Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, March 23, 2018

Dog days of March?


Really ready for Spring...

 
Sorry I haven't posted in a few days. I'm still here, but haven't been feeling quite up to snuff. Check CLIPS daily for the latest news -- and any new post to Plainfield Today will of course be the first link on the CLIPS page. -- Dan


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

Council looks to re-petition Legislature for city charter changes


Council is set to repetition the Legislature
to enact the proposed changes to the city charter.

 

In November 2012, Plainfield voters elected five members to a Charter Study Commission: Rick Smiley, John Stewart, Mary Burgwinkle, Marie Davis and Jeanette Criscione.

They worked like beacer for the next several months, studying our charter line-by-line, interviewing professionals from towns with possible forms Plainfield could adopt and holding all its meetings in public, with plenty of opportunity for citizen input. The Commission kept a blog of its activities, which is still online here. Complete minutes of the Commission's meetings are available on the city's website here, and the final version of the Commission's report is here.

By August 2013, the Commission had complete its work and recommended some changes to Plainfield's special charter (see my blog post here). The report was subsequently slightly amended (in December) and an ordinance petitioning the Legislature to make the proposed changes was passed.

The ball then was in the Legislature's court. There has been little word from the Legislature in all the time since, but the Mapp administration opined on Monday evening that it would likely be taken up -- provided the Council petitioned the Legislature once again to do so.

Corporation Counsel David Minchello made clear that the Council had no authority to reopen the study matter or make any changes to the Charter Study Commission's report. Councilor Storch expressed a concern that members of the Council -- most of whom were not on the governing body when the report was adopted -- should be brought up to speed before the April meetings, where the ordinance would face its second reading and adoption.




  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Mayor gets probation after admitting affair with her bodyguard


Justice has been served, at least partly.

 
Now, here's an interesting story.

After admitting to an extra-marital affair with her bodyguard, authorities began looking into matters concerning the 54-year-old mayor and her paramour, a police officer.

When all was said and done, the mayor faced a felony theft charge, to which she pleaded guilty.

Her boyfriend racked up $33,000 in expenses for "official" trips taken with the mayor, in addition to $50,000 in overtime pay during the time they were having the affair.

As part of the plea deal, the mayor received a sentence of three years probation and must reimburse the city $11,000.

Meanwhile, the police officer boyfriend retired with an annual pension of $74,000, though it is possible the retirement board can dock or eliminate his pension if there is a determination of malfeasance on his part.

Oh yes, ... the city? Nashville, Tennessee.

Read more here.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Shostakovich brings light from the darkness at PSO Saturday


Like Mahler, Bernstein and Gershwin,
Shostakovich was a chain smoker.


 
If Americans think they are living through a dark time now, it would pay to reflect on the life and work of Dmitri Shostakovich, the featured composer for Saturday's Plainfield Symphony program.

Though today revered as the foremost composer of the Soviet Union, Shostakovich was perpetually in hot water with the dictator Josef Stalin. Only in the Soviet Union, the penalty for crossing the boss was to be taken out and shot, not a punitive Tweet.

Originally projected as a gigantic work with chorus and soloists to celebrate the victory of Soviet forces over the Nazis, when finally premiered in November 1945, the Symphony No. 9 turned out to be a much lighter work -- even referencing Mozart.

Though initially well enough received (one critic, contrasting the work with earlier, "heavier" symphonies, allowed as how it was OK for the composer to "take a vacation"), it was subsequently banned when Shostakovich was denounced by the regime for a second time in 1948.

The Violin Concerto was composed for violinist David Oistrakh during the same period. It contains references to Beethoven's "fate" motif from the 5th Symphony as well as the "DSCH motif" which Shostakovich uses as a self-reference. After the second denunciation of Shostakovich prevented the work's public premiere, it too was shelved.

The Violin Concerto was finally premiered in 1955, long after the tyrant Stalin's death. In the softening of the cultural climate following the death of Stalin, the 9th Symphony was also once again performed in public.

These two works by the longsuffering composer remind us how important it is to take the long view of history, and to never give up hope for a better world and a better time.

The Plainfield Symphony program begins at 7:00 PM sharp this Saturday, March 10, at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church is at East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue. Parking in the church lot on First Place, on the street, or in the Swain Galleries lot. The building is a handicap accessible facility.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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LimeBike steals the show at Council


LimeBike's Maggie Gendron demonstrates
the company's bike at Monday's Council meeting.


 
City Council meetings are dominated by talk and rarely have show-and-tell moments, but Monday's agenda-setting session was that rare exception.

When the Council got to the proposed Memorandum of Understanding between the city and LimeBike to establish their bike-sharing service in the city of Plainfield, company representative Maggie Gendron and Economic Development employee Jeanette Aparicio wheeled one of the lime green bicycles down the aisle to the front and made a brief presentation.

The agreement is for a year, and LimeBike will initially supply between 200 and 250 bikes for use citywide (the number could grow if demand increases).

Customer will use a smartphone app to locate, unlock and pay for a trip with the bike. The cost is $1 for each 30 minutes or portion thereof.

The genius of the system is that it is totally driven by GPS.

Unlike Citi Bike which operates in New York and Jersey City and with which many are familiar, LimeBike does not use docking stations.

This means the bike does not need to be returned to a docking station at the end of a trip. The user simply parks the bike and manually locks the rear wheel. Another user can find the nearest bike by its GPS location which is relayed through the smartphone app.

LimeBike will have a small staff responsible for keeping the Plainfield fleet in tip-top shape. These workers will also retrieve bikes that are left in out-of-the-way locations to ensure their constant availability.

For more on LimeBike, see their website here.

Councilor Diane Toliver was not impressed, and said she had concerns about safety since the city does not have dedicated bike lanes.

Resident Timothy Priano also had reservations about the sturdiness of the bike and considered that the tires were too insubstantial for the potholes that riders will encounter.

Notwithstanding Toliver's objection, the resolution will be on next Monday's agenda and is expected to pass handily.

City Council's business meeting will be on Monday, March 12 at 8:00 PM in the Council Chambers/Courthouse at East 4th Street and Watchung Avenue. Parking available on the street and in the lot across from Police Headquarters.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Jalloh loses Union County Freeholder line


Freeholder Mohamed Jalloh is being dumped.

 
Freeholder Mohamed Jalloh is expected to be dumped by Union County Dems when the municipal chairs meet as the screening committee this Wednesday evening.

Newly elected UCDC chairperson Nick Scutari sent an email to all municipal chairs today noting his choices for the three Freeholder slots that are open in this year's Democratic primary.

Jalloh -- who supported Fanwood mayor Colleen Mahr in the contest for the county chair last month -- was not on the list. Sources say that Freeholder Bruce Bergen will step down, leaving Alexander Mirabella as the only incumbent to be carried forward.

Bergen and Jalloh are expected to be replaced by former Councilwoman Andrea Straten of Roselle and Kim Palmieri-Mouded of Westfield, both of whom supported Scutari in last month's contest.

Plainfielders have seen this movie before, when Mayor Al McWilliams sought a third term without the blessing of Assemblyman Jerry Green. McWilliams nevertheless went to the screening meeting, where he was the only one of 21 municipal chairs to vote for giving him the line in the 2005 Democratic primary for mayor.

Scutari's move to ice Jalloh is sure to raise eyebrows among those who thought his graciousness in making Mahr his first vice chair signaled a conciliatory approach to leadership of the County Committee.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Monday, March 5, 2018

Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, more 4-way stops on Council agenda Monday


Encaustic tile medallion in City Hall rotunda
had been hidden under layers of battleship grey enamel.

 

Making appointments to the 2018 Citizens Budget Advisory Committee is on the Council's to-do list at Monday's agenda-setting session.

The Committee meets throughout the budget season each, casting a sharp eye on proposed spending from a resident's viewpoint and making a series of recommendations to the Council before the budget's final passage.

Though the CBAC has no formal authority, their hard work is appreciated and their recommendations taken seriously.

This year's nominees are (the sponsoring Councilor's name is in parentheses) --

  • Sameerah Provitt (Toliver)
  • Elton Armady (Storch)
  • Cleveland Burton (McRae)
  • Monique Cook (Hockaday)
  • Geri Agurs (Goode)
  • Valerie Ellis (Mills-Ransome)
  • Siddeeq El-Amin (Williams)

In addition, proposed Ordinance 2018-06 would add some new 4-way stops at busy intersections --

  • Belvidere Avenue and Ravine Road
  • Grant Avenue and Sherman Avenue
  • West 8th Street and Spooner Avenue
  • West 8th Street and Hobert Avenue

City Council meets for its agend-setting session in the Courthouse/Council Chmbers, East 4th Street at Watchung Avenue. The meeting starts at 7:30 PM. Parking is available on the street and in the lot across from Police Headquarters




  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

Storm fells tree at Cedar Brook Park



Though there were strong winds,
the park saw none of its usual flooding.

 
Friday's nor'easter brought down trees and power lines in parts of Plainfield. Among those toppled was this pine tree in Cedar Brook Park.


  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Thursday, March 1, 2018

United, Plainfield Democrats prep for 2018 Primary


Plainfield Democrats are gearing up for
the 2018 Primary elections.


 

After a tumultuous month attending to Union County Democratic Committee business, Plainfield Democrats finally got a chance on Wednesday evening to tend to their own concerns.

In a meeting of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee called by chairman Adrian O. Mapp, Queen City Dems made plans for the 2018 Primary Election. Nearly two thirds of the group's elected members were present, which is not bad for a mid-week meeting called on rather short notice.

After the bruising campaign for the County chairmanship, the bonhomie in Plainfield was palpable. Like a family, everyone came together and made ready for the next adventure.

After opening the meeting, Chairman Mapp noted that though treasurer Mary Burgwinkle was not present owing to a Shade Tree Commission meeting, what he could say was that the PDCC needs money "to keep the lights on." His remark brought knowing laughter.

The business of the evening was the selection of candidates for the 2018 primary races -- in the First Ward and Wards 2/3 at-large.

Two residents who had expressed interest in the First Ward race -- Gail Smith Alexander and Ashley Davis -- were introduced and, along with Ward 2/3 incumbent Joylette Mills-Ransome were invited to speak to the members present. (Ward 1 incumbent Diane Toliver was not present and did not make a pitch for the nomination.)

Smith Alexander, who recently retired from the Union County Sheriff's Department with the rank of captain, noted that she had been politically active under the late mayor Al McWilliams but had stepped aside while pursuing a career course. Now that she is retired, she has the time and interest in serving the residents of the First Ward on the Council. A lifelong resident and graduate of Plainfield High School, she has a special interest in at-risk youth.

Davis, also a Plainfield native, earned a master's degree in public administration in 2015, and cirrently works in the Division of Recreation. She made an upbeat case for her age group, saying she is "no longer the generation of the future...[but] the generation of now".

As an undergraduate she gained valuable experience as an intern with the North Carolina Democratic Party. She put that experience to good use already in Plainfield, where she defeated the incumbent councilwoman for her seat on the Democratic City Committee. Davis noted she would resign her position with the city if elected.

Chairman Mapp noted that the usual procedure was for a slate to be presented to be voted up or down, but since there was no time for a vetting procedure, the group would vote on the spot.

Mill-Ransome, who is currently serving the balance of an unexpired term, was given the line by a unanimous voice vote.

In voting for the First Ward candidate, chairman Mapp asked voting members to stand and raise their hands until all were tallied. In the end, Davis received 23 votes to 17 for Smith Alexander, so she is the official Democratic candidate for the Ward 1 seat.

Davis and Mills-Ransome began circulating their nominating petitions immediately following the meeting's adjournment. Those petitions are due on Monday, April 2.




  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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