The needler in the haystack.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

South Avenue PILOT: Council's hole card peeped? Dan criticized

Was a Council majority trying to extort
the Mapp administration?

Has the Plainfield City Council's hole card been peeped?

As poker players will tell you, the hole card is dealt face down, is used to assess the player's bidding strategy, and is not revealed until the showdown.

Seems to me that the question of a Council majority using the quest of Messrs. Dunn, Sanders and the Housing Authority's hapless director Randall Wood, as a quid pro quo for the PILOT approval has been put squarely on the table by Mayor Mapp's remarks and the observations of bloggers Bernice (see here) and Olddoc (see here).

And that, in my mind, comes close to "extortion", a criminal offense of "obtaining money, property, or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion" (see more here).

The cast of characters involved brings to mind the Plainfield Health Center's construction a number of years ago. One person did some serious time in the slammer as a result, though the community sentiment was that he took the rap so that others could walk.

Two questions now come to mind --

  • Will the Council majority try this maneuver again -- say with any proposed Muhlenberg Hospital project? and

  • Is there a trail of breadcrumbs here? And, if so, where does it lead?
Time for all to start scrutinizing Council actions very closely.


Reader Alan Goldstein sent the following email the day after the Council vote on the proposed South Avenue PILOT --

I was there, and I spoke in favor of the PILOT.  But even I will admit that most spoke out against the agreement.  Why you choose to misinform your readers is a real question.
What I said was most commenters were for it, some were against it and many had questions (see the post here).

Some who were against the proposal had special -- if undisclosed -- interests (Messrs. Dunn, Lattimore and Johnson come to mind).

Mr. Crownover opposed the PILOT (though not the project) because he thinks there is a better way -- and offered his experience in Metuchen as an example.

Mr. Kaercher held the parking issues had not been sufficiently addressed, and was not happy that he has paid school taxes all these years (without having kids in the schools) and the PILOT would exempt the projects owners. But was that a clear "no"?

Mr. Goldstein and Netherwood Heights resident Jim Spear both spoke clearly -- and eloquently -- in favor of the project.

Goldstein called it "a step in the right direction" and Spear reminded the Council that "ultimately, [such] development would bring in more tax dollars".

My years of experience in selling real estate have taught me that seeming to be opposed to something (say making an offer on a particular house) may really just mean that there are questions, and that if properly addressed and resolved, the person may not object to the proposition at all in the end.

So, my take on most of those who raised questions was that they were not in opposition necessarily -- if their questions could be addressed.

I might add that Councilor Storch wrangled with Council President Rivers over exactly this matter -- getting answers to some of these questions. And she resisted.

In any event, these were public comments, not a referendum. Besides, as we may now surmise, the Council had already determined on a course of action.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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