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Friday, February 23, 2018

Black History Month: Choral Evensong at Grace Church Sunday

Vintage postcard of Grace Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Dr. Joyce Scheyer, priest-in-charge, warmly invites the public to a celebration of Black History Month at Grace Episcopal Church this Sunday afternoon (February 25).

The event begins with a Choral Evensong at 4:00 PM, featuring Gospel music by Ray & Emerson and including a piano recital by Andrew Kilkenny, Grace's organist and choirmaster.

A dinner follows the service in the parish hall, to which all are invited. The guest speaker at the dinner will be the Rev. Ricardo Sheppard. Fr. Sheppard, who was born in Trinidad & Tobago and grew up in Brooklyn, is the priest-in-charge of St. Alban's Episcopal Church in New Brunswick.

Grace Church is located at East 7th Street and Cleveland Avenue. Parking is available on the street or in the public lot across 7th Street. The church is an accessible facility. For more information about Grace Church and its community programs, visit the parish website here.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Scutari aces Union County Dem chairmanship

Sen. Nick Scutari is the new chair of the
Union County Democratic Committee.

With 54% of the votes cast (412 to 341) at Wednesday's special Union County Democratic Committee convention in Clark, Sen. Nick Scutari was elected to succeed Jerry Green as chairman of the county organization.

The 753 certified committee members who voted represented a 90% turnout of a possible 844 -- very high indeed.

Acting Chair Colleen Mahr, who was in a head-to-head contest with Scutari, marred the event by throwing a representative of the media out (see story here).

Politics is about getting -- and using -- power.

Scutari has reached a peak that could only be dreamed of by predecessors such as Charlotte deFilippo (who was powerful, but only County chair) and Sen. Ray Lesniak (powerful too, but only a Senator).

Scutari now has the County and Linden chairmanships as well as his Senate seat (where he chairs the powerful Judiciary Committee), and has engineered his former chief of staff's selection as the new Union County manager, an enormous source of patronage jobs.

I would not be surprised if Sen. Scutari has his eye on the governor's chair eventually.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Will judge's ruling make Scutari Union County Dem chair?

Will Judge Dupuis' ruling make Sen. Nick Scutari
the next chair of the Union County Dems?

Will Judge Katherine Dupuis' ruling that the Union County Democratic Committee use open balloting to vote for a new chair make Sen. Nick Scutari the next chairperson?

While Acting County Chairperson Colleen Mahr advocated using voting machines to guarantee secret balloting, Dupuis spiked that possibility in ruling for Scutari.

Who will win? Hillside's Anthony Salters is sure to siphon some votes from each of the other two candidates. But will either Scutari or Mahr get 50% of the votes plus one on the first ballot?

And will everyone eligible show up to vote, or will some stay away?

My suspicion is that Scutari will win.

The real problem the County organization faces is to heal the hurt that is sure to be generated. That will require real statesmanship of a high order. Will it be forthcoming?

Barring a judicial appeal, the vote is slated to be taken at a convention of the County Committee set for Wednesday, Feruary 21, 7:00 PM, at the Gran Centurion in Clark.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Court to rule on Union County Dem election Tuesday

Tympanum of the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth.
The motto 'Vox Populi Vox Dei' is not meant to be ironic.


Judge Katherine Dupuis is set to rule on the Union County Democratic Committee matter Tuesday. The hearing gets under way in her courtroom at 11:000 AM.

At issue is whether the election to replace Assemblyman Jerry Green, who resigned as chair, is to be by "open vote" (raised hands) as Sen. Nick Scutari asserts, citing the organization's bylaws; or by secret ballot (machines) as wanted by Acting Chairperson Colleen Mahr and Hillside chair Anthony Salters, the third candidate.

The vote is slated to be taken at a convention of the County Committee set for Wednesday, Feruary 21, 7:00 PM, at the Gran Centurion in Clark.

Stay tuned.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Is Jerry Green about to resign his Assembly seat?

Assemblyman Green's chief of staff, Maria Del Cid,
is leaving.

As if the turmoil around choosing a successor for Jerry Green as chair of the Union County Democratic Committee were not enough, speculation is now rising as to whether the Assemblyman will soon give up his seat in the Legislature.

The speculations come on the heels of news that Green's chief of staff, Maria Del Cid, is leaving.

According to published reports (here and here), Del Cid, who heads the Union County Young Democrats, will become Director of Legislative Services for the NJ Department of Health.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Friday, February 16, 2018

'State of the City'? Plainfield shrugs

Seal of the City of Plainfield, settled in 1685 and
chartered as a city in 1869.


On Thursday evening, Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp delivered the annual 'State of the City' address, as required by the city's special charter.

This is the mayor's annual opportunity to make the Queen City shine -- to tout the achievements of his or her administration in the previous year, and to outline some of the proposals for the coming year.

As long as I have been in Plainfield (35 years) it has always been an exhaustive (and often exhausting) catalog of things done and to be done. And often enough, attendance has been standing-room only.

Plainfielders are well known for being interested in the improvement of their community. They turn out in droves to hear, discuss and work on community improvement projects.

When Plainfield won the arts grant from AT&T and launched the 'New Audiences' project to assess the condition of the arts in Plainfield and lay out a cultural action plan, over 400 people participated.

Later, during Mayor Al McWilliams' first term, more than 500 people turned out to work for months on a long-range strategic plan for the community, with mass meetings at the nursing school at Muhlenberg.

Even a display of a fantasy complex for Park-Madison, including a hotel and banquet hall, proposed by the architect nephew of real estate investor Rose Walker drew hundreds. And it was just a 'concept'!

Mayor Mapp's 'State of the City' addresses have always been well-attended -- until last night.

When elected officials, senior city staffers, and highlighted volunteers -- such as the Vision 2025 Executive Committee -- are subtracted, the total audience was meager indeed.

With all the good news there was to report (you can find both the State of the City address and the Vision2025 report on the city's website here), I was dumbfounded by the poor turnout.

The Mapp administration would be wise to ask what has happened? and why? and what does it mean? and what is to be done?

It was an opportunity to celebrate our progress.

And Plainfield shrugged.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Mayor Mapp's 'State of the City' address Thursday at Washington School

Mayor Mapp will present the 'State of the City'
address Thursday evening.

Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp will deliver the 'State of the City' address on Thursday evening (February 15) at Washington Community School.

This is the mayor's first survey of the Queen City since his re-election to a second term in November. The evening will focus on a review of 2017 achievements as well as a special presentation on the results of the Vision 2025 Initiative undertaken last summer and fall and involving citizen panels focusing on specific issues and opportunities.

The meeting gets under way at 7:00 PM; doors will open at 6:30 PM.

At Washington Community School, 427 Darrow Avenue (parking available in the Spooner Avenue lot or on the street -- mind not to block neighbors' driveways.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

In Union County Dem race, Scutari blinks, ceding high ground to Mahr

Sen.  Nick Scutari is in a 3-way race to replace
Jerry Green as chair of the Union County Democrats.


Plainfield Democratic City Committee members will gather with others from Union County on Wednesday February 21 to elect a new county chairperson to replace Assemblyman Jerry Green, who resigned last week.

Three candidates have emerged: Colleen Mahr, mayor of Fanwood and Acting Chair of the County Committee; Sen. Nick Scutari of Linden, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee; and Anthony Salters, chair of the Hillside Democratic Committee. The tussle is getting rough.

Over the weekend, Scutari penned an OpEd on InsiderNJ (see here) in which he cites the county organization's bylaws as calling for an open ballot -- in which electors indicate their choice in public by raising hands or standing to be counted.

That is indeed what the bylaws call for.

Mahr, on the other hand (joined by Salters), wants to use voting machines to allow delegates to cast secret ballots. She argues this will protect delegates from embarrassment and/or retaliation, and simplify the tallying with a verifiable vote trail which would eliminate arguments over the tallies.

Mahr says she has case law on her side and has lawyered up to take the matter to court (see story here).

Whatever the outcome, Scutari has blinked and ceded the high ground to Mahr.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Council set to settle pothole accident for $220K Monday


Plainfield City Council meets for its business session Monday (February 12) in the Council Chambers/Courthouse at 8:00 PM.

Among the items are appointments of department heads and Planning Board members, as well as several contracts -- including $54,000 for the remodeling of Dudley House into apartments for homeless veterans.

Also on the agenda is Council approval of a $220,000 settlement in a pothole accident that occurred in 2014.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, February 5, 2018

Nature abhors a [parking] vacuum

A new parking sign appeared in the City Hall lot... the spot previously taken by the
Mayor's Chief of Staff.

City employees must jockey for parking spots in the lot behind City Hall. (In all my years, I seldom parked in the same space two days in a row.)

Some, however, get designated spots (the mayor and department heads).

I was a little surprised this morning to  receive the image above from an unknown reader.

It is a photo of a new sign in the City Hall lot, evidently for the Director of Communications -- though it is the only sign in the lot that says "NO PARKING" and then the job title. Is it supposed to mark the spot FOR the Director, or to warn the Director of Communications NOT to park there?

At any rate, the sign went up Wednesday or Thursday of last week, in the spot which had been regularly occupied by Mayor Mapp's former chief of staff John Stewart.

Nature, as they say, abhors a vacuum.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Sunday, February 4, 2018

Move to name Park-Madison office building after Jerry Green

The Park-Madison office building under construction,
March 2004.

...And as the Plaza might appear after the Park Jewelers
clock is installed as originally planned.


Monday nigh'ts Council agenda-setting session includes an item (Item A) urging the Unionc County Board of Chosen Freeholders to name the Park-Madison office building for Jerry Green by designating it the Gerald B. Green County Complex in honor of the Assemblyman's contributions to the state, to Union County (he served as Freeholder), and to the City of Plainfield.

I had heard the proposal was afoot months ago, and asked Jerry about it during last year's Primary campaign season.

"Shhh...," he cautioned me, "not to mention a word of it." Like a political pro used to not counting his chicks before they're hatched.

Well, now the word is out.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Full and frank discussion at Plainfield Dem Committee meeting

Chairman Adrian Mapp (center) presided. He is shown here
with (l to r) Steve Hockaday, Charles McRae,
Rebecca Williams and Beverly Calland.

Some of the crowd that filled Democratic Headquarters
on Saturday morning.


It was a standing-room-only crowd that filled Plainfield Democratic Headquarters on Saturday morning for a Democratic City Committee meeting to discuss the process of replacing Jerry Green, who resigned as chair of the Union County Democratic Committee last week.

Chairman Adrian Mapp took the time to paint a picture for committee members of how things had developed to date. As he related it, he responded to a discussion of the possibility that Assemblyman Green might step down from his seat in the Legislature stating that he would not support the seat going anywhere except to Plainfield, and that he was willing to move to the Assembly if Green stepped down.

Chairman Mapp continued that Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr had been lobbying for the Assembly seat as well, and for that reason he could not support her candidacy for the Union County Dem chair.

As it turned out, all three candidates -- Mayor Mahr, Sen. Nick Scutari of Linden and Anthony Salters, chair of the Hillside Dem Committee -- were present.

After his introduction, Chairman Mapp opened the floor to Plainfield committee members. 

What ensued is what they used to call, in reporting diplomatic exchanges, a "full and frank exchange" in which several Committee members criticized the chairman for stating unilaterally that there is a succession plan (there is not, though the chair has thoughts on the matter), and for implying to Sen. Scutari that he (Mapp) was delivering all 68 of the Plainfield votes to Scutari's column.

Committee members made it clear they felt that was close to the kind of "bossism" which had led folks to challenge Assemblyman Green's leadership in the first place, and that the committee would insist that the chair use the Executive Committee to sound out positions the entire Committee would be asked to support.

Since the candidates were already present, Chairman Mapp gave them each five minutes to make their presentation for support to the Committee, with time for questions allowed after each one spoke. (Max Pizarro of InsiderNJ and Jenn Popper of TAPinto posted video clips of the candidates' pitches to their websites; see links at CLIPS here.)

Mahr went first, citing her length of service (15 years as Fanwood Mayor, four years as First Vice Chair of the County Committee) and her psersonal connections to Plainfield (her first job was with Queen City Savings & Loan) and Fanwood's close relationship with the Queen City (we share the South Avenue business corridor, and both communities would benefit from the "one-seat ride" proposal for NJ Transit's Raritan Valley Line. She did not mention that she had lobbied anyone for the Assembly seat, though she did say she supports keeping it a Plainfield seat.

Salters introduced himself as chair of the Hillside Democratic Committee and said he wanted only to serve as the County chair, not in any other elected capacity, implicitly critizing both Mahr and Scutari, who hold elected office. By way of connecting to Plainfield, he shared that Myke Washington (the karate instructor) was his college roommate. He also cited how prominent women are in Hillside politics --ranging from the new mayor to councilors and attorneys -- a rather strange emphasis given that he was asking Committee members to consider him as opposed to a woman.

Scutari gave a brief overview of his political career including his start on the Linden Board of Ed, service as a Freeholder, and the role the late Plainfield mayor Al McWilliams played in his becoming a state Senator. He also noted that he had become friends with Adrian Mapp and had played a mediating role in relations between Mapp and Jerry Green as Mapp was on the ascent.

It seemed clear to me that Sen. Scutari definitely will not get all 68 of the Plainfield Committee's votes. Could it have been different? Perhaps,but we shall never know how different.

As things stand now, it seems the Committee will split its votes between Scutari and Mahr. I did not get any great sense of support for Salters. (It should be pointed out that not all committee members were present, in spite of the crowd that packed the room, which may indicate there will be some members who will not cast a ballot for the new chair.)

The Union County Democratic Committee will meet in convention Wednesday, February 21 (note corrected date), at 7:00 PM at the Gran Centurion in Clark, for the purpose of voting on the new chairperson. Only duly elected members of the County Committee will be permitted to enter the room (according to Acting Chairperson Mahr) and cast their ballots. The County Committee bylaws do not allow for absentee or proxy ballots. Those who show will vote, those who do not will not count.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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