Tuesday, September 30, 2014

PPD Sergeant, Lieutenant Indicted

The headlines went up online line yesterday and will most likely be in print today - Sgt. Leslie Knight and Lt. James Abney have been indicted on official misconduct, conspiracy and theft charges.

Knight has been very active in community affairs, most recently a back-to-school event in August.

Abney was recently named coordinator of the Office of Emergency Management. He also succeeded Knight on the Planning Board.

The outcome of the cases remain to be seen, but it is disappointing to see two sworn officers indicted. They run the risk of being barred from public employment, a fate previously suffered by former Detective Richard Brown, once a mayoral bodyguard, who was charged in 2009 with with stealing more than $8,000 in PBA funds while serving as treasurer of the organization. Police Officer Samad Abdel, once the division's gang expert, was barred from public employment after pleading guilty in 2007 to official misconduct for his part in an insurance fraud scheme.

Here is Monday's press release from the Union County Prosecutor's Office
Plainfield police officials indicted on official misconduct, conspiracy, theft charges 

A Union County grand jury has returned a 39-count indictment against two Plainfield Police Division officials accused of stealing a combined total of more than $11,000 by repeatedly filing fraudulent timesheets for overtime and extra-duty work shifts, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Monday.

Plainfield Police Sgt. Leslie Knight, 44, and Lt. James Abney, 46, each has been charged with second-degree official misconduct, second-degree engaging in a pattern of official misconduct,
second-degree conspiracy, third-degree tampering with public records, numerous third- and fourth-
degree charges of theft by deception, fourth-degree falsifying government records, and several related offenses.

An intensive, months-long investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Unit and the Plainfield Police Division’s Internal Affairs Unit revealed that Knight allegedly billed the City of Plainfield for more than 30 overtime and extra-duty shifts she worked during times in which she
was also being paid for regular, on-duty work, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor
John Esmerado, who is prosecuting the case. The amount of illegally obtained payment claimed by
Knight totaled more than $6,800 during the 2012 and 2013 calendar years, Esmerado said.

The investigation revealed that Abney engaged in similar criminal conduct in 2012 and 2013, when he served as a sergeant and later as a lieutenant, according to Esmerado. In his case, those actions yielded more than $4,200 in illegally obtained pay, Esmerado said. 

Knight and Abney both served as ranking officers, to whom other officers would report regularly, during the time in which they are alleged to have illegally billed the City, Esmerado added. The pair also on several occasions allegedly signed off on each other’s fraudulent overtime or off-duty timesheets, and Knight oversaw the administration and scheduling of extra-duty work for the entire Division during the time she was orchestrating the alleged scheme. At one point, the indictment
against Knight alleges, she signed in to the Division’s payroll system under another Division
employee’s username in order to secure payment for her own fraudulent work claims.

The charges against Knight and Abney were issued via summons on Monday, and both are
expected to travel to Elizabeth for criminal processing early this week. Convictions on second-
degree crimes typically result in penalties of 5 to 10 years in state prison, while third-degree offenses typically result in terms of 3 to 5 years. Convictions in this case additionally would result
in Knight and Abney being permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. 

These criminal charges are mere accusations. Each defendant is presumed innocent until proven
guilty in a court of law.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

On the Nov. 4 General Election

The first signs up at Democratic Headquarters were for three school board candidates. Interesting, considering board elections are supposed to be nonpartisan.

The Nov. 4 Democratic roster includes Cory Booker for U.S. Senate, Bonnie Watson Coleman for the 12th Congressional District, Union County candidates for surrogate, sheriff and three freeholder seats, and also three City Council seats. I guess signs will follow.

The state Division of Elections web site is very informative. It is a good resource for voters as well as anyone running a campaign. The Election Information part is fascinating. Candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives are running under 49 slogans, including "Bullying Breaks Hearts," "Politicians Are Crooks" and "We Deserve Better." We have all heard of dark horse candidates, but who knew there is a candidate named Dark Angel running for a seat in the Tenth Congressional District?

One very sad fact was that the voter turnout for the June primary was only 8 percent statewide. In Union County, it was just 11 percent.

The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general election is Tuesday, Oct. 14. City Clerk Abubakar Jalloh has announced special hours:





Propagating Yarrow

Yes, there is an election coming soon, but for me, this time of year is all about next year's garden.

One of the plants I wanted to propagate was the white Yarrow that came to the garden by way of my neighbor's packet of wildflowers two years ago. The Calendulas and Cosmidium did not reappear, but the Evening Primrose, Sweet Alyssum, Catchfly and Yarrow did. I'm not sure why these were touted as wildflowers - to me, they are mostly regular garden flowers.
Anyway, I cut off the flat panicles of Yarrow once they had dried out and tried to separate the seeds from the flower heads. The seeds (upper right) were tiny, gray with white edges, and very hard to pick out from the chaff.
I managed to get quite a few separated. Then somewhere I read about how easy it is to divide Yarrow. Back to the garden with my Japanese hori-hori knife.

Soon I had four clumps of Yarrow instead of one. I cut them way back and planted them, trusting the autumn rains to bring back their ferny foliage.
 Success! The white flowers are Sweet Alyssum, which is also having a resurgence after being cut back. 

Yarrow also comes in many lovely pastel colors. If you have some and want more, divide them now and you'll be rewarded next summer. Fall is a great time for neighborhood plant swaps, too.

I know gardening is not as fascinating as Plainfield politics, but it is a great way to lose oneself in nature and forget about Democrats' inhumanity to Democrats for a while.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

City Liquor Licenses Dwindling

I'm told the denial of an appeal for Arlington Liquors for the 2013-14 term and the license renewal denial for the 2014-15 term means the license is now defunct.

That reduces the city's number of liquor establishments to 32, according to the City Clerk's office. (The number may be even lower, as one license was listed twice on the June 16 agenda.)

The number had been as high as 38 at one time, exceeding a state formula for numbers of liquor establishments by population. Those which preceded passage of the formula were "grandfathered" and allowed to remain in business.

Arlington Liquors was regarded by many as the bane of the neighborhood when it was on Randolph Road near Arlington Avenue and continued to have problems after it relocated at city expense to West Front Street near Clinton Avenue. Police reported 80 violations even after owner Vadrajan Naicken was ordered to take special measures, including security cameras and guards, to deter crime.

Council members have long complained about problems associated with certain liquor establishments. Most recently, Councilman William Reid has been outspoken about the effect of some on neighborhoods. Issues have included sales to underage persons, public intoxication, loitering, public urination, littering, fights, drug activity and attacks on intoxicated individuals in the vicinity of bars or liquor stores. When the number of social club licenses dropped from five to four, the council decided not to grant any new ones.

At the same time, the city has many responsible license holders who do business without any problems.

City license fees are currently $2,500 annually, except $188 for social clubs. All are subject to stringent state regulations as noted in Chapter 4 of the Municipal Code and the ABC Handbook.


Friday, September 26, 2014

On Passing of Joann Hollis

Condolences to Council President Bridget Rivers and her family on the passing of her sister, Housing Authority Commissioner and former Councilwoman Joann Hollis.

Joann was devoted to Plainfield and left a great legacy of service to her community.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

No Internet!

My internet connection failed Wednesday night, so i was unable to post anything. I am promised a FiOS installation Friday, so maybe I can resume by the evening. Sorry for the interruption. I am using the Plainfield Public Library wi-fi right now.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

PSE&G Project Underway on West Second Street

Click images to enlarge
Someone asked me why West Second Street was closed off and yesterday I was able to get a look. The work being done is related to PSE&G upgrades that I reported on in May.

The substations on West Second Street and South Second Street date back to the 1950s and are at the end of their useful lives. Newer and bigger equipment will increase capacity from 2,600 volts to 6,900 volts to meet increased demand, expected to be 12 percent over the next 10 years.

The upgrades were requested by grid operator PJM. The company serves all or part of 14 states including New Jersey.

As Dan previously reported, PSE&G is using a city-owned lot at West Second Street and Madison Avenue as a staging area.
The lot has been eyed by both the Housing Authority and Frank Cretella for development, along with city parking lot 9. The PSE&G project is expected to take from 12 to 15 months.
A large evergreen tree on the substation site has been chopped down. Plans call for new landscaping in addition to lightning masts and new fencing, a matter of much debate at the May Zoning Board hearing.
Yesterday East Second Street was also closed and this huge machine was in use. Note the web address for contractor J. Fletcher Creamer & Son.  The company has been in business since 1923.

Any inconvenience should be offset by the knowledge that these projects will help equip the city for development in coming years.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What's Red and White and Attracts Fried Chicken Lovers?

Something looked familiar in Dan's report on West End changes.

The eye-catching facade of "Tasty Fried Chicken" features a red-and-white color scheme. Hmm ... where have I seen that before?

A web site called Logopedia gave a clue. Why, it's KFC that featured red and white stripes on its logo.

But then again, Kennedy Fried Chicken uses red and white on its rooster-with-a-mullet logo.

Maybe it's just a fried chicken thing.

Meanwhile, Plaintalker is seeking details on the closing of the liquor store at Clinton and West Front that the fried chicken store replaces. The license was denied for 2013-14, but the owner appealed and was allowed to do business while the appeal was pending. The 2014-15 license renewal was also denied. The City Council serves as the local Alcoholic Beverage Control board, but license holders can appeal to the state ABC Division. Details will be reported as information becomes available.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Celebrate Autumn

The Autumn Crocus appeared amid the weeds of one neglected garden spot to remind me of the Autumn Equinox, the time halfway between the longest day and the longest night of the year.

It's time to enjoy a Honey Crisp apple from Washington State, a pumpkin spice latte or a butternut squash dish. 

While Fall represents a winding down in the natural world, things are intensifying in the political realm. Take note that Oct. 14 is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general election.

The thing about having four seasons in New Jersey is that Spring and Fall feature such fluctuating temperatures that it's hard to know what to wear. Pack away all your warm-weather clothes and you will be caught short in the hot spell that comes in October.

Leaves are starting to turn color. Does anyone still press leaves in wax paper for window decorations? Or is it more likely to go leaf-peeping on a tablet?

However you mark the season, enjoy it before the days of ice and snow arrive. And to all our Pagan friends, Blessed Mabon!


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Last Day of Summer

Small parts of the garden are reviving now that Fall is almost here. I am finding surprises like this Nasturtium with variegated leaves that is now blooming after nothing all summer.

While I was unable to take care of the garden, great swaths of Virginia Dayflower flourished and overwhelmed the borders. Now that they are fading, I can use a tall claw-like tool to clear them out with a twisting motion. Due probably to the recent clear-cutting of some garden areas by a new landscaper, a lot of the Mantis population is missing. As a tenant, I have no say over such operations, but where the wild Snakeroot and Asters survived, I will leave them for the insect population.
A Blue-Winged Wasp was visiting last week, flashing his iridescent wings and looking all handsome.
I only see a few Praying Mantises lately and they too like the Snakeroot, as it attracts bugs they can catch and eat.

While looking up this large wasp, I came across the Urban Wildlife Guide blog, which has a very good photo of it. I also learned about curiosities such as the "spun glass caterpillar," which looks like something from Frozen, and was able to identify a garden visitor today as a "half-green sweat bee" based on another entry.

My interest in nature study began as a child in East Orange, where a vacant lot on Central Avenue held lots of flowering weeds and bugs. With books from the East Orange Public Library, I studied the ways plants spread their seeds and learned of the many adaptations that help insects survive and reproduce. Now on my block off Park & Seventh, I still enjoy knowing more about urban wildlife.

Today is the last day of summer. The birds are already flocking for their Fall migration. Their cheerful whistles and chatter remind some of us of the Wheel of the Year, that rolls on despite the sometimes perplexing doings of humans.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Park, Apartment Buildings Out of Redevelopment Area

Click to enlarge
Only one property owner showed up for a public hearing Thursday on an "in need of redevelopment" study for more than a dozen properties on South Avenue.Two large apartment buildings and the Plainwood Square Park are not recommended for inclusion, but two single-family homes on East Seventh Street are now included.

The owner of an apartment building at 1332-38 South Avenue made no comment at the hearing after Planning Director William Nierstedt said the property and another apartment building will not be recommended for redevelopment.

In a draft report, the Ardmore House and Netherwood House apartment buildings are described as having "outdated and obsolete structure design" and "obsolete layout." Plainwood Square Park is described as a "vacant lot." On Thursday, Nierstedt said there was "not any thought whatever of changing Plainwood Park, except maybe to enlarge it." The park is bounded on one side by Old South Avenue and could be enlarged. if the street was vacated.

The full report is 55 pages, the last 30 pages being photos. It may be examined in the Planning Office.

Planning Board member Ken Robertson questioned the inclusion of the two East Seventh Street properties and Nierstedt said both have very deep lots that impinge on the study area and could be a "strong impediment to development." He said the issue had not been discussed with the residents.

Board Chairman Ron Scott Bey said he felt discussions should be held with the property owners. Nierstedt said the owners might sell the rear portion of their lots to any future developer. One property has a garage which might have to be reconstructed and the other has a pool. Board member William Toth said being included in the study does not compel them to take part.

Both properties, 1351-53 East Seventh Street and 1355-57 East Seventh Street, were included in the Sept. 5 notice for Thursday's public hearing.

Eminent domain will not be used to acquire any property in the study, Nierstedt said.

The first inkling of a large new project for South Avenue came at a July meeting where merchants and others were apprised of the "concept" of developer JMF Properties. See Dan's report here.
In August, the City Council asked the Planning Board to perform an "in need of redevelopment" study. Now that the 55-page study has been made, the next step is for the findings to go to the governing body, which may then ask the Planning Board to make a redevelopment plan.

The next Planning Board meeting is 7 p.m. on Oct. 2 in City Hall Library. The City Council's agenda-fixing session is 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6 in Municipal Court and the regular meeting will be held at 8 p.m. Oct. 14 in Municipal Court.

All documents related to the "in need of development" study are on file in the City Clerk's office, 515 Watchung Ave., and may be examined during regular business hours.


Friday, September 19, 2014

New Elmwood Gardens Plan Startles Planners

Planners were taken aback Thursday on hearing new plans for Elmwood Gardens, but Executive Director Randall Wood said there had always been a "Plan A and Plan B."

For more than two years, the Planning Board had expected low-income family townhouse development to replace the outmoded public housing complex, but Wood said a "huge need for senior housing" had prompted a shift to a three-story building for residents 55 and older.

He said the change was based on input from "focal groups" and on Union County waiting lists for housing.

"I have a real problem with this type of change," board Chairman Ron Scott-Bey said. "This is completely worthless," he said of a draft townhouse plan submitted in January.

Scott-Bey said the new concept would affect the city's COAH affordable housing obligation and it should have been discussed.

"It's a totally different design," he said.

"So we all recognize that this plan has to be amended," Planning Director Bill Nierstedt said.

One of the benefits of the townhouse plan was to have been a new layout with individual front doors instead of the hallways that were believed to foster loitering, trespassing and crime in the public housing. The proposed senior housing building will have just one entry with a security guard. Architect Brian M. Slaugh said the new plan calls for 0.7 parking spaces per unit, because seniors tend not to own cars. The board wanted 1.1 spaces per unit for the townhouses.

"This is a shock," Scott-Bey said.

Citing different needs of a senior population, such as security staff and transportation to medical offices, Scott-Bey said, "We need a new plan now."

Nierstedt told Wood that if the Housing Authority wanted approvals before the year ends, the revised plan would have to be ready in time for the board's Oct. 2 meeting.

Wood again said there had always been alternate plans, but Scott-Bey said, "Plan A and Plan B has no meaning to me."

The new plan must be in the Planning Office by Sept. 26 for review at the Oct. 2 meeting, Nierstedt said.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Planning Board Hears Benefits of Complete Streets

"Complete Streets" advocate Jerry Fried urged the Planning Board Thursday to join dozens of other New Jersey municipalities in support of making streets safe for all users - drivers, walkers, bikers and people with disabilities.

Fried, the former mayor of Montclair, showed how streets there were modified to slow traffic and create access for all. The New Jersey Department of Transportation adopted a Complete Streets policy in 2009 and since then numerous counties and municipalities have followed suit. Not only do complete streets give access to all, Fried said, they can improve health and make towns more attractive.

The NJDOT has published a Complete Streets guidebook that explains all the benefits of walkability and bike lanes, with step-by-step advice on how to develop, adopt and implement a Complete Streets policy.

Fried saw Plainfield as being well-suited for such a policy, noting the city's "great bones," in contrast to cities such as Orange and East Orange that were split by highways.

On a personal note, I have been an advocate of walkability since deciding not to get another car about six years ago, and certainly Plainfield has no stronger advocate for bike access than Planning Director Bill Nierstedt, who often rides to work on his bike.

Fried mentioned the possibility of increased safety for seniors when car drivers learn to share the road, and anyone trying to cross at Park & Seventh would surely welcome that change.

Planning Board Chairman Ron Scott-Bey said the board will consider a Complete Streets policy when revising the master plan...


Heat Season Starts Oct. 1

This little bee was stunned by the cold a couple of days ago. It sat perfectly still for a portrait. (Click to enlarge.)

Fall seems to be arriving early this year. The heat in my apartment came on when the temperature dropped below 55 degrees recently. The official heat season begins Oct. 1 in Plainfield.

Here are the rules, from the Municipal Code:

Heating Requirements.  Except as hereinafter stated, from October 1 of each year to the next succeeding May 1, the interior of every dwelling unit or rooming unit, bathroom and water closet compartment shall be maintained at least at sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit (68°F) whenever the outside temperature falls below fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit (55°F) during the daytime hours from six (6:00) a.m. in the morning and eleven (11:00) p.m. in the evening.  At times other than those specified, interiors of units of dwelling  space shall be maintained at least at sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit  (65°F) whenever the outside temperature falls below forty degrees Fahrenheit (40°F).

Except as hereinafter stated, from May 1 to October 1, every dwelling unit, rooming unit, bathroom and water closet compartment shall be maintained at a temperature of sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit (68°F) during the daytime hours from six (6:00) a.m. in the morning and eleven (11:00) p.m. in the evening whenever the outside temperature falls below fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit (55°F).  At times other than those specified, interiors of units of dwelling space shall be maintained at least at sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit (65°F) whenever the outside temperature falls below forty degrees Fahrenheit (40°F).

With so many new apartments being constructed, tenants need to be made aware of the local rules.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Remember in November

So Jerry Green is upset once again over "the blogs."

I will resist the urge to copy Courier News columnist Jay Jefferson Cooke's classic retort to perceived whining and will not say "boo-fricking-hoo."

But I will note Green's comment on what is out of bounds in public discourse: "... when you talk about my family, I feel like you have crossed the line & that is something I will not tolerate from nobody, nor should anyone else have to tolerate this."

Oh really. Here is one from the chairman's blog in June 2011:
Ps 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.

This comment was directed at a candidate in the primary election that year. When the candidate brought her ill mother face-to-face with Green, he had to apologize.

Green has also attempted to slur family members of other elected officials and these attacks are part of the reason why people hesitate to run for office. Councilman Cory Storch has announced his intention to seek re:election in 2015 - will the past innuendos about his family resurface?

Soon campaign mailings will arrive for the Nov. 4 general election. Take note who sticks to the issues and who stoops to personal attacks. And remember in June and November 2015 as well.


Watson, Turning Over a New Leaf?

Despite the early fretting over Eric Watson's return to City Hall, in all fairness we don't know how things will work out. While we wait and see how this administration proceeds with Watson as department head, we may remember some interesting appointments from the past administration.

From the Annals of Dubious Hires, there was the fleeting transit of Carlton McGee in 2006, the one-year tenure of A. Raiford Daniels to November 2007 and the 10-month career of Douglas Peck in 2008.

Peck, an Ohio resident, came to city notice as a consultant to the PMUA. The City Council approved a $12,000 stipend billed as relocation expenses when he was appointed in acting capacity as a department head.

Once on the job, he called for a complete overhaul of the budgeting process. But his presentation on the capital improvement plan met with consternation and just over a month later, Peck was out. He was the fifth person in two years to serve as head of the city's largest department, Administration, Finance, Health & Social Services.

Watson has an opportunity to serve for more than than three years in the Mapp administration if confirmed by the City Council. He is no stranger to Plainfield and is a city resident. Unless he gets a better offer somewhere else, he is probably here to stay. And just in time for one of his department's busiest tasks, Leaf Collection!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Watson's Hiring Hits Headlines

Eric Watson's job change made the front page of today's Courier News after breaking on the blogs yesterday.

For those who missed it, the longtime former executive director of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority is back in his original role as director of the city's Department of Public Works and Urban Development at a salary of $110,000.

Watson received a controversial payout for his PMUA service in 2012, sparking outcry from residents already upset by a citizen's investigation that uncovered excessive spending by top PMUA executives. Also in 2012, a city study recommended dissolution of the PMUA, a course endorsed by then-Council President Adrian Mapp. Not the least of the puzzlement over Watson's hiring was that Mapp, now mayor, named him acting DPW&UD director.

In his news article, Sergio Bichao reminds us that the state Division of Local Government Services within the Department of Community Affairs had launched its own probe of the PMUA. But as he notes, no outcome has been announced.

On Aug. 11, the current PMUA executive director, Dan Williamson, came before the City Council to report on the authority at the behest of Council President Bridget Rivers.. He gave a brief overview, but urged the council to have a joint meeting with the authority.

The biggest news out of the PMUA this year has been the signing of service contracts with various outside entities, something promised at the outset in 1995 to bring in revenue. The authority now receives bulky waste and vegetative waste at the Rock Avenue transfer station from neighboring towns and school boards, which must then be delivered to another destination for final disposal. PMUA Commissioner Malcolm Dunn credited Williamson with finally launching the long-awaited outside revenue program. The trick in making the program profitable will be to make sure the final disposal costs do not outweigh the revenue from outside use of the transfer station.


Monday, September 15, 2014

TAP Into the News Biz

Always wanted to run a local newspaper?

Michael Shapiro, creator of The Alternative Press, is looking for a franchisee for Plainfield. His TAP online newspapers have been very successful in neighboring towns. He offers his expertise to help you launch one for the Queen City. See more details here.

Watson Returns to City as Department Head

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp has confirmed that Eric Watson is acting director of the Department of Public Works & Urban Development, starting today (Monday, Sept. 15) at an annual salary of $110,000.

Watson can serve up to 90 days in acting capacity before Mapp needs advice and consent of the City Council to make the appointment permanent. If confirmed, Watson's term will be concurrent with the mayor's, ending Dec. 31, 2017.

Watson served in the role previously before becoming the first executive director of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority when it was created in 1995. His PMUA leadership was detailed in this newsletter published in Spring 2011, when, it says, Watson decided to "pass the torch." Watson, the late Lou Jones and David Ervin all served the city before becoming executives at the authority, and the transition also included a large number of employees from Public Works to staff the new entity.

At present, the DPW&UD, one of three departments mandated by the city's special charter, includes the following divisions: City Yard, Recreation Division, Economic Development, Planning Division, Inspections Division, Building Division and Community Development. The department was most recently headed by Eric Jackson, who resigned effective June 30 to become mayor of Trenton. Jackson had served as director since September 2011 and was kept on when Mapp took office on Jan. 1, 2014. City Administrator Rick Smiley became acting DPW&UD director after Jackson went out on unpaid leave in March 2014.

In contrast to the PMUA history as described in the Spring 2011 newsletter, the authority engendered a high degree of public mistrust at times. Resident Philip Charles began encouraging property owners to "Dump PMUA" and opt out of the authority's mandated citywide trash collection program. Charles and others uncovered exorbitant travel and dining expenses, which have since been curtailed.

After Watson and Ervin announced they were stepping down in 2011, supporters came to a City Council meeting to allege Watson had been pushed out. In January 2012, three PMUA commissioners approved a settlement with the pair which brought new controversy. In July 2012, former city Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson became executive director of the authority. 

Among items Watson will oversee as returning department head are the restructuring of Recreation programs with new Superintendent of Recreation Roni Taylor, a surge in development that involves Planning and other divisions and a call for Inspections to enforce property maintenance in the wake of a flood of foreclosures and abandonments.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Finding Interest in Birds, Bugs and Seeds

Nearly three months after surgery, I am still sticking close to home. Luckily for me, there are lots of things to do and see right in the yard, such as gathering seeds and observing the many birds and bugs that visit Block 832, right off Park & Seventh. (Click images to enlarge.)

The Portulaca seeds pictured above form in little capsules that I collect from the plants. The tiny seeds have to be separated from the pods and saved for planting in the spring. Other seeds I have collected so far include Peruvian Impatiens, Black-Eyed Susan, Yarrow, Cosmos and Nasturtium.
 We had a lot of Sunflowers this year. One produced a seed head that was a foot across. I made a sling for it and hung it from a shepherd's crook, where it attracted a Downy Woodpecker. I stuck a smaller seed head in the top of my topiary basket and the little bird came there to peck as well.
The Praying Mantises hang out in the flowers to catch unsuspecting insects. This one is a male in a patch of Daisy Fleabane.
This is a female engorged with eggs ready to be fertilized. She will then create an egg case from which young mantises will emerge in spring. The adults only live for one season.

Our Goldfinches visit every day to eat seeds from various plants including the Purple Coneflower. I was deadheading them until I realized the birds enjoy the seeds. They also picked seeds out of the Evening Primrose, Black-Eyed Susan and the smaller Sunflowers.

So while I have not yet ventured to Westfield and am missing a lot of events, there are still some interesting things to see right here.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Happy Weekend!

Wishing everyone a happy weekend!

See Dan's list here for things to do

Friday, September 12, 2014

Tax Lien List Published

Today's Courier News contains more than four pages of fine print listing property owners who owe taxes or sewer (PMUA) charges.

Among the larger debts, Muhlenberg owes more than $40,000 in taxes and Dornoch Plainfield owes more than $19,000 in sewer charges. There is the usual smattering of well-known names, including a councilman and some public employees.

The list will be published again before the October 9 tax lien sale, at which the city sells off liens to recoup the money owed. In this case, the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority will be the main beneficiary, as most of the money is owed to the authority.

Debtors can pay up before the sale if they are able. If an investor pays the lien at the Oct. 9 sale, the debtor then owes the investor at up to 18 percent interest and with the danger of future foreclosure.


Commentary on Sept. 8 Meeting

I hope residents who did not attend the Sept. 8 City Council meeting will take a look when it is shown on local television and assess the interactions.

Judge for yourself whether you see an "oppositional dynamic" pitting the council against the administration, or a "healthy discussion."

The former was Councilman Cory Storch's reaction after Councilman William Reid's prolonged baiting of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp. The latter was Council President Bridget Rivers' view of the interaction.

The dichotomy points up the need for some kind of common ground, whether it comes through the retreat that is supposedly in the works or just by working on showing a little more civility at the meetings.

Oldtimers might say civility is too much to expect in the weeks before the Nov. 4 general election, and one can be assured there will be the usual inflammatory fliers in the mailbox soon. But that is between the candidate and the voter. The spectacle in the courtroom and on television can be seen by all, including those who might want to invest in the city but don't want to face political landmines along the way.

Plainfield has a reputation as a tough place in which to do business. Videos like the one coming out of this meeting may only confirm it.


Final City Council Schedule for 2014

Corrected to show Nov. 10 (not 12 - that was last year).

For those who are interested, here is the City Council schedule through the end of the year (all meetings in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.):

October 6, 7:30 p.m., agenda fixing session
October 14 (Tuesday), 8 p.m., regular meeting

November 10, 7:30 p.m., combined agenda fixing and regular meetings

December 1, 7:30 p.m., agenda fixing session
December 8, 8 p.m., regular meeting

December 15, 7:30 p.m., agenda fixing session for the January 2015 Reorganization

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hammy, Cheesy and Tasteless

Wit and wisdom or puerile persiflage?

Councilman William Reid, known for his commentary on camera at public meetings, outdid himself Monday.

Reid's four-year term ends on Dec. 31 and he is not running for re-election. He is serving his second year as chairman of the whole, meaning he has the microphone for a large part of the meeting. Maybe it is the prospect of losing the limelight that is leading to the loopiness, but Reid went beyond his previous barnyard allusions and spelled out a four-letter word for excrement Monday. When Council President  Bridget Rivers said a point of order had been called, Reid asked, "What's a point of order?"

Returning to the agenda, he said, "This is crazy. I never worked in a place like this."

Earlier, in a discussion of Urban Enterprise Zone funding for improvements on East Second Street, Reid said of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, "I don't care whether the money is there or not, all he has to do is say, 'Let's do it.' "

He also urged Mapp to "show this is a great America that we live in," adding "all you have to do is say let's get it done."

By way of criticism, he said, "There are a lot of ways not to do something."

Though goading the mayor to flout fiscal rules, he also found fault with the mayor being present, saying it was really a council meeting and the mayor and administrator should be there only by invitation.

"It would make it a little more comfortable for the council," Reid said, even though the City Charter states, "The mayor may attend meetings of council and may take part in discussions of council but shall have no vote."

All in all, it was quite a performance, but maybe not the best example of statesmanship for the young people in the audience. Reid has been counting down the months till he is gone - just three to go.

Should Youth Commissions Be Activated?

When Councilwoman Gloria Taylor suggested formation of a youth commission Monday, it reminded me of the fact that two Youth Commissions were created by ordinance in 2006, three months into the administration of former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. One or both had the backing of Linda Carter, then a councilwoman and now a freeholder.

In the years since creation of the commissions, youth concerns have come up over and over again. But one commission never received any members and the other had four appointees out of a possible 15, with three of them being from one family. No successors or additional members were named.

It's hard to say whether the commissions, if active, would have helped to stem the violence that has taken too many young lives. But over eight years, they might have produced a cadre of young people who could tell their peers how city government works and why civic engagement is important.

This Plaintalker post spells out the criteria for the two commissions. Perhaps Councilwoman Taylor would lift her ban on reading blogs long enough to see what was intended for young people in forming these commissions. Or she could look them up in the Municipal Code on the city web site. For some reason, MC 2006-10 is now appended to MC 2006-13 under Chapter 3, Article 40 of the Municipal Code.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

SSYC Foundation Offers Youth Opportunity

Young Plainfielders who want to equip themselves with skills for success have an opportunity Monday to find out how.

The Second Street Youth Center Foundation, Inc. is holding an Open House at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 15 at the center, 935 South Second Street, where middle- and high school-age youth can register for the Youth Leadership Academy. Young adults and parents are also welcome to attend. According to a press advisory, this one- or two-year program will offer workshops on competencies including:

- Communication (Spoken and Written)
- Adapting to Unfamiliar Settings
- Social Accountability
- Work As a team - Collaboration
- Networking
- Financial management
- Developing a World View

Each of the competencies will be developed through a series of activities using SSYC and other resources such as Toastmasters, Jack and Jill, Dinner Club of New Jersey, Urban League Young Professionals, Omega Psi Phi, KIAH Institute, TD Bank, etc. 

From the flier:
Register to become a member of the Youth Leadership Academy and track your credits towards graduation! All registered members are required to attend and complete a series of workshops in addition to community service hours in order to graduate from the Youth Leadership Academy. Students who complete the requirements for graduation will be recognized at the SSYC annual Awards and Recognition Ceremony: Tribute to Success.

Young People Have Choices

On Tuesday, I received word of a very good opportunity for youth in Plainfield. The information is in the blog post, "SSYC Foundation Offers Youth Opportunity."

Coming the day after two appeals from groups at the City Council meeting, it couldn't have been more timely. Two groups asked the governing body for help in creating a community center, but here is word from an organization in a center that has been in existence since 1957. I believe there are many other established groups and organizations in the city that offer programs for young people and I wish there was a directory or even a list of them.

It is always commendable when new groups form and want to serve youth or other underserved populations. What I have never liked is the notion that unless such-and-such group is backed by the city, young people have no other choice but the street. It would be more helpful, while such groups are organizing and finding their own funding through grants and donations, to partner with existing groups to serve youth.

"These young ones, they want something from us," one speaker said Monday.

Perhaps while new groups are adding their energy to the mix, young people can explore what already exists in Plainfield. Sports leagues, church-based mentoring groups, Scouts, YMCA leadership training, Boys & Girls Club, sororities and fraternities and social organizations that promote passage to responsible adulthood - all these are here and more. My own favorite stop after school was the public library in my hometown.

The city provides youth employment every summer where teens can learn about the workings of government and some of our city and state officials got their start right in City Hall. Mayor Adrian O. Mapp is planning a youth summit and other ways to engage young people. Someone mentioned reviving the Youth Commission. There are actually two Youth Commissions on the books and neither has any current members. More on that topic later.

No amount of good will toward youth may save those bent on gang activity and gun violence. Some have chosen that bad path and will not be deterred. The majority, I believe, are hoping to grow up to become responsible adults, even if they have big challenges at present. They need to know where help exists in Plainfield now.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Community Groups Seek City Help

Community concerns brought a crowd of mostly young people to Monday's City Council meeting, along with a reprise of pleas for revitalization of an East Second Street neighborhood.

The governing body had alloted time to hear from The CURE Group.Leader Terry O. Muhammad said the acronym stands for "Creating Universal Righteous Establishments."  Naming a long list of backers, he asked the council to help the group launch a community center that would feature everything from etiquette lessons to substance abuse counseling.

"We would like to have a bowling alley," Muhammad said, and also asked for music studios and office space.

He envisioned a center surrounded by businesses where young people could be employed and free themselves from an environment of crime and violence.

"I hope the council would hear our plea," he said. "Our children are dying today."

Rev. Paul Dean, organizer of the East Second Street Revitalization group, questioned why it was taking so long for city officials to commit $1.2 million in Urban Enterprise Zone funds to a streetscape program that was announced in 2010. The group had asked last week for a resolution to be on Monday's agenda to convey the funds, but as was explained last week, the state UEZ funds that were turned back to the city are still being reconciled.

At the end of the meeting, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp pointed out some practicalities involved in meeting the groups' desires. Muhammad had asked about having his center in the Armory, but Mapp said it did not belong to the city. The HOPES Headstart program purchased the building from the state in 2012.

Mapp said the city has two "community centers" in Emerson and Washington schools that were built with community use in mind.

On the UEZ funding, Mapp said, "We don't know how much money we have," citing "mismanagement over the years." Mapp took office on Jan. 1, but as a councilman he had asked in 2012 for an accounting of funds and projects from the previous administration. His finance director, Ron West, is still sorting it out.

Mapp said the city only owns one building in the East Second Street Neighborhood Commercial District, and it is not the former market that Dean's group wants to acquire. He said the district really needs to have an "in need of redevelopment" study that is a first step in attracting developers.

"The city is not in the business of putting up buildings," he said.

Mapp said he will ask City Clerk Abubakar Jalloh to look up any legislation related to a billboard that Dean's group wants removed.

Among other items, Mapp said in a ride around the city he noticed how dark it is, and his administration will reach out to PSE&G to determine costs for more lights. He also announced a "shadow mentoring program" in which young people will be matched with city officials to learn more about how government works. He will also have a youth "mayor for a day" each month, he said.

Having come in for some gibes from council members Monday and at other recent meetings, Mapp said, "Stop tearing me down - let's work together."


Monday, September 8, 2014

Plainfield's Day of Remembrance

On Thursday the city will hold a September 11 Day of Remembrance at City Hall, starting at 8:30 a.m.

At 8:46 a.m., church bells will ring to mark the time of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

Here is the complete program for the remembrance.

See the history here.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Senior Center Cost Dispute to be Arbitrated

The city's longstanding dispute with a developer over senior center build-out costs and condo fees may be settled through arbitration, according to a resolution up for passage at Monday's council meeting.

The meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

Corporation Counsel Vernita Sias-Hill has recommended the action and the resolution will authorize her office to proceed to arbitration.

The issue dates back to 2010, when the city received a bill for nearly $300,000 from Dornoch, the developer that built a new senior center and veterans' center with three floors of condos above. The deal had been touted as costing the city nothing, but in fact both centers have condo status, meaning they must share in common expenses for the building.

The developer had also fitted out the senior center to the liking of members and wanted the city to pay for the work and furnishings. Dornoch claimed the center's condo fee was $2,750 per month starting from November 2009. The veterans' center has yet to be occupied, but was also going to be assessed a monthly fee once the city took ownership. Part of the dispute centered on how the monthly fee was calculated

The condo deal was first announced in 2006. It became a campaign promise of then-Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs when she sought a second term on 2009. She held an event there just before the June 2009 primary, but the center did not open until late in 2009. The residential condos were slow to sell, and the development, dubbed "The Monarch," began accepting rentals some time after the City Council denied a proposed tax abatement.

Click on links above to see past posts 


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Good News for East Second Neighborhood

A Zoning Board decision Wednesday means a repair shop owner can finally get a certificate of occupancy and also that the place will be improved to meet current standards.

"Maybe you can sparkle the neighborhood," Zoning Board Chairman D. Scott Belin told applicant William Myers.

The Garfield Avenue shop is in the East Second Street Neighborhood Commercial District that residents and merchants say is in dire need of rehabilitation and renewal. A large group implored the City Council Monday to release Urban Enterprise Zone funds to finance streetscape improvements.. While the UEZ funding is a separate matter, sprucing up the repair shop advances the group's overall goals for the neighborhood.

Planning Director Bill Nierstedt said the site at 201 Garfield Avenue was a gas station in 1939, but never received a certificate of occupancy. Myers was applying for a "certificate of nonconformity" with the current zoning in order to be able to obtain the C.O. He said the site was no longer a gas station, but an automobile repair business.

Myers presented documents showing that the Zoning Board permitted the use in 1965 and the shop passed random safety checks by the Police and Fire divisions. The business was formerly called "Junior's Garage," he said, and Junior Simmons was still living there.

Board Attorney Peter A. Vignuolo said Myers had to prove that the use was allowed before a zoning change in 2002 to a Neighborhood Commercial zone. Myers had documents from 1997 to show the use was permitted.

The property will now be subject to improvements such as the planting of trees and shrubs and striping of the lot. Nierstedt told the board he will work with Myers to bring the site "up to today's standards."


Friday, September 5, 2014

The Lineup for Nov. 4

Names and addresses are all correct now.

Planners Mull Study, Next Steps Unclear

A city-sponsored study of the 17-acre Muhlenberg site drew a cautious acceptance from the Planning Board Thursday as members voiced reservations about the next steps.

Formerly dominated by Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, the site has had only a satellite emergency department for medical treatment since the hospital closed in 2008.

The City Council approved hiring Heyer, Gruel & Associates of Red Bank in October 2013 at a cost not to exceed $48,000. The firm held three community meetings in early 2014 for input from residents, who overwhelmingly insisted on a medical use for the campus, with no residential development. The study results included 100 units of veterans' housing and 36 apartments, a far cry from the 600 apartments proposed by JFK Health System for the site, but still rejected by the public.

Chairman Ron Scott-Bey led off by saying the study was commissioned by the administration and the Planning Board had nothing to do with it. 

"I understand there is a final plan somewhere," he said, noting no additions to what was handed out Thursday. 

Deputy City Administrator for Economic Development Carlos Sanchez said there was a minor change, deletion of health-related veterans' housing due to community concerns at an Aug. 14 meeting. 

"I look at this and see zoning and code changes, not development," Scott-Bey said.

But board member Gordon Fuller pointed out a developer could come in and ask for variances "and we'll be back where we started."

"We are kind of operating blindly," board member Horace Baldwin said. "I really don't feel we're in a position to effectively assess what's being proposed."

The study results are posted on the city web site. There is a recommendation for a "healthcare campus zone" and a page with next steps was up briefly, but has since disappeared.

Black and white copies handed out Thursday were barely legible, but audience members familiar with the results offered comments. 

"Why is this discussion even taking place?" resident Robin Bright said, noting the city does not own the site and should figure out how to acquire it if city officials want to make a plan.

Bright asked what the current zoning is, and Planning Director Bill Nierstedt said it was a professional office zone, which permits single- and two-family dwellings, mixed-use dwellings, apartments, medical offices, hospital and child-care centers.

Dr. Harold Yood said he agreed with Scott-Bey, calling it "premature even to discuss this."

Nancy Piwowar cited historic aspects of the Muhlenberg campus that she felt were going to bring attention to Plainfield, and also repeated the advice she gave at the Aug. 14 meeting, to make sure a title search of the property is done.

Dottie Gutenkauf told the board it was "very clear" that they were in a very preliminary situation, but she said there is a "distinct community sense of what Plainfield needs and what Plainfield does not need." She urged Sanchez to "find somebody who wants to revive a hospital."


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fence, Sign Causing Charter School Woes

Queen City Academy Charter School parents and staff expressed disappointment and even disgust at a zoning board decision Wednesday over their sign and fence.

The 8-foot chain link fence they inherited when the school relocated to a former temple is in violation of an ordinance prohibiting such fences in front yards and the sign they use to cover up religious symbols on the facade is five times larger than what is allowed.

School Director Danielle West defended the need for the high fence, citing possible dangers ranging from pit bulls to schoolyard shooters and also said the expense of replacing it would eat into education costs. Zoning Board Chairman D. Scott Belin said chain link fences provide toeholds for climbers and no other schools have them.

West said the sign needed to be large to cover the menorah and Hebrew script on the building. Belin suggested filling in the etched symbols with masonry, but West said it would damage the former temple and detract from its historic value.

After more than an hour of testimony and discussion, Zoning Board member Robert Graham made a motion to approve the fence and deny the sign, with the proviso that the fence be painted black. No one seconded the motion. Belin made a motion to deny the temporary sign and require a new sign, and to allow the fence to remain for two years with money in escrow while the school found a way to put up a new fence that would meet zoning requirements. School trustee board president Brian Kramer said the charter school operates under the state Department of Education and he was not sure the $1,000 escrow account would be allowed in the budget.

"Then your only other choice is that the fence be removed," Belin said.

The board passed the motion, 5-1, with Graham voting against it and Belin, Jim Spear, Rich Sudol, Charles McRae and Frank Johnson voting with the motion. Alejandro Ruiz recused himself from the hearing due to a conflict of interest.

The hearing was the school's third before the Zoning Board, but because there were new members, it was treated as a new application. Parents and children filled almost all the seats in City Hall Library and those who spoke raised issues including dangers of a suggested aluminum fence, such as impalement of deer. A school employee said the 8-foot fence saved children from being kidnapped or inappropriately touched.

"Work with us," another parent pleaded, calling Plainfield "a dangerous city."

Resident Nancy Piwowar said she had a "philosophical difference" with the Planning Division over the ban on chain link fences, because people could not see through stockade fences.

"If you see something, say something," she said.

 A parent who broke her leg going over a 4-foot fence as a child spoke in favor of the high fence.

"It is a necessity for that fence to stay the way it is," she said.

As the meeting adjourned, West lashed out, saying, "This is such a turnoff" and called the board "so disrespectful and rude." Another woman said sarcastically, "Pat yourself on the back when you go home."

Kramer noted the school is publicly funded, so repair costs would be "money coming out of your pocket."

The school will soon receive new playground equipment through a Kaboom grant which West said involved J.P. Morgan and the New York Knicks, to which Belin and others had responded by encouraging school officials to seek outside funding for the fence and sign from entities such as the Plainfield Foundation. Planning Director Bill Nierstedt recalled Neighborhood House previously receiving a Kaboom grant and urged Queen City Academy officials to contact him first with their plans, to make sure they meet zoning requirements.


Maybe the Third Time ...

Whoops! I just looked up the official candidates' list for the general election and the GOP names are now linked to the correct races, but the addresses are wrong!

C'mon, guys, can't we get this right???

Ordinance Veto Override Not Happening Monday

A controversial ordinance to convey city property to the Housing Authority will not be up for final passage Monday.

All six City Council members - Vera Greaves, William Reid, Rebecca Williams, Cory Storch, Gloria Taylor and President Bridget Rivers - declined to move it to the Sept. 8 agenda. Councilwoman Tracey Brown was absent.

The consensus followed some tricky turns. Councilman Cory Storch first asked to have Corporation Counsel Vernita Sias-Hill to speak about the ordinance, but Rivers said Mayor Adrian O. Mapp had already given a very comprehensive overview "and so did she," referring to Sias-Hill. She dismissed the request as "just wasting time."

Rivers said she was making a motion to table the ordinance and called for a second. But the council cannot vote at an agenda-fixing session, so no one seconded her motion. The consensus was then taken.

The outcome was surprising in view of Rivers' intense effort to push the ordinance along after it was submitted by Housing Authority Executive Director Randall Wood. She pooh-poohed Sias-Hill's concerns last month as just "a bunch of statements" and previously rejected Wood's attempt to withdraw the ordinance.

Among Mapp's objections, neither the Housing Authority nor its development arm, Plainfield Community Development Corporation, had passed complementary resolutions to the city ordinance. In addition, the city tax collector discovered that the ordinance included a privately-owned parcel across the street from the city-owned lots to be conveyed to the Housing Authority.

But as the saying goes, it ain't over till it's over, so stay tuned for further developments.


East Second Revitalization Supporters Seek Council Help

More than 40 people crowded Tuesday's City Council meeting in support of using Urban Enterprise Zone funds to revitalize an East Second Street neighborhood that is currently beset by crime and decay.
Rev. Paul Dean of Visions of God Family Worship Church told the council members the neighborhood was not poor and could be revitalized, was inclusive of young people and had the commitment of merchants, although he said they presently feel "beleaguered."

The group, which held a march and rally following recent shootings, wants the city to use $1.2 million in Urban Enterprise Zone funds to launch the revitalization.

Council President Bridget Rivers asked the administration to come up with a resolution by next week's voting meeting, but City Administrator Rick Smiley said he, Economic Director Carlos Sanchez and Corporation Counsel Vernita Sias-Hill will be meeting to discuss the situation. Finance Director Ron West said the council earlier this year rescinded UEZ fund resolutions, including one for East Second Street, and the administration is working to reconcile accounts to know how much is owed to the city.

While it was not discussed Tuesday, the UEZ funding process involved the council making a request to the Urban Enterprise Zone Authority for use of funds in Plainfield's account. The East Second Street request was made in late 2010. A look at UEZA minutes for 2011 shows no action on the request, and by the end of that year, funds had been turned back to the UEZ cities for local control.

In May 2012, then-Councilman Adrian Mapp sought an accounting of all UEZ projects and funding, but was unable to get details. Mapp is now mayor and his administration, as West noted, is sorting things out.

Dean asked residents supporting the project to stand as he made his case to the governing body Tuesday.
He said it was "time to revisit" a study of the district by Dr. Roland Anglin of Rutgers University.

"It looks like we're losing, but we're not willing to quit," Dean said. "It doesn't make sense the way East Second  looks. We have the money."

Councilman Cory Storch said he was encouraged to see the turnout, but advocated using the UEZ funds as "seed money" to attract outside investors. He said the revitalization requires a comprehensive, multifaceted plan.

One of the group's goals is to build a youth center, something Councilman William Reid endorsed.

Councilwoman Gloria Taylor promised to work with the group.

"I applaud you - I thank you," she said. Referring the Dean's account of past promises, she said, "I'm sure we are going to have a different tune this season."


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

GOP Gets It Right After Faulty Filing

It's official! As predicted here on Aug. 22, Randy Bullock is now the GOP's Third Ward candidate for the Nov. 4 general election and Bill Michelson is running for the Second & Third Ward at-large seat.

The word just came from the County Clerk's office that the proper paperwork has been filed. Last week, the GOP filings to replace primary winners had Michelson running in the Third Ward, where he doesn't even live, and had Bullock running for the same seat from which he withdrew.

As of this writing the change is not yet reflected on the candidates' list for the general election in case you look it up, but I'm sure that will follow.

So now the City Council candidate lineup includes Democrat Diane Toliver running unopposed for a four-year term in the First Ward, incumbent Councilwoman Rebecca Williams running for re-election in the Second & Third Wards at-large on the Democratic line and now opposed by Republican Bill Michelson, and Democratic appointee Gloria Taylor on the line for the unexpired Third Ward term versus Republican Randy Bullock.

The last day to register to vote in the general election is Tuesday, Oct. 14.

Veto, Retreat and More on Council Agenda

Tonight's agenda-fixing session may be dominated by more talk about the controversial Housing Authority ordinance, but there are other topics of interest.

The meeting is 7:30 p.m. tonight (Sept. 2) in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

City Council/Administration Retreat: This was raised by Council President Bridget Rivers last month. The council had two people committed to planning a retreat, but the administration did not name anyone. These retreats are generally intended to increase understanding and cooperation between the branches of government. Given the council's current dismissive attitude toward the executive branch, can this plan get off the ground?

East Second Street Revitalization: This is listed under "unfinished business," but what is it about? In 2010, there was a proposal to spend $1.1 million in Urban Enterprise Zone funds to revitalize the three-block East Second Street Neighborhood Commercial District. There was supposed to be a redevelopment study in 2005. Part of a 2011 "People Against Killing" conference was the goal of  establishing a community resource center. Such a center has been proposed for 200 Garfield Avenue, in the East Second Street district. Maybe more details will emerge at the council meeting.

Deer Carcass Removal Services: For an urban center, Plainfield has a lot of deer roaming around some neighborhoods, especially in the vicinity of the retention basin in the southeast corner. The proposed resolution is for a contract with Deer Carcass Removal Services LLC of Cream Ridge to remove carcasses on private property.

In all, there are 24 resolutions and seven ordinances to be considered, along with the "unfinished business." If nothing else, those who attend the meeting in the air-conditioned court will get a respite from the very hot, humid weather.


Monday, September 1, 2014

A Look Back at the Newsroom

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

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

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

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