Friday, November 30, 2012

Charter Study Commission To Meet

Now that the general election results have been certified, the city's new Charter Study Commission has set the date to organize. A legal notice today announces the meeting will take place on Dec. 11.





A Red, Red Christmas

Let Elvis sing about a blue, blue Christmas ... it's a red, red Christmas in City Hall this year.
The annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony is coming up, 6 p.m. on Dec. 7 on the steps of City Hall.


Storm Debris Still A Challenge

The day after the storm, this tree's remains filled an alley off East Front Street.
Here's the cleaned-up site.
"The Queen's Courtyard" was a gift from Queen City Savings.
Wires, a pole and a tree were all tangled up on East Seventh Street after the storm.
The tree stump is still blocking the sidewalk and one wire is still hanging down.
Lot 7 still has some leftovers from the cleanup that involved dumping of debris and transfer to 30-yard containers for disposal.

No doubt similar scenes are visible throughout the city as the struggle to cope with the storm's aftermath continues.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Paying For The Ringy-Dings

Why was my cell phone reminding me about my bill, I wondered? The answer proved to be that I never got my T-Mobile and Verizon bills in the mail this month and neither was paid.

I usually write out checks the same day I get the bills, but like most other households around here, mine was in a bit of turmoil around the time the bills should have arrived and I didn't notice their absence. Today I saw a clue to the missing mail in this Nov. 9 Nixle post online from a North Jersey mayor:
As you may know Hurricane Sandy also affected first class mail service. This is due to the fact that the Dominick V. Daniels Mail Distribution Center in Kearny was flooded. Kearny is the main mail distributer for
northern New Jersey.

So began a couple of exasperating hours trying to figure out how to pay. There were no stubs with the addresses to put on plain white envelopes - they all got mailed in with previous checks. I tried T-Mobile first at the customer service number and had several go-rounds with the charming robot lady before going online in frustration. I don't like to pay bills online. First there was an ID to find, as I had not used it for many months. I found it in my tattered compendium of log-ins, codes and secret pet names for verifications, but once in the online billing department, I freaked over using my bank account. I settled on the lesser of my two credit cards, figuring a hacker couldn't do very well with that. 

I can't remember exactly how, but I ended up confirming the details with a real human on the cell phone. 

The deed done for t-Mobile, I moved on to Verizon. That robot lady stumped me with her choices of internet or phone or neither. Duh. What about my account that includes both internet and phone?

Confounded by spurious choices, I kept hanging up. I knew there was a way to get a real person on the line, but pressing zero didn't seem to work. On to the computer! I unearthed an ID and a password, but as soon as I logged in, a new problem became evident. I couldn't use my bank account or my credit cards, because the account was under my son's musician name. Our phone listing is in that name, even though I pay the bills. 

Back to the land line. By some kind of luck, I hit zero at the right time and got a very nice woman on the line who calmly straightened everything out and even gave me credit for the time the internet was out. A duplicate bill is in the mail, which I can pay by check less the credit.

Like a lot of people, I still have the jitters from the power outage, though I am aware that we got off easy compared to many others. Both the customer service ladies could relate - one lives in Florida and one shared the New Jersey experience. It was especially the Verizon lady who was just the opposite of Ernestine. She was efficient and empathetic, and I really needed that today.


FUSP Craft Fair Saturday

In case you can't read the fine print:

First Unitarian Society of Plainfield
Holiday Craft Fair
Free admission
•25 Crafters, Artists & Creative Vendors •17 Craft Raffles
• Kids Activities • “Ask the Artist”• Stevens Cafe & Bakery

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Idle Speculation

What else to do on a snowy, slushy day than to speculate about Plainfield politics?

One thing that may happen in December is for Rev. Tracey Brown to resign from the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, as the city has a prohibition on dual office-holding. So say this happens and there is a vacancy. It would be a real vacancy, as in the new J.K. Rowling novel that I just finished reading, not the kind where the mayor tries to replace a holdover who keeps his or her seat if the vote doesn't go through.

So it is possible that the temporary appointee will get to vote on the replacement, even if said appointee is the very person who was skipped over in January 2011. Hmmm ... As Rick Taylor used to say, you only need to count to four.

But would Rev. Brown's replacement be for her entire unexpired term to Feb. 1, 2015 or would it only be until Feb. 1, 2013 and then require another vote for the balance of the term? Do I hear knuckles being gnawed? Probably not, because folk wisdom tells us that a 4-3 vote would ensue anyway.

Next in the crosshairs might be those pesky holdovers. Council President Adrian Mapp has at times declined to move mayoral requests to the agenda. How would a new council president deal with mayoral nominations?That might depend on who else wants to be elected mayor in 2013.

Well, all this speculation must be taken with a grain of salt. Speaking of which, I am going to scatter many grains of salt on the front steps before this wet snow turns to ice tonight. Brrr!

-- Bernice

Indira Bailey Honored By Council

Indira Bailey

Artist and educator Indira Bailey was honored Monday by the City Council for being selected as Essex County Teacher of the Year for 2012-2013.
Deputy Clerk Sherri Golden read a resolution detailing Bailey's many accomplishments, including service on the Plainfield Cultural & Heritage Commission and numerous contributions to the community in advancement of the arts. She is a teacher at Essex County Vocational School in addition to pursuing her own professional career.

Bailey described her early days in Plainfield, where "everyone knew everybody."

"It means a lot to see people that I know and grew up with here to honor me," she said.


Snafu Leaves Council Vacancy Unfilled

Charles Eke
The City Council's failure Monday to choose a temporary successor to Councilwoman Annie McWilliams means selection will revert to the Democratic City Committee that had offered three names.

McWilliams, a daughter of the late Mayor Albert T. McWilliams, resigned as of Nov.1. Her term, including two stints as council president, ends Dec. 31. As required, the party committee gave the governing body three names - Hattie Williams, Dottie Gutenkauf and Charles Eke - and separate resolutions for each one were on Monday's agenda as new items.

Williams and Gutenkauf are both longtime party stalwarts. Willliams served as a City Hall greeter in the early days of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs' tenure. Gutenkauf was a leader in the campaign to save Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center from closing and continues to fight for the hospital's restoration. Eke campaigned early for Barack Obama in 2008 and later sought a seat on the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority. In interviews last week, Councilwoman Rebecca Williams reminded Eke of his verbal attacks on council members who voted against him in 2011 for the PMUA seat and asked how he now expected to serve on the council.

When it came time to vote Monday to fill the vacancy, Hattie Williams was the first name up and won in a 4-2 vote, with Rebecca Williams (no relation), Cory Storch, Adrian Mapp and Wliiam Reid voting "yes" and Bridget Rivers and Vera Greaves voting "no." The other two resolutions were then removed from the agenda, as the matter appeared to be settled. But during the public comment portion of the meeting, Reid, who was participating by phone, interrupted to say he wanted to change his vote to Eke.

Mapp, as council president, allowed public comment to continue until all who wished to speak had done so. Storch then moved to adjourn the meeting, but Rivers reminded her colleagues that Reid had a question.

Over the phone, Reid said, "I did not hear the vote on the next council person. My vote would be for Mr. Eke."

"That resolution was withdrawn," Mapp said.

Rivers asked for a legal opinion and City Solicitor David Minchello said Mapp as council president would have to allow Reid to change his vote. The subsequent 3-3 tie meant the vote for Hattie Williams failed.
A vote to put the other two resolutions back on the agenda also failed, 3-3, and Mapp said the decision would revert to Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green. City Clerk Abubakar Jalloh said technically the vote goes to the committee.

Reid asked whether Eke could be sworn in for the Dec. 3 agenda-fixing session. Minchello said depends when the committee. which has 15 days, makes its choice.

The possibility of a split vote was foreshadowed at the start of the meeting, when council members had to select a chairman of the whole to replace Reid, as he was not physically present. The all-Democratic council split between two factions and after a round of failed votes, Mapp said, "We are at an impasse for no good reason."

Finally members voted unanimously for Storch, who quipped, "That was really validation."

The council has an agenda-fixing session at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 in City Hall Library and a regular meeting at 8 p.m. Dec. 10 in Municipal Court. An agenda-fixing session for the January reorganization is 7:30 p.m.Dec. 17 in City Hall Library.
Note: I am posting some of the comments below just to point up the abrasiveness in city politics. I am not endorsing the negativity.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nov. 6 Final Results Posted At Last

Official results of the Nov. 6 election are now posted by County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi. Click here and scroll down for local numbers or just read on ...

All the numbers are much higher than the unofficial results from Election Night. Normally, there is a minor spread between what runners bring back to party headquarters that night and the official results posted by the county clerk on the Monday following the election. Superstorm Sandy and other factors caused alternate means of voting to an unprecedented degree, as indicated by numbers such as an 86 percent difference for Charter Study Commissioner Mary Burgwinkle (690 to 1,289), 19 percent for school board candidate Mahogany Hendricks (3,702 to 4,419) and 14 percent for Councilwoman at-large Tracey Brown (10,205/11,625.

The question on whether to have a charter study commisssion passed with a 34 percent higher "yes" vote than the Election Night tally (2,474/3,323). The five winning candidates now have 15 days to organize and  nine months to do the study. Besides Burgwinkle, winners are John Stewart (694 unofficial, 1,264 official), Rick Smiley (709/1,357), Jeanette Criscione (638/1,219) and Marie Davis (441/988), the last being a 124 percent increase.

Besides Hendricks, Keisha Edwards won a three-year term (3,432/4,177), as did Jackie Coley (2,207/2675). Delois Dameron won a one-year unexpired term (2,694/3,251).

In the Third Ward, Adrian Mapp was re-elected (2,846/3,139).

It remains to be seen whether voters have changed their ways permanently from largely voting at the polls. The next election will be the June 2013 primary, which will likely include contenders for the mayoralty and the Fourth Ward City Council seat here in Plainfield. Winners will go on to the November general election - after the results are certified, that is.


TODD Public Hearing Tonight

I had hoped to do a blog post on the ordinance designating seven new districts in a Transit Oriented Development-Downtown zone, but it is not happening. If you want to know more about it in time to speak at a public hearing before final passage at Monday's meeting, you will have to go to the City Clerk's office Monday and look at the background material.

The first thing that put me off my plan was this request in late October from a city official:

"I ask that you please contact me to make certain that you have everything right before you post anything. It is complicated, and I really don’t want misinformation out there! "

Having covered Plainfield in various capacities for nearly 30 years, I found this request to be somewhat insulting. Unfortunately, I was in Seattle on Oct. 1 and missed the council meeting where the proposed ordinance was presented in public. While I was mulling this request, the storm struck and I spent 10 days without power. After that, I just never got it together.

Tonight's council meeting was rescheduled from Nov. 19. It is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Health Division Fee Revisions On Agenda

Health Division fees for stores and restaurants will increase by 20 percent in 2013 and for the first time liquor store owners will pay a $200 fee, among changes in an ordinance up for first reading Monday.

The fee schedule covers 44 categories, ranging from dog and cat licenses to tattoo parlors. Most Vital Statistics items, such as birth, marriage and death certificates, will stay the same, though fees for extra copies or corrections will double.

Special event food licenses will increase by 68 percent, to $55 per day. Other "food-related business fees,"  including those for mobile food trucks and pushcarts, church and school kitchens, newsstands, pharmacies and day care centers will come under the 20 percent increase. Vending machine fees will go from $32.50 per machine to $54.60 annually.

All these changes are under the somewhat inscrutable title for Ordinance MC 2012-25, "An ordinance to amend and supplement Chapter 1,Article 1, General Provision, Section 1:1-15, authorizing charges for copies of public records and fees and for other services of the Municipal Code of the City of Plainfield NJ, 1971" submitted by the Department of Administration & Finance. This is why some of us bloggers trek to the Plainfield Public Library on Saturdays before City Council meetings to look at the background documents for proposed legislation.

In 2010, a set of proposed Health Division fee increases caused a furor and had to be amended before passage. A fee for laundromats, along with a $20 fee per machine, was eliminated and extreme increases in other fees were modified after Plaintalker detailed the the changes. Council members heeded the concerns of business owners and residents in passing a revised schedule.

 Some of the revisions for 2013 were approved in 2010 and took effect in 2011.  The schedule up for council consideration Monday covers 2013 and 2014.

Plaintalker's point in calling attention to these changes is that one can't tell by the title alone what some of the proposed legislation is really all about. The same applies to three other proposed ordinances that may affect entrepreneurs and organizations that put on outdoor events.

The public always has a chance to speak on ordinances at public hearings before final passage. But not many citizens are able to take the time to research and analyze the fine print in background documents in order to make informed comments. In between posting pictures of our cats and gardens, that's where bloggers come in!

Monday's regular City Council meeting was rescheduled from Nov. 19 due to the storm emergency. It is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave. Speakers may comment on any resolution or ordinance before the council votes, and may comment at the end of the meeting on any topic of concern.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Commentary on 2013 Budget

Last year's budget process got pretty far off the rails before consultant David Kochel stopped the train wreck. There was the $1.5 million shortfall, the mayor's call to slash the library budget and a ploy by City Administrator Eric Berry to discredit the governing body in the eyes of the state. Kochel engineered a final budget that solved all the fiscal issues, if not the political ones.

On Wednesday, I received a letter from the Friends of the Plainfield Public Library that detailed the group's many accomplishments, but then asked for help in 2013, saying "The mayor has proposed slashing the library budget by 50% from $1,800,000 to $925,000."

The latter figure is the state minimum and the same tactic came up this year, after the administration had already presented the governing body with a budget including full funding for the library. See Plaintalker's report here.

The city has adopted a calendar year, meaning the budget  timetable will begin with adoption of a temporary budget in January and after three months the council must approve emergency appropriations each month until budget passage. The mayor and city administrator must prepare a budget document to submit to the governing body. Once it is introduced, the council and its budget advisory committee can modify it. As noted in the blog post linked above, the mayor's proposed 2012 cuts came as a surprise, but it appears FOPPL is marshaling support early for full funding in 2013.

Among city institutions, the library stands out for its innovations and adaptations to the community's changing needs. Decimating its budget hardly makes sense.

Another issue that came up last week was another $75,000 allocation for the law firm of City Solicitor David Minchello. The same amount was paid in May, retroactive to Jan.1, 2012 and also in August. Since Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson resigned to become executive director of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority as of July 1, Minchello has occupied his seat in council meetings but the title of corporation counsel is vacant. The charter allows for the city solicitor to serve in place of the corporation counsel "temporarily."

The corporation counsel heads the city's in house legal department, which is listed in the budget with the usual categories of salaries and wages and other expenses. The question is, how does this $225,000 fit in the budget this year, and if the current situation continues through 2013, how will it be reflected in that budget?Maybe there is a simple answer.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bernice: WTF? Dan: Ho-Hum

Talk about role reversal!

In the case of the red flag, Bernice is all "What's this?" and imagining the worst, while Dan is calmly laying out   the facts.

Did Bernice steal Dan's pointy stick to turn over faux rocks? Is she red-faced with shame while Dan wears a cloak of probity?

Could be. She is now even talking about herself in the third person.

Residents: Communication Lacking In Storm

Public Safety and Public Works officials told the City Council Monday they did their utmost to deal with Superstorm Sandy, but a stream of residents said the city must improve emergency communication.

With no power and or cell phone service after the storm hit, officials said, they distributed flyers and used vehicles with bullhorns to inform residents of emergency aid. Residents Tony Rucker and Jeanette Criscione said they didn't hear any bullhorns and the Rev. Jason Greer said, "Not enough information went out."

The administration is investigating possible use of a local AM radio frequency, the Nixle notification system, improvements to its own emergency management center and linking to the school district's parental notification program. Speakers also suggested use of social media where possible.

Council President Adrian Mapp and Councilwoman Rebecca Williams said they went door to door to aid residents, as did Councilwoman Vera Greaves. Mapp and Williams also posted information on their blogs and on Facebook.

Another concern was storm debris. A McKinley Place resident said piles of wood and brush on her street were a fire hazard. Public Works Director Eric Jackson said workers have removed nine and a half tons of storm debris and removal will likely continue through mid-December, but he would check her street.

Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig said the city has already begun to critique the storm response. One outcome was a very low crime rate during the power outage, "probably the lowest crime rate ever,"

City Administrator Eric Berry said the outage affected 18,000 households and illegal use of generators made many residents ill. Hellwig said the Fire Division averted a tragedy that could have left 20 people dead from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Community organizer Norman Johnson said local bodegas were selling outdated perishable foods while stores in a neighboring town were shut down until they could be reinspected. Director Al Restaino, whose department includes the Health Division, said the city currently has only one full-time health inspector. But each food establishment is responsible to meet standards, he said, and there are no specific criteria to inspect every single one.

"Not after a storm like this," he said.


McWilliams Resigns, Appointee To Be Named

The City Council interviewed three nominees Monday to replace Councilwoman Annie McWilliams, who resigned Nov.1 after declining to seek re-election.

McWilliams held the citywide at-large seat, representing all four wards, and served twice as council president. She will be honored for her service at the Nov. 26 regular meeting.

As required, the Democratic City Committee offered three names to the governing body to fill the vacancy. The nominees are Hattie Williams, Dottie Gutenkauf and Charles Eke. One will be chosen on Nov. 26 and will be seated immediately to serve through Dec. 31. On Jan. 1, the Rev. Tracey Brown will be sworn in for the four-year term she won in the Nov. 6 general election (results to be certified on Nov. 26).

Each nominee had a brief interview Monday. All was cordial until Councilwoman Rebecca Williams said to Eke, "The last time you appeared before the council, you made a spectacle of yourself."

Eke lashed out against council members in February 2011 after being rejected in January 2011 for a commissioner's seat on the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority. Reading a prepared speech, he called some council members "unfit for public office" and accused them of holding a caucus before the meeting, something McWilliams as council president denied.

"You never made any apology for your outrageous behavior," Williams said Monday, asking Eke how he expected to work with the council.

Eke had no response, prompting Williams to say if he couldn't remember, it spoke to his being unqualified and unfit to serve.

Councilman William Reid suggested that Eke could be impartial and fair, but Williams said she wanted the minutes of the February 14, 2011 meeting retrieved.

After the Nov. 26 regular meeting, the selected appointee will only be able to take part in an agenda-fixing session on Dec. 3, a regular meeting on Dec. 10, an agenda-fixing session Dec. 17 for the January 2013 annual reorganization and any special meetings before the end of the year.


Nov. 6 Election Still Not Final

An unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, effects of Hurricane Sandy and other factors will delay official results of the Nov. 6 general election until Nov. 26.

Charter Study Commission candidate Mary Burgwinkle gave the City Council the new date Monday in explaining why the commission's mandated organization within 15 days will be delayed. The Nov. 6 ballot contained both the question on whether voters wanted a charter study and also listed seven candidates, from which five winners would take seats on the commission. Results on both the question and the commissioners are pending the official tally.

Other local contests awaiting official results are for Third Ward and Citywide at-large City Council seats and three three-year and one one-year school board seats.

The results must be certified by Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi.


Mayor Raises A Red Flag

A new flag featuring the blue-and-gold city seal on a bright red ground appeared recently in City Hall and was also part of Veterans' Day ceremonies on Nov. 11. But at Monday's City Council meeting, no one from the administration could explain how it came about.

"Remove it," City Council President Adrian Mapp said after officials drew a blank on why the new flag was not offered for the governing body's approval.

The mayor's well-known public predilection for the color red predates her election. In 2005, women dressed in red to show their support for her candidacy at a forum put on to counter the traditional League of Women Voters forum. She went on to win her first four-year term and took office on Jan. 1, 2006,wearing red.
In 2009, she ran for re-election and decorated the new Senior Center with red balloons for a one-day opening in late May, just before the June primary. Her supporters also wore red. She won the primary and then the November election for a second term.
She has already declared her candidacy for a third term and will have to run in 2013. Perhaps the red flag was just another campaign reminder. But creating a city flag without legislative approval is something the governing body just won't salute.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Carnival Rules Up For Change After Controversy

To understand the context of three proposed ordinances up for consideration Monday, one would have to go back six weeks to a controversy that erupted at the Oct. 9 City Council meeting.

Several residents complained that night about a carnival that popped up in the West End and the mayor’s alleged confrontational response to their concerns about the cost of rides and a failed promise of jobs at the event. Residents said when they called council members, none knew anything about the event.

Speakers said the $35 charge for rides saddened neighborhood children whose parents could not afford that amount and the mayor’s antagonism, backed up by a mysterious protector, caused former Councilwoman Joanne Hollis to remark, “I thought we was into a thug thing.”

Resident Latice Royster said she wanted a “public apology” from the mayor’s defender, a man Royster identified as a PMUA employee named Willie Jenkins.

In answer to how the carnival came about, officials said the mayor signed the permit for it. One of the proposed ordinances amends the city code to require City Council approval, 45 days in advance, for carnivals and similar events.

Another raises the fee for carnivals from $500 per day to $2,500 and the third specifies that, while the mayor can issue most licenses, those for carnivals would be issued by the council.

The event producer was identified as “Donald Bernard.” An online search turned up an organization headed by Don Bernard Sr. that specializes in outdoor events and has the backing of numerous corporate sponsors, including Investors Bank.

The ordinances were supposed to be introduced on first reading at a Nov. 8 special meeting, which had to be canceled due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

The Nov. 13 agenda-fixing session was rescheduled to Monday and the regular meeting, formerly set for Nov. 19, was pushed to Nov. 26. If passed at the regular meeting, the ordinances would then be up for public hearing and final passage at the Dec. 10 regular meeting, taking effect 20 days later and just barely making the deadline for legislation in 2012.


The End of Weather

According to the city web site, weather is just over with. So don't worry about hurricanes and such any more.

Wait! Does this mean the sunny day I have been anticipating for today is also expired? Noooo!!


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Alas, Poor Twinkie!

After the news broke that Hostess Brands, the parent company of Wonder Bread, was going out of business, I decided to buy a loaf for old time's sake - not for consumption, but to mix with white glue to make the craft dough that unleashed so much creativity when my children were small.

Wonder Bread is apparently not a favorite at our local store, because this array barely changed from morning to night. I snapped a photo early and went back in the evening to get the bread, glue and food coloring. The shelves were still full and I picked up a loaf, but after finding no food color, I put it back. Literal "white bread" art objects are pretty dull.
Not many people were grabbing Twinkies either at the store, which has a mostly Latino customer base. Maybe Twinkies are not as iconic in Guatemala or Honduras as they are over here.

Drake's Cakes are also a Hostess Brands product. I used to have a soft spot for their Coffee Cakes until Entenmann's Ultimate Crumb Cake came along. And in my youth TastyKakes Butterscotch Krimpets were only available in Pennsylvania, where I visited my Aunt Kay and Uncle Lou each summer. When distribution began in New Jersey, they displaced all other confections in my childhood pantheon of cheap treats.

Nowadays, with Top Pot doughnuts, cake pops and high-grade Italian cookies only a bus ride away in Westfield, all packaged and preservative-laden baked goods are on a lower rung of the munchies ladder.

So farewell, Hostess Brands. Thanks for the memories. Someone in the Courier News newsroom used to have a Twinkie enshrined on his desk. For all we know, it is still on his desk at the Asbury Park Press a couple of decades later.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanks To DPW and PMUA

For several days, Lot 7 next to our building has served as a staging area for tree removal after the storm(s).

Public Works trucks have dumped off loads of logs and branches and then PMUA has provided 30-yard containers to be filled up and taken away for disposal. A worker from Oveter's Construction has used a big front-end loader to lift the debris and dump it in the container. When a big log lands in the container, the impact makes our whole building shake.

So all along, the containers have been placed on our side of Lot 7. But a really loud crash that really rattled the building Thursday made me call the Public Works yard to make a simple request: Could the 30-yard containers be placed on the other side of the lot?

I got Marie Davis on the phone and as if by magic, the next container was rolled off on the other side. It wasn't any less noisy, but the distance dampened the vibrations that were making us jump. Our building was the family home of one of the city's original council members before it was converted to six apartments, so it is about 143 years old. The shock of those big crashes can't be good for it. The impact reminded me of the time the Park-Madison lot was compacted by lifting huge weights and dropping them (click on "animations" for example).

Thanks to all who helped us out on this matter.
My neighbor was especially affected by having the big containers right outside her sun porch until PMUA started rolling them off on the other side of the city parking lot. She appreciated the change.


Residents Receive Disaster Supplies

Residents flocked to a PMUA building on Cottage Place Thursday to pick up rakes, shovels and clean-up kits furnished by American Red Cross Disaster Relief.

Supplies were also distributed at two other sites, the City Yard on South Avenue and 3 Engine Station on West Third Street. City Administrator Eric Berry was among officials at the PMUA site when Plaintalker stopped by. Berry said any resident who missed the distribution Thursday and needs the items can e-mail him at to request them.

Eric Jackson, director of Public Works & Urban Development, said homeowners can place brush and leaves from their storm clean-up at the curb for pickup. This offer does not apply to contractors.

Plaintalker posted information on the distribution Wednesday evening at the request of a PMUA staff member who forwarded the city advisory. At the time, the information was not on the city web site and the PMUA web site had the date and time, but not the location. The city had the information up Thursday morning.

A steady stream of cars arrived at the PMUA building on the one-way street bordering the Raritan Valley Line tracks.

East End resident Craft said he found out about the distribution by word of mouth. He said he had a tree down in his yard. A West End couple took several kits, which they said they were picking up for other people. They called the distribution "a big help to us to do it for them."


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Did You Know John Foley III?

I have been asked to help find the family of John J. Foley III, a 1966 graduate of Plainfield High School who was classified as Missing in Action after a helicopter crash in Vietnam on June 11, 1967.

Click here for more information on Lance Corporal Foley. There is a plaque that American Legion Post 219 discovered in a city building and which members hope to pass on to the family.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Red Cross Aid at Three Sites Thursday

The American Red Cross will be providing emergency assistance and disaster relief to all residents tomorrow (Thursday, Nov. 15) from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at three locations, according to a city announcement.

The three locations are the Public Works Yard at 745 South Avenue, the Fire Station at 1147 West Third Street and the PMUA facility at 427 Cottage Place.

Herb Green Obituary

Herbert T. Green, 87

Plainfield – Herbert T. Green, 87, died Friday (November 9, 2012) at his home in Planfield. Born in Brooklyn, NY, he resided in Plainfield since 1957. Mr. Green was a graduate of the US Naval Academy and was a veteran of World War II. After being discharged from the Navy, he started his career as the sports director for Channel 13. He continued his career in television as general manager of Channel 13 and later, Channel 47. He had a longtime affiliation with Rutgers University and retired as the Director of Public Education Institute at Rutgers. He was active in community affairs in Plainfield most of his life, having served two terms on the Plainfield Board of Education; as member and former President of the League of Woman Voters; PTA President at several Plainfield Schools; and as a volunteer with Resident Readers at Plainfield elementary schools. He is survived by his wife, Marjorie Braverman Green; two sons, Charles M. Green and Joseph B. Green (and his wife, Janice); five grandchildren, Joshua, Matthew, Jennifer, Brian and Julianne; and his nephew, Daniel. Private arrangements are by Memorial Funeral Home in Fanwood. Those who wish may make memorial donations to the Plainfield Area Humane Society.

Official Nov. 6 Results Way Higher

Over my years of reporting on election results, I do not recall as wide a difference as I see today on the official results versus unofficial tallies after the polls closed on Nov. 6. For example, election night reports gave school board candidate Keisha Edwards 3,432 votes, but the official count is 4,000 votes. That is a 17 percent difference.

Here are the school board results.
Three three-year seats
Jackie Coley 2,207/2,578
Mahogany Hendricks 3,702/4,249
Catherine Crittendon 929/1,236
Dollie Hamlin 1,358/1,780
Keisha Edwards 3,432/4,000

One one-year unexpired term
Delois Dameron 2,694/3,130
Frederick D. Moore Sr. 2,265/2,615

The added votes did not affect the outcome. The winners are the same.

More about this later.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Library Posts Photo Contest Winners

The Plainfield Public Library now has a link to all the photographs in the 2012 contest and names of all the winners. Click here to view.

A Joyful Noise

One of the few comforting things for me during the power outage was the loud "pop" that signaled the opening of a ripe Thunbergia seed. (You may now roll your eyes.)

Nature geek that I am, I had gathered a great many of these seeds from the vines after the cartoony yellow and orange flowers bloomed. The plant is also known as Black-Eyed Susan Vine and this year, after a slow start, it produced dozens of round, five-petaled flowers with black centers.
This is a small pot full of Thunbergias. I also had a large trellisful. The flowers are just preternaturally cute.

So when I was hiding under the covers with no light or heat, hearing the seed pods snap open in their container made me happy. In the daylight, I packed up the seeds in packets for the summer of 2013. Daydreams of gardening can get a person through practically anything!


Monday, November 12, 2012

In Memory of Herb Green

Herb Green
Herb Green worked in many spheres and all who knew him will be sad to know of his passing on Nov 10.

Plainfielders knew him as a passionate advocate for education, a dedicated school board member and the first male president of the Plainfield League of Women Voters.

In 2008, Herb and his wife Marjorie mounted a letter campaign that doubled the League's membership. A Plaintalker post on that accomplishment included this quote from Herb:
"I remain hopeful that I will live to see the day when representatives of our entire diverse community will come together in friendship and mutual respect."

It is up to us still living to further that goal in Herb's memory.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Let's Hear It For The Radio

I grew up in the 1940s relying on radio for entertainment. In fact, the whole family would gather to hear Jack Benny or the excellent radio drama shows back in those days.

Today I rely on radios for information as well as entertainment. Television (or maybe sitting down to watch it) puts me to sleep. But my portable radio can come out in the yard or go on a walk with me. Sure, you can use some modern smart-thing to get information when the power goes out, but a small radio may cost only $10 or $15. The Walkman takes only one AAA battery. You can't get more economical than that.

I was able to get weather reports and storm advisories throughout the emergency and even heard President Obama's victory speech, which TV viewers missed when the power was out.

The only missing link was local news. I had no luck pulling in Harvest Radio at 1070 AM. The studio is in the same building at 120 West Seventh Street where WERA used to be, but the transmitter is in Stirling. It made me think about the days when Barbara Ballard was on the air and there was a lot of local coverage, even school closings and emergency advisories in real time.

If you do not have a small, battery-operated radio, pick one up at Radio Shack along with some batteries. It might turn out to be a life-line to vital information when the next storm hits.


Veterans Day Observed At Memorials

It was approaching the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, and a Vietnam veteran who wanted to be quoted only as R.T. was waiting for ceremonies to begin near City Hall.

Asked how he fared in the storm, he said his Coolidge Avenue home was still without power.

"I don't mind, considering that I'm very fortunate," he said.

His street had very little damage, he said. No treees were down, but neighbors on Oxford Street, Adams Circle and Francis Place had lots of damage.

"So we're blessed."
Soon he joined a small band of veterans and public safety personnel who proceeded to the War Memorial
with Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs to lay a wreath.

Cornell Hawkins, commander Judge Advocate of American Legion Post 219, told me the ceremony would be much abbreviated, with so many veterans displaced and lacking power. Members of American Legion Post
7474 and the Plainfield Police and Fire Divisions also took part.
The group moved on to the memorial on the grounds of City Hall, to lay another wreath.

The plight of those affected by Superstorm Sandy colored Hawkins's Veterans Day remarks.
"So many have suffered," Hawkins said. "We're the lucky ones."

Those present still have health, community and camaraderie, he said.
"We don't have it bad - we really don't," he said.
Donald Moman, vice commander of Post 219, performed the tolling of the bell at the traditional moment.

With that, the group gathered in City Hall for light refreshments.Besides the mayor, Councilwoman Rebecca Williams was the only other elected official present. City Hall will be closed Monday in observance of the federal Veterans Day holiday.


Good Day Sunshine

Storm survivors.

What a thrill today to get out in the warm sunshine and do yardwork! Well, for me it's a thrill. There was a lot of tidying up to do and I love yardwork as much as I hate housework. More sunshine is promised tomorrow!


Saturday, November 10, 2012

2012 Photograph Exhibit Opens

City photographer and blogger Jackie Schnoop garnered many awards in the Plainfield Public Library's 7th Annual Photograph Contest. Pictured is an entry titled "Drinking the Sweet Nectar That Is Plainfield," a bee on a cornflower that just happens to be in my back yard. Jackie is a prolific chronicler of the city in her Sunday reports at

At a reception Saturday, Library Director Joseph Da Rold said 13 contributors entered 56 images of Plainfield on the theme "Eating Out/Eating In."

The winners were announced at the opening, but being bleary from 10 days without power, I didn't take notes. I will try to get the details next week.
Here are the proud winners, with Da Rold and Councilwoman Rebecca Williams at left.

Contributing photographers were Jerry A. Barner, Robert Bolmer, Morgan Collins, Brian Cook, Scott Eagleson, Taraka Gilbert, Anthony P. Johnson, Gina King-Wilkins, Marylou Morano Kjelle, Margaret Minatee, Victor D. Reynolds, Jackie Schnoop and Jane T. Thoner. Staff member Jeff Wassen coordinated the contest.
The exhibit includes all 2012 submissions and will be on view during library hours through Dec. 31. Details on the 2013 contest will be posted on the library's web site.


City Cafe A Refuge From Disaster

Behind the brown-papered windows of “It’s-a-Wrap” café, warm pumpkin tones and new furnishings were ready to launch the next chapter for owner and chef David T. Holmes III.

 Hurricane Sandy rewrote it.

Holmes, 28, celebrated the one-year anniversary of the café in June and was also just about to become the director of the soup kitchen at a large church on the block at Park and Seventh, a crossroads not only for thousands of commuters but also a gathering point for many of the city’s most needy. The storm struck at the end of the month, closing the kitchen just when it was normally a vital resource for people in need. Only some commercial buildings, including the café’s location, had power in the storm’s wake.

One person saw Holmes stopped in traffic and asked him where to go for something to eat. The plea brought home the storm’s devastation.

“People were starving out here,” Holmes said.

At 5:51 a.m. on the Wednesday after Sandy hit, Holmes said, “I felt God just wake me up.”

Soon hand-lettered signs overlaid the brown paper on the café’s windows, offering free coffee, soup, phone charging and shelter from the cold.

“Not open for business, but open for relief” one sign read.

Holmes thought maybe he could help for a day, but he said Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs found out about his effort and urged him to continue, as the city sought places to shelter and host residents with no light or power.

Holmes even symbolically unplugged the café’s cash register for what turned out to be 10 days of selfless giving.

“I believe God gave me the mission,” he said.

As temperatures dipped down to freezing, nearby apartment dwellers and homeless alike mingled daily in the warm café. Some visitors were busy checking e-mail or blogging, while others who use the Plainfield Public Library as a daily haven just needed to be in out of the cold. At 3 p.m. each day, volunteers served an improvised lunch to the crowd. Donors came by with canned food, coloring books and crayons, even winter coats. Under a ceiling beam with the painted words, “… but He still loves you,” people waited for life to return to normal.
The library opened on Nov. 8 and the café began to empty. On Nov. 9, with power back at most nearby apartment buildings, Holmes, also known as Chef D, prepared to close and take stock. The newly refinished floors were scuffed and would have to be redone. The new carpeting, stained and dirty from traffic throughout Sandy and a sloppy nor’easter that followed, would most likely have to be thrown out. Even the tabletops needed refurbishing.
 Holmes has some slight hopes of assistance from outside sources as he picks up where he left off in late October. He’s also hoping those who appreciated his hospitality will come back as paying customers and bring their friends along. Whatever happens, he can look back on a call well answered.

“It sparked a response for civic duty in a sense,” he said. “Those who didn’t have much still wanted to give much.”

Among those who appreciated what he did, resident Jade Haywood said, "It was a help for me because it really saved me."

Haywood said the cafe, which was open from mid-morning to early evening, was the only place she could get information through television or the internet in the community. Without power, she had even missed the presidential election results.

Haywood said of Holmes, "He's a good young man."

Plainfield Councilwoman Rebecca Williams commented, "Chef D's selflessness and genuine concern for our city's struggling residents shows how we as a community can come together in times of crisis. Some of my updates on the status of the restoration were posted from his cafe. He and his crew kept us warm, cheerful, and well-fed--what an awesome young man!"

Volunteers Jackie Glaspy, Jeremy Rodas, Zina Gregory and Isaiah Robinson helped Holmes welcome about 250 visitors a day to the café, which began several years ago as Heritage Internet Café. Holmes changed the name in June 2011 along with the menu, which now features wrap sandwiches and salads.

He made a similar outreach to the community when Hurricane Irene struck in August 2011, but did not see an increase in business.

 Now, he says, “Hopefully God will say, I can trust you with more opportunities.”

The café at 631 Park Avenue in Plainfield is closed again for renovations. Check It’s-A-Wrap Café on Facebook for updates on its reopening.


Council Meeting Dates Changed









TIME: 8:00 P.M.


Mitt Romney Loses BOE Contest

Somebody told me about this card being handed out on Nov. 6 at polling places and today I found one on East Seventh Street. Who knew Mitt Romney wanted to be on the Plainfield school board? Maybe that was his back-up plan.

Seriously, folks, this is just another example of the so-called political "King of the Queen City" trying to diss his arch-enemy, the self-proclaimed "kingmaker" who has backed successful slates for both the City Council and school board in recent years. Mind you, the school board election is supposed to be non-partisan, but on June 5, the day of the primary election and also the filing dates for school board candidates for the November ballot, Democrats announced their slate at party headquarters. The other slate popped up on campaign signs all over the city before the general election (not including Mitt Romney).
Ironically, each slate won two of the four seats. Incumbent Keisha Edwards and political newcomer Jackie Coley won three-year terms. Mahogany Hendricks also won a three-year term and Delois Dameron won a one-year unexpired term. So much for kings and kingmakers.


Friday, November 9, 2012

PMUA Updates

 PMUA has asked for this information to be posted on the blog:


Because of the hardships incurred due to the recent storm, the PMUA is extending the grace period for 4th quarter bill payments. Customer bills, which were originally due by 11/21/12 (including grace period) are now due by 11/30/12.

In anticipation of the Nor'easter storm forecasted for tomorrow Wednesday 11/7/2012, PMUA recycle collection will begin earlier at 3AM. Please have all co-mingled and paper recyclables out for pick-up.

We encourage residents to please do your best to continue proper recycling practices during the storm recovery by separating your paper, cardboard and co-mingled materials from your garbage.  If your PMUA blue recycle cart is overflowing, place excess cans & bottles in plastic bags, tie bags up and place the next to the recycle cart (clear plastic bags preferred). Until normal collections resume, PMUA will accept co-mingled items in plastic bags if your cart is filled to capacity.  We appreciate your cooperation and your patience as we work to ensure that all waste is collected as quickly as possible.

Due to the vast amount of leaves generated as a result of the hurricane, the Authority is now offering Free Leaf Drop-Off at PERC Transfer Station Monday-Saturday during regular operational hours for Plainfield residents only.  This no-charge leaf drop-off program will continue through Saturday, December 1, 2012 at PERC Transfer Station, 95 Rock Avenue.

If your PMUA black garbage or blue recycle cart has been lost or damaged as a result of Hurricane Sandy, please call PMUA at 908-226-2518 and ask for customer service. PMUA will assess the damage fix or replace containers as needed.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day Ten Without Power

Misery! Wet snow and a driving wind Wednesday night were a slap in the face, literally, to those of us still waiting for power.
At least we could visit the mall and get takeout and some supplies.
See that PSE&G equipment down at the corner? We are hoping today is the day we get our power restored. The sun is shining and temperatures are supposed to increase each day to the low 60s by the weekend.


Election Notes

Notes on the General Election turnout in Plainfield (unofficial).

The vote for Barack Obama (12,738) equaled 56 percent of all registered voters (22,555) and approximated the number of registered Democrats citywide (12,869).

Votes for other Democrats were less.
Senator Robert Menendez received 11,060 votes in Plainfield.
Rush Holt, in his first election since redistricting gave him Plainfield as part of Congressional District 12, garnered 10,3305 here.
Rev. Tracey Brown received 10,205 votes for a four-year term for the Citywide at-large seat on the City Council, succeeding Annie McWilliams, who chose not to run for re-election. Brown’s opponent, political newcomer Gloria Henriques, received 491 votes.

The Charter Study Commission question passed, 2,474 to 991. The five top vote-getters who will now be commissioners are Ricky Allen Smiley (709), John Stewart (694), Mary E. Burgwinkle (690), Jeanette Criscione (638) and Marie L. Davis (441). Other who ran were John R.Davis III (427) and Carrell E. Martin (332). The commission must organize within in 15 days and has nine months to make its report.

In the Third Ward, Democrat Adrian O. Mapp won re-election with 2,846 votes out of a possible 6,260. Republican Randy Bullock received 208 votes and Tom Turner received 87.

Changing the school board election to November did not appear to improve interest.  Winners of three three-year terms were Mahogany Hendricks with 3,702 votes, incumbent Keisha Edwards with 3,432 and Jackie D. Coley with 2,207. Dollie S. Hamlin (1,358) and Catherine Crittendon (929) also ran.
Delois Dameron won a one-year unexpired term with 2,694, beating Frederick D. Moore Sr. (2,265). School board and City Council winners will take office in January.

Updates from Cory

Please check these updates from Councilman Cory Storch:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Antsy Tuesday, Waiting For Outcomes

Obsessing over our power - here's part of the problem at Crescent & Seventh.
Seventh is still blocked off at Watchung.
This pole by Swain's has yet to be fixed.
The storm left this "cobra" lamp dangling.
Still no traffic light, just a stop sign.
And here's what the National Weather Service predicts for Plainfield tomorrow.
Stopped back at the apartment, couldn't find the cat anywhere. Investigated a lump in the comforter and found him hiding in the folds, obviously terrified. Trucks are dumping off logs in the lot next door and then a front loader is tossing them in a huge container, making lots of super-loud thumps that shake the building.

Went to Family Dollar and found no batteries, but this display. Sandy is just the season between Halloween and Christmas, apparently.

Hoping this evening will bring election results, but like power restoration, it may take a while this year to know the outcome.

Best wishes to all humans and pets for heat and light soon, if you are still waiting.