Friday, February 28, 2014

HAP Wants City Lots, Council to Discuss


Click to enlarge

Two city-owned lots, eyed by both the Housing Authority of Plainfield and more recently by developer Frank Cretella, will be up for City Council discussion Monday on whether they should be conveyed to the Housing Authority.

The meeting is 7:30 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave., unless rescheduled due to the predicted snowstorm.

The larger parcel on the map above, Block 247, lot 7 on the tax maps, is Municipal Parking Lot 9 at present. It spans the block from the corner of Central Avenue and West Second north to West Front Street. The smaller lot, at the corner of West Second and Madison Avenue, is a vacant parcel where twelve condos were once proposed but never built.

A team including the Housing Authority unveiled a conceptual proposal back in October to put 86 apartments on the two lots, but the group was advised to deal with the city first before returning to the Planning Board with an actual application. In December, developer Frank Cretella made public his plans for a brew pub, artisanal distillery and a green market including a "food incubator" with restaurant and kitchen space for development of  food products to supply nearby restaurants. (See post here.) Cretella's firm seeks the two parcels plus two existing buildings between them.

The discussion Monday is on an ordinance conveying the two city-owned properties to the Housing Authority. Like Dr. Yood, I hope to visit the Plainfield Public Library to view the packet for details, if available. For example, an appraisal was mentioned at the October meeting, so does the Housing Authority or the development team intend to pay for the land? The team included Cecil Sanders and Malcolm Dunn; will their roles be spelled out? Mr. Dunn says he is not involved. It was unusual to have two development entities vying for the same city property conceptually, so in fairness should Cretella's idea be part of the discussion?

One hopes the discussion will be concise, as there are two other discussion items. One is appointments to the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee and the other, dear readers, is Legal Shield.

--Bernice

Update Needed on Muhlenberg Study


Click to enlarge
In October, the City Council approved hiring of Heyer Gruel & Associates to conduct a study of the 17-acre Muhlenberg tract.The firm projected a six-month timetable that included four community meetings. Meanwhile, Councilman Adrian O. Mapp won the November mayoral election and took office Jan. 1.

The holidays and the extreme winter weather may have affected the schedule, but it would be good to have an update from the new administration on where things stand with the study. See posts here and here.

--Bernice

Snow Predicted, May Affect Monday Meeting

The weather forecast for the next few days points to probable rescheduling of Monday's City Council meeting and the likelihood of yet another double meeting on March 10.

The double meetings - a 6 p.m. executive portion and an agenda-fixing session immediately followed by a regular meeting - tend to be very long and yet not affording enough time to delve fully into agenda items. At the February meeting, the Legal Shield issue took up about one-fourth of the meeting, even though the governing body had no role other than to recommend action by the administration.

It can be quite tiring, especially for older people, to stand in the hallway waiting for the council to come out of closed session. Only the dedicated or those who have items on the agenda are likely to stick around waiting for the meeting to open to the public.

For many decades, there were two regular Monday meetings per month,  with agenda sessions on preceding Mondays. In 2007, the council moved to a Monday-Wednesday schedule which caused a sharp decline in attendance by the public. The current schedule of just one regular meeting per month meets the minimum requirement in the city's special charter, but does not always afford time to discuss important items on the agenda.

This has been a very trying winter, between all the storms and now all the potholes. But Spring is coming in three weeks and maybe we can put it all behind us.

--Bernice

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Who are the Gentrifiers in Plainfield?

The term "gentrification" has come up in public comment at meetings recently, though with not as much vitriol as Spike Lee used in his recent commentary.

Lee was talking about Brooklyn, where changes seem to fit the original meaning of the term. Sociologist Ruth Glass is credited with creating the term in 1964 to describe displacement of working-class people with middle-class newcomers. The result is more pricey real estate and a cultural transformation that obliterates the old neighborhood.

Plainfield's development originated with the plain-living Quakers, but by the late 1890s West Eighth Street was known as "Millionaire's Row" for its ornate examples of Victorian architecture, and the meandering roads of the Sleepy Hollow section were also lined with mansions. Some of these estates remain, but many were cut up into apartments. By degrees, many stately homes and even the not-so-stately filled up with renters who now make up half the population.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports a poverty level of 19.4 percent for 2008-2012 in Plainfield, compared to 9.9 percent statewide. The median household income for that time frame is $54,425 for Plainfield and $71,637 statewide. So where is the gentrification?  Or are speakers who decry a change really talking about a different shift in demographics?

The biggest change in Plainfield since 2010 has been the increase in Latino population, but those who go to work in camionetas are not so much in the business of gentrification. By and large, Latino newcomers are not what Lee calls the  "hipster" type that frequent dog parks and upscale bistros. They are probably engaged in the same daily struggle to get along as the people who dominated the neighborhoods in the 2000 census.

In a rebuttal to Lee's "rant" as described in New York magazine, another man talks about the opportunity for "wealth creation" when longtime property owners in black neighborhoods have a chance to sell their homes at a large profit. Lee acknowledges the reverse migration of blacks down South where their money goes further. But he sees displaced renters who can't leave the city moving further and further out of their old neighborhoods until they reach, perhaps, the Atlantic Ocean. What is needed, he says, is more affordable housing.

Gentrification is a negative word. The 'hood, shorthand for neighborhood, is now used by just about everyone to conjure up fond memories of the home place, where generations grew up and created a unique culture. It is an affront to residents to find the scene of their struggles to get ahead now being taken over by outsiders sailing in with more money and different tastes. But is that really happening in Plainfield? Or are we talking about language barriers and unfamiliar customs?

Those who want to invoke the specter of gentrification in Plainfield need to explain where and how it is taking place. It may be good to note that there are several local proposals for the affordable housing that Lee recommends to ward off displacement.

If it is really more a case of diverse people getting to know each other, the city needs to increase understanding through its religious and community organizations, or animosity may build.

--Bernice

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mapp Weighs In On CD 12


Mayor Adrian O. Mapp on Jan. 1, 2014

Being the first Union County Democrat to make an endorsement for a successor to Rep. Rush Holt earned Mayor Adrian O. Mapp headlines in three online news outlets Tuesday.

Mapp was quoted on his reasons for endorsing Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman on nj.com. mycentraljersey.com and politickernj.com, before Union County and Plainfield Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green got a word online. Assemblyman Green is usually a stickler for protocol and had only alluded publicly to Union County possibly holding the swing endorsement between perceived front-runners Watson Coleman and Senator Linda Greenstein.

PolitickerNJ said this about Mapp: "A former New Democrat who forged an alliance with establishment Democrat Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22) en route to defeating incumbent Sharon Robinson-Briggs in last year’s mayor’s contest, Mapp said he does not know whom Green will endorse in the developing CD 12 Democratic Primary."

Whoa! It doesn't sound as if Mapp is going to adhere to Green's 2008 adage, "Therefore, it is time for every duck to fall in line with the premise of order." {Green was plumping for unity among Democrats - see entire post here.) But maybe Mapp is a lucky duck to be able to boast a White House visit in January and his own headlines now across the state.

One reason Mapp gave for seeking the title of chief of staff for his new cabinet was the need for someone to interface on the city's behalf with all levels of government. If Chief of Staff John Stewart is helping Mapp get wide attention for his views as the mayor of Plainfield, it was well worth the struggle last year to get the title approved by the City Council.

--Bernice

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Give Back the Tepper's Basement


Ten years ago, the city took title to a 17,000-square foot basement space in the former Tepper's building. Despite many proposed uses, none came about. But with the expiration date for a half-million dollar federal grant looming, the city quickly spent it in September 2007 on creating what former City Administrator Marc Dashield called "a plain vanilla box." (See post here.)

That "box" is still empty. Meanwhile the developer has not pressed the city for years' worth of condo fees owed, due to the arrangement that divided the former store into 74 affordable housing units, a commercial portion and the ill-fated basement. The grant was specific to the site and could not be applied to proposed uses that were carried out elsewhere in the city, such as the new senior center at 400 East Front Street or the police monitoring of downtown cameras, now slated for the Police Division building at 200 East Fourth Street.

City Council uses were also discussed. Some council members wanted to move council meetings to the site or use it as office space for proposed council staff. More recently, council members wanted to see the space for themselves, but were denied the opportunity by the past administration. Councilwoman Rebecca Williams finally got to see it and declared it an "unfinished, junked up mess." See her post here.

Although developer Larry Regan downplayed the condo fee debt in 2010, he said payment would help the company carry out obligations such as development of a grassy lot on the Somerset Street side of the property. The city was apparentlys in talks at that point about the condo fees, as former Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson indicates in this post.

Williamson left city government in 2012 to become executive director of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority and David Minchello became corporation counsel. The Tepper's issue was among many unfinished items that Minchello had to pursue.

In July 2013, Plaintalker suggested it was time to find a way to give back the basement, but the city was in the throes of an intense mayoral contest. Now there is a new mayor and administration to look into the issue of the Tepper's basement specifically and use of grants generally.

From Plaintalker in July 2013::

At a minimum, the new administration should devise a way to monitor all existing grants and awards, along with conditions and expiration dates, and should make sure the efforts of federal officials to help the city are understood and appreciated. To do any less is an affront and can only make the city appear ungrateful and undeserving of future consideration.

--Bernice







Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ice Rocks (That's a Noun, Not a Verb)

Bread, milk, and a pickax?

Yes, if you did not clean up after the recent series of storms, a shovel won't cut it. The snow and ice has solidified into a rock-like mass that can only be dislodged by a pickax or heavy equipment.

A sidewalk untouched all winter at the southwest corner of Park & Seventh had a couple of young men wielding pickaxes last week. Judging by the degree of their exertion, the stuff was not going away easily.

Property owners who were just hoping the ice would melt may have gotten their comeuppance in a notice from the city to clean their sidewalks. Several of the recent storms were mixes of snow, sleet and freezing rain and pedestrians were slipping and sliding all over, except for those teenagers who seem to be able to levitate over the ice in their expensive kicks. (Hmm. If I trade my heavy-duty storm boots for the latest Nikes, could I do the same? More likely, I would suffer a major fail of my bone density and end up in JFK.)

My ex-husband and I disagreed on how to deal with snow and ice. He was of the school that holds it will all melt by, say, July, whereas even before the divorce in 1977, I wanted to get the ice out of my way. He moved to California, an alternate method of avoiding snow removal, while I am still here in the land of ice and snow and still wanting to walk on a clear path.

As the dratted groundhog decreed, there are still some weeks of winter and more storms in the offing. So salt and chip, clear those drains in case anything melts, and if you have kept pace with the storms by cleaning up after each one as it came along, please accept my congratulations on being a fellow fussbudget.

---Bernice

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Planners Want Review of Boarded Homes, Redevelopment

I heard a lot of hopeful things at Thursday's Planning Board meeting, but hesitated to write about them because I wanted to get more details, However, even an overview will let readers see that 2014 will be a year for progress on several fronts.

Boarded-up homes

Planning Director Bill Nierstedt noted that Plainfield has more than its share of foreclosures in recent years. The board will work on a plan to "make them viable and restore them to neighborhoods." He said the Housing Authority of Plainfield or neighborhood organizations may have a role in the plan. In addition, the city will encourage banks holding properties to do more than just maintain them and cut the grass.

(Residents including Councilman William Reid have deplored the effect vacant houses have on a neighborhood. Reid said his small St. Mark's Place block has several vacant properties.)

Nierstedt also warned that if a property goes to sheriff's sale, the city will not be able to recoup liens on it. As council watchers know, recent agendas have included long lists of cleanups at vacant properties, the cost of which becomes a lien to be paid at the time of sale to a new owner.

The city also has an ordinance addressing the problem of abandoned houses and it will be brought to bear on the current situation.

Open space

The city needs more open space. One possible location is East Ninth Street, where two city-owned lots flank a privately-owned parcel that the city hopes to acquire.

Nierstedt said there is also a notion to restore a pond in the East End that was filled in. Tier's Pond was the subject of many a 19th Century photograph. Click here to see one.

The Lampkin House site is still being explored as open space. Nierstedt said the city does not own the site but is in talks with the owner over a land swap and the city is still pursuing funding that relies on the site being eligible for inclusion on state and national historic registers. The city would not ultimately own the site, but is seeking a 501(c)3 entity to take charge of the acreage off Terrill Road.

Old Redevelopment Plans

To those who have tried to keep track of more than a dozen old redevelopment "Marino's" refers to a former car dealership site off West Front Street that was targeted for a supermarket about a decade ago. Nierstedt said the redevelopment plan is 14 years old and needs review.

Plans for redevelopment on East Third Street fell through way back in 2008 (see Plaintalker post here), and Nierstedt recommended a review for that site also.

The Union County Improvement Authority's downtown office and commercial building never got a formal name, but is known as "Park-Madison" for a plan dating back many years. The UCIA recently settled unresolved issues with the city (see post here) and Nierstedt said the redevelopment plan "needs to end." Across West Front Street, the Tepper's block still has city-owned parcels, but Nierstedt said redevelopment plans have "gone nowhere" for ten years, meaning developers "are not interested." That site also needs review.

Joint Board Meeting

Land use boards including the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment and Historic Preservation Commission will hold a joint meeting, tentatively scheduled for March 15. For the first time, the Shade Tree Commission will be invited as well. The commission closely coordinates its tree planting efforts with the Planning Division and has review powers over redevelopment applications. Nierstedt said he hopes Mayor Adrian O. Mapp will be able to attend as well.

The boards have held joint meetings at times in the past, but with a new administration after eight years, it seems especially timely and in order for the city's future.

--Bernice

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Planners Urge Downtown Parking Deck Study

With dozens, if not hundreds, of new apartments, stores and restaurants proposed downtown, where will everyone park?

Maybe in a new parking deck, but figuring out the details will require some work, Planning Board members agreed Thursday as they endorsed seeking city approval for a parking study. Questions to be answered include the current parking capacity downtown, anticipated development in the new Transit-Oriented Development-Downtown (TOD-D) zone around the main train station, the amount of parking that developers will require and how a parking deck might be funded.

Planning Director Bill Nierstedt said a study was included in a capital improvement plan two or three years ago, but not done. The new administration of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp has asked the board to name its CIP priorities and Nierstedt urged the board "to recommend in the strongest terms that they advance the parking study."

In recent years, no capital projects took place and for 2014 there is only $100,000 allocated for road work, to be matched with grants. Nierstedt also recommended establishment of a parking authority to replace the current Parking Bureau, because an authority could issue bonds for major improvements.

The deck would replace Municipal Lot 6, off East Second Street. According to city records, the lot has 39 permit-only spaces and 71 metered spaces. Years ago, a six-story deck was proposed to replace the lot, but merchants opposed it and it was never built. In 2009, developer Frank Cretella said a traffic study done for one of his projects revealed as many as 350 parking spaces available downtown. In any case, parking is not presently a requirement for downtown land use applications.

Development was in abeyance for several years, but Cretella has begun forging ahead with several of his previously approved projects and developer Mario Camino has announced his intentions to redevelop much of the downtown. A parking study now would sort out the actual projected need and how it might be met and funded. One hopes both the needs of established business as well as proposed new residential and commercial additions to the downtown would be considered.

(Checking the archives just now, I came across a Plaintalker post from last year on this very subject. Click here to see it.)

--Bernice

Boards, Commissions Must Organize

It certainly was heartening to see some action on repopulating boards and commissions that had been missing in action, such as the Plainfield Cable Television Advisory Board, Human Relations Commission and Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs. What the new appointees need to do now is reorganize.

Among steps to be taken, they must meet to name officers and to set a meeting schedule. The calendar should be published or at least posted somewhere so interested citizens can attend, as their meetings will be subject to the Open Public Meetings Act, also known as the Sunshine Law. Some boards and commissions may need funds to do their work, therefore they must make a budget request to the administration.

If groups meet at City Hall, they should clear use of meeting rooms with City Clerk Abubakar Jalloh, as certain boards have already adopted use of City Hall Library on fixed dates and times, such as the Board of Adjustment at 7 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month.

It is not likely that new boards will attract hordes of nosy onlookers, but even if that was the case or maybe more so, they are obligated to do business in public, with certain exceptions allowed by law.

The previous mayor, with her penchant for festivities, may have given some new commissions the impression that they could function more or less as clubs. The African Caribbean Commission grew out of a group that already met on its own terms for a year before being approved as a city commission last year. Once it became a public body, it also became subject to the Open Public Meetings Act, but so far no notice of a meeting schedule has been posted.

Another consideration is that council liaisons are named to many boards and commissions and these officials need to know meeting times and locations. Councilwoman Rebecca Williams was liaison to the former PACHA but could not carry out her duties, as the board never disclosed its schedule. Liaisons named in January are Cory Storch to the Planning Board, Rebecca Williams and Gloria Taylor to the PMUA, Williams to the Shade Tree Commission, Taylor and Council President Bridget Rivers to the Board of Education, Taylor to the Special Improvement District and Rivers and Vera Greaves to the Housing Authority of Plainfield. While they may not be able to attend every meeting, council liaisons are supposed to observe their assigned boards and commissions and bring any concerns back to the governing body.

All this may seem like a lot of bureaucracy, but in fact it falls more in the category of checks and balances. The public has the right to know what goes on at meetings of boards and commissions and so does the governing body, especially if public money is being spent. Minutes are supposed to be kept as well.

Of special interest at this time are the PCTVAB (Plainfield Cable Television Advisory Board) and PACHA (Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs). Comcast of the Plainfields is in the franchise renewal process and public input is a requirement. PACHA's role is broad, but given the controversy over Latino festivals last year and other concerns regarding the increasing Latino population, the commission's meetings must be open to all.

There is one other concern about boards and commissions, namely that some only received a few appointees. Corporation Counsel David Minchello may have to weigh in on whether, say, a nine-member board with only four members can properly meet if they don't have a quorum.

February is drawing to a close. If new or reconstituted boards are to succeed, the first step is to organize. As details emerge on officers and meeting times, Plaintalker will endeavor to let readers know.

--Bernice

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Recalling Pepsi Charles

Among Plainfielders who should be remembered during Black History Month, I am thinking of Pepsi Charles. Click here to read a Plaintalker post about her.

Petitions for June Primary Now Available

Petitions for the June primary are now available, City Clerk Abubakar Jalloh announced Tuesday. They may be picked up in his office in City Hall, 515 Watchung Ave. during regular business hours.

Candidates must file by 4 p.m.on March 31 to run in the June 3 primary. Three City Council seats are up this year, four-year terms representing the First Ward and the Second & Third Wards at-large and an unexpired term ending Dec. 31, 2015 in the Third Ward.

No one has officially announced for the races. Incumbents are William Reid in the First Ward and Rebecca Williams in the Second & Third Ward at-large seat. Gloria Taylor is serving as an appointee in the Third Ward seat vacated by Adrian O. Mapp, who took office as mayor on Jan. 1

 This is also the year for city Republicans to reorganize, so those interested in serving on the Republican municipal committee must file to run on June 3. Winners of Republican committee seats will meet on June 9 to select a chairman and other officers. As of October 2013, there were only 887 registered Republicans in Plainfield, compared to 13,226 Democrats.

Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi has published a list of all 2014 election dates. Click here to see it. Among important dates, those running for the Board of Education must file on June for the November 4 election. Independents running for council seats may also file on June 3 to be on the November 4 ballot.

--Bernice

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winter Tales

Not only is the snow piling up, so is the garbage in some places.

These trash bins were blocked in behind mounds of snow and ice, then laboriously freed by a couple of guys with pickaxes, only to be plowed in again. PMUA workers only have to remove trash, not snow and ice, so the scene above is probably replicated in other spots around the city where the white stuff has engulfed refuse containers. Hoping to see it gone soon, but another storm is expected overnight.

Reading Cory Storch's report that mentions the Feb. 6 Planning Board meeting, I was sorry to have missed it. I got up from a nap and began cooking, only remembering the meeting too late to make the new 7 p.m. starting time. Dashing on foot over snow and ice to City Hall just wasn't in the cards. The next meeting should be held at 7 p.m.Thursday (Feb. 20), so maybe then I can see the new members in action.  Now in his third term on the council and having served for many years as liaison to the Planning Board, Storch must be pleased to have some solid economic development news to report, including tracking progress on the one-seat ride front.

Storch is looking forward to hearing from the new Deputy City Administrator in Charge of Economic Development, Carlos Sanchez, and so am I. The cabinet position has been  vacant since 2006, with responsibilities assigned instead to the Office of Economic Development. When the former deputy city administrator's term ended in 2005, she left a highly detailed report on the status of all projects. Many of the projects faded away and some new ones were introduced, so Sanchez will have to get up to speed with the help of the Planning Division on current proposals. By spring, officials are anticipating a surge of action on pending and new projects. I can't get around in this weather the way I would like to get photos of  work in progress, but hope to do more in coming weeks.

Somewhere under those rock-solid piles of storm debris, my daffodils are emerging. Only about five weeks to spring, y'all! We can get there!

--Bernice

Monday, February 17, 2014

On Taxis and Winter Traveling

Thanks to a taxi ride up to Stop & Shop in the Watchung Square Mall, I got to experience what car owners are dreading this winter - potholes and snow-clogged streets that make driving a nightmare due to fear of accidents and expensive repairs.

City streets were bad enough, but as the taxi crossed Route 22 to the mall entrance, cars slowed to avoid a big pothole, leaving the last ones trailing across the highway.

The ride home was hectic and hair-raising for even more reasons, as the driver detoured east to Terrill Road and attempted to pick up fares at Sears and Popeye's. Extreme honking produced no fares, however, and we were off - not to Park & Seventh, but around various streets to pick up more fares. The first was on Front Street, where two men emerged with huge laundry bags that they started to wedge in over our groceries. The driver had them reload the bags into the front seat, with one guy alongside and the other in the back of the van.

Another stop, more honking, and out came a couple who jammed in. The driver had meanwhile turned down a woman, with a baby and a toddler, who tried to hail the taxi from the street. He told her to call the dispatcher, but she said she had no telephone.

All this took a lot longer than we expected, but finally we got home and the helpful driver managed to drop one bag into an icy puddle in the driveway.

"It's only water," he said, handing over the dripping bag.

The whole thing reminded me of how taxi regulations are honored in the breach in Plainfield. Drivers are supposed to ask passengers whether they mind having additional fares, for one thing. I have had the experience of catching a taxi in time for an appointment straight down Park Avenue, only to have someone else get in and then finding myself sitting in the parking lot of a totally unfamiliar mall in another town. The extra passenger hopped out and then the driver realized he had a flat tire. A Good Samaritan helped him out, as he didn't have the right equipment to change a tire. I finally arrived at my destination, more than a bit flustered.

It seems all the taxis charge a flat $4 fare to go anywhere in Plainfield, even though the rate card lists senior discounts and differentials depending on the distance within the city. But perhaps because the taxis largely serve a low-income population that depends on them, few patrons bother with sticking up for the rules.

From the Municipal Code:

Sec. 9:15-45.  Carrying passengers by direct route.


A driver shall carry a passenger to his or her destination by the most direct and expeditious route available unless otherwise directed by the passenger.
(MC 1988-6A, §1, April 25, 1988.)


See. 9:15-54.  Additional passengers.


    (a)     Unless the person first employing the taxicab shall consent, no additional passengers shall be picked up or permitted to ride in a taxicab on the same trip.
 (MC 1988-6A, §1, April 25,1988.)

See. 9:15-57.  Rates of fare.


    (a)     Any person owning a taxicab and any person licensed by the City to drive or operate any taxicab for hire shall be permitted to charge up to, but not exceeding, the rates set forth in this Section.
    (b)     The City is hereby divided into zones, denominated as A, B, C, D, and
E as the same are delineated on the map included in and made a part of this
Article.
        (1)     For citizens fifty-five (55) years of age and older, the rates which may be charged within each zone are as follows: Zone A: $2.50; Zone B: $2.75; Zone C: $2.75; Zone D: $3.00; and Zone E: $3.25.
        (2)     For citizens less than fifty-five (55) years of age, the rate which may be charged within each zone is as follows: Zone A: $3.00; Zone B: $3.25; Zone C: $3.25; Zone D: $3.50; and Zone E: $3.75.
    (c)     A passenger traveling within one (1) zone shall pay the fixed rate for that zone.  A passenger traveling from one zone to another shall pay the higher of the two (2) rates, regardless of starting point or destination. A passenger traveling to a border street of two (2) zones shall pay the higher zone rate.
    (d)     Notwithstanding the foregoing, anyone traveling from Zone D west of Clinton Avenue to Zone C east of Leland Avenue, or vice versa, shall pay a fare of $3.50. Anyone traveling from Zone E. to Zone D east, or vice versa, shall pay a fare of $4.00.
    (e)     Additional passengers. In all zones, the first additional passenger traveling to the same destination shall pay an extra fare of Fifty Cents ($.50). Each subsequent additional passenger shall pay an extra fare of Twenty-Five Cents ($.25). If the first passenger has agreed to shared riding with persons traveling o a different destination, each additional passenger shall pay the full rate chart fare. A baby in arms shall not be considered an additional passenger.
    (f)      Each stop of five (5) minutes or less requested by the passenger carries an extra charge of Twenty-Five Cents ($.25). A charge may be made of Twenty Cents ($.20) for each parcel when said parcel is carried from the store to the taxi and from the taxi to the home by the taxi driver at the request of the passenger (or vice versa).
    (g)     Rates for local calling and shopping service shall be One Dollar and Fifty Cents ($1.50) per quarter hour or part thereof.
        (1)     Fifty Cents ($.50) on all fares between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
        (2)     Fifty Cents ($.50) on all fares (in addition to the nighttime premium) on the following holidays:  New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
        (3)     Fifty Cents ($.50) trunk charge for large appliances or baggage in excess of fifty (50) pounds.
(MC 1988-6A, §1, April 25, 1988; MC 1989-17, §1, October 2, 1989; MC 2000-16, §1, August 7, 2000.)

While it was my choice not to buy another car when the last one died, my guess is that most passengers simply have no other means of getting to stores, laundries and medical appointments. Passengers sometimes play games of their own, such as calling two or three taxi services and taking whichever one shows up first. But by and large, they are victims more than perpetrators of abuse of the rules. Because the clientele tends to be of a demographic that is nearly voiceless in public discourse here, their troubles are overlooked and will remain so without more self-advocacy or help from the government that set these rules.

I wrote about taxi rules way back in 2008 after I gave up my car (see post here). Interesting that nothing much has changed since then.

--Bernice

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Slush Fun

The latest snow/rain/ice storm has added greatly to the woes of pedestrians, especially at street corners. It is actually no fun to pick one's way over slush and now large puddles caused by Friday's above-freezing temperatures.
Thanks to property owners who cleared their sidewalks and fie on the others who made walking a bit more of an adventure than pedestrians, especially those of a certain age, bargained for on trips to the stores at Park & Seventh. I'm sure the downtown and many other locales had similar challenges.

Here's what the Municipal Code has to say about snow and ice on sidewalks:

Sec. 13:7-1. Obligation to remove snow and ice.

The owner or tenant of lands abutting or bordering upon the sidewalks of public streets shall remove all snow and ice from that part of any paved sidewalk lying in front of his respective premises within twelve (12) hours of daylight after the snow and ice has fallen or formed thereon.

(R.O. 1957, 14:7-1, as amended Apr. 17, 1961)

The Code states that the city can remove snow and ice if necessary and place a lien for the cost on a property, though I don't know how feasible that is when the Public Works Division has its hands full cleaning municipal parking lots and sidewalks. Certainly if a couple of examples were made and publicized, scofflaw property owners might try to comply in order to avoid having liens placed on their buildings.

More snow is expected today. Responsible property owners will no doubt clear it away and the heedless ones will just let another layer accumulate. Time to set an example?

--Bernice

Friday, February 14, 2014

Legal Shield and Politics

I did not write about the Legal Shield issue previously because I felt that Dr. Yood covered the main points on his blog Tuesday (link here). But I was also dismayed that the topic ended up taking nearly one-fourth of the very long meeting when the upshot was that all the governing body did was to recommend that the administration look into it.

It reminded me of other occasions where the council's business got sidelined in favor of disputes over use of ball fields or pleas for city funding that the governing body could not legally give. Lots of heat, not much light and a test of the patience of those who came out to see the legislators legislating..

The concerns voiced for employees enrolled in the Legal Shield payroll deduction plan appeared to be commingled with the personal interest of individuals who might lose money if the plan is not allowed. (By way of background, when the issue came up at the Jan. 13 council meeting, Corporation Counsel David Minchello explained that the payroll deduction was implemented last year without his approval and that an indemnification resolution was needed from the council in order to allow the payroll deduction. It was the new administration's decision not to continue the plan. I must admit, I had to look this up in my notes as the Jan. 13 was another maelstrom of issues, too many to cover on the blog.)

All this aside, the sometimes heated remarks on the subject did provide a glimpse into upcoming political contests. The First Ward and Second & Third Ward at-large seats are up this year, along with the unexpired Third Ward seat vacated by Mayor Adrian O. Mapp. Candidates must file on March 31 for the June primary (or on June 3 to run as independents).

Rebecca Williams is the incumbent in the Second & Third Ward at-large seat and Gloria Taylor is the appointee serving in the Third Ward seat. It was interesting to this observer to see Taylor not just disagree with Williams regarding Legal Shield, but seeming to characterize her as not interested in the employees enrolled in Legal Shield.

In advocating for Legal Shield, entrepreneur Jeffery Dunn had last month called the payroll deduction a necessity for employees who had no checking accounts. Williams pointed out Dunn's personal ties to the company as shown in online links and said if employees without banking should receive financial counseling, as the deduction was taken off the top before they paid rent, mortgages or credit card payments. She said employees could sign up with Legal Shield directly if they wished.

At this point, with no one on hand to speak for Legal Shield, Council President Bridget Rivers called for a five-minute recess, after which Dunn showed up.

Taylor launched her characterization of Williams by criticizing her use of the term "indigent."

"My real concern is servicing the employees," she said. "I am not going to make them invisible."

When Williams said perhaps the city could look into other companies, Taylor said, "Again we are doing this elitist looking down on folk."

After preaching concern for "the least of these," Taylor condemned "people who think other people are not as important."

Councilman Cory Storch, who directs a social service agency, objected to Taylor's remarks about "the least of us" and people not caring. Storch said the city had to act like a business by being "as efficient as it is possible to be," and had to be careful about companies that come in and want to use the city for their gain.
Nearly an hour into the meeting Monday, Legal Shield representative Jilletta Riley spoke in public comment, identifying herself as an "employee benefit specialist." She gave each council member a packet explaining the program. A council majority - Taylor, Vera Greaves, William Reid, Tracey Brown and Rivers - had already agreed to create a resolution asking the administration to reconsider allowing the plan, with Williams and Storch not in favor. The proposed resolution was added to the consent agenda and approved at the regular meeting also held Monday night.

The next City Council meeting is an agenda fixing session at 7:30 p.m. March 3 in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.
..

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Deputy Police Director Title, Pay Approved.

Amidst the tumult of Monday's double meeting, a City Council vote added two "deputy police director" positions to city bureaucracy.

Click the image above to enlarge
The city has a Department of Public Affairs & Safety with a civilian director and after the title of police chief was abolished in March 2008, the council approved the civilian title of police director. Both positions were held by Martin Hellwig until a new administration took over on Jan. 1. After some controversy, the council approved Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's nomination of Carl Riley to be police director and Mapp also named him acting director of PA&S.

Now, as detailed in resolutions passed Monday, Riley has the power to appoint two deputies earning from $80,000 to $140,000 each, making four civilian titles with administrative powers over the uniformed police staff.

Not all seven council members agreed with the innovation. In the agenda-fixing session Monday, Rebecca Williams and William Reid did not approve moving the items to the agenda, while Gloria Taylor, Vera Greaves, Cory Storch, Tracey Brown and Council President Bridget Rivers approved. The measures passed in the regular meeting with the same 5-2 breakdown.

Since Jan. 1, two individuals who had hoped for directorships were disappointed. Retired Police Captain Siddeeq El-Amin, who also served for a time as the PA&S director, was passed over for the title without the public explanation he sought from the governing body. Captain Michael Gilliam served in acting capacity as Hellwig's replacement at the end of 2013 and many supporters spoke in favor of his appointment in the new administration, but he also was passed over in favor of Riley.

--Bernice

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mitchell Regains PMUA Chairmanship

In what appears to be a shift of power, Harold Mitchell emerged as chairman of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority Tuesday, succeeding Cecil Sanders.

The appointment of Charles Tyndale on Monday, replacing Alex Toliver, and the reappointment last month of Carol Ann Brokaw tipped the balance of the five-member board at the annual reorganization. Brokaw was named both vice-chairman and secretary and Tyndale emerged as treasurer Tuesday.

Commissioner Malcolm Dunn nominated Sanders for chairman but could not get a second. Both Dunn and Sanders then joined in endorsing the slate of officers to serve until Feb. 1, 2015.

Mitchell was targeted for removal last year by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who in August and again in December tried to replace him with her confidential aide, Barbara James. A former mayor and councilman, Mitchell overcame similar pressure to become chairman in 2012 (see post here).

The board notably split in January 2012 over a $1 million settlement for top executives Eric Watson and David Ervin, with Mitchell and Brokaw voting "no" and Sanders, Dunn and  Toliver voting "yes." (See post here).

The authority's budgets for solid waste and sewer operations were on the agenda, but Executive Director Dan Williamson said passage will take place in March in order to give city officials a chance to review the budgets. Williamson said the PMUA was asked to abide by terms of its interlocal agreement with the city and agreed to the review, which he said was taking place for the "first time ever." Previously, he said, the authority passed the budgets and then gave them to the city.

Council President Bridget Rivers and Councilwoman Gloria Taylor attended the meeting Tuesday. Taylor is one of two council liaisons to the authority. On Monday, Dunn chastised the council for not attending PMUA meetings and though he welcomed Taylor and Rivers Tuesday, he said no council members had attended in all of 2013. Under a system established by the late Councilman Ray Blanco in 2006, council members are supposed to attend meetings of various boards and commissions and report back to the governing body.

Among other items, the PMUA board heard a presentation by Aaron Klein, CEO of Greener Corners. The company provides custom recycling  bins for public spaces and claims to increase tonnage. Before taking any action on using the company's services, the authority will seek city input. Click here to learn more about Greener Corners.

--Bernice

Court Sidewalk Cleaned

Displaying IMAG4408.jpg

For all who voiced concern about the ice and snow in front of Municipal Court, your voices were heard!

A reader furnished proof in the photo above.

Here's another view:
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Good work!

New PMUA Commissioner Approved

In a 4-3 vote Monday, the City Council approved Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's nomination of Charles Tyndale to replace Alex Toliver on the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority's board of commissioners.

Before the vote, Toliver and his wife, Diane, both lashed out at Mapp, saying they worked hard for him, presumably in the effort that won Mapp the mayoralty in November. Toliver suggested Mapp "may be temporary" and claimed the mayor was giving away the city to "carpetbaggers." He predicted a breakdown of PMUA systems like a "tsunami" and said, "The city is going to collapse right before your feet."

Councilman Cory Storch later chided Toliver, saying he was very disappointed to hear what he said.

"Nobody on the PMUA board has a lifetime seat," Storch said, noting many had served before Toliver. "None of them came to the microphone and tried to bash the mayor with sour grapes."

Toliver tried to rebut Storch's remarks and disregarded Council President Bridget Rivers' warning that he could not speak twice during public comment. A police officer guided him away as Storch said, "People have to take responsibility for their comments."

"I do," Toliver said as he was led away.

The exchange at the double meeting took part during the agenda-fixing session rescheduled from Feb. 3. A council majority had agreed to move the item to the regular meeting, which gave Toliver a clue that the resolution was likely to pass and triggered his outburst. (Had he kept quiet and stayed, he could have spoken again during two public comment portions of the regular meeting.)

Storch, Rivers, Tracey Brown and Rebecca Williams voted "yes" for Tyndale and Vera Greaves, William Reid and Gloria Taylor voted "no". Tyndale, an engineer, was advised to get sworn in right after the meeting, as the PMUA is holding its annual reorganization tonight (Tuesday, Feb. 11). Tyndale's appointment and the reappointment of Carol Ann Brokaw last month lock in two of the five commissioners' seats until 2017.

Mapp tried previously to replace other commissioners on Jan. 27, but his changes were rejected (see post here).

Toliver's outburst was not the only PMUA-related drama at the double meeting. A former employee, Asmar Best, came to the microphone during public comment to say he had been "threatened on the job" and was then fired. He said after losing the job he was distraught. He said he hadn't had a raise in eight years and was told if he didn't have a degree, he didn't deserve a raise.

But PMUA Executive Director Dan Williamson came to the microphone to deny Best's allegations and said he had been given a hearing.in which there was not enough evidence presented to back up his claims. As for the raise, Williamson said Best was one of 45 union members who were in negotiations with the authority and that was the reason for the wage freeze. Williamson said the proper place for Best to make his allegations was before the PMUA board of commissioners.
Another employee, Rodney Walker, also brought complaints to the council, about low pay, hazardous conditions for PMUA truck drivers, firings for no reason and a grievance process being ignored.

"Nobody is going to PMUA meetings," he added, agreeing with another of Toliver's complaints that council liaisons were not attending.

Referring to Walker's complaints, Storch said, "This is a labor matter that should be handled by the PMUA."

Resident Alan Goldstein, who does attend PMUA meetings and frequently questions the authority's workings, expressed hope that new commissioners would investigate it.

"Every one of those commissioners need to be replaced," he said.

PMUA Commissioner Malcolm Dunn, who just became a holdover when his term expired Feb. 1, also addressed Mapp, first noting his relationship with the mayor and his family. He said commissioners could not speak about labor matters, and criticized the council members for not attending PMUA meetings.

PMUA employee Kim Montford spoke in favor of Best and also sympathized with Walker's concerns about having to drive in hazardous weather conditions.

In all, the evening lived up to Goldstein's comment that the PMUA was "a little bit of a topic tonight."

--Bernice

Sunday, February 9, 2014

PPL Gets Makerspace Grant

As an old Readymade subscriber and fan of the Maker movement, I was excited to see that the Plainfield Public Library is the only library in Union County to receive a "Makerspace" grant. See more here.

Libraries have evolved from repositories of reading material (with the stereotype of a stern, shushing librarian) to places where all known media are accessible. Job readiness and searches are part of the mission and learning for all ages takes place in today's libraries.

Here is an article from the American Library Association on makerspaces.

--Bernice

Ice: The Challenge

King icicle
After one of the recent storms, I forget which, I bought a 50-pound bag of salt at Park Hardware. It was too heavy for me to carry, so I took it home in my shopping cart. It proved still too heavy to drag up the front steps or down the basement steps, so I wheeled it into the garage and just used a bucket to get some salt out of the bag to scatter on ice.

Fast forward to the recent snow/sleet/freezing rain event. The new snow plow guy pushed the icy mix up against my garage door, effectively welding it shut. I tried two days to loosen it without any luck. So my plan to remove enough ice for a clear path to East Seventh Street was foiled until today, when I got the door open. I had taken a dustpan and brush and scooped up some excess salt from the porch to sprinkle down where the door was stuck.

This morning I spent a long time salting, chipping and shoveling to create a path free of ice. I know several people who suffered mobility issues (one a fractured hip) after falls and I do not want to become one myself. On the other hand, I have a feeling I will pay the price with a stiff back tomorrow!

Getting around on foot is very tricky in general, as many property owners have not cleaned their sidewalks and the slippery ice is like cement now where it is packed down.

My destination Monday is Municipal Court, where the City Council will hold the rescheduled Feb. 3 agenda-fixing session along with the Feb. 10 regular meeting, starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday it's the PMUA annual reorganization, 6 p.m. at 127 Roosevelt Ave.

--Bernice

CDBG - Running Late? Who's in Charge?

Plainfield's major goal in the 2010 Census was to attain a count exceeding 50,000 residents, because then the city could receive federal funds for housing and social services directly instead of having the money funneled through Union County. The goal wasn't met, and so the annual Community Development Block Grant process still goes on.

The lead agency for many years has been the Office of Community Development, within the Department of Public Works & Urban Development. Through the McWilliams and Robinson-Briggs administrations, it was the responsibility of Al Restaino, even after he was named director of Administration, Finance, Health & Social Services in 2010.

For a complete overview of the Union County CDBG program, click here. The process is spread out over many months, starting with applications becoming available in September. A committee representing various agencies within each community reviews and ranks applications for social services, public facilities, public improvements,housing and administration of the program itself.

The requests are supposed to go to the county in December, according to the chart in the brochure linked above. At this point, in February, presentations on requests are supposed to be made to the Union County Revenue Sharing Committee for ranking, with determinations made in April and May. Approved funds come through for use from September through August of the following year.

Monday's agenda includes a resolution to submit requests totaling $2.6 million for Plainfield projects and services. Among social service requests are $90,000 for recreational and social services at the Senior Center, $71,000 for the Boys & Girls Club, $50,000 for the shelter at the YMCA and $17,000 for the New Horizons College Club. The total for social services is $445,785. There are seven requests for improvements to public facilities, including $196,449 sought by the YMCA and $202,000 for UCPC Behavioral Healthcare Inc.

The city itself seeks $450,529 for roadway improvements on West Second Street and $200,000 for better lighting at Seidler Field. In addition, there is a $110,000 request for administration of the Office of Community Development. Housing requests include $80,000 for the Elmwood Gardens demolition and funds to fix homes of low-income residents and for emergency housing needs.

So who's in charge of this important program? Nobody, right now, according to the city web site

One hopes the process is not too far off the track outlined by Union County. Plainfield does have two newly-named representatives on the Union County Revenue Sharing Committee, Councilman Cory Storch and Council President Bridget Rivers. In all, nineteen Union County municipalities are vying for Year 40 funds.

Besides assigning someone to be in charge of the Office of Community Development and making sure Plainfield's requests are heard for Year 40, the new administration has an opportunity to broaden the way requests are reviewed locally. Formerly requests were reviewed at the city level by the Citizens Advisory Committee, up to 31 representatives of  various community agencies. Even though council liaisons are named annually, there is no committee and a handful of city officials have reviewed requests in recent years. Many of the named agencies are defunct, so to revive the CAC, the ordinance would have to be overhauled to reflect current community organizations and entities that can speak to the city's actual needs.

All this may seem like one of those bureaucratic nightmares that affect cities, but until Plainfield can prove it has more than 50,000 residents, these are the steps to accessing potentially millions of dollars in federal funds . The situation deserves a close look and whatever action is needed to put the city in the best position to compete for these funds.

--Bernice


Friday, February 7, 2014

Mapp to Salavarrieta: Cease and Desist

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp cited "numerous complaints" from Latinos about controversial ID cards in explaining the city's cease-and-desist order to activist Carmen Salavarrieta.

Salavarrieta received support from former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs for the cards issued through Angels for Action, Salavarrieta's organization, but Mapp has objected to the program since its inception. He took action after a group of Latinos told him they felt exploited and feared retaliation from Salavarrieta.

"They were concerned that the documents they provided to the individual could be used in an inappropriate manner and they requested the City's assistance in retrieving their documents." Mapp told Plaintalker. "They also want the money they paid for the useless piece of paper returned to them."

Mapp said the $10 card "is not an ID that is accepted by banks and other financial institutions, the police, or by most businesses." He said it was touted as being sponsored by the city and the Plainfield Police Division while it is not, and the city seal was being "used inappropriately" in connection with the ID cards.

After the group expressed fear of retaliation and sought his help in retrieving their documents, Mapp said he assured them the Police Division would "take appropriate steps" to protect them from retaliation.

According to published reports, Salavarrieta's group is selling the cards out of a building at 209 East Second Street in the PNC Bank parking lot.

Salavarrieta told Courier News reporter Sergio Bichao this week that Mapp and Police Director Carl Riley had asked her to "stop advertising the cards as city-endorsed."

--Bernice

PMUA Adding a New Customer, Reorganizing

The Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority expects to ratify another outside contract Tuesday, this time with North Plainfield for "bulky waste," such as household castoffs.

The new contract expands a roster that includes several others for acceptance of vegetative waste at the Rock Avenue transfer station. The outside contracts fulfill the authority's longtime goal of bringing in revenue above what it gets from providing solid waste and sewer services to Plainfield residents.

The meeting, at 6 p.m. on Feb. 11 at 127 Roosevelt Avenue, also includes the annual reorganization at which the board of commissioners will elect a chairman and other officers for 2014. To see the agenda, click here.

The meeting will include passage of the solid waste and sewer budgets as well. At the Jan. 15 meeting, Executive Director Dan Williamson said rates for the first quarter of 2014 will stay the same as those for the last quarter of 2013. Any subsequent increase or decrease will depend on revenues generated, he said.

In January, the commissioners agreed to hire attorneys at $190 per hour to represent themselves in a lawsuit. See details here.

The nature of the litigation was not described, but since then Courier News reporter Sergio Bichao filed a story revealing that former Chief Financial Officer James Perry is suing the commissioners over contractual matters and alleged racial discrimination. Perry, who is white, was offered a 9 percent reduction in his salary even as PMUA commissioners gave two other executives a $725,000 settlement, with Commissioner Cecil Sanders referring to them as family men who "happen to be African-Americans."

Also since January the City Council voted approval for Commissioner Carol Ann Brokaw, a holdover, to succeed herself for a term ending Feb. 1, 2017. The council rejected four other nominees, but the name of one, Charles Tyndale, was brought back and will be up for a vote Monday for a term ending on Feb. 1, 2017, replacing Commissioner Alex Toliver. Commissioner Malcolm Dunn's term expired Feb. 1 and now he is a holdover.

--Bernice

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Storm Images

Overloaded evergreens, as seen through my porch window on Tuesday. (Click to enlarge any image.)
Snow plows on East Seventh Street got the road clean as a whistle, but spewed slush across the sidewalk.
Scott Drugs employee clean up the slush. In 22 years on this block, I never saw plows throw so much snow and ice on the sidewalk.
This scrap of ice resembles one of our summer Swallowtails.
Our Forsythia bush has about a dozen Praying Mantis egg cases stuck on its branches.
I marked each one with a scrap of yarn. The mantises will hatch in late April or early May.
Every branch of the mammoth Oak tree in front of our building has hundreds of icicles.

Wishing everyone a safe day. Stay warm, dry and upright on the ice!

--Bernice

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

PMUA Nominee Proposed, Reorg Next Week

Last month Mayor Adrian O. Mapp nominated four new commissioners for the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, but the City Council rejected all of them. At this month's regular meeting on Feb. 10, the mayor is seeking confirmation of just one proposed commissioner from the list, Charles Tyndale.

Tyndale is nominated to replace holdover Commissioner Alex Toliver, for a term expiring Feb. 1, 2017. This was one of the terms that former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs wanted to use to lengthen the tenure of Malcolm Dunn and Cecil Sanders. She wanted to shift Dunn from a term that just expired on Feb.1 of this year and tried to move Sanders from a term that expires on Feb. 1, 2015. On Jan. 27, the council did approve one nomination, for Carol Ann Brokaw to succeed herself for a term ending Feb. 1 2017.

If Tyndale's appointment goes through, it would secure the other longest term on the board.

Here is SRB's failed plan:

current
Term
proposed
Alex Toliver (holdover)
2017
Malcolm Dunn
Carol Ann Brokaw (holdover)
2017
Cecil Sanders
Harold Mitchell (holdover)
2016
Barbara James
Cecil Sanders
2015
Carol Ann Brokaw
Malcolm Dunn
2014
Alex Toliver
Charles Eke
Alt 1 2015
Charles Eke
vacant
Alt 2 2015
Jeffrey R. Burke

The PMUA board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m.on Feb. 11 at 127 Roosevelt Avenue to reorganize. Sanders, who joined the board as an alternate in November 2011 and became a full commissioner succeeding Tracey Brown in January 2013, is the current chairman. Depending what happens at next Monday's council meeting, Toliver, the current vice-chairperson, could be off the board. Dunn, the current treasurer, will stay on the board as a holdover. Brokaw is the current secretary.

Here are posts on the 2012 Reorganization and 2013 Reorganization. The PMUA has gone through a lot of changes and maybe Feb. 11 will bring about more.

Meanwhile, it was interesting just now to come across a memo from Executive Director Dan Williamson on the PMUA web site. Williamson seeks to set the record straight on a recently announced wage freeze. This memo is part of a move to encourage the public to go directly to the web site for PMUA information rather than hearing things from bloggers and their ilk. The web site is at pmua.info

--Bernice

Monday, February 3, 2014

Weather Tales


For several years when I was a reporter, a newsroom task was to call Plainfield Weather Observer Vivian Scherer and get the daily weather report. I was thinking of her today after checking the state climatology reports for snowfall.

To see a photo of Vivian Scherer being honored for her service, click here and scroll down to page 8. Plainfield no longer has a volunteer weather observer.

You can see the state snowfall report for 2013-14 (so far) here.

It was always a pleasure to call State Climatologist Dave Robinson for an explanation of unusual weather. He gave "good quote" and made many a reporter's life easier when doing weather stories. The worst parts were "Town by Town" roundups, in which we had to track down a busy Public Works guy to state the obvious, and being sent out in blizzards and hurricanes to get comments. We probably had it easier than the mobile journalists ("mo-jos") of today who have to get weather copy plus photos and video, then file digitally.

Once I rode through snow-clogged city streets in a military Humvee, not the wedding-limo version that came out later. The Humvee climbed over snowbanks easily and its might dazzled residents who were out surveying the aftermath of the storm. That was worth all the dopey weather assignments.
Today's conditions will mean the dense, wet snow will become thick ice wherever it is compressed by foot or vehicular traffic. I have a feeling it will be with us for a long time, based on what I saw on a walk to Twin City supermarket. Be careful, everybody!

--Bernice






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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Commentary on TV Board Revival


The agenda for Monday's City Council meeting includes the proposed appointment of nine people to the Plainfield Cable Television Advisory Board, an important item now that the city's franchise with Comcast of the Plainfields is up for renewal.

The board is supposed to have 13 members in six categories, but all seats are currently vacant. The resolution before the council names Finance Director Ron West as the mayoral designee and Lamar David Mackson as the representative city official. Mackson, formerly chairman of the board, was hired in 2013 as managing director of the city's Media Division.

Plainfield Public Library Director Joseph DaRold is nominated to represent the library on the board. The roster allows for a Board of Education representative and three council members, though none are named in the resolution. In the citizen category, nominees are Timothy Thompson, Teron Dow, Jan Massey and John Jewczyn, with Carmencita Pile and Richard Lear as alternates.

In 2009, Mackson as chairman of the PCTVAB outlined an ambitious program for revitalization of the board. By degrees, the board went fallow and Mackson focused more and more on production aspects.

I am going out on a limb here and stating my objections to having Mackson in both a managerial capacity and an advisory capacity. Feel free to holler at me. First, Mackson made a strong commitment to revive the advisory board and followed through, up to a point where he began to blend professional opportunities with oversight. As I recall, I made my views known to him as the shift began.

In giving his credentials, Mackson lists both the city title he acquired in May 2013 along with his ongoing position as president and CEO of  his own company, Nonstop Entertainment Group, Inc. By coincidence, three members of the past PCTVAB board he put together are officials in the company with titles such as VP of sales and marketing, senior producer and senior event consultant and VP.

I realize Plainfield often functions like a small town when it comes to alliances that blend personal and professional ties, but even Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's Transition Team found cause for concern about the blurring of boundaries in the PCTV sphere. A municipality has certain checks and balances as well as arms-length rules for its employees and officials which must be taken into account.

Mackson may well be the most qualified city official to represent the city on the PCTVAB. He might just need a sit-down with the city administrator or corporation counsel to talk about parameters.

--Bernice

Up on the Roof

While waiting for a train to make my escape to Westfield Saturday, I noticed workers putting a new roof on the old Mirons warehouse.

After many weeks of inactivity, work has resumed in earnest at the site, which Frank Cretella's firm is renovating for commercial and residential use.The building was dubbed "Luxury Condos" by a previous developer. Cretella is using the name "Gavett Place Properties LLC" for the site and has approvals from 2010 to renovate the building for commercial space on the first floor and 12 apartments on the upper three floors.

It was such a thrill to be able to walk around comfortably after the polar vortex. Getting an update on a Cretella project was a plus.

--Bernice

Celebrate!

Today is:
The Pagan holiday Imbolc

The Christian holiday Candlemas

Groundhog Day

Super Bowl XLVIII
(Go Seahawks!)