Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, October 19, 2018

Fruitful discussion at Marijuana Town Hall

The economics of medicinal and recreational marijuana
were major focuses of Wednesday's Town Hall.

Wednesday night's Marijuana Town Hall at Washington Community School was perhaps the best town hall I can ever remember attending.

The topics were well-focused (medicinal and recreational marijuana, the business and legislative aspects and one community's experience with a medical marijuana dispensary), the speakers knowledgeable and the moderator kept everything under control and moving along.

The panelists included a Montclair councilman (Robert Russo) and its Police Chief (Todd Conforti), as well as three recreational marijuana-focused businessmen (Alex Stone, Alex Santana and Scott Rudder) and a nurse with 40+ years experience in medical marijuana (Ken Wolski).

Sen. Nick Scutari (who represents Plainfield) was scheduled to participate, but was unable to make it. He is a prime sponsor of the pending legislation which would both legalize recreational marijuana and expand the number of licenses for medical marijuana.

I thought the most important aspect of this very informative evening was the amount of information made available about the economic impact of legalization.

Colorado was cited as an example of the kinds of job opportunities that legalization opens up: from growing to processing, distribution to retail operations, plus the production of cannabis-related or -derived products (oils, edibles, etc.)

Montclair's police chief allayed fears about any crime increase with his presentation and the Montclair councilman came out in favor of legalized recreational marijuana at this event, joking that he may not get re-elected in 2020.

Norman Deen Muhammad, with whom I sat, had the same concerns as I did and we both filled out question cards about them: What kind of opportunities will be open for minorities (Blacks, Latinos and women)? and what will be done about the impact (reduction) on the black market?

Rudder assured the room that a significant portion of the opportunities would be set aside for minorities.

Participants were given the opportunity to fill out a questionnaire that included the manufacturing and disseminaton of medicinal marijuana products in Plainfield and the retail sale of recreational marijuana in Plainfield.

Mayor Mapp kicked off the evening with remarks that indicated his interest in the positive economic impact legalization could have for Plainfield if marijuana is legalized -- which everyone expects to happen soon.

Although the meeting got off to a slow start in attendance (mostly staff in the beginning), the room filled further as folks arrived a little bit later. In the end, I would say there were about 75-80 people there.

It was disappointing not to see clergy or young people represented, as these are two key constituencies in the conversation, but overall the event (which also included considerable conversation around expungement for those with simple possession records) was well-conducted and made a valuable contribution to Plainfield's discussion of marijuana.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Marijuana Town Hall post is coming

A good deal of Wednesday's talk was about
economic opportunities.

I want to write up Wednesday night's excellent Marijuana Town Hall, but I'm just too pooped tonight. Will try to put it together tomorrow. -- Dan
 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Mayor Mapp sets Town Hall on marijuana for tonight

I have always wondered if this toon by Tex Avery,
who created the Bugs Bunny cartoons,
was a coded message. (See more here.)

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp has called a Town Hall meeting for Wednesday evening (October 17) at 7:00 PM at Washington Community School to hear and discuss marijuana in New Jersey: both its medical use and the proposed legalization of recreational marijuana.

Here is the notice in the Mayor's weekly email newsletter --
On Wednesday, October 17, a town hall meeting will be held at the Washington Community School in Plainfield at 7 PM to discuss potential marijuana legislation in the City of Plainfield.

Medical marijuana is legal in the state of New Jersey with medical dispensaries located in Woodbridge, Secaucus and Montclair, among other areas. The ultimate goal of this town hall meeting is to get input from residents regarding potential involvement by Plainfield and to hear from an expert panel discussing the pros and cons of the legislation.

The panel at this meeting includes Scott Rudder of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association; former Montclair Township Mayor Robert Fusso; Chief of Police of Montclair Township Todd M. Conforti; Executive Director for the Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey Ken Wolski; Senator Nick Scutari and other government officials.

Washington Community School is at 427 Darrow Avenue. Parking and entry available from the Spooner Avenue side of the building.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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FUSP closing sparks massive estate sale

FUSP's magnificent "Robinson Window".

The First Unitarian Society of Plainfield is closing its building and is offering the contents in a massive estate sale Friday and Saturday, October 26 and 27.

This sale will appeal not only to individuals but groups and organizations which may be in need of classroom, office or professional kitchen equipment.

The congregation has been in existence for 128 years (since 1890) and worships in a building on land that was donated by Job Male, who was the driving force behind Plainfield's incorporation as a city out of the original Plainfield Township (which also included what are now Scotch Plains and Fanwood).

The contents for sale include the oak pews (30), the pipe organ and an upright piano.

Kitchen items include equipment and restaurant-grade china, glassware and stainless flatware.

Of interest to schools and preschools will be all the classroom and nursery desks, furniture and equipment as well as office furniture and equipment.

The furnishings -- sofas, chairs, lamps -- of the Stevens Lounge will also be available for purchase.

The sale offers something for everyone including home and garden tools, many books, toys, holiday decorations, art work, televisions and other unique items.

As well as the sale, visitors will be able to view the church's historic worship space, which includes the magnificent and brilliantly colored "Robinson Window," the work of glass maker Oliver Smith, which floods the sanctuary with light.

While closing the building, the congregation intends to move to another Union County location and continue a Unitarian presence and mission.

The congregation’s last Sunday Service at Park Avenue will be held on November 4, 2018 at 10 am. The final Plainfield holiday service will be on Christmas eve at 5 pm. All are welcome.

The estate sale is Friday, October 26 and Saturday, October 27, from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. FUSP is at 724 Park Avenue, just off West 7th Street.

Parking is available in the public lot across from the church and on the street.

For more information, contact Sharon McGuire, Parish Administrator of the First Unitarian Society at (908) 756-0750 (Mon-Fri, 9 AM - 3 PM).

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Free Newcomer Bus Tour hosted by Recreation this Saturday

Participants in May's first ever Newcomer Bus Tour
posed before the tour began.

Plainfield's Division of Recreation is hosting its second Newcomers Bus Tour of the Queen City this Saturday (October 20), starting at 11:00 AM.

Begun last Spring to introduce newcomers to some of Plainfield's recreational, historic and architectural highlights, the first tour was a smashing success (see a writeup about that tour here).

Once again, new residents are invited to take the tour. Everyone who attends will receive a goody bag with Plainfield-centered merchandise, coupons and information.

On the first tour, several long-time residents joined in and were highly appreciative of new things they learned about Plainfield from Recreation Superintendent Veronica (Roni) Taylor, who acted as tour guide.

The tour starts in the parking lot behind City Hall, where cars may be left for the duration.

Wear comfortable clothing and shoes (there is a possibility of getting off the bus at the Drake House, where Union County's "Four Centuries in a Weekend" celebration will feature live musicians playing Revolutionary War fife and drum music).

To reserve a seat (there are still some left), call the Recreation office at (908) 753-3097.

Plainfield City Hall is at Watchung Avenue and East 6th Street. Parking is in the lot behind the building. Please no children under 12 years. The tour will last approximately one and one half hours.

Call now to reserve your seat and come along and have fun learning more about your hometown!

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Is Plainfield doing away with Civil Service?

Magic 8 Ball is having trouble getting a clear answer.

NOTE: This post has been edited to remove references to a local bargaining unit. -- Dan

For some time now, rumors have been floating around that Plainfield might try to do away with civil service.

Finally a firefighter brought the matter up at the employee meeting Mayor Mapp hosted this past Wednesday to explain the new departmental organization set up by Council ordinance recently.

I am told that instead of straight out saying the City would not consider such a move, Mayor Mapp explained that he had been considering it earlier this year by way of a ballot referendum but that such a change would require action by the Legislature.

I had been taught from grade school up that civil service was almost sacred, and has saved American governments at all levels from incompetence, fraud and graft. While not in our founding documents, it is regarded as one of the pillars of good government and is securely knit into the thinking of American citizens.

The list of civil service jurisdictions in New Jersey fills nine single-spaced pages; in Union County alone there are 21 civil service jurisdictions (these include municipalities, libraries, and housing and other kinds of authorities) -- heavily weighted to Democratic towns.

Reaction among some city workers was swift, wondering whether their local bargaining unit would benefit from affiliating with a national union such as AFSCME (American Association of State, County and Municipal Employees).

The police and fire divisions already belong to national unions and benefit from the muscle that gives them in negotiations over wages and working conditions.

Public Works employees were also at one time members of the Teamsters, a fearsome national union.

Why would anyone even consider getting rid of civil service?

The principal reason would be to end employee job security and replace it with serving totally at the pleasure of the appointing authority.

Now, you have to understand that civil service employees can be disciplined (and often are) and can even be fired for cause after due process. The difference abandoning the civil service system would make is that employment would be at the whim of the boss.


Civil service began with the federal government in 1871 with the passage of the first civil service bill, requiring examinations for competence and merit-based appointment. Up until that time, hires for the federal government did not have to have ANY qualifications at all, and government jobs were sources of immense graft and corruption.

In 1873, the new law was strengthened by preventing the firing of civil service employees, removing them from the influence of political patronage and partisan behavior.

Up until then employees could be fired when there was a change of administrations, a falling out with a superior, and even getting married or pregnant (Imagine that!).

In 1978, the federal civil service law was revised once again, giving the Commission the power to oversee the right of employees to form unions.

Not long after the federal civil service was established, states began to see the wisdom of stabilizing their own workforces.


New Jersey, in 1908, was the 6th state to adopt civil service. In 1918, NJ classified positions and standardized compensation rates.

In 1930, New Jersey updated the law, providing for work times, annual vacation and sick, military and other leaves.

The 1947 New Jersey Constitution, which still today governs what can and cannot be done, included a "merit and fitness" provision enshrining civil service.

So there is a long history both nationally and in New Jersey and civil service has been of inestimable benefit to every level of government and curbed abuse of employees.


We should also know a little of the history of AFSCME (the abbreviation for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees).

The union began among state workers in Wisconsin in 1932, who were worried that the new Democratic administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt might want to get rid of civil service (they did not yet know that he -- and the Democratic Party -- would become among its staunchest supporters).

By 1936, the union had grown to include county and municipal workers in Wisconsin and had joined the American Federation of Labor (the formation of the more militant Congress of Industrial Organizations being still somewhat in the future).

By 1968, the union (now AFL-CIO) had expanded greatly and led a strike of New York City workers over pay and working conditions that virtually shut the city down.

After that, its membership surged to 450,000 after the militant Local 1199 healthcare workers affiliated.

In 1968, AFSCME represented the Memphis sanitation workers in their strike against appalling working conditions and pay.

It was in support of these striking sanitation workers that Dr. Martin Luther King came to Memphis, where he was slain by an assassin's bullet.

In the 1990s, AFSCME's big fight -- which they won -- was against the drive to contract out public service jobs, thus undermining working conditions and pay.

Since 1998, 350,000 new members have joined AFSCME, many from small independent bargaining units -- like Plainfield's.

In July of this year, NJ Gov. Phil Murphy signed a new contract with the state's 6,500 AFSCME employees. You can learn more about AFSCME in New Jersey here.

All of this ought to give one great pause.

But even greater than this, one would lose credibility with his fellow Democrats for even considering such a move.

Not to mention the backlash among Plainfield voters, many of whom are City employees or have relatives, neighbors or friends who are.

This matter merits everyone's closest attention.

It could be the "3rd rail" in Plainfield politics.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

St. Oscar?

As of Sunday, St. Oscar Romero.

St. Oscar?

Yes, St.Oscar.

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, slain in March 1980 by a right wing death squad while celebrating Mass will be made a saint in the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday, along with Pope Paul VI. (We Episcopalians have revered Romero for years.)

Many of us have hoped for this day ever since he was martyred. (I have kept a small icon of him for meditation for years.)

But it was not always thus.

Oscar Romero came from a carpenter's family and his father had hoped he would follow the craft, but young Oscar had an interest in the priesthood. His brilliance at his studies led him to Rome's Gregorian University where he graduated cum laude.

Back home in El Salvador, he became known as a conservative stalwart and was ascending the Catholic Church career ladder, showing the potential to reach the very highest ranks.

But on the way, something happened.

He was appointed bishop of the rural diocese of Santiago de Maria in coffee country. There, traveling around his diocese he saw the conditions of the campesinos, who were treated like animals by the plantation owners and led harsh and work-shortened lives.

He began to understand the liberation theology that young post-Vatican II priests in his diocese were teaching lay people. After five farmworkers were brutally murdered, he consoled their families and wrote in a private letter to the country's president that their tears had broken his heart.

But the turning point really came in 1977, when his friend Fr. Rutilio Grande was murdered for being a leader of the liberation theology faction, less than a month after Romero himself had been appointed Archbishop of El Salvador.

He made the funeral mass for his friend Grande the only service in the archdiocese on that Sunday (thus drawing attention and enormous crowds), and announced he would effectively boycott the inauguration of the new president (meaning he would not bless the new government) until the murder was investigated.

For the next three years, until his own murder, he relentlessly preached justice for the poor and his popular Sunday sermons were broadcast to the nation on radio.

As Michael Lee of Fordham University has said,
Rather than fleeing the world, Romero discovered that it is precisely in the world where God’s presence is discovered. 'The element of transcendence that ought to raise the Church toward God,' he wrote, 'can be realized and lived out only if it is in the world of men and women.'”

Romero's realization of structural sin in society and his firm faith have made him an inspiration to me and countless others.

After many years of foot-dragging and obstacles by conservatives -- even bishops in his own country -- Romero will finally officially be joined to the ranks of heroes and heroines of the faith.

Part of the debate over canonizing him was whether he was truly a martyr or just the victim of a political murder. With the canonization, the Church is finally and formally acknowledging liberation theology as
an important way for modern believers to live the faith.

As Romero said, “Those who want to be co-partners in the promises of eternity have to collaborate with God in establishing justice, peace and love in this kingdom on Earth.”

And elsewhere,
“Aspire not to have more, but to be more.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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URGENT: Trump administration plans to curtail 1st Amendment expression in DC. Public comment needed NOW!

Americans exercising their 1st Amendment right
outside the White House. In danger!

If you have ever been to a march, demonstration or rally in Washington, DC (MLK's March on Washington, the Million Man March, last year's Women's March, etc.), you should be concerned about the Trump administration's proposed new regulations affecting such events in Washington, DC.

Public comment on the proposals closes EOB Monday, October 15. You can comment online and let the Trump administration know you don't want your First Amendment rights curtailed.

Here is the opening of a blog post from the ACLU (you can read the complete assessment, including details on the proposed changes, charges, etc. here) --

President Trump has a record of attacking the rights of protesters, from suggesting that protest be illegal to praising dictators who crush any kind of dissent.
Now,proposes the Trump administration to dramatically limit the right to demonstrate near the White House and on the National Mall, including in ways that would violate court orders that have stood for decades. The proposal would close 80 percent of the White House sidewalk, put new limits on spontaneous demonstrations, and open the door to charging fees for protesting.
Fee requirements could make mass protests like Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic 1963 March on Washington and its “I have a dream” speech too expensive to happen.
The public has until October 15 to comment on the plans, and on Monday, we submitted our formal written comment explaining why the planned changes are unconstitutional.
Please add your voice to the comments and share this with your friends (Facebook, Twitter, email, text -- whatever).

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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