The needler in the haystack.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

No post today ... family visit


Plainfield Today is entertaining family today. See you tomorrow.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Getting ready for a family visit


Dan's sisters Diane (left) and Barbara, pictured with the crop
that once supplied America's Welch's Grape Jelly.
My home county, Chautauqua, was the epicenter of Concord grape
production in the United States in the 1940's through 1960's.

Plainfield Today readers get a break today from -- as faithful reader Rob calls the shot -- Dan's 'smarmy' view of local political carryings-on.

Nothing today on the schemes to blunt the impact of a Mapp mayoralty, nor last-minute efforts by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs to line a friend's pockets with $10 bills or pack boards and commissions with various hangers-on.

No, we're cleaning house for a state visit by my sister Barb and her husband Joe, plus niece Avery and my stepmom Annie as they make their way back to Connecticut after Thanksgiving in Philly with Joe's family.

Not quite as demanding as passing the white glove test of a Junior League membership committee.







-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Annie McWilliams is engaged


AnnieMcWilliams and her fiance Uche Ndumele,
from Annie's Facebook page..

Former Plainfield At-large Councilor Annie McWilliams announced her engagement to Uche Ndumele on her Facebook page Wednesday evening (see here).

Annie, who was elected to the at-large seat in 2009, resigned in late summer 2012 to pursue graduate studies in public policy at New York University.

She is the daughter of the late Al McWilliams, Plainfield's first African American two-term mayor, and Darlene McWilliams, who is editor of The Alternative Press.

I am sure fellow Plainfielders join me in wishing the young couple well.




The obligatory ring photo.


-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Happy Thanksgivikkah!


As they were saying on WNYC yesterday, Happy Thanksgivikkah!

Intrepid multiculturalists have coined the term, but you may wonder whether it will stick.

We'll have to be patient to find out. As Olddoc points out, it will be more than 78,000 years until the double holiday repeats itself (see here).

Whether you celebrate one or the other or both -- have  a Happy Holiday!







-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Council: Something for everyone but Dunn, Sanders and HAP


Just and capable... Are we getting closer?

As befits calling a special meeting of Plainfield's City Council on the cusp of a confluent celebration of both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving (see Olddoc here), there were gifts for all. Well, almost all.

Three of Mayor-Elect Mapp's personnel items were given the go-ahead, as was the budget transfer (including funding the irregular police promotions). The only item that failed was the scheme to convey Public Parking Lot 9 and another parcel to the Housing Authority -- and thereby hangs a tale.

With Councilors Brown, Reid and Williams phoning in, there were seven votes on hand for the early portion of the meeting.

The first item was the budget transfer. The proposal was to move a little over one million dollars into several accounts that are facing shortfalls -- including the Police Division, which would be short $111,000 to cover the promoted lieutenants' salaries without the transfer.

Councilor Mapp explained that he was reluctantly voting for the transfers even though he had concerns because a failure to make the transfers before December 31 would mean the $1 million shortfall would have to be added to next year's budget, his first as Mayor, and would negatively impact other funding.

With Councilors Storch and Williams standing by their previous votes against the transfer, the resolution passed 5-7 (a super-majority of 5 was needed).

After a little dueling over the bumped-up salary band for a Chief Financial Officer (resident Alan Goldstein's numbers were countered by Personnel Director Karen Dabney's researched report), the ordinance (2013-18) passed with 6 affirmative votes. (Councilor Reid's connection had been dropped and was never re-established.)

Next came ordinances 2013-19 and 2013-20, which established the position of Chief of Staff, sought by Mayor-elect Mapp, and a salary band for the position ($60,000 - $95,000).

After Mayor-elect Mapp explained that he would be a part-time mayor with a full-time day job in another municipality and needed a personal representative in addition to the City Administrator (who would be responsible for the day-to-day operation of municipal government), Council concurred in the job description and the salary band by a vote of 6-0.

The final piece of business was ordinance 2013-21, to convey Public Parking Lot 9 and an additional small parcel to the Housing Authority of Plainfield to develop through its nonprofit Plainfield CDC along with a private partnership into 86-units of subsidized housing in three buildings scattered throughout the parcels.

Corporation Counsel David Minchello advised the Council he could not recommend proceeding as he could not 'attest to the legality of the ordinance'.

In particular, he cited language in the ordinance which references 'redevelopment' and there is no redevelopment plan in place for this property assemblage. Secondly, Minchello noted the Council was being asked to enter into a contract lacking key elements: no time by which it must be executed and no consideration (price) was specified.

Corporation Counsel recommended tabling. Council President Bridget Rivers seemed quite taken aback by the legal opinion and asked that developer Cecil Sanders and his attorney be called to the table to speak on behalf of the proposal. After some discussion and with Corporation Counsel Minchello not backing down a vote to table was finally taken. (Sanders' business partner, Malcolm R. Dunn, was never seen in the Council chambers, though he was seated at the sign-in desk in the lobby as the meeting broke up.)

The motion to table the ordinance was carried 4-2. Councilors Brown, Mapp, Storch and Williams voted in the affirmative; Council President Rivers and Councilor Greaves voted in the negative. Councilor Reid took no part. NOTE: A Councilor corrects me, saying the vote was 6-0. My notes specifically reflect a 4-2 split; I may have misheard some of the votes.

During the public comment period which followed the conclusion of business, HAP Executive Director Randall Wood chastised the Council for not passing the ordinance on first reading, saying that the law specifically provided for a transfer of property to an authority without a public auction or bid, and that HAP's having a nonprofit development entity meant that the City could avoid going through an RFP (Request for Proposals) process. Though he did not say it, the clear effect of Wood's suggestion would be to eliminate any possibility of competition or public scrutiny of the proposal.

The ordinances will now face a second reading and public hearing on December 9, after which they still must face the possibility of a veto by outgoing Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs.




-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Please, God, let THIS rumor not be true


The proposed project would put 86 units of subsidized housing
where City Lot #9 is currently located.

 
If rumors are true there will be an elephant in the room at tonight's Special Meeting of the Plainfield City Council.

That elephant is the slickster pair of former Plainfield Councilman Malcolm R. Dunn and his sidekick Cecil Sanders. 

This is the pair whose first act upon being appointed as PMUA Commissioners was to join with fellow commissioner Alex Toliver in arbitrarily and capriciously intervening in the arbitration proceedings concerning former PMUA executives Eric Watson and David Ervin, terminating the proceedings and awarding the departing duo $1 million out of the ratepayers' pockets.

Word in the street is that Dunn and Sanders are silent partners in the group that is proposing 86-units of subsidized housing for the City's Parking Lot 9, which sits at the corner of Central Avenue and West Second Street.

Plainfield's City Council will take up for first reading at its special meeting tonight an ordinance that would allow the City to convey that property to a development group that includes the Housing Authority of Plainfield and its community development corporation, Plainfield CDC.

The Housing Authority has yet to bring to fruition its planned replacement of the Elmwood Gardens projects with Hope VI townhomes, a plan that has been in the works for several years now, and which Executive Director Randall Wood swore to the Council two years ago, was just on the edge of proceeding with demolition and construction.

Nothing has happened yet.

Those with longer memories will recall Messrs. Dunn and Sanders were involved in the development and construction of the Plainfield Health Center project at the corner of Myrtle and Rock Avenues.

That project suffered from fiscal friskiness which left one person serving time in the slammer.

Some folks have long held that the wrong person went to jail.

Plainfielders have a right to suspect a replay of that bad movie.

I just hope and pray the rumors are untrue.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Homicide discovered Sunday night


The 700-block of East 6th Street is between Berckman and Central Streets.

Word comes just after midnight that another Plainfield homicide has been discovered.

Sources say the body of a male Hispanic was found in the basement of a home in the 700-block of East 6th Street and that the man was the victim of a homicide.

No further details at this time.




-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Shooting overnight Saturday


Sources say a Plainfield man was the victim of a shooting overnight Saturday.

A Hispanic man was shot in the head in the 700-block of West Third Street and was medevaced to RWJ University Medical Center, I was told.

No arrests or further information at this point.




-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Cafe Vivace pitches in to help Vets, YMCA shelter


A favorite Plainfield watering-hole pitches in at the Holidays.

Frank Pascale, ten-year owner of Cafe Vivace and Plainfield resident, pitches in once again this year to provide a Thanksgiving Dinner for vets and their families and to raise funds for the YMCA's shelter program. And you can, too!

GIVING THANKS FOR VETS
As he has done for the last four years, the owner of the popular watering-hole, is offering a full Thanksgiving dinner -- from appetizer to choice of pies -- for U.S. military veterans from Plainfield and their immediate families.

Dinner is served Thanksgiving Day at 2:00 PM. Those wishing to attend should reserve seats in advance (seating is limited) by calling the restaurant at (908) 753-4500.

While the meal is prepared by the restaurant's kitchen staff, service is traditionally done by volunteers. If you are interested in helping to serve dinners as a way of thanking our veterans for their service, please call Cafe Vivace at (908) 753-4500 to get instructions on how you can help.
YMCA SHELTER PROGRAM
Besides wearing his chef's toque and hosting the most convivial (and politically diverse) bar in the Queen City, owner Frank Pascale sits on the board of the Plainfield Area YMCA.

As both a restaurateur and a YMCA supporter, Frank is keenly aware that folks have an urge to help spread cheer during the holiday season by donating food, clothing and gifts for youngsters.

But he is also aware it is time when organizations such as the YMCA are in need of cash donations to help spread the availability of their services over the rest of the year, when folks are not necessarily as sharply aware of the need for financial support.

So, while the spirit of generosity is upon you, now would be a goodd time to consider a monetary donation to the Plainfield Area YMCA, allowing it to extend is continued support to shelter residents throughout the year.

'These homeless families and adults need meals every day of the year,' YMCA President and CEO Ravenell Williams says, 'and monetary donations are more important to our being able to offer services throughout the year than donated turkeys or hams during a particular time of the year'.

Checks made payable to the 'Plainfield Area YMCA' can be dropped off when you're hoisting one for the Holidays or mailed to Cafe Vivace, Attn: Frank Pascale, 1370 South Avenue (07062) or to the Plainfield Area YMCA, Attn: Ravenell Willims, CEO, 518 Watchung Avenue (07060).


-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Memorial for Victor Quinn today


Preservationaist and activist Victor Quinn
will be remembered Saturday.

Friends and neighbors will gather to remember preservation and neighborhood activist Victor J. Quinn III this Saturday at the Higgins Home for Funerals, West 8th Street and Arlington Avenue, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM.

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

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

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

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

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


-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963: A second loss of innocence


JFK and Jackie, vivacious and alluring.

Those still alive who remember the day that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated are likely to tell you they can remember the exact moment they heard the news. I am one.

As one of Yale Medical School's first certified 'Inhalation Therapists', I was working the day shift at Gaylord Hospital and Sanatorium in Wallingford, Connecticut that grey and wintry day (Wallingford also is the site of JFK's alma mater, Choate Academy, and my boss had been the Choate physician).

Coming down the hall of one patient wing to the day room that connected it with another, I chanced upon the scene just as an announcer broke into regular TV programming to announce that the President had been shot.

There were no further details and we did not learn until later that Kennedy had died.

It was the second stunning blow to my innocence and foreshadowed the tumultuous decade in which I came to maturity and became politically engaged.

Up until then, it had seemed a Camelot come true for this farm boy. The vivacity and allure of Jackie and JFK infected a whole generation of college-age men and women, of which I was just one. We were proud to be Democrats of a new, younger sort, forging a New Frontier and looking forward to an ever-brighter future for the country and its citizens.

As I said, JFK's death was the second blow to my innocence.

The first came the year before when I was discharged from the Air Force as 'undesirable' on account of my suspected homosexuality.

Wrestling with whether I was truly called to the ministry, I had taken off some time from college. As the Cold War reached a fever pitch in the early 1960s, I decided not to wait passively and see if I would be drafted into the Army, but take my fate in my own hands and enlist in the Air Force.

Shipped off from the Buffalo airport in the midst of a snowstorm with about forty other young men from Western New York, we arrived at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas in the middle of the night where the temperature was still in the low 80's.

After a month of intensive physical training and molding into a part of a team, the newly minted Airmen went on to their next assignment, either a duty posting or further training.

I was selected to be trained for the Air Force Intelligence Services and was shipped off to Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi for training as a Morse Intercept Operator. Once training was completed, I would be stationed in Turkey as part of the US intelligence mission that was coupled to the missiles pointed at the heart of the Soviet Union.

Fatefully, the FBI agent routinely assigned to interview people who knew me was told by a former college professor that he was suspicious that I might be a homosexual.

In those days, a gay person would have had to lie about their sexuality just to get into the service. Though there were many gays in the military, and a blind eye was often turned on the matter, getting through the security clearance was a crucial hurdle. I did not make it.

Removed from class one night without explanation, I was summoned the next day to an interview with an investigator with the Intelligence Service whose name was Truman Hyde.

Alone, confused, with no counsel, no end of the interview in sight, and (apparently) no rights, I finally admitted to a homosexual experience in college, thinking the admission would bring the interview to an end and I could escape to try and get some help.

It did end the interview. I went immediately to the pastor of the Methodist Church near the base which I had been attending and spoke to the minister, who was a colonel in the Air Force Reserves. He was most sympathetic and made several phones calls, up to the base deputy commander. But to no avail, as I had voluntarily admitted to Agent Hyde a disqualifying experience.

Within a matter of weeks, I was processed out and sent home on a train that made its way north from Biloxi to Cincinnati, thence to Cleveland and finally to my hometown. (It was the only time I ever slept in a Pullman berth.)

I was not wanted. I was not fit to serve. My first loss of innocence.

Some time after I had arrived home and the numbness began to wear off, I received a letter from a friend and fellow airman from Keesler.

He wrote to advise me, kindly, that I shouldn't feel too bad as the rumor circulating about why I was removed from training and then discharged didn't focus at all on whether I might be a homosexual.

The word instead, he said cheerfully, was that I was a 'Red' and everyone knew that could not be true.




-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Memorial for Victor Quinn Saturday


Preservationaist and activist Victor Quinn
will be remembered Saturday.

Friends and neighbors will gather to remember preservation and neighborhood activist Victor J. Quinn III this Saturday at the Higgins Home for Funerals, West 8th Street and Arlington Avenue, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM.

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

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

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

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

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


-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Can you help PHS Cardinals win national reputation? You bet!


PHS Cardinbals running back Steve Jones, Jr.
(Image courtesy Plainfield Sports News.)

The Thanksgiving Day football rivalry between Plainfield's Cardinals and Westfield's Blue Devils will be re-enacted for the 109th year next week.

But win or lose, both teams have a unique opportunity for a national title.

The two teams have been included in USAToday's nationwide contest to select the 'Best Rivalry' between high school football teams. The Plainfield-Westiield rivalry is one of only five selected from New Jersey to participate in the contest.

Fans of the two teams have until a week from today (Novemeber 27) to vote in the contest. To cast your ballot, visit USAToday's High School Sports Contest page (here).

Winning rivals from each state will move on to a regional contest, after which a top ten will emerge, forming the final round.

It's an easy way to boost Plainfield's and Westfield's two teams and their longstanding rivalry.

So, do it -- and invite your friends to join in.




-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Plainfield officials land on AC's Baltic Avenue today


Baltic Avenue was one of the first properties on the Monopoly
board game, based on 1920s Atlantic City.

 
At least twenty-six Plainfield officials will land on Atlantic City's Baltic Avenue today for the 98th annual version of the three-day League of Municipalities Conference.

Fans of Boardwalk Empire would realize at once that this is not your 'Roaring Twenties' convention.

Though there are still plenty of the famed evening receptions hosted by elected officials and vendors trolling for business, the days are chock full of meetings, lectures and demonstrations -- all geared to bringing attendees up to speed on issues facing New Jersey municipal governments from Alpine to Wildwood, including Plainfield.

I was always fascinated by the exhibit hall, crammed with companies hawking their wares -- everything from software to manage a Recreation Department to the latest in parking revenue technology to bright, shiny cop cars and dump trucks. Something for everyone!

But the seminars and lectures are invaluable. Back in the days when Plainfield cared whether it was getting the most out of its franchise relationship with Comcast, we picked up valuable tips that helped the City's bottom line.

The Conference also provides opportunities for constitutional officers such as the City Clerk, Tax Assessor and Tax Collector to fulfill mandatory continuing education requirements.

Alas, though, the party atmosphere has fizzled dramatically compared to the 1920s -- or even to the 1990s. Time was when Plainfield used to pack off dozens and dozens of employees down to the level of clerk. It was a sign of being part of the 'in crowd' to get to go to the event.

Tighter budgets long ago trimmed those sails.

This year's expected attendees, besides Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and the City Council, include the Acting City Administrator, Corporation Counsel, City Clerk and the Planning Director. Ten of the twenty-six are from the Dept. of Administration and Finance.

Interestingly, despite City Council attempts to foil outgoing officeholders being able to junket on the taxpayers' dime, the outgoing mayor and one other retiring official appear to be on the city's tab.



-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Monday, November 18, 2013

Key employees pitch in to help Mapp transition


On Election Night, Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp offered
a welcoming hand to all.
On Election Night, Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp said that he was not extending an olive branch to his opponents, because that was a sign of a winner-loser relationship, but that instead he was extending a welcoming hand to them as partners in moving Plainfield into the future.

To underscore his new style, Mapp's first action was to solicit the input of key employees into the process of transitioning into the new administration which he will lead as of January 1, something which had not been done in recent memory.

Questionnaires were distributed to more than two dozen of these employees just two days after the election. You can see the questionnaire and Mayor-elect Mapp's cover letter inviting employee participation on his blog (here) and his campaign website (here).

The response was dramatic and heartening, with answers to questionnaires and offers to sit for interviews with Transition Team members pouring in.

So far, the following units have responded: Senior Services, Public Works Division, Personnel, Tax Assessor, Tax Collector, Inspections, Corporation Counsel, Planning, Municipal Clerk, Building Division, Purchasing, Treasurer, Information Technology, Media (PCTV), Health, WIC, Fire Division, OEM, Community Development and Bilingual Day Care.

Two more units have been delayed by a family emergency in one, and a vacation in the other.

The only units not to have responded after numerous contacts are the Police Division and the Office of Vital Statistics.

Once the questionnaires are reviewed and the employees interviewed, the Transtion Team of more than a hundred volunteers, working in eleven subcommittees, will prepare their individual reports, to be combined into a master report to Mayor-elect Mapp that is due on his desk before Christmas.








-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dan and Bernice exchange words


A selection of text in Greek from Matthew 8, from the Codex
Vaticanus. Note that the words and paragraphs are run together.

So, after I wrote on November 8 about Mayor-elect Mapp's outreach to key employees for their thoughts on the transition to the new administration (see here), Bernice posted a brief note saying my use of the word 'hajj' to describe the visit to City Hall struck her as disrespectful of Islam.

While what Bernice says about the word as one of the five Pillars of Islam is perfectly true, that is not all there is to be said.

It is related to another Arabic word, hejira, which is used in Islam to describe another specific 'trip', the flight of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE.

Both refer to travel or a trip, with a specific purpose.

Who says that the word needs to be restricted to its religious context only?

For contrast, let's take a look at a couple of words used in special ways by Christians: Baptizo and Transfiguratio.

The Greek word baptizo (βαπτίζω), used by Christians to denote the sacrament of initiation into the Church, has its origins in a commonplace, everyday activity: washing. But within the context of the Church, the term is changed to mean a washing that changes the essence of a thing.

Consider this item by James Montgomery Boice from the May 1989 issue of Bible Study magazine --

The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words [baptizo and bapto -- DD].

Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptised' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change.

When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism. e.g. Mark 16:16. 'He that believes and is baptised shall be saved'. Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle!
Are baptized Christians pickled persons?

Or consider the Latin word 'transfiguratio', which means literally to change a thing's appearance. The English 'transfiguration' derives from St. Jerome's translation of the Greek word μετεμορφώθη (see Mark 9: 1-8).

Until St. Jerome's use, it did not have a specifically Christian meaning, having been used by Ovid famously just to describe a thing's changed appearance.

For Christians, however, thanks to Jerome, it has come to mean very particularly Jesus' changed appearance after taking some disciples along as he prayed on a mountain where the gospel tells us they witnessed Moses and Elijah adoring Jesus and heard God's voice (for the second time) declaring Jesus to be God's well-beloved son (see the Catholic Encyclopedia here).

If I refer to Adrian's treatment at lhe hands of his Council colleagues last Tuesday evening as a 'baptism of fire', am I being disrespectful of Christianity?

And if I refer to his hopes for a 'transfiguration' of downtown Plainfield by development and redevelopment, have I maligned believers?

You tell me.







-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Saturday, November 16, 2013

A tip for Mr. Rutherford from Mr. Moynihan


The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan was colorful, quotable
and fact-driven.

On Tuesday, Plainfield Today posted a brief description of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs event the Friday before concerning the Plainfield African-Caribbean Commission (see here), which fellow blogger David Rutherford wrote about as its 'official kickoff' (see his blog post here).

My point was that two things were not clear from reading Rutherford's report: whether this was indeed the official kickoff and whether in fact the members have been duly appointed.

Mr. Rutherford posted the following comment to Plainfield Today --

Confusing? lol ... it was a simple event. They had a mission statement, they talked a little bit about black people uniting, calling it a "historic occasion in plainfield". Signing what? The paper that makes the committee official...that's what the implication was.

Peace
Words are important. Why else would we blog?

But it is important to use them correctly and with some precision.

What caught my eye was Rutherford's use of the word 'official'. A person reporting such an event should know the difference between 'official' and 'ceremonial' and make the distinction.

As the Commission was set up by ordinance, Mayor Robinson-Briggs would have had to sign the ordinance within a certain amount of time or it would have been considered vetoed. That time (counting from its adoption on September 9) would have expired long before the November 8 event. So, it could hardly have been 'official'.

It certainly could have been 'ceremonial', though. Signings and swearings-in are often done 'officially' as part of office routine or at inconvenient times (12:01 AM for swearings-in), with a 'ceremonial' repetition later in front of an appropriate audience.

A reporter should understand and make the distinction, no matter what the public officials' 'implication' is.

Then there is the matter of the Commissioners. Mr. Rutherford simply acknowledges their number and countries of origin. But there is no word as to the unusual circumstances. Were these appointments made in a duly lawful and appropriate manner? Isn't it strange for the terms not to coincide with the normal start-and-end dates of January 1 and December 31?

Once again, readers are not well-served by the omission.

One is entitled to align with any, all or none of the actors in the scene being described. After all, what is blogging about?

But if one is to expect respect from readers (whether or not they agree with one's opinions), one has an obligation to go behind the actors' words to describe the facts of what is being observed.

As the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan is said to have remarked, 'everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts' (see here).




-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Friday, November 15, 2013

Barbara Sandford memorial service Saturday


Barbara Sandford (right) and her friend Bernice Swain.
 
Family and friends of the late Plainfield community activist Barbara Sandford will gather to celebrate her life and remember her contributions to the community on Saturday, November 16, at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church. The service begins at 1:00 PM. Below is a reprise of my post on September 3, when we had just learned of Barbara's passing.

Plainfield...lost a devoted and stalwart friend in the passing of Barbara Sandford at her New Hampshire summer home on Labor Day.

Word came...that Barbara passed peacefully after a glorious final summer at the Lake Wentworth home she loved.

I met her soon after moving to Plainfield in 1983 and felt immediately at home with her direct and no-nonsense approach to public issues -- especially the sense of pride she expected Plainfielders to take in their community and its appearance.

Nor was she concerned with the appearance of the business district and City Hall only. She introduced me to the Shakespeare Garden (one of a few worldwide) and the work of the ladies of the Plainfield Garden Club, who have tended it on the public's behalf for more than three-quarters of a century.

She was also a devout person of faith who lived out her Presbyterian convictions in as firm and generous way as she did her civic activities. In fact, her civic activities were just another way of expressing her faithfulness.

But she did much more and much of it discreetly, without fanfare or publicity.

When I was working in real estate, I was surprised one day to receive a call from Barbara asking if I could drop by her house to discuss an urgent but unspecified matter.

Puzzled, I met with her to learn that she wanted me to help her secretly pay off the mortgage of someone who had been something of a handyperson once and was now in danger of losing their home.

Though the amount was substantial, it was not huge. Her main worry was in offending the pride of the family she wished to help. After some finagling, and with the help of a friendly lawyer, we put together a transaction which saved the day. I never knew the family being helped and Barbara was adamant that she did not want anyone to know how it all had come about.

I thought of it as the sort of good work that John Calvin at his best encouraged, worthy yet self-effacing, characteristic of her deep faith (and of that of my own Puritan forebears).

When I had the temerity to try and compare her care for Plainfield to that of Eleanor Roosevelt, another woman of culture and means who devoted her life to others, Barbara said sharply, 'Dan, don't you ever compare me to that buck-toothed woman!'.

Even so, I think she was secretly pleased to be compared to such a respected figure -- even if she was the wife of a Democratic president, and Barbara was a staunch, lifelong Republican of a sort that is now dying out.

Barbara, we thank you for all you have done and for the inspiration you were to us all. We shall miss you, but you have set a standard for us to aspire to.


MEMORIAL SERVICE
for
Barbara Sandford
Saturday, November 16
1:00 PM
Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Williams succeeds Mapp as leader of New Dems


Rebecca Williams with Councilor Adrian Mapp
during her 2010 Primary campaign for City Council.
 
At a meeting of the New Democrats for Plainfield political club this past Sunday, Mayor-Elect Adrian O. Mapp turned the reins of leadership over to Councilor Rebecca Williams.

Noting that the duties of his new office and the pressures of his job as an administrator for the municipality of Orange would leave him with little time to devote to New Dem affairs, Mapp stepped aside in favor of longtime New Democrt activist Rebecca Williams, whose new leadership role was agreed by acclamation.

The New Democrats club, which has not always seen eye-to-eye with the political establishment, has successfully elected candidates to seats in all four wards over the past ten years, capping its efforts this year by joining forces with Assemblyman Jerry Green, who is chairperson of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee as well as the Union County Democratic Committee, to elect Councilor Adrian O. Mapp as Plainfield's next mayor.

Though the relationship is fresh and still somewhat fragile, the New Democrats see themselves as playing an important role in fending off challenges to Assemblyman Green's role as Union County Democratic chair that are coming from other Democratic players and backroom power brokers.

In other business, the New Democrats club made plans for its annual holiday community service activities.

Carol Bicket, committee person for the 2-5 District is heading up the annual Holiday Toy Drive.

Bicket says that unwrapped new toys and games suitable for children ages 3 -13 are being welcomed between now and December 18 for a party to be held December 21. Donations may be left on Mayor-elect and Amelia Mapp's side porch at 535 West 8th Street. Those with questions may call Carol Bicket at (908) 753-5450.

Member Veronica 'Roni' Taylor is coordinating this year's Thanksgiving turkey deliveries. For several years now, Councilor Mapp and his wife Amelia, along with members of the New Democrats club, have distributed turkeys at Thanksgiving time to needy families and community service organizations such as Plainfield Action Services, the Latin American Coalition and the YMCA.

Councilor Mapp, who takes office as mayor on January 1, is expected to announce his resignation from the City Council shortly. The Council would then select among three names proposed by the Democratic City Committee to succeed Mapp until next year's November election. At that time, a permanent replacement would be elected for the balance of Mapp's term as Councilor representing Ward 3.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sharon's naughtieness revealed at Council meeting


Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs
in a portrait from the city's website.
As Olddoc notes, it was a boisterous Plainfield City Council on Monday evening, with Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs caught out in some pretty naughty behavior concerning the so-called police 'promotions' and Recreation funding.

As for the police 'promotions', Mayor Robinson-Briggs stands accused of having disregarded the Civil Service lists of those eligible for promotion in order to promote other officers more to her liking. That's naughtieness number one.

As it turns out, without Council approval of funding for the promotions, they are in limbo. With five votes needed to approve the funding, and only four in favor, this issue may fall into the lap of the new Mapp administration come January 1.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs' second naughtieness was to get caught out putting Recreation in a bind where the young people in its basketball program cannot use the school gyms on Saturday mornings because the City has no funds to pay for the increased user fees charged by the Board of Ed.

Why is there a shortfall of money? Because Mayor Robinson-Briggs raided the Recreation budget last summer to pay for an event she sponsored -- off budget -- at Hannah Atkins Playground (which pre-empted another one to be sponsored by Council President Bridget Rivers and Councilor Vera Greaves).

So, when the District increased the user fees, there was no money to pay for the increase. Thoughtful, isn't our Mayor?

I use the word naughtie (as Shakespeare would have said) in its older, richer sense --

Word History: The word naughty at one time was an all-purpose word similar to bad. During the 16th century one could use naughty to mean "unhealthy, unpleasant, bad (with respect to weather), vicious (of an animal), inferior, or bad in quality" (one could say "very naughtie figes" or "naughty corrupt water"). All of these senses have disappeared, however, and naughty is now used mainly in contexts involving mischief or indecency. This recalls its early days in Middle English (with the form noughti), when the word was restricted to the senses "evil, hostile, ineffectual, and needy." Middle English noughti, first recorded in the last quarter of the 14th century, was derived from nought, which primarily meant "nothing" but was also used as a noun meaning "evil" and as an adjective meaning such things as "immoral, weak, useless." Thus naughty, in a sense, has risen from nothing, but its fortunes used to be better than they are at present.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.






-- Dan Damon [follow]


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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sharon: The mayor who thinks she is Queen


Is my crown on straight?

Plainfield City Council president Ray Blanco once exploded when Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs rose to speak at a Council meeting, intending to offer her nominations to several boards and commissions in an inappropriate manner (see my 2006 blog post here).

He remarked to me privately at the time that he wondered if she thought she were the Queen of England, believing she had the power of making things happen by fiat.

I was reminded of the incident with two of Her Honor's recent forays: the promotion of a passel of police officers to the rank of lieutenant, and the 'signing' ceremony for the African-Caribbean Commission.

The police promotions have caused a stir because they were done outside the requirement by law that the cost of salary increases for the promotees must have been budgeted before the promotions can be made. Was there budgetary provision? Nope. Sharon, queenlike, promoted by fiat.

Blogger David Rutherford's confusing report of the goings-on surrounding the African-Caribbean Commission (see his port here) 'kick off' on Friday, November 8, raises more questions.

It is billed as a 'signing' in Rutherford's report. But a signing of what? The ordinance establishing the Commission was passed on September 9 and would have had to be signed long ago in order to avoid a 'pocket veto'. So, was this just a ceremonial 'signing'? Rutherford does not enlighten us.

Then there is the question of the Commission's 'members'.

With very few exceptions, the members of boards and commissions are nominated by the Mayor and appointed with the advice and consent of the governing body. (There are exceptions, such as where the governor has a designee.)

Also, all board and commissions (with the exception of two) are appointed on a January 1 to December 31 basis.

In the case of this Commission, we apparently have members appointed by the Mayor's fiat, to terms that do not conform with standard practice. What is going on here?

Which brings us to tonight's Council agenda.

There are always line-item transfers of funds in the last two months of the year, and 2013 is no exception. However, looking closely leads me to suspect that the Mayor is up to something sneaky.

There are several items in the resolution (373-13) up for a vote tonight that have a suspicious odor, transferring funds as follows --


  • $131,000 to the Police Division;
  • $72,000 to Economic Development;
  • $10,000 to Information Technology; and
  • $45,000 to Media
It seems that the money to the Police Division may be an ex post facto effort to cobble together funding to cover the police promotions into the new budget year.

Is the $72,000 for Economic Development intended to rescue the Deputy Director's job, which Mayor Robinson-Briggs omitted to fund through proper budget appropriations?

The money for IT and Media are evidently intended to cover for outrageous budget-busting overspending by those units.

What will the Council do tonight?

Will the Mayor who thinks she is Queen be held to account?







-- Dan Damon [follow]


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