The needler in the haystack.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Former superintendent Steve Gallon in the news again. Uh oh.


Former Plainfield schools superintendent Steve Gallon
is in the news again -- this time it's charter schools in Florida.

Former Plainfield schools superintendent Steve Gallon III is in the news again. This time it's an exposé by the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel on fiscal and other improprieties at three Florida charter schools for which Gallon's firm Tri-Star had management contracts (see the complete story here).

Among allegations made in the story are Gallon's executing contracts without the approval of the schools' boards, improper salary adjustments, and creating a conflict of interest by engaging in a sideline business venture with a board member.

Additionally, reviews showed that the three schools (located in three separate counties) had major academic issues under Gallon's operation -- including lack of reading, ESL and disabilities programs; lack of study guides and textbooks; and a neglect of math and science. Two of the three schools have since gone under.

It may come as no surprise to Plainfield readers to learn that Gallon's harem (including Lalelei Kelly and Angela Kemp, accused of defrauding the South Plainfield schools by fraudulently using Gallon's home address to enroll their children in that district while living in Perth Amboy) were given jobs by him with these Florida charter schools.

One previously unknown Plainfield connection has surfaced in relation to the Florida charter school story.


One Lenee Clarke, who is said to have been a 'compensation administrator' for the Plainfield school district, was brought on by Gallon's firm for 'support services' at $40,000 annually.

Interestingly enough, Clarke's residence is given as Lithonia, Georgia -- hardly in commuting distance of the Florida schools -- in a house registered in Gallon's name. A source in the Plainfield district says Clarke was employed by the district prior to Gallon's arrival, was promoted during his tenure and quit shortly after Gallon departed.

Same old movie, different background scenery.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Help Plainfield Public Library get more state aid


NJ public libraries like Plainfield's receive per capita aid each year.
 

New Jersey's public libraries -- including Plainfield's -- receive annual support from the state of New Jersey (per capita aid). In recent years, this amount has flatlined, but this year's budget proposal by the Legislature includes a $3 million total increase in the amount for distribution.

The Legislature's budget, passed Thursday, is now headed to Gov. Christie's desk, where the governor is expected to use his line item veto powers to amend it.

The governor can leave the increased library aid in the budget or stirke it.

You can help ensure libraries get this much-needed additional support by emailng the governor through the NJ Library Association's online advocacy link here.

The link takes you to a pre-written appeal to the governor. You may use the letter as it is, or edit (or rewrite it entirely) to suit your points.

Your immediate action is urgently needed as the governor must take action by midnight June 30 to avoid a government shutdown.

Please take a moment now to offer your support for all the state's public libraries.

And thanks!


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

6th Annual SID Block Party this Saturday


Crowds throng the annual SID Block Party.
 

Plainfield's Special Improvement District (SID) hosts its 6th annual block party this Saturday from Noon to 4 PM on Front Street between Park and Watchung Avenues.

There is a full lineup of musical groups throughout the event, with the Plainfield High School Marching Band and Dancers kicking off with the National Anthem at noon.

Other groups include Marley-Mar Band, Bollywood Dancers, Son Bacanos, DFO, and Maribella y sus Bellas. Ronald McDonald will make a guest appearance.

The block party offers entertainment for the kiddies, a car-truck-bike show, and local vendors. Nonprofits and other community organizations will also have informational booths.

The rain date is Saturday, July 12.

To learn more about the SID, visit their website at www.positivelyplainfield.org/.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Alex Toliver: Dirty old man, Ungrateful wretch, or Dangerous stalker?


Image of a message from Toliver posted on
Councilor Williams blog. (Click to enlarge.)
 
The question of the day for Plainfielders concerns Alex Toliver. Is the former PMUA commissioner a dirty old man, an ungrateful wretch, or a dangerous stalker? Or perhaps all three.

In a rambling and incoherent post on his Facebook page late Sunday or early Monday, the well-known gadfly seems to suggest violence (beheading?) against Councilor Rebecca Williams.

Williams responded to the post, calling Toliver out, and wrote up the incident on her council blog (see here) -- where  she posted his complete text, screen captures of the post, and additional images of private messages Toliver had sent her in the past.

Is he a leering, lecherous old man?

Is he an ungrateful wretch (Councilor Williams, after all, offered a resolution honoring his contributions as a veteran after he was snubbed by then-mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs)?

Is he an obsessive and dangerous stalker?

Or perhaps just a midnight drunk musing at the keyboard?

Several people have said to me they think Rebecca may be in danger. It would no doubt be wise to make the authorities aware of Toliver's behavior.

Lastly, what should Mrs. Toliver, looking at being elected a Councilor herself in November, do about Mr. Toliver's obsession with a younger woman?




Here is the complete text of Alex Toliver's Facebook post (as he typed it in ALL CAPS) --
I WAS JUST WHAT IS WRING WITH ME [ALL IS WELL] I THINK THIS U SHOULD ASK YOURSELF BUT THAT OK IF YOU DONT I WILL TELL YOU WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME IS [YOU] HAVE USED MY WIFE NAME IN ALL OF YOUR WRITTEN AND SPOKEN UN PROVEN LIE YOU USE HER NAME WITH A LASH OUT WHEN SHE CANE UP TO SPEAK AT THE COUNCIL MEETINF I/E ATTACKING THE MAYOR IN YOUR OTHER RGARDING THE PMUA BUT WHAT YOU DID NOT KNOW I HAD RESIGNED!! YOUR OTHER PROPANGANDA USEING MY WIFE DAME I/E ALERS TOLIVER WITH THE CAUSE OS A LAYOFF OF MEN FROM THE PMUA DUE TO YOUR WRONGS FACTS THAT WE SOMEHOW GOT A KICK BACK. NEXT YOU WENT SROM 1 MILLON TO 1.2 MILLION TO 1.5OO MILLION THIS YOUR FACTS BUR GUESS WHAT THE TWO EXC THAT FOUNDED PMUA GOT LESS THEN 800.000 BUT YOU HAVE USE MY WIFE GOOD NAME TO THR AN RUIN HER A PERSON I AN VERY SURE[SHE NOR YOU KNOW VERRY LITTLE ABOUT!!!!] AND YOU HAVE USED HER NAME OVER AND OVER AGAIN IN EHAST EVER AD YOU AND YOUR COHORTS [WSM] HAVE USE WRITTEN AND SPOKED ABOUT MYSELF AND DIANE TOLIVER ARE AS YOU HAVE PPLACE IT DIANE AND THE TOLIVERS I/E PMUA MY WIFE HAVE NEVER ATTEND A PMUA METTING AS SHE WOULD ASK ME WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS FOR SO VERY LITTLE MONEY IT ONLY MAKE OUR TAXES GO UP HIGHER!! THAT IS WHY REBECCA WILLIAMS I HAD RETIRED WELL BEFORE THE NEW MAYOT HAD BEED SEATED!!! BUT YOU DIDNT KNOW THAT DID YOU MY WIFE ONLY STATEMENT AT THE [LASH] OUT AT THE COUMCIL MEETING WAS THAT WE THE REGULAR WORH SO VERY HARD TO GER HIM ELECTER AND NOW HE CHANGE WITHIN 3WEEKS TO BE COME A NEW DEM WHERE DID OUR MONEY GO TO GET HIM ELECTED NO REBECCA WILLIAQLM YOUR HAVE MANY VETERANS AND THE PUBLIC TO ANSWER TO AND IT NOT JUST YOUR FAITH IF YO FEARSE THIS WOULD GET IN THE WAS [WHY DID YOU RUN???] MY WIFE NAME IS DIANE AND BY CHOICE SHE IS CALL TOLIVER MY NAME IA ALEX TOLIVER I HAD NO CHIOCE AND PLEASE GET YOU TWO EXC AFTER 16YRS PAY OUT RIGHT AN LET THE PUBLIC KNOE IT ALEX TOLIVER .PS. IF YOU CARE FOR THE COUNTRY THEN AT LEAST MAKE BIBLE PLEDGE IF YOU ARE RESEATED AGAIN+++++


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Drake House commemorates Washington's visit Wednesday evening


Special open house commemorates Washington's 1777 visit.

Plainfield's Drake House Museum will be open Wednesday evening from 6:30 to 8:30 to commemorate General George Washington's 1777 visit to the farmstead to consult with his officers during the Battle of Short Hills.

Here is the press release from the Historical Society of Plainfield --

In the Footsteps of General George Washington

The Drake House Museum will be open for special evening hours on Wednesday, June 25, 2014, from 6:30PM until 8:30PM to commemorate General George Washington’s visit to the Drake family farmhouse on June 25, 1777.
General George Washington consulted with his officers at the Drake House during the Battle of Short Hills, which was fought over the entire Plainfield area on June 25-27, 1777. Nathaniel Drake, his wife, Dorothy, and daughters Sarah and Phebe, were all patriots. The sons of the family, Abraham, Cornelius and Isaac, and son-in-law Benjamin Manning served in the Essex and Somerset Counties militia, and their freed slave, Caesar, was a wagoner with the Continental forces under Captain William Davison.

On exhibit will be a copy of a Hessian map from June 1777, showing the positions of Lord Stirling, Lord Cornwallis, and  Major General William Howe obtained from the US Library of Congress digital collection.  Copies of Caesar’s Revolutionary War service record obtained from the David Library of the American Revolution and New Jersey State Archives will also be on display.  Digital copies of orders and correspondence written by General Washington during June 1777, obtained from “The Papers of George Washington” online at The University of Virginia, will be available for review.

All are welcome to walk in the footsteps of General George Washington, to look up at the ceiling in the period dining room and view the wooden beams that General Washington saw when he visited the Drake House 237 years ago.
The Drake House Museum at 602 West Front Street (at the foot of Plainfield Avenue) is open to the public Sunday afternoons from 2:00 - 4:00 PM, and at other times by appointment. For more information, call (908) 755-5831 or visit the website at www.drakehouseplainfieldnj.org/.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Queen City Revival


First Atlantic (formerly Queen City Savings)
project is under way.
 
Partners Mario Camino and Daniel Rivera of The Arkad Group are hard at work on two projects in the downtown TOD area: 107 Park Avenue and 130 North Avenue.

Check out their websites at Arkad Group and Queen City Revival or find them on Facebook.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Historical Society annual meeting Sunday at Drake House


The Historical Society of Plainfield maintains and operates
the city's Drake House Museuam.
 

The annual meeting of the Historical Society of Plainfield, which manages the city's Drake House Museum, will take place at the Drake House Sunday afternoon from 2:00 to 4:30 PM.

The Society, formed in the early 1920s to save the historic farmstead from being demolished, operates the Drake House Museum, which is owned by the city. In addition to maintaining the house museum, whose rooms recreate period settings from the 18th and 19th centuries, the Society presents a number of special exhibits and programs of interest throughout the year.

The museum and its activities are maintained by volunteers from the community. A fifteen-member Board sets policy and administers the property.

In a presentation to the Planning Board on the museum's capital projects needs Thursday evening, trustee Nancy Piwowar pointed out the rise in 'genealogical tourism', which is bringing more and more visitors to the Drake House -- including a recent bus tour from Manhattan.

The Society offers a variety of membership levels -- from the standard individual membership at $25 to Seniors/Students at $15 (see more here).

In addition to election of officers and its reorganization, refreshments will be served. Interested persons may join by paying their dues at the meeting.

The Drake House Museum at 602 West Front Street (at the foot of Plainfield Avenue) is open to the public Sunday afternoons from 2:00 - 4:00 PM, and at other times by appointment. For more information, call (908) 755-5831 or visit the website at www.drakehouseplainfieldnj.org/.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Festivals: Is proposed ordinance best way to deal with them?


Growth of festivals since 2009 has brought crowds, costs  and contention to Queen City.
 
Something is missing in the current attempt by City Council and the Mapp administration to address the question of multi-day festivals that call for street and sidewalk encroachments.

Ever since Faraones owner Edison Garcia sponsored the first event in 2009 and then Rodney Maree of Chez Maree piled on, the events have mushroomed, bringing huge crowds to Plainfield as well as traffic congestion and contention over noise and public consumption of alcohol.

After considerable wrangling last year, with the Council voicing the concerns and complaints of residents, it seemed that we might get off on a new foot with a new administration bringing all the stakeholders -- including downtown merchants who say they are negatively impacted -- together to try and work out a mutually agreeable solution.

However, it seems no one has even tried to do so; and the Council proposed that SID representatives be invited to come before it to express their views on the Administration's proposed ordinance (MC 2014-11) at this past Monday's meeting. No one showed, and it seems possible that the Administration did not even invite them.

Quite a discussion ensued among Council members over the Mapp administration's highly restrictive proposal of a single festival per applicant per year. Finally, the proposed ordinance was amended -- after Council President Bridget Rivers and Councilor Vera Greaves protested -- to allow two per year per applicant.

I think both the Council and the Mapp administration could handle this matter much better.

Everyone knows that the last place on earth that meaningful discussion can take place is DURING a Council meeting. Failure to include all the stakeholders in the preliminary discussions and to attempt to cover all the bases and iron out the wrinkles in advance of proposing the ordinance to the Council is shortsighted.

Who are the stakeholders? Well, certainly those who propose to hold these annual events. But also representatives of the merchants who say they are negatively impacted (SID members), as well as representatives from the City Council and leading personnel from the Mapp administration (specifically economic development, public safety and public works).

Such a group, ably chaired, could have a thorough discussion of the positives and negatives of the events, investigate options for making them beneficial for all downtown businesses, tackle the question of expenses and/or loss of revenue by the city and how to recoup them, and consider blocking out a tentative annual calendar which would satisfy all.

All this would take some time and effort, but it would go a long way to building a stronger and more united partnership between city government and the Plainfield business community -- something that is a stated goal of the administration and key to the success of both.

Isn't that what 'One Plainfield, One Future' means?


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Shade tree workshop could help stop unwanted sex in your front yard


Unwanted outcome of tree sex.

A free workshop on Saturday could help stop the unwanted outcome of tree sex on your front lawn.

The Plainfield Shade Tree Commission is hosting the workshop on the selection, care and planting of young trees at the Plainfield Public Library's Anne Louise Davis Meeting Room from 10:00 AM to Noon.

The presenter will be Pam Zipse, trainer for the NJ Shade Tree Foundation. Her presentation will be followed by a Q&A for your questions about tree issues.

Plainfield's Shade Tree Commission has worked to oversee the care and replacement of city-owned 'street trees' throughout the city.

Shade trees, which beautify our neighborhoods and help to cool us during the summer months perform many other important chores, including removing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen, as well as removing carbon from the atmosphere.

The unwanted outcome of tree sex on your front lawn?

I had in mind ginkgo trees, which are common and useful in Plainfield as attractive, hardy, disease resistant and pollution-immune.

However, the ginkgo is a 'sexed' tree -- with separate male and female plants. You do NOT want them having sex in your front yard.

The male is unobjectionable, but the lovely plum-like fruits borne by the fertilized female are obnoxious. Thousands of the ripened fruits will drop from a female tree and fill the air with an overwhelming and unrelenting smell of dog poop if allowed to rot on the ground.

The seeds, however, are edible and considered a delicacy in many Asian cuisines. If you're interested, read more at the Serious Eats blog here.

If you want to check out a couple of local examples, see the specimens on Central Avenue near bend at the corner of West 9th Street, and on Radcliffe Place or Lansdowne Terrace (I can't remember exactly which).

The workshop is free and open to the public. 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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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

6 months in, Council and Mapp administration still dealing with Robinson-Briggs manure in the roadway


Robinson-Briggs administration, the gift that keeps on giving.

Six months into Mayor Adrian Mapp's term, both Council and administration are still picking up the manure dropped in the roadway by the Robinson-Briggs administration.

Last night, it was Resolution 243-13. On its face, it is intended to contractualize the relationship with a vendor the Mapp administration says has been videotaping City Council meetings for 'at least a year'.

Everyone seemed to weigh in --

  • Lamar Mackson asserted it was an attempt to replace his son Lamar with a contracted provider;

  • Former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs used the resolution as the 'hook' for her comments on the firing of Lamar Mackson, saying if he was fired as an 'at will' employee, there should be an explanation;

  • Council President Bridget Rivers demanded to know the reason for the resolution but did not comment when informed the Mapp administration wished to formalize the relationship begun under Robinson-Briggs;

  • Councilor Taylor said of the resolution, 'I don't like that way of doing business...this is not right...I don't like doing business like this'.
Administration & Finance Director Ron West was summoned to the mike twice to explain the resolution. Seeming to try and keep his annoyance under control, West tartly told the Council that the resolution was meant to correct a situation inherited from the prior administration.

West explained that the young woman doing the taping had been a city employee and was let go in 2013. However, under Lamar Mackson's direction she was then paid at an hourly rate to videotape the Council meetings. No explanation of the set-up was ever made by Mackson or Robinson-Briggs and casual observers were probably unaware.

After this little kerfuffle, when the item finally came up in the order of business it was passed unanimously by voice vote without further comment.




Well, lookee here...

This is just one more example of horse manure left in the roadway by the Robinson-Briggs administration. Last month, in adopting the budget, the Council discreetly added a line item to cover over $3,000 in eats and treats from Leon's Catering in North Plainfield for which Robinson-Briggs had never submitted purchase orders during her term. Seems the Council is quite willing to overlook her sloppiness while holding Mayor Mapp to a different standard. Where is Councilor Taylor's statement of shock at 'that way of doing business'?

THE MAPP TRANSITION REPORT

Lamar Mackson, speaking once again about his son Lamar's firing, used Resolution 243-14 as a way in. But his main focus was on criticizing the Communications section of the Mapp Transition Team report. (See the full online report here; the relevant sections are the executive summary with nine recommendation on pages 12-13; and the full committee report on pages 45-50, which notes findings gleaned from interviews -- including with Lamar Mackson -- and includes 11 immediate action steps and six 6-month projects).

The elder Mackson points out that the [now ex-] Public Information Officer served on that committee and suggested her subsequent hiring by the Mapp administration was 'set up', and insisted the report was 'completely negative' and included no mention of the positive things [Lamar] had done.

As the chair of that committee, I think the report stands on its own two feet and invite everyone interested in the Mackson matter to read it in full.

Lamar Mackson cooperated completely with the committee in examining the role of PCTV in the overall communications structure of the City. The point of the whole transition investigation and report was to give incoming Mayor Adrian Mapp an overview of the situation on the ground with various areas of city government and to highlight concerns and issues that needed immediate addressing as well as longer-range planning.

I stand by the committee's findings, its report and its recommendations (which made no mention of the tenure of any employee -- including Mackson).

If Robinson-Briggs had cared so much for Mackson's job security, why didn't she do more to ensure his civil service status? For that matter, why didn't Mackson himself do more?

Is it time to move on?

And to hope there is no more Robinson-Briggs horse manure in the road ahead?


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Monday, June 16, 2014

Artist who grew up in Plainfield is a rising star


A painting by former Plainfielder Kyle Bartlett.

Kyle Bartlett, who grew up in Plainfield, is making a big impression as a rising artist.

Kyle was featured in The Boston Globe this weekend as an up-and-coming artist (see the online story here).

Bartlett and his siblings lived in Plainfield on Loraine Avenue near Osborne and later on Charlotte Road. His parents, Phil and Karen Bartlett, were neighbors of and good friends with Councilor Cory Storch and his wife Lois Mattson.

Kyle is a graduate of Holy Cross College, where he launched his career as an artist with a successful senior show. His focus has been on oceanscapes, landscapes and portraiture, but he has also been commissioned for commercial pieces. You can see a sampling of Kyle's portfolio online here.

Congrats to Kyle and to Phil and Karen, who were in town for a recent visit.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Remembering my Dad on Father's Day


My dad, Lloyd (known to all as Bus), boating
on Cassadaga Lake in the 1950s.


My Dad was a complicated man. Child of the Depression who had to go to work at 15 when his father died while plowing the fields after lunch one day.


An early member of the SWOC (Steelworkers Organizing Committee), precursor of the mighty CIO steelworkers' union, he later become a staunch Reaganite.

He was a SeaBee during WWII.

He worked as a welder in the ALCO locomotive factory and later as a welding methods inventor in the labs of the Olin Corporation.

He married my mother after getting her pregnant, a marriage that lasted for over a decade. But he was also a ladies' man, with girlfriends in every town where the Greyhound bus he drove whenever the mill was on strike stopped.

He married three times and fathered five children. His third wife, Annie, was the love of his life and settled him down.

The last decades of his life, in Arizona and Florida, were perhaps his most creative, where he spent time making craft pieces of welded found objects and served as a Deputy Sheriff.

A complicated man, a member of the Greatest Generation, who never dreamed of leaving home but went far in life.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Paul Beckwith passes

Just learned through a post on Facebook (see here) that Paul Beckwith passed away yesterday.

Many will recall Paul and his partner David Cannell for the years in which they lived in Plainfield at their home Beau Rieve on Highland Avenue and were active in the community before David retired from L'Oreal and they moved to New Hope, PA.

Expressions of sympathy may be left on Paul's Facebook page here.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Latin Dance Concert at Library Saturday


The Library celebrates Plainfield's diversity. Here, a performace
by the folkloric dance group Sentir Criollo.

Everyone is invited to a free Latin Dance Concert Saturday sponsored by FOPPL (Friends of the Plainfield Public Library).The event takes place outdoors on the steps of the College Place side of the building from 3 to 7 PM.

The free concert features Grupo Musical Salvacion and will include free Salsa lessons. Lawns chairs or blankets will make for a comfortable sit.

The event will be one of the last for this side of the Library in its current state. Extensive renovations to the deteriorating concrete steps that surround the Library will put the outside of the building off limits next year.

Saturday's event is a free gift to the community by FOPPL, whose mission is to promote and support programming at the Plainfield Public Library. The Friends' activities raise funds that help supplement the city's underwriting of the Library's operations.

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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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Crime Notes: Peeping Tom caught on Madison Avenue


This just in: A Peeping Tom was caught by Plainfield police about 4:00 AM this morning after a foot chase ending on the front steps of a Madison Avenue residence.

According to my source, the peeping perp told police he was on his way to visit his girlfriend.

Also received a call last evening about three recent shootings in Plainfield, none of which have been reported in the media.

I noted on CLIPS recently that a young man had been arrested and charged with attempted murder in a shooting on Moffett Avenue on May 16. Though that shooting went initially unreported in the media, it happened in the neighborhood of someone involved in the primary election campaign who had anecdotally reported it to the rest of the campaign team the next day.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mapp administration's media firing causes uproar at Council


Lamar Mackson with Stillman School students.
 
The firing of PCTV's Lamar Mackson brought 14 residents out to speak in his defense at Tuesday evening's City Council agenda-setting session, taking up the first hour of the meeting.

Councilor Bill Reid was not present and Councilor Vera Greaves was elected chair pro tempore of the committee of the whole in his absence. Councilor Rebecca Williams, who teaches on Tuesday evenings, arrived at 9:04 PM. Mayor Adrian Mapp, who serves as Orange's finance director was not present (Tuesdays are Orange's regular council meeting nights).

Ostensibly, the comments were in relation to a proposed ordinance (MC 2014-15) requiring all City Council meetings to be televised.


Resident comments ranged from 'word on the street' statements from Delois Dameron that there is sentiment for Mayor Mapp to be recalled to the suggestion by Plainfield Chamber of Commerce president Jeff Dunn that Mapp's advisers are not giving him good advice to the comments of recently-retired Nancy Jordan that Mackson is being 'penalized behind the domino effect' [of the budget cuts] and the blame needs to be shared by the Council, adding 'it's not all just Mayor Mapp'.

Many, including his father, Lamar Mackson, Sr., noted his long roots in the community, his volunteerism, his role in producing the legendary Rhythm & BLues By the Brook concerts, his support of the YWCA's efforts to launch a theater group, and other worthy contributions.

One startling allegation -- which I find hard to believe, though -- was that Mackson is said to have called out Comcast and Verizon for failure to pay their annual franchise fees. This would have been under the Robinson-Briggs administration and I am surprised at the claim the cable operators would have violated the terms of their franchise agreements -- and that Robinson-Briggs would not have made a public fuss about it.

Neither Mayor Mapp's chief of staff, who is supposed to speak for the mayor when he is otherwise occupied, nor the city's press officer were present, leaving City Administrator Rick Smiley to try and explain the Mapp administration's move. He was interrupted by Council President Bridget Rivers and never really given a chance to make a full and coherent statement about the matter.

What did emerge from the back-and-forth was that Mackson was terminated on Wednesday, June 4, the day after the Primary election. The Mapp administration made no public statement on the firing or the situation regarding the Media Division generally in light of the Council's budget cuts.

Several questions remain unasked and unanswered: What was Mackson's employment status to begin with? Was he a permanent employee with union protections or not? If not, why not? If it was a firing 'for cause', is the Mapp administration prevented from discussing the details without Mackson's consent? Why didn't Mackson speak on his own behalf?

Councilor Gloria Taylor called for an investigation. Council President Rivers suggested that one solution might be to bring Mackson back as a consultant. Most agreed finally that the matter should be, as Councilor Taylor said, 'discussed behind closed doors'. (I wonder whether it meets the legal threshold for an item for executive session discussion.)

This is the second month in a row with a brouhaha (last month it was the Council's vote to 'disapprove' Mayor Mapp's taped presentation on his vision for the city). That is not a good sign.

To restore public confidence, the Mapp administration needs to present a full and reasoned explanation of its actions and how they fit into a long-range plan for the city. Else we shall continue to see these contretemps -- to the embarrassment of the Mayor and the city.

You will also want to read the observations on the matter by bloggers Bernice Paglia (here), David Rutherford (here) and Dr. Yood (here).


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Eric Jackson wins runoff election for mayor of Trenton


Eric Jackson will become Trenton's next mayor
.
 

Word came at 9:10 PM during the City Council agenda-setting session that Eric Jackson had won the runoff election for Mayor in Trenton.

Council President Bridget Rivers interrupted Director of Administration and Finance while he was asking the Council to add two new items to next week's agenda. She said she had just received a text that Jackson had won. President Rivers added that this was Trenton's gain and Plainfield's loss.

Jackson has served since the Robinson-Briggs administration as Director of Public Works and Urban Development.

Congratulations, Eric!

Trenton gets the benefit!


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Streetscape issues surface on North Avenue


Soil beneath pavers has subsided in spots.
Whose job is it to repair?
 
Back in the days when Plainfield's North Avenue Historic District was created, the city played a role that now raises a question.

When the late Bill Hetfield and publisher Dr. Henry Johnson and his wife Jan were active in promoting the district of Victorian commercial buildings as an anchor for a revitalized downtown near the train station, the city pitched in with some streetscape improvements.

Among them was to fill in the space between the sidewalk and the curb from Park Avenue to Gavett Place with brick pavers and some street trees. That was about thirty years ago.

Now, earth beneath brickwork has subsided in front of several buildings on the south side of North Avenue, leaving dangerous openings for passersby to step over.

The Division of Inspections has written up some of the property owners, insisting they must repair the sunken areas.

Tonight's agenda contains an item of interest (Z-14), concerning a DOT grant for streetscaping for the North Avenue Historic District.

Could this be a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing? Will the proposed streetscaping include repairs or redesign of the current brickwork? Should the Mapp administration withdraw the citations against individual owners? Who is responsible for maintenance and repair when the City takes on a streetscape project (as it has in several areas of the central business district)?

Will discussion at tonight's Council meeting shed any light on the issues?


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Monday, June 9, 2014

Plainfield Habitat 'blitz' project begins today


The foundation for the 'blitz' home was laid in April.
(Photo courtesy Greater Plainfield Habitat.)
 
Plainfield's chapter of Habitat for Humanity gets to work on its 'blitz' project at 1034 West Third Street today.

Local builders and construction firms are joining Habitat volunteers in raising the walls of the home between Monday and Friday of this week. The Greater Plainfield Habitat is accepting applications from qualifying families for the home.

While the national Habitat organization hopes to raise 260 homes naitonwide during this year's blitz', the Plainfield project is the only one being undertaken in New Jersey.

Three New Jersey builders are partnering with Greater Plainfield Habitat in the project: Danny Rossi of Premier HFSC, Bill Marmo of Marmo Homes, and Rodney Walsh of the Pulte Group.

Rev. Jeremy Montgomery, executive director of the Plainfield affiliate, came before the Council recently with members of his board to request the city's cooperation in the project by expediting permits and inspections. The Council and the Mapp administration pledged the city's assistance.

In its twenty-five years of work in the community, the Greater Plainfield Habitat has built 35 homes for low-income families. As the group likes to say, it 'offers a hand up, not a hand-out', and those who qualify for the homes put a minimum of 200 hours per adult in sweat equity into their construction.

The Plainfield affiliate's other current project is a five-home development on West 7th Street dubbed 'Habitat Village'.

For more information about the 'blitz' program or volunteering to work with Habitat, contact the Rev. Jeremy Montgomery at (908) 769-5292 or by email to blitz-build@gphabitat.org. Greater Plainfield Habitat is located at the corner of Randolph Road and Park Avenue in Plainfield.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Plainfield Gardens Tour (corrected info)


The Shakespeare Garden, maintained by the Plainfield Garden Club
and open to the public year-round is in its full glory in June.

Attendees may purchase day-of tickets ($30/person) and start the self-guided tour at 1200 Denmark Road. Tickets may be bought in advance at Swain Galleries or Enchantments, 234 South Avenue, Fanwood.

Plainfield's historic Shakespeare Garden will be the final stop of a tour this Sunday that includes the grounds and gardens of seven Queen City residences. A free carillon concert follows at Grace Episcopal Church.

The Shakespeare Garden at Cedar Brook Park will be in prime viewing condition, and the site will be abuzz with activity -- including music supplied by musicians from the Plainfield Symphony and local artists painting and sketching the gardens from various perspectives.

The tour runs from Noon - 4:00 PM Sunday and benefits the Plainfield Symphony, New Jersey's oldest community orchestra.

Tickets for the tour may be purchased in advance for $25/person at Swain Galleries, Watchung Avenue at East 7th Street, or for $30/person the day of the tour. 


CARILLON CONCERT

Also on Sunday, at 4:00 PM, a free carillon concert will be presented for the community at Grace Episcopal Church, East 7th Street at Cleveland Avenue.

The 47-bell Pittis Carillon will be played by two internationally renowned carilloneurs. The program by Janet Tebbel (carilloneur at First United Methodist  Church and the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, both in the Germantown section of Philadelphia) and Lisa Lonie (carilloneur at Princeton University and Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia) will include music from Carmen, as well as baroque music and a medley of tunes from Disney movies.

Grace Episcopal Church is at East 7th Street and Cleveland Avenue. Bring a lawn chair if you wish. Parking available on the street and in the public lot across 7th Street from the church. For more about the Pittis Carillon, one of only four in New Jersey, see the Grace Church website here.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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