The needler in the haystack.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pilgrim Pipeline controversy approaches Plainfield


Sierra Club map of proposed pipeline in our area.
(Click to enlarge or print.)

News of the approaching Pilgrim Pipeline project is gradually seeping into the Plainfield area. Will it bring controversy with it?

Pilgrim has incorporated a NJ subsidiary to develop a 178-mile double pipeline that will run between Linden and Albany, New York (see their website here). The southbound pipeline will bring Bakken crude to Linden for processing; the northbound pipeline will return refined petroleum products to Albany for distribution throughout the northeast from there.

Quite a number of New Jersey towns have become alarmed at the prospect of the takings of local properties for the pipeline and in the bullying manner of Pilgrim in getting surveys for the right-of-way.

Hearing that the proposal through this portion of New Jersey is to use PSEG transmission line rights-of-way, I wondered whether that means the lines that have recently been upgraded by PSEG with the monster pylons which march along parallel to Terrill Road and can be seen passing over the Sears Auto store on Route 22 and Le Grande Avenue just east of the Plainfield line.

The pipeline would pass through densely populated areas of the state, as well as impacting wetlands and woods, according to the Sierra Club (see their website here).

Communities are also concerned about the possible dangers to aquifers through which the pipeline will pass.

This past week alone, Woodbridge, Chatham Boro, Pequannock and Bloomingdale passed resolutions opposing the pipeline, according to the Ledger (see here).

They join the Passaic County freeholders and Watchung, Chatham Township, Madison, East Hanover, Mahwah, Montville, Oakland, Parsippany and Kinnelon which previously passed similar measures.

Those interested in following this issue as it develops will want to check out the following --

  • Facebook page of Coalition Against the Pilgrim Pipeline (CAPP) here;

  • Website of CAPP here; and a

  • Sample resolution for municipalities developed by the Sierra Club here.
If the pipeline goes along the projected route (see map above), it would run parallel to the entire length of Terrill Road, and close to Plainfield's Cushing Basin wetlands.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Family visiting today


Mom, sibs and kids, alias the Connecticut Crew.
 
The Connecticut crew is visiting today -- No post. See you tomorrow.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Housecleaning today


One word says it all.
 
No post today -- housecleaning for family visit tomorrow.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

If your turkey looks like this, you're in trouble


Is this a good sign or a bad one?
 
Besides the annual Plainfield-Westfield Thanksgiving Day game, the other big focus of attention is likely to be the big bird.

But if your turkey looks like the one above, you'll be in trouble -- unless you like your breast meat dry as the Mojave Desert.

The reason, the little plastic thermometer gizmo is set to pop up when the internal temperature of the bird is about 185º -- which is way warmer than needed to be considered done, and guaranteed to make the bird dry as cardboard. (For an overview of how these thermometers work, see a HuffPost article here.)

The feds have a handy website (see here) that lists the 'done' temperatures for a variety of foods (turkey is done at 165º). And don't forget that the turkey continues to cook even after removed from the oven.

Some people brine their turkeys in advance to ensure the breast meat does not turn out too dry.

And if it still turns out to be dry, there's always gravy.

Happy Turkey Day!




  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What ever happened to Plainfield's interfaith Thanksgiving service?


Jennie Branscombe's 20th-century impression of Thanksgiving
is in response to WASP anxieties over newer immigrants (see more here).
Image from Wikipedia.

What ever happened to Plainfield's interfaith Thanksgiving service?

Plainfield
ers used to gather on Thanksgiving Eve for an annual interfaith service hosted by the local ministerial association. But I cannot recall such a communitywide religious service for nearly fifteen years.

The last one that comes to mind was jointly led by a minister, a rabbi and an imam and was held at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Not only can I not recall a more recent service, I am unaware that the clergy of Plainfield have any kind of organization or even get together informally to discuss common concerns.

Thanksgiving Day has a long and convoluted history in the United States. The original celebration in 1621 combined Pilgrim and Wampanoag harvest festivities and featured a communal feast, sporting and games (see here, and here).

For the Pilgrims, it was an opportunity to continue the English Harvest Home customs (see here).

A Day of Thanksgiving was a strictly religious observance, a development of those Calvinist-inspired Protestants who wished to reform the governance and ceremonies of the Church of England.

Those reformers eventually divided into two groups -- the Puritans, who remained in the Church of England, and the Separatists (also referred to as Pilgrims), who withdrew and formed independent congregations.

It was among the Pilgrims at Plimouth Colony that the first Thanksgiving service was held in 1623 (see here).

Relations between the Pilgrims of Plymouth and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were tense and often antagonistic (see here), a fact which has been lost in America's hazy consciousness of its own history.

Have we now completed the circle in Plainfield by forgetting any sense of communal thanksgiving and having only a day of feasting and games?



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

On the Ferguson Grand Jury


Grand Jury proceedings are secret.
Plainfielders who have been following the news about the grand jury called in regard to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in August will no doubt find the outcome troubling and disappointing.

The New York Times reports in considerable detail on the grand jury process and outcome (see here), and includes a link to the documentation being released to the public (see here).

One of the questions on many people's minds was why the grand jury took so long. The Times reveals that the 12-person grand jury met 25 times, hearing 70 hours of testimony and viewing hundreds of exhibits and was only ready to begin deliberations on Friday afternoon.

You can count me among those who think the St. Louis County Prosecutor punted in the case.

Typically, a prosecutor presents just enough evidence to convince a jury that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. It is left to the criminal trial process to sort out all the facts and for a petit jury to render a verdict on the facts and the law.

Prosecutor McCulloch, in my opinion, short-circuited that process by conducting what was essentially a one-sided trial, out of the public's view, in a secret proceeding.

A criminal trial is an open and adversarial proceeding, where we believe a judge and jury work together to ascertain the facts of the case, the applicable law and whether the prosecution has proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Only the prosecutor presents material before a grand jury. There is no 'other' side. The grand jury works in secret; there is no public airing of the prosecutor's evidence and arguments. Further, the grand jury has a variety of options in a case where a homicide is being considered -- everything from a justified homicide up to and including a felony murder charge. All of this has been sidestepped here.

The impression remains that we still have a dual standard of justice despite decades of trying to move forward.

This is not acceptable -- in Ferguson or elsewhere.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Monday, November 24, 2014

Mapp influence may shadow Plainfield for decades


Mayor Mapp will cast a long shadow over Plainfield's future.

Many staffers at Plainfield
's City Hall began their careers under former mayors Everett Lattimore and Rick Taylor.

Lattmore served from 1982 to 1984 and Taylor was mayor from 1984 to 1990. Employees who came on board during their terms have between 24 and 32 years of service and many are approaching retirement age.

With 25 years of service, retirees will get their maximum pension plus complete health insurance coverage for life. That is not a bad deal, and municipal employees throughout the state are considering their retirement move in the light of Chris Christie's continuing attacks on public worker unions and previously agreed-to pension obligations.

It is likely that over the next three years Mayor Adrian Mapp will make employment decisions from division head on down that will affect the quality of Plainfield governance for decades to come.

The irony here is that while a Council majority may stymie Mapp on appointments of top level department heads over one issue or another, there is little they can do about these lower level appointments.

And if you stop to think about, department heads only serve as long as the mayor who appoints them is in office. Lower level employees are in for the long haul.

The one exception over which the Council has a say is the city's residency requirement. While a majority may offer some resistance if Mapp tries to appoint non-residents, Councilors would be in a bind since waivers have been granted to so many current employees. It would make them look especially bad to block qualified applicants.

Once this potential wave of retirees passes over City Hall, those who replace them will likely be in place for the next twenty years or more, meaning that Mayor Adrian Mapp will indeed cast a long shadow over Plainfield's future.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Scuffle damages Library's theft protection system


The security panel on the left is visibly bent after a scuffle.
 

Visitors to the Plainfield
Public Library in recent days will have noticed that a portion of the anti-theft panels near the exit is blocked with yellow CAUTION tape.

Seems that a scuffle broke out after school let out one recent afternoon and in the pushing and shoving a young woman was pushed into one of the panels, snapping it from its vertical moorings.

According to Library Director Joe DaRold, the cost of repairs is estimated at about $5,000.

Unfortunately, I recently learned as Mayor Mapp's designee on the Library Board, public libraries are banned by state law from having a 'rainy day fund' to cover such unplanned-for expenses.

So, the Library will have to find some way to cover the cost of the repairs.

There was no police officer on duty at the time (there is usually one for a couple of hours after PHS lets out each day). One reason for that may be as an unintended consequence of the recent changes to hourly rates for officers on off-duty jobs.

With all the work being done by utility companies calling for traffic control by off-duty officers, it seems the $75/hour police get for those tasks is more attractive than the much lower rate for guarding the library.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

No post today...

No Plainfield Today post today; I have an early morning meeting.

See you tomorrow. -- Dan.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Plainfield Symphony features Strauss Saturday


Salome's dance, as interpreted by Art Nouveau artist Aubrey Beardsley.
 
The Plainfield Symphony continues its 95th season with a program featuring Richard Strauss tone poems this Saturday evening.

Of particular interest will be Salome's Dance of the Seven Veils, drawn from Strauss' opera Salome, whose eroticism scandalized audiences when it premiered in 1905. That opera was based on a French translation of Oscar Wilde's play of the same name.

Strauss' opera in one act not only featured the erotic dance section, but concluded with Salome kissing the severed head of John the Baptist and declaring her love for him.

The program also includes Beethoven's Piano Concerto 3, performed by this year's YPCNJ winner Allen Yueh.

All is under the baton of PSO conductor Charles Prince.

The Plainfield Symphony Orchestra performs at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue. (Parking in the church lot, on the street, or in Swain Galleries lot.)

Tickets: $50/Reserved, $30/General admission, $20/Seniors/Students; under 12 free. Info: (908) 561-5140 or visit the PSO website: plainfieldsymphony.org/.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Drake House hosts meeting on Raritan Valley tourism Saturday


City crews recently trimmed the trees in from of the Drake House.
Plainfield's Drake House will host the November meeting of the Raritan-Millstone Heritage Alliance this Saturday. The Alliance has as its goal increased awareness and tourism in the watershed communities of the Raritan and Millstone Rivers.

Author Jason Slesinski will give a special presentation at 9:30 AM on his new book Along the Raritan River: South Amboy to New Brunswick, which is part of Arcadia Publishing's photographic series.

The Alliance meeting gets under way at 10:00 AM. The Historical Society of Plainfield recently joined the Alliance and this is the first time it is hosting a meeting.

The public is invited. 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 drakehouseplainfieldnj.org/.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why I don't miss Buffalo


That is a wall of snow approaching downtown Buffalo.
The view is from high up in City Hall, looking northwest.
(Image by WBEN, Buffalo's NBC affiliate. Click to enlarge.)
 
No matter how bad, Plainfield
winters cannot top Buffalo in my book.

Having grown up in Chautauqua County, the westernmost county in New York state, I have seen plenty of snow. Enough for a lifetime, actually.

So, when I saw the NBC picture above, evidently taken from high up in the tower of Buffalo's City Hall, I recalled why I don't miss those Lake Erie winters.

That is literally a wall of snow on the left -- you can see just a small bit of Lake Erie in the right middle of the picture.

The current storm has so far dropped four to six feet of snow and Gov. Cuomo has declared a state of emergency in three counties: Chautauqua, Erie (Buffalo) and Cattaragus. 136 miles of the NY Thruway is closed and nothing is moving.

Dunkirk and Fredonia, the two towns closest to where I grew up, have both issued travel bans.

The picture below is taken from the Dunkirk Observer newspaper's building (on the right) looking north on Central Avenue. The avenue ends in State Route 5, known locally as Lake Shore Drive, which runs left to right just beyond the farthest building shown. The end of Central Avenue is a pier into Dunkirk Harbor, which cannot even be seen here.




The view towards Lake Erie from the Dunkirk Observer building.
(Image: Dunkirk Observer.)
 
Even the worst Plainfield winter can't begin to come close.



Dunkirk and Fredonia, near where I grew up, are at the top center.
Buffalo would be above the upper right corner of this map.
\

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Battleground Plainfield: Fulop courting Mapp




Mayor Fulop courts Mayor Mapp.

Plainfield
Mayor Adrian Mapp is an invited guest at a private dinner of 'mayoral heavy hitters' to be hosted by Jersey City mayor Steve Fulop this Wednesday during the League of Municipalities annual conference in Atlantic City.

News of the exclusive dinner meeting broke in the Ledger on Sunday in The Auditor's column (see here), which included a partial list of attendees.

As I suggested after last June's primary election (see post here), Plainfield looks to be a battleground in the 2017 gubernatorial race if Fulop is among the field of candidates.

Fulop has made little secret of his intention to run for governor in 2017 and his wily communications team have kept his name in the public eye. I spotted three stories in the past few days -- here denying he is behind a website urging a run for Guv; here saying he will 'punt' on a Guv run; and here, palling around with powerbroker Brian Stack.

The annual Atlantic City event, famed for its power networking evening receptions of pols and players, is the perfect place to advance a candidate's gubernatorial prospects. With everyone who is anyone gathered in one place, the lure is irresistible.

Sen. Steve Sweeney, also rumored to be preparing a run, will be toasted at a cocktail reception tonight being hosted by his benefactor George Norcross and wealthy Hoboken councilor Beth Mason.

Not to be outdone, a third potential candidate, Philip Murphy, will also host a by-invitation-only event at the League conference. Murphy, a heavy-hitter in Democratic fundraising circles, is a Goldman Sachs alum (as was Jon Corzine) and former ambassador to Germany.

All these goings-on will be putting pressure on Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green, who is chair of the local and Union County Democratic Committees.

Green recently posted on his blog a hand-written bread-and-butter note from Murphy (see here) that may come back to haunt the former ambassador or Jerry -- or both.

Green also has close ties to Sweeney and the Norcross element, so it will be interesting to see which way he goes. Norcross 'wheeled' $32,000 to Jerry through then-Speaker Joe Roberts to aid in Sharon Robinson-Briggs' initial run for mayor in 2005 (see the wayback post here).

No one needs to be reminded Green has bet on the wrong horse before -- he backed Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama, and Linda Greenstein against Bonnie Watson Coleman.

So, will Plainfield be a battleground in the next Guv race? Stay tuned.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Monday, November 17, 2014

A Medicare surprise at the doctor's office


Medicare is tightening up on costs.
I wonder if other Plainfield Medicare patients will have the surprise I got at a doctor's visit on Friday.

Due for my regular quarterly checkup and meds renewals, an office assistant sat with me before the doctor's visit and presented me a card that is being given out to all Medicare patients.

On it were the number and hours for the doctor's office and an 800-number to call if a concern arises when the doctor's office is closed. I was told a live person would answer and discuss my issue. The resolution could be --

  • telling me to arrange for a visit to the doctor the next available day;

  • actually getting the doctor on the phone for a 3-way conversation and resolution; or

  • calling 911 for an ambulance.
When the doctor saw me, he explained that Medicare was moving to control costs by encouraging patients not to use the Emergency Room as their go-to option when the doctor's office is closed.

I like to think that I don't abuse the ER -- the next to last time I visited one was 43 years ago and I was sent home with an appendix about to rupture; the last time I visited one, they cut my leg off -- but I could see the point of controlling costs.

Then he told me that I would be screened for two additional concerns to Medicare: Depression and being a fall risk.

The depression issue we disposed of in 'No' answers to three brief questions -- at the end of which the doctor said, 'I didn't think we were going to find a problem here'.

The fall-risk assessment was a little trickier.

I would have to stand on a platform that moves ever so slightly and measures your reaction. Hands at your side, once with eyes open, once closed.

The doctor told me before the test that I would need a further screening regardless; because of my prosthesis I am considered a fall risk.

When I asked why Medicare didn't already have a profile for me, he said they don't have a database and probably are building it.

This I found somewhat odd, since I have been evaluated for being a fall risk at several points since my amputation --

  • At JFK after the surgery and after heavy-duty pain meds had been withdrawn, so I could get in and out of bed on my own;

  • At Aristacare, where I was sent for rehab before I could be discharged to home;

  • At home, by Muhlenberg's Home Health service before I could be considered completely discharged; and

  • By JFK as part of my outpatient physical therapy program.
So, what's not to know about my being a fall risk?

Medicare is wonderful, but I do wonder sometimes if the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sat/Sun: FiOS problems hit CLIPS, Plainfield Today


Remember these?
 
Problems with FiOS put Plainfield Today and CLIPS out of commission on Saturday. Though I have been able to post briefly, the issues are still not solved completely.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Plainfield architectural details photo exhibit opens Saturday


Fancy brickwork on a Madison Avenue mansion is one example
of Plainfield's architectural heritage.
 

The Plainfield
Public Library's 9th annual photo contest exhibit opens this Saturday morning with a reception in the Anne Louise Davis Gallery from 10 AM to Noon.

This year's theme is 'Roofs, Chimneys and Architectural Details of Plainfield'. According to Library Director Joe Da Rold, more entries were submitted this year than in any previous contest.

Both amateur and professional photographers participate and awards are given in several categories. With prizes funded by the Friends of the Plainfield Public Library, the contest gathers annual contributions to an ongoing photographic record of Plainfield's daily life, people and activities.

The exhibit is available for viewing by the public during normal library hours and will hang through the end of the month.

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, November 13, 2014

St. Mary's, PAS winter coat giveaways this weekend


St. Mary's, PAS coat drives are this weekend.
 
With cold weather approaching, two Plainfield organizations are holding winter coat giveaways this weekend: St. Mary's Church and Plainfield Action Services.

Your donations of gently used winter outerwear -- including coats, caps, gloves and scarves -- would be most welcome.

All sizes and ages are needed. Children's wear is especially needed at PAS, and men's coats and jackets at St. Mary's.

Coats must have working zippers and closures and be without rips or tears.
PLAINFIELD ACTION SERVICES
The 7th Annual Coat Drive is being run in cooperation with the Union County chapter of Jack & Jills. The giveaway is set for Saturday, Nov. 15, from 10 AM - 1 PM at PAS, City Hall Annex first floor. To make a donation, please call PAS at (908) 753-3519.
ST. MARY'S CHURCH
The coat giveaway this year will be on Sunday, Nov. 16. from 2:30 - 4:30 PM. Items may be donated in advance by dropping off in the basement of St. Mary's School, West 6th & Liberty Streets. For more information, call the church office at (908) 756-0085.
Please check your closets and help if you can.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Teachers' contract: A hopeful sign?


Signs in support of Plainfield's teachers union are sprouting up.

Plainfield Today reader JoAnn Bandomer recently shared a photo of the sign above on her Facebook page. It strikes me as a hopeful sign in the overlong struggle by the Plainfield Education Association (PEA), the union representing the district's teachers and staff, to get a new contract.

JoAnn and her husband Ken are both retired from service in the Plainfield Public Schools and fondly remembered by many PHS graduates. Their support of our kids and our community is an inspiration and plunking this sign on their front yard is just one more example of stand-up people standing up for fairness.

I am an indefatigable enthusiast of public schools and unions.

I believe the invention of free public education in America to be one of its chief contributions to democratic societies worldwide.

If I had not learned my 'reading, writing and 'rithmetic' in the humble three-room country schoolhouse I attended, there would have been no Yale or George Washington University in my future. There would have been no future really, and no participation in the stew of American political life. So, three cheers for public education -- and the teachers who devote their lives to it.

My father went to work as a welder in a locomotive factory at age 15 in the middle of the Great Depression after his father died behind the plow in his fields one summer afternoon.

It rivaled Blake's dark satanic mills. Through the struggles of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, a union was formed that wrestled a 40-hour work week, fair treatment and shop rules from the owners. Thanks to the CIO, our family was able to enter the middle class, to own a home, to make way for the kids to go to college. Hurrah for the unions!

Over the past fifty years, the gains that trade unions made have been steadily eaten into. One can no longer even think that a job in industry could pave the way into the middle class or last into the indefinite future.

The situation is somewhat better for public worker unions -- though unions are under attack here, too -- primarily through the drive for charter schools and against tenure practices.

The Plainfield Education Association (PEA) has conducted several informational pickets outside PHS over the course of the negotiations, but no progress has been reported.

Of course wages and working conditions are at the heart of the negotiations, and members of the public are encouraged by the likes of Chris Christie and others to think of teachers as incompetent, greedy and unfairly sheltered by contract provisions.

Well, there are always at least two sides to the story. The union has not always been good at getting its issues and its point of view out front -- and the Plainfield union is no exception.

I remember the employees of the municipal bus company where I went to college were deadlocked over contract negotiations with the owners. The owners had gone to court and gotten an order forbidding a strike as the buses provided an 'essential public service'.

The drivers and others picketed the business at the car barns in a really out-of-the way location. And it seemed fruitless.

It was only after they began to hand out leaflets to the general public at the main bus stops in the downtown area that the company sensed an impending public relations disaster and settled with the union.

I have long thought that the PEA needed to reach out more to the community to show that what is good for the teachers is good for the school district and ultimately for the whole society.

Perhaps the PEA should consider holding its informational pickets on Kenyon Avenue before school, while students are arriving. The discussion that would generate would be truly an exercise in small-d democracy.

And negotiations might move along more quickly.

In the meantime, the yard signs such as the one sported by Ken and JoAnn Bandomer are a good idea, and a hopeful sign.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day: Ceremony and Center Dedication

 

Plainfield
will observe Veterans Day today in two parts --
  • At 10:30 AM, there will be a gathering at the Veterans Memorial at City Hall in observance of the end of hostilities of the First World War and to commemorate the service of all veterans.

  • At Noon, there will be a Dedication and Grand Opening of the Plainfield Veterans Center adjacent to the Senior Center, at 400 East Front Street.
All are warmly invited to join Mayor Adrian Mapp at both events.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Council considers foreclosed properties crisis


This property on East 6th Street behind Grace Episcopal Church...

... and this one on Kenyon Avenue have been vacant for years.


Plainfield
City Council is slated to take up tonight two ordinances (MC 2014-34 and MC 2014-35) proposed by the Mapp administration to deal with the issue of vacant and abandoned properties and the crisis of foreclosures in the city.

How serious a problem is foreclosed properties?

When I discussed the issue in September 2012, I found 578 Plainfield properties in the foreclosure process (see post here). When I reviewed the issue again this past August, after we were supposedly recovering from the real estate crash, there were nearly 900 Plainfield properties in foreclosure proceedings.

Many of these properties are in unkempt, unsecured and potentially unsafe condition. Not only are they a visual blight on their neighborhoods, they depress the value of the homes of neighbors who may wish or need to put their properties on the market.

As I pointed out in the August post, other towns in New Jersey have begun to tackle the issues with the creation of vacant property registries and stiff fines for owners -- whether individuals, lenders or mortgage servicers -- who do not properly maintain the properties. This past week, Trenton under Mayor Eric Jackson became the latest New Jersey city to adopt regulations setting up a registry and fines.

Plainfield's proposed registry ordinance would require vacant and foreclosed properties to be registered within 30 days, with an initial annual fee of $500 (which would rise to a maximum of $5,000 per annum after the third year). Owners planning to rehab or renovate a property within 12 months could have the fee waived, but would be liable for it if the work were not completed in a timely fashion (an instance on Field Avenue comes to mind).

Violators of the ordinance would be subject to a maximum fine of $1,000 for every day the violation exists or is not remedied.

Sounds stiff, but strong medicine is needed for foreclosed properties such as those pictured above, especially when the lenders and others responsible for them simply thumb their noses at the community.

The second ordinance specifically addresses the issues of properties in foreclosure proceedings, closing loopholes and asserting the municipalitiy's right to have accurate information on file concerning parties responsible for maintenance.

A quick scan raised two questions:

  • First, MC2014-34 refers to a 'register of all dwelling units of vacant housing', but later in the ordinance refers to both residences and other types of buildings. Are all the subject of the ordinance, or just residential?

  • Secondly, the penalties outlined in the new proposed Section 10.a seem to be at variance with Section 4.17 (Penalties), which appears to recapitulate a previous ordinance. Do the new penalties supersede the older ones? Should the older ones be removed? Or is there no conflict?
These ordinances should be welcomed warmly by the Council and without contention. However, this being Plainfield, one waits with baited breath.

City Council meets in a double-header session at 7:30 PM tonight in the Council Chambers/Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Sunday, November 9, 2014

AJ and Big Al hit the bull's-eye


Plainfield Municipal Clerk 'AJ' Jalloh and CFO Al Steinberg (known to all as 'Big Al') both hit the bull's-eye with Monday's City Council agenda.

AJ is to be congratulated for sending out not only the agenda for the meeting, but for the first time ever the actual backup documents for the public. You can see the complete agenda and backup documents (resolutions, ordinances and correspondence) here. If you want to follow the Council meetings, be sure to get on AJ's 'Clerk's Blast' email list.

This is a landmark for transparency in Plainfield government and AJ and the Mapp administration are to be congratulated! Sadly, this progress will come with some cost -- interested parties will no longer have to schlep over to the Plainfield Public Library on a Saturday morning to look through the backup materials. But we'll soldier on, somehow.

'Big Al' Steinberg is following through on the report he and auditor Bob Swisher of Supplee Clooney made to the Council concerning fiscal housecleaning following the audit of calendar year 2013.

Steinberg has a total of nine resolutions on the agenda, cleaning up a number of issues that have been noted in annual audits for years. For the first time, it seems that there is combined gumption enough between the CFO, the administration and the Council to actually address the issues.

I suspect, however, that the new procedure for handling cash payments will not be popular with the public, who now will have to include a trip to the Tax Collector's office, who will be the only folks to actually take cash. While this will no doubt stop the 'seepage' of loose cash mysteriously disappearing from various locales, it will be a definite inconvenience for the paying public, who will have to return a receipt to the original office showing they paid for the fee or service.

The agenda is quite long, and considering this is a combined agenda-fixing and business session for the Council, you might want to consider bringing a sleeping bag.

City Council meets Monday evening at 7:30 PM in the Council Chambers/Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street.




  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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