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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Breach in Plainfield Dems all but sealed at Saturday's PDCC meeting


Dem stalwarts at Saturday's PDCC meeting (l to r): Rose
Marie Cathcart, Liz Urquhart, and Marie Davis.


 

The breach among Plainfield's Democrats seemed all but sealed after Saturday's PDCC meeting.

After putting forward incumbents Cory Storch (Ward 2) and Barry Goode (Wards 1/4) to be the local party's candidates in the June Primary election, PDCC chair Adrian O. Mapp called for a vote of the members present, asking them to stand and be counted.

After a second count, he declared the vote to be 25-2 in favor.

There did not appear to be anyone keeping notes (I did not see recording secretary Carmencita Pile there).

After the vote, committee members Jim Spear and Corey Pettus asked the chair why they had not received any phone call asking them to run again for their committee seats.

Chairman Mapp responded that that was not the way things were being done. (Several committee members have told me that in the past, calls were made.)

Sean McKenna's candidacy against Councilor Storch has already been announced and it is widely expected that Spear will be his campaign manager.

Was the discussion at the PDCC meeting an attempt by Spear and Pettus to signal their willingness to reconcile with the city committee? If it was, Chairman Mapp was having none of it.

So, the split appears to be final.

Another striking thing about the meeting is how lightly attended it was.

Besides voting members, there were only a handful of guests. Very unlike the 2017 committee runup.

Though some members thought the back-and-forth contentious, I did not think so.

The conversation was respectful and only veered off course in mentioning Councilor Armady, whose selection by the Council to fill the vacancy caused by Rebecca Williams moving up to the Freeholder board met the conditions of New Jersey law.

NOTE: A reading of the PDCC bylaws shows NO prescribed method for the selection or endorsement of Council candidates by the committee. There is complete silence on how the city committee candidates are chosen as well.




  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Friday, March 29, 2019

A jury summons. Hmmmm....


Dan gets a jury summons.


So, today's mail included the above envelope from the Union County Courts -- a summons for petit jury duty.

Petit juries are those before which civil or criminal trials are conducted and by which guilty or not guilty verdicts are rendered.

Within a few years of moving to New Jersey (and having gotten a NJ driver's license), my name began to appear every four or five years in the jury pool.

I went down to Elizabeth to the jury waiting room every time. Usually, we waited for two days and then were sent home without serving.

Twice I was summoned to the voir dire, where judges question potential jurors to determine if they can be impartial in the case at hand. At those sessions, prosecutors and defense can have a juror removed on a peremptory challenge -- no questions asked.

On a murder trial, I was excused by the judge after answering a question that I had regular, daily contact with police officers through my job. "Dismissed!" he bellowed.

On another occasion, I was empaneled on a slip-and-fall where Toys 'R' Us was the defendant. After a short trial and hours of deliberation, the jury found unanimously in favor of the toy store (the plaintiff had climbed a ladder clearly marked 'For Employees Only' and then fallen off it).

I still have the uncashed check from that service.

Now, I know some people roll their eyes at jury service and look for ways to get out of it.

I always thought it was an honor to take part in a tradition that has its clearest English roots in the Magna Carta wrested from tyrant King John in 1215. That's an 800-year-old tradition, thank you very much!

(Though some suggest earlier customs in the Danelaw of the Vikings and Frankish customs brought to England by the Norman conquerors as precursors of the jury system.)

When called for, trials by juries of our peers are one of the hallmarks of American democracy. Especially in these troubled times it is important to serve if summoned.

I hope readers will agree.




  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Plainfield's political season is upon us with two events this week


The political season is upon us. Ready, set, go!



Plainfield's political season is upon us with two Democratic Party events this week.

THURSDAY PDCC FUNDRAISER

First up is a fundraiser at Plainfield Democratic Headquarters on Thursday evening, March 28 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM.

While the invitation has a suggested donation of $300, the PDCC's longstanding practice is to welcome any and all who throw something in the hat.

Billed as a fundraiser for the City Committee, there's sure to be light eats along with remarks by honored guests, including UCDC chair Sen. Nick Scutari, Plainfield chair Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, and this year's Council candidates Barry Goode (Wards 1/4) and Cory Storch (Ward 2).

Payment by check to PDCC is preferred. Remember that cash contributions -- no matter how small -- require reporting the name, address and employer of the contributor to ELEC.

NOTE: There seems to have been some sort of hiccup about communications. I received my invitation by snail mail last week (I am not a PDCC member); some ex officio committee members only received an email Monday evening and no snail mail invite at all. One would expect better. Hopefully the PDCC will get its communications act together.

PDCC COMMITTEE MEETING SATURDAY

On Saturday  (March 30) at 11:00 AM, also at Plainfield Democratic Headquarters, the PDCC will hold a formal meeting.

You may expect to hear from the candidates and Mayor Mapp as he gives marching orders for the primary campaign and introduces candidates for the Plainfield Democratic City Committee.

Plainfield Democratic Headquarters is at 31 Watchung Avenue (next to Antojito's Restaurant).

It is a longstanding custom of the PDCC to welcome the public as observers at its meetings.

Parking is available on the street or in the public lot adjacent to HQ.

See you there!



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Monday, March 25, 2019

Dan gets organized ... sort of


Figuring out a workable schedule for the blogs.


As I approach my first anniversary on dialysis, I need to promise readers a sort of steady schedule for the blogs (Plainfield Today and CLIPS).

At first, I plowed through after the treatments, but as time has gone on I find that I need to take a break for a few hours afterwards -- which can turn into several hours of napping.

So, here's what I think will be a workable schedule, posting blogs dated the following days of the week --

  • Sunday
  • Monday
  • Wednesday
  • Friday
I will try to address any urgent issue or breaking news as it comes up, regardless of the day.

Also, on CLIPS, I will post the several most recent Plainfield Today entries so there will be no need to hunt for them.

Hoping readers will find this a workable solution.

It's been my honor and pleasure to bring up-to-date news and analysis of Plainfield goings on since November, 2005. Looking forward to much more.

Thanks to all for reading, commenting and following.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Dan apologizes to readers for City website gaffe


This screenshot of the screenshot in my blog post
clearly shows the error in my search query.


I want to apologize to readers for the mistake in my post on Mayor Mapp's 2019 State of the City Address (see here).

In mentioning that the SOC could be expected but was not online yet, I included a screenshot that I thought indicated a problem with the City website's search engine -- a result not showing any of the previous SOC addresses.

In fact, the error was mine in mistyping the search query with "pf" instead of "of". Of course, the search engine could not find any results for such a mistyped word.

Mayor Mapp's Chief of Staff and Director of Communications, Jazz Clayton-Hunt, had no such problem when she typed in the correct phrase. Here are the links she so graciously emailed me --


Note that the list includes Thursday's address by Mayor Mapp, online in record time.

Moral of the story: Double-check everything.




  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Friday, March 22, 2019

Mayor Mapp's State of the City Address: No one will be left behind

Cover of the handout for Mayor Mapp's
2019 State of the City Address.
(Excuse the spots, it got wet in the rain.)



Mayor Adrian O. Mapp delivered his 2019 "State of the City" address Thursday evening at the Plainfield High School Auditorium.

I was reminded of a rock concert with the various warmup acts for the main event.

After
an invocation by the Rev. Paul Dean, presentation of the colors by the Police Color Guard, a rendition of the national anthem by the talented young Ronnell Harrison, remarks by Council President Joylette Mills-Ransome and the introduction of City Council members, a Gospel number by the Visions of God Praise Team,  and an introduction by Chelsea Young (who was the Town Crier at the January City Hall event), Mayor Mapp took the stage.

His speech (which you ought to be able to find on the city's website, though not just yet) was delivered to a PowerPoint presentation projected on a theater-sized screen suspended above the stage.





You should look for the presentation on the City's website
(though clearly not tonight). Interestingly, the search
did not return *any* of Mapp's previous SOC addresses.

The presentation proceeded flawlessly. Some in the audience were puzzled by the two teleprompters that were placed on the stage in front of the mayor, because he moved around in making his presentation and did not appear to be using the teleprompters, suggesting he was making the delivery from memory.

In any case, it was a bravura performance.

Using the overarching theme "Smarter - Safer - Stronger", Mayor Mapp reviewed the City of Plainfield's progress (sometimes in the past year, sometimes -- as with crime statistics -- since he has been mayor) through all the major departments and divisions.

He effortlessly recited the various stats on crime, roads, economic development, and other matters. (He is after all a CPA and the Director of Finance in Orange, and has a demonstrably good head for numbers.)

One of the main points of the evening -- and he repeated it with stress several times -- came in his report on Economic Development.

In extolling the development projects that are in progress and planned ones coming down the pike, he repeated over and over, almost as if it were a mantra: "No one will be left behind."

The peroration included a moving recital of Mayor Mapp's personal history, rising from poverty in his native Barbados to a position of political prominence and public service in the state of New Jersey.

He ended with a rousing paean to American democracy quite unlike any I had ever heard before.

At the conclusion, the Mayor invoked God's blessing on all present and the City of Plainfield and left the stage.

The audience stood in applause until he came back three times and took bows.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

McKenna tossing his hat in the ring, making a contested Ward 2 Primary


Sean McKenna's Facebook post announcing his candidacy
and showing a campaign account check.


Second Ward resident Sean McKenna posted on Facebook Monday evening that he is circulating his petition and offered a photo of a check with his campaign heading by way of underscoring his seriousness.

A run by McKenna has been rumored since last fall's general election, when he and Ward 2 committeeman Jim Spear helped Ron Johnson run against Elton Armady for the citywide at-large seat. That contest was widely viewed as a proxy for this spring's contest -- as a way of seeing how a second candidate would do in the Second Ward.

Unfortunately, Johnson did not take a single district -- even in the Second Ward -- but not because he and his team didn't work hard.

As I pointed out in a post ("Despite Armady's overwhelming victory, Chairman Mapp has great cause for concern"), Trump trumped everything local last November -- meaning that New Jersey voters (including Plainfield) were intent on sending Donald Trump a message. And they did -- to Johnson's detriment.

McKenna will be running against incumbent Cory Storch in the Primary. Storch is a four-term councilor who, once he vanquished the late Bob Ferraro, has never faced real competition in the Second Ward.

That will not be the case this Spring.

There are no federal contests, no governor's race. The highest office in New Jersey will be the Assembly.

Our Assemblywoman, Linda Carter, is not being opposed (at least not publicly so far).

Freeholder races in Union County are a lock. So, the local races are the only place where there is action -- and maybe traction.

This will be an interesting contest as it unfolds. Besides traditional retail politics, it is likely to be the first in which social media will play a large role, as the medium has really finally come into its own as a virtual "water cooler" with a number of active Plainfield Facebook sites as well as other platforms.

The other Council seat in the Primary is Wards 1/4 at-large. Councilor Barry Goode is the incumbent and is looking for his second term.

Word in the street is that former Ward 4 councilor Bridget Rivers is circulating a petition, as is resident Terri Briggs. If they both submit petitions, it will be proof positive that they don't understand politics. In a town like Plainfield, there would be no hope for TWO candidates to run off the line for a seat which has the City Chair's backing. Period, full stop, end of discussion.

Nevertheless, Chairman Mapp will have his hands full, as will the candidates. This will certainly not be a rest-on-your-oars campaign season.

Petitions for the Council seats -- and the Plainfield Democratic City Committee -- are due on April 1.

We will see how things shake out at that time.

I am not cracking wise about the petition due date.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Public has two hearing choices Wednesday: Wawa and Green Acres


Residents may attend two hearings Wednesday.



Plainfield residents have a choice between two public hearings on Wednesday at which they can weigh in.

GREEN ACRES GRANT HEARING

At 6:00 PM, the City Council meets in special session to conduct a public hearing on the annual Green Acres grant application, which must be in the County's hands by March 31.

See my post about that meeting here. The hearing will be at the Council Chambers / Courthouse, Watchung Avenue at East 4th Street at 6:00 PM.

PLANNING BOARD AND WAWA

The Planning Board will also meet Wednesday evening (March 20) to hear the Wawa application for South Avenue that was move from last month's Planning Board to March. The public will be able to ask questions and comment.

NOTE: The Planning Board meeting has been bumped to Wednesday because of the Mayor's "State of the City" address being scheduled for Thursday (the Planning Board's regular meeting night).

Hardcore attendees can probably make both.





  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Monday, March 18, 2019

Plainfield snags $100K innovation grant from Economic Development Authority


Plainfield is one of only 5 communities
to win competitive grant.



Plainfield won a competitive $100,000 Innovation Grant from the NJ Economic Development Authority, the agency announced last week.

Plainfield was one of only five communities statewide to be given a grant in the second round issued by the agency (the others were Newark, Hoboken, Paterson and Cape May County).

The grants are part of Gov. Phil Murphy's plan for making New Jersey "the State of Innovation".

According to the City's application --

The city will conduct a technology-needs assessment of the community’s underutilized and vacant industrial and commercial properties. The goal of the assessment will be to determine the feasibility of creating a network of commercial, industrial and mixed-use corridors within the city so that it can be an epicenter of New Jersey’s innovation economy.
Hoboken, Paterson and Newark all mentioned partnerships with higher education institutions and private business as part of their project design, something that was strongly highlighted in the transition plan for Mayor Mapp's first term.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Mayor Mapp presents 2019 State of the City address Thursday


The annual "State of the City" address is set for Thursday.


Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp will present his annual "State of the City" (SOC) address Thursday evening (March 21).

Under Plainfield's special charter (Article 3, Section 4) --


He [the Mayor] shall annually report to the council and the public on the work of the previous year and on the condition and requirements of the city government...
For many years, the address was simply made by giving the Mayor the floor for a portion of a Council meeting and thus mimicked the President's annual message to the Congress.

But in recent years, the fashion has become for mayors deliver their addresses in a special venue and at a time separate from a City Council meeting (for example Newark Mayor Ras Baraka's recent SOC at NJPAC) and to couch it more as a report to the public.

(Those present will note that the Mayor faces the audience and not the Council when making the address, though technically -- as the charter states -- it is supposed to be addressed to them.)

In a flyer posted to the City's Facebook page, the address is billed with the heading "Smarter - Safer - Stronger" and promises that Mayor Mapp will "outline the successes and progress of the City of Plainfield in this 150th year of its incorporation, and share the vision for 2020 and beyond."

The event will be held in the Plainfield High School Auditorium and is slated to begin at 7:00 PM.

Note the change in venue. While the SOC has been delivered in the Senior Center Meeting Room on East Front Street, seating was always an issue when there was a large crowd -- not to say parking, which is difficult at best at that location.

The public is warmly invited.

Plainfield High School Auditorium is at the corner of Stelle and Park Avenues. Parking available on the street and in the Stelle and Kenyon Avenue lots. The auditorium is handicap accessible from a ramp at the Park Avenue entrance.




  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Special Plainfield City Council meeting Wednesday


A Green Acres grant application is the sole agenda item.




There are two oddities about a Special Meeting of Plainfield City Council called for Wednesday evening (March 20).

The meeting is a public hearing on a Green Acres grant application to Union County that is due by March 31.

The first oddity is that this is a PUBLIC HEARING, at which the public is invited to speak concerning the grant and its uses -- and it is scheduled for 6:00 PM.

It's hard enough for the public to make it to the new Council meeting time of 7:00 PM (many must skip dinner in order to attend a Council meeting), but 6:00 PM makes one think the public isn't even wanted at the meeting. Whoever's convenience this suits, it can't be the public's.

The second oddity is the phrase "Formal action will not be taken".

If you've noticed with grant resolutions, the Council resolves to apply for and, if successful, accept grants. In cases where matching funds are required of the City, the Council also affirms by resolution that the City will make the required match.

So, if no formal action will be taken -- that is, no resolution adopted -- how will the resolution be approved in time for the grant application's submission?

Or am I missing something?

City Council in a Special Meeting at 6:00 PM Wednesday, March 20, in the Council Chambers / Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street. Parking available on the street and in the lot across from Police Headquarters.

NOTE: I have seen officers in patrol vehicles allow Council attendees to turn onto 4th Street in front of Police Headquarters to enter the public parking. Exiting is no problem. Be cautious.




  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Friday, March 15, 2019

Longtime Board of Ed attorney Victor King passes


Plainfield attorney Victor King in a family favorite photo.



Hilary Harding, wife of longtime Plainfield Board of Ed attorney Victor King, reached out to me on Sunday to tell me that Victor had passed away suddenly early that morning.

I had known Victor almost since we moved to Plainfield 36 years ago.

He was great friends with Councilor Cory Storch and his wife Lois Mattson, who are among my first friends in Plainfield. This was long before Storch's public life, and he and Victor hiked and biked together for many years, until Victor was no longer able to enjoy those activities.





Victor with fellow hikers at Squam Lake, NH,
one of his favorite hiking spots -- and where
"On Golden Pond" was filmed.


In 1986, when I first got into real estate with the former Burgdorff Realtors in Fanwood, I turned to Victor and his firm -- King, King & Goldsack -- for legal services in closing my real estate transactions.

Over the years I took hundreds of real estate deals to Victor and his partner, John Wood Goldsack. The partnership was one of Plainfield's old-line law firms and very prestigious, doing a lot of wills and trusts in addition to real estate. (They had something of a reputation as a "blue hair" firm -- referring that is to their clients, not members of the firm.)

In the 1990s, when I became active in school board affairs -- working to get Rick Smiley, Lynn Richard, Veronica Taylor, Beulah Womack, Randy Bullock and others elected to the Board, Victor was the attorney for the Board of Education.

This was in the days when Dr. Larry Leverett was the Superintendent, regarded by many as a "golden" age for the District, when morale was high, the community supported Dr. Leverett's initiatives, and the District was on the move academically.

Victor's work with the Board was exemplary (this was in the days when the Board attorney was apolitical, the job being based on a broad knowledge of the law as it related to public education).

Working alone as the attorney, Victor along with Rick Smiley (who headed the Board of Ed's negotiation team) helped ensure an unprecedented nine-year stretch of contracts with the Plainfield Education Association (PEA) without lapses, contention or strikes.

In the mid-1980s, I began to attend Grace Episcopal Church at the invitation of a friend who was a member.

After my confirmation in 1985, I was elected by the congregation to the Vestry -- the parish's governing body -- where I served alongside Victor for a number of years.

It was there that I got to observe his lawyerly style up close. Though he did not represent the parish in legal matters, his attention to detail and often probing questions undoubtedly steered us from some blunders.

If no one ever said thank you for that service, I will publicly say it now -- "Thank you Victor, for your service to Grace Church."

But dearer to Victor's heart than serving on the governing body was singing in the choir. Victor was a faithful, long-serving member of the choir and lent real sturdiness to the bass section in the challenging repertoire which is standard fare in Episcopal worship.

He was also an eager supporter of Grace Church's two musical outreach programs of the 80s and 90s: The Plainfield Boy Choir, and its successor, The Plainfield Girlchoir.

In addition to loving biking and hiking, for many years Victor kept several beehives in the spacious side yard of his Hillside Avenue home. The bees frequented the gardens of the homes in the areas and produced wonderful honey.

Lastly, I remember a Thanksgiving dinner Victor and Hilary and Lois Mattson and Cory Storch hosted for a large number of friends and family.

It was quite a crowd and we spent the afternoon and long into the evening enjoying a groaning table of turkey and fixings and then endless desserts.

There were so many people that the enclosed back stoop was pressed into service as an impromptu refrigerator to chill the white wine and craft beer that flowed freely.

It was truly an unforgettable meal, made more so by Victor and Hilary's graciously opening their home.

While a dedicated and competent attorney, I always felt Victor's real sense of freedom came when he was with friends and either hiking or biking.

Plainfield has lost a dedicated public servant. Grace Church has lost a talented voice. And all of us have lost a special friend.

Rest in peace, Victor E.D. King.

NOTE: Condolences may be sent to the family at --
17 Bayard Road, Somerset, NJ 08873

Hilary has advised that there will be a memorial service scheduled after the scattered King and Harding families can come together. I will post further information once I get it.




  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Layoff ordinance withdrawn, but that's hardly the end of the matter


City Council honored several women in recognition
of Women's History Month.


In the only dramatic moment in an otherwise ceremonially full Plainfield City Council meeting, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp announced that his administration was withdrawing the contentious layoff ordinance M2019-07.

After Councilor Ashley Davis presented a resolution of congratulations to Plainfield High School's wrestling team for winning its first ever title, Council President Joylette Mills-Ransome presented resolutions honoring a number of Plainfield women in celebration of Women's History Month.

Those honored (not all were present) were --

  • Assemblywoman Linda Carter
  • Freeholder Rebecca Williams
  • Julia Porterfield
  • Vonda McPherson
  • Patricia Ann Fields
  • Nancy Piwowar
  • Donna Albanese
  • Bintu Sachdeva, MD
  • Anita Kishen, DDS
After all this, Council President Mills-Ransome asked to take the ordinance out of the regular order of business, to which Council agreed.

Mayor Mapp then was given the floor and announced to the Council that the Administration was withdrawing the ordinance, saying he wanted a "decent and healthy working relationship with [the Council] ... not an adversarial one." He added, "I don't want always to be right, but to be successful."

At this, the audience -- which included heavy representation from the city's employee unions -- erupted into applause and cheers.

Councilor Storch remarked to Mayor Mapp that he considered the withdrawal "a good move", a sentiment that was concurred in by Councilor Goode. Councilor Hockaday said that the audience could draw from this whole incident that the Council does listen carefully to the public's concerns, and Councilor Davis seconded Hockaday's sentiments.

Municipal Clerk "Ajay" Jalloh then announced, "For the record, ordinance M2019-07 has been withdrawn."

A few members of the audience didn't realize that since it was no longer on the agenda, it could not be discussed in the public comments on agenda items. Those who attempted to address the matter were promptly ruled out of order.

I was intrigued by an almost unnoticed remark by Mayor Mapp in announcing the withdrawal that it would be "wise for the Council to have no walk-ons this evening."

To me, this seemed to confirm my suspicion that the blank half-page on the agenda had indeed been supposed to contain a number of new items to be taken up at the meeting (see my post on that matter here).

By no means does any of this mean that the matter of layoffs has gone away.

There is still evidently a sizeable budget shortfall and it will have to be addressed, meaning that layoffs are potentially on the table.

And with the Council's longstanding role left intact, they will have to weigh in on any layoff plan. But all that will only come after the budget is introduced, which is expected to be in April. (We are already past the time the State expects budgets to be introduced.)

Finally, PMEA president Cynthia Smith took to the mic and, while she thanked the Mayor for withdrawing the ordinance, she made it clear that her union's members were still suspicious and will be vigilant in case any effort to retrace this ground comes up again in the future.

Another quiet night at City Council.





  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Sunday, March 10, 2019

Besides the layoff ordinance, a couple of oddities about Monday's Plainfield City Council agenda


Screenshot from the online agenda. What does it mean?



The Mapp administration's proposed layoff ordinance will be the hot topic at Monday's Plainfield City Council meeting to be sure. You can see the online agenda here.

Glancing at the agenda, there were two curiosities that I explored.

The first was R 117-19, a tax refund resolution proposed by the Finance Department. I did not notice a backup for the resolution when it was on last week's agenda-setting session.

The amount, while not the largest recent refund, was still sizeable at $51,734.23.

So I decided to check the back up on the business meeting agenda. To my surprise, the link was marked "Tax Appeal, Delete".

Now what was that supposed to mean? Why wouldn't the backup be included with the resolution? Why shouldn't it be seen by the public?

So, I went ahead anyway and clicked on the link and lo and behold, the backup material WAS THERE.

So, if it wasn't supposed to be viewable, somebody goofed.

Both are properties owned by Crown Real Estate Holding Inc. and lie within the East Third/Richmond redevelopment area which just happens to be the subject of Ordinance M2019-06 which is on Monday's agenda for first reading, along with the layoff ordinance.

Both property's valuations were reduced 56.5% by the tax appeal board.

Still wondering why the word "delete" appears on the online agenda.

The second curiosity is a half blank page for "New Items" between the end of the resolutions and ordinances for first reading.

I have never seen that before, the heading just being a placeholder in case something "new" is to be brought up and with a black line or two. Will we be seeing a slew of new items on Monday? Your guess is as good as mine.

City Council meets at 7:00 PM in the Council Chambers / Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street. Parking available on the street and in the lot across from Police Headquarters.


NOTE: I have seen officers in patrol vehicles allow Council attendees to turn onto 4th Street in front of Police Headquarters to enter the public parking. Exiting is no problem. Be cautious.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Friday, March 8, 2019

Joint land use boards meeting will treat public to weed, brew pubs, Air BnB and more


Meeting will discuss weed among other things.



Plainfield's land use boards -- Planning, Zoning, Historic Preservation and Shade Tree -- are holding a joint meeting on Saturday, March 16 that will likely intrigue the public, which is invited to the meeting.

Among the topics on the agenda for an open discussion and questions are: Cannabis (weed), Microbreweries/Brew Pubs, Solar planning, Air BnB and Land Use Ordinance amendments.

These are at the end of a lengthy list of (hopefully short) remarks by Plainfield poohbahs.

Plus overviews of economic development (Valerie Jackson), the Master Plan process (Ron Scott Bey) and Zoning cases and issues (Alex Ruiz).

The discussion topics should be of great interest to residents and it seems from the agenda that they are invited to chime in. This section in itself could easily fill the two hours allotted for the meeting.

These joint meetings have happened occasionally in the past, but never with such a lively agenda. You should make time in your busy Saturday schedule to attend.

The day gets under way at City Hall Library with a light breakfast at 9:30 AM for dignitaries. The meeting begins at 10 AM and is scheduled to run til Noon.

City Hall is at Watchung Avenue and East 6th Street. Parking and entrance in the lot behind the building.





  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Mapp proposal on layoff powers ignites firestorm, puts Council on the spot


Here we are again, trying to figure out "just and capable".


CORRECTION: Monday's meeting was for agenda-setting; the business meeting is next week. As Plainfield's City Council meeting was breaking up after its March 4 business meeting, a union member stopped me on the way out and said, "I cannot see Mayor Mapp supporting this proposal if he was still on the Council and Sharon [Robinson-Briggs] was still mayor."

That was a thought that hadn't been expressed publicly during the many comments made by the public at two points during the session.

The "proposal" of course is Ordinance M2019-07, which would eliminate the Council's prerogative of approving any layoff plan submitted to the Civil Service Commission.

After much public comment and some questions raised by Council members (especially Councilors Storch, Hockaday and Davis) with clarifications by Corporation Counsel David Minchello and Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, the Council voted 6-1 (with Davis voting 'no') to advance the ordinance to a first reading at next Monday's business meeting. (If passed then, it would still need to be passed at a public hearing and second reading in April.)


Most of the public that spoke were members of the city's several unions -- the PMEA, the PMMA and firefighters in particular (the police were at a PBA convention in Atlantic City).

The unions are deeply skeptical of the motive(s) behind the proposed ordinance, suspicious that the Mapp administration is preparing for both a major layoff and to outsource functions currently performed by city employees.

WHY IS THE COUNCIL ON THE HOT SEAT?

The practice in question -- of the administration submitting a proposed layoff plan to the City Council for approval -- has been in the Municipal Code since 1969 -- the year the previous Charter was adopted.

That is 50 years without fuss and bother. And, as the union member said above -- can you imagine Mapp as a councilman supporting a request by Mayor Robinson-Briggs to give up a Council prerogative?

The Council ought to proceed with caution. Once given up, this prerogative would probably never return.

Just because everything is lovey-dovey between the Council and THIS administration is no guarantee that this will be the state of affairs forever.

So, this is a crossroads moment for the Council, one in which a seemingly small decision may change the course of matters forever. That is a heavy responsibility.

In any event, if the Council is concerned to save itself from the flak of being responsible for the final say on a layoff plan, they are mistaken.

Layoffs in Plainfield have always been tied to the budget process (usually as an effort to avoid or minimize a tax increase). The Council of course has the power of the purse, so they cannot escape responsibility if they adopt a budget that includes layoffs. There is no escape. There is only the question of giving away a long-held prerogative.

WHY SHOULD THE COUNCIL GIVE UP ITS PREROGATIVE?

The Mapp administration is arguing that the proposed ordinance would align Plainfield with the
Faulkner Act communities and that none of them have a provision similar to Plainfield's.

Is this a red herring?

The Faulkner Act has been around since 1950. It gives those municipalities which adopt it as a charter a menu of options for setting up their local governments -- including how and when officials are elected, whether or not elections are partisan, and all sorts of operational possibilities.

There are four options under the
Faulkner Act of which the Mayor-Council option the Corporation Counsel references is only one. There are 67 municipalities that follow that particular option.

There are
Faulkner Act communities that do not match with Corporation Counsel's statement.

Besides that, of the state's 565 municipalities the vast majority are organized as boroughs (218) or townships (144). In townships and boroughs -- nearly two thirds of NJ municipalities -- the layoff authority rests with the governing body.

Also, we should consider that the Faulkner Act was in effect and well-known when Plainfield's special charter was revised in 1969 -- meaning that the
Faulkner Act was taken into account and not chosen. AND that the provision for Council in relation to layoffs was made with full awareness of the Faulkner Act.

Lastly, Plainfield has recently gone through a charter revision in which the voters elected a commission of five who labored for months over a revision -- only finally enacted last year by the Legislature.

According to members of the charter study commission, at no time during the revision process did the Mapp administration express interest in either BECOMING a
Faulkner Act municipality, OR writing any specific Faulkner Act provisions (for example, layoffs) into the revised charter.

So, then all we seem to be left with is that Plainfield does things differently. Is that sufficient reason for such a momentous change? If it ain't broke, why fix it?

Let's hope the Council ponders before it takes final action.



HOW THE UNIONS SEE THE SITUATION

The unions have quite a different perspective.

For them it is about their members' livelihoods.

For them the signal came last in February when the Mapp administration proposed laying off the city's 9-1-1 operators and outsourcing the jobs.

When the Council failed to take up the layoff resolution, the Administration posted 9-1-1 jobs as PART-TIME, meaning the employee could not make a living at the job and would have no benefits.

Many members view Mapp's plan as a first step to either turn full-time employees into part-time employees and thus rid the City of the cost of benefits and pension contributions -- OR open the door to outsourcing of large swaths of the city's workforce.

In what world would those outsourced jobs -- even if offered to laid-off city employees -- equal what they have now? None that I can think of.

The unions are bound to protest sharply.


What was notable in the public comments on Monday evening in opposition to the ordinance were the number of long-time supporters of Mayor Mapp who came to the mic and denounced the plan, darkly threatening electoral consequences.

How much political capital is Mayor Mapp willing to burn over this issue?


City Council meets at 7:00 PM (note the new time) Monday, March 11 in the Council Chambers / Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street. Parking available on the street and in the lot across from Police Headquarters.

NOTE: I have seen officers in patrol vehicles allow Council attendees to turn onto 4th Street in front of Police Headquarters to enter the public parking. Exiting is no problem. Be cautious.




  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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Sunday, March 3, 2019

Plainfield City Council ponders abandoning its prerogative at Monday's meeting


As a Senator, John F. Kennedy won a Pulitzer
for his 1957 book portraying Senators making
difficult voting decisions.




Plainfield's City Council faces a 'Profiles in Courage' moment at Monday's agenda-setting meeting.

'Profiles in Courage' is the book by John F. Kennedy profiling elected officials (Senators, in his book) who took a courageous stand on an issue on which they had to cast a vote -- and dared the consequences they might suffer for it. (The book is still in print, see here.)

Among those profiled were John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Sam Houston, and Robert A. Taft.

Perhaps less well known was George Norris from Nebraska, who opposed Speaker 'Joe' Cannon's autocratic rule of the House of Representatives.

What vote is facing the Plainfield City Council Monday evening?

The Mapp administration is putting forward an ordinance (M 2019-07) eliminating the City Council's role in approving layoffs (as currently set forth in the Municipal Code, Ch. 11, Article 12 -- see online here).

If approved, the sole authority for layoff of employees would become the Mayor.

WHY IS THIS COMING UP NOW?

Readers will remember that the Council failed to take up the Mapp administration's resolution at its February 11 meeting (R 093-19) that would have laid off the City's 9-1-1 operators.

The resolution failed for lack of a second to the motion, meaning the operators were spared -- for the moment. I noted at the time that the Mapp administration had not indicated whether it was going to pursue the matter further.

In the meantime, the Administration has posted job listings for new 9-1-1 operators -- as PART-TIME employees, meaning no health benefits and no pension contributions. It is fair to ask if reducing jobs from full-time is an effort to evade the Civil Service.

A further reason that changing the way layoffs are made is that the City may be facing a shortfall in the 2019 budget, which has yet to be presented to Council.

Rumors are the shortfall is in a range approaching $2 million (approximately 2.7% of the annual $72 million budget).

Layoffs of numerous personnel would be one way of avoiding a tax increase.

So, one way or the other, layoffs are going to be on the table.

WHAT IS THE COUNCIL'S ROLE?

To begin with, who makes appointments?

According to the Municipal Code (Sec. 11:2-2), the Mayor makes certain appointments (the City Administrator, Department heads, and any others for which no provision is made).

All other appointments (hires), as provided in Sec. 11:2-2 (b), are delegated to the Department heads --

Each Department Director shall appoint, promote and remove subordinate officers within his department, subject to the approval of the City Administrator, and in accordance with the Civil Service Statutes of the State of New Jersey. (R.O. 1957, 5:3-2, adopted Dec. 1, 1969)

So, to begin with the Mayor is limited -- it would appear by the Civil Service Act itself -- from being the Appointing Authority except in certain narrowly defined positions.

This is important when it comes to layoffs, where the Municipal Code (Sec. 11:12-1,2) as it currently stands provides that in the matter of layoffs --

(a)     Whenever there is a lack of work or a lack of funds requiring a reduction in the number of employees in a Department of the City government, the required reductions shall be made in such jobs or classifications as the Council may designate in consultation with the Mayor.

The City Council's role is to designate the titles that are to be laid off -- in consultation with the Mayor.

All this language is in the Civil Service section of the Municipal Code, which states as its first aim that --

...employment shall be based on merit and fitness free of personal and political considerations.


A careful reading of the Civil Service chapter shows a great concern to keep the chief executive at a certain distance from life-and-death decisions concerning Civil Service employees.

The proposed ordinance would eliminate that distance, putting the Mayor in direct control of the fates of the Civil Service employees.



Essentially, the Plainfield City Council is being asked to abandon its 50-year prerogative in adopting this ordinance.

The Council will have two immediate opportunities to exercise their own 'profiles in courage' -- at Monday's agenda-setting session, and if the ordinance is advanced, then at next Monday's business session.

City Council meets at 7:00 PM (note the new time) in the Council Chambers / Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street. Parking available on the street and in the lot across from Police Headquarters.

NOTE: I have seen officers in patrol vehicles allow Council attendees to turn onto 4th Street in front of Police Headquarters to enter the public parking lot. Exiting is no problem. Be cautious.




  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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



About Cookies: This blog is operated by Google, which uses cookies to improve the user's experience. By continuing to read this blog you agree to their use.