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Monday, March 31, 2014

Herb Green forum on education Wednesday

The Plainfield LWV honors the late Herb Green
with its second annual forum on education Wednesday.

The late Herb Green was passionate about two things: education and the League of Women Voters (LWV), which he served as president. This Wednesday, the Plainfield chapter of the LWV honors his memory and contributions by offering the second annual Herbert Green Forum on Education.

The event
will feature Dr. Arnold Glass, a professor of cognitive psychology at Rutgers University and longtime colleague of Herb's, who heads the university's Learning and Memory Laboratory. Dr. Glass is widely published in journals in his field, including the American Journal of Psychology, The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, and Memory and Cognition. Refreshments will be served following Dr. Glass' talk.

Dr. Glass will talk about why experimental research matters in education, particularly the role of feedback in instruction.

The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Visit the League website at

The forum will take place at 7:00 PM in the Anne Louise Davis Meeting Room at the Plainfield Public Library. The event is free and open to all. The Plainfield Public Library is at Park Avenue and West 8th Street and is an accessible facility. Parking is available in the 8th and 9th Street lots.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wrapup: Muhlenberg, Temp Budget, Transit Village

Getting under way at last?
A brief wrap-up of events from Plainfield's busy week: The Muhlenberg Hospital meeting, the temporary budget and the Transit Village designation.


Thursday's Muhlenberg Hospital forum was well-attended, though the cavernous PHS cafeteria did not make it appear so. The consultants gave an overview after introductory remarks by Mayor Mapp and turned the meeting over to the public for comments and suggestions.

Many residents had given thought to positive health-related uses for the campus and all were outspoken against the JFK proposal for 600-plus united of 'luxury' housing.

One item of interest was a woman with long blond hair who kept her snow white coat on throughout the meeting as she sat in the back of the room and took notes on a laptop.

There will be two further opportunities for the public to speak out on the future of the hospital property: March 24 at Clinton School and March 29 at Emerson Community School. Both start at 7 PM.


Friday's special Council meeting was one of the shortest on record, and the three items were addressed in about twenty minutes.

A temporary budget, whittled down by the Council to just 30 days, was passed on a vote of 6-1, with only Councilor Reid opposed. (Councilor Taylor teleconferenced in from Atlanta and took part in the whole meeting.) The budget was not without a little drama, as Reid offered a motion to amend the proposal by cutting the appropriation for the Mayor's office from $57,000 to $33,600 for the month. Seconded by Greaves, it failed 4-3 after garnering only one other supporter -- Taylor.

The St. Mary's Good Friday procession resolution passed unanimously without comment after it was clarified that it did not meet the requirement of a 60-day advance notice.

Even though Administration and Finance Director Ron West tried to explain the third motion, it took some effort for the public to understand that the previously adopted resolution contained some (small) errors that needed to be corrected by replacing the original resolution with a corrected one. Done unanimously.


Plainfield finally got its Transit Village designation this past week. The process was begun under the late mayor Al McWilliams and languished under Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs until finally picking up steam in 2011 after NJIT consultants helped fill in some needed gaps in the city's proposal.

The city's plans in place for both the main train station and the Netherwood station neighborhoods make it possible for residential and mixed used development that focuses on pedestrian-friendly opportunities to live, shop, work and play.

The confluence of these three items in one week mark a forward motion in the Mapp administration's efforts to get the city moving forward after the stagnation of recent years.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

PSO features Saint Saën's organ symphony tonight

Tonight's concert will feature Saint Saens'
Organ Symphony.

Tonight's Plainfield Symphony Orchestra concert will feature Saint Saën's 'Organ Symphony' and a Mozart piano concerto with Claudia Hu as soloist.

The symphony, commissioned by London's Royal Philharmonic and premiered in 1886 with the composer as conductor will tonight feature Crescent Avenue's retired organist Ron Thayer at the Gilbert Adams organ.

Though referred to as the 'Organ Symphony', it is really a symphony that features the organ in two of its movements, but is also known for flashy piano writing as well -- including solo playing and piano four hands.

Which is where the evening's other featured solosit comes in. Clauda Hu, 2013 Silver Medal winner of the NJ Young Artists Competition, will play in the Saint Saëns piece as well as being the soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto in A Minor.

The evening will be rounded off with Ravel's Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, all under the baton of Charles Prince, the Plainfield Symphony Orchestra's conductor.

The performance gets under way at 7:00 PM sharp at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, Watchung Avenue at East 7th Street. Tickets are $30 at the door, $20 for seniors and students. Parking available the in church lot, on street, or in the Swain Galleries lot.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Friday council meeting tackles temporary budget

Friday's special meeting is at 6 PM in City Hall Library.

Plainfield City Council President Bridget Rivers has set 6:00 PM Friday as the time for a special meeting of the council to consider the adoption of a temporary budget before a March 31 deadline. The meeting will be in the City Hall Library.

If the Council fails to adopt temporary funding beyond March 31, when the current funding runs out, the City will be forced to shut down.

While Rivers promised a deal would be struck in time, it is not certain that all the wrinkles will be ironed out.

A majority of the Council has balked at Mayor Mapp's intention to fund some parts of the city's operations more fully than for just the time period of the temporary budget. This seems a red herring to me since -- as Olddoc pointed out elsewhere -- unspent temporary budget allocations are cancelled out by the adoption of the final budget as amended by the Council.

Now that the administration's budget proposal has been accepted by the Council, it has until April 25 to amend and adopt a final version in order to meet the state's deadline in a timely fashion.

That seems unlikely, since Rivers has not seen fit to announce either the dates for public hearings on the budget or the appointment of the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee -- and pointedly did not include either item in Friday's special meeting agenda.

Interestingly, the agenda does include two other items: a permit for a street procession for St. Mary's Church, and the rescinding of a resolution cancelling unexpended balances on capital funds. If I get it right, this is a step that the auditors have included in their findings for dog's years and should be a part of the Council's corrective action plan. So, what's the beef now?

The resolution for St. Mary's also intrigues me. Is it for their annual Good Friday procession, which in recent years has gone from the county office building plaza to the church? If so, Good Friday is April 18. Does this mean the Council is waiving its own requirement of timely advance notice for street closures and encroachments by these sorts of events?

Lastly, there are whispers that one of the council majority's members will not be present at Friday's special meeting. With only six members, and five votes needed on the temporary budget item -- and perhaps the capital item also -- how will the four from the majority try to win over Councilors Storch and Williams?

It will be an interesting meeting.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

First of three forums on Muhlenberg's future Thursday

Residents have the opportunity to speak to future uses
for the 17-acre Muhlenberg Hospital campus.
Plainfielders and other supporters of a medical use for the Muhlenberg Hospital complex will get their first opportunity to sound off at a forum on planning for Muhlenberg's futue use this Thursday evening at the Plainfield High School cafeteria at 7:00 PM.

Residents of the Queen City and the surrounding communities impacted by the closure of Muhlenberg in 2008 have kept up a steady drumbeat of concern over the intervening years thanks to the efforts of Dottie Gutenkauf, Nancy Piwowar, Deborah Dowe and many others associated with the Restore Muhlenberg Coalition.

After JFK Health System made a proposal for a 600-unit apartment complex on the 17-acre site, based on a 'study' by Jeff Otteau, residents expressed their dismay to the City Council and individual elected officials.

As a result, City Council agreed to hire a consultant to prepare the city's own roadmap for future use of the site, and Thursday's meeting is the first of three opportunities for residents to express their desires and concerns.

Mayor Adrian Mapp campaigned on finding a health-related use for the shuttered facility and has applied pressure on JFK by proposing that property taxes be assessed for JFK's failure to use the facility as required by its non-profit tax exemption.

Muhlenberg Hospital's service area included
over 112,000 residents of Plainfield and surrounding communities.

As an indicator of public interest, about a hundred people showed up for a recent meeting of the Cedar Brook Block Association when Muhlenberg was billed as the topic for the evening. At that meeting, Ms. Piwowar pressed Plainfield's new economic development director, Carlos Sanchez, about reaching out to the surrounding communities which constituted part of the Muhlenberg service area, which Sanchez said would be done.

The Plainfield High School cafeteria is accessible from the Kenyon Avenue parking lot behind the high school. Parking is also available in the Stelle Avenue lot and on the street. Come early as the meeting will start on time.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Comcast franchise renewal issues

There are hundreds of instances of dangling cable
throughout the community after Superstorm Sandy.
Pictured above is the playground at East Front Street and Westervelt Avenue.
Plainfield City Council's most substantial issue with regard to the renewal of the franchise agreement with Comcast (slated for an August 2014 deadline) is that a series of missed opportunities leave it practically without leverage in the renewal negotiations.

NJ's cable franchise renewal process takes part in three segments: the Ascertainment phase, the Municipal phase and the issuance of a 'certificate of approval' (COA) in the form of a franchise renewal ordinance.

The Ascertainment phase, which should have begun at least two years ago, provides the municipality with the opportunity of factfinding among the subscribers to determine issues that need to be negotiated in the franchise renewal.

While it may be true that former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs failed to renew the terms of members of the Cable TV Advisory Committee, the likelihood is that the members were appointed to serve 'until a successor is duly appointed and sworn in' as is the case with most boards and commissions. If that is the case, the fault for leaving the City in this weak position in the final negotiations rests with the (former) Cable TV Advisory Committee more than with Robinson-Briggs.

Given the intense participation in the Ascertainment phase during the 1999 renewal (I was secretary of the commission), it struck me as odd that neither the Robinson-Briggs nor the Mapp administrations turned to any previous members -- plenty of whom are still around -- to put their experience to use for the City in the current round. More's the pity.

Further, during the 1999 renewal, the City appropriated a small amount for an attorney with experience in cable TV franchises to consult with the Committee. No such accommodation was made this time around.

We are now in the second phase, in which the City Council negotiates with Comcast over outstanding issues.

The hitch is that those negotiations are to be based on facts and findings brought forward in the Report the ascertainment period was expected to generate based on customer surveys and public hearings -- neither of which has occurred. (For an example of an excellent Ascertainment Report, see Franklin Township's from its 2013 renewal process here.)

Notwithstanding, there are some issues the Council may be able to negotiate on in this next phase --

As pointed out by resident Alan Goldstein at last week's Council meeting, there are many instances of cable wiring knocked down during Superstorm Sandy that have yet to be cleaned up. It seems that Comcast has usually just restored the service with fresh cabling and left the damaged cabling untouched or perhaps lightly coiled but still present. The situation is a nuisance and, in some cases, potentially dangerous (as with the playground pictured above).
One of the ongoing issues with Comcast in the 1999 renewal period was getting underground conduits to be used in the downtown locations, and not to string long reaches of cable across the public parking lots to reach the backs of buildings facing Front Street.
One of the conditions of the 1999 franchise renewal was for Comcast to locate a 'head end' for the school district in one of its buildings. At the time, the District installed a studio in the basement of the new media wing at Maxson School. In the intervening years that studio seems to have been abandoned. With the advent of the PAAAS school on West Front Street, the question needs to be looked into once more.
The 1999 renewal provided for grants from Comcast to equip Plainfield's public access station, With reports that much of the original equipment 'disappeared' during the first term of Mayor Robinson-Briggs, the question of whether Comcast will offer such aid again this time around should be on the table.
While the municipality is banned from negotiating rates, one of the top complaints of customers in the 1999 renewal was the Comcast practice of 'bundling' channels in subscription packages. Many subscribers complain that they are paying for channels that they never watch and would like to be able to have their bill based on selecting from a menu of channels. (NPR recently noted that approximately $20  of every month's Comcast fees nationwide goes to pay for ESPN, though many subscribers do not watch the sports channel.
Lastly, there is the question of franchise payments. While the system with the BPU having the final say has guaranteed a steady rate for Comcast of 2% of subscriber fees to the municipality, the entry of Verizon into the field meant that under certain circumstances Comcast must raise its fee to the municipality to 3½%. Do the Council even know if that is the case in Plainfield and under what conditions the fee would go up?

While residents now have many more options to view content traditionally supplied by Comcast (including Verizon FiOS, satellite networks and Internet services), Comcast has not stood still and is positioning itself as a basic supplier of Internet connectivity. That raises the question highlighted by resident Ora Bailey-Hill at last week's Council meeting. Should Comcast be forced to offer lower-speed Internet connectivity at a lower price to those who wish connectivity without the cable TV?

The fundamental question remains, however: Does the Council have any leverage in the Comcast renewal process?

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Temp budget: 'Fair' play or 'Dirty politics'?

'Fairness' in the age of chivalry didn't mean you wouldn't get killed,
it meant there were rules by which everyone played.
Plainfield's Council President Bridget Rivers made much at last Thursday's council meeting of the need to be 'fair' about the Mapp administration's proposed temporary budget. Fair enough, but is there something else going on? Dirty politics?

The concept of fairness arose in the Middle Ages as part of the knightly code of chivalry -- an elaborate set of rules, behaviors and expectations for conduct among knights and in making war.

In an age where deadly force was all too common, 'fairness' didn't mean you weren't likely to get hurt -- or even killed -- it meant you knew what sort of behaviors to expect from your opponents and what behaiors you were expected to show them.

So, is Council President Rivers wants to be 'fair', that implies behaviors nd expectations on both sides of the spat over the temporary budget appropriation.

A Council majority has made little secret it is unhappy over Mayor Mapp's proposal to fund some lines more than others -- in particular, appropriations for his office, which includes his chief of staff.

Though the Council approved the position (and salary range) for a chief of staff even before Mapp took office as mayor, there seems now to be a sticking point.

'Fairness' suggests the Council should either fund the position without questions (as it did in the past for Mayor Robinson-Briggs' confidential aide) or openly and frankly explain its objections.

There is a further procedural 'fairness' that also needs to be observed, and that is making sure that the Council's committee system works properly and according to some basic rules.

At last Thursday's meeting, Councilor Storch expressed surprise that Councilor Reid spoke as if for the entire Finance Committee even though, according to Storch, it had not met. The committee is composed of Councilors Reid (as chair), Storch and Taylor. If Reid and Taylor consulted without including Storch, that would not be fair.

'Fairness' has to be practiced by everybody in the game and all the time, not just by some and when they like.

Otherwise, you have what Councilor Taylor might call 'dirty politics'.

And 'dirty politics' is something that is definitely not 'fair' -- nor do we need it.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Primary campaigning starts up

They've started...

Residents of Plainfield's First Ward are already being bombarded with robocalls in the first moves of this year's primary campaign season, according to reports received last week.

And the filing deadline for petitions is still over  week away.

Robocalls were introducing RDO candidate Diane Toliver, a political newcomer, to First Ward residents. Toliver was designated by Plainfield Dem chair Assemblyman Jerry Green to run for the seat of Councilor William Reid, who has chosen to step down.

Spending precious campaign dollars at such an early date is most unusual for Green, who has a reputation for being tight-fisted with campaign money. But maybe he smells trouble.

The RDO slate, singlehandedly put forward by Green at a city committee meeting on March 14 wihtout input or voting by the elected committee members will face off against a New Dem team led by incumbent Wards 2/3 Councilor Rebecca Williams.

The RDO's other cnadidates are Charles Eke, who is running against Ms. Williams and  Gloria Taylor, who is facing off against Charles McRae.

Eke, currently an altenrate on the PMUA board of commissioners has been yearning for a Council seat for years.

Taylor, widoe of the late mayor Rick Taylor, was handpicked by Green in January to fill the seat left vacant when former Ward 3 Councilor Mapp was sworn in as mayor. While bringing a welcome touch of elegance to Council meetings, several of her statements have raised eyebrows among seasoned politics watchers in the Queen City.

Rumors abound that Councilor Reid, who publicly announced he was not running at this past month's PMUA board meeting, will step down early to allow Green to instal Ms. Toliver in the tried-but-true switcheroo maneuver so she can have the so-called advantage of incumbency.

We shall see.

The deadline for petitions for the Ward 1, Ward 3 and Wards 2/3 at-large seats is Monday, March 31, at 4:00 PM.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Local authors in booksigning at Library today

Area authors will sign copies of their books today.
Seven area authors will be at the Plainfield Public Library this afternoon to sign copies of their books. The event is part of the continuing annual book sale by the Friends of the Plainfield Public Library (FOPPL).

Longtime Plainfield activist and cultural maven Nellie Dixon will be on hand to sign copies of her new published murder mystery 'Midnight Mayhem'.

Nellie will be known to many as one of the prime movers for many years of the annual Plainfield Outdoor Art Festival as well as her time as an executive with the Plainfield YWCA.

Also participating in the event will be --

  • Linda Barth, whose books include a history of invention in New Jersey as well as a pictorial book on the Delaware & Raritan Canal. She is currently executive director of the League of Historical Societies of NJ;

  • Tom Brown, retired president of Union County College and Plainfield resident, who recently completed a history of the college titled 'Creating a Leader Among Its Peers', tracing the years from 1990 - 2010;

  • Janet Hillman, whose special interest is children's books keyed to literacy;

  • Eric Neirstedt, a writer of fantasy and science fiction who will sign copies of his 'The Lightrider Journals'. Eric is also the son of Plainfield's Planning Director Bill Nierstedt;

  • Joanne Rajoppi, who besides being the Union County Clerk is an author and will sign copies of her recently published 'New Brunswick and the Civil War'; and

  • Azuka Zuke, a motivational speaker and author who will be signing copies of his book 'The Power to Excel: Reaching For Your Best'.
The book signing will take place from 2:00 - 4:00 PM in Room 2 on the Library's lower level, adjacent to the Book Sale taking place around the pool area.

The Plainfield Public Library is at Park Avenue and West 8th Street and is an accessible facility. Parking is available in the 8th and 9th Street lots.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Council president promises temp budget by March 31

March 31 deadline is fast approaching.

Plainfield City Council unanimity on 49 of 50 resolutions on the agenda for Thursday evening's meeting was striking. But the flap over the 50th item was a doozy, making up for the serenity of the rest of the evening.

With only six members present (Councilor Brown was absent), the meeting got under way a bit late owing to the City Administrator, the mayor and some staff being at the earlier budget presentation at the Senior Center.

Except that the City seems to be parceling out legal work to an inordinate number of lawyers, most of the business was of a routine nature.

The public hearing on Comcast's franchise renewal was perfunctory, with resident Alan Goldstein commenting on the issue of dangling wires throughout the city still not resolved from the damaging Sandy storm well over a year ago. Lamar Mackson, PCTV employee and chair of the Cable TV Advisory Commission explained why the city had missed an earlier 'ascertainment' reporting deadline. (Later in the meeting, resident Ora Bailey-Hill came to the mike to plead for a special, lower rate at lower Internet access speeds for residents who couldn't afford the cost of full Comcast service, but her remarks were not part of the official hearing.)

Even the new items -- which must be added to the agenda by a minimum of five votes -- went swimmingly. Until the fateful Resolution 121-14, the Mapp administration's proposal of a six-month temporry budget appropriation.

Council was having none of it, and councilors Greaves, Taylor, Reid and Rivers voted against putting it on the agenda (only Storch and Williams voted 'yes').

Some discussion ensued, with Councilor Storch pressing for details on how the issue would be resolved before the city would be shut down if temporary appropriations were not set.

Council President Bridget Rivers and finance committee chair Bill Reid proposed that the committee (which includes councilors Storch and Taylor) meet with the just-appointed budget consultant to the Council and the Mapp administration to work out a 'fair' (Councilor Rivers' term) proposal for the Council, after which Rivers would set the date and time for a special Council meeting to adopt the temporary appropriation that would keep City Hall open and running.

In response to my questions from the mike, Council President Rivers -- while not setting a date -- promised that all would be attended to before the M<arch 31 deadline.

With two big public meetings already scheduled for Wednesday (on signing up for Obamacare) and Thursday (the first public hearing on Muhlenberg's future), the opportunities for doing this in a way that is fair to the public (to borrow Council President's term) are limited.

Meanwhile, the Council eagerly took up the Mapp administration's budget proposal for CY2014 (Resolution 122-14) in a unanimous vote.

Habitually presented months late during the years of the Robinson-Briggs administration, Mapp's team was able -- even with a late start and no setup from the previous administration -- to present a budget within days of the state deadline for introduction. The administration's celerity earned praise even from Councilor Bill Reid, no fan of either Mayor Mapp or Director of Administration and Finance Ron West.

The Council now must show it can do its part by meeting the state's deadline of April 25 for final adoption. This will be quite a push, considering we have not heard a word yet about the schedule for public budget hearings nor the appointment of the members of the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, the citizen volunteers who shadow the budget process.

Hopefully, Council President Rivers will add these items to the special meeting's agenda to avoid any unseemly delays in the budget process.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Library's annual book sale kicks off Friday

For many, the annual book sale is a family affair.

Friday marks the kickoff of the Plainfield Public Library's much-loved annual book sale. The event is sponsored (and staffed) by the Friends of the Plainfield Public Library (FOPPL), and is their major fundraiser. Proceeds provide extra resources throughout the year for programming in the Library's jungle-themed Young People's Room.

An added feature will be an author booksigning on Saturday from 2:00 - 4:00 PM featuring seven area authors (more later).

Here is the schedule --

The event kicks off with a Preview on Friday morning from 9:30 AM - Noon. The preview is free to FOPPL members, with a $10 entry fee for non-members.
The general public is welcome from Noon to 4 PM on Friday and then during regular hours from Saturday, March 22, through Saturday, March 29.
Volunteers have sorted the tremendous number of donated and de-accessioned books into categories for your browsing pleasure. Included are gently used hardcovers, softcovers, paperbacks and audio visual materials.

There is always plenty of fiction as well as a wide selection of nonfiction, including history, cooking and food, children's books, religion and philosophy, and many other subjects. (Last year, I scored several fine art books on various modern artists.)

Prices range from $2 for hardcover books to 25¢ for paperbacks. These will be reduced further from next Monday through the end of the sale.

While you're at the Library, be sure to check out the Women's History Month exhibit in the lobby showcases. Kudos to the staff for assembling this interesting material!

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Rotary's annual winetasting event will also honor Marilyn Birnbaum

Retiring North Plainfield Schools Superintendent
Marilyn Birnbaum to be honored.
The Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield will honor Marilyn E. Birnbaum, superintendent of schools in North Plainfield, with its 2014 Service Above Self Award at the club’s 15th annual wine-tasting dinner on March 25 at Giovanna’s Restaurant in Plainfield.

“This annual award is presented to community leaders who best exemplify the Rotary International motto of ‘Service Above Self,’ ” said Mary Forbes, club president. “We are recognizing Marilyn for her long and distinguished career in North Plainfield’s school district, along with her service to our club as president and as liaison to our Interact Club at North Plainfield High School.”

The dinner is also a fundraiser for the Rotary Club’s scholarship program.

“We award $6,000 each year to graduating seniors from North Plainfield and from Plainfield high schools,” Forbes said. “The dinner is a great way for people to not only recognize Marilyn’s many achievements and her dedication, but to also enjoy a delicious, five-course dinner with fine wines accompanying each course.”

Birnbaum served as president of the Rotary Club for two years, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. In her capacity as liaison to the Interact Club, she has promoted the club’s service activities and serves as an outspoken proponent of its members and projects.

“We have a close working relationship with the Interact Club,” said Michael Townley, Rotary Club secretary. “One of our fundraising projects is working the concession stands at Rutgers basketball games. Interact members are there for every game, and when Marilyn is also there, you cannot miss the affection she has for her students, and they for her. She attends every school event because she truly cares for all of her students.”

Birnbaum has been involved in education for 43 years. She began as a substitute teacher in 1970 and became a high school English teacher the following year. Ten years later, she became a supervisor/administrator in the same school district, with the main charge of developing, implementing and supervising the first adult high school for the district.

As an administrator, she also worked on various districtwide efforts, including the ESL/Bilingual and Basic Skills programs, K-12.

In August 1992, Birnbaum became assistant superintendent in North Plainfield. In this role, she directed curriculum development, improvement and evaluation; organized, directed and supervised the districtwide subject area supervisors to provide a comprehensive educational program of instruction and services; planned and implemented in-service training and professional development programs; coordinated all funded programs and grants in the district; coordinated pupil assignments; served as Affirmative Action Officer; and coordinated and monitored the districtwide testing program.

In February 1995, she became superintendent of schools in North Plainfield. In this capacity, she has encouraged the development of curriculum and programs that meet the needs of all students and nurtured collaborative relationships with outside sources, such as Rutgers University. This past week, Birnbaum announced that she will be retiring from the superintendent’s position at the end of this school year.

Birnbaum’s experience has crossed over to business and industry. She has been a training and development consultant for Concept Training Seminars in New Jersey and Lockheed Corp. in California. She has designed, developed and implemented a variety of writing programs, along with manuals for diverse employee groups, and developed and collaborated on other human resource development programs.

Birnbaum has been affiliated with a variety of professional associations. In addition, Birnbaum is involved in research, activities and programs associated with Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Education and also serves as a part-time lecturer in the departments of teaching and learning and educational psychology at Rutgers.

Birnbaum received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1970 from Queens College, City University of New York, and a master’s degree in education in 1984 and doctorate in educational administration, supervision and adult education in 1990 from Rutgers University.

Tickets for the dinner are available by emailing or calling Michael Townley at (908) 822-1441. Parties of six or more may reserve a table.

For more information about the Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield, visit The club meets at 12:15 PM Wednesdays at Giovanna’s Restaurant, 1462 South Avenue in Plainfield.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

City holding two forums on Obamacare this Wednesday and next

Residents will be offered help on Obamacare.

With the deadline for enrollment in Obamacare fast approaching, Plainfielders
who have yet to make their move are being offered some timely help by Mayor Adrian Mapp in the form of two information sessions being held this Wednesday and next. Below is the press release from the mayor's office emailed Monday --


Plainfield, NJ – March 17, 2014 – Mayor Adrian Mapp has announced two information sessions on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for Plainfield residents in partnership with the Urban League of Union County.  The sessions will provide information and offer on-site enrollment.  

“This partnership with the Urban League of Union County provides a valuable service for Plainfielders without health insurance,” said Mapp.  “With the registration deadline of March 31 rapidly approaching, we are reaching out to provide answers to questions about ACA and help those who would like to enroll.”

The two sessions will be held at the Plainfield Public Library on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 and Wednesday, March 26, 2014 from 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm.  The session on the 19th will offer an overview of ACA and a question and answer session with Clifton Alexander of the Urban League of Union County.  Mr. Alexander is a Certified Marketplace Navigator.  The second session on the 26th will offer on-site enrollment assistance.

“Over 120,000 New Jerseyans  now have health care coverage through ACA, with many of those enrolled qualifying for federal assistance,” said Mapp.  “These sessions are designed to help our residents answer the questions they may have about their options and to take advantage of the assistance that is available to them.  Ultimately, ACA will help us achieve our goal of a healthier Plainfield.”
I noticed that the press release was not on the city's website as of early Tuesday morning -- not a good sign. And, thinking to check the calendar (see here), it did not appear there either. However, there was a notice on the calendar AND on the site's front page that Mayor Mapp would be leading a budget presentation at the Senior Center on Thursday at 7:00 PM -- this is the first I have heard of it. Note that the Council's postponed March 10 meeting is also being held on Thursday evening at 8:00 PM at the courthouse.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Digging up your roots at the Library

Two workshops for exploring your family roots
are being offered at the Plainfield Public Library.

Those Plainfielders interested in learning more about their family history will want to mark their calendars for two upcoming family history workshops at the Plainfield
Public Library.

This Thursday, March 20, you can join others in a hands-on computer-assisted tour of free online genealogical resources under the leadership of the Library's Local History staff. The program will run from 2:30 - 4:00 PM in the Computer Center on the main floor. The event is free and open to all, but because of space limitations, you must register in adance. To register, call the Local History Department at (908) 757-1111 x136.

Following up on the above is another workshop, previously scheduled for February but pospoend on account of the weather. On Saturday, March 22, genealogist Teresa Vega will help you explore the possibilities of discovering more about your genealogy from DNA testing. (I have done it, and the results are fascinating.) You can learn more about Ms. Vega's presentation from my previous post (see here).

This workshop will be held in the Anne Louise Davis Meeting Room and is open to all, no registration required. It will run from 10:00 AM to Noon.

The Plainfield Public Library is at Park Avenue and West 8th Street and is an accessible facility. Parking is available in the 8th and 9th Street lots.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

PMUA notes

Overheard at the PMUA.

Two interesting items caught my ear at last Tuesday's Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) board meeting.

The first was when executive director Dan Williamson reported to the Commissioners that he had received a letter from the City's corporation counsel, David Minchello, reiterating questions asked by Ron West, the city's Director of Administration and Finance in an email of February 10.

Gien the history of miscommunicaiton and poor relations between the city and the solid waste agency, I don't know which surprised me more: that the City would try to communicate through an email, which is a relatively informal channel, or the discoery that Mr. Williamson evidently doesn't do email.

The second item of interest was when Councilor Bill Reid extemporized in presenting a Council resolution of thanks to outgoing commissioner Alex Toliver, when he said that he wanted to reassure the commissioners that he was determined not to give advice and consent to any nominees who might consider unwinding the PMUA and re-absorbing it into the city's operations.

Does this explain the persistent questions from Councilors to nominees about whether they had ever signed a petition protesting PMUA rates or practices?

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Almost no surprises at Plainfield Dem meeting

Former mayor Robinson-Briggs was
circulating a petition, but whose?

Probably much to Assemblyman Jerry Green's relief there were almost no surprises at Friday night's Democratic City Committee meeting.

The evening opened with pitches by Freeholder candidate Chris Hudak and the cndidate for Surrogate (whose name escapes me) as well a CD12 hopefuls Upendra Chivukula and Bonnie Watson Coleman. Watson Coleman has already received the Union County Dem endorsement.

Without discussion or debate, the chairman then introduced 'the candidates I am endorsing' for the June primary: Diane Toliver for Ward 1, Gloria Taylor for the unexpired Ward 3 term, and Charles Eke for Wards 2/3 at-large.

Each made brief stump speeches.

Tolive is the wife of former PMUA Commissioner Alex Toliver. Taylor, widow of the late mayor Rick Taylor, was appointed to Mapp's vacant seat in January. Eke is getting the nod yet again for a try at elected office.

Green graciously gave Councilor Rebecca Williams the floor to make her own pitch for support among the Committee members for her run for re-election to the Wards 2/3 at-large seat -- which will now be off the line.

Williams' running mate for the Ward 3 seat is Charles McRae, longtime neighborhood activist and member of the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee.

The New Dems will announce their candidate for the Ward 1 seat being vcated by Bill Reid shortly.

About the only surprising thing I noticed at the meeting was former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs circulating a petition. Was it for herself or for one of the other candidates?

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Will Green-New Dem 'honeymoon' come to an end tonight?

Those kcik-ass Democrats are at it again...

Will the uneasy year-old alliance between Assemblyman Jerry Green, chair of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee, and the New Dems political club come to an end tonight? That is the question on the minds of many who watch the Queen City's political parade.

With a Council majority that seems unwilling to agree to Mayor Adrian Mapp's reform agenda, and three of seven Council seats up this year, Plainfield Democrats and the city's voters at large once again find themselves at a crossroads.

Now that Green and the leaders of the Fanwood and Scotch Plains parties have endorsed Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman in the 12th Congressional District race, attention will focus on the Plainfield races.

Rebecca Williams, the sitting Councilor for the Wards 2/3 at-large seat has announced her bid for re-election and introduced her running mate for the Ward 3 seat, Charles McRae at last week's Cedarbrook Block Association meeting (see my post here).

Word in the street is that Assemblyman Green has been candidate-shopping, offering Williams' at-large seat line to one of the PMUA's fiercest and most consistent critics who, I am told, declined. Smart money seems to think Green will offer PMUA alternate commissioner Charles Eke yet another swing at the piñata.

The assumption all along is that Green will offer the Ward 3 line to Gloria Taylor, widow of the late mayor Rick Taylor. Taylor was hand-picked over other possibilities (including popular Plainfield teacher Veronica Taylor, who Green had previously publicly backed) to fill the vacancy created when Mapp had to give up his Council seat on taking the mayor's chair.

Bill Reid, the Ward 1 incumbent, publicly announced at Tuesday evening's PMUA board meeting that he is stepping aside and will not seek re-election this year. This means that Green will have an opportunity in the First Ward also tonight.

Word in the street is that Diane Toliver, wife of the recently replaced PMUA commissioner Alex Toliver, has the nod. With no political experience, she has nevertheless taken the floor at Council meetings in recent months to defend her husband's role as a PMUA commissioner.

Alex Toliver is one of the three commissioners who engineered the $1.2 million severance giveaway to former PMUA executives Eric Watson and David Ervin, a subject which has rankled ratepayers throughout the city.

Such a move by Green would not sit well with Mayor Mapp, who has made it clear that he believes there needs to be a housecleaning at the solid waste agency -- especially in the light of the nearly-year-long forensic audit being undertaken by the state of the authority's business practices.

Tonight's Democratic City Committee meeting gets under way at 7:00 PM at the YWCA. Arrive early to get a seat.

The Plainfield YWCA is at 232 East Front Street (corner of Church Street). Parking available in the YWCA lot and on the street.

Guests are always welcome, but only members of the Committee may participate in discussions and voting.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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