Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

South Avenue PILOT: Is Council wedging itself between rock and hard place?

JMF executive Kevin Codey makes the original presentation
on the South Avenue project at a Plainwood Square Merchants
meeting in summer 2014.

Has the Plainfield City Council wedged itself between a rock and a hard place?

In playing chicken with the 212-unit South Avenue proposal, they risk blowing up the largest -- and only truly "luxury" -- project to come Plainfield's way in the thirty-three years I have been observing things.

On the other hand, if they step in and take a hand in shaping (or reshaping) the proposed PILOT agreement, they risk showing themselves as inept and rank amateurs.

In the old days it would have been simple. Those whose votes were needed would simply have named their price, the envelopes of cash would be distributed and the project would move along.

But we live in different times -- not that the moral fibre of some of today's elected representatives is any better, but more because with the wizardry of miniaturization it is so much easier for them to get caught in compromising conversations (or even video of taking the envelopes of cash!).

The Council's complaints to have been "left out of the loop", "disrespected" and needing to be "spoon fed", seem hollow given how much public attention and discussion have been drawn to this project. (Councilor Taylor's complaints are amsuing, as she was at the original project presentation last summer.) Add to this a little class animosity from Council President Rivers in stating the project must be aimed at "yuppies" (even the term betrays being a little out of touch).

It all reminds me of the Republicans reacting to President Obama's long and tough negotiations to deliver the Iran nuclear restrictions deal, only to have the Republicans complain they were "left out of the loop" and "disrespected". (Senators have more sense than to state publicly that they need to be "spoon fed" for fear the voters will think them stupid.)

"Time," as Deputy City Administrator for Economic Development Carlos Sanzhez told the Council, "is of the essence".

The contracts for purchase of the eleven properties making up the development parcel will expire if the deal does not move forward. If they expire, the Council will be the ones left with egg on their face for having singlehandedly destroyed the largest residential proposal on the books and the beneficial impact it would have on Plainfield's future.

Maybe it's time for the Mapp administration to put the shoe on the other foot. Maybe it's time to call the Council's bluff and ask Council President Rivers to appoint a committee of three to come back to the September meeting with a finished and agreed PILOT proposal. (Diane Toliver, as chair of the Finance Committee, is a natural choice, as is Gloria Taylor, who has made no secret of wanting to exercise functions of the exective branch. Plus one other.)

This would put the Council in the position of having to be a part of the solution and not just a part of the problem. It could be a boon, or it could expose them as gasbags not up to the challenge.

But all this may be moot beside other players and other considerations.

Sen. Ray Lesniak's recent announcement that he is running for governor is already beginning to put new spins on things.

He will be very desirous of having Union County Democrats in lockstep behind his candidacy. That will mean pressure on Union County Dem chair Jerry Green to help deliver the goods.

And the uneasy relationship between Sheriff Joe Cryan and Lesniak will be tested over Cryan's closeness to another potential candidate, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.

And then there is the Codey connection.

There are whispers that Essex County Senator and former governor Dick Codey may be considering a run at the governor's office.

Does the fact that Codey's son Kevin is affiliated with JMF, the developer, mean that people behind the yellow curtain are putting the kibosh on this project?

Maybe we should just go back to simple bribery and get on with it.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.