Friday, January 20, 2017

Road Repair Redux

A bond ordinance approved Tuesday provides for $5.6 million for road improvements, a new chapter in the city's long saga of road repair.

A five-year plan launched in 2005 fell behind to the point where officials eventually stopped referring to plan years and talked instead about "phases."

As the work fell behind, the city spent nearly $1 million to re-prioritize the original schedule of repairs.

Tuesday's ordinance gets the ball rolling again. This excerpt lists the intended locations:

SECTION 3. The improvements hereby authorized and purposes for the financing of which said bonds or notes are to be issued are for, as applicable, the milling, paving, surfacing, and resurfacing of, and the construction of curbs and sidewalks for, the entire lengths or portions of various streets located in the City, including, but not limited to: Central Avenue from Wadsworth to Seventh Street, Stelle Avenue from Plainfield Avenue to Hobert Avenue, Hillside Avenue from Randolph Road to Berckman Street, and West Third Street from Clinton Avenue to Prescott Place; and milling and paving, as applicable, of the entire lengths or portions of various streets located in the City, including, but not limited to: Pemberton Avenue from Parkside Road to Grant Avenue, Pineview Terrace from East Front Street to East Third Street, Berkeley Terrace from East Third Street to the border of Watchung, Raymond Boulevard from Front Street to the border of Watchung, Field Avenue from West Fifth Street to the border of South Plainfield, Ironbound Avenue from Aletta Street to Sheridan Avenue, South End Parkway from Park Avenue to Woodland Avenue, and Norwood Avenue from East Front Street to the border of North Plainfield, and shall also include the following, as applicable, surveying, construction planning, engineering and design work, preparation of plans and specifications, . 13permits, bid documents, construction inspection and contract administration, environmental testing and remediation and also all work, materials, equipment, labor and appurtenances as necessary therefor or incidental thereto.

The ordinance passed on first reading Tuesday and will be up for final passage on Feb. 13.
--Bernice

NJSBA Posts School Board Election Timeline

If you are thinking about running for one of the three school board seats up this year, make sure to look at the New Jersey School Boards Association website.

Here is one of their guides for prospective candidates.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Three of Many Council Items - More To Follow

Tuesday's City Council meeting was wide-ranging and not always easy to understand, but here are some of the topics in no particular order:

Sleepy Hollow
A resolution to define a neighborhood as Sleepy Hollow drew criticism from resident Sherice Koonce that it was "perpetuating the us versus them mentality."

The neighborhood in the city's southeast corner has long had an air of affluence, with its eclectic housing stock and winding roads lined with mature trees. A group had sought to set it off with signage and planters, but the Planning Board said the neighborhood had the be officially defined before an application for signs could be heard by the board.

When it came to a vote, Second Ward  Councilman Cory Storch said it was not an "us versus them," mentioning other named neighborhoods such as Brisbane Estates. But Fourth Ward Councilwoman Bridget Rivers said she saw it as a division and the city "should be a whole." Storch said, "Neighborhood pride does not detract from city pride," and suggested Rivers could do the same in her own neighborhood.

Rivers countered by saying it should be done in the entire city, not just in her neighborhood, and First Ward Councilwoman Diane Toliver agreed, saying, "Let's lift up our whole city." and repeating it several times.

The resolution passed, 5-2, with Rivers and Toliver saying "no" and Storch, Third Ward Councilman Charles McRae,  First & Fourth Wards at-large Councilman Barry Goode, Council President and Citywide at-large representative Rebecca Williams and Second & Third Ward at-large Councilwoman Joylette Mills-Ransome saying "yes."

Political Activities
The city's ordinance forbidding officials and employees from taking part in political activity was more restrictive than state law on the subject, in effect denying them their First Amendment rights to freedom of political speech and activity.

Or so said an amendment that would permit even cabinet members such as the city administrator to attend political meetings, circulate petitions, express political views and join political clubs and organizations.

Rivers said she had objected to the prior limit ($300 for contributions from vendors, when the state limit is $2,600) but as time went on, she came to regard it as "the best thing that ever happened to Plainfield."

She said she now wonders why "the same colleagues" that brought what she first considered the worst thing were "now changing it to help vendors."

"Why are we going back to the drawing board?" Rivers asked. "My colleagues were able to convince me how great this was."

Storch said he was "very ambivalent about this," alleging that the state Senate president and the speaker of the Assembly, among others, were "all raking in the dollars."

"That's why you have political bossism at the county," he said.

Storch said former Mayor Albert T. McWilliams was disenfranchised by a county boss who threatened all the vendors and told them they would not get county work if they did business with McWilliams.

River repeated her points before saying, "We all know the reason why this legislation is being put forth," later adding, "It's about this next election that's about to take place."

Formerly controlled by one faction, the all Democratic council now has a majority favorable to Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, who is running for re-election.

The vote to approve the ordinance on first reading was 4-3, with Rivers, Toliver and Storch voting "no" and Williams, Goode, McRae and Mills-Ransome voting "yes." It will be up for second reading and final passage on February 13.

Pricey Concession Stand
Council members demanded more information about a concession stand and restroom upgrades at Rushmore Playground at a cost of $232,800. Toliver said it was "too much" and asked for details of the proposed construction.

The contractor is Hahr Construction of North Plainfield. Toliver asked what other concession stands the company had built and Rivers said she looked up the company online and didn't see where he built a concession stand.

City Administrator Rick Smiley said he could get the council "the schematics and what the contractor proposed."

The discussion included a mention of another concession stand (see details here) that cost $193,952.

"Maybe we should table this until we see what we are getting for our money," Rivers said. And tabled it was, unanimously.

--Bernice

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Take Notice

"No holder of a public office or position shall demand payment or contribution from another holder of a public office or position for the campaign purposes of any candidate or for the use of any political party." This notice is given on January 17, 2017 by Lt. Governor/Secretary of State Kim Guadagno to all State employees and each county and municipal clerk pursuant to the requirements of New Jersey Elections law, P.L. 1975, c. 70. 1/17/2017 

Priano Apologizes, Explains

I am putting this comment from Timothy Priano up as a guest post. 

I apologize if my words are not always explained correctly when i present them and if i have offended anyone I also apologize, I speak from my heart that We all can work together, please I ask to be forgiven.

So, after the anger in the blog yesterday I called to have a conversation with my 91-year-old mother who is where I was taught from an early age to be of civic mind.

I am 8th born of 10 children from first generation parents, my father’s family was descendants of Italy at 46-year-old, he had a massive heart attack was unable to work and passed away at 54. 

My mother is of Syrian decent, had faced her entire life as a woman from a minority in the city that where we lived. My Mother had to raise 10 children after my father could not work full time, she held down 3 jobs to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. We had to go on public assistance and food stamps, but those services where very short lived in the 70’s. We had to live in the winter without heat when we could not afford to pay the bills, if my grandmother was not there to help we would have been homeless. I understand what it is life to be without then and today.

My mother during the protests for civil rights and the Vietnam war, supporting my 2 older bothers that may not be here today if they were drafted… She was ridiculed and insulted due to the color of her skin, called many names that were and still to this day are hateful for anyone to hear.

The discussion yesterday was about 2 of her grandchildren and my nieces, how they have to still today have to deal with racial slurs, their father is African American and they are not the look that societies accepts due to their color and body shapes still today. 

We also planned my daughter's trip this weekend to attend the Women’s March in DC, my mother would have loved to attend so that she could relive her youth as an activist, but old age and slow movement will not allow her. 

Our daughter will represent our entire family this Saturday for the strong women that we all came from and for the future of our country. We are a family of many faces, nationality and ethics heritage, this is why we moved to Plainfield, we wanted diversity.

As far as my distaste for government bodies, I will explain what we went through in the 60’s and 70’s, I grew up in Tonawanda NY, a small city north of Buffalo NY, we watch our government destroy block and blocks of business and homes, my aunt and uncle had a restaurant and bar in our city, our friends had homes and apartments in the downtown area, we had a lively downtown area that we all supported, from the army navy surplus, to WT Grant, our little main street was wonderful and showed a true community. 

Then before our eye, the Mayor and his band of henchman decided to destroy of way of life for “Urban Renewal”, still today, the land that our community was all about, is a waste land of parking lots and lost dreams. So, when I beg for everyone to get involved, shop our local business so that they have our support and will not be turned into another parking lot or a project that does not get off the ground for years it is my frustration that this can still happen in every city in the country. 

Respectfully if you would like to take a coffee or tea, my email is timothypriano@gmail.com
I only want to be part of your community and make it the best it can be. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

New Council Title and Powers in Proposed Ordinance

Under proposed legislation, the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole would become Vice President of the City Council and the Council President's powers will expand.

So what is that first title, anyway? It comes from Robert's Rules of Order and allows a chairman to lead a discussion among the the council members, such as whether or not to move an item to the regular meeting agenda for a vote. Here's one summary:

committee of the whole is a device in which a legislative body or other deliberative assembly is considered one large committee. All members of the legislative body are members of such a committee. This is usually done for the purposes of discussion and debate of the details of bills and other main motions..

The proposed language states that the Vice President would, in the absence of the City Council President, have all the powers and duties of the President.

The amended ordinance would also give the council president, in addition to the mayor, the power to call special meetings.

Combined agenda-fixing and regular meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17 in Municipal Court

City Employees Allowed Some Political Speech, Activities

An ordinance amending the rules for political activity by city employees is on Tuesday's agenda. Employees would still be barred from such activity while on the job, but citing First Amendment guarantees for freedom of speech including political speech and activity, it opens the door to certain partisan political activities.

click to enlarge

If truth be told, the original rules were quite often transgressed. Under previous administrations, I have seen a bag lady collecting political contributions in City Hall. Many employees belong to and work for political organizations. In the past there have been certain pressures on employees to support candidates, especially if the employee holds a patronage job.

So maybe this amendment clarifies and supports the First Amendment rights of city employees or maybe it just legitimizes past practice. Employees are still forbidden to do political work on city time.

The combined agenda-fixing and regular meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 17) in Municipal Court. Don't forget, you can contact your council representatives by email if you have an opinion.