Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Look at the Local Blogosphere

In signing off as a blogger at InJersey, Mark Spivey notes the wide-ranging array of local blogs.
The number of bloggers became evident when Saul Qersdyn began aggregating blogs in Union County's 21 municipalities and found that Plainfield alone had 21 blogs. A check today finds about half of them with current posts and then a drop-off of half-dozen others in the past month, then one from January, three from 2010 and one post dating back to 2009. Meanwhile, a couple more blogs have emerged that are not included in Qersdyn's Plainfield page.

Qersdyn himself has a very nice online news source for Roselle Park that could be a model for others. He sets a high standard for hyperlocal blogging.

Plainfielders who blog take a number of approaches that include news coverage, commentary, raw information, sports, self-expression and aggregation from mainstream sources. Together, they give readers a pretty good picture of the city. The "comment" function available on most blogs allows readers to agree or disagree or add more information to the topic of a post.

Several elected officials use blogs to explain their views or amplify on actions taken or pending, which is a help to their constituents.

In all, the city's hyperlocal blogs add to residents' understanding and appreciation of their hometown in a unique way. One loss with the shutdown of InJersey will be the roster of Plainfield blogs and links that ran down the right side , although blogger Dan Damon has a comprehensive list on his blog, CLIPS.

Anyone with a point of view or something to say about Plainfield can create a new blog at no cost except time and thought, on Blogger or any of several other platforms.

InJersey was interesting while it lasted, although Plaintalker found it a bit hard to navigate at times. It proved easier to catch the posts on Facebook than to keep checking the InJersey link. The mycentraljersey.com link can also be tricky at times, certainly more so than turning the pages of an actual newspaper to find columnists and features as well as news.

None of us can tell the future of the newspaper, as publishers deal with readers who want the news on various devices along with or instead of the print format. The New York Times seems to be the master of the online platform, with videos, slideshows and graphics that the print format cannot replicate. But dedicated viewers will have to pay a price for these enhancements. Smaller newspapers are struggling to find their way in a forest of options.

As for Mark, he just turned 29 and he was about to complete his third year on the Plainfield beat. Plaintalker thinks he has a bright future in newsgathering, even if it is not just in the Queen City, and he has created a legacy for himself with his memorable and important coverage of some turbulent times for Plainfielders. Thanks, Mark, we will miss your evenhandedness in reporting and your genuine love for the city and its people.

--Bernice

Two Meetings Tonight at Washington School

Both a Community Forum and a public hearing on the Lee Place brownfields remediation are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. tonight at Washington Community School.

The two-hour Community Forum has nine topics and a Q&A session scheduled. Click here to see details. Given the crowded agenda, there may not be time for in-depth coverage of each topic. Plaintalker will try to be there.

--Bernice

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Independence Day Costs Need Tally

Omega Psi Phi steppers in 2007 July 4 parade.

Details on costs of the annual Independence Day celebration remain elusive after six years of City Council inquiries.

The governing body has repeatedly requested a full accounting of all expenses for the multi-day event, which includes fireworks and a parade this year and in the past has included a concert as well. (See a 2006 Plaintalker post here.) Once a shared effort among eight municipalities, the former Central Jersey celebration is now organized and paid for solely by Plainfield. Council members have asked for a breakdown of costs as other municipalities have dropped such observances altogether for budgetary reasons. The council came close to doing the same in 2009 (read post here).

In 2010, the council authorized $50,000 for the celebration, with an additional amount for fireworks and use of Cedar Brook Park. What was not spelled out was use of $5,000 in additional city funds for radio station WBLS to be part of the celebration, even though local participants had to pay to be in the parade.

On June 20, the council approved $13,500 for fireworks on Friday, July 1 and $8,484 for use of the park. The latter amount includes a refundable $5,000 for cleanup and $3,484 for five Union County police officers at $52 per hour. At a special meeting on July 5, the council will be asked to approve $44,000 for Independence Day expenses for the 2012 six-month transitional fiscal year, as the city reverts to a calendar year. The funds will be applied to this year’s celebration, which includes fireworks on July 1 and the parade on July 2.

The city was lacking a chief finance officer from the end of 2007 to January 2011, but now has Ron Zilinski, a highly regarded expert on municipal finance, as CFO and city treasurer. A conversation between Zilinski and Councilman Adrian Mapp, head of the council’s Finance Committee, at the June 14 meeting hinted at tighter controls on spending in the Recreation Division, which is in charge of the Independence Day celebration in addition to youth recreation activities.

Plaintalker suggests that any review of costs for the Independence Day celebration should take into account donations from local businesses or organizations, as well as volunteer service by police or other city employees, that offset the bottom line. And donations that were solicited and given for a specific cause such as the Independence Day celebration should not be diverted to random uses, as was apparently the case with the $20,000 paid to WBLS for broadcasting the Aug. 1, 2010 Town Meeting that is still under investigation.

On June 14, Councilman Cory Storch asked the administration to make sure the July 1 fireworks event was properly publicized, if the city was going to spend $13,500 on it. Plaintalker would add a request for more details on the parade, such as the grand marshal’s identity and any special attractions such as bands or floats. There is a flyer on the city web site with dates and times (9:30 p.m. July 1 for fireworks, 10 a.m. start on July 2 for parade), but the city has not posted any press releases since February.

--Bernice

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Special Meeting July 5

Note: The cat decided to wake me up at 2:30 a.m., but I think I need more sleep, because few blog thoughts are forthcoming. So here is one small item. More to follow later.)

The new fiscal year begins Friday and this time it will be a six-month "transition year" to Dec. 31. For 2012, the city will revert to a calendar year budget. A special meeting will be held at 8 p.m. July 5 in City Hall Library for the City Council to take action on items related to the transition year.

According to a legal notice Monday, there are three items:

1. RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE ADOPTION OF CURRENT FUND TEMPORARY
BUDGET APPROPRIATIONS PRIOR TO THE ADOPTION OF THE TEMPORARY
YEAR BUDGET IN ACCORDANCE WITH N.J.S.A. 40A:4-19.

2. RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE TAX COLLECTOR TO ISSUE ESTIMATED AND
RECONCILED TAX BILLS.

3. SECOND READING OF AN ORDINANCE TO AMEND AND SUPPLEMENT
CHAPTER 2, ADMINISTRATION, ARTICLE 10, BUDGET AND PURCHASING
PROCEDURES, SECTION 2:10, REVERSION FROM FISCAL YEAR TO CALENDAR
YEAR.

--Bernice

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Big Dollar Store Closes

Two years ago, Plaintalker noted the opening of a dollar store in the former Eiseman's Lighting space. Last week, it was empty.

A forlorn stuffed pig is among the remnants of merchandise still to be glimpsed inside. This building now has eight apartments above the store, which would have been a good match for the store. It is a Paramount property, one of many that has had a retail turnover since the company bought up most of the commercial space downtown.

Some merchants left due to high rent increases when Paramount first took over. Plaintalker has suggested that city officials need to be in dialogue, if they are not already, with this company that dominates the commercial property of Plainfield the way Connolly dominated the multi-family residential market.

Perhaps dollar stores are not the highest goal in any business retention move on the city's part, but one wonders whether there is a finger on the pulse of commercial activity in the city. A database of city employers on the state web site has quite a few outdated entries, as does the SID roster. In the late 1980s the idea of a business registration plan was floated, but it was discarded after merchants protested the proposed fee. Another time, summer interns were supposed to develop a data base of businesses.

Having been intrigued by the PMUA's often-quoted claim to be the city's fifth largest employer, Plaintalker recently tried to find out who the other top employers are. At the top of the state list there is a business purportedly on Reeve Terrace that employs 5,600 people and has annual sales in excess of $1.2 billion. More likely to be true are the many listings for businesses that have from 1 to 4 employees and generate much more modest revenue.

Muhlenberg is still on the list as an employer. The school district is not listed as a whole, but is broken up into individual schools. A fraternal lodge and a taxi company outstrip the PMUA, which comes in at number 13 or 14 on the state list and is described as having only four employees.

Maybe it is because this list was compiled by an Omaha, Neb. firm that it has anomalies such as an entry for Solaris at 1340 Park Avenue, described as a place where narrow fabric is woven when in fact it is a nursing home.

Granted, it is very difficult to keep up any data base, as even correct information usually starts going bad as soon as it is written down. At best, a directory may only a snapshot in time. Time constraints no doubt prevent City Hall staff or other entities from doing the legwork that would result in a true picture of the changing business landscape. Still, both job seekers and entrepreneurs would benefit from having an accurate local source for business information.

--Bernice

Another Dutch Touch in the Garden

Readers may recall my tribute to my neighbor - forty orange tulips to honor her Dutch heritage - earlier this spring. For the summer, I spotted a Dutch cucumber in a seed catalog and we decided to try growing some. As usual, the seedlings started indoors looked very frail in the great outdoors until Mother Nature turned up the heat last month and then they took off. The little cucumber above is one of dozens that are popping up on the vines.

We found a couple of praying mantis egg cases in the yard and now the young ones are patrolling the garden.

We have already picked some cucumbers. They are very crunchy, ribbed instead of smooth like the supermarket variety and they don't have those with thorny spikes that have to be rubbed off the usual garden cucumbers. They are great right off the vine but can also be dressed up with sour cream and dill, which we are also growing.

Happy gardening to all and we hope you are trying something new as well!

--Bernice

2011 LGBT Pride Day

Happy Pride!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Great Day for a Block Party

Sunny skies favored the Special Improvement District's block party downtown Saturday, a happy break after days of rain. Highlights included entertainment, including jazz musician Anthony Nelson (above) and Latino singers and dancers.

A new Park Avenue restaurant tempted the crowd with samples of Guatemalan specialties.

A Mexican flag and a colorful noisemaker attracted people to this tent.

SID President Nimrod Webb and Union County Freeholder Linda Carter welcomed the crowd. As a councilwoman in 2010, Linda was a liaison to the SID, which uses special tax revenues to enhance and publicize the downtown and South Avenue business districts.

Woven bracelets make a colorful display.

A new store showed off shoes, jewelry and handbags to attract customers.

The annual event also includes a car show and other attractions for summer fun.

Coming up next week is another downtown event, to celebrate Independence Day on July 2, 3 and 4, in parking lots 8 and 8A between Somerset and Watchung.

--Bernice

Above It All, Downtown

Sure, there was a block party going on at street level. But as usual, the downtown facades drew my eyes. This one from 1888 is my favorite.

Check out these herons between the arches and all the intricate other details.

Here's the one I think of as "downtown guy," surrounded by what look like sculptures of hops. Guy looks like he wishes he had a beer, maybe.

This white building has a pretty wreath at its pinnacle.

A no-nonsense brick design, but still venerable.

This block of East Front Street between Park and Watchung is just as old as the North Avenue Commercial Historic District, but does not have the protection of being in an historic district, as far as Plaintalker knows. Having seen a couple of facades in other locations disappear behind foam panels and spray-on stucco, I hope those pictured above will not suffer the same fate.

--Bernice

Lee Place Brownfield Meeting Thursday

Remediation of a former dry cleaning site on Lee Place will be the topic at a city public meeting Thursday.

The hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Washington Community School on findings of a brownfields study and future plans for the site. The site is described in this US EPA Lee Place fact sheet. Plans call for removal of dry cleaning chemicals and construction of two affordable homes. According to a legal notice published Saturday, the draft analysis documents are available for review at City Hall, 515 Watchung Ave.

Courier News reporter Mark Spivey reported on the proposed cleanup in January 2010 here.

This news reminded Plaintalker that the city had a number of brownfield grants that were being monitored by April Stefel of the Planning Division before she was laid off last year. Stefel told the City Council before her layoff that the grants totaled $5.6 million and monitoring them took half of her 63 part-time hours per month. This is one of those "whatever happened to ...?" items of city government that needs an update. Perhaps the council's Economic Development Committee can put it on their list of topics to check on. Plaintalker will also attempt to get an update, although there is no department head to ask about it.

--Bernice

Friday, June 24, 2011

Garden Time for Lascelles

Walking home from the bus stop after a trip to Westfield, I stopped to admire the 2011 version of the Bethel Presbyterian Church garden. Someone hailed me and it turned out to be gardener-in-chief Lascelles Walter, who stopped working long enough for a photo.

He is standing among mounds of thyme, a favorite culinary herb in Jamaican cooking. Callaloo plants dominate the center of the garden and this year Lascelles has tall stakes ready for the tomato plants at the rear.

Produce from the garden will be donated to various charities.

To see Plaintalker's photo essay on last year's garden, click here.

Best wishes to Lascelles and the Bethel church family for another great gardening season.

--Bernice

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Watch for Public Hearings and Speak Up

Those who are concerned about the fate of Elmwood Gardens should remember that the resolution approved by the City Council was only for a study of the block and there will be a public hearing on the findings at which residents can speak.

It was just such a process that led to the establishment of Plainfield Plaintalker in 2005. As a former reporter, I was familiar with the redevelopment process, which has many steps. I had been following a proposal to redevelop a large section of the city between the main train station and East Seventh Street and I was concerned that a small legal notice in the newspaper for a public hearing on the study was not going to attract many people. As described here, I was handing out copies of a typed report to individuals when I first learned about disseminating information on a blog.

At the Downtown Station South hearings, residents corrected several errors in the study, as described in this post.

Unfortunately, public hearings are held all the time with due legal notice, but unless you happen to read the notice, your chance to attend and be heard may be lost. Plaintalker will strive to keep track of the Elmwood Gardens and alert folks to any public hearing on the redevelopment study.

In an earlier time when there were many redevelopment proposals on the table, the Plainfield City Council had the privilege of having Joseph Maraziti explain the redevelopment process in detail. Plaintalker tried to convey some of his points in this post. At present, there are few projects moving forward, which in a way makes it all the more important to review the process so that all are aware of it.

Public hearings are held on all sorts of proposed changes, ranging from rate increases, erection of cell phone towers, new highways, hospital closings and many more things besides redevelopment. As a citizen, you have the right to look into the issues and state your opinions. But you have to keep an eye out for notices that tell you when and where you can speak. Luckily for Plainfield, there are more and more local bloggers helping to alert you to these opportunities when the issues affect life in the city.

--Bernice

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

No News? A Possibility.

Mark Spivey's InJersey column today seems to portend something that has been mulled for decades - dropping coverage of Plainfield.

When a new publisher at the Courier News launched the westward-ho direction toward Somerset and Hunterdon counties many years ago, the question of the viability of the Plainfield beat began coming up regularly. The city always produced lots of breaking news, but much of it was embarrassing to residents and officials, even though it was true. The "good news" stories, about the city's many attractions, community leaders, worthy civic groups and important strides toward revitalization, could not compete in the memories of readers, even though they were there for all to see.

Given the increased leaning toward the affluent, rapidly expanding boroughs and townships to the west, the Queen City began coming across as a fading dowager - with issues. Every so often, the management would assign coverage of some non-urban parts of western Union County, but Plainfield - the only urban center in the entire readership area - remained problematic, both for its lack of advertising revenue and for the newspaper's perceived beating-up on the community.

As the only reporter actually living in Plainfield, I had a great fascination with its people and its day-to-day happenings, but I used to call myself the Far East correspondent as far as the newspaper was concerned. The focus was definitely on Somerset County as a key element of New Jersey's "wealth belt."

It is now nearly eight years after I retired and the increasing turbulence of the newspaper industry makes me very glad I washed up on the shores with a little pension before the tsunami of layoffs, firings, furloughs and pay cuts struck. A young journalist today is facing a shifting industry that has not found its feet in the new world of online media.

The danger to Plainfield may be that neither the so-called legacy media nor the new online "Patch" model will be inclined to commit resources to covering the city in the future, but will cater to communities that are richer and more stable. It will be a business decision, not a journalistic one. And as much as Plainfielders gripe about news coverage, believe me, the community will be poorer for the lack of it.

--Bernice

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wenson Maier Out in Hoboken

This Hoboken Patch item confirms what Plaintalker heard about former Public Works and Urban Development Director Jennifer Wenson Maier: she has been replaced in the Hoboken directorship she took after leaving Plainfield.

Wenson Maier was a department head here for the entire first four years of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs' tenure, but was not reappointed for the mayor's second term. Her successor in 2010, David Brown II, resigned after less than one year on the job. In January, Jacques Howard of the Office of Economic Development was named acting director, but his 90-day term ended in March. The DPW&UD post is currently vacant.

According to the Patch report, Tom Atkins is the interim director succeeding Wenson Maier. In discussing our own current acting city administrator, Plaintalker has noted the exceptional 25-year career Atkins had as town manager in Scotch Plains before joining Jersey Professional Management, the group from which David Kochel came to take charge of day-to-day operations here.

It was a pleasure and a relief to see Kochel in action Monday at the Plainfield City Council meeting. Having a knowledgeable administrator on the job makes a big difference to the flow of the meeting, as questions can be answered with authority.

In looking up past blog posts on the DPW&UD directorship, Plaintalker saw an April entry in which Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson was quoted as saying "eight or 10" applicants were being considered for the job and a decision was expected in a week or 10 days. Two months later, no director has been named.

Might SRB reconsider JWM, if she was interested?

--Bernice

Library Update

News from the Plainfield Public Library:

BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE LIBRARY

The temporary closure of the Plainfield Public Library is only slightly related to the renovation of the Children's Library. The library is installing a new RFID security system and a self-checkout system. The self-checkout stations will be located in the Children's Library and in the Circulation Desk area.

With the installation of the new security system, the old railings and gates are being removed from the main lobby, and the library is taking this opportunity to re-tile the lobby floor. With the building closed, the two public restrooms are also being renovated. While the library is closed, staff members are placing security tags in all 150,000 books in the collection.

Construction of the Children's Library is nearing completion, and is targeted for late July. However, the bookstacks and computers cannot be moved back in until the contractors are done. Library Director Joe Da Rold projects a "soft opening" in August, and a grand opening to be scheduled for September.

Council Sets Hearings, Will Counter CNN Story

Six liquor license holders will face hearings at a July 5 special meeting over conditions at their establishments that have caused frequent police response.

The annual license renewal process included City Council approvals Monday for four social clubs, 10 bars and restaurants and 11 liquor stores, although some still need sign-offs by the Fire or Inspections divisions before the licenses will be turned over to owners. The council took no action on another six that have yet to satisfy state tax requirements.

Councilman William Reid repeated his view that liquor establishments with high police response should pay the cost or be required to hire off-duty police as a deterrent to crime on the premises. The city has an excess of liquor establishments, as many were “grandfathered” in when the state set a formula for the number of such venues based on population. In 2005, the city had more than double the allowable number of liquor stores under the new formula.

In other matters, the council approved a resolution ordering a study of the Elmwood Gardens block to determine whether redevelopment is needed. As he did last Tuesday, Executive Director Randall Wood stressed the fact that only an investigation and public hearing were up for approval and any future action will require separate council endorsement.

Plaintalker will report later on other council matters.

In public comment, resident Jeanette Criscione expressed extreme disgust for a CNN segment that portrayed the city as a crime-ridden place where half the city work force had allegedly been fired and one in 10 homes was in foreclosure. Criscione questioned who provided the information on which the show’s assumptions were based and called for a strong response from the governing body to the show’s producers and on-air personality. Other speakers expressed similar dismay and said they had received phone calls from around the country from friends and relatives who were shocked at the negative portrayal of Plainfield. The council agreed to send a letter to CNN in response.

--Bernice

Monday, June 20, 2011

Library Closed for Renovations

The Plainfield Public Library will be closed now through July 4 for renovations. To see more details click on this link to the Plainfield Public Library.

--Bernice

Elmwood Gardens Vote on Tap Tonight

The City Council is expected to vote tonight on an initial step in the process of redeveloping the troubled Elmwood Gardens housing tract.

The resolution before the council is to authorize the Planning Board to conduct an investigation of the block, hold a public hearing on the findings and make a recommendation to the governing body. The process calls for the council then to review the recommendation, make a final determination and then possibly adopt a resolution directing the Planning Board to prepare a redevelopment/rehabilitation plan.

But at the June 14 meeting, council members were more interested in asking Housing Authority Director Randall Wood what would happen if the plan was in place, especially how current residents would be affected. A redevelopment designation would permit a developer to apply for a tax credit program from the New Jersey Mortgage and Finance Agency to finance the redevelopment, which would include removal the existing 128 housing units and construction of 72 new units.

Councilman William Reid, a retired Housing Authority director in other municipalities, and Councilwoman Bridget Rivers, who said she once lived in public housing, expressed concern about the projected decrease in the number of units. Reid said a relocation plan had to be in place for the tenants.

Asked by Councilman Cory Storch when relocation might be anticipated, Wood said October of this year. Storch, the council’s Planning Board representative, raised other questions about the timetable and also asked whether residents could move back in to the new buildings. Wood said they would have to reapply and there was no guarantee that the Housing Authority would be the manager.

Rivers questioned housing vouchers that certain displaced tenants would receive, saying they were not easy to use. The vouchers guarantee payment of a large portion of the rent, but the tenant has to find the housing. Wood said about a quarter of the current tenants would not receive vouchers, as they are out of compliance with housing rules. But he said, “No one will be without a home.”

Wood said there were currently 13 vacancies and about two dozen evictions in the works for non-payment of rent or infractions of Housing Authority rules. But he said he had over 150 landlords “begging for families.”

Reid and Rivers also wanted to link a proposed city camera surveillance system to one operated by the Housing Authority, although such a linkage had nothing to do with the redevelopment issue.

Wood referred to the Elmwood Gardens complex as an “albatross” to the authority, which owns several public housing complexes and manages others. In a July 2008 council meeting, Housing Authority Lewis Hurd used the same term to describe the troubled site, which has been a hot spot for crime for decades. Residents blame the illegal activity on outsiders who take advantage of the Elmwood Gardens configuration, which affords lawbreakers various ways to elude police. Concerns about Elmwood Gardens date back decades and include a former mayor’s proposal to raze the complex and rebuild it differently as the only way to stop crime there.

--Bernice

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day 2011

Today is a day to recognize and appreciate fathers, whether you have one, two or none available to you.

I grew up with one, but in Plainfield came to know pairs who dedicated themselves to the nurture of children. And I know of many children, young and grown, who must put together from diverse sources the understanding of what fatherhood means.

My father was an engineer and often fit the cliche of one – somewhat inaccessible to us children and not warmly tuned in to our little triumphs and joys. My mother had to coach him to compliment us on our nice new shoes or some accomplishment at school. Perhaps he was marked by his own childhood, where his mother dominated the home while his father – a different kind of engineer who drove trains across the South – was often away.

But when I was struggling after my divorce, my Dad would come and get me when my car broke down and he was much more indulgent with my children, who loved their Granddaddy.

Still, as a feminist in the 1980s, I could write “May patriarchy fall” with honest emotion to see the end of the dominating male who squelched and belittled his wife and children, the household tyrant who abused the power given to him by society and custom. I think we all generally came out of that time with a different view of fathers as partners in bringing up the kids, even if they clung to their mental “man-caves.”

Having seen the end of my marriage and many others around me in the late 1970s, I was bemused by the growing inclination of gays to want to create families with children. How did the dismissive term “breeders” become replaced by the realization that the parental role is one of the more exalted parts of being human? I recall attending a picnic at the end of a house tour welcoming prospective LGBT homeowners to Plainfield and seeing two dads with twin sons in strollers, a heart-warming sight knowing how many children were desperately seeking a father figure in their lives.

My children’s father decided to set family life aside for the life of an artist, a not uncommon practice through the ages, as I found out in reading countless biographies of painters and musicians. One child became estranged for many years, while the other found enough of a father in other significant males to form a positive notion of paternal behavior. As adults, the estranged one has made a tentative rapprochement with Dad, while the forgiving one has come to understand the loss actually suffered.

I once read that motherly instincts are fundamental, but in times of stress a father may walk away from parental responsibilities. Certainly in my parents’ generation, the story of a man going out to buy cigarettes and never returning became a trope for such abandonment. Nowadays the issue of baby-daddies seems endemic to urban society; it was just months ago that The Rev. Al Sharpton railed against it right here in Plainfield in the context of crime prevention.

So Father’s Day can conjure up many thoughts and emotions, happy or sad, grateful or angry, forgiving or judgmental. Wherever your dad is on the scale today, you can reflect and be glad for the degree of fatherliness you have known - from whatever source - on this Father’s Day 2011.

--Bernice

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Blackberry's "Kitchen Nightmares"

Monday's City Council agenda includes a request from a film company to use city property while filming a "Fox's Kitchen Nightmares" segment featuring Blackberry's restaurant.

Not being a TV viewer, I had to look up this show. Here is the Wikipedia entry on it. The premise seems to let the subject restaurant in for criticism while giving it a lot of publicity. Blackberry's is a soul food restaurant located across from City Hall on Watchung Avenue. See menu here.

Also not being a big restaurant goer, I have only been there once years ago when the late Mayor Richard L. Taylor held a press conference there. I have not tried the food. Anyway, Upper Ground Enterprises hopes to be here from around June 27 through July 13 to film the Kitchen Nightmare segment.

It is always exciting to have a film company in the city. The last big filming that I recall was right on my block for "The Messenger" starring Woody Harrelson. Others include "Basket Case," a horror film with scenes shot at the former Monday Afternoon Club and scenes from "Kinsey" at one of the city's Victorian homes.

Regarding television, in the early 1960s my former husband and I decided we did not want a television set in the house. Our little daughter was a great reader and also enjoyed nature walks, museum visits and the like. But because she was the first grandchild on both sides of the family, the grandparents vied to outdo each other, one giving us a black-and-white set, which the others topped with a color television set. We were still dubious, but Audrey went on to become a big fan (and critic) of television, even working in public television as an adult. Michael is still entranced by the shows of his childhood (now on YouTube) and has a bottomless trove of information on television trivia. I still have a hard time sitting through television shows and much prefer the radio.

The council will vote Monday on granting permission to the film company for the Blackberry's segment. The meeting is 8 p.m. at Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

--Bernice

Friday, June 17, 2011

ShotSpotter Offers New Proposal

A gunshot detection system previously offered as a $1 million deal is now available as a "subscription service" for $165,000 and could be paid for with a $250,000 technology grant, officials told the City Council Tuesday.

ShotSpotter Senior Vice President Gregg Rowland said the company no longer sells the equipment but has a new business model in which it will set up the system and "sell data" as a subscription service. The new approach eliminates the need for maintenance and has other advantages, as described in this article posted on the company's web site.

Rowland got a mixed reaction, with Councilman William Reid arguing that the city has "50,000 shot spotters" who light up the police switchboard with phone calls telling where shots have been fired. Reid said the ShotSpotter service would cost $14,000 a month, so if one shot was fired, it would cost $14,000 for detection or $1,400 each for 10 shots.

Reid also said he hadn't yet heard from the city's top police official, Police Director Martin Hellwig, on how the system would impact what Reid called "such a horrible crime rate" with seven recent homicides. He called for a multi-agency manpower response instead, but officials said the grant was only for technology.

"I just don't think it is a good idea," Reid said. "We should spend it on men."

Hellwig spoke favorably of the system and its success in Nassau County, where a large number of shots dwindled to "just a few."

Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs backed Hellwig by saying the system gets police to gunshot locations quicker.

Councilwoman Bridget Rivers agreed on the need for technology, citing possible harm to seniors or children from gunfire.

"People are still losing their lives, people are still getting shot and we're not doing anything," Rivers said.

Both Reid and Rivers asked for the gunshot detection system to be coordinated with a proposed surveillance cameras, though Reid said he has been hearing about the cameras since 2007 with no results.

But Councilman Cory Storch said he needs to get independent information on gun detection systems before he lends his support to the deal.

"I'm not going to vote yes or no (based) on a vendor presentation," he said.

(Last year, the previous $1 million deal was heavily promoted by the mayor and the vendor. See Plaintalker's commentary here.)

Council President Annie McWilliams called on the administration to provide such information by next week. The council's regular meeting is 8 p.m. Monday in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

--Bernice

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Double-Check Holiday Event Dates

Asked to approve a $13,500 tab for fireworks, City Council members asked the administration to make sure there was adequate publicity for the July 1 date.

The fireworks will be held in Cedar Brook Park and the council was also asked to approve paying Union County an $8,484 deposit to assure proper cleanup.

By holding the event on the Friday before the holiday, the city will save money on personnel costs. The same consideration caused last year's fireworks to be held on an alternate date. This year's parade will be on Saturday, July 2; last year, it was also on the Saturday before the holiday.

So far, the public will have to scrounge around a bit on the city web site to access the parade and fireworks information. Here is a link in case you can't find it.

So remember, fireworks on July 1, parade on July 2, federal holiday on July 4.

Meanwhile, get your summer party mood on by attending the downtown block party sponsored by the Special Improvement District, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 25, East Front Street between Park and Watchung.

--Bernice

Hollyhocks

One of the more intriguing "volunteer" plants in our yard is the Hollyhock, which pops up whimsically here and there. This year, the pale yellow variety that used to grow against the garage wall showed up front and center in a patch behind the building.

We don't know where this white one came from, but it is a very pretty addition to a mixed bag of plants in a plot alongside the parking lot. Just look at those ruffles!

This rose-pink variety relocated itself about 100 feet away from the last place we saw it. Missing this year is the one with dark maroon flowers.

The seed cases of Hollyhocks contain neat rolls that I have scattered along a fence at the side of the property, but these plants do not seem to take my suggestions on where to grow. Still, it is a pleasure to see them wherever they choose to emerge.

--Bernice

Armory: Asset or Money Pit?

Once again the City Council heard the administration pitch a plan for the city to pick up a $6,500 monthly tab for upkeep of the Armory, this time with the promise of 25- to 30-year lease by a charter school company.

The deal would include city use of the premises during off hours, Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson told the governing body Tuesday.

The charter school firm had previously made an offer, then withdrew. The city is facing a June 30 deadline for expiration of its $1 a month lease while seeking a long-term tenant, but Councilman Cory Storch questioned a lack of details about how the proposed tenant would use the building. Councilman Adrian Mapp called the building a "money pit" and pointed out that city use of the building would entail costs for personnel, maintenance and debt service.

As she has done previously, Council President Annie McWilliams said the city already has venues for events in the school district's community schools. Click here for Plaintalker's April post on the Armory issue.

The council's low interest in the scheme did not go over well with city resident Vivian Henry, who in public comment chided the legislators, saying, "If we don't use it, other people will come into Plainfield ... don't sit around and play games with that armory. Use that armory before someone else takes it."

Meanwhile, speakers said the Armory grounds are currently covered with high grass and the city can't cut it, as it is state property. Officials promised to come up with some solution to that problem.

--Bernice

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Council to Hold Hearings on Liquor Licenses

Several liquor license holders will be subjected to hearings before renewal this year, due to frequent police response to their premises.

The governing body heard police reports Tuesday including one instance of over 100 calls to Pueblo Viejo on West Front Street for problems such as fights, drug activity and weapons possession. Clinton Deli on West Front Street was singled out for allegations of drug dealing, shots fired and sale of alcohol to minors, among other incidents requiring police response.

In all, about half a dozen hearings will be held on questionable establishments. Another seven are facing non-renewal for infractions such as failure to pay fees or receive state approvals.

The city has 32 liquor licenses up for renewal by June 30, for social clubs; restaurants, bars and nightclubs; liquor stores; and one license not attached to any location. Council members have complained not only about the number of liquor establishments, but the drain on the Police Division, which takes officers away from other types of crime. Councilman William Reid even proposed charging owners of the most problematic sites for police calls.

The governing body, which acts as the local Alcoholic Beverage Control board, has not held hearings for several years. To see Plaintalker's file on the last crackdown on liquor license holders, click here.

--Bernice

Meeting Features New Cabinet Members

New Acting City Administrator David R. Kochel sat in on his first City Council meeting Tuesday after serving a month on the job.

Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs announced at the May 9 council meeting that Kochel would start a 90-day stint on May 11. A special meeting item Tuesday was Kochel’s contract for $95 per hour, not to exceed $31,000. The governing body will vote on it at the May 20 meeting. The contract is with Jersey Professional Management, where Kochel is an associate.

Tuesday’s meeting also included a rare appearance by Chief Finance Officer Ron Zilinski, who was hired at the end of November and began work in January. Asked whether he would attend Monday’s regular meeting, Zilinski said he only works Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Kochel and Zilinski are aboard at a crucial time, as the city is switching from a fiscal year beginning July 1 to a calendar year. Also on Monday’s agenda is a resolution applying to the state Local Finance Board to make the change as well as an ordinance to enact the change. The move will include a six-month “transition year” and the full calendar year in 2012.

Zilinski said the change will enable the city to build up a surplus and avoid layoffs as the payroll is reduced through attrition. Retirements are expected to increase due to new state legislation, he said.

For the reasons above, reverting to a calendar year will help the city stay under a 2 percent state-imposed budget cap, which Zilinski called “onerous.”

--Bernice

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chairman Green Apologizes

Launching two more years as chairman of the Democratic City Committee, Assemblyman Gerald B. Green apologized openly Monday for his attacks on New Democrat Delois "Dee" Dameron in the primary, which she lost.

Before the June 7 election, Green had posted on his blog "I can understand someone coming home to help mommy however there is a big difference when someone comes home to LIVE off of mommy. When a parent raises a child and gives that child the best years of their life it is a shame that in their senior years they still have to take care of the child. When is it time to give mommy a break? If someone abuses a parent's goodness like this, I don’t dare imagine what that person would do as an elected official."

Dameron, making her first bid for public office, had said she came to Plainfield six years ago to care for her ailing parents. Her father has since passed away, but Dameron brought her mother to Tuesday's reorganization meeting to confront Green personally and receive an apology. She was too ill to stay for the whole meeting and did not hear the public apology.

New Democrat Cory Storch, who won the election and will be on the November ballot for a third term, and New Democrat leader Adrian Mapp, who was not even on the primary ballot, also came in for personal attacks during the campaign. Green gave each a chance to address the committee after saying he was "man enough to apologize" and giving a rambling narrative of troubles his own family had experienced.

Besides Storch, Dameron and Mapp, Second Ward challenger Tony Rucker and First and Fourth Ward at-large winner Vera Greaves spoke to the committee., mostly invoking themes of unity and setting aside Democratic factionalism for the sake of the city and future campaigns.

Officers chosen included Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs as first vice-chair, Christian Estevez as second vice-chair and Ken Robertson as third vice-chair. In naming Estevez, Green said all eight committee candidates of Hispanic heritage had lost in the primary and noted Estevez' statewide standing in Hispanic affairs. Estevez was passed over in 2006 by Green as a possible successor to the late Councilman Ray Blanco, a strong advocate for Latino inclusion in civic affairs.

After Green called a break for committee members to pick ward leaders, observers could see that a problem had arisen with the Third Ward selection. Green cited "misinformation" that made the vote go wrong and gave the Third Ward committee members five minutes to correct it. But Mapp said the first vote was a tie and in the second vote the tie was broken in favor of Joseph Ruffin, a New Democrat. Mapp said New Democrats refused to take part in the third vote Green requested. In the final vote, the seat went to Regular Democrat Cecil Sanders.

Others elected to lead wards were mayoral aide Barbara James for the First Ward, Councilwoman Rebecca Williams for the Second Ward and Greaves for the Fourth Ward.

Green complimented Williams, a longtime New Democrat campaign manager, for her "e-mailing and high-tech" skills, but took credit himself for a "street operation" that he called "one of the best in the state."

Late in the meeting Green excoriated bloggers and anonymous commenters on blogs, summing up, "All of us need to stop it and as your chairman, I am prepared to stop it."

(More later on aspects of the Democratic reorganization. Green urged all committee members to attend the countywide party reorganization tonight, although for some it will be a conflict with a City Council meeting to be held at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library.)

--Bernice

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Happy Gardening!

Best wishes to all the gardeners out there, whether you are growing food crops or just pretty flowers. My neighbor and I are hoping to see some hummingbirds on Block 832, with a combination of a feeder and some Cypress Vines to attract them. Hot weather and heavy rains have nurtured everything, including plenty of weeds. How is your garden growing?

--Bernice

Jerry Dearest

Since the primary, I have been mulling several things about running for office in Plainfield and why people are so reluctant to get involved in local politics.

One path to candidacy is to become a loyal campaign worker for the Regular Democratic Organization. You get to see close up the mechanisms of a campaign and the local organization gets to know you. Formally or informally, you may be vetted by what you bring to the party, be it expertise, money, personal appeal or willingness to work long hours. The time may come when you are tapped to run for office.

Now, suppose after all that experience you decide to side with the New Democrats. Not only do you become anathema to the RDOs, you leave behind a kind of dossier of your strengths, weaknesses and personal information. You may have inadvertently given up your right to remain silent and now that you have committed the crime of thinking for yourself, anything you said in headquarters may be embroidered or distorted and will definitely be used against you.

Such seems to be the case with one candidate whose personal situation was interpreted in an extremely negative way by the party chairman and then used as a campaign attack of the lowest kind. After seeing this, how many citizens would want to enter politics and put themselves in the way of such attacks?

The Regular Democrat/New Democrat dialectic is very complicated. People have moved back and forth between the two titles and technically, a New Democrat primary winner becomes the RDO’s party choice on the ballot. Camaraderie and support are supposed to ensue. Such has been the scenario in several recent primary contests. So why does the “New Democrat” appellation become so heraldic to individuals that they keep it at any cost? You would have to ask each New Democrat who has taken that path, but my guess is that it is a banner that some simply can’t exchange for the flag of blood-sport politics.

On Monday, the party chairman will be given another two years to lead, and potential candidates for important upcoming races will face the ongoing dilemma of trying to work with the Regular Democratic Organization or finding another way to public service. The ugliness of 2011 will not wash away easily for those who try to work with the chairman. He may not have just tried to salt the fields of his enemy this time; he may have salted his own turf with unforgettable meanness.

--Bernice

Saturday, June 11, 2011

NJPA Publishes Meeting Notices

Dear Readers,

Please be aware that the New Jersey Press Association publishes legal notices online as a public service.

Here is the full text of the Special Meeting notice for Tuesday:

Public Notice:
________________________________________
PLAINFIELD

CORPORATION NOTICE
NOTICE OF SPECIAL MEETING
PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 2, SECTION 2:2-10(A) OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE CODE OF THE CITY OF PLAINFIELD, 1971, A SPECIAL MEETING IS HEREBY CALLED BY THE MAYOR OF THE CITY OF PLAINFIELD FOR TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2011 AT 7:30 P.M. PRIOR TO THE SCHEDULED AGENDA FIXING SESSION TO BE HELD IN THE CITY HALL LIBRARY, 515 WATCHUNG AVENUE, CITY OF PLAINFIELD, FOR THE PURPOSE OFCONSIDERING AND ACTING UPON THE FOLLOWING:

1. RESOLUTION TO APPROVE TRANSFERS BETWEEN FY 2011 APPROPRIATIONS OF THE GENERAL FUND OF THE CITY OF PLAINFIELD.
2. RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR TO EXECUTE AN EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT WITH JERSEY
PROFESSIONAL MANAGEMENT.
3. RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING AN APPLICATION TO THE NEW JERSEY LOCAL FINANCE BOARD FOR REVERSION TO CALENDAR FISCAL YEAR PURSUANT TO N.J.S.A. 40A:4-3.2;
4. FIRST READING OF AN ORDINANCE TO AMEND AND SUPPLEMENT CHAPTER 2, ADMINISTRATION, ARTICLE 10, BUDGET AND PURCHASING PROCEDURES, SECTION 2:10, REVERSION TO CALENDAR FISCAL YEAR.
FORMAL ACTION MAY BE TAKEN.

BY ORDER OF THE MAYOR OF THE CITY OF PLAINFIELD
SHARON M. ROBINSON-BRIGGS
/S/S/ ABUBAKAR JALLOH, RMC
MUNICIPAL CLERK
DATED: PLAINFIELD, NEW JERSEY
JUNE 9, 2011

Liquor Licenses Dominate Agenda

The City Council agenda for Tuesday, June 14 is heavy with resolutions related to the annual renewal process for the city's many liquor licenses, but discussions of ShotSpotter and the Armory and crucial operational matters are also on tap.

As previously reported, there is also a special meeting called by the mayor preceding the governing body's 11-page agenda, so council mavens must come with fortitude for what looks like a long evening. The meeting is 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

Plaintalker will attempt to review the full packet at the Plainfield Public Library for background on key items. Meanwhile, click here for the latest blog post on ShotSpotter. For a post on the most recent Armory scheme, click here.

--Bernice



Shakespeare Garden Reminder

Shakespeare in Bloom

10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Cedar Brook Park

Plainfield Garden Club

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Surprise! Special Meeting Tuesday

Funny, it was just today that I was trying to recall whether the City Council had voted on action to change the fiscal budget year, July 1 to June 30, back to a calendar year. Even though I had heard that Chief Finance Officer Ron Zilinski has proposed it and I remember looking up the details on the steps a municipality must take, I could not recall if any of those steps were taken.

Well, what should I find in my e-mail after tonight's thunderstorm passed than a special meeting notice for Tuesday, June 14, with two items related to the reversion to a calendar year.

The mayor has called a meeting at 7:30 p.m. preceding the agenda fixing session (which starts at 7:30 p.m.). Four items are listed:

1. RESOLUTION TO APPROVE TRANSFERS BETWEEN FY 2011 APPROPRIATIONS OF THE GENERAL FUND OF THE CITY OF PLAINFIELD.

2. RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR TO EXECUTE AN EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT WITH JERSEY PROFESSIONAL MANAGEMENT.

3. RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING AN APPLICATION TO THE NEW JERSEY LOCAL FINANCE BOARD FOR REVERSION TO CALENDAR FISCAL YEAR PURSUANT TO N.J.S.A. 40A:4-3.2;

4. FIRST READING AN ORDINANCE TO AMEND AND SUPPLEMENT CHAPTER 2, ADMINISTRATION, ARTICLE 10, BUDGET AND PURCHASING PROCEDURES, SECTION 2:10, REVERSION TO CALENDAR FISCAL YEAR.

Regarding the last two items, there is a full explanation of the process for any budget wonks out there - click here and scroll down to the bottom. The six-month transition year would be from July through December. (No wonder I thought something must have been done earlier, as the transition was announced in April.)

Regarding the resolution on transfers, I believe this has to do with keeping certain staff on through the six-month transition year, as related by Zilinski here.

On to the employment contract. Plaintalker reported in May that David Kochel would become the acting city administrator as of May 11 (see post here). Ooopsie! Did he come on board without a contract or will it be retroactive? He can only serve 90 days anyway if he is here in acting capacity. Readers may recall that Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson served as acting city administrator from January through March, then the mayor named herself acting city administrator.

Council watchers may have to prepare for a long evening with a special meeting preceding the agenda fixing session. FYI, the reason it is on Tuesday is that the newly-elected Democratic City Committee will be reorganizing Monday, choosing a chairman and officers for the next two years.

--Bernice

See "Race to Nowhere"

Longtime Plainfield educator Tiffany Corbett is recommending a film that she describes like this:
"RACE TO NOWHERE is a call to action for families, educators and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens.

..."I highly recommend it to educators and administrators as well as parents and students. It will open your eyes and promote healthy discussion, whether in suburban or urban schools."

For more information, click here. To read a New York Times article on the film, click here.

--Bernice

Extreme Heat Requires Caution

Temperatures in the high 90s can be dangerous to one's health, especially for seniors. Last year's stretches of extreme heat began in April. In May, we had several days of very hot weather and now in early June extreme heat is upon us.

This weather trend is something we need to take into account and plan for, as it seems to be getting worse. The hottest days used to come in July, but now we are experiencing extreme heat early and often. The Center for Disease Control has advice on how to help elders sickened by the heat, but people of all ages need to take care.

I recall spending many days last summer just lying down and reading or sleeping through the worst part of the day. Thank heavens for the Plainfield Public Library, where I found the 26 books that got me through last summer.

Just now I looked for heat advisories on the city web site, but saw none. Some cities set up "cooling centers" in heat spells, but if none are provided, you can spend time browsing in air-conditioned stores for a break from the heat.

In the old days, heat was blamed for "summer complaint," an illness that especially affected children. Most likely, it was food spoiled by the heat that caused the problem. It's a good idea to avoid foods that easily go bad in the heat, such as dairy products.

I am speaking as a retiree without air conditioning, but everybody needs to become more cognizant of heat hazards as this weather trend increases. So strategize how to stay cool, become aware of symptoms of heat illness and look in on elderly neighbors on days like this.

--Bernice

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Main P.O. Ramp is Open

Photo provided by George B. Flood

Here is more from George B. Flood, Corporate Communications, USPS Northeast Area:

As an update, the initial reports of the damage to the Plainfield NJ Main Post Office handicapped ramp came back today as fairly positive. Fortunately, there was no structural damage identified. A temporary railing was installed, therefore, by the contractor and the ramp was opened this afternoon.

The final A/E reports are expected tomorrow so we can move forward with the masonry / stone repairs and iron / metal work to match the existing railing.

Projected timeline for the final repairs is 5-6 weeks. In the interim, the ramp is open.

Storch, Greaves Win Primary

Incumbent Second Ward Councilman Cory Storch will be on the November ballot seeking a third four-year term, after primary voters chose him over two-time challenger James "Tony" Rucker.

Rucker had the endorsement of Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green, while Storch ran on the New Democrats line. In the First and Fourth Ward at-large race, appointee Vera Greaves won on the party line over New Democrat Delois "Dee" Dameron. Barring any independents that filed Tuesday, Greaves will run unopposed in the November 8 general election. Storch will face a challenge from Republican William Michelson.

(Note: I got sick Tuesday evening and could not do the usual Election Night chores such as getting quotes, etc.)

On Monday, results will be certified by Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi and newly-elected Democratic City Committee members will select a chairman for the next two years.

Unofficial vote totals Tuesday were 609 for Storch and 453 for Rucker, 599 for Greaves and 322 for Dameron.

In a trend that has been seen for at least the past three Assembly elections, incumbent Assemblyman Jerry Green, also the Plainfield Democratic Party Chairman, received 1,491 city votes while his running mate, incumbent Assemblywoman Linda Stender of Fanwood, received 1,770 votes in Green's hometown.

--Bernice

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Repairs Coming to Main P.O. Ramp

George B. Flood, the spokesperson for the United States Postal Service Northeast Area, was kind enough to share with Plaintalker the following information on damage at the main post office on Watchung Avenue:

Thanks for your inquiry about the handicapped ramp at the Main Post Office at 201 Watchung Avenue in Plainfield, New Jersey. We share the interest in ensuring our buildings are accessible and were disappointed to learn of the recent car accident that damaged the ramp.

Regrettably, a local senior citizen recently mistook the accelerator / gas pedal for the brake when parking his car and hit the ramp. Fortunately, no one was injured.

In the interest of safety, the ramp is currently cordoned-off pending the completion of the repairs to the ramp. Contractors have performed their initial reviews and are in the process of finalizing their recommendations. We will have a better handle on the timeline for the construction when the architect / engineers finalize their plans. Our goal is to have the ramp back in service as quickly, as permanently, and as safely as possible.

In the interim, we are recommending that customers take advantage of our expanded access services. Examples of these services include:

Stamps-by-Mail - You don’t have to leave your home or office if you order your stamps by mail. Just get some order forms from your letter carrier, and then order stamps for delivery directly to your home.

Stamps-by-Phone - Use your credit card and our 24-hour stamp hotline to order the postage you need. Dial 800-STAMP-24 (800-782-6724).

Stamps-to-Go - Participating drug stores like Walgreens and CVS, grocery stores like Shop Rite and Stop & Ship, office supply companies like Staples`, and Banks like Wells Fargo and TD now carry stamps for the convenience of their customers. Most have signs at the checkout or customer service counter to let you know that stamps are available. You can find the nearest location on our website.

USPS.com - Of course our USPS.com website is the ultimate customer convenience. USPS.com is like having a Post Office at your finger tips. You can buy stamps, order free packaging supplies, print-out mailing labels with or without postage, ship a package, and schedule a package pick-up by your local letter carrier for the next business day.

Should customers have any questions or need special accommodations, they can call the Plainfield Main Post Office at 908-226-5256. Every effort will be made to ensure all our customers get the service they expect and deserve.

The Picture of Democrat Green


Jerry Green will tell you at the drop of a hat that he is the third most powerful person in the State Assembly. In Plainfield, the Courier News called him “King of the Queen City.”

Yet in 2005, 2007 and 2009, Jerry got fewer votes in Plainfield than did his running mate from Fanwood.

Why this seeming disrespect in his hometown?

One reason might be that especially around election time, Jerry’s fa├žade cracks and leadership gives way to mean and petty assaults that show his true nature.

This year, Jerry is unopposed in the June Primary, but the City Council candidates he chose as Democratic Party chairman face a challenge. The challengers are Democrats, but Jerry tries to demonize them as Christie Republicans. Worse, he attacks one candidate’s family and insults another by making fun of her care-giving to elderly parents.

A person who is not even in this fray, but who obviously represents a challenge to his power on some level, receives what Jerry hopes is political mortal blow by exposure of his personal financial situation.

People are disgusted by these personal attacks. The message seems to be, exert your freedom to take a stand other than the party line and Jerry will try to destroy you politically. Behind Jerry’s genial visage is the face of a tyrant and it comes out at election time.

Jerry is running unopposed today. But that does not mean you have to vote for him if you are a Democrat. If you think Jerry has pushed enough buttons to hurt people, don’t push his button today. Show your distaste for his tactics in a symbolic way and in 2011 join the many others who could not stand to give Jerry their vote in 2005, 2007 and 2009.

I’m sure Jerry will attempt to hurt me too in some way for speaking my mind. If so, you’ll hear about it right here.

--Bernice

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shakespeare in Bloom June 11

Last Wednesday I took a walk to the Shakespeare Garden in Cedar Brook Park and found the ladies of the Plainfield Garden Club deep into a business meeting in this perfect setting. For this annual outdoor gathering, the ladies wear flower-decked hats and enjoy lunch al fresco.

My mission was to get some photos to remind folks that the Shakespeare in Bloom event will take place on Saturday, June 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Last year's planned event unfortunately clashed with a concert in the park, but this year the concert took place June 4.

Plainfield Garden Club members will welcome visitors and explain the lore of various plants as mentioned in the works of Shakespeare. This garden is one of several similarly-themed ones around the world.

In medieval times, the dewdrops on Lady's Mantle (above) were collected and used as a facial lotion. Many of the other plants in the Shakespeare Garden have beneficial uses.

Click here to learn more about the garden's design.

This pretty flower has the unusual name of Catchfly.

Peonies were beginning to pass their peak of blooming, but roses and other favorites should be at their best.

A new bed of daffodils bloomed a few weeks ago and grasses are now dominant near this marker.

Be sure to stop by with friends, family and guests to see this very special part of Plainfield and to thank the members of the Plainfield Garden Club for maintaining it throughout spring, summer and fall. It is a gift and a treasure for all of us.

To learn more about the club and its work, click here.

--Bernice

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sights in the City

Somebody new wants to make a go of this site, which is between City Hall and the Municipal Court. Sandwiches and specialty drinks are among menu items.

Yet another storefront on Watchung Avenue is under renovation.

The old Elks building at 116 Watchung Avenue - is somebody in there?

The address of a new "resource center" sounded familiar - it is the old O'Connor's meat market at 200 Garfield Avenue.

This facade on Park Avenue is almost all covered up with stucco as it is converted to eight apartments.

An odd-looking truck came by with no PMUA insignia except a logo on the door - over a U.S. DOT permit from Tampa, Fla. - very odd indeed.

Just some images to ponder while awaiting the big election Tuesday ...

--Bernice

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Watch Out for Pre-Primary Madness

The city's 12,034 registered Democrats will be wooed and wheedled between now and June 7 to vote for this or that set of candidates in the primary contest that will settle who gets on the November ballot. But because political wisdom in this city regards a primary win as tantamount to success in the general election, you will see heavy artillery mixed in with hugs and handshakes on the campaign trail. Since candidates filed on April 11, voters have had ample time to read about them, observe them at public meetings and maybe meet them in person in First, Second and Fourth ward neighborhoods. The forum pictured above was organized by two neighborhood associations.

The final week before the primary tends to bring out the worst in political campaigns. Having lived here since 1983, I can attest to the pitch of rhetoric that takes place, sometimes to the extent that voters stay home in disgust rather than go to the polls. If you have formed your own opinion of a candidate, I would suggest disregarding the last-minute nonsense. Vote however your conscience dictates, but please VOTE.

--Bernice

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Action at Park & Ninth

Instant workplace! Notifications sans the glass case.

Ready for the challenge! Maybe there will soon be "lights to the peninsula."

The staging area in Municipal Lot 7, equipment and materials for the job.

To see a somewhat dated notification from Union County, click here.

For those who missed the beginning of this saga, click here to learn more.

--Bernice