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Monday, May 11, 2015

Have Plainfield sports wars subsided?

In the time-honored American tradition, Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp
throws out the first ball to open the Queen City Baseball League's
2015 season on April 3.

Have Plainfield's sports wars subsided, or merely moved into a new phase?

Consider this: When the City Council absolved the Joe Black/Negro League group from paying athletic field usage fees, it set the stage for undermining the City's ability to recoup anything financially to help cover the cost of providing and maintaining these public facilities.

Usage fees have long been accepted as a means of helping spread the cost of government-provided services by asking those who actually use a program or facility to chip in a little to help cover the cost of offering it. Considering that some programs or facilities may not be available to -- or appeal to -- all the taxpayers, usage fees have been recognized as a fair and legitimate means to defray the overhead.

Enter the Joe Black/Negro League leaders who complain that this is unfair because they don't have even the small amount needed -- even though they run a concession stand at the ball games that raises money.

Council at first made a misstep by proposing a hastily drawn up ordinance, clearly tailored for the Joe Black/Negro League, granting relief from the fees. On second thought, and after learning that they have the ability to waive fees by resolution, the ordinance was withdrawn. The Boo Hoo Crew's cause advanced smoothly when Council simply waived the fees.

In doing so, however, the Council has opened Pandora's box. Tonight, Council will consider three resolutions (174-176) proposing to waive the 2015 field use fees for two soccer leagues (one youth and one adult) and the Queen City Baseball League.

Since the Council established no policy by which to decide why a group's fee responsibilities should be waived, it must now ponder whether it has opened the floodgates. Will the Council simply grant the waivers? Will the Council pick and choose? Or will the Council hold off until a policy can be developed? All may be clarified tonight.

Meanwhile, the baseball season is under way. The Queen City Baseball League had its opening day Sunday, May 3. The Joe Black/Negro League opened its season on Saturday, May 9.

In what is a standard American custom, Mayor Mapp was invited to throw the opening pitch at the Queen City event. He was not even invited to the Joe Black/Negro League event, whee the opening pitch was thrown by John Campbell, Jr.

The Queen City League acknowledged all elected officials, while the Joe Black/Negro League's flyer only recognized Councilors Rivers and Toliver -- neither of whom was present. Councilor Greaves did make an appearance, though she was not on the program.

Interestingly, Jerry Green's candidate for the Wards 1/4 at-large seat, Steve Hockaday, was invited to say a few words. Realizing he was being filmed, Hockaday -- who is an attorney -- quickly veered away from what looked like it was going to be a political speech and stated this (the game) was not the time or place for politicking. True enough.

The good crowd turnout for the Joe Black/Negro League opener was marred by some light rain which interrupted play and the fact that some of the teams did not have enough players show up to actually put a team on the field.

Meanwhile, the Queen City Baseball League was in the news for having received a considerable donation of "gently used" baseball equipment from the Summit-based RollAPair baseball mentoring program (see the Independent Press story here).

Curious, I made a few inquiries and learned that the Summit group had contacted Plainfield's Division of Parks & Recreation about their interest in making the donations. Recreation Superintendent Veronica Taylor forwarded the information to the email addresses that both the Queen City Baseball League and the Joe Black/Negro League had on file with the City. Only the Queen City league responded to the offer.

Meanwhile, a dear friend of the late Plainfield activist and veterans advocate Joanne Sloane who happened to attend the Joe Black/Negro League opening, reports she was taken aback by the negative and hostile comments directed by the League's leadership towards the Mapp administration and the Recreation Division.

And you thought youth sports was about the youth, right?

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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