Monday, August 31, 2015

Mayor's Response on Outsourcing

UPDATE: Here is Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's reply to my request for a comment on outsourcing:

The administration will address this matter, fully, with the council on September 8, 2015. I am aware that certain employees are circulating self-serving malicious information. As you know, when it comes to personnel matters we are always limited in's  what we can say.

Special Meeting Tonight

As Dan reminds us, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp has called a special meeting for 7 p.m. tonight (Monday,  Aug. 31) in City Hall Library with two items, the "payment in lieu of taxes" for the South Avenue Gateway project and vacating a portion of Old South Avenue.

The possibilities are 1. Lack of a quorum, 2. A quorum rejecting the ordinances or 3. Passage of the two ordinances on first reading, which would mean possible final passage on Sept. 14 if a council consensus agrees at the Sept. 8 meeting to move them to the agenda.

Either No. 1 or No. 2 could sink the project, as Dan suggests, because the developer needs to acquire almost a dozen properties and clear them off to make way for the 212-unit apartment complex. Further delay into late fall or early winter could upset the developer's timetable and as we all know, time is money.

Perhaps since the Aug. 17 meeting at which several council members lambasted the deal and declined to act on it, council questions have been answered. But as with the defeat of the police dispatcher ordinance, there may be a whole other issue, offstage to the public, that will impact some council members' votes. Only those in the know will be able to connect the dots.

The dispatcher ordinance failed, it seems, because a quid pro quo didn't go through. Plainfield already has a reputation as a tough place to do business. If deals hinge on totally unrelated issues, how can any developer operate in good faith? A developer becomes an unwilling third party to some unseen intrigue between two powers in situations like that.

Whatever the outcome tonight, let us hope that it will happen according to the fact-based opinions of the deciders and not anything else. And should the ordinances pass tonight, again let the same hold true on Sept. 8 and Sept. 14.

--Bernice

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Some Thoughts on Outsourcing

Not even a very long nap has had any effect on the fatigue I am experiencing. No blog thoughts are coming to mind, except some vague opinions on what some readers insist is the impending outsourcing of the Planning Division.

On the face of it, outsourcing this division would do away with the institutional knowledge of the city's physical character and structure. The example of outsourcing engineering can stand as proof of what you get when you depend on the abilities of strangers to deal with crucial functions. Over the years, the individuals assigned to the city have ranged from extremely competent and in tune with the city's needs to practically oblivious and incapable of timely response.

In the newsroom a few years ago, there was talk of "journalism by parachute," or the practice of putting a skilled journalist in some unfamiliar place, with the result often being a superficial report that in many cases lacked the social or historical context needed to convey the news intelligibly to readers. Similarly, we have seen instances of outside professionals not "getting" Plainfield and making recommendations based on generic concepts.

Someone raised the issue of how much employees cost, versus outsourcing. A while back I wrote a post on how employers may increasingly be viewing employees as a burden and a nuisance, with their need for things like vacations and benefits. Outsourcing may give the impression of doing away with those costs, but guess what? Each assignee to the city is an employee of the outsourcing firm and so the costs of time off and perks are built in to the hourly rate billed to the city.

This whole situation needs a lot more light shed on it, which may not happen due to personnel rules and the autonomy of any administration in such decision-making. It's hard to report on a personnel issue that is rumored to be happening, until it actually happens. And even then the facts may remain hidden behind regulations on confidentiality.

Meanwhile, eight months of displacement within my own small apartment have left me really tired. It has only been a week since I got back all the space I lost starting on Dec. 9, 2014. Sometimes I am sad and sometimes very angry. It is interfering with my ability to do a lot of things, blogging being one. And now I think I will go back to bed.

--Bernice

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Join the League, Work on a Campaign, Vote

It's nine weeks to the Nov. 3 general election!

We hope all 21,673 registered voters* will come out to the polls. But you can also work on a candidate's campaign or join the Plainfield League of Women Voters in helping to educate voters.

The City Council candidates are: Second Ward, four-year term: Democrat Cory Storch, Independent John Campbell. No Republicans filed.

First & Fourth Ward at-large, four-year term: Democrat Barry Goode, Independent Norman E. Ortega. No Republicans filed.

Board of Education: Three three-year terms: (Non-partisan) John C. Campbell, Jackie Coley, Emily Morgan, Richard Wyatt

NJ State Assembly, District 22, Two two-year terms: Democrats Gerald "Jerry" Green, James M. Kennedy: Republicans William "Bo" Vastine, William H. Michelson.

*Registered voters as of 5/15/2015, will be updated in October

Friday, August 28, 2015

Political Fireworks Ahead

I heard about a couple of situations Thursday that sound rather explosive, but need to ripen a bit more before becoming actual news. To those who think I can make a difference by blogging about the rumors, let me say that I would rather wait on the facts. That's all I can say right now.

--Bernice

Mystery Blooms Emerge


Some mystery plants in one of my flower patches finally bloomed and I found out what they were. I thought they might be a bushy form of Morning Glory, but a check online revealed them to be Four O'Clocks. The flowers are very pretty, but the wait was long. I never planted them before and if I do again, at least I will now know it will take a few months before they bloom.
Here's a white one. There are also some yellow ones about to bloom.

The succession of blooming is something gardeners have to learn, from the Spring ephemerals through early Summer perennnials and then a lot of members of the Composite family, including Sunflowers and Black-Eyed Susans bringing up the rear in late Summer and Fall. Now I know where to expect these ones.

--Bernice 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

YMCA Discusses Apartment Plan with HPC

Representatives of the YMCA made a conceptual presentation to the Historic Preservation Commission Tuesday on the proposed creation of 30 apartments for young people aging out of foster care.

Plans call for converting the second and third floors of the Watchung Avenue building  from 60 single-room occupancy units to small apartments where the young people can live while making a transition to becoming self-supporting. The program includes counseling by staff that will occupy a new two-bedroom unit. The conversion will require a new elevator as well as an addition to the third floor.
Architects Dan Nichols and Richard Ragan
The changes will require a certificate of appropriateness from the HPC, as the YMCA is in the Civic Historic District, but Tuesday's discussion was informal. Representatives of the YMCA will apply for a hearing at a later date.

The conversion of the upper floors will not affect YMCA programs below.

As described by architects Dan Nichols and Richard Ragan, the addition on the third floor will have a stucco finish colored to match the brick facade of the existing building. The apartments will range from 369 to 550 square feet and each will accommodate just one person.

The conceptual discussion was the second for YMCA representatives in a week. On Thursday, the Planning Board heard the concept. In both instances, board members and commissioners asked what would become of the SRO unit occupants. On Thursday, YMCA representatives said occupants received assistance in relocating and only 14 remained. By Tuesday, the count was down to nine.

The YMCA will make formal applications to both the Planning Board and the HPC in coming months. Funding is expected to be in place by January, with construction to follow in 2016.

The project first came to light by way of a City Council agenda in March 2014. Municipal approval is often important for new projects in the city, especially as one element in seeking other endorsements and funding.

--Bernice