Wednesday, May 21, 2014

City Council Passes 2014 Budget Amendments

Budget amendments passed at a special City Council meeting Tuesday spared the economic development director's job, but cut the mayor's chief of staff and public information officer.

The municipal tax levy was reduced from last year, but because city revenues continue to decline, there will still be an increase of $94.84 on the average home assessed at $113,000. The administration had proposed a budget reflecting a tax increase of $101.96 with no cuts to the team assembled by Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, who took office Jan. 1. Council members who approved the cuts said the jobs weren't needed, but others said the city's future hinges on improving its image and communication with potential investors.

In public comment before the votes on budget lines, resident Lillian Jamar said, "I'm here in support of the mayor getting the money he needs to run the city. The people put him in there. He does need help. I hope that you will consider helping this mayor."

But resident Mustapha Muhammad said, "We seem to have amnesia," citing recommendations for cuts from both the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee and a budget consultant hired by the council. One point of contention was the administration's proposed use of $4.9 million in surplus to balance the budget, which was amended to $3.9 million.

Councilman Cory Storch, who with Councilwoman Rebecca Willliams voted "no" on the cuts, said communication, both inside and outside the city, was one of its big challenges. He said he had hoped for collaboration between the administration and council, "but unfortunately my colleagues did not see it that way."

Storch said the city's image had to be changed.

"Our image is tarnished," he said.

But Councilwoman Gloria Taylor said the council was doing its job and called objections "one-sided" and "slanted."

Storch also objected to a cut to the Planning Division, saying it had been understaffed for years and needed to be ready to handle anticipated transit-oriented development.

The amendments will be published before another special meeting next Tuesday that will include a public hearing on them before possible final passage of the 2014 budget. The meeting is 8 p.m. in City Hall Library.

Among the dozen speakers before the council began voting on the amendments, Mario Camino of Arkad Group Investments LLC drew applause after recounting how he "took a huge gamble" on Plainfield and was gratified to have "someone on my side" in economic director Carlos Sanchez.

To succeed in his business, he said, "I have to sell people on how good Plainfield is" and with Sanchez, he said, "We got a good thing going."

Camino now promotes the city on his Queen City Revival web site.

Another speaker was former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who lost the June 2013 primary to Mapp. She recounted cuts to her administration that Mapp supported when he was the Third Ward councilman and asked for one person by name to be rehired in Recreation.

One line in the amendments was to pay a catering bill for $3,500 left over from her administration.

After the amendments were passed, speakers again called for improvement of the city's image. Richard Stewart, chairman of the CBAC, said the city was at a crossroads and won applause with his call for positivity.

Resident Jean Black chided those who keep talking about the past.

"I hear people talking about what happened years ago. Times changed - the town has changed," she said. "It's not like it used to be, and you have to get used to it."



  1. and the dinosaurs stood proudly and roared at the meteor streaking across the sky...

  2. While Councilwomen Rivers and Taylor nodded their amens to the demagogues and hustlers speaking in riddles and baiting the citizenry, Jerry Green bagman, Councilman Reid, led the majority on its mission to engineer the most ineffective municipal government possible.

    Taylor sang the praises of the CBAC, as she had at Sunday's partisan-tainted NAACP forum two days earlier. The CBAC's hypocritical report, though it noted the fat and top-heavy nature of the Police and Fire divisions, left them alone, as did the budget. It highlighted the poor state of communication between government and the public, the need for better grants management, and cost-savings derived through shared-services, though it recommended that the two positions tasked with these responsibilities be cut. The Council bought-in to that bit of absurdity, as it also cut the Planning Division which is trying to dig out from a perennial backlog that jeopardizes development and outside funding.

    CBAC's critique of the Recreation division claimed that "Many residents would be willing to pay more for a better product". This obviously doesn't apply to the city government as a whole, and the Council made certain to save residents $7 or $8 in the short-term, though the same team serially avoids calling PMUA to account and saving residents several $100s.

    In a self-imposed quirk, the total raised through taxation goes down, but taxes go up because commercial ratables are in decline. But don't worry. There is no comprehensive strategy coming from the Council to reverse the trend, just age-old faith that it will, somehow and sometime in the indefinite future, a future so indefinite you would think our governing body would rather be living in the past, which by all accounts it already is.

  3. CBAC Chair Richard Stewart is quickly learning the art of Plainfield politics. He helps derail the new Mayor's vision for a better Plainfield then says lets work together. All the while having a conflict of interest.

    He with the help of fellow CBAC member Rashid Burney, recommends cutting funding for the COS and PIO. Two positions that are key to the Mayors plan to rebrand the City. Burney, a Jerry Green supporter, was appointed by Council President Bridget Rivers (who was given a county job by the Green machine) to CBAC and has his own axe to grind with Adrian Mapp. Mapp ran Rebecca Williams against Burney four years ago and soundly beat him. Ending Burney's political career.

    Stewarts conflict involves his wife. After she became a democratic city committee member Jerry Green got her a job working for the State Assembly in Trenton (Stewart works for the State too).

    As Mustapha Muhammad stated the CBAC recommended the cuts. Stewart and Burney, who both have ties to Jerry Green, hoodwinked the committee and forced the recommendation without the overall approval of the committee.

    Is Jerry Green now positioning Richard Stewart to run against Cory Storch in the second ward next year? It sure looks like Stewart is quickly learning the Jerry two step, "right or wrong" as Jerry so often says.

    1. Burney was named initially but the final list of CBAC members on their report did not include him. If he took part, it was not at the budget deliberations attended by CBAC.

    2. Bernice, It was Burney's recommendation to CBAC and Stewart to defund the COS and cut funding for the PIO. Let us hear from them if this is not the case.

    3. Anonymous commenting at it's finest: I say so-and-so is such-and-such and this will remain true unless so-and-so publicly denies it.

    4. To "Anonymous", this is Queen Stewart. I have a few remarks to make in reply to your ignorant post:
      1) Stop drinking the kool-aid!
      2) Don't hide behind your key-board.
      3) The Queen City is very proud of the honest and independent efforts made by the CBAC.
      4) As a law school graduate who is barred in the State of New Jersey, I am very deserving of my job at the General Assembly Majority Office.
      5) I was grateful for the opportunity to apply and interview (two interviews to be exact) for the position.

      I, nor my husband, is bound to any person. We pride ourselves in our ability to think and act independently.

      This is the first and last time that I will reply to a post of this nature because the attempt to tarnish my family's integrity does not deserve further response.

    5. I think I am going to start applying for government jobs. Only 2 interviews? I work in Corporate America, and I go through no less than 4.

  4. In reference to Jean Black's comments, the town may have changed but we do not have to "get used to it". There are many residents who will not get used to it, we deserve better than this! We now have a mayor who wants to make it better, and all the Green supporters want to do is stop progress for their own personal gains. We will not get used to it you can be damn sure our voice will be heard when we vote!!!!

    1. I think you're taking Ms. Black's comments incorrectly, and she was really implying the need for change and forward motion.

  5. Councilwoman Taylor was indignant when the supposition that politics was at play at the council budget meeting. Her response was that if opinions differ, it was because of politics, and she took offense.

    However, she did not take offense that the ex-mayor asked the council to supply Roland Crawford a job. That seems very political to me - but that is OK with you Councilwoman Taylor? Hmmmm......

    1. Let's vote her out and let her and her mentor know that the citizens of Plainfield are in charge and we are not sheep to follow off a steep cliff.

  6. I have been following Plainfield politics for many years even though I no longer live there. I am sorry to say that the once beautiful City has been "ghettofied" by the likes of Gerry Green and his ignorant followers. Any self respecting person no matter what background should get the hell out of there. That city is the DEtriot of the east.

  7. Was great to learn that headaches have been causing Rebecca Williams to disrespect residents all of these years. At least now we know that it is medically induced.

    1. Its a shame that you are so mean spirited that you take glee at someone else's pain.

  8. The craven anonymous commenter at 11:43 AM makes a disparaging comment about an extreme and powerfully disabling condition (migraine headaches) just to take a cheap shot at me. For fun, she probably kicks disabled people down flights of stairs, or laughs at folks with more visible disabilities.


  9. Many on the City Council need to go, so I hope people get out and vote. I wrote every member of the City Council telling them what I thought. As I teach at night now, I don't get to attend meetings. Some members of the council wouldn't like what I say anyway. Here's what I said to them:

    As a concerned citizen of Plainfield I am sorry to hear that some on the City Council want to stop the progress this City needs to make after eight years of stagnation with the last administration. I hope you will reconsider your decision to harm Plainfield and its residents with your votes to keep us from moving forward.

    Because of the "games" being played with the future of Plainfield, I and many citizens must perceive your actions as hostile to moving Plainfield forward. I am saddened and forced to work with many others to make sure we have people on the City Council who will work to move the city forward. I'm not sure how some of you folks sleep at night, but I will pray for this city and its citizens to have a better future.

    Very sincerely,

    Robert Bolmer
    2nd Ward, District 1 City Committee Rep.

  10. There will never be any change in Plainfield as long as you have the same individuals dealing the same “old school” politics. What we did 5 or 10 years ago will not work today? The entire council is all about “tit for tat, you did this so now, I am going to do this, how juvenile?”
    Sharon Briggs really should stay away and, stop trying to make herself relevant. She’s the Sharp James of Plainfield a black eye and, the individuals that are trying to keep her relevant says a lot about them as well.
    Apparently, the same individual who voted for Obama really do not want change.
    Good Day,
    Veronica Belton

  11. To 11:43 am - What exactly is the point of your comment? Are you glad Rebecca gets ill? You have made no comment regarding what positions she holds that differ from yours. So again, what is your point?

    Councilwoman Taylor made a comment that she resents the insinuations of political ties.

    Well, I resent people who wish bad things on others just because of differences of opinion.

    But - I bet you are a Christian. Have a blessed day.

  12. To all the good people of Plainfield, and especially those in the First Ward, that are clamoring for city council change on June 3rd, I hope you will "put your money where your mouth is," that is to say, be a registered voter and actually go to the polls and VOTE FOR THE CHANGE YOU WANT! I am running as an independent Democrat, off the line which I never would have received or sought, for the First Ward City Council seat for the change the people of Plainfield have expressed. Make sure to vote for F-7 on your ballot. With your help, together, we can restore ethical, respectful, collaborative leadership.

  13. Lets look at the bright side, it could have been worse - the City Council could have unfunded the Deputy City Administrator for Economic Development along with cutting funding for the Chief of Staff and Public Information Officer. I am sure the Councilors justify their cuts as their fiduciary responsibility in their role as legislators in-charge of the almighty purse and defenders of the realm for the taxpaying citizens, much like the councils before them. And they defend eliminating the positions by stating that they did not cut economic development. But what they fail to recognize is how important the roles these two positions play in the success of economic development.

    If you poll the residents of Plainfield and ask them what their greatest concerns are? I bet they will answer; Crime, Quality of Life issues, Schools and Taxes. And I bet it is in that order. I recently asked one of the current 1st ward council candidates what the greatest concern is that he is hearing from the residents as he campaigns, CRIME was his response without a moment's delay. Did you know that violent crime has dropped 26% in the first quarter under the Mapp administration? Hopefully this is not a mirage and the leadership that the Mayor has installed will continue sending us on this path.

    It is great that Plainfield continues to reduce crime, however without the ability to broadcast this we will still have the PERCEPTION of a crime problem. We need to get the word out that changes are happening in Plainfield. We need a full time person who spends every day getting out our message that Plainfield is on the move and good things are happening. We need a full time Public Information Officer. Economic development will not succeed if we do not get the word out that we are "re-branding" the City.

    Our former Mayor speaks out a lot lately about her tenure as a full time mayor. What she fails to recognize is that our Charter was specifically designed to avoid just that - the position of mayor was never meant to be a career, and for good reasons. The mayor should install a first rate staff to run the daily operations of the city, set policy, convey vision, kiss babies, cut ribbons and sit down. Any mayor that micro manages the day to day operations of the city is domed to failure.

    The City Administrator is the one to run the city's daily operations and our success depends on him doing that well. He shouldn't be coordinating constituent services, his time shouldn't be spent as a go-between the city and the many organizations and government agencies that do business here, and he shouldn't spend all his time retraining and helping city employees reach their full potential. This is for the Chief of Staff and this position was approved by the council to do just that. If we are to attract economic development and new job opportunities we must have the best fine tuned City Hall in New Jersey.

    I hope the Mayor can overcome these challenges placed on him by an ill advised City Council and find the funding necessary to retain these positions. We don't just need an Economic Development Guru, we need people in key positions that support that role.

    In the end the residents will be the winners.

  14. I began reading these Plainfield blogs about a year or so ago, and I am
    saddened and disillusioned by what I read.

    My husband and I moved to Plainfield from the city in September of 2001. We were encouraged to come here with the promises of diversity, inclusion, and the sense of community. Our daughter soon came into our lives, and after attending The Sundance School for 2 years, we decided to place her in Cook School. There, she was able to thrive as she is surrounded by kids "who look like her." Moreover, she has been active in the local girls soccer league, which has been a fantastic experience for all of us as a family.

    Our daughter has been at Cook for 3 years now. This past year has been a very disappointing one. Academically, the bar just does not seem to be set high enough for our kids. Teacher morale seems low, with teachers picketing outside of the school a few weeks back. We made the decision to have her transferred to Holy Trinity in Westfield in the fall. This was not an easy decision for us, but one that we believe will better serve her in the long run.

    So, this is my question to the fine people on the Council: What is your plan for Plainfield? I don't care what your religion is, what the color of your skin is- this is all irrelevant, as far as I am concerned. Housing prices are at a low, most of us are probably underwater with our mortgages, the town has a reputation for sub-par schools, our taxes keep going up, and I am seeing more For Sale signs than I have in years. Who exactly are you trying to attract?

    Listen, Plainfield is a lovely town with really good people. But the holdovers in the Council from the previous administration remind me of the old guard Republicans in Washington today. Afraid of acknowledging the winds of change and being obstructionists at every juncture- no matter who gets hurt.

    And everyone is getting hurt now. No one is going to want to move to a town where nothing gets accomplished. No one is going to want to move to a town that lacks a more diverse downtown shopping experience. No one is going to want to move to a town where the schools are lacking. And, forgive me, but the promise of a one-seat ride into the city is laughable given the other issues that exist. That is not an incentive.

    My philosophy is to let the current administration try to do what it wants to do, and if they screw up, then vote them out! And if they succeed, let go of your ego, swallow your pride, and bask in the success. It doesn't seem that complicated to me. But I guess it is.

    1. Well said, Jeff. You need to say it at the council meetings. You need to tell your friends to vote June 3 - Williams in the second ward, and any friends in the 3rd Ward should vote for McRae and 1st should vote for Swan.

      Writing in the blog is great, but we need action.

      I will say, however, that I know realtors who are encouraging about Plainfield when you speak with them. Plainfield is a great bargain. Write to the council, let your voice be known, and vote out Jerry Green next year.

    2. You said it very well Jeff. I can tell you that from a council perspective there is no Plan or Vision. Ass. Green is many things but a strategist and visionary are not among them. He and is followers are skilled in obstruction and voting against progress. They do not have ideas of their own or a vision for the future of the city. In a nut shell:
      Ms. Rivers - no vision, no plan, unaware of main issues in the city. Likes the "power" of her position but clueless how to do anything good for the city with it. Jerry got her a job with the county so she does as told.
      Ms. Greaves - out of sync, doesn't understand the issues, has to ask how she should vote, doesn't study or ask questions, no vision for the city.
      Mr. Reid - Is unaware that he can vote any way other than No. THANK GOD HE IS RETIRING!
      Ms. Brown - nice lady, means well, over her head on the issues, conflicted, tries to find the middle ground but not successful at achieving positive results.
      Ms. Taylor - delusional, arrogant, stuck in 1980's, no new ideas, no vision, sense of privilege because her husband was mayor for one term and not a notable one at that.
      Jerry Green - no vision, no understanding of issues, more interested in what he is going to get out of everything. Has no real legacy to show for his time in public service other than chaos and ego. His retirement would be a happy day - be it voluntary or at the polls.

      Eventually this old guard will be gone and the city can progress as it should - hopefully all the opportunities haven't been used up by the other municipalities that actually focus on improving their cities and increasing their tax base.

      First step is June 3rd!!!!

  15. Your're right. Writing a response in a blog is easy. It's taking the time to show up at a meeting. I will try!

    1. Also, Jeff. I wouldn't be too concerned about houses being on the market. It is the season. Drive around Scotch Plains and Westfield - you will see the same things. Lots on the market.

  16. Jeff, I'm sad and disillusioned too. What a mess. The Green crew does remind me of some Republicans in Congress. Obstruction is the objective.

    I see so many "for sale" signs in town right now. So many people want out, and even if they don't read these blogs and follow the Council, I bet they know we have gridlock and dysfunction at City Hall. It's an embarrassment.

    I will take Jim Spear's remark to heart. At least the Council kept the Economic Development position alive. That shows some hope for sanity. Let's all pray for more.

    Tim Kirby