Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Welcome 2018



HAPPY NEW YEAR!
¡FELIZ AÑO NUEVO!

 


Plainfield City Council's reorganization meeting ia on New Year's Day at Noon in the PHS Auditorium.

Those being sworn in are Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, who will commence his second term as mayor;Joylette Mills-Ransome, who has been elected to serve out the balance of the term of former Wards 2/3 at-large councilor Rebeca Williams; and Steve Hockaday, who will take the 4th Ward seat. 
 
A "People's Reception" will immediately follow the reorganization meeting and will take place in the PHS cafeteria until 5:00 PM.

Parking is available in the Stelle Avenue and Kenyon Avenue lots as well as on the street.
 


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Reorganization proceedings are missing something


For a hundred years, the cupola atop
City Hall has stood as the city's emblem
 
 
If you've glanced at the agenda (online here) for the Plainfield City Council's reorganization meeting (on New Year's Day at Noon in the PHS Auditorium), you may have noticed that the actual council business appears as Item 13 on page four and is headed "NEW BUSINESS".

Why is there no old business?

That's because each year's business must be concluded by December 31st or re-introduce again after January 1st of the new year. That's because the Council is considered a "new" body each January 1st following the November elections. No matter if the faces don't actually change; those who have been elected and/or re-elected are sworn in to office and the body reorganizes itself for the new year.

Those being sworn in are Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, who will commence his second term as mayor;Joylette Mills-Ransome, who has been elected to serve out the balance of the term of former Wards 2/3 at-large councilor Rebeca Williams; and Steve Hockaday, who will take the 4th Ward seat.

The U.S. Congress is similar, except that the Congress is considered to sit as a body for two years, after the election of the House of Representatives. In fact, Congresses are even numbered by their sessions -- this being the 115th Congress.

The "reorg" meeting as it commonly called features the swearings in of new officials, the election of the Council's officers, the adoption of standing resolutions for the year (calendar, newspapers, etc.), and appointments (or reappointments) of certain officials.

The new Council president and the Mayor speak -- offering reviews of this past year's achievements and a vision for the coming year.

Among the reappointments slated for Monday are 2 judges, 3 prosecutors, and 2 public defenders, as well as the city's Chief Financial Officer. The passage of the resolution (R 016-18) contracting with David Minchello to provide "Corporation Counsel services" in effect is also a "reappointment."

I am indebted to reader B.P. for calling my attention to the fact that none of the Mayor's department heads -- Ron West (Administration and Finance), Orren Dabney (Public Works and Urban Development), Carl Riley (Public Affairs and Safety), Carlos Sanchez (Deputy City Administrator for Economic Development) or City Administrator Rick Smiley are listed for reappointment.

This is noteworthy because these are the Mayor's "hands and feet", the ones who actually organize the work of city employees and see to it that the Mayor's vision for the City is brought into being. Without them, Mayor Mapp would be unable to achieve his objectives.

As far as I can see, they have given 110% for the Mayor's vision within their fields of responsibility, so I am a bit puzzled. Assurance of continuity in the leadership team would be reassuring to the public that these folks are committed to serving.

A "People's Reception" will immediately follow the reorganization meeting and will take place in the PHS cafeteria until 5:00 PM.

Parking is available in the Stelle Avenue and Kenyon Avenue lots as well as on the street.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Council reorg, swearings in set for New Year's Day


Council reorg is set for New Year's Day
in the PHS Auditorium.

 
City Council will reorganize on New Year's Day, and newly elected officials will be sworn in at the meeting, which is set for Noon at the Plainfield High School auditorium.

Those being sworn in are Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, who will commence his second term as mayor;Joylette Mills-Ransome, who has been elected to serve out the balance of the term of former Wards 2/3 at-large councilor Rebeca Williams; and Steve Hockaday, who will take the 4th Ward seat.

A "People's Reception" will immediately follow the reorganization meeting and will take place in the PHS cafeteria from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM.

Parking is available in the Stelle Avenue and Kenyon Avenue lots as well as on the street.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Annual Netherwood Heights luminary display set for Sunday evening


Luminaria will line the district's winding roads.

 
A press release from the Netherwood Heights Neighbors outlines this year's luminary display set for Christmas Eve (starting at dusk Sunday)--

Make sure your Christmas Eve plans include a drive through the historic neighborhood of Netherwood Heights in Plainfield, NJ. In what is one of the largest displays of luminaries in the state, homes in the Netherwood Heights Historic District will be part of a Christmas Eve luminary display that has grown over the years, encompassing this quaint hamlet of stately structures.

The annual event started in 2006, and this year will include over 4,000 luminaries that will light the meandering roads.

“Preparations begin in early December. The association purchases bags and luminary candles, and Martoccia Landscape Services of Watchung, NJ graciously donates the sand each year,” notes Joe Palmer, President of the non-profit group Netherwood Heights Neighbors.

“On Christmas Eve, neighbors come together to assemble the luminaries and place them in front of approximately 350 homes. Many of these homes are decorated with holiday lights and this, coupled with the luminaries, makes for a remarkable sight.”

The luminary bags will be placed from Leland to Woodland Avenues, and from WatchungAvenue to East 7th Street, and the candles will be lit at dusk.

The Netherwood Heights Historic District is named for the Netherwood Hotel which stood on what is now the block bordered by Denmark Road, Park Terrace, Belvidere Avenue, Berkeley Avenue. It encompasses 99 homes dotting the winding roads believed to be the original horse paths of the hotel, which was built in 1878 as a resort hotel.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

President Trump's Christmas gift to taxpayers (toon)


Politivo's cartoonist Matt Wuerker on Trump's
Christmas gift to American taxpayers.
(Click on image to print or save.)

 
Politico's award-winning cartoonist Matt Wuerker skewers Trump's tax plan with a toon of Trump as Santa giving the taxpayers a Christmas 'gift'.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Yates veterans housing proposal put off to January HPC meeting


Yates proposal attorney asked to put off hearing to next month.

 
Historic Preservation Commission chairperson Bill Michelson informed the group at its Tuesday meeting that the attorney in the Yates matter had phoned to ask that the matter be rescheduled owing to his witness' inability to attend the meeting.

The matter has been rescheduled for the January 23, 2018 meeting.

In other business, the HPC discussed the upcoming public hearing on proposed expansions of the Van Wyck Brooks and Netherwood Heights historic districts. Responding to a question from the public, Michelson said that the list of proposed properties and maps would be put on the city's website in advance of the public hearing for the public's convenience.

It was a pleasure to witness a well-prepared property owner from Ravine Road in the Netherwood Heights HD present his proposal to install a wooden shed from Home Depot at the rear of his property.

He had done his homework thoroughly: he had submitted a sketch map of the proposed location; he had complied with the lot line and setback requirements; he had checked the dimensions of the shed and confirmed they met code specs, and he explained how the shed would be placed off the ground to avoid water damage and rot.

The presentation and the HPC's unanimous approval took about five minutes, proving an appearance before the Commission doesn't have to be torture if the applicant does their homework.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Sunday, December 17, 2017

An open letter to the Mayor and Council on the Deer Management resolution passed by the Council


Not every hunter is successful in killing deer.

 
The Animal Initiative Committee of Plainfield, which sponsors the annual blessing of animals at Leland Avenue Park each October, forwarded to me the following open letter to the Mayor and Council concerning the resolution (R 381-17) to "implement a deer management program in the City of Plainfield" passed at last Monday's Council meeting.

In response to questions posed by resident Nancy Piwowar, the audience learned that the proposed program will focus on the catch basin on Cushing Road. Union County will supervise a culling by hunters using bows and arrows only.

The management of deer in suburban areas by hunting is widespread and controversial (for more see here). Many suggest that the problem of overlarge deer populations is a result of encroachment on their habitat by development and the consequent extirpation of their natural predators.

After minimal discussion at the Council meeting, the resolution was passed by unanimous voice vote.

While I do not agree with all of the letter's ideas (and certainly not some of its tone), it does seem to me that Plainfield would benefit from a deeper discussion of the issues involved than was given in the adoption of the resolution. -- DAN

Here is the letter --

Open Letter to Plainfield (NJ) Mayor and Council: December 12, 2017


The City of Plainfield has worked hard to change the negative image that has followed Plainfield for decades. Despite a beautiful housing stock, diverse population, and active business district, with the reelection of Mayor Mapp in November 2017 a series of reckless, one-sided and arrogant decisions were made.

Among the three most recent, and divisive, decisions pushed through against the will of residents/voters are as follows:

1. The takeover by city/council of the SID, the very active and financially independent association of business owners that has thrived for decades, bringing positive attention to business development and reaching out to residents with activities for all ages. The many accomplishments of the SID were disregarded, and will cost taxpayers dearly as this becomes a government, rather than private, entity

2. The increase of Mayor and council salaries was introduced one day post election. Despite cogent arguments made by residents, the Mayor will now receive $75,000, up from $35,000, for his part-time job. Council is $25,000 from $10,000 for part-time positions.

3. At the same December 11, 2017 meeting, a deer kill was announced with no previous notice to the public, based solely on the desire of council members to mollify a handful of residents whose main complaint was that deer are eating their shrubs. This action is over the will of the majority who have enjoyed the biodiversity of wildlife, with children and adults alike delighting in watching these graceful creatures as part of the overall peaceful living environment.

We, as the Animal Initiative Committee, are responding to the last matter.

Union County is always looking for more outlets to satisfy hunters, and they found a mark in Plainfield.

The catch basin (watershed) on Cushing Road has long been off-limits to human interference. It protects wildlife that has been displaced from surrounding areas due to development and destruction of environment. The development on Cushing Road has done the damage to environment, why are we not addressing that?

No creature should be killed for eating flowers. There are many ways to live peacefully, and still enjoy the beauty of nature.

The council has refused to reach out to the very resources in their own districts that help resolve issues in a humane, non-lethal manner. We also have access to outside resources willing to come in to address concerns.

For over 18 years, the Animal Initiative Committee has presented a yearly Celebration of Animals that attracts people from the City and surrounding areas. It is a joyous time, filled with educational programs on how to live in harmony with all beings. We have a flyer for distribution on living with wildlife. Despite invitations each year, neither Mayor nor council attends.

We received positive feedback last year with the plight of a dog left in the elements. As a result, an ordinance that brings attention to care for animals was established. Plainfield was praised for its animal friendly resolution.

This deer kill will divide community and neighbors, and is in direct opposition to the Mayor's “One Plainfield” theme. Nothing divides like animal issues, as evidenced in the past by the dog situation. This decision to kill will have far reaching effects outside of Plainfield.

We urge you to rescind the invitation to the County for this kill. We do not want the county dictating how our animals are treated, as they have a singular method that is killing.

We are available to discuss and recommend other methods, and end with the following Mission Statement, which should be a resolution of Plainfield:

"Be it resolved, the Animal Initiative Committee is opposed to any violent or lethal methods designed to target wildlife and other animals on any properties: private, municipal, state or county in and around the City of Plainfield".

And finally,

“Never, never be afraid to do what is right, especially if the well
being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are
small, compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the
other way. “ (Martin Luther King, Jr)

Animal Initiative Committee of Plainfield Marie Ansari Gloria Binkowski, VMD MaryEllen Chanda Shirley Edwards Thomas Kaercher Shannon Pacheco


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Two items of interest on Tuesday's Historic Preservation Commission agenda


Yates Real Estate plans to turn the former Abbott Nursing Home
into Veterans' housing.

 

Plainfield's Historic Preservation Commission meets for the last time in 2017 on Tuesday evening (December 19) in City Hall Library at 7:30 PM.

Two items may pique your interest --


YATES REAL ESTATE, 810 Central Avenue
This is the former Abbott Nursing Home. Yates is proposing to convert the building to 25 apartments (for veterans, he says), to include construction of  third floor addition. The matter is being referred to the HPC by the Zoning Board of Adjustment as the property is in the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District.

Though this is a separate matter, this is the same Yates that the Council voted a $396,000 settlement to last Monday for claims against the city in the botched demolition of 117-125 North Avenue in 2015 (see my post here).
EXPANSION OF VAN WYCK BROOKS and NETHERWOOD HEIGHTS DISTRICTS
The HPC will discuss proposed expansion of these two historic districts. 149 properties are being considered for the VWB, and 87 properties for Netherwood Heights.

A survey has been conducted and the HPC is planning to distribute documentation to the public before its February 2018 meeting (that's an ambitious schedule). If either of these topics interests you, plan to be there on Tuesday evening.
The HPC welcomes the public and opportunity for public comment and questions is always given before actions are taken.

City Hall is at Watchung Avenue and East 6th Street. Parking and entrance to the building are in the rear.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Crescent Concerts offers 46th "Yuletide by Candlelight" free concert Saturday


Crescent Avenue Church will be bathed in candlelight
for the annual 'Yuletide by Candlelight' concert.

 
For the 46th year, Crescent Concerts, the musical ministry of Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church offers its annual free "Yuletide by Candlelight" concert Saturday afternoon t 5:00 PM.

The program will feature classical and contemporary Christmas songs and anthems, as well as opportunities for the audience to join in with beloved carols.

There are no tickets for the event; howver, a free will offering will be taken to support Crescent Avenue's feeding ministry -- which provides free lunches every week day.

Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church is at East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue. Parking in the church lot on First Place, on the street, or in the Swain Galleries lot.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Second chance for Craft Fair, duCret art sale this Saturday


 

Looking for something unusual or handcrafted for your holiday giving? Your search will be eased if you come out to the Holiday Craft Fair and Fine Art Sale this Saturday (December 16) at duCret School of Art. This second opportunity is to make up for last week's lousy weather.

You will find handcrafted greeting cards, art in various media, decorated gift bags, knit goods, scarves, clothing, jewelry, hand-made quilts, hand-painted plates and mugs and much more.

The fair runs from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM in the exhibition hall at the rear of the school. duCret is at 1030 Central Avenue (across from Cedarbrook School). Take the driveway to the rear parking lot. Entrance is directly off the lot.

For more information, call the Division of Recreation at (908) 753-3097.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Short, if not so sweet, summary of Council hot votes


.. TO INSPIRE ZEAL FOR THE COMMON WELFARE?

 
Here's the concise version of important actions at Monday night's City Council meeting --
  • Mayor's raise to $75,000 per annum. Approved 5-2 after extensive public comment both for and against.

  • Council raise to $25,000 failed on first vote by 3-4. Later reconsidered on a motion by VP Barry Goode to reconsider Councilor Storch's proposed amendment of a raise to $15K per annum. Am ended ordinance passed 5-2, with McRae and Toliver against the motion.

  • Muhlenberg redevelopment tax exemption approved 5-2, with Rivers and Toliver against the motion.

  • Abolishing the existing SID in favor of a new, city-controlled SID was approved 5-2, with Rivers and Toliver against the motion.

  • The proposed settlement with Yates Real Estate for the botched 2015 North Avenue demolition, approved in the amount of $396,000 by unanimous voice vote -- despite considerable opposition from the audience and the revelation of new facts in the matter.
A fuller report will have to wait.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Sunday, December 10, 2017

$396,000 settlement with Yates in North Avenue demolition sure to raise eyebrows at Monday Council meeting


A suspicious fire gutted 117-25 North Avenue
on the night of December 17, 2011. Image by Dan.


The building t 117-25 North Avenue after the fire.
It stood this way until March 20, 2015. Image by Dan.

 

A resolution on Monday night's Council agenda (R 369-17) proposes to settle all claims in the botched demolition of 117-25 North Avenue, which was damaged in a December 2011 fire, for an eye-popping $396,000.

The whole matter of the demolition of the building caused a huge brouhaha when it was done in 2015 -- the weekend before a special Council meeting that had been called to deal with it.

The late Eric Watson, the Director of DPWUD at that time, was on the hot seat to explain the timeline -- which involved several gaps of time that could have been construed as negligence if there were a true emergency -- and the manner in which the demolition contract was awarded.

The inicdent got extensive coverage on Plainfield Today (see here, here, and here) as well as Bernice's Plaintalker II (see here) and Olddoc's Potpourri (see here). I also posted online a packet of materials supplied by the office of Mayor Mapp containing correspondence, inspection reports, quotes and other matter about this property and the demolition (see here).

The Council -- at that time unsupportive of Mayor Adrian Mapp -- refused in a special meeting on March 23, 2015, to 1) authorize the demolition, 2) appropriate $250,000 for the expected costs as requested by the Administration, and 3) award the demolition contract to Yates.

Plainfield realtor John Campbell, who was present, remarked that he had heard a figure of $50,000 for the complete job (perhaps just for the sub-contractor?).

In the event, the work had already been done, and the Council's refusal to act set the City up for a lawsuit. According to a post on Olddoc's Potpourri (see here), resident Alan Goldstein avers the only invoice the City has received from Yates was for work done up to 3/24/15 for $75,000 (see here).

After Yates' subcontractor caused damage to the adjoining building, the City proceeded to finish the demolition and fill with the services of another contractor -- Yannuzzi.

So, the big question is: How did the City get to a $396,000 settlement when the only records we seem to have are for $75,000? That would equal a markup of 528%.

Not bad from Yates' point of view, I'm sure. But an outrage to Plainfield taxpayers.

Hopefully, all will be explained tonight.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Hot topics guarantee a lively Council meeting Monday


The search for 'just and capable government' continues
Monday evening.

 
Nobody enjoys a boring City Council meeting. Several items on the agenda for Monday's combined agenda setting/business meeting seem destined to create a stir. Note that the combined meetings begin at 7:00 PM, not the customary 8:00 PM.

Also note that most of the interest is liable to be focused on four of the ordinances up for second reading and final passage. Since there are no ceremonial matters listed, it looks like the meeting will plunge right into the ordinances, so be early or you may miss an item of interest.

Also, the second reading of ordinances includes a 'public hearing' section. That is the time to come to the mike if you have something to say. Action (votes) will be taken on each ordinance in order. If you don't speak during the 'hearing' portion, your voice will not be heard before the vote.

Here are the ordinances that seem most likely to give rise to public comment, listed in the order in which they will be taken up --
  • MC 2017 - 36 Muhlenberg Hospital Property -- granting a tax exemption to the developer;

  • MC 2017 - 39 Replacement of the current SID with a new, city-controlled one;

  • MC 2017 - 40 Raising the Mayor's salary (to $75,000 per annum); and

  • MC 2017 - 41 Raising Council member salaries (to $25,000 per annum).
The Council President may set a limit on each person's comments, similar to that for the "Public Comments" section of the meeting (5 minutes per person, non-extendable, non-transferable). Don't say you weren't advised!

The meeting is in the Council Chambers / Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street. Parking in the street or in the lot across from the Police HQ.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Two Holiday Giving Opportunities


You can help make some child's holidays happier.

 
Ever since I have lived in Plainfield (since 1983), I have been struck at how generous Plainfielders are during the Holiday season to their neighbors who may be traveling a rough patch in the road of life.

Let's highlight two opportunities available right now:
LiVAY's 2nd ANNUAL KIDS COAT DRIVE
For the second year, LiVay Sweet Shop owner Stacey Welch is soliciting gently used and new kids winter coats to be distributed over the holidays. The drive will be conducted on Saturday, December 9 and Sunday, December 10.
For your convenience, she has two dropoff locations --
  • LiVay Sweet Shop Plainfield - 104-B Watchung Avenue (near Texas Weiners)

  • LiVay Sweet Shop Watching - 1590 Route 22 East

PBA LOCAL 19 HOLIDAY TOY DRIVE
Plainfield's PBA Local #19 is conducting its annual toy drive. Toys will be distributed to families in need during its Holiday Toy Giveaway event.
Needed are unwrapped gifts suitalble for boys or girls aged infant to 13 years. You may make a donation through December 20, 2017. The dropoff location is Plainfield Police Headquarters, 200 East 4th Street (at Watchung Avenue).
Help your less fortunate neighbors have a happier holiday season!

And Thank You!



  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Drake House Tree lighting Friday evening tries something new



Annual Tree Lighitng and Santa's Visit Friday evening.

 

Because of greatly increased attendance and resulting safety concerns, the Historical Society of Plainfield is trying something new at Friday evening's annual Tree Lighting and Santa's Visit. The evening is being segmented into three 30-minute sessions, with 25 children and their parents admitted for each segment. The segments are at 6:30 PM, 7:00 PM and 7:30 PM.

During each segments, the children and their parents will be treated to the lighting of the Christmas Tree, a visit by Santa with the distribution of small gifts to the youngsters, and light refreshments for all.

"We have had such a tremendous turnout in recent years," says HSOP president Nancy Piwowar, that we felt it best to ensure the safety of all by limiting the number of children in attendance at one time. We appreciate everyone's patience so that we can guarantee a good time for all."

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/. Parking is available in the museum driveway and on Geraud Avenue.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Holiday Craft Fair Saturday at duCret


 

Looking for something unusual or handcrafted for your holiday giving? Your search will be eased if you come out to the Holiday Craft Fair Saturday at duCret School of Art.

You will find handcrafted greeting cards, art in various media, decorated gift bags, knit goods, scarves, clothing, jewelry, hand-made quilts, hand-painted plates and mugs and much more.

The fair runs from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM in the exhibition hall at the rear of the school. duCret is at 1030 Central Avenue (across from Cedarbrook School). Take the driveway to the rear parking lot. Entrance is directly off the lot.

For more information, call the Division of Recreation at (908) 753-3097.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, December 4, 2017

Toon: Trump tax bill and the middle class


Cartoon by Toles for the Washington Post.

 
Unless you are an antique train buff, you may not get that the car the engineer is shoveling from is the coal tender, from which coal was shoveled into the firebox of the locomotive to generate the steam that drove the wheels.

It's a pretty close fit to what Trump and the GOP Congress think of the middle class.

Note especially that while the rich and the corporations get permanent tax cuts under the tax bill, the rest of us suckers will find any tax cut disappears in 2025.

Welcome to Trumpworld!



  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Sunday, December 3, 2017

Why are the media hassling Murphy over the transition team's non-disclosure agreement?


Gov.-elect Murphy takes (or not) questions
at a press conference. (Photo: AP)

 

Why are the media -- PoliticoNJ in particular -- hassling Gov.-elect Phil Murphy over his transition team's signing of a non-disclosure agreement.

Murphy team has said that it allows the volunteers who are serving to have frank and honest discussion about topics of concern to the soon-to-be Murphy administration, development of policy positions and programmatic recommendations, and the vetting of prospective high level state employee appointments.

So, what's the big deal?

I served on the leadership team that recruited the members of Mayor Mapp's transition team in 2013 and compiled the reports and recommendations that became the Transition Committee's final report.

Each participant (there were over 100) on the transition committees signed a non-disclosure agreement -- for just the reasons noted above.

The teams were able to accomplish their assignments in a timely fashion -- developing a list of questions to explore, interviewing current city staff, exploring new policy and program directions and compiling (after several drafts) their final reports.
The compiled report became public when Mayor Mapp was sworn to office in January 2014 2018, and resided on the city's website until it got lost in the shuffle of domain names from "plainfield.com" to "plainfieldnj.gov".  For your convenience, I have uploaded a copy to Scribd here.
Here are some of the stories critical of Murphy's non-disclosure decision --




  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Van Wyck Brooks Historic District's Twelfth Night Dinner brings holidays to a close


The burning of the Yule Log for the last time is one of the
traditional customs of Twelfth Night.

 

An email from Larry Quirk of the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District advises folks to mark their calendars for the VWB Historic District's annual Twelfth Night Dinner.

Celebrated for many years now, it is both a fundraiser and an opportunity for members and friends of the District to enjoy a celebratory meal and close the holiday season.

The 2018 celebration will be on Saturday, January 6, which happens also to be Epiphany, the feast celebrating the presentation of gifts by the Three Wise Men to the infant Jesus. The feast has been observed since established at the Council of Tours in 567 AD.

Over the centuries many customs originated around this holiday, always involving food and merriment. In some places it is considered bad luck to leave Christmas decoration up past Twelfth Night and Christmas trees are gathered and burned in bonfires. It is also the last time the Yule log is lighted.

Some cultures also have "king cakes" into which a bean and a pea have been baked (the 'king' here referring to Christ the King). The man who gets the slice with the bean becomes "king" for the evening and the woman who gets the pea becomes "queen".

The homes of four District members will be open as diners move from one to the next for appetizers, entrée, desserts and ending with after-dinner cordials.

I do not yet have ticket information, but in the past they have been offered at $30 for members and $40 for non-members.

For more information, contact VWB member Larry Quirk by email at  qman56@comcast.net. For more about the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District, visit their website here.



Van Wyck Brooks Historic District
Annual Twelfth Night Progressive Dinner

Saturday, January 6, 2018
6:00 - 11:00 PM

Information: Larry Quirk at qman56@comcast.net
Dress: Business attire preferred;
soft-soled shoes; ladies -- no spike heels, please.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Holiday Lights Celebration Friday night features Plainfield Community Choir


Celebration is tonight at City Hall Plaza.

 

Plainfield will be treated to a new version of the annual tree lighting ceremony at City Hall Plaza tonight.

For decades, the annual ceremony centered on the lighting of the Christmas tree in front of City Hall, followed by a visit from Santa and refreshments.

Over time, in sensitivity to Plainfield's diversity, with residents who adhere to many other religions such as Islam and Buddhism, the ceremony was renamed the "Holiday Tree lighting".

During Mayor Mapp's first term, the lighted tree was joined by a Menorah and a Kinara.

This year will unveil a new seasonal tree in the middle of the plaza, which will help keep the event focused on the plaza.

The Menorah is a religious symbol, representing the solid gold 7-branched candlestick inaugurated by Moses in the desert and later kept burning in the Temple at Jerusalem.

The Christmas tree and the Kwanzaa Kinara (candlestick) are not religious symbols, but cultural icons denoting the customs they represent.

The one thing all have in common is light, so it seems fitting to rename the event "Holiday Lights".

The evening will also be marked by the debut of the Plainfield Community Choir. The volunteer singers have been rehearsing for weeks under the direction of Wendell C. Woods, the music director at Shiloh Baptist Church.

The event gets under way at 6:00 PM, with Santa's arrival via fire truck expected at 6:45, at which the event moves into the City Hall Library (transformed into a winter wonderland), where families get a complimentary photo with Santa and a small gift. Hot cocoa will be provided during the event.

Parking is available in the lot behind City Hall.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Harriet Tubman’s Canadian church seeks help for repairs



The church Harriet Tubman attended when she lived in
St. Catharines, Ontario. Photo courtesy of
Salem Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church.

 
By Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) — A century and a half ago, a new Canadian church gave fleeing slaves a place to worship. Now the sanctuary that welcomed Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman and other escapees needs help itself.

The dwindling membership of Salem Chapel, a British Methodist Episcopal church just north of Niagara Falls, has started a crowdsourcing campaign (their gofundme page is here) in hopes of raising C$100,000 — the equivalent of $77,486 in U.S. currency.

The congregation wants to shore up the building, which is in an area where heavy traffic has contributed to its shifting foundation.



Harriet Tubman portrait. Photo courtesy of
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons


Dedicated in 1855 by runaway slaves and free blacks, the church needs cable wires to secure the log frame of the building ahead of expected nearby construction and wants to replace parts of the building that are deteriorating or damaged.

Salem Chapel is in St. Catharines, Ontario, a spot known as an end point of the Underground Railroad, the multi-pronged clandestine route through which slaves escaped to freedom. Some of the people Tubman helped escape became members of the church.

Rochelle Bush, one of the 11 remaining members who launched the campaign, is the great-great-great-granddaughter of the Rev. James Harper, who was the minister in charge of the congregation when Tubman attended and when it changed its affiliation from the African Methodist Episcopal Church to BME.**

“We became British Methodist Episcopal in 1856 because nobody wanted to go back for conference (in the United States) because of the fugitive slave laws,” Bush said, adding that about 10 churches in Ontario remain British Methodist Episcopal and consider the AME Church their parent organization.

After the Civil War, the church, which began with 195 members, began to dwindle as members returned across the border, decreasing to about 40 in 1970. Most of its members now are age 80 and older.

The congregation, which continues to meet for worship each Sunday with a pastor and a pianist, has been sustained by tourists, who increased from about 2,500 annually to 4,000 this year, Bush said. Visitors pay a $5 admission to learn about “the who’s who in the abolitionist movement” — including Frederick Douglass and John Brown — who have visited the church.


The church Harriet Tubman attended when she lived in
St. Catharines, Ontario. (Photo courtesy of
Salem Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church)

“That’s what helps us keep the church doors open and it pays the bills throughout the winter season,” she said.

But now, the church’s members say they need more assistance to keep their building available for future generations.

“(W)e want to ensure that it continues to serve as a religious institution and because it is an important treasure in North American history,” they said.


Reprinted from Religion News Service, November 3, 2017.

About Adelle M. Banks



Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter with Religion News Service, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

**Explanatory Note: The reference to "conference" may need some explanation for those not of the Wesleyan tradition. I grew up in a Wesleyan church (the Evangelical United Brethren, who merged with the Methodist Church to form the United Methodist Church).

The local church is governed by a board elected by members of the congregation. The District Superintendent visits this board four times a year in his or her supervisory role. These meetings are called the "Quarterly Conference".

Once a year, representatives of all the congregations in a designated area (a part of a state, or the whole state in some cases) gather in an "Annual Conference", at which business affecting all the congregations is transacted -- most importantly receiving annual reports, setting financial assessments for each congregation and the announcement of clergy transfers. Attendance by congregational representatives at these annual conferences is considered mandatory.

During the period when the church in this story was formed, it would have exposed delegates to slave catchers were representatives to be sent across the border to the U.S. -- hence the affiliation with British Methodism.  -- Dan



  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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