Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Skimpy attendance but serious concerns at First Ward Town Hall

Does City Council have a role to play in the
search for 'just and capable government'?

With barely a minyan, the Plainfield City Council's First Ward Town Hall pushed off later than any of the others have so far on Monday evening at Barlow School.

And that skimpy attendance was brought up by more than one resident, including a suggestion that the Town Halls should be spread out throughout the year (which, of course, would imply some forethought, which seems to have been lacking this year).

Councilor Diane Toliver noted that the meetings were posted to the city's website, but suggested maybe the Mayor could do more to help publicize the events. Excuse me? Is this the same Council that likes to remind Mayor Mapp that tis meetings are their meetings, not his? So, when they set a meeting and hardly anyone attends, the Mayor should help them out? Gimme a break.

Despite starting on that sour note, residents did go on to bring up several concerns, after Council candidates Norman Ortega and Barry Goode thanked the Councilors present (Rivers, Toliver, Greaves and Brown) for having offered residents the opportunity.

Among the issues raised by residents --

Deadly Streets
Residents Alan Goldstein and Maria Pellum called attention to a fatal accident at Arlington and West 9th early Monday morning in which a 10-year-old girl died. (For more on that accident, see today's CLIPS here). That has long been a dangerous corner -- Fr. Lyons of St. Mark's Church and I witnessed a Jeep flip and slide into a phone pole at that corner, and a former corner resident had a large boulder put in his yard to protect a tree that kept being hit by cars.

Goldstein also mentioned several other dangerous corners, and Councilor Greaves noted corners near Clinton School. Perhaps more four-way stops should be put in place, as was done on Evergreen and Prospect at Hillside recently?
East 2nd Development
Goldstein also brought up developing the East Second Street area between Netherwood and Johnston Avenues. Though Council did a lot of huffing and puffing when Rev. Greer came before it on this matter earlier in the year, it has snoozed on the issue ever since.
Liqour Licenses
Councilors Toliver and Rivers defended their votes to renew the license of the bar at East 3rd and Richmond after a resident raised the question. Readers will recall that the Police Division recommended that particular license not be renewed this year.

Resident Alex Toliver spoke out on the matter, saying that he was a "Christian who drinks" and that he had bothered to visit the establishment in question and finds the complaints about it based on hearsay and without merit.

Council President Rivers held that the only way to renew the license was for the Council to decline to bring the police recommendation for closure to the Council's business meeting. She has stated more than once that "the hearing" was held in executive session.

This mystifies me, since -- as I understand it --the hearing is called for by the police recommendation and must be held in public, with the Council sitting as the local Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. After the hearing, the Council is free to decide "yes" or 'no" on not renewing the license. So, what was the hard part if a majority was inclined to renew the license notwithstanding the police recommendation?

Something here just doesn't add up, no matter how much 'splaining Rivers and Toliver do (Greaves did not chime in, and Gloria Taylor, the other supporter of the license renewal, was not present). Perhaps it has to do with the owner's contributions to a local politico's campaign fund?
'Hanging Out'
Resident Norman Johnson pressed once again on his favorite topic -- the young men who like to hang out on the corner of East 2nd and Johnston, whom he feels are unfairly targeted by the police and forced to disperse.

His argument appears to be that this group (though he couches it as African Americans generally) in particular seems to be targeted, while those of "other ethnicities" get a pass (without specifying where that allegedly happens).

I have always been somewhat puzzled by his complaints, as anyone who looks around can see places where African American men gather day and night and are not bothered by the police (near the Ben Franklin Liquor Store, on street bench near the former Strand Theater and in the alleyway next to it, as well on the wall in front of the YWCA).

So, is Johnson trying to stir up anti-Hispanic sentiment? Or is he just pleading for this one group to be left alone?

Officer Kenny Reed responded that the reason these young men are moved along is that neighbors have called and complained specifically (with a suggestion that the sidewalks were blocked -- which is not allowed).

Seems to me another line of questioning would be: What are young men doing hanging out on the corner during hours when people are normally at work? Do we have a jobs problem? And what are we doing about it? Something for the Council to excogitate?
Flood Maps
Though flood insurance is a big issue in the First Ward, it was only tangentially addressed -- the questioner didn't even come to the podium -- with the administration response that there would be progress "hopefully in the next six months" (a response that has been offered for years now).

Adoption of revised flood maps and a remediation plan would make possible reductions (or even elimination in some cases) of flood insurance premiums. You would think that Councilor Toliver would be all over this one, wouldn't you?
Tax Abatements
The matter of tax abatements also came up, though more heat was generated than light -- as usual.

Any reference to how a Council majority tanked the proposed South Avenue apartment complex by voting against a tax abatement was so veiled, I think the audience missed it.

Resident Sal Carrano talked at length about abatements, saying they were a tool to be used with caution, and then railing against the PILOT for the Leland Gardens apartment complex. Unfortunately, he did not explain (or perhaps did not know?) the basis for the abatement, and made an egregious error in stating that the payments are calculated on the "net profit" to the entity in question. (Which is not the case: payments are calculcated on the net rental income for the entity, residential or commercial).

None of the Councilors present bothered to correct Carrano, perhaps because they don't understand PILOTs either?
The fourth and final Town Hall will be at Hubbard School on Thursday, November 12, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM -- note the corrected date and place!

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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