Monday, September 1, 2014

A Look Back at the Newsroom

In 2009, I wrote a blog post about my former workplace, the newsroom.

It had changed a lot from the first time I set foot there in 1987. Massive layoffs and buyouts became the norm throughout the industry. Newsroom employees are once again facing the prospect of having to reapply for jobs in order to keep working, but as in musical chairs, there are fewer jobs than employees, so many will be out. There are also new titles reflecting changing demands on journalists, so those who can't wrangle cameras and smartphones in addition to notebooks and pens are looking at the exit door.

Many have left the field for more reasonable and secure employment, and who can blame them?

Anyway, here is my little memoir of life in the newsroom that was, and will never be again. Good luck to all my former colleagues who are still in newsrooms (or filing electronically from wherever).


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor, Underground

Some of the hardest-working people in Plainfield don't have jobs. They don't belong to unions and they don't show up in analyses of the economy. They toil among us in an alternate world.

People tend to complain about the day laborers who loiter downtown waiting for work to come their way in the form of a driver who pulls up and whisks them away, maybe for pay but often just to get ripped off for their labor. The workers I'm talking about are the scavengers, who sift the leavings of the employed for any valuable scraps of metal.

They arrive on my block in trucks, on bikes, on foot in increasing numbers. Picking through garbage, they pluck out soda cans. They rip wires off castoff appliances and smash old television sets for the innards. Even the metal part of a mop is harvested, and old metal shelves become a bonanza.

One person who lives on Block 832 has turned his yard into a mini-transfer station. He diligently smashes up objects with a sledgehammer for a full 8-hour day or more, saving the salable bits.

Even when I don't see them, I can hear, at any hour of the day or night, the crunch of cans underfoot and the clink of bags being filled.

They compete for this work, sometimes making their rounds after midnight to be first in the Dumpster, but also rifling through trash receptacles downtown while the general population is shopping.

What does this say about the state of our local economy? These workers are trying to do for self in a way that only the desperate would embrace. What stands in the way of their getting paid employment here? That is a question I am pondering on this Labor Day weekend.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Labor Day a Tradition in Neighboring Borough

While Plainfield's biggest annual celebration is on July 4th, in neighboring South Plainfield it's the Labor Day Parade.

The borough's motto is "Vision, Family, Industry" and its Labor Day event reflects pride in the working class that made the country great. It usually attracts a lot of politicians who want to acknowledge labor's importance. For those who just love parades, it's a good one. See details here.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Let Us Prey

The Praying Mantises that were so tiny in May are now almost full-grown. This one was hanging out in the sunflowers to catch unsuspecting bugs. They grab their prey with their powerful forelegs and eat them up.

We had a lot of egg cases this year and I saw dozens of small mantises every day in May, but they have lots of enemies and only a few survive.


Hooked on Crocheting Snowflakes

As previously reported, I took up a new interest this summer, crocheting snowflakes with No. 10 thread and a size 7 steel crochet hook. Having completed a couple dozen, I moved on to the next step, stiffening them with a white glue and water mixture.

I pinned the first four onto templates and waited for them to dry overnight. Unpinning the now-stiff snowflakes, I realized each one was flawed. Instead of symmetry on six points and all in between, I found mistakes that made them worthless as ornaments. They weren't as bad as the famous spiders on drugs results, but missing picots and chains ruined them.

Today I pinned four more which seem to be error-free. Here are two of them skewered with the special glass-head pins I bought.
This may be one of the dumbest projects I ever undertook, even though it appeals to my OCD tendencies. At least it's an inexpensive way to while away the time between council meetings and political skullduggery.


Council Plans Veto Override

Tuesday's agenda contains a resolution to override Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's veto of the ordinance to convey two city-owned lots to the Housing Authority.

Mapp's letter giving reasons for the veto was posted by Dan Damon yesterday. At the  Aug. 18 meeting, Corporation Counsel Vernita Sias-Hill also gave several reasons why she deemed the ordinance flawed, but Council President Bridget Rivers dismissed her opinion as "a bunch of statements" and the council voted 5-1 for final passage.

Five of the seven council members must agree to override the veto. Given that it passed 5-1, it seems the votes are there. (Cory Storch was absent on Aug. 18.)

The ordinance may have to be amended, as one of the errors discovered by Tax Collector David Marshall and pointed out by Mapp in his letter is that one of the sites named for acquisition is privately owned and is actually across the street from the lots in question.

Plaintalker has published several earlier posts on this issue. Here are links:

Developers Seek 86 Apartments Downtown

City Land Sought for Development

HAP Wants City Lots, Council to Discuss

Council Passes Ordinance despite HAP Withdrawal Request

Speculations on GOP/RDO Relations

 Democrats have set up campaign headquarters on Park Avenue for the November 4 general election and it's officially time for solidarity. But Plainfield politics are not always straightforward. The elephant in this year's back room is Bill Michelson, who says he will be the new Republican candidate for the Second & Third Ward at-large City Council seat.
In June, incumbent Second & Third Ward at-large Councilwoman Rebecca Williams overcame being way off in Column E to win a place on the ballot for the general election. In effect, her primary win makes her a part of the Regular Democratic Organization, though she is not likely to change her progressive New Democrat outlook. The anomaly puts party boss Jerry Green in danger of choking on words of support for her as part of  the RDO team. The cure apparently will be to secretly back Michelson in hopes of knocking Williams off the council.

Williams is a veteran campaigner and will be a formidable opponent to Michelson. His backers will also have to overcome years of Green's painting Republicans as evil incarnate, in fact using the appellation as a swearword to condemn detractors.

But suppose he wins. Further, suppose he wins and then quits before his four-year term is up. The Republican City Committee, all 15 of them, get to submit names of three Republicans to the council to choose one as his replacement, because the seat will belong to the GOP.

In the past decade or so, the Republicans have had a thin bench, to say the least. Which brings us to another scenario. Republican candidate Randy Bullock originally filed to run for the Second & Third Ward seat. Word is he will switch to the Third Ward race, which could be seen as giving incumbent appointee Gloria Taylor less competition in her bid to win the balance of  Adrian Mapp's unexpired term.

This gambit is not without its possible hazards. Since assuming the seat as an appointee in January when Mapp became mayor, Taylor has gained followers but also put some people off with her unrelenting harshness toward Williams. Some say they would rather vote for Bullock than chance Taylor's council presence till Dec. 31, 2016.

More likely is an easy Taylor win. When he ran against Mapp for the Third Ward seat in 2012, Bullock only got 7 percent of the vote..

So the GOP/RDO game appears to be to put Michelson in to play hardball against Williams and switch Bullock to be the softball against Taylor, the goal being to give Green six biddable council members in 2015.

Unfortunately for this plan, Williams will now be solidly on the Democratic line, with Cory Booker and Bonnie Watson Coleman at the top. In May, Republicans numbered 868 to the Democrats' 13,105, so Democrats for Michelson would have to deviate from their party's line and search him out on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Republican Party Chairman George Gore promised an announcement by the end of the week, which is right about now, so the new lineup shall soon be revealed. If the GOP really wants to do Green a favor, the party could just leave the Third Ward candidacy vacant and not risk a progressive Democrat backlash against Taylor.