Delivered to 15,000 Plainfield "doorsteps" Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Expansion of historic districts appears headed to Planning Board

The HPC took up proposals to expand two historic
districts (dark shading above) at its Tuesday meeting.

UPDATE: The HPC moved the proposal forward to the Planning Board. All members voted for the resolution except the newest, Gail Smith Alexander, who abstained because she had come on the Commission since the proposal got under way.

My gut feeling Tuesday evening was that the Historic Preservation Commission was on a course to endorse the expansion of the Van Wyck Brooks and Netherwood Heights Historic Districts and send their recommendation on to the Planning Board.

(I had to leave before the final vote was taken, and HPC chairperson Bill Michelson had not returned a phone call as of this posting at 1:20 AM.)

The vote was only the third item on the HPC's agenda, the other two being minor matters, yet no decision had been made by 9:30 -- two hours after the meeting got under way.

Aside from a complaint by my back yard neighbor Allen that he had not received a notice in writing, the only major complaint came from a Gresham Road resident who wanted to know why the new district line stopped in the middle of his block.

It was in response to this question that Michelson said that the line was drawn "at the end of the foursquares" (an architectural style of the early 20th century) -- suggesting to this observer that the Gresham Road boundaries were subjective and leaving open the question of whether other boundary decisions were also subjective.

Michelson was at pains to explain that upwards of 300 people (his number) had attended various meetings with HPC members over the past few months, and that letters had been sent to each of the 230 property owners affected by the proposals.

Nevertheless, when I inquired about whether the former St. Stephen's church (now I Am's Temple) was aware that they have been included in the proposed expansion, Michelson said no particular outreach had been made to them and he was not able to say if they were aware of the change.

The argument that being in a historic district elevates a property's value was also deployed.

With thirty years experience as a real estate professional, I am highly skeptical of that line of reasoning. (And I live in an historic 1870 house.)

Back in the day (meaning the 1970s), there WAS a direct economic benefit through tax credits granted for rehabilitation and restoration work.

Those have long since disappeared and the truth of the matter is that your home's value is more directly related to the way your neighbors keep their homes up than it is to whether or not your property is in an historic district.

Even if you're in an historic district, if your neighbor's homes are lackluster, you're going to pay for that when it comes time to sell.

Barring any surprise in the HPC vote, the proposed expansions now go to the Planning Board, where the rules are somewhat different.

First of all, every property owner within 200 feet of the affected properties will get a certified letter informing them of the proposal and of the time and place of a Planning Board meeting where they may register their input.

Secondly, the Planning Board is far more meticulous about coming to its conclusions and is not generally given to being swayed by anecdotal evidence -- one way or the other.

In the end, if the Planning Board makes a positive referral, the final decision on whether to expand the historic districts -- and by how much -- rests with the City Council, which alone has final jurisdiction in the matter.

So, for any who are not happy with the proposals, your homework is laid out before you: Come to the Planning Board meeting when it is scheduled, AND reach out to your Council representatives and let them know what you think.

Any questions?

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Monday, August 27, 2018

HPC set to recommend expansion of Historic Districts

Proposed expansions to the Van Wyck Brooks (left) and
Netherwood Heights (right) Historic Districts.
Properties to be added are in color.

Plainfield Historic Preservation Commission meets to vote on proposed expansion to two existing historic districts Tuesday (August 28) at 7:30 PM in City Hall Library.

The public is welcome and will have a last opportunity to comment on the proposed expansions.

The proposals would add 230 properties to the existing Van Wyck Brooks and Netherwood Heights Historic Districts (see maps above).

More than 100 people turned out to comment on the proposal at a June meeting. HPC chair Bill Michelson advises that several smaller meetings have been held with affected property owners.

This is the first expansion of the districts since Plainfield began designating them in the 1970s.

The Van Wyck Brooks and Netherwood Heights Districts are prime candidates for expansion because they are the only two of Plainfield's Historic Districts with active member associations.

Residents may speak to the proposal and have questions answered before the vote is taken. It is expected that the Historic Preservation Commission will positively recommend the expansion to the Planning Board.

The Planning Board will take up the matter and can recommend adoption of the plan to the City Council. The Council's vote on the matter will be final.

The Historic Preservation Commission meets at 7:30 PM in City Hall Library.

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

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Friday, August 24, 2018

Free Carillon Concert Sunday at Grace Church

The bells in the Pittis Carillon are susupended
in the tower at the front of the church.

The community is warmly invited to enjoy a free Carillon Concert Sunday at Noon at Grace Episcopal Church at East 7th Street and Cleveland Avenue. (And of course anyone is welcome at the 10:30 AM service which immediately precedes the concert.)

The concert is best heard from the Cleveland Avenue side of the church. Be sure to bring a beach chair to enjoy the concert. Parking is available on the street near the church and in the public lot across 7th Street.

The concert features carillonneur Andy Zhang.

Zhang began playing the carillon in the fall of 2012 with the Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs. Since then, he has served as Tour Manager, Social Chair, and Summer Carillonneur.  At the 2015 Congress in Springfield, MO, he became a Carillonneur Member of the Guild of Carillonneurs of North America.

 Andy graduated from Yale University in May of 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Cognitive Science and Linguistics. At present, he is continuing his research full-time in the Yale Language & Brain lab as a PhD student and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Yale Linguistics Department. Andy’s main interests revolve around the architecture of the human language faculty and its interfaces with the greater cognitive system, the structure of knowledge storage, and the processes underlying meaning composition in the mind/brain.

Andy loves to travel the world and, fortunately, also has a knack for using points and miles to fund his plane tickets. He has traipsed through more than 40 countries on six continents in the past few years and has played carillon in 10 of those countries on four continents.


Grace Episcopal Church is blessed to have one of four carillons in the state of New Jersey.

The Grace Carillon was dedicated as a two octave carillon in March 1923. It was manufactured and installed by the English foundry Gillett & Johnston.

The carillon was later doubled in size by brothers Walter and Bertram Pittis. The new bells were manufactured by the French firm Fonderie Paccard.  The second dedication was in May 1976.

Here are some facts about the Pittis Carillon --

  • Traditional carillon of 47 bells
  • Pitch of heaviest bell is E in the middle octave
  • Keyboard range: C C / C G
  • The largest bell weighs 2296 pounds and is over 5 feet tall

The keyboard from which the carillon is played
Note the foot pedals, connected to the largest bells.

The carillon is played from a keyboard located one floor beneath the bell chamber in the tower. The keys are struck with the half-closed hand.

In addition, the larger bells are connected to foot pedals. The keyboard allows expression through variation of touch.

Individual cables connect each bell to the keyboard.  The bells remain stationary.  The wire pulls the clapper into the bell. The 47 bells are arranged on steel and wooden beams.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Thursday, August 23, 2018

PEA screens Board of Ed candidates

PEA, the union representing teachers and support staff
in the Plainfield school district, interviewed Board of Ed
Candidates Wednesday at Emerson School.

About fifty people -- mostly union members -- attended the Plainfield Education Association's screening for Board of Ed candidates Wednesday evening at the Emerson Community School.

The Plainfield Education Association is the union representing teachers and support workers in the Plainfield public schools.

The format for the evening was questions posed by a panel of union members to each candidate separately. The questions were pre-determined and asked of each candidate in the same order.

Among the questions asked of each candidate were --

  • What makes you uniquely qualified to serve as a Board member and what makes you different from the other candidates?

  • Would you be able to challenge a majority of the Board if you did not support a recommendation by the Superintendent?

  • The Board has a habit of approving critical items through walk on resolutions without community input. What are your thoughts on this practice?

  • What would you change about current Board operations?

The following candidates were interviewed: Alma Blanco, David Graves, Melba Mullins, Harry Watson Jr., Timothy Priano and Rebecca Perkins.

PEA president Eric Jones explained to me afterward that incumbents John Caampbell and Emily Morgan chose not to be screened by the PEA, and that Board president Richard Wyatt would have made the screening but for it being his birthday.

The candidates for the 1-year unexpired seat (Eric Andrews and Dorien Hurtt) chose not to be screened. Tera Phipps is no longer a candidate.

PEA members will choose from among those who screened three candidates to be endorsed by the Plainfield Education Association in the November election.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Senior Swim Soirée set for Sunday

2017 Best Cover-up Winner with her prize.

Attendees line up for the judges at
2017 Senior Swim Soirée.

Reprising a successful inaugural event in 2017, Plainfield's Division of Recreation invites all seniors to a Senior Swim Soirée this Sunday (August 26) at Hannah Atkins Pool.

Besides water aerobics, card games, music and dancing, there will be food and beverages and swimsuit contests in several categories (Best Designed, Most Colorful, Best Cover-up).

The event is free and open to all Seniors; however, registration is required: Call (908) 753-3097 to register.

Bring your own beach chair.

Lifeguards will be on duty.

The event runs from 3:00 to 7:00 PM this Sunday. Hannah Atkins Pool is at 552 West 3rd Street. Parking on the street.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Blink fitness center opens as work on parking lot is under way

This serious roller waits to be deployed in the
mill-and-pave of the Supremo parking lot
and the adjacent public parking lot.

The new Blink fitness center was open for business this past Saturday. The gym is on the second floor of the McCrory's building (now the Dollar Tree store) adjacent to Supremo and across the street from the YWCA.

You can learn more about Blink from my previous posts here and here. The key thing is that they are marketing to ordinary people, not the super-toned gym rats that may come to mind when you hear the words 'fitness center'.

As you might suspect from this marketing illustration,
Blink is not targeting 'gym rats'.

Meanwhile, work has begun in earnest on the promised improvements to both the public lot in the back and the Supremo's parking lot.

In recent days, the fence marking Supremo's boundary was torn down, the trees along the property line removed and new metal stanchions put in for metal bump guards.
In the public lot, concrete strips separating lanes have been removed, drainage work done and there looks to be some effort to smooth out the very uneven parking area.

(This lot has truly been the stepchild of Plainfield public parking lots and I don't believe the City has spent real money there since it was originally paved nearly 50 years ago. When a sinkhole opened last year near the retaining wall along the Green Brook, the fix was simply to put concrete highway barriers in front of the gap.)

The improvements are being undertaken by the New York realty holding company that owns the Supremo and Blink buildings. The company signed a deal with the City last year to rent 90 spaces in the public lot.

This seems like a considerable investment for the 1-year deal originally contemplated, so perhaps the final contract was for a longer period.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Monday, August 20, 2018

Board of Ed candidate interviews set for Wednesday

The PEA will interview Board of Ed candidates
publicly Wednesday at Emerson School.

The Plainfield Education Association, which represents teachers and other employees of the Plainfield Public Schools is interviewing the 2018 Board of Ed candidates this Wednesday. The public is encouraged to attend.

About half the union's members live in Plainfield and a candidate interview session is always held for members to get to hear from the various candidates.

The 2018 Board of Ed candidates are --
For a full 3-year term:
  • Alma Blanco
  • John C. Campbell*
  • David Graves
  • Emily E. Morgan*
  • Melba Mullins
  • Rebecca Perkins
  • Timothy Priano
  • Harry D. Watson, Jr.
  • Richard Wyatt*
* denotes incumbent
For a 1-year unexpired term:
  • Eric Andrews
  • Dorien Hurtt
  • Tera Phipps

The interviews will be held in the cafetorium of Emerson Community School, Wednesday, August 22, starting at 6:00 PM.

Emerson School is at East 3rd Street and Emerson Avenue and is an accessible facility.

Parking in the school lot and on the street. Mind not to block neighbors' driveways if parking in the street. Thank you.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Words for troubled times

Wisdom for troubled times, from a dream.

With many folks distrustful of government and elected officials at all levels, I found some words of wisdom in this morning's worship at Grace Episcopal Church.

The Old Testament lesson was taken from 1 Kings, where Solomon succeeds his father David as king:

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”
10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind...

"Because you have not asked for long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind..."

The implication is that it is because of Solomon's humility that the gift of wisdom was given.

This is a sharp rebuke to many in authority in this country. Humility is a virtue much needed in these times.

The second instance was in the closing hymn "All my hope on God is founded." This is a translation into English of a hymn by the 17th century German Reformed hymnist Joachim Neander:

1 All my hope on God is founded;
he doth still my trust renew.
Me through change and chance he guideth,
only good and only true.
God unknown,
he alone
calls my heart to be his own.

2 Human pride and earthly glory,
sword and crown betray his trust;
what with care and toil he buildeth,
tower and temple, fall to dust.
But God's power,
hour by hour,
is my temple and my tower.

The second verse especially should give heart to those who are alarmed by the troubled times in which we find ourselves -- not to lose hope. (A YouTube video of the hymn can be viewed here.)

And I would say, as a recovering Methodist, not to give up struggling against any inequity or injustice we see around us.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Plainfield Today readers surprise Dan

This -- my cell -- is where I got
the news I write about below.

Got my monthly Plainfield Today Google stats email Friday morning with some interesting facts.

For the first time since I started blogging in 2005, readers viewing Plainfield Today on mobile devices reached 50%.

I have been expecting this milestone for some time.

I cannot be alone in spending a lot of time on my phone.

I am composing this right now on my phone on Friday afternoon as I sit in dialysis, multi-tasking at its finest.

I used to scribble notes to myself to look things up later on my laptop but now find it much easier to Google on my phone and email the link to myself to open later on the laptop.

You can now listen to the radio, watch sports broadcasts, view a gazillion videos and binge watch your favorite TV series -- all on your phone.

And of course there is texting. How did we EVER get by without it? (Though I certainly can't type as fast as today's youngsters, who seem to take to it before they can even walk.)

I do, though, have one inflexible rule: NO texting while driving. And I hope you have the same rule.

(Witnesses to a traffic fatality at 2nd and Park a few months ago reported the driver was texting -- on a turn, no less -- when the pedestrian was struck and killed.)

So definitely do NOT do it.

On another front, there were 44,711 visitors last month which is great considering it is summer and I continue my habit of taking Saturdays off.

Thanks to all of you again for reading. It makes me feel that the effort is worth it for readers.

One last note: Many have asked for me to return COMMENTS to Plainfield Today.

I abandoned them during Sharon's last years as mayor because they were taken over by haters and trolls. Now that things have quieted down a bit, I am considering turning them back on.

Besides, it would give me something else to do while I'm sitting here.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Friday, August 17, 2018

Cedarbrook Towers Annual Yard Sale Saturday

Cedarbrook Tenants Association Yard Sale is this Saturday.

The tenants association at Plainfield's Cedarbrook Apartments will hold their annual Yard Sale on Saturday (August 18) from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. (No early birds, please!)

Among items offered are vintage jewelry, glassware and china, kitchen wares, lamps, bric-a-brac, crafting supplies and craft items, and gently used men's and women's clothing (including plus sizes for women).

Proceeds will benefit the Cedarbrook Apartments Tenants Association, which provides activities and events for residents of the age-restricted tower throughout the year.

The Yard Sale will be outdoors at the front of the building.

Cedarbrook Apartments is at 1272 Park Avenue. Parking on the street or in the visitors location at the rear of the building. Proceed down the drive to the parking lot at the rear of the building and use the area reserved for visitors at the rear of the lot.

For more information, call Tenants Association president Beverly Calland at (908) 361-8533.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Weekend festival already setting up

As with any festival, food is a popular attraction.
(Seen here at the 2009 Fiesta.)

The first of many carnival rides for a weekend multicultural festival scheduled for Saturday and Sunday arrived and set up on Thursday afternoon.

Edison Garcia, owner of the Los Faraones nightclub, is sponsoring the two-day event which will be held in Lots 8 and 8A between the Green Brook and Front Street stores, between Somerset Street and Watchung Avenue.

Garcia began festivals celebrating Latin American independence back in 2009 but suspended them for several years (though they seemed well-attended, there were complaints about the loudness and lateness of the music).

The festival will run from 1:00 PM to 10:00 PM on Saturday and 2:00 PM to 8:00 PM on Sunday.

Besides the carnival rides, there will be plenty of food tents (which are always mobbed), vendors of all sorts of merchandise, some games of chance and musical and dance groups.

Parking may be problematic as work has begun on the public lot between Watchung Avenue and the Supremo supermarket and it is somewhat torn up, though not yet fully inaccessible.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Mayor Mapp sponsors a Gospel Concert Sunday evening

Barbadian Gospel sensation Trinity Clarke presents
a Gospel Concert Sunday evening at FUSP.

Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp and BACONJ, New Jersey's Barbadian-American social organization, cordially invite Plainfielders to a Gospel Concert this Sunday, August 19, at the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield. The concert begins at 6:00 PM -- doors will open earlier.

12-year-old Barbadian Gospel sensation Trinity Clarke will be joined by Anthony Nelson on the sax and the musical group Destined To Worship.

You can view a video of her singing here.

Tickets are $25 per person and may be purchased in advance by contacting one of the following --

  • Miguel Edghill (908-922-0143)

  • Jacqi Workman (908-27-7973)

  • Ayisha Mapp (908-477-5735)
Tickets may also be purchased at the door (cash only, please).

FUSP is at 724 Park Avenue, just off 7th Street. The building is handicap accessible.

Parking available on the street or in the lot across from the church.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Mayor Mapp's 11th annual community BBQ is Saturday -- Sen. Menendez expected

Tents provide a gathering place for old friends and
new acquaintances, as well as to sip the Rum Punch.

UPDATE: Mayor Mapp informs me that Sen. Bob Menendez is expected to make an appearance about 6:00 PM.

The annual community BBQ hosted by Mayor Adrian O. Mapp and his wife Amelia will mark it's eleventh anniversary this Saturday (August 18).

The Mayor's BBQ gets under way at the Mapps home at 535 West 8th Street at 4:00 PM and lasts until Midnight --or whenever the guests finally leave.

While the BBQ is an offering to the community, attendees have always brought donations of nonperishable foods and canned goods. In recent years, at Freeholder Rebecca Williams' suggestion, donations of personal hygiene articles are also sought. Williams has noted that church groups and others aiding homeless folks have said that sanitary napkins and tampons are among the most requested items by their clients.

A portion of the nonperishable food and personal
hygiene items donated by guests.

There will be tents in the back yard to shade the guests as folks gather to catch up on news and meet new residents of the city. Live music begins as darkness falls and folks turn the driveway near the garage into an impromptu dance floor.

And of course not to be missed is the Mayor's own special recipe Rum Punch.

Mayor Mapp and Amelia invite all to bring family, friends and neighbors and have a good time!

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Depending on the kindness of strangers

My childhood church in Laona, NY. The church was raised
and a new basement put under it in my teen years.
The addition at the rear is more recent.

This is a shout out to Frances Lyon of the United Methodist Church's Commission on Archives and History (located, it turns out, in Madison, NJ), who found a piece of information for me that had proved elusive despite many Internet searches.

The little (well, not so little any more) country church in which I grew up is celebrating its 150th anniversary this fall and I have been composing a reminiscence of my years growing up in the congregation from 1948 to the early 1960s.

I was able to find obituaries for the minister and his wife from my early years but was completely stumped when it came to the Rev. Harold J. Wood, who served in the late 1950s to early 1960s. (In those years, ministers were moved about after a few years to a new congregation.)

In desperation, I sent an email to an address I found for the UM Archives folks and within an hour Ms. Lyon had sent me a PDF of the memorial for Rev. Wood from the 1971 Journal of the Troy (NY) Annual Conference.

This little Evangelical United Brethren congregation truly served its community and took seriously its responsibility for Christian service in the wider world.

I owe much of my outlook on life and community service to these warm-hearted and welcoming folks and will ever be in their debt.

It was there I learned the Sunday School song, "Jesus loves the little children." That's a pretty good summary for a lifelong view.

Many thanks for this service of kindness from a complete stranger. Heartening in these troubled times.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Monday, August 13, 2018

Answering Sean McKenna's objection

Political cartoonist Thomas Nast (a Morristown resident,
by the way) satirized political patronage thusly.

Sean McKenna, posting on the Buzz Facebook page (see here), objected to my characterization of his opinion on the question of "confidential aides" in the revised charter --
"--with respect to your blog post - I would like to clarify a point that you make that states "I do not agree with Sean that a patronage appointment automatically means the person is incompetent and a drag on the body politic." Since I am the "Sean" referenced in that comment, let me just say that I didn't say that, and I don't feel that is the case. I will say that a patronage job does not mean that the person is qualified - but I certainly didn't paint with the broad brush that you claim, nor did I embellish it with all being a drag on the body politic. In fact, my blog post related to the city charter changes didn't even use the words patronage, drag, body or politic."
First, let me apologize to Sean McKenna and Plainfield Today readers: In referencing his views on the confidential aides, I inadvertently pointed readers to the wrong post on his blog. The correct post is here.

The post concludes with this paragraph --
There is no arguing with the fact that changing a city charter is important and can have a great impact and cost to its citizens. Putting 10 “confidential aides” in the charter and saying “there is no intention of hiring them” is not the best way to safeguard taxpayers from increased costs and in fact gives this or future administrations the legal authority to use these as patronage positions (i.e. all cost no value). At best this is sloppy legislating done with haste, no public notice and without oversight (Alert: Legislative Check/Balance).
I am highlighting Sean's phrase: All cost no value.

It is this thought on which I based my difference of opinion.

Did I overreach in characterizing this statement as meaning --
"a patronage appointment automatically means the person is incompetent and a drag on the body politic"?
I will leave it to readers to decide.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Some final words on the charter change fuss

Council takes up charter changes Monday evening.

Plainfield City Council will take up a large ordinance (123 pages) numbered 2018-22 to reorganize city government to conform to the revised city charter which was signed into law by Gov. Murphy on August 10.

The manner in which the charter was finally amended has become an item of some interest among residents and I thought to take one last opportunity to review what all the fuss has been about.

After reading the July Courier story on the changes to the city charter (see here) and Sean McKenna's response on his blog (see here) -- CORRECTION: the correct post by Sean is HERE -- it seems a good opportunity to clear up some misconceptions and sharpen the points to be made.

Let me start off by saying that I do not object to the two changes that have created all the fuss (the number of departments and the provision for ten confidential aides).


Already when I moved to Plainfield in 1983 there were grumblings about the inadequacy of the departmental limitations.
Even though the charter was less than 15 years old, the purview of city government had expanded greatly with Richard Nixon's bureaucratization of LBJ's Great Society programs (the ancestor of Plainfield Action Services) and his development of the block grant system of distributing Federal aid.
Hampered by Plainfield's charter, the response was to combine financial and social services in one monster department, making no one really happy.
Though there had been talk of charter revision over the years, concrete steps were not taken until Mayor Mapp's first administration put up a ballot measure.
So a Charter Study Commission was duly approved and its members elected by the voters.
This group worked long and hard and in public view.
They studied other charters. They looked at the options under the Faulkner Act. They interviewed elected officials and others with experience or expertise on the subject.
Finally, they issued their recommendations to the City Council and were discharged. From that point on they had no formal responsibility for the fate of their "baby".
The Council's role in the process was to formalize the report as a petition to the New Jersey Legislature.
The ball was then in Assemblyman Jerry Green's court to act as "godfather" and shepherd the proposed charter changes through the legislative process.
And there things sat. And sat. And sat.

It was not uncharacteristic of Jerry to use this tactic to extract concessions on some point of local interest.
And so things stood until Jerry passed away in April of this year.


Suddenly things began to move very fast.

Mary Burgwinkle, who had chaired the study commission, tracked the progress of the bills (separate Senate and Assembly versions) and noticed that changes had been made from the petition the Council had approved.

She quickly put together an OpEd on the situation which appeared in the Courier a s well as on Olddoc's blog and generated considerable discussion.

Only at this point does it appear that Mayor Mapp decided to explain the situation.

Which he did at the July 9th combined Council session.

At that Council meeting he asserted that the Administration had made the changes, with a rather vague and convoluted explanation as to why the matter of confidential aides needed to be addressed.

Mayor Mapp repeated these statements in the Courier story with a slightly different explanation of the confidential aides (as Sean notes).


So there are three questions looking for answers:

  • By what authority did Mayor Mapp have the changes made?

  • Why was the decision made to change the number of departments originally recommended?

  • Why was the confidential aides matter inserted at all?


As I understand the statutes (and I am not a lawyer), only the Council could make changes to its petition on the local end.

But Mayor Mapp never mentioned the Council in either his July 9th presentation or in the Courier article.

It is his prerogative to have called a special or even an emergency (if he could justify it) meeting of the Council to ratify the changes, but he does not say he even thought of it.

Of course it is perfectly within the prerogatives of the Legislature to amend any legislation before it (it is done all the time) but Mayor Mapp has never suggested that is how things went down -- quite the opposite.

If anyone had the money and the moxie to pursue the matter, they could try to compel an answer to the question. My guess is no one will step up to the challenge.

On the other hand Mayor Mapp could more fully explain himself on this point.


On this question there is more to the story than the public is aware of.

Sources on the Charter Study Commission tell me that Mayor Mapp was asked directly at the time of preparing the final report if he had a preference for more departments and his reply was "No".

So now Mayor Mapp should explain more fully why he evidently changed his mind.

I will not go into a discussion of whether the changes will be "budget neutral" as the mayor asserts.

The administration will have an opportunity to explain this at the August combined meeting.

Al I can say is I wonder how two division heads will take to becoming department heads without getting a boost in their salaries.


Lastly there is the matter of the confidential aides and whether they properly belong in the charter.

My opinion is that they do not and the Civil Service Commission ruling in the city's may make Mayor Mapp's argument moot.

I do not agree with Sean that a patronage appointment automatically means the person is incompetent and a drag on the body politic.

The mayor is right to assert that there is a long tradition of them, both in Plainfield and elsewhere throughout New Jersey and nationally.

One might look through the tube the other way and conclude that ten is the maximum the charter will allow and no administration will ever be able to exceed that number.

Unless they want to go back to the Legislature for another charter change.

Plainfield City Council will meet for its August combined session on August 13, at which time the Administration will bring forth the enabling ordinance need to effect the changes.

Plainfield City Council meets in the Courthouse / Council Chambers at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street. Parking available on the street or in the lot across from Police headquarters.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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

Governor Murphy signs Plainfield charter changes

Plainfield was settled in 1685 and chartered as
a city in 1869.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed Plainfield's special charter revision into law on Friday, August 10th, upon returning from his 11-day vacation.

The bill, sponsored by Sen Nick Scutari, Assemblywoman Linda Carter and Assemblyman James Kennedy (as S2763 and A4220), was previously passed by both houses unanimously.

Mayor Mapp had taken up the matter of the charter changes at the July council meeting, highlighting the most important changes: raising the number of new departments to 5, and the number of confidential aides to 10 (2 per department).

He expected to introduce a package of measures at the August meeting to implement the changes,and the August agenda contains an ordinance revising the departments and setting salary schedules.

Among the changes Mayor Mapp outlined are the following --

  • Splitting Administration and Finance into two departments (Ron West would keep Administration and Finance and Shep Brown would head a new Department of Social Services).

  • Public Affairs and Safety would also be split in two. Carl Riley, currently both Police Director and Public Safety Director, would keep the Police Department as Police Director. Mayor Mapp is proposing to reorganize the Fire Department by eliminating the Fire Chief and replacing the position with a Fire Director (yet to be determined).

  • The current Department of Public Works and Urban Development would also be split in two, with Oren Dabney keeping Public Works, and planning and economic development to be moved to a new Department of Economic Development. The new Department would be headed by Valarie Taylor.

  • There would be a totally new Department of Communications, headed by the Mayor's chief of staff Jazz Clayton-Hunt and including Information Technology and Media.

Although the charter changes became law upon the governor's signing the bill, the changes will have to be adopted by the Council in August and September.

Ordinances introduced on first reading in August would have to wait for a second reading and final passage in September.

With a 3-week period until ordinances can take effect, it looks like early October until the ducks can be lined up.

Plainfield City Council's combined August meeting is set for Monday August 13 at 7:00 PM at the Council Chambers / Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street.

Parking available in the street or in the lot across from Police Headquarters.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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