The needler in the haystack.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sticky-fingered Sharon strikes again


Mayor Sharon ponders constitutional issues...

 
As Plainfield Councilor Adrian Mapp points out in his current blog post (see here), Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs' decision to appoint herself acting city administrator until October 6 -- and to demand to be paid for it --puts the City and its employees in a bind.

Councilor Mapp focuses on the matter of the pay: no matter how short a time she serves as acting city administrator, he holds, she is not entitled to an increase in her remuneration, which is set by ordinance.

My attention is caught by the very circumstances under which Mayor Robinson-Briggs seeks to exercise the 'acting' city administrator role.

Section 3.7 of the Charter, which deals with the Mayor's powers, allows for the Mayor acting as a department head in case of an emergency which is defined as a 'clear and present danger to the public health, safety or welfare'.

As I see it, absent such a declaration -- which would have to specify the nature of the emergency and include notifying the state -- Sharon has no authority to appoint herself acting city administrator at all (with or without any special payment).

Further, any actions taken by her during such a declared emergency (including the spending of funds), would have to be retroactively approved by the Council after the 'emergency' was deemed ended.

Why does everything with Sharon always come down to a question of money? The amount involved may seem paltry (perhaps $2,500 or so), which leads one to wonder what on earth is so important about it. Perhaps Sharon needs the cash for expenses concerned with her bid for the State NAACP presidency?

What is to be done?

Well, the Council could sue, but that seems a pointless waste of even more money. Or the Council could complain to the Department of Community Affairs, citing the lack of a declared emergency and ask for a ruling against Mayor Robinson-Briggs, including a demand to return the money to the city if she has already bullied her way into getting it.

What do you think?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Of square pegs, round holes and Plainfield


People aren't the only thangs that can be square pegs in round holes.


Today's sermon for Plainfield Today readers concerns square pegs, round holes and our beloved community.

Yesterday, I attended the memorial service of an old church friend and was reminded of an important life lesson -- as important for a community as for an individual.

Bill Weston was an accomplished musician and singer who was already ensconced in the choir of Grace Episcopal Church when I arrived there in the mid-1980s. Of West Indian descent, he was one of the first Black families who had made Grace their church home.

A previous rector had been notorious for greeting Black visitors at the end of the service with the remark that they 'might feel more comfortable at the 'other' church down the street'. And he underscored it with a chilly demeanor if anyone had the temerity not to get the message.

But Bill cared for the Anglican musical heritage and knew this was the place for him to share his gifts. So he stayed, and flourished, as did Grace Church, even as it changed to become reflective of its community.

His son Trevor, a composer, told a story of his Dad that was revealing of Bill's approach to life and a helpful point of view for Plainfielders about our community.

As he prepared to enter college, Trevor told his Dad that he did not want to study music as everyone had assumed he would. No, he said, he wanted to study computer science. Why? Because that's where the money is, he replied.

His Dad was not happy. He did not think that was a fulfilling way for anyone to plan his life, Trevor included. He believed such a course of action would be of the 'square peg in a round hole' sort and would leave Trevor ultimately unsatisfied. Long story short, Trevor gave it more thought, studied music and is today a budding composer.

This story came right on the heels of my reading about developer Mario Camino's plans for the old Queen City Savings Bank and other downtown properties (see Courier story here), where he is quoted as suggesting Plainfield could 'become another Montclair or New Brunswick'.

Bill Weston's advice to his son resonated with me as I pondered the story of Camino's vision for Plainfield.

Plainfield will have a new mayor come January 1st, and that will bring a new team with fresh ideas to the problems facing the city -- including development and redevelopment.

But, just as with Bill Weston's advice to his son, we should not be afraid of being a square peg.

My hope is that Plainfield will take a deep breath, assess its true strengths (or 'gifts'), hone them, and bet the community's future on them.

Whether or not that means being 'like' any other community, or if it just turns out to mean being the best version of Plainfield that we can be.

What would be wrong with that?






-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Library photo contest deadline extended



The deadline for your photos of Plainfield celebrations has been extended.



Breaking news: The deadline for this year's Plainfield Public Library photo contest has been extended -- you now have until October 4 to get your entries in.

'Plainfield Celebrates!' is the theme for this year's annual photography contest sponsored by the Plainfield Public Library.

Amateur and professional photographers are invited to submit up to five photos chronicling contemporary Plainfield celebratory events -- parades, festivals, graduations, holidays, and personal events such as birthdays, promotions and retirements. Submissions must be dropped off or postmarked by this Friday, September 27.

This is the 8th year the Library has sponsored the contest, and each year gets better and larger, adding photographs of Plainfield people and life to the Library's ever-growing collection, which documents the community back to the 1860s and the early days of both photography and Plainfield's rise as a commuter suburb.

The contest is free to enter (see complete details and download entry forms here). Winners will be hung and recognized at a special opening for the show, which will then continue through November. You won't want to miss it!





-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Friday, September 27, 2013

NJEA Day of Action for Barbara Buono in Plainfield Saturday


Teachers and friends will rally in support of Barbara Buono Saturday.

Plainfield members of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the state's largest teachers' union, are hosting a day of action in support of gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono tomorrow (Saturday) in Plainfield.

Union members from Plainfield and other nearby communities, along with friends and family, will gather at the Plainfield Democratic headquarters on West Front Street (next door to Dunkin' Donuts) from Noon to 6 PM to phone bank and canvas for voters.

All are invited. Check Roni Taylor's Work Matters blog later for complete details.






-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Thursday, September 26, 2013

YMCA needs your help in community needs survey


The YMCA has served Plainfield for over 130 years
and is looking for ways to meet 21st century needs of youngsters and families.

The Plainfield Area YMCA is asking the community to help design new programs to fit the needs of 21st Plainfield youngsters and families.

CEO Ravenell Williams IV and the YMCA Board of Directors are reaching out to the greater Plainfield community with an online needs assessment survey, and I hope that as a reader who is interested in Plainfield's future you will take a moment to pitch in and help.

The online survey can be found at Plainfield Area YMCA Need Assessment. The survey will be available online through Friday, October 11. All results are anonymous and the report will be used by the YMCA and its community partners to design new programs better fitted to the needs of today's youngsters and families, addressed to the YMCA's three core focuses: Youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

If you have any questions or can think of other ways to help the YMCA's mission, please reach out to Ravenell at (908) 756-6060 or by email to plainfieldareaymca@gmail.com.

And thanks for taking the time to help.








-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Did Sharon cut sweetheart deal with JFK?


Trenton's approach to its vacant hospital property
was radically different from Plainfield's
.

 Since Solaris Health System (now JFK Health) was allowed to close Plainfield's Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center in August 2008, the Muhlenberg campus has continued to have the tax-exempt privileges originally granted it on the basis of being a acute-care hospital serving the community.

The question now arises whether Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs knowingly crafted an agreement with JFK to allow the tax-exempt status to continue unimpeded despite the hospital's closure.

Yesterday, a friend and I traveled down to Trenton for an open house hosted by the new owners of the former Capital Health Medical Center's Bellevue Avenue campus.

It was a very interesting and worthwhile visit indeed. The 650,000 square foot complex sits on a campus that is larger than Muhlenberg's but is otherwise quite similar in age and construction. The facility was a 325-bed acute care hospital which the state allowed Capital Health to close in November 2011 after building a new campus in Hopewell.

That new campus was in a more upscale, suburban setting beyond the city's borders and was intended to target 'a better payer mix of more affluent, insured patients' according to a story in the Times of Trenton (see here).

Upon chatting with one of the principals of the firm which bought the Medical Center, we learned that the City of Trenton played a most interesting role in resolving the question of uses for and sale of the former Medical Center.

It seems that the City of Trenton was quite anxious that a health-related use be found for the former hospital, and as quickly as possible.

By way of incentivizing Capital Health to seek a speedy resolution and sale, I was told that the City agreed to a one year grace period on full tax assessment, but that if the hospital property was not sold -- and the sale closed -- by the end of year two (which would mean October 31, 2013), Capital Health would be liable at once for payment of a full year's assessment.This fact, according to my interlocutor, gave Capital Health a reason to want to resolve issues and close a deal in a timely fashion.

How different from Plainfield, where Robinson-Briggs has not so much as whispered a revocation of JFK's tax exemption privileges on the Muhlenberg Campus.

One thing we know for sure, though, and that is that January will bring a new mayor and a new way of looking at the outstanding issues with the Muhlenberg Campus.

Can't come soon enough for me.



-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

7th Street revolving loan fund?


'Gifts' to the city?


More poking around in Plainfield's audit report for CY2012 led me to notice three trust funds whose dedications by rider were denied by the state's Division of Local Government Services (DLGS).

Reason? Lack of supporting documentation.

It was shocking that backup information was not supplied for either the Workers Compensation or Medical self-insurance Trust Funds.

But the third fund was more curious: a 7th Street Revolving Loan Fund.

Dedication by Rider is a technique set up by the State for local units (including municipalities and counties) to set aside (dedicate by rider) funds received (gift, grant or other) that are to be expended over a period of time exceeding the current year.

The governing body sets up the fund by a resolution, which must be approved by DLGS.

Councilor Mapp has often noted the importance of using this technique to set funds aside for a specific purpose, most recently in discussing the fate of the Urban Enterprise Zone funds which were turned back to the city when Gov. Christie terminated the program in 2011.

It occurs to me that the device could also have been used, when formerly Plainfield was on a fiscal year calendar, to handle the overlap of expenditures for the July 4th Parade, which always straddled the end of one and beginning of another fiscal year.

For now, the question remains as to what exactly the '7th Street Revolving Loan Fund' is, how big it is, and for what it is used (or not used, as the case may be).

And then there is the further thought that in some communities, these trust funds are used to handle specific GIFTS to the city. Recent instances include the City of Summit where the Summit Area Development Corporation is donating $39,000 for its Promenade and Village Green project, and the City of Linden, which received a gift of $350,000 from a resident to make over a playground in her husband's name, and an estate's bequest of $200,000 for emergency equipment for the Fired Department.

Gifts to the city for public projects?

Now there's a thought for a new administration to ponder.

Once Plainfield's fiscal house has been put in order, of course.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Those pesky audit findings


Still seeking 'just and capable'...
 
Plainfield's audit report for CY2012 began circulating last week. This year's audit, prepared for the city by the firm of Supplee, Clooney, came in at 141 pages, the half dozen or so of which are comments noting deficiencies in the manner in which the city's fiscal records and duties are executed.

Today, let's look at the comments on the Tax Collector's office. Those who have been following the (mis)adventures of the Robinson-Briggs administration will know that the Tax Collector left abruptly early this year, and was replaced with the new and current Tax Collector, David Marshall. None of the findings concerning CY2012 reflect on Marshall's performance as he was not an employee of the city at the time.

However, the findings do reflect on the tenure of the previous tax collector, and here they are --
  • The monthly tax collector's reports were not filed with the finance office on a timely basis.

  • A detailed analysis of redemptions of outside liens at year end was not available.

  • Third party lien redemptions were not remitted to the outside lienholders in a timely manner.

  • Tax receipts are not deposited within 48 hours of receipt.

  • The detailed billing per the computer system maintained by the tax office was not reconciled with the actual tax requirements.

  • The tax collector had inadequate bond coverage for the year 2012
Besides pointing to deficiencies in the Tax Collector's operations, the findings suggest that the lack of a permanent CFO (chief financial officer) directly impinges on the quality of Plainfield's fiscal processes, top to bottom.

You will note the perennial complaint that monies were not deposited in a timely fashion. But perhaps more importantly, at least as a management tool, that required monthly tax collector's reports were not filed in a timely manner. This would have been a red flag to a CFO.

The Tax Collector also fell down in keeping track of tax lien redemptions and payments to outside lienholders in a timely fashion.

Perhaps most shocking is that the detailed billing done by the office's computer system (which I understand is mandated by the County) was not reconciled with actual tax requirements.

Now, I am no bookeeper, and can't even balance my checkbook. But having worked in business, as well as running my own, I understand when told that a reconciliation is necessary.

Hopefully, Mr. Marshall has things in hand and next year's audit report will show most, if not all, of these deficiencies corrected.

And with a new administration in place come January, we may expect that a Mayor to whom proper fiscal procedures are important will impress upon the city's administration a higher level of expectation than has been the case under the current mayor.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Submit your photos for Library contest"


This year's theme is 'Plainfield Celebrates!'
'Plainfield Celebrates!' is the theme for this year's annual photography contest sponsored by the Plainfield Public Library.

Amateur and professional photographers are invited to submit up to five photos chronicling contemporary Plainfield celebratory events -- parades, festivals, graduations, holidays, and personal events such as birthdays, promotions and retirements. Submissions must be dropped off or postmarked by this Friday, September 27.

This is the 8th year the Library has sponsored the contest, and each year gets better and larger, adding photographs of Plainfield people and life to the Library's ever-growing collection, which documents the community back to the 1860s and the early days of both photography and Plainfield's rise as a commuter suburb.

The contest is free to enter (see complete details and download entry forms here). Winners will be hung and recognized at a special opening for the show, which will then continue through November. You won't want to miss it!








-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Saturday, September 21, 2013

George Washington visits Plainfield Sunday


George Washington will visit the Drake House on Sunday.

 
Gen. George Washington will visit Plainfield's Drake House Museum this Sunday afternoon to speak to visitors on the Revolutionary War in New Jersey.

The Drake House figured in the Revolution as Washington's headquarters during the 1777 Battle of the Short Hills.

Washington will be portrayed by actor David Emerson.

The program inaugurates the Drake House's new exhibit 'George Washington at the Drake House' which will be on display through November.

The program begins a 2:00 PM in the Ballroom Gallery. The program is free and open to the public Light refreshments will be served.

The Drake House Museum is at 602 West Front Street, at the foot of Plainfield Avenue. Parking available on site and on Geraud Avenue.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Art Festival celebrates 50th anniversary Saturday



Two views from the 2012 Outdooe Festival of Art.

Plainfield's once-famed Outdoor Art Festival will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM at Library Park. I am looking forward to seeing one vendor for sure at the event.

Originally sponsored by the Plainfield Chamber of Commerce (later named the Central Jersey Chamber of Commerce) in partnership with local artists and businesses (among them faculty from duCret and Swain Galleries), the annual show quickly became one of the 'must do' art shows of the tri-state area every summer.

I was amazed, after moving to Plainfield from Brooklyn in 1983, to come across one of my favorite Brooklyn artists (who always showed at the Promenade Art Show) exhibiting here in Plainfield.

Though the Central Jersey CC fell on difficult times, a small group of dedicated workers kept the festival going at a high level as a juried show for both professional and amateur artists. Those who especially come to mind include CJCC exec Barbara Ballard, Nellie Dixon, Al Pittis, Bernice and Ann Swain and Plainfield Public Library director Joe Da Rold.

With Nellie's decision to relocate out of the area, the City agreed to take up the annual event. Credit must be given to the city for stepping up to the plate, but the character of the event has changed dramatically, becoming mostly a craft fair, with very few artists and photographers participating.

With almost no effort spent on marketing (except for a banner over Park Avenue at 6th Street), fewer and fewer people are even aware of this rich cultural heritage.

Which is a pity, because there is still much to be enjoyed, with some crafts people of the highest talent -- and that one vendor I look forward to every year for her secret stash of homemade sugar-free sugar cookies.

Sugar-free sugar cookies? Come on out and see for yourself!


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Committee forming to monitor Abbott Manor situation


The Abbott Manor Nursing Home as it appeared in 2007.

Residents of the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District are forming a committee to monitor the situation with regard to the former Abbott Manor Nursing Home on Central Avenue, whose new owner Andre Yates hopes to re-open the building as a facility to house veterans.

The Van Wyck Brooks Historic District waged a years-long legal battle with a former owner over plans to expand the existing nursing home. That lawsuit was finally decided in the District's favor and new ground was broken in regard to historic preservation and zoning regulations, drawing the attention of the New York Times (see my 2007 posts here and here).

The building, which has been vacant for years since the previous owner lost its battle with the VWB Historic District to greatly expand the facility, is in considerable disrepair, with evidence of water penetration of the upper floors.




Makeshift attempts to deal with water penetration.

Yates, who was given permission by the Historic Preservation Commission over a year ago to replace the roof like-with-like, has yet to begin work on the property.

In addition, no application has been made with the Zoning Board concerning Yates' proposal to use the former Abbott Manor Nursing Home as a residence for homeless veterans.

Meanwhile, Yates is making fundraising appeals to the general public for the project, for which he has formed the nonprofit Yates House for Military Veterans. A golf outing fundraiser at Union County's Galloping Hill Golf Course was reported to have taken place September 6 (see here).

The Yates House website (see here) mentions that it plans an addition to the rear of the existing building to meet accessibility requirements. The website also includes information on the group's mission, board of directors and more. While registered with the IRS, the nonprofit Guidestar, which monitors 501(c)(3) organizations shows no Form 990 financial information has yet been made available (see here).

Yates, an Edison resident and real estate investor, has yet to reach out to the Van Wyck Historic District and his lack of candor with the community about his plans leaves many feeling uneasy. It also has not helped that he bet on the losing horse in the Plainfield Democratic mayoral primary (his lawn sported Sharon signs), in a town where these things are noted and long remembered.



Yates bet on the losing horse in June's Democratic Primary Election.

Anyone interested in more information about the Abbott Manor House Committee is invited to get in touch with member Larry Quirk by email.







-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

City Hall, Board of Ed mysteries


 
With the announcement that Plainfield's City Administrator Eric Berry is jumping ship as of next Monday (see the Courier story here; Bernice here), the as-yet-unsolved mystery is who will be at the wheel.

With a little over a hundred days remaining in her second term, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs will have to choose someone to fill the post. Unless she thinks to fill it herself, as she did before hiring Berry in 2011, she will need to appoint another member of the administration.

That pretty much means choosing between Public Works and Urban Development Director Eric Watson and Administration and Finance Director Al Restaino. Unless Her Honor fancies giving it another whirl herself; though there is some question whether she is actually able to do so as a person is limited to one ride on the merry-go-round in an 'acting' position and no more.

Meanwhile, down Park Avenue, the Board of Ed has a mystery or two of its own.

First is that after publicity that the Board was looking to hire new attorneys after Board President Wilma Campbell made an ethical mess by orchestrating the hiring of a law firm connected to her husbaand's business (see my posts here, here, and here), no action has yet been taken though law firms have responded to a request for proposals.

What is that about? Is Campbell afraid to move the matter forward as she gets into the thick of this year's school board race? It certainly would put her ethical lapses under the microscope. And if she recuses herself, her prior behavior will be even more suspect by contrast.

The other mystery at the Board of Ed has to do with appointments. At its August business meeting, the Board published long lists of appointments of teachers and administrators for the 20143-14 school year. At last night's meeting a few loose ends were addressed.

Except for one.

Business Administrator and Board Secretary Gary Ottman has not yet been appointed for the 2013-14 school year. A tenured employee with twenty years service in the Plainfield district, this lapse is unheard of.

Is Campbell interested in shifting the blame for her ethical lapses regarding the schools attorneys onto Ottman, despite her own glaring actions in the matter?

Are Board President Campbell and Superintendent Anna Belin Pyless setting themselves up for charges of creating a hostile workplace environment?

Only time will tell.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why didn't Sharon sign off on the UCIA deal?


The f***ing negotiator-in-chief, too?


When Plainfield Council President Bridget Rivers inquired of Corporation Counsel Dave Minchello at last Monday's business meeting whether Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs had executed the agreement between the Union County Improvement Authority and the City to resolve outstanding issues, his answer was 'no'.

Rivers made it clear that the Council wanted the agreement executed and demanded that Minchello sign off if Mayor Robinson-Briggs was unwilling to do so.

At stake is $1.09 million that will come to the city within thirty days of execution of the agreement, which was passed by the UCIA in August and by the Council at its August 19 meeting.

I am told that Minchello has since executed the agreement, but the question still lingers why Robinson-Briggs failed to sign off on it.

One rumor making the rounds is that she was holding out in hopes of getting a job out of the deal (she will be unemployed as of January 1, 2014).

This strikes me as both funny and appalling at the same time.

Considering that Sharon has practically made an art form of burning bridges with Union County's political establishment -- first with former UCDC chair Charlotte DeFilippo (whose phone calls she would not take or return), and then with her former mentor Assemblyman Jerry Green (who she defied on more than one occasion) -- it is amusing that she could think to look for a job from these folks.

But it would be appalling if she thought that signing (or failing to sign) the UCIA agreement put her in a strong negotiating position vis-a-vis a job.

After all, the UCIA would have to benefit from your signing off in order to feel any pressure if you DON'T sign off, right? Which is exactly the opposite of the way Sharon seems to have viewed things.

That means you would never want to have Sharon on your negotiating team.

Thankfully, that won't be a problem for Plainfield in 105 days.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Plainfield's festivals peak over weekend


Food was abundant at Plainfield festivals.
 
Plainfield's busy 2013 festival season peaked over the weekend with four more events being held throughout the community.

Voluntad Productions' Central American Independence festival took place in the public parking lot between Watchung Avenue and the Supremo supermarket from Friday through Sunday.

Though the hours were somewhat restricted after the Council heard feedback from residents and merchants, the event went without a hitch with amplified music shutting down at 9:00 PM each day and the event closing at 10:00 PM.

The music stopped exactly on the dot, and within minutes a steady stream of attendees, many carrying toddlers or pushing infants in strollers, filled the streets as they dispersed.

On Saturday, Front Street shops were noticeably impacted by the Festival, with very few shoppers seen afoot. This seemed to have recovered somewhat by Sunday afternoon, when more shoppers were spotted downtown.

Also on Saturday, Faith Tabernacle Church held an outdoor festival. Originally slated as a street closure on Clinton Avenue, the event as it transpired took place on the vacant lot at the corner of Clinton and West Front, which the congregation has 'adopted', much improing the appearance of that intersection.

Unfortunately, the open house slated for Green Waste Technologies, located in the former Mack Truck works, seems not to have taken place. When I arrived at 3:00 PM, there were no signs or indications of any activity.

Two further events on Sunday topped off the weekend.

Mision Evangelica del Esperitu Santo celebrated Central American Independence with a street fair featuring foods of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Across town, one of the longest blocks in the city, North Avenue between Richmond and Berckman Streets, was closed off for a celebration by the Xample Motorcycle Club, which featured a show, barbecue and activities for youngsters.

The season winds down with the Outdoor Festival of Art next Saturday, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the event, and a two-day festival being organized by the Latin American Coalition and slated for October 6 and 7 on North Avenue between Park and Watchung Avenues.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

LWV sets marathon candidate forums for mayor, council, Board of Ed


Plainfield residents take local elections very seriously.

 
The Plainfield chapter of the League of Women Voters has set a marathon candidate forum for Wednesday, October 30 at Emerson Community School from 6:30 - 9:00 PM.

The marathon character comes from two facts: First, that the Board of Ed election has been changed to the same date as the general election, and secondly, that the 4th Ward Council seat is contested this year.

The lineup is as follows --
MAYORAL RACE
The winners of the June Primary election, Adrian Mapp (Democrat) and Sandy Spector (Republican) will face off against their independent opponents, D. Scott Belin and Mustapha Muhammad.
WARD 4 COUNCIL
In Ward 4, where the Democratic candidate is often unconstested, this year will feature two opposing candidates: Democratic incumbent Bridget Rivers is being challenged by Republican Barbara Johnson.
BOARD OF ED
With three seats to be filled in a nonpartisan election, the Board of Ed race is composed of two opposing slates of three candidates each.

Incumbent president Wilma Campbell and current member Frederick D. Moore, Sr., are being joined by newcomer David M. Rutherford.

They will face off against a slate composed of residents Deborah Clarke, Richard Lear and Annabella Melgar.
The LWV will break the evening up so that each set of candidates gets its turn to make their cases to the audience and answer audience questions.

Emerson Community School is at East Second Street and Emerson Avenue, with parking available in the school lot on Emerson Avenue and on the street.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Health Fair, Open House and Festival today


Green Waste Technology's beloved Abbie and Katie will
entertain visitors to today's Open House with free rides.
 
Plainfielders have a trifecta of events to choose from today.
HEALTH FAIR
Horizon NJ Health and BUF Health and Human Services are co-sponsoring a 'Back to School' health fair today from Noon to 4:00 PM.

Horizon's mobile unit will provide blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol screenings for adults. In addition, attendees will get tips on healthy eating and lifestyles as well as an opportunity to take part in Horizon's nationally noted dance/exercise classes.

The health fair will be held at the BUF complex at West 7th Street and Central Avenue.
OPEN HOUSE TOUR
Plainfield's own environmental business, Green Waste Technologies, will host an open house today from 2:00 - 4:00 PM.

A venture of Plainfield resident Olive Lynch, GWT recycles food waste through using Black Soldier flies, whose larvae consume and recycle the food waste. The end result is a product that can be used as a biofuel or as food for fish farming.

Visitors will see how the plant functions as well as have an opportunity to sign up to have household food waste collected as part of the program. Rides will be available on the now-familiar wagon seen on Plainfield streets and pulled by Abbie and Katie.

Green Waste Technologies is in the former Mack Truck complex, at 1355 West Front Street.
INDEPENDENCIA FESTIVAL
Voluntad Productions offers its second Central American Independence Festival this weekend in the public parking lot between Watchung Avenue and Supremo Supermarket (the former Macy's) from Noon to 10:00 PM.

The Festival features live music acts, food, novelty and apparel vendors and carnival rides and games for the whole family. The amplified music cuts off at 9:00 PM and the festival closes at 10:00 PM tonight and tomorrow.
If you're rested up, you could do all three.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, September 13, 2013

The infamous 'Muhlenberg letter'


Residents and workers turned out in droves to show their support
for Muhlenberg when its closure was proposed.


Interestingly, the small talk among the Plainfield set at last night's 22nd District Dem rally in Scotch Plains was the so-called 'Muhlenberg letter' brought up by Dr. Gerald Lamont Thomas of Shiloh Baptist Church at Monday's Council meeting. A copy of the letter, complete with all attachments, has been posted online (see embedded document below).

Several questions about the letter and its delivery puzzled inquisitive observers --

  • Why was it from JFK's attorneys and not JFK itself?

  • Has JFK previously reached out to Mayor Robinson-Briggs and been rebuffed?

  • Why was the letter hand-delivered on the day of a Council meeting?

  • Why did Dr. Thomas speak on behalf of JFK; was he asked to?

  • Why didn't JFK follow the routine procedure of approaching the matter through the Planning Division?

  • Why did JFK decide not to wait until a new administration is in place in January?
One person who is a close observer of the Muhlenberg situation wondered whether sidestepping the normal procedure was a matter of ignorance, or by conscious intent.

Another, who had been present at the most recent CAG (Community Advisory Group) meeting, said that JFK's Adam Beder had taken up the whole meeting with a PowerPoint presentation on the  propose development but took no questions from attendees.

And yet another remarked that if JFK had consulted with 'hundreds' of residents as Beder asserted in his written answers to Bernice Paglia's questions, how come no one has heard of such meetings or knows anyone who attended them -- noting specifically that the City Council seems to have been overlooked.

As I said in my previous post on the 'letter' (see here), I think JFK has overplayed its hand and has gotten people's backs up rather than pursuing a true dialog to resolve the concerns between the parties.

Where do we go from here?











-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Thursday, September 12, 2013

22nd District Dems kick off fall campaign tonight


Large political rallies were invented during the era of
Jacksonian politics, as pictured here by regionalist artist
George Caleb Bingham in 1851. Note the absence of women
and people of color and the presence of alcoholic beverages.

Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green will join his running mates Assemblywoman Linda Stender and Senator Nick Scutari in a kickoff rally of District 22 Democrats tonight at Scotch Plains' Italian-American Club.

The rally is a political tradition going back to the era of President Andrew Jackson, who invented the large BBQ rally with plenty of spirits and speechifying.

In our own time, the spirits have dissipated and the rallies are hardly as raucous as their ancestors, but the intent is the same: to introduce the candidates and their platforms to the voter, generate enthusiasm and rally volunteers.

Tonight's event will feature burgers and hot dogs for all as well as speechifying.

There will be opportunities to sign up to volunteer as well as to pick up the traditional lawn sign.

This year's calendar is also complicated by the special October 15 election to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg. That race pits Newark's mayor Cory Booker against Tea Party favorite and former Bogota mayor Steve Lonegan.

The rally is from 6:00 to 8:00 PM and the Italian-American Club is at 1976 Valley Avenue in Scotch Plains (behind the Scotchwood Diner).








-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Has JFK overplayed its hand on Muhlenberg?


At issue is the future of the Muhlenberg Hospital campus.

From the beginning of its relationship with Plainfield, when it first created Solaris Health System as the umbrella for Muhlenberg and JFK, JFK's administration and board have had a tin ear for how to approach the community and matters of mutual concern.

Now, with the era of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs drawing to a close, one has to wonder if JFK has not made another blunder in having the Rev. Dr. Gerald Lamont Thomas be the messenger in its tussle with the City over the future of the Muhlenberg campus.

When it first closed Muhlenberg, Solaris (JFK) proposed a 'Community Advisory Group' that would monitor the conditions of the closure agreement. While they acceded to the demand that Mayor Robinson-Briggs chair the group, that has turned out to be pretty much a disaster with Robinson-Briggs being erratic in calling meetings and apparently rudderless with regard to any policy position.

JFK has not been happy at not being able to get its way over the property, after having had Jeffrey Otteau draw up a 'plan' for developing the six-acre campus into so-called luxury apartments, at one point even touting the proposal as 'transit-oriented development'.

In a move meant to  mobilize forces more friendly to JFK in the community, it formed a group of three preachers over a year ago (Dr. Thomas, Bishop Herbert Bright and the Rev. Gary Kirkwood) to ostensibly help resolve the issues.

The principal result to date was for Dr. Thomas to present what was in effect an ultimatum to the Council on Monday evening: submit to the JFK rezoning and construction proposal or face the withdrawal of JFK's services at the Muhlenberg campus.

This is no way to conduct negotiations.

With the certainty of a change of administrations in Plainfield's City Hall come January, JFK is faced with the likelihood of having to deal with a new mayor intent on salvaging some healthcare-related functions for the Muhlenberg campus.

That, combined with pressure from the City for tax revenues since JFK has abandoned the use which justified its tax exemption, will combine to change the landscape under which negotiations will now move forward.

While Dr. Thomas referred to a letter to the Council, and implied an ultimatum, the actual letter itself is less forceful.

First, it is not from JFK, but from their attorneys Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, which is well connected to powerful Democrats. It was hand-delivered Monday afternoon.

Second, it is addressed to the Mayor and the Council, and asks for rezoning of the Muhlenberg campus as 'the most appropriate and feasible opportunity for redevelopment of this site'.

JFK would be hard-pressed to withdraw services from Plainfield (and certainly not without one year's notice, as already agreed), but is absolutely being faced with a new team on the Plainfield side come January.

What is the point of this kind of inappropriate and bullying communication?

Far from causing the Council and a new mayor to quake, it may firm the resolve to find a solution which JFK has to date been unwilling to consider.

It seems highly likely JFK once again overplayed its hand, missing an opportunity to work for a win-win resolution of the outstanding issues between it and the City.

In that regard, JFK has learned nothing in its dealings with Plainfield.

Come January, there will be another opportunity. Will JFK make the best of it?







-- Dan Damon [follow]


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