The needler in the haystack.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Packed house hears Mapp team's mid-year report

The Senior Center was jam-packed for Mayor Mapp's Town Hall.
Image courtesy Councilor Rebecca Williams -- see her report here.

Plainfield's Senior Center was jam-packed for Thursday evening's Town Meeting presentation by Mayor Adrian Mapp and his administrative team. In fact, there were so many people that I was worried we exceeded the legal limit. Thankfully, no one blew the whistle.

There wasn't a parking space to be found between Roosevelt and Richmond, and attendees also parked on Sandford Avenue and in the Bank of America lot. Olddoc notes he was unable to attend because he couldn't find parking within a walkable distance. This is not a good venue for such a large crowd.

Slated for two hours and starting on time, it was going on ten o'clock when the last comment was made by an audience member.

Mrs. Anna Booker (who noted she is 89 years young) kicked off the evening by making an impassioned plea for civility, saying 'we can disagree without being disagreeable'. In the event, the audience was well-behaved indeed, paying close attention to the presentations and being respectfully passionate during the comments period.

Mayor Mapp welcomed the audience and introduced his team -- City Administrator Rick Smiley, Public Affairs and Safety Director Carl Riley, Administration & Finance Director Ron West, Economic Development Director Carlos Sanchez and newest member (and longtime Plainfield resident) Corporation Counsel Vernita Sias-Hill.

The department heads moved through a review of achievements (and outstanding issues) in their respective bailiwicks -- with Mr. Smiley reporting for Public Works and Urban Development, of which he is acting director pending the appointment of a new director. (On that score, Smiley noted that interviews are being conducted with an eye to replacing Eric Jackson -- who was elected mayor of Trenton -- shortly.)

PowerPoint is often abused by presenters who read from the slides as if they were their scripts. Not so this time around -- the PowerPoint presentation was a minimalist outline, giving each department head an opportunity to fill in the details in their own words. Now that's the way PowerPoint should be used!

Unspoken last night was whether the backup materials from which the department heads quoted would be put online along with the PowerPoint presentation. It should be. Let's hope plans to do that are in the works.

Mr. Smiley had perhaps the toughest row to hoe, since the Public Works report covered two items about which residents perpetually complain -- how quickly snow events are handled (we had six this past winter) and potholes (the City rented a special pothole filler and is considering purchasing this expensive piece of equipment).

No fault of John Louise and crew, but the city's streets are still a mess and bone-jarring potholes must still be negotiated carefully citywide. In response to one resident's query as to why we can't just do all the roads at once, Mayor Mapp pointed out that the cost would be estimated at around $100 million -- a sum that the taxpayers would find beyond the realm of possibility.

Mr. Riley noted that violent crimes in the first six months were down 32 percent from the levels in the same period last year. He noted that his management efforts have included daily and weekly data analysis and improved management practices which have had a positive effect on morale. He was particularly proud of the summer Youth Mentoring Academy, which had 21 enrolees between ages 10 and 17. Hopes are to roll the program out on an annual basis.

Mr. Sanchez gave an overview of economic development activity citywide -- including the West End, which has often been overlooked. He noted the new Dunkin' Donuts rising at West Front and Clinton, and concluded his review with mention of interest in a supermarket at a new location -- which drew murmurs of approval from the audience.

Mr. West gave a lively presentation of what could be dull business -- the business of the city's numbers -- tax collections, property liens, inspection issues, a review of PILOTs and more. West brought the house down when he suggested the audience might be able to help him explain why the city had so few dogs and cats -- based on licensing numbers.

Wrapping up the presentations, Mayor Mapp added that the administration is ramping up for a forensic audit of the past several years of the city's finances.

In attendance were Councilors Rebecca Williams, Cory Storch, Bill Reid and Tracey Brown. Mayor Mapp conveyed regrets from Council President Bridget Rivers that she had a conflict and could not attend.

About a dozen or so residents came to the mike to ask questions or make comments. Most were on issues of long standing and importance to residents generally -- street conditions, Muhlenberg Hospital, PMUA rates, and street sweeps.

There were also some expressions of frustration -- one person who was caught in an overlong firearms permit process, several who complained of noise and loud music in various neighborhoods, and one parent asking about recreation programs for children and adults with special needs.

Mayor Mapp took one on the chin when a resident of Leland Gardens came to the mike and expressed his disappointment that after he had given materials on the conditions of streets in Leland Gardens to the mayor's chief of staff -- who promised to get back to the resident -- he never heard back from the mayor's representative. Mayor Mapp took the hit and promised the resident his administration would try to do better.

One extremely frustrated woman, who seemed to be a condo owner from the Monarch, said she had moved to Plainfield about four years ago and felt she had been let down across the board -- the quality of shops, the quality of the schools, and more. The audience, most of whom might share some of her concerns (or even top them), was not receptive and a chant of 'Go, go, go' erupted from many in the rear of the room.

The sense of that interchange seemed to be that however frustrating conditions and the pace of change may be in Plainfield, residents love their town and are committed to it -- through thick and thin.

And that is a pretty good way to end a Town Hall.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

telling a new resident to go because they expressed their frustr?? you call that positive? hate to see your version of negative..

Anonymous said...

Ahhh yes, the New Dem propaganaa machine aparatus in full gear.