Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

DaVita treats clients with Boo-bag Halloween treats



Spooky costumes couldn't hide friendly staff.

They left a Boo-bag of candy and snacks.


And I devoured the salty pretzels, which help me
fight low blood pressure which comes with dialysis.

So Wednesday was both Halloween and my regular dialysis day at Plainfield DaVita in the old Kenyon Nurses Residence at Park Avenue and Randolph Road.

The staff mostly smiles at my refusing to watch TV (who would watch daytime TV if you had any kind of alternative?) and leaves me alone for my three-hour stint once I'm hooked up.

As on most other days, I was busy doing email, reading the news, and writing a draft of tonight's Plainfield Today post.

But soon I became aware of a group of figures moving about in the corner where I and several other patients were tucked.

It was staff members in costume (though I was able to figure out who was who) -- and distributing small Halloween Boo-bags of candy and snacks.

When they gave me mine, I asked them to pose for a picture and -- spotting forbidden stuff in the goody bag -- asked whether I was allowed to indulge.

The dietitian, who was one of the ghouls, said "I give you my blessing ... for today."

'Nuf said.

I ate the pretzels (the saltiness helps me fight off low blood pressure, which is a problem in dialysis) and the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and saved the rest for later.

It really is like being part of a family after a while, with the staff and patients familiar with each other and on friendly terms.

I love being at DaVita. Of course, if I weren't there, where would I be? Lol.



 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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11 reasons not to vote on November 6



How long before NJ adopts paper trail voting?
Oh, I forgot. That's another topic.

In case you're thinking of skipping voting on November 6th, I thought of 11 reasons not to vote just to strengthen your resolve. (Ten is such a boring number, don't you agree?)

1. You think that "grabbing women by the p***y" is presidential and something all Chief Executives should do.

2. You think that denying ACA coverage to those with pre-existing conditions is just fine.


3. You think that your children should spend half their working lives being gouged to pay back their student loans.

4. You're OK with demonizing Democrats and love Trump-style my-way-or-the-highway governance.

5. Corrupt cabinet members are just your cup of tea.

6. The Donald couldn't have done better than pick Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, who is committed to turning back the wheel of history.

7. The hell with protecting clean water and clean air; let them choke us and give us cancer.

8. Demonizing Latino immigrants (who after all were here before the Anglos) and separating families seeking asylum is the Christian way.

8. You're OK with losing your SALT (State and Local Taxes) exemption on your income taxes.

10. You really appreciate paying more for necessities because of the Donald's tariff policies.

11. Lastly, you know in your heart of hearts that Russia is our true friend and Canada is our mortal enemy. Blame Canada!
So, if you're just fine with all of the above, stay home next Tuesday. Donald Trump will thank you for doing so.

If on the other hand, you want to send the Fearful Leader a serious message, vote and VOTE COLUMN A DEMOCRAT ALL THE WAY!

And be proud you stood up for Truth, Justice and the American Way!




 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Dan's first ever angry rant


City Council candidates Elton Armady (l) and
Ron Johnson (r) faced off at Tuesday's LWV forum.

I have never before written an angry rant, so this is going to be the first.

I went to the League of Women Voters candidate forum at Emerson School Tuesday evening -- for the 35th year since I moved to Plainfield -- looking forward to hearing from the candidates. (The League of Women Voters will celebrate 100 years of conducting forums in 2020.)

The forums have always been well-attended and helpful, and always well-run. Until Tuesday.

What a disappointment.

Forget about policy differences between the Council candidates -- the evening didn't even rise to that.

For starters, the forum started late, for no apparent reason. There was a reasonable crowd there at the appointed time (6:30 PM) and the candidates -- Elton Armady and Ron Johnson -- were seated at the table and ready.

Yet the clock ticked on for more than another ten minutes. People around me were asking why the delay.

Then the forum actually began and that is what makes me so angry.

Neither of the candidates' opening remarks could be heard beyond the first row (I was sitting in the second).

I don't fault the school district employee who set up the sound system. He has done it many times before and things on his end went well.

However, the LWV leadership did not have the candidates speak to test the system before the forum began to make sure they could be heard throughout the room.

Neither candidate projects well, and they both sat too far from the mikes (inexcusable for Armady, who has been on the Council for several months now and should know better).

I wonder whether a liberal arts education -- which both candidates have -- still includes an introductory course on public speaking (which every freshman in my college had to take -- and pass).

The most annoying habit was "ummms" and "errrrrs", which a speaking course quickly rids one of.

And how about looking at the whole audience to engage them?

What difference did it make if the candidates didn't agree on issues if no one could hear them?

The League leadership -- and the candidates -- should care enough about the voting public to do better.

I didn't stay for the school board candidates. Had enough!




 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Monday, October 29, 2018

Last chance to hear 2018 candidates at Tuesday's LWV forum


The League of Women Voters
2018 Candidate Forum is Tuesday.

Plainfield's League of Women Voters (LWV) is presenting its 2018 Candidate Forum Tuesday evening (October 30) at Emerson Community School, starting at 6:30 PM. This is the 98th year of this forum, considered the "Cadillac" of candidate forums.

This will be the final opportunity to hear from candidates in contested local races before the November 6 general election.

According to LWV rules , only those in contested races participate in the forum itself, which means Ward 1 candidate Ashley Davis and Wards 2/3 candidate Joylette Mills-Ransome can be acknowledged but will not participate.

That will leave the Democratic nominee for the citywide at-large seat -- Elton Armady -- to face off against his opponent Ron Johnson, who is running as an Independent (NOT a Republican as the Courier mischaracterized him in its online story).

As far as the Board of Education race, all nine candidates are eligible to participate.

That would be independent candidates Harry Watson, Rebecca Perkins, and Timothy Priano, as well as two slates of three each.

Those slates are the #getmad team of Melba Moore, Alma Blanco and David Graves (M-A-D, get it?), supported by Mayor Adrian O. Mapp.

And the Children First Team composed of incumbents John Campbell Sr., Emily Morgan and Richard Wyatt (the current Board president), which is aligned with Republican "kingmaker" Campbell.

Candidates for an unexpired term are also eligible to participate -- Dorien Hurtt (#getmad) and Eric Andrews (Children First).

The forum gets under way at 6:30 PM in the school's cafetorium and will be moderated -- as is the League's custom -- by a member from another nearby LWV chapter.

Emerson Community School is at Emerson Avenue and East 3rd Street. Parking in the school's lot on Emerson and on the street. If parking on the street, please be considerate and mind not to block neighbors' driveways.


 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Rescue Squad Cadets' Haunted House a (pumpkin) smashing success!



Attendees had a ghoulishly good time...



... while also enjoying Halloween treats.
(Photos courtesy Jenn Popper, TAPinto.)

Despite the cold and rainy weather, hundreds of families and teens turned out Saturday night for the Plainfield Rescue Squad's Halloween Haunted House event.

As I pointed out in my previous post (here), there were lots of other activities for adults and for kids around town, but this was the only one that offered a family fun experience.

And boy did they get a response. The lines were long and people patiently waited for up to an hour to be escorted in groups of seven or so through the various horror vignettes -- including a Zombie room -- created by the cadets.

Cadets are high school volunteers who learn the basics of the Emergency Squad's operations and so can come to a more informed decision about whether they want to train to become Certified EMTs.

The coffee can that had been designated as the receipts box (tickets were $5 each or $2 with a canned goods donation) was soon overflowing and a large bin of canned goods was collected.

In all, the young people grossed $2,500 (at $5 a pop you can do the math -- though some teens paid to go through twice).

The proceeds from the event will be used to purchase stethoscopes for the Cadets (who must pay for anything they need) and the canned goods donated will be given to the Star Fish food pantry.

Kudos to the Plainfield Rescue Squad Cadets, the Squad's adult leadership for having confidence in them, and the adult volunteers who popped popcorn (Roni Taylor) (machine courtesy of the Fire Division) and sold tickets (Jenn Popper).

AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT, A SHOUT OUT to Plainfield's very own Jo-Ann Bandomer, who responded to LiVay Sweet Shop's Stacey Welch's appeal for winter coats for Hubbard School students. Ever resourceful Jo-Ann posted the plea to her Facebook page and got enough support to buy 31 coats for $235 at My Unique on Route 22. Thank you Jo-Ann, Stacey and everyone who pitched in! #plainfieldcares




 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Sunday, October 28, 2018

On getting a FB friend request from a dead person



Screenshot of a Facebook friend request from
my dead friend Barbara Ballard.

I recently received a Facebook friend request from a dead person.

Many readers will remember the late Barbara Ballard, who passed away in May of 2017.

For years Barbara was the face and voice of radio station WERA when it broadcast from the second floor studios at 120 West 7th Street (now occupied by Harvest Radio).

She also was the executive of the Central Jersey Chamber of Commerce for many years. It was in that latter capacity that I met her and worked for two years with her on the New Audiences for Plainfield project back in the late 1990s.

So imagine my surprise when I received a friend request (see screenshot above) the other day.

What on earth was going on?

Turns out something rather nefarious.

Hackers are able to "clone" the profiles of dead people and lure you into "friending" them.

This then opens your Facebook account to being hacked and to spamming every one of your FB friends and also phishing them, spreading the mess in a viral circle.

So, if you get a friend request from a dead person, do the smart thing at once -- report it to Facebook, then trash it.

'Nuf said?


 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Halloween Haunted House at Rescue Squad Saturday will scare you for a good cause


The Rescue Squad will be transformed into a
truly scary Haunted House Saturday.

This is the weekend before Halloween and there are a number of Plainfield activities for kids and parties for adults, but there is only one event meant to scare both young and old alike.

And that would be the Plainfield Rescue Squad's Halloween Haunted House on Saturday (October 27) from 6:00 to 10:00 PM.

What will make this event special is that it is being designed by the Rescue Squad's cadets.

Cadets are young volunteers who learn the basics of rescue squad work and so come to an informed decision if they later want to pursue certification as an EMT (Emergency Management Technician).

When I was a kid, the scary part was being blindfolded and passed a bowl of peeled grapes as "eyeballs".

Then there was a period when green throwup was all the rage, as some readers may recall.

So what do today's youngsters think is truly scary?

You must come and find out.

The Plainfield Rescue Squad is at 700 West 7th Street at Spooner Avenue.

There is a modest entry fee of $5 per person (or $2 with a donation of canned goods for the needy). Refreshments will be on sale.

Parking available on the street.



 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Dem faithful give Menendez a thumbs up at debate party


Some of the attendees gathered for a group photo
after the Menendez-Hugin debate.

Plainfield Dem faithful gathered at Democratic Headquarters on Wednesday evening to watch the televised debate between Sen. Bob Menendez and GOP challenger Bob Hugin.

Munching a dinner of fried plantains, fried chicken and a green salad, attendees sat glued to their seats for the hour-long debate on NJTV.

Sen. Menendez' years of experience put him at ease before the cameras, plus his familiarity with both policy issues and how government works made his comments far more effective than Hugin, whose inexperience showed at every turn.

Hugin never really answered Menendez' jabs about the issues with Celgene under his leadership --


  • a 1000% increase in the price of a cancer drug (while the company's costs did not rise),
  • concealing potentially fatal side effects of a drug from patients, and
  • being sued by the Federal government for Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
Hugin spent the entire evening running away from Donald Trump, even though he was a major donor to Trump's presidential campaign and a Trump delegate to the GOP convention that nominated him.

Menendez, on the other hand, underscored his resistance at every turn to Trump's cruel and malicious policies and also that he has fought for programs for New Jersey and its residents.

Attendees filled out an online survey put out by NJTV after the debate was finished and then posed for a group photo (see above).

There was more food and talk, and a grey goose was spotted in the room.

The November election is on Tuesday, November 6. Be sure to vote. Early voting is now available as well as mail-in ballots for those who may be away.

Volunteers are welcome at Democratic Headquarters any day for a couple of hours of phone calls. Headquarters is at 31 Watchung Avenue (next to Antojito's Restaurant) and opens at Noon on weekdays.
Parking in the public lot adjacent to Headquarters or on the street.




 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Is there more Plainfield could be doing about local labor on development projects?


South Avenue's Gateway project is one on which
the subject of local labor came up.

Monday
's post on the development of the former Muhlenberg Hospital property led to an interesting and useful conversation on the Buzz in Plainfield Facebook page. (See the Facebook post and thread here.)

Readers Norman Deen Muhammad and Andre Kelly both faulted the city for a lack of local labor on the Muhlenberg project.

This has been a lament for the 35+ years I've lived in Plainfield.

The list of projects on which the topic has been raised is a long one, including --

  • Rebuilding South Avenue 20 years ago;
  • Spending a sizeable Federal grant on the Teppers basement as the grant was about to expire;
  • The Monarch/Senior Center project;
  • The ABC warehouse on South Second Street;
  • And the proposed apartments next to it on South Second and Grant;
  • The current South Avenue housing project and the one before it below Netherwood Station;
  • And the current Muhlenberg project
-- to name just a few out of many. (I am leaving out the Park-Madison project as that was controlled by the Union County Improvement Authority.)

A CONSTRUCTION WORKER'S LIFE

While I worked in factories as a young man, I never worked in construction, but I had a cousin who did for his entire working life.

Though the pay was pretty good, the work was hard and sometimes dangerous, the hours long and the commute often lengthy.

Often he would have to get up in the middle of the night to arrive at a work site 70 or more miles away at daybreak. And he hardly ever got home until after dark -- in the summer months this could mean 9 o'clock or later.

Not only that, there was always the specter of finishing one job and not having another one lined up.

Then there were the Buffalo-area winters to contend with. It would be so cold and snowy that work would cease altogether for four months or more.

Paying the rent and feeding his wife and three kids on Unemployment during the lean months meant pinching every penny.

In the end, he died physically exhausted in his 50s, pretty much broke, without health benefits, a pension or anything to leave his wife and kids.

Such a life I wouldn't recommend for anyone who can possibly escape it.

That is why it is so encouraging to see Mayor Mapp prodding the City of Plainfield to invest in the current Cisco training program -- which opens a pathway to a career with a 6-figure income with benefits and job stability for those who complete the training.

But I also realize that is not possible for everyone.

WHAT TO DO?

The problem, it seems to me, is not the lack of wanting good opportunities for Plainfield residents.

Both the Administration and the Council are eager to ensure local employment on construction projects.

And developers know the question will come up at some point and are mostly willing to promise a good-faith effort.

Then all sides feel satisfied they have done their duty and go home pleased with themselves.

The problem is the deal is more often honored in the breach than seriously observed, and "good faith" is really just not good enough.

So, what can be done?

The conversation on Facebook led to the thought that maybe what Plainfield really needs is a Compliance Officer.

Such a job would be a total waste if it were to be awarded to a crony or someone not trained to appreciate developer's wiles and know how to get results, and if the employee were led to believe it was necessary to "go easy" on any particular developer.

And of course, this world being what it is, there would need to be a stick as well as a carrot.

That would mean crafting an ordinance with real consequences for any slackers.

Is Plainfield up to the challenge?




 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Menendez-Hugin debate watching party at Dem HQ Wednesday


Menendez and Hugin will debate on TV Wednesday.

Voters are invited to a debate watching party Wednesday evening (October 24) at Plainfield Democratic Headquarters.

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez and GOP challenger Bob Hugin will meet in their only debate of the campaign that evening, to be televised by NJTV.

The debate will be co-moderated by NJTV's Michael Aron and PBS's Lisa Desjardins.

The debate watching party is being hosted by the Plainfield Democratic City Committee (PDCC).

The televised debate gets under way at 8:00 PM, so guests should plan to arrive early (doors will be open at 7:30 PM). The debate will last until 10:00 PM.

Food and beverages will be provided.

PDCC Headquarters is at 31 Watchung Avenue (next to Antojito's Restaurant). Parking behind headquarters and in the public lot adjacent or on the street.



 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Monday, October 22, 2018

Muhlenberg property development update


This sign on the Moffett Avenue side of the property
shows a rendering of the proposed project when
finished. (Photo courtesy Melida Baez-Cataldo)

As I go to dialysis at DaVita three times a week (located in the former Kenyon Hall nurses residence on the old Muhlenberg campus), I am aware of work proceeding on the old Muhlenberg Hospital -- which must be demolished before the proposed development can take place.

Couple of months ago a short green fabric fence went up around the entire property, signaling work was beginning. Though it is not a serious security fence (a grade schooler could probably jump over it), it does demarcate the development property from the SED/DaVita center, which are separately owned.

On Wednesday, the DaVita social worker told me she had been watching the progress on the project and had taken a picture of the sign along Moffett Avenue. She lives in Scotch Plains and comes to work from that side (I hardly ever go on Moffett as the exit feeds into Park Avenue).

She was excited to note the name of the medical arts complex will include the word "Muhlenberg". Many of the DaVita staffers had associations with the former Muhlenberg Hospital and are intensely curious about the project.

The sign, which appears at the top of this story is factual and a clever piece of marketing -- though it is somewhat misleading.

In the first place, naming the medical arts complex after Muhlenberg is a clever (and entirely appropriate) marketing move -- especially given the intense sense of loss by Plainfielders generally, and the anxieties of neighborhood residents about the development.

However, the rendering showing the apartments (in the background) and the medical arts center (in the foreground) is just a little misleading.

While the project may eventually end up looking like the rendering, that will not be for a considerable time.

The way the deal is structured, the developer (Community Healthcare Associates, or CHA) has 18 months to complete construction of the residential portion of the project and up to five (5) years to complete the medical arts complex. That is a long, long time, so we shall see.

Meanwhile, DaVita staff tells me that in talking with workers on the project, the first thing to do was to rid the empty hospital of all the vermin that had moved in, including mice, rats, raccoons, bats and other critters. "It was a wildlife refuge," one worker commented.

Open windows can be seen in the largest former hospital building, from which workers are throwing unsalvageable contents into dumpsters on the ground.

Work is also proceeding apace on asbestos abatement. Buildings of that vintage were loaded with asbestos as insulation on heating pipes emanating from the central heating plant and elsewhere throughout the complex.

After that, demolition should begin.





 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Something new to worry about (foiling car theft)


So, what is this about?

Though the Plainfield police recently sent a message around about keeping cars locked and valuables out of sight (why do they have to keep reminding us of such obvious precautions?), car security was the last thing on my mind Saturday afternoon.

So I'm behind a lady checking out at the supermarket and she is looking in the bottom of her purse for some change for her purchases and she plops a small object wrapped in foil on the counter.

After my experience with a new rental car a few months ago (you may remember the story here), I recognized the object as a keyless ignition fob, suggesting the woman was driving a newer car.

Nosy Dan said, "Excuse me, I can't help noticing the your key fob is wrapped in foil."

"Don't you know?" she said, "it keeps my new car from being stolen."

"It's possible for thieves to unlock my car from scanning my fob and rob me or steal it," she continued.

You know I had to check that out.

And it's true.

First, you have to understand how the whole keyless fob thing works.

I had simply thought that when I pressed the "open" or "lock" buttons on the fob, it sent a signal to the car to perform the operation.

Well that was only sort of right.

Actually, the car is always on, searching for a signal from the fob. And the fob is always broadcasting the code to command the car's computer -- except at a very low frequency.

What clicking the "open" button on the fob when you're in the car's vicinity does is boost the signal, activating the computer's command.

Smart high-tech thieves are able to use a perfectly legitimate tool to pick up your fob's weak signal, magnify it and get into your car.

This is the dark side of the wonders of the latest car computer technology.

But there is something you can do to thwart them.

At night, store your fob in an empty coffee can. Yes, an empty coffee can. The can acts as a shield and prevents the signal your fob emits from being picked up by anyone.

But what to do in the daytime? Nobody's gonna carry an empty coffee can around with them.

So, the homemade remedy is to wrap the fob in a piece of simple kitchen aluminum foil -- which is what the woman in the supermarket had done.

This prevents the weak signal constantly being emitted by the fob from being picked up by eavesdroppers.

For those who want a more elegant solution, you can buy online what is called a Faraday bag (named after the engineer who figured out how to block these signals). It is a small cloth-covered pouch lined with -- aluminum foil.

After a Michigan county executive -- who has extensive security cameras around his home -- woke up to discover two of his vehicles parked in his brightly lit driveway (plus one of a neighbor's) had been looted, he has since protected himself with some foil.

So, my advice to readers owning cars with keyless ignitions is to foil those thieves and burglars -- with a little foil.




 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]


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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

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.

CIVIL SERVICE IN NEW JERSEY

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.

AFSCME and CIVIL SERVICE

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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