope.



-- Dan Damon [follow]


View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Assembly takes up gun measures

 
Plainfielders following the responses of lawmakers -- state and national -- to pressures for legislation promoting responsible and accountable gun ownership can draw some comfort from the fact that the NJ Assembly yesterday took up and passed a series of 22 bills on this front.

The newspapers have given good summary accounts of the bills (see the Ledger's here; and Gannett's here).

There is much that is worthwhile, though I don't see any mention of creating a registration process for all firearms -- a move that would help expose the points at which guns seep from 'legal' to 'illegal' uses. Chicago Police Commissioner (and former Newark police head) Garry McCarthy holds that that is one of the weakest links in the fight against illegal guns: that guns are 'lost' or 'stolen' as a fiction, when in fact they are being supplied by individuals to a criminal element.

In any event, the passage by the Assembly may get headlines and cheers from some, but it is just the first step in a long march.

Senate President Sweeney has promised the bills will be taken up, but also noted that some will not be passed and others may be modified (see story here).

And then, of course, there is Gov. Christie, who must sign any legislation that passes. Christie has not been enthusiastic, to say the least, even though it is an election year for him (as well as all of the Legislature).

One of the most important accountability measures would be for Congress to unfetter the CDC's ability to collect and disseminate gunshot incident data. For a country that is data-obsessed, it is unbelievable that Congress was bullied by the gun lobby into muzzling information gathering agencies.

One agitated gun owner complained that if information on gun ownership and gunshot incidents were widely gathered, his homeowners insurance might go up if he owned a gun.

Boo hoo!

Now that would be a fair fight: the gun lobby versus the insurance industry's lobbyists and actuaries.

I would pay money to watch that!



-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Black History Month reception at Drake House Friday


Reception Friday evening highlights 2013 Black History Month exhibit.
 
Plainfield's Drake House Museum winds up its 2013 celebration of Black History Month with a reception for the community Friday evening from 6:00 to 8:00 PM.

The reception will take place in the Gallery on the second floor and will provide an opportunity to view photographs from the Historical Society's collection of African-American images, which are currently on display.

The exhibit ends Sunday, when the Drake House is open to the public from 2:00 to 4:00 PM.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Reader questions telephone 'political' survey


I received the following email from a Plainfield Today reader concerning a supposed telephone polling call that was received Tuesday evening --

Tonight I received a telephone call from an individual who called me by name and said he was taking a political survey for a legitimate survey company and was not selling anything and that my number would not be used to contact me about any product.  What he did not say was that the survey was anonymous but emphasized numerous times that there would only be political questions.


 
The first set of questions were demographic in nature and fairly general and then he asked about party affilition for people at "this address".  I then questioned him about whether he had my name and home address.  He fumbled around not wanting to answer and then said that he did not know who I was even though he had initially called me by name.  He also would not say if he had my address or not only that he had "a paper" that he worked off of.  I ended the interview. I would like to know if anyone else has had this type of a call and if anyone knows the origin of them. Usually a legitimate survery identifies their company by name and selects participants at random with the responses blended anonymously for statistical purposes.  You might want to give some thought to participating in a "survey" that knows your name and address and then can attach the information that you have provided about your political views directly to you. In any case, I would suggest that you question the questioner before providing any information.
While telephone surveys are a legitimate means of gathering information and are used by a variety of organizations, including businesses doing marketing research, academic surveys and political campaigns, you should have your wits about you at all times.

There are fake 'surveys' which are often hustling a product and there are scammers attempting to gather information (such as banking, financial, and Social Security) which can be used in identity theft.

For more about telephone surveys, see this eHow article (here) and a cautionary article from Scamwatch (here).





-- Dan Damon [follow]



View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sharon mum as mayors urge gun laws


Sharon ponders her options.
 
One of the raps on Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs is that she is famous (or infamous) for not getting back to anyone. She doesn't return the phone calls of residents, reporters or Council members. Union County Dem chairperson Charlotte DeFilippo? Nope. State officials? Nope. (Remember when the state sent a helicopter to fetch her to an urgent Trenton meeting just to guarantee her presence?)

The latest snub by Her Honor would be funny if it weren't so serious -- and sad.

Following the massacre of schoolchildren and administrators in Newtown, Connecticut, Mayors Against Illegal Guns mobilized its members to demand that their state legislators take up responsible gun ownership measures -- including universal background checks and limits on high-capacity magazines among other items.

Thirty-three New Jersey mayors, members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, signed a letter to Gov. Christie dated Valentine's Day, advocating stronger gun laws for New Jersey. The story and the complete letter (with signatories) appeared in the Independent Press (see here), a community newspaper published by the owners of the Star-Ledger.

The signatory mayors are listed alphabetically by community. You will note that the list skips from Perth Amboy to Princeton, with no mention of Plainfield, though Robinson-Briggs touts her membership in the organization.

Doubtless the letter is waiting on Robinson-Briggs' desk for her signature.

How sad for those who want to do something about gun violence that she missed this opportunity.

There is an old quip in the nonprofit world that there are three kinds of 'bees': 'Worker bees', those who do the heavy lifting when it comes to volunteer activity; 'honey bees', those with resources who are always willing to lend financial support to a cause; and 'wannabes', those who neither contribute nor volunteer but are always on hand whenever there is a photo opportunity.

Which kind of 'bee' are we dealing with here?




-- Dan Damon [follow]



View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Farewell Crown Victorias!


The (much smaller) Ford Interceptor will replace...


...the classic (but hefty) Ford Crown Victoria.
 
Plainfield's Police Division has driven Ford Crown Victorias for dog's years.

But now that Ford is no longer building the powerful and hefty 4-door cruiser, police departments everywhere are beginning to make replacements as older Crown Victorias age and are phased out.

Sunday afternoon I spotted one of the new replacements, a 2013 Ford Interceptor on traffic patrol at West 6th Street and Park Avenue.

In sparkling white, with temporary paper tags and no detailing, the only distinguishing mark was the ultra-thin strip of LED flasher lights mounted above the windshield.

'Looks tiny and cramped,' I hollered to the officer through the open window.

'It is,' was all he said.

Progress.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Charter Study Issues: Nonpartisan elections

 
Former Plainfield elected officials Liz Urquhart and Harold Mitchell were interviewed by the Charter Study Commission last Thursday evening.

Among a list of questions asked of both was their opinion on having nonpartisan local elections (Plainfield's are partisan).

There are several differences: Partisan elections feature a primary in June where the political parties sort out who will run in the November general election; and the November general election itself. Nonpartisan elections are held in May, with no primary. If necessary, a runoff is held between the top vote-getters. Those elected take office on July 1. No local officeholders are on the November ballot, which then is for County, State and Federal officer.

But Ms. Urquhart made an important point: However one felt about nonpartisan elections, it must be remembered that the municipality shoulders the cost of holding them -- and she didn't think Plainfield taxpayers would like the added expense.

How much could it amount to?

I don't have figures, but Montclair, which is a similar community (though smaller) spent more than $71,000 in 2012.

Should such an expense be weighed by the Commission in its deliberations?


-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Free Plainfield Musical Club concert today



The Plainfield Musical Club offers a free concert of piano and vocal music this afternoon at the Plainfield Public Library's Anne Louise Davis Meeting Room.

The program features pianist Carolle-Ann Mochernuk in works by Alexander Scriabin and Gabriel Fauré and pianist Sophia Agranovich playing works by Frederic Chopin and Johannes Brahms.

In addition, Mochernuk will accompany baritone Don Sheasley in Three Songs from poems of Thomas Hardy and setting of 'Tract' by American poet William Carlos Williams.

The Plainfield Musical Club is an organization of Plainfield-area residents who gather monthly to share their music-making enthusiasm.

The Concert is offered free to the public at 2:00 PM this afternoon. The Plainfield Public Library is at 8th Street and Park Avenue.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Mayor breaks first rule of cheating: Don't get caught


So, Mayor Robinson-Briggs has the Police Division give her
a little (extralegal) campaign boost?
 
As a reasonably seasoned pol, one would think Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs would know that the first rule of cheating -- whether in affairs political or marital -- is not to get caught.

As the photo heading this post shows, Sharon has been caught in a little cheating, of the campaign sort.

Specifically, using the Police Division to post 'Emergency, No Parking' placards on the meters in the public parking lot behind Club Faraones, the site of her Valentine's Day bash last night.

Several people who attended report that there didn't seem to be much (if any) fundraising going on, with no one apparently in charge of collecting at either the front or rear entrances, leaving guests to simply walk in -- though the free roses for the first 50 ladies were only being passed out at the rear entrance.

The decidedly youngish crowd enjoyed the free open bar and eats, dancing to the Mayor's favorite DJ. Most of the city's big political names were notably absent -- except for PMUA Commissioners Dunn and Sanders, and GOP crossover young John Campbell, who was busy working the room. (Former Mayor and Councilor Harold Mitchell and former Councilor Liz Urquhart were otherwise engaged, giving interviews to the Charter Study Commission, which I also attended.)

Except for those honored by Her Honor for their recent promotions, firefighters and police were noticeable for staying away in droves.

Meanwhile, we can await Robinson-Briggs' campaign report to see how much -- if anything -- was raised and how much the free eats and drinks set her campaign account back.

As for the 'Emergency, No Parking' signs, the placard includes a fine print citation at the bottom giving chapter and verse on same from the City's ordinances, which include the necessity of Council approval except in cases of real emergency.

Now, tell me again, what was the real emergency last night?


-- Dan Damon [follow]



View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Robinson-Briggs' Valentine fundraiser raises plenty of questions

Invite to tonight's fundraiser. (Click to enlarge)
 
Mayoral Candidate Sharon Robinson-Briggs has a Valentine's Day fundraiser slated for tonight at Club Faraone. Robinson-Briggs should be aware that folks will be watching and expect her to comply with New Jersey's election law requirements.

After reviewing a copy of the flyer mailed to invitees, several questions come to mind --

  1. The Flyer: Though it looks suspiciously like it could have been run off on the notorious Rec Division color copier, it needs to be noted in her next campaign expenses report -- either as a printing expense paid for by the campaign, or an in-kind contribution with cost and donor detailed;

  2. Buffet and Open Bar: The flyer notes a buffet and open bar for the first hour of the event. Again, these expenses need to be noted on the candidate's next campaign report -- either as a campaign expense paid for by the committee or in-kind contributions with value and donor identified;

  3. RSVP Phone Numbers: Two phone numbers are listed for folks to RSVP to; if either of those are for City employees, the candidate is putting volunteers in harm's way -- it is not allowed for City employees to campaign for a candidate on the taxpayer's time;

  4. Return Address: The correct form of the return address should be the name of the campaign committee and not 'Mayor Robinson-Briggs'; and the correct address is not 508 Watchung Avenue (that is the office next door); and --

  5. Receipts: Perhaps the biggest question is how Robinson-Briggs will handle the receipts for the event, which is listed as $45/person on the flyer. Robinson-Briggs' treasurer (Councilor) Bill Reid may not have realized what he was signing on for here, but the likelihood of some (if not most) of the attendees paying with cash instead of by check, means that the ELEC requirements for cash contributions will be applicable --
  6. Contributions by Currency:
    A candidate or joint candidates committee may accept currency contributions from a contributor of up to $200 per election. When contributing currency, the contributor must simultaneously submit a written record to the treasurer containing the date and amount of the contribution, the name, mailing address and signature of the contributor, and, if the contributor is an individual, the name and mailing address of the contributor’s employer, along with the contributor’s occupation. All currency contributions must be reported in detail, regardless of the amount. (from page 14 of the ELEC Candidate's Manual).
  7. meaning that each cash contribution (limited to $200 maximum per campaign) must be accompanied by complete information on the donor and the donor's employer. And filed in detail with the next campaign report, which is signed off on by the Treasurer, under penalty of perjury. Does that mean Mr. Reid will be chained to a table by the door tonight, collecting the required info?
Speaking of campaign reports, Robinson-Briggs' last report, due January 15th, was still not listed on the ELEC website as of the end of last week (the site is currently having technical difficulties). I will be looking to see that the report includes the rent for her campaign headquarters, which she took possession of during Christmas week 2012.

Oh, and by the way, the candidate should be aware that I will be hearing through the grapevine on how this evening's event is conducted.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

PMUA Reorg: Perfidy has its rewards


The 8-ball knows.
 
Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) Commissioner Cecil Sanders was rewarded at last night's annual reorganization for his role in the perfidious gift of $1 million in ratepayer monies to departed PMUA executives Watson and Ervin.

As part of a slate nominated by Commissioner Malcolm Dunn, Sanders was made chairperson of the Authority for the 2013 year (which runs to January 31, 2014). The other officers are: Commissioner Alex Toliver as Vice Chair; Commissioner Carol Brokaw as Secretary; and Commissioner Malcolm Dunn as Treasurer. Just like high school, the boys get to showboat, the girl gets to be 'secretary'.

The reorganization agenda itself was a model for how these things should be done (are you reading this, Mayor?).

Annual appointments were made for engineers, general counsel, labor counsel, and financial services consultant.

The annual calendar was established, as well as designation of official newspapers, official depository and cash management plan, appointment of a records custodian, public agency compliance officer and JIF commissioner. (Appointments to committee assignments was put off until the next meeting.)

All of these items should have been addressed in the City's reorg meeting, as has been the custom for years before the current regime.

And Corporation Counsel Minchello, who objected to the Council's notion that the engineer's contract should not be subject to public bidding, should note that both the sewer engineering consultant and the solid waster engineering consultant contracts were awarded based on public bids (8 bids, and 9 bids, respectively). So, why is it the City can't do the same?

Executive Director Dan Williamson asked the PMUA management team to stand and introduce themselves to the Commissioners and the audience, and Chairman Sanders introduced the new alternate Commissioner, Charles Eke, to all.

Among issues that were discussed, Williamson noted the interest on the part of Council President Bridget Rivers in putting into effect the quarterly meetings between the Council and the Commissioners as specified in the Interlocal Agreement.

Resident Alan Goldstein pressed the issue of the annual payment by the City to the Authority of $1.2 million, for which he can find no warrant in the Interlocal Agreement. Hopefully, this issue will get the attention it deserves, with a clear explanation of the facts of the case and clarification of the kind of language to be used in describing the (annual) transaction.

Lastly, Commissioner Dunn, who was on the City Council when the PMUA was originally set up, argued that the Council's intent was that 50% of the excess over operating expenses was to be contributed annually to the city, and that such procedure was 'thwarted' for 15 or 16 years, until Williamson took the helm. Now, that's an interesting argument, since it implies a criticism of Mr. Watson, for whom Dunn so readily subverted the arbitration process in which Watson and the PMUA were engaged in order to hand over a tidy $1 million squeezed from the ratepayers.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Storch, Williams spotlight failure to bid insurance contracts


Storch and Williams ask why no public bidding of contracts.
 
Plainfield City Council members Cory Storch and Rebecca Williams once again threw a spotlight on the Robinson-Briggs administration's failure to bid contracts -- this time four insurance-related contract extensions voted on by resolution at last night's Council business meeting.

Under continued questioning by the two Councilors, the Robinson-Briggs administration has shifted its approach. While Corporation Counsel Minchello (then serving as City Solicitor) had blown off the question of public bidding when raised by Storch last month, arguing that Plainfield's ordinance does not square with state law allowing the [much maligned] 'fair and open' process, Minchello took a different tack last night, asserting that the Robinson-Briggs administration would put out RFPs within a month.


(It's tempting to wonder if he had second thoughts after hearing President Obama's inaugural address, where he said 'together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play', see here.)

It seems quite clear that Robinson-Briggs would have been happy to extend the contracts for the full 2013 calendar year except for the continued questions by Storch and Williams. When pressed by Storch last night, Mayor Robinson-Briggs fobbed his question off on her staff. City Administrator Eric Berry, when asked directly by Councilor Williams why there had been no RFPs, replied that the City had no Purchasing Agent at the time 'and other extenuating circumstances'. When pressed on what those 'extenuating circumstances' were, Berry had not answer, and Council President Bridget Rivers quickly gavelled the discussion to an end.

But not without Councilor Mapp interjecting that with regard to resolution R058-13, extending the agreement with Inservco Insurance Services, when that goes to an RFP, the request should require disclosure by respondents of any and all side agreements with insurers (as a way to counter abuse in the awarding of contracts and brokerage services).

The votes on all four resolutions (R055, -056, -057, and -058) went down 6-1, with Councilor Williams casting 'no' votes on each.

With the Mayor running for re-election, I think it's fair to ask whether these extraordinary contract extensions (as well as the delayed designation of a bank depository, which also took place last night) arise from simple incompetence by the Robinson-Briggs administration or whether not addressing these items at the reorganization meeting (as would be customary) is part of a plan by Mayor Robinson-Briggs to deflect attention from procedural irregularities and let the votes take place in meetings which are far less attended to than the annual reorg meeting.


And then, of course, there is the matter of campaign contributions.

Or am I being too cynical?


-- Dan Damon [follow]



View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Donald Van Blake Foundation offers free tennis for kids


Plainfield youth tennis advocate Donald Van Blake.
 
Once again, Plainfield's Donald Van Blake Tennis and Education Foundation is offering a free tennis program to Plainfield youngsters in grades 3 through 6.

The program is on Saturday afternoons from 1:00 - 2:30 PM at the Washington Community School, beginning January 26. The program traditionally runs until the weather is warm enough for the youngsters to use outdoor courts.

For more information, contact Curtiss Young at (908) 769-0283 or by email at youngs10s@gmail.com.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Donna Albanese to be honored by Rotary


Donna Albanese will be honored with Rotary's individual highest award.
 
Plainfield's irrepressible Dairy Queen queen, Donna Albanese, will be honored by the Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield with its 2013 'Service Above Self Award' at the group's 14th Annual Wine Tasting Dinner on March 21.

The award is the highest honor for an individual Rotarian and recognizes 'exemplary humanitarian service'. For years, Donna has involved herself in efforts to organize and improve the South Avenue merchants as well as mobilizing the community in support of various causes affecting young people.

Recent years have seen the annual drive by Donna and her husband (who does the repairs) to reclaim and refurbish bikes for distribution to Plainfield youngsters at the holidays.

Her enthusiasm for community projects and her outgoing personality have made the Dairy Queen not just a place to satisfy ice cream cravings, but a true hub of community news and activity.

Congratulations, Donna, for this well-deserved recognition!


14th Annual
WINE TASTING DINNER & SILENT AUCTION
By The
Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield

Thursday, March 21, 2013
6:00 - 9:00 PM
Giovanna's Restaurant

1462 South Avenue

$70/person. Checks payable to: Rotary PNP, Inc.
Email reservation today to: RotaryPNP@verizon.net
Download the reservation form here.
For more information, visit the Club's website here, or call (908) 822-1441.





-- Dan Damon [follow]


View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.