Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Noise! It's Against the Law!

Now that we have to open our windows or tend to yard and garden work, we seem to be at the mercy of other people's taste in music or love of noisy devices, such as leaf blowers at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. Believe it or not, there is a section of the Plainfield Municipal Code on noise. 

Sec. 10:8-3.    Regulating and prohibiting unnecessary and disturbing noises; exceptions.15

15State law reference: As to power of municipality to regulate and prohibit, see N.J.S.A. 40:48-1 and 40:48-2; as to regulation of animals, see Chapter 5, Article 7 of this Code.

    (a)     No person shall willfully make or cause to be made any loud, boisterous or unseemly noise or disturbance to the annoyance of any other person; provided, nothing contained in this Section shall restrict or limit the normal use to be made of parks, recreation places, playing fields and playgrounds.
    (b)     No person shall, for commercial purposes, or in connection with any commercial enterprise, erect or locate any device or apparatus in or on the exterior of premises owned or occupied by him which by mechanical or electrical means, emits any loud sounds or noises, so as to annoy or disturb passersby on the street or the general public. The provisions of this Section shall not apply, in time of emergency, to any announcement or broadcast of any current events of public interest.
    (c)     No person shall operate, or cause or allow to be operated any engine of any motor vehicle unless the exhaust therefrom shall be so muffled, controlled or insulated that it shall make no noise that will be offensive to any of the inhabitants.
    (d)     No person shall play, use, operate or permit to be played, used or operated a radio receiving set, vehicle radio, musical instrument, phonograph or other machine or device for the production or the reproduction of sound with louder volume than is necessary for convenient hearing of the person so playing, using or operating such instrument or device and such persons who are voluntary listeners thereto, or in such manner as to disturb the peace, quiet and comfort of neighboring inhabitants or the public.  The use or operation of any such instrument, radio, phonograph, machine or device in such a manner as to be plainly audible at a distance of one hundred (100) feet from the building, structure, vehicle or place in which it is used or operated, shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of this Article.  Nothing herein contained shall be construed to prohibit playing by a band or orchestra in a hall, building or in the open air.
    (e)     No hawker, peddler or vendor shall shout or cry out his goods, wares and merchandise upon a street or public place between the hours of 6:00 P.M. and 8:00 A.M.
    (f)      No person shall on Sunday and upon any other day of the week between the hours of 6:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. operate and use tools or equipment in conducting any excavation, demolition, erection, alteration, repair or other construction within one thousand (1000) feet of any dwelling or business property which shall make any loud or disturbing noise, except in case of urgent necessity in the interest of public safety and then only upon obtaining a permit from the Department of Public Works.
    (g)     Nothing contained herein shall prohibit the construction on Sunday of a house of worship, education facility, library or similar building  by a non-profit religious, educational or other eleemosynary institution, when such construction is performed by members of the institution, without compensation and when such activity is carried on between the hours of 12:00 Noon and 6:00 P.M.
(R.O. 1957, 10:3-1 to 10:3-12, as amended Aug. 3, 1970; MC 1988-14, § 1, amended Sept. 6, 1988.)

Sec. 10:8-4.    Manner of solicitation.

    No person shall solicit the sale of merchandise in a noisy, persistent or offensive manner.  He shall not obstruct the passage of vehicles or pedestrians upon any street, sidewalk or public place.
(R.O. 1957, 6:11-9.)

Sec. 10:8-5.    Parades; permits; regulations.16

16State law reference: As to regulation of processions and parades, see N.J.S.A. 50:67-1.

    (a)     No person shall engage in, participate in, aid, form or start any parade without first obtaining a license as required by Section 9:9-2 of this Code.
    (b)     No person shall engage in, participate in, and form or start any parade in violation of any of the regulations of Section 9:9-11 of this Code.

Sec. 10:8-6.    Riotous or noisy assemblages prohibited.

    No person shall cause or participate in any riotous, turbulent, disorderly or noisy assemblages or gatherings of persons in the streets or other public places.

Sec. 10:8-7.    Operation of sound trucks or public address systems.

    (a)     No person shall operate any noncommercial sound truck or public address system without first obtaining a license if required by Sections 9:12-2 and 9:12-7 of this Code.
    (b)     No person shall operate any noncommercial sound truck or public address system in violation of any of the regulations set forth in Sections 9:12-5 and 9:12-9 of this Code.
    (c)     This Section shall not apply to:
        (1)     Funeral processions; or
        (2)     Such operation by a governmental agency within the scope of its functions.
(R.O. 1957, 10:5-1.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Mapping Out A New BOE

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp administers the oath of office to Lynn Anderson
Not only did Mayor Adrian O. Mapp swear in his April 19 winning slate of school board members at Tuesday's organization meeting, he saw his November 2015 winner become board president for the year. He was also first up during public comment to hail a new era of "synergy that has not existed for the past 30 months" and said it is extremely important that the city and the Board of Education have "a strong partnership."
Schools Superintendent Anna Belin-Pyles, Board President Emily Morgan
Mapp named no names, but just days after the November election of his candidate Emily Morgan, the board voted without advance notice to move the school board elections back to April. Board President Wilma Campbell, then in her twelfth year on the board, was up for re-election. Her husband John had just won a seat on the board, which was dominated by other Campbell proteges. The hasty change meant instead of having until the end of July to file for a November school board election, any challengers had to file by by Feb. 29 and put together campaigns on short notice.

(Enmity between the Campbells and Mapp arose in December 2013, as he was preparing to take office as mayor. John and Wilma Campbell and other relatives chided Mapp in public comment at a council meeting for not reappointing Wilma's sister as public defender. In November 2015, a planned Youth Summit fell through, with Mapp and Schools Superintendent Anna Belin-Pyles at odds over what happened. The cancellation was perceived by some as retribution for Mapp's refusal to issue a permit for Wilma Campbell's son, an independent candidate for City Council, to hold an event on the weekend before the general election.)

If there was some thought of a Campbell advantage in making the election date change, it backfired. Wilma Campbell and running mates Frederick Moore Sr. and James Plummer lost and  Mapp's slate - Carmencita Pile, Dorien Hurtt and Lynn Anderson - won.
Board Vice President Dorien Hurtt, John Campbell, Richard Wyatt
Tuesday's votes for both board president and vice president were 5-4, with Pile, Hurtt, Anderson, Morgan and Carletta Jefffers voting "yes" and John Campbell, Wyatt, David Rutherford and Terrence Bellamy voting "no."

Both school union heads - Anthony Jenkins, president of the Plainfield Administrators and Supervisors Association and Eric Jones, president of the Plainfield Education Association - expressed hope for the new board.

City Council President Cory Storch, a former school board member, congratulated the new board and asked for their collaboration in meeting the governing body's goal of meeting at various schools this year instead of always in the courtroom on Watchung Avenue. Similarly, the board held off on adopting a resolution to hold meetings in the Plainfield High School auditorium.
Carmencita Pile, David Rutherford, Lynn Anderson
"I hate being up here," Pile said, referring to brightly-lit seating on the stage while the audience was down in the dark auditorium.

The common goal, as mentioned by Storch, is to have officials and the public at eye level with each other.

The meeting concluded with the board reciting in unison the New Jersey Department of Education Code of Ethics. The new board will meet at 8 p.m. on May 10 for a work and study session in the PHS Conference Room and at 8 p.m. on May 17 for a business meeting, tentatively in the PHS auditorium.


Council, Residents Want PMUA Rates Cut

Never mind that the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority has gone from the days of double-digit increases to no recent rate hikes, City Council members and citizens still want lower rates for sewer and solid waste services.

"They need to be reduced, they need to be reduced, they need to be reduced!" Councilwoman Gloria Taylor chanted to make the point Monday when PMUA officials met with the governing body.

"I can barely pay mine," Taylor said,.

"You really have the spirit of Plainfield ratepayer," resident Thomas Crownover told Taylor in public comment.

Crownover and many others, including then-Councilman Adrian Mapp called for the authority to be disbanded in 2011. Since becoming mayor in 2014, Mapp has managed to fill all seats on the PMUA board of commissioners with his appointees, though the governing body has rejected Crownover several times.

PMUA Executive Director Daniel Mejias named staff reduction, increased outside revenues and close analysis of operations as measures taken to keep rates level during his eight-month tenure. But he also cited adverse changes such as income from recycled cardboard dropping from $150 per ton to $50 as part of the ongoing struggle to stabilize rates.

Mejias said staff has dropped from 171 to 133. By negotiating for health benefits, he said, the authority saw a drop from a 13.9 percent proposed increase to 5 percent to zero. To address a suggestion for shared costs with the city Division of Public Works, the authority is looking into possible sharing of its GIS equipment tracking system. The authority is also now cooperating with the DPW and the Police Division to address the costly nuisance of illegal dumping.

In addition, the authority continues to increase outside revenues by expanding services offered to nearby municipalities.

 Mejias is only the third executive director in the authority's 20-year history. The current director of Public Works & Urban Development, Eric Watson, became the original executive director when the authority was created in 1995. He had held the city title under Mayor Mark Fury and returned to the post in September 2014.

Taylor pointed out the transition, saying, "I have issues," and praising Watson before telling Mejias, "I think he is an expert. Perhaps he is the person you should talk to."

Some of the talk Monday of returning authority responsibilities to the city glossed over the fact that it is an autonomous entity, though Crownover, the executive director of a Metuchen authority, has said dissolving it is not difficult.On Monday, he predicted savings of $3 million if the DPW took over shared services, which is a charge to all property owners for cleanup of parks, municipal buildings and other public areas.

Another factor in replacing the authority with city Public Works would be how to handle solid waste collection. Prior to the inception of the PMUA, residents made their own arrangements with private carters. The city would fall heir to the responsibility for fleet maintenance and replacement if it took on solid waste collection, but property owners might see an advantage in solid waste and sewer tax write-offs.

Although there was plenty of talk about how much better other entities handle solid waste and sewer services, the joint meeting ended as it began, with Council President Cory Storch holding out hopes for further cooperation between the city and the authority on mutual concerns. Another meeting will be scheduled in coming months.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Six Meetings This Week

Municipal government, land use, school board - pick a meeting to attend and learn more about your city!

7 p.m. Special Meeting for Possible Budget Amendments
7:30 p.m. City Council Agenda-fixing session which will include a joint meeting with PMUA officials
Both at Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

7 p.m. Board of Education Organization Meeting
New members Carmencita Pile, Dorien Hurtt, Lynn Anderson will be sworn in and board will choose board president and vice president to serve one year
PHS Auditorium, 950 Park Ave.

7: p.m. Zoning Board of Adjustment
City Hall Library
515 Watchung Ave.

7:30 p.m. Planning Board
City Hall Library 515 Watchung Ave.
7:30 p.m. Senior Center
Public Hearing on Budget Amendments and possible Budget Adoption
400 E. Front St.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

May Day 2016

MAY 1, 2016

Happy International Workers Day

Joyous May Day
File:Beltane Fire Dragon.jpg
Blessed Beltane

A good day for Morris Dancing

BOE Organization Time, Place Changed

click to enlarge
A public notice in today's Courier News lists the Board of Education Organization Meeting as 7 p.m. May 3 in the Plainfield High School Auditorium, but the schedule at the BOE website still says 8 p.m. in the PHS Conference Room.
The notice today also lists other meetings in May and for good measure appears twice, in one format for $25.80 and in another for $14.19.
Saturday's online calendar 
Given that hardly anyone reads legal notices regularly except small-print aficionados like me, confusion could ensue.
Update: Page changed and agenda published
In situations like this, I tend to go with the most recent information. So just to be on the safe side, attendees should get to the PHS auditorium by 7 p.m. on May 3.

The winners of the April 19 BOE election - Carmencita Pile, Dorien Hurtt and Lynn Anderson - will be sworn in and officers will be chosen to serve for one year.


Friday, April 29, 2016

PMUA/Council Talk May Top Monday's Agenda

Of three City Council segments Monday, the joint session with PMUA officials is likely to be the show-stealer.

A special meeting will take place at 7 p.m. for the purpose of considering amendments to the CY 2016 Municipal Operating Budget. The budget as prepared by the administration was introduced in March, after which it became the governing body's budget. The Citizens' Budget Advisory and council members met to review it in three sessions this month, with a CBAC report presented last Wednesday. Amendments proposed Monday will be published and on Thursday the council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and possibly adopt the budget.

The agenda-fixing session at 7:30 p.m. Monday includes the joint session with PMUA officials. The authority began in 1995 and manages sewer and solid waste activities for the city, but has been controversial since its inception. Most recently, the CBAC recommended this week that the city Public Works Division should take over PMUA tasks.

In other years, a citizen activist group called Dump PMUA advocated "opting out" of the authority's trash collection by hiring private carters and a study commissioned by the council produced options including dissolution. However, the authority has finally reached its longtime goal of bringing in outside revenue by providing services to other municipalities and has not recently increased its rates to city residents.

Still, residents complain rates are too high compared to other authorities, while PMUA officials say the authority is unique for providing both solid waste and sewer services and cannot be compared to other authorities. Alan Goldstein, the most vocal objector to PMUA practices, sent the governing body nine questions for discussion at the joint meeting. However, PMUA officials had asked for council questions in advance and may not entertain a broader discussion.

The rest of the agenda-fixing agenda is relatively tame, though one ordinance up for final passage has drawn many speakers at prior meetings to urge its support. The ordinance tightens up guidelines for tethering animals  outside, enhancing prior legislation that drew crowds of animal welfare activists in 2015.