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Sunday, June 2, 2019

So Mayor Mapp is going to Hawaii (corrected)

Mayor Mapp is attending a conference in Hawaii later this month.

NOTE: Mayor Adrian Mapp's former Chief of Staff John Steward texted me Sunday that he never attended any US Conference of Mayors meetings with Mayor Mapp. So now there is a mystery: Who attended with the Mayor in 2015?

The upcoming US Conference of Mayors summer meeting in Hawaii has led the Star-Ledger to post several articles (here, here, and here) and an editorial (here) on the website.

These have led to considerable discussion (and some condemnation) on Plainfield-oriented Facebook pages, especially The Buzz (see here).

You can read more about the Conference on the organization's website here, including the daily schedule.

Among other NJ mayors who are going, Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler is leading some seminars and chairs an important committee; Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwege is a trustee of the organization.

Transportation and hotels are being paid in several ways, with some attendees from New Jersey footing all or some of the bills -- except for Conference registration fees.

The Ledger has made it sound almost criminal that Mayor Mapp would be going -- and the Ledger editorial was especially snarky.

I, for one, do not see it that way.

Consider this: Plainfield receives grants from the federal government every year, mediated by the state or the county (HUD and transportation grants come to mind immediately).

And consider this: Plainfield has an interest in regional projects that would definitely benefit the city (Hudson River tunnel project, anyone?).

And consider this: President Donald Trump and his administration have not shown great interest in the needs of cities -- and in particular the Hudson River tunnel project, which has been repeatedly blocked.

And consider this: America's cities have many interests in common (in addition to those cited above) and have an interest in working together to influence Congress whatever Administration is in power to be mindful of cities' needs.

One way they do this is through the US Conference of Mayors, whose 87th Annual Conference is being held in Honolulu, Hawaii at the end of this month.

That means that for 87 years this organization (cited as one of the 'big 7' organizations for state and local lobbying) has been sticking up for the interests of cities.

How is that a bad thing?

Mayor Mapp -- as far as I know -- has belonged and attended (along with his chief of staff) ever since he was elected. So, I don't see a problem with continuing his attendance and participation in this useful organization. [See correction at top of story -- Dan, 6/2/19]

When the meetings were held in Dallas (2014), San Francisco (2015), Indianapolis (2016), Miami Beach (2017), and Boston (2018), no one said a word.

Now, all of a sudden, it's an issue.

I don't see it that way. I don't see a problem with Mayor Mapp and his chief of staff attending.

(It was fine with John Stewart's friends when he was the Mayor's chief of staff; why shouldn't it be fine with them now that he is not?)

The administration's response to the Ledger inquiries could have been stronger.

Yes, Plainfield applies for grants -- and has won one previously -- and they are awarded at the Conference (though the submissions are made months in advance, and my guess is the recipients only find out at the Conference).

Yes, there are networking opportunities.

But there are stronger reasons for going and I would expect the Administration to push back a little harder on the Ledger.

Since only the Mayor has a vote, though, there can be legitimate questions about why such a large delegation must go.

The Administration would be better off addressing that matter boldly and directly. After all, ducking the issue only makes it look like something embarrassing is going on.

Not to justify the trip and those going as fully as possible is to expose Mayor Mapp and city government itself to unjust ridicule.

That should be avoided.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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