Monday, February 29, 2016

Nine Seek Three School Board Seats



School Board Election 2016 - April 19

Nine candidates met the filing deadline today to run for election to the Plainfield school board. They include two incumbents, two former board members, a previous candidate and four first-time candidates.

The filing deadline was 4 p.m., but before 9 a.m. Plainfield View author and school board member David Rutherford had introduced his readers to candidate James Plummer, who is joining incumbents Wilma Campbell and Frederick Moore Sr. on a slate. Campbell, currently the board president, is seeking her fifth three-year term. Moore won an unexpired term in 2012 and a full term in 2013.

Former board member Jackie Coley ran successfully in 2012, but lost a 2015 bid for re-election. Dorien Hurtt won in 2011, but not in 2014.

Carmencita Pile previously ran in 2010 for an unexpired term.

The four new names include Plummer, Lynn B. Anderson, Alice F. Horton-Mays and Rev. Valeria Yancey.

Update: Mayor Adrian O. Mapp says he will be supporting Lynn Anderson, Dorien Hurtt and Carmencita Pile as a slate.

The Plainfield League of Women Voters has already set April 13 for a school board candidates' forum, 6:30 p.m. in the Anne Louise Davis Room of the Plainfield Public Library, 800 Park Ave.

The election is the first one in April after four years of November voting in conjunction with the general election. In 2012, the City Council voted to move the school board contest from April to November and on Nov. 10 last year, the Board of Education moved it back to April. 

One of the arguments for reverting to April was that residents would have a say on the school budget, which was passed by the board in April even after the election change to November. Click to see Plaintalker's commentary on the school budget.

--Bernice

Possible Council Vacancy Fuels Speculation


Councilwoman Rebecca Williams
I guess it's sort of flattering in a way that the first thing some folks thought when hearing Rebecca Williams has the Democratic party line for the citywide at-large council seat is that Mayor Mapp might benefit by gaining an extra vote for his initiatives.

Flattering, because it is only February. Those gnashing their teeth are jumping ahead to December, when as chairman of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee, Mapp would have to offer three names to the council for the vacancy in the Second and Third Ward seat. The handwringers apparently anticipate Williams winning the June primary and the November general election for the citywide seat, kind of a slap to the incumbent, who is seeking re-election.

Williams does have a formidable track record in campaigning. Maybe that's why her name was no sooner uttered as the party's choice than the fretting began. Why, Mapp would be able to count to ... how many?

Perhaps the two-fer ploy is just a reflection of the teachings of Councilwoman Gloria Taylor on "pragmatic politics," meaning a mayor needs to be able to "count to four" out of seven possible council votes to get anything accomplished. Gaining a council seat and filling the vacated one by appointment (with council consent) would surely help the administration

Mapp had to count to 48 last June to win the chairmanship of the 68-member city committee. On Saturday, in his first chance to have a say on the line for the June primary, he basically accepted the findings of a seven-member screening committee, with the consensus of the membership.

"This is the way  I think we ought to conduct things, to involve as many people as possible. A lot of times we are not used to seeing that, in so many levels of government," he said.

Apparently not, because some commenters see a cabal or conspiracy instead of what Mapp described as "transparency and involvement of people." Never mind that the previous chairman chose candidates for the line by fiat.

If in fact there is a council vacancy to be filled, one hopes Mapp will do better than the previous chairman, who once notoriously offered three names from the same family - mom, dad and junior.

Those who think this is an unprecedented situation must have forgotten vacancies that arose when a council member resigned or became a county freeholder (Linda Carter, Rayland Van Blake). It happens, and then the vacancy is filled and life goes on.

--Bernice

Saturday, February 27, 2016

McRae, Williams Are Party's Choice for Primary.

Two veteran campaigners emerged from a rigorous screening process to become the Plainfield Democratic City Committee's choice for the line in the June primary.
Charles McRae
At a meeting Saturday in DuCret School of Art, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp in his role as PDCC chairman accepted the screening committee's recommendation of Charles McRae for the Third Ward City Council seat. McRae previously ran for the Third Ward seat in 2014 and chaired the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee. 
Councilwoman Rebecca Williams
Rebecca Williams, currently representing the Second and Third wards at-large, was named the party's choice to run for the Citywide at-large seat on June 7. Williams managed numerous Plainfield political campaigns previously, including Freeholder Linda Carter's original City Council campaign. In campaigning for candidates in all four wards over the years, Williams said she walked the streets of the entire city several times. She said she was excited to be on the Democratic Party line with Carter this year.
Joylette Mills-Ransome
As explained by screening committee leader Joylette Mills-Ransome, the seven-member committee sifted 40 possible questions for relevancy, each member choosing the top eight reflecting qualities desired in a candidate. Two more were added, ability to campaign and willingness to explain a vote when abstaining or voting no. Mills-Ransome said the committee screened potential candidates in two sessions before coming up with recommendations to Mapp at Saturday's meeting. The PDCC concurred with Mapp's acceptance of the recommendations and applauded the nominees.

The screening committee was a subset of the PDCC, with two members each from Wards 1, 2 and 3 and one from Ward 4.

The filing date for the June 7 primary is April 4. Incumbent Citywide at-large Councilwoman Tracey Brown began campaigning and fundraising in December with numerous social media posts, but no one has gone public for the Third Ward seat as yet. Alma Blanco announced this afternoon she is running for Third Ward with Tracey Brown.
The primary winners will go on the Nov. 8. ballot, along with any Republican and independent filers.

--Bernice

Friday, February 26, 2016

Some History on the Basement Condo


I'm told city officials are now looking into the situation alluded to in Alma Blanco's blog.

Meanwhile, here is a 2010 Plaintalker II post that provides some background.

The disputed condo fees and other costs associated with the Senior Center at 400 East Front Street were supposed to be resolved through arbitration by former Corporation Counsel Anita Sias-Hill, as noted in this post from September 2014. To our knowledge, no settlement has been reached and meanwhile the building has changed hands. Sias-Hill was removed by Mayor Adrian O. Mapp in July 2015 and David Minchello was approved to replace her.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Marjorie Patterson Passes


Image result for marjorie patterson images
Marjorie Patterson
Another iconic Plainfielder has passed.

Here is some of her background as gathered by the Plainfield Public Library, where she donated her personal papers in 2011:

Marjorie Patterson worked at the Plainfield Area YMCA from 1947 until her retirement in 1987. She dedicated her life to helping the youth and underprivileged community of Plainfield.  Her first years with the YMCA were spent as a program aide at the Moorland Branch - known as the “Black Y”. She spent many lunch hours “sitting in” at restaurants where blacks were refused service. She often met the director of the local NAACP branch for lunch (or lack of it). Because the Moorland Y had to raise its own money, she became an extraordinary fundraiser. As quoted in a newspaper interview, Marjorie said. “we had two bowling alleys, and when money was needed, we’d organize a tournament. We had suppers and dinners…everybody helped out.” She was called the “Pied Piper of Teenagers” when she led forums and training for young people. The Royal Banquets of the Hi-Y and Tri-Hi-Y Council for area youth that she helped to organize became an annual tradition in which teenagers from seven local communities were recognized for leadership.

Marjorie Patterson served the YMCA in leadership roles on numerous regional boards, the national council and several task forces.  She directed day camping for two years, worked with young adult, junior high school and grade school groups. She directed the teenage program for ten years.  In 1966, Marge was chosen as one of the 21 American leaders to give guidance to an international YMCA teenage conference in Norway.  In 1968, she was promoted to Youth Executive of the Association.  She was instrumental in forming the Women’s Auxiliary, Moorland Players, Youth and Youth Adult Clubs, Semper Fidelis, and Mixmasters.

There will be a viewing from 5 to 6 p.m. Friday at Rose of Sharon Community Church, 825 W. 7th St., with services at 6 p.m.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Monday is Filing Date for School Board Election

On Monday, school board candidates must file for the first April election since 2012.

The last four elections took place in November after the Plainfield City Council voted over board members' objections in February 2012 to change from April. Either entity could vote to revert to April after four years, and just a week after the November 2015 election, the school board did so in a "walk-on" vote at a work-and-study session.

From Nov. 10 minutes posted in January:
IV. REMARKS FROM THE BOARD PRESIDENT 
Mrs. Campbell stated that as a Board they had an option to change the Board Elections to April after four years of having November elections. She questioned whether the process had become too political. It was supposed to be separate and apart from partisan elections and people were confused in thinking that when they voted for a particular board candidate they were voting a party line. She stated a resolution had been prepared to change the election back to the third Tuesday in April and then read the resolution out loud.
Mr. John Campbell stated that he believed education was too important to mingle in politics. The motion to move the election was carried by a 7-1 vote. Mrs. Campbell moved and seconded by Mr. Moore to move the election to April. The motion passed on a roll-call vote with seven members in favor and one opposed.

(The John Campbell mentioned in the minutes is the husband of board president Wilma Campbell. After being appointed to the board in April 2015, he won a full three-year term in the Nov. 3 election.)

Wilma Campbell is expected to run for re-election and, given a track record of being the top vote-getter in at least her last three elections, she is likely to win a fourth term on April 19. I do not have figures for the 2004 election, but she garnered 766 votes in 2007, 1,455 in 2010 and 2,500 in 2013.

The decision to revert to April bucks a trend. In 2013, according to New Jersey School Boards Association figures, 501 districts held elections in November and 41 in April. By 2015, 521 districts held November elections and only 17 still held April elections.

In Plainfield, holding a separate school board in April is expected to cost $115,000.

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp sought to overturn the board's action, but Mapp did not get consensus to move the resolution to the January agenda.

The 2016 school board election will take place on April 19 and candidates must file by 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 29.

--Bernice

Monday, February 22, 2016

For Dr. Yood

happy-birthday-wishes-3

Happy 96th Birthday, Dr. Yood!

Just the Facts, Ma'am

So this afternoon I was just drinking coffee and perusing Facebook posts when I came across a blog post so full of inaccuracies and hair-on-fire fear-mongering that I decided I had to respond with some facts.

The writer apparently did not check with anyone before tossing out this load of stuff. One target is Horizons at Plainfield, for which the writer could have checked with Regan Development Corporation regarding the so-called "basement apartments." The other target is the City of Plainfield, and officials in Inspections (908 753-3386) could have answered the general questions about renters, such as "So if there is a fire, how would a tenant escape?" All apartments must have a second means of egress, that is, another way out in case of fire or other emergencies.Illegal uses may be reported anonymously at the number above.

As for the deteriorating masonry being unsafe for tenants, there are no tenants in the basement.City officials might be interested in how the photos in the blog post came to be taken. Was someone trespassing?

The answer to "Whatever happened to the planned senior center?" Seniors did not want to be in the basement. It was a failed scheme from the beginning for the city to accept the space as a condo, and to use a large grant to fix it up for an unknown use.

As for other uses, the Robinson-Briggs administration made plans for the space which never came to fruition. One issue was the lack of separate entrances and exits to the city-owned portion of the building.

Perhaps the most troubling part of this post is the missed opportunity to offer help. Tenants' rights will become increasingly important as hundreds of new apartments are created. Tenants need to know both their rights and responsibilities. The Department of Community Affairs used to publish the "Truth in Renting" booklet in English and Spanish, but the last time I tried to buy copies I was informed that it is now only online. See the Spanish version here.

The Plainfield Municipal Code also has good information for tenants, such as the heating requirements. Some landlords play a cat-and-mouse game with tenants, turning heat off on weekends to save money and hoping tenants don't know the heating rules.

For all the uproar over blogs, surely a new blogger should aspire to high standards of accuracy, especially if one of the goals is to be of service to the community. I'm looking forward to a step up for this blog.

--Bernice

Does Plainfield Need Micro Apartments?

Planning Board approval of 30 small apartments in the YMCA will benefit young people aging out of foster care, but are there other populations in Plainfield that need compact places to live?

Census statistics show that among the city's more than 15,000 households, 21.3 percent consist of individuals living alone. The percentage happens to match the proportion of residents living below the poverty level, though it may not be an exact correlation. Nonetheless, any observer of the community can attest to the need of housing for seniors, parolees, single persons and those who are currently homeless.

Real estate leader RE/MAX called "micro apartments" a hot trend in 2014 for young professionals who tend to store their books and music digitally and prefer urban living with access to restaurants, shops and entertainment, but other categories of singles live lightly, such as seniors who embrace downsizing.

The city currently allows studio or efficiency apartments at 500 square feet, which is the size of a micro apartment in the RE/MAX article. The YMCA apartments range from 369 to 550 square feet.

Rent for a new 1-bedroom apartment may be as much as $1,300, not easy for retirees to swing when the average Social Security benefit in January 2016 was $1,341. A person earning the state minimum wage of $8.38 per hour would only gross $1,340.80 for four 40-hour work weeks, another tough situation.

Being able to choose a micro apartment might cut down on the number of illegal occupancies and lend some dignity to individuals who are now exploited by avaricious "landlords" in shared housing.

The preferred tenant for new apartments may be the "walking wallet" type, but there are plenty of people already here whose wallets are thin. In his recent State of the City, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said, "We are committed in 2016 to expanding and promoting opportunities for all Plainfield residents in the fields of nutrition, housing, health, income stabilization, criminal justice and improved community life."

Within the spectrum of housing choices, is there a place for micro apartments?

--Bernice

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Condolences on Passing of Marjorie Hollis

Condolences to Councilwoman Bridget Rivers and family on the passing of her mother, Marjorie Hollis.

See obituary and funeral details here.

Faulty Notice Causes Delay for Church Hearing

Congregants filled City Hall Library Thursday for a Planning Board hearing on a church site, but issues with a legal notice cut it short.

The church, Ministerio Internacional Puerta Del Cielo, is seeking use of a building on Roosevelt Avenue. The hearing notice had only a partial address for the site and attorney Michele Donato told the board, "You could hear it at your own risk."

Board Chairman Ron Scott Bey said a list of waivers could be dealt with Thursday, but the rest of the application will have to be heard in March after an amended notice is published.

According to documents on file in the Planning Division, the church has about 70 members. It appeared that most of them were on hand Thursday, straining the 50-person capacity of the room. Attorney David Pressler no sooner introduced his witnesses (architect Robert Hernandez, planner Andrew K. Wu, church member William Ramos) than board member Gordon Fuller questioned the address in the notice, 407-409 Roosevelt Avenue.

Donato said she had reviewed the notice but not the address, which was listed in the application as 401-409 Roosevelt Avenue.

"You have to have the right street address," Donato said, noting it is one of the mandates of the Municipal Land Use Law..

A discussion ensued, in which Planning Director Bill Nierstedt said the address 401-409 Roosevelt, as per tax records, was correct. The notice apparently omitted 401, 403 and 405 Roosevelt Avenue. The property, Block 606, lot 50, also fronts on the 300 block of East Fourth Street.

Donato said the board could proceed at its own risk, but the outcome could be invalidated if challenged in the future.

Applicants are required to give notice to all property owners within 200 feet, and in answer to board member Siddeeq El-Amin, Donato said she believed that notice was properly given.

As per Chairman Ron Scott Bey, the board went over a long list of waivers sought by the church, but put off the actual hearing and testimony until March. Pressler said he thought he could get the amended notice published by Monday, in which case the board could hear the application at its March 3 meeting. Otherwise, the next possible hearing date would be March 17.

The site includes the former Stan's Auto Parts and a gravel parking lot. According to paperwork in the Planning Division, the board would require numerous improvements, including new curbs and repair of the parking lot. The site's owners are listed as the Silver Family LLC of Wickatunk, New Jersey.

One item on the waiver list brought a sharp reaction from Scott Bey. Pressler said the church planned to have a congregant remove any trash or recyclables from the site, but Scott Bey said individuals cannot remove refuse and the church must have a hauler.

--Bernice

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Norman Joins the Fashion Police



Norman Ortega nearly sent me to the fainting couch with this zinger:

And Bernice, well, she does a good job reporting on city matters, but when it comes to Latinos, she admits to shopping in Westfield. Apparently, downtown Latino and Afro businesses are not good enough for her.

After I finished clutching my pearls, I realized that I have transgressed even further by ... dare I say it? Shopping online!

Is there nothing I will stop at to avoid shopping in downtown Plainfield at Latino and Afro businesses? I expect an army of shopkeepers at my door wielding flaming torches - or at least some wet noodles.

How have I lived here since 1983 without realizing it is mandatory to buy my shoes and clothing downtown? I suppose my purchases at Macy's before it closed were also wrong, wrong, wrong, because ethnicity.
Off The Shoulder Crop Top With Lace And FringeOff The Shoulder Crop Top With Lace And Fringe,BLACK,medium
It will be very difficult for me to give up my turtlenecks from L.L. Bean for some trendy urban wear and, truth be told, I don't think Plainfield is ready for the sight of a 77-year-old in what I see in store windows downtown. I am a down-and-fleece girl at heart, not a lace and Spandex sort. But if pledging allegiance to the Queen City means turning in my Clarks for Timberlands and doffing my chambray shirts for bustiers, let the conversion begin.

Feel free to avert your eyes.

--Bernice

Friday, February 19, 2016

Board Hears Plans for Apartments Over Nightclub


111 East Front Street, 2008
A bank-turned-nightclub may now become the downtown home of apartment dwellers on its two top floors.

Owner Edison Garcia is seeking Planning Board approvals to convert storage space on the third and fourth floors of the building at 111 East Front Street to residential use. A hearing began Thursday, but so many questions arose that it will be carried to the board's March 17 meeting.

The original plan was for two 1-bedroom apartments and one 2-bedroom apartment on each of the two upper floors, but after concerns arose over windows for bedrooms, the proposal was changed to six 1-bedroom units. The building shares walls with two adjacent structures and architect George Sincox said "light wells" would be used to brighten the interior.

Other questions included how residents would get in and out of the building, how to keep residents separate from night-clubbers, where to park and various security concerns. When Garcia and his experts return in March, the board expects to hear details about lighting plans and responses to police and fire questions on the proposal.

Among questions Garcia and his team were able to answer:
-Storage for tenants will be provided by converting space on the second floor, where there will also be trash and recycling receptacles that Garcia's staff will empty.

-Tenants can enter by the front or rear door, but may have to park in the rear and walk around the corner to enter after nightclub hours, which board member Gordon Fuller said was "not smart."

-Panels can be installed to dampen noise from the nightclub.
-Heating and cooling will be done by "Mini Split" units that hang from an interior wall.
-Each of the residential floors will have laundry rooms with coin-operated machines.
-Garcia will have to get City Council approval for encroachment on the municipal parking lot behind the building, due to the new use.

The March 17 meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

--Bernice

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fiscally Sound: RFP for July 4 Concert

I guess I am a municipal government nerd for sure, because I was excited to see a "Request for Proposals" for the 2016 Independence Day concert.

Proposals are due on March 23, in sharp contrast to past years when plans were still up in the air two weeks before July 4th.

Back in the day when there were eight or nine municipalities contributing funds and volunteer effort to organizing what was known as the Central Jersey Independence Day Celebration, it was the main event of the summer. Thousands of spectators lined the parade route, and the evening concert and fireworks were well-attended.

Over the years neighboring towns dropped both financial support and participation. At some point, the committee that met year-round to plan the event disbanded. When North Plainfield decided to hold its own parade, the city had to change the route, which formerly proceeded from Johnston Avenue and East Front Street to Front and Somerset streets, where it turned north to end at a reviewing stand in front of Somerset School. The new Plainfield route ends on Front Street between Park and Madison avenues, with a reviewing stand on the sidewalk.

After Plainfield had to go it alone, planning details became hard to get, both before and after the holiday. In 2006, the City Council rejected two concert proposals - one at a cost of $100,000 and another for $55,000, in part because they couldn't get information on the plans. Recreation Director Dave Wynn later came up with an alternative plan and there was a concert after all.

An attempt to revive the Independence Day planning committee with all Plainfield residents fell by the wayside. There is still a budget line for the event and the Mapp administration has taken a new approach to managing Recreation for the past two years.

Many people, both Plainfielders and others,  still look forward to the parade, concert and fireworks. Early planning should make it a great one in 2016.  Maybe this year I will plan ahead also, and finally order the Battenberg lace parasol I have long wanted to carry for parade-watching in the July sun. .


Here is the public notice for the RFP:
CITY OF PLAINFIELD PUBLIC NOTICE REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS
Notice is hereby given that the City of Plainfield will receive proposals on March 23, 2016, at 11:00 A.M in the Plainfield City Hall Building, 515 Watchung Avenue, Plainfield, NJ for the provision of: 2016 City of Plainfield Independence Day Concert
Proposals are being solicited through a fair and open process in accordance with N.J.S.A.19:44A-20.4. Requests for Proposals may be obtained by requesting a hard copy that may be picked up at the Office the City Purchasing, City of Plainfield Administration Building, Basement, 515 Watchung Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060 during the hours of 9:30a.m. to 4:30p.m. beginning on February 16, 2016. Proposals may be mailed upon request by emailing the Office of the City Purchasing at cindylea.weber@plainfieldnj.gov. All questions regarding the RFP must be made in writing directed to CindyLea Weber Purchasing Dept. Questions may be faxed to (908) 753-3500. All information requested in the Request for Proposals must be provided or the proposal may be disqualified. Proposals MUST BE SEALED and labeled "PROPOSALS 2016 City of Plainfield Independence Day Concert", on the outside of the envelope. Proposals must be made in the form required by the specifications with one (1) original paper copy and one (1) PDF electronic copy on Jump Drive or CD to be delivered to Cindy Lea K. Weber, Purchasing Agent, QPA, Office of the City Purchasing, City of Plainfield 515 Watchung Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060. Attention: "PROPOSALS- 2016 City of Plainfield Independence Day Concert" prior to the stated time of 11 AM on March 23, 2016 proposals. The City reserves the right to reject any and all proposals, to waive any informality in the RFP process, and to accept any proposals which, in their judgment, are most advantageous, price and other factors considered, and will best serve the interest of City of Plainfield. Proposers are required to comply with the requirements of N.J.S.A. 10:5-31 et seq. and N.J.A.C. 17:27. City of Plainfield CindyLea K. Weber 

--Bernice

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Farewell to Egenton's Garage



Someone commented on a totally unrelated post that Egenton's Garage was closing.

"I AM SO SAD," the commenter wrote.

My attempt to get someone at Egenton's to verify the closing and tell something more did not succeed, but I did see a sign on the fence saying the property was for sale.

Egenton's was part of my life for several years when I owned a Jetta. As I recall, doing business with Michael Egenton was likely to start with listening to him recite a poem. There was always a copy of the Irish Echo nearby, and the general air was philosophical. I'm sure Michael and Eddie found my jittery mistrust of cars and all things mechanical annoying, but they always helped me out. Michael was charitable and even took a test drive to assess a car I wanted to buy.

The Jetta had a habit of refusing to start on cold late nights in the Courier-News parking lot. When one of them responded the next day, it started right up, making me look even more foolish than they already thought I was.

My daughter Audrey and her husband Peter bought a sapphire blue Volkswagen bug from Egenton's and Sapphy, as they nicknamed it, lasted quite a while, thanks to the ministrations of the Egentons.

The signage on their building includes the legend, "Since 1963," and they certainly became legendary to many Plainfielders for their charming ways, as much as for their work. Many of us are so sad to see the passing of Egenton's Garage.

--Bernice

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Commentary on IDs and "The Plainfields"



Norman Ortega's latest scheme is to have Plainfield's new municipal ID program expanded to North Plainfield and South Plainfield

Never mind that these municipalities are in three different counties and that the Queen City's neighbors to the north and south have historically tried to distance themselves with new names such as Stony Brook and Hadley. Forget the small matter of staffing and costs to expand the ID program. Without any authority to do so, Ortega is attempting to broker his plan to officials in the other municipalities and anyone opposed to it, he declares, is no better than a racist or a homophobe.

This is big talk from a guy who called his run for City Council "a social experiment," as if voters were lab rats. He netted 320 votes out of a possible 9,243 in Wards 1 and 4 - not exactly a mandate from the electorate to take charge of things.

After telling the mayors what he thinks they should do, he characterizes their possible noncompliance with his plan as "ignoring our plight because we are Latinos." No, if they don't bend to Ortega's will, it is more likely that they know an ordinance passed in a city does not become law in a neighboring borough by way of a chance meeting in a car wash.

Undoubtedly I will be called an "operative" or worse for questioning Ortega's plan. I was an early target of his in November 2014. Unfortunately, his contributions to Plainfield Latino have not advanced much since then in veracity or logic, so every once in a while, I just have to comment.

--Bernice



Monday, February 15, 2016

Council Honors Officers

Councilman Barry Goode wanted me to post the resolution he introduced on Feb. 8 recognizing Detective Michael Gerard Lucky and Sgt. Johnny Henderson for their dedication to the Plainfield Police Division and their willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty.

WHEREAS, members of our Plainfield Police Division play an important role in safeguarding the rights and freedoms of citizens in our community;
and WHEREAS, the dedication from the officers who staff our Police Division is materially influenced by the attitude, perception and understanding of the important work they love and perform;
and WHEREAS, it is important to recognize those officers who go above and beyond their requirements, both on and off duty, exemplifying commitment to improve the quality of life for Plainfield residents;
and WHEREAS, Detective Michael Gerard Lucky & Sergeant Johnny Henderson have gone above and beyond the call of duty on countless occasions and have further demonstrated the ability to fulfill the diverse and numerous expectations of a Police Officer;
now, therefore BE IT RESOLVED, that in recognition of their efforts, the Plainfield City Council in the County of Union does hereby honor Detective Michael Gerard Lucky & Sergeant Johnny Henderson for their continued devotion to exemplary public service to the Plainfield Community and for setting a standard of excellence towards which others might strive;
and, be it FURTHER RESOLVED, that a duly executed copy of this resolution, unanimously adopted by the Plainfield Governing Body and attested by the Plainfield Municipal Clerk be presented to Detective Michael Gerard Lucky & Sergeant Johnny Henderson as a sincere token of this Council’s appreciation. Scheduled by the City Council February 8, 2016

Sunday, February 14, 2016

School Board to Hire Williamson, Brown

Former Plainfield Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson, who has also served as executive director of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, will be continuing to serve in his most recent role as Human Relations consultant to the Plainfield school district pending approval at Tuesday's school board business meeting.

Williamson will be paid $78.80 per hour to oversee the Human Resources Department for the period from Jan. 1 through June 30, 2016, not to exceed $70,000. He received the same hourly rate for service in the same role from Sept. 21 through Dec. 31.

Williamson was only the second executive director of the PMUA since its inception in 1995. He served three years before his contract expired in June 2015. A new majority on the PMUA board of commissioners declined to renew it.

Another item on Tuesday's agenda is a resolution to hire Tracey Brown as "Boys Varsity Assistant Basketball Coach." It does not specify whether this is Rev. Tracey Brown, the incumbent Citywide at-large councilwoman who is seeking re-election, but Rev. Brown was inducted into the Montclair State Hall of Fame in 2008 for women's basketball, so she is certainly qualified to coach. The stipend is $4,285.

The school board meeting is 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Plainfield High School auditorium. See the complete Feb. 16 business meeting agenda here. 

--Bernice

Are You Engaged?



Are you engaged? We're not talking about diamond rings here, we're talking about civic engagement.

What is that?

This excerpt from "Civic Responsibility and Higher Education," edited by Thomas Ehrlich, sums it up:

Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.

I know a lot of my readers are already doing this by serving on boards and commissions; coaching and mentoring youth; being active in block associations, historic district associations and neighborhood organizations; monitoring governmental agencies and speaking out on issues; and serving in elective office.

Those with one or more jobs and family responsibilities may not have as much discretionary time as others, but it is something to look into. Even attending a school board meeting, getting a friend to register to vote or alerting your City Council representative to a problem counts as being engaged in your city's life.

Start anywhere. The city website posts a lot of events and Plaintalker also posts reminders of meetings. So check out those schedules, find a date on your calendar when you can attend, get out a marker and put a ring on it! 

--Bernice

Happy Valentine's Day




Happy Valentine's Day
to all!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Pat Brentano Lecture Wednesday


Birds in Blue by Pat Brentano

The Plainfield Garden Club invites the public to attend its "Rescaping the Suburbs: Bring Native Planting Back to the Garden." lecture by noted artist and environmentalist Patricia Brentano Bramnick on February 17 from 10:30 to 11:30am at the Plainfield Public Library, 800 Park Ave., Plainfield.

Ms. Brentano sees an opportunity as an artist to teach busy suburbanites to stop and pay attention to one thing that can make a better world. She has said "The artist has the opportunity to teach and to inspire people to think about their yards and to think about what they are doing when they tear down trees to build big houses." PBS, NJN, State of the Arts, 2012.

Her work has been featured at museums, galleries and arboretums across the country. She was the 2011 Artist in Residence at the Evansville Museum in Indiana. Locally, she has had commissions by Reeves Reed Arboretum in Summit and The Raptor Trust in Millington among many others. In 2015, Ms. Brentano received the Richard Kane Conservation Award from NJ Audubon for her work to transform the suburbs into a migratory bird stopover.

This lecture is free and open to the public. Established in 1915, The Plainfield Garden Club's purpose is to promote the knowledge and appreciation of horticulture and the conservation of our natural resources; to stimulate an interest in public plantings in the Plainfield area and to help maintain them; to keep its members and the public informed on governmental matters which concern our natural resources; to sponsor and to participate in public shows and displays which encourage the appreciation of good horticultural practices and procedures; and to support the purpose of The Garden Club of America.

For more information on The Plainfield Garden Club please visit plainfieldgardenclub.org
For more information on Pat Brentano Bramnick please visit patbrentano.com

Friday, February 12, 2016

Council Names CBAC Members for 2016

Once again the City Council will work with a group of citizens on the annual budget. Each member named one resident to help with deliberations on the 2016 budget.

The Citizens' Budget Advisory Committee this year includes Eric Graham, named to the committee by Councilwoman Gloria Taylor; Sal Carrano, named by Councilwoman Tracey Brown; Jan Massey Thomas Crownover, named by Councilwoman Rebecca Williams; Delois Dameron, named by Councilwoman Diane Toliver; Leighton St. Patrick Williams, named by Councilman Barry Goode; Alma Blanco, named by Councilwoman Bridget Rivers; and Nathan Vaughn, named by Council President Cory Storch.

Over the years, the administration and council have taken various approaches to dealing with the annual budget process. The administration prepares the budget based on requests from the division and department heads, which may be modified. It is submitted to the council for introduction, after which it is called the council's budget, subject to changes by the governing body. The council may hold hearings with department and division heads before deciding on any cuts or changes. At times, either or both the administrative and legislative branches have hired budget consultants to assist in the budget process.

The CBAC and the consultant, if any, may report to the council and public on the budget.

Finally, there is a public hearing on the budget as amended by the council and a vote to pass it. Transfers can be made toward the end of the budget year if necessary.

At this point in 2016, the council has to make a schedule for budget deliberations. No consultants have been hired as yet. Last year, budget deliberations did not start until April and the budget was not passed until June. The city operated on temporary appropriations from January until budget passage.

Here is a post on the end of the  budget process for 2015.

And here is part of the city's special charter regarding the budget process:


5.5    The executive budget.

The mayor, with the assistance of the city administrator, shall review the various budget proposals, estimates of revenues, and related data, and shall, in the exercise of his discretion and judgment, prepare and submit to the council the budget document. The current operating expense budget and capital budget included in the budget document shall be known as the executive budget. The budget document shall be transmitted by the mayor to the council not less than 30 days prior to the last day for introduction of the budget ordinance as prescribed by the local budget law.


5.6    Action by the council.


    (a)     The council shall consider the executive budget, make available for public distribution copies of the budget document, and cause a budget ordinance to be introduced, published and hearing thereon held pursuant to the local budget law.
    (b)     The council may increase, decrease, or eliminate any item in the executive budget for current operating expenses, except that it may not increase any item unless, upon separate motion as to each increase, 2/3 of the members of the council shall vote in favor thereof.

    (c)     The council may include, exclude, increase, or decrease a capital outlay or capital project contained in the executive budget, and may add capital outlays and capital projects thereto. Any capital outlay or project not included in the executive budget shall be referred to the planning board for a report and recommendation prior to council's action thereon. The planning board shall report within 30 days and may recommend either that the project or outlay be approved or that it be disapproved or deferred. In the event that the planning board should recommend that the project or outlay be disapproved or deferred, such project or outlay shall not be included in the budget adopted by the council except upon a favorable vote of 2/3 of the members of the council, upon separate motion as to each project or outlay. If the planning board should fail to report within 30 days, it shall be deemed to recommend approval. The requirements of this section shall be in addition to any imposed by the Municipal Planning Act (1953) and the local budget law.

--Bernice

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Is BOE Acquiring the Former Swing School?

Update: A spokesperson for the Schools Development Authority told me today the building was transferred to the district in November and it was always the intention of the authority to turn it over to the district for school use.

Trying to track down a rumor that the school district will be getting the building at 1700 West Front Street for one dollar! It made me look up an old blog post on school facilities, which states the Schools Construction Authority purchased the former office building for $6 million and spent $19 million renovating it. The building was meant to serve as a "swing school" for student populations displaced while schools were remodeled or new ones constructed..

From the 2010 post:
The first swing school occupants were Clinton School, while $16,941,299 in renovations took place at the original site.Emerson School students relocated there while a new community school was built at a cost of $36,033,893. Both student populations have since moved into their new or improved locations.
Emerson School, 2008
The SCC got into difficulty with its budget and after an investigation was replaced by a new entity, the Schools Development Authority. The idea was to put the "swing school" building back on the tax rolls once all the construction was complete

Jefferson School was the last school to relocate to the swing school, but by that time their old school had become the administration building, so there was no new school to reoccupy. Others in line were Woodland and Cook, both of which have been on the SDA active projects list for some time. .

If the school board does acquire the building for $1, it would certainly be a bargain, but would preclude a  return to the tax rolls.

Here is the complete "School Facilities Recap" post, which also mentions the wished-for new middle school that never materialized.

Meanwhile, if anybody has more information on the status of 1700 West Front Street, let us know!

--Bernice

Robinson Is 2016 PMUA Chairman

L-R: Commissioners Jacinth Clayton-Hunt, Henry V. Robinson, Michelle Graham-Lyons

Henry V. Robinson was elected chairman of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority Tuesday at the board of commissioners' annual reorganization. Robinson was a 31-year veteran of the Plainfield Fire Division, retiring as a battalion chief, when he was appointed to the board in 2014.

Other officers for 2016 are Michelle Graham-Lyons as vice-chair, Carol Brokaw as treasurer and Jacinth Clayton-Hunt as secretary.

In a report on the "blizzard of 2016," Executive Director Daniel Mejias said the transfer station was operating by the Tuesday after the Jan. 23 storm, despite eight-foot snowdrifts. Trash pickup resumed by the following Thursday, so residents missed only one pickup, providing containers were accessible. The authority deployed inspectors to check on high-volume users with large containers. The PMUA also worked with the city to dump snow removed from streets, he said, as a result of joint emergency planning by all Plainfield agencies.

The authority is still not able to accept electronic waste at the transfer station and continues to advise residents to see whether retailers will accept old televisions and such when new ones are purchased. Mejias said the PMUA hopes to avoid having to charge residents for disposal of electronic waste.

(More later on the PMUA reorganization.)

--Bernice

Council Passes ID Card, Endorses Paid Sick Leave

A capacity crowd at Monday's City Council meeting

Two controversial pieces of legislation won City Council approval Monday, though not without many comments on the pros and cons before and after the votes. A large crowd, mostly Latinos, gave the City Council a standing ovation for approving creation of a municipal ID card, but merchants were still at loggerheads with advocates of paid sick leave after the governing body gave it initial approval.

The Plainfield municipal ID card required a public hearing before passage on second reading. Backers of an existing ID program started by the Latino group Angels in Action raised numerous objections to the city plan, including speculation such as what if someone tried to use an expired visa as proof of identity. But they were outnumbered by supporters of the city ID, including officers of the Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs, the chairman of El Centro Hispanoamericano and some pastors. The dispute echoed a longstanding split between Latina activists Carmen Salavarrieta and Flor Gonzalez over who truly represents the community.

Salavarrieta, head of Angels for Action, said the city was supposed to seek her advice on setting up an ID program, but never did. Gonzalez, the president of PACHA and the Latin American Coalition, read a prepared statement on the need for a card and said "We are ready with all our forces," adding that sixty people are already waiting for the city ID and that it had the backing of churches, businesses and some banks.

Before voting, the council asked Corporation Counsel David Minchello to respond to some of the allegations, such as one that the phrase "one or more" documents required for the city ID left an opening for someone to harass an applicant by demanding five, if they didn't like the applicant. Minchello said one would suffice.

Several speakers against the city ID raised the issue of trust in authority, saying many Latinos have experienced harsh governmental treatment in their homelands, so would not likely go to City Hall for an ID. In another trust issue, one speaker said, "You have to have the complexion for the connection."

The council members took a five-minute break before voting in order to read the ordinance.

In remarks before the vote, Councilwoman Rebecca Williams said the city ID would he helpful not only to undocumented persons, but also the homeless and young people who need an ID card.

"Everyone needs an ID," Councilwoman Diane Toliver said.

Toliver said she wanted to make it clear that the council supported the ID card from its inception. She suggested Angels for Action could help convince people to get the city ID cards.

The vote was 6-0, with Storch, Williams, Toliver, Tracey Brown, Barry Goode and Bridget Rivers saying "yes." Gloria Taylor was absent.

The paid sick leave ordinance had sides more sharply drawn. Special Improvement District President Nimrod Webb told the council, "We came up with an alternate proposal - you all ignored it."

David Biagini of FirsTEAManagement said a survey of 53 business owners showed that 93 percent felt paid sick leave would affect them, and statewide only 11 of 567 municipalities approved it. He called it "not a well -thought-out law" that was facing challenges even where it had been adopted.

Business owner Lenin Aguirre asked for further meetings on the law, saying "It's almost as if we're being told, not asked."

He said the law will "knock out Spanish businesses" and said Plainfield is "not a business-friendly town."

Supporters, including NJ Working Families and church leaders stressed the public health aspect of people going to work sick and possibly passing illness to co-workers and the public, but Plainfield Chamber of Commerce President Jeffery Dunn assailed that argument as a smokescreen.

"This is a union issue," he said after the vote for passage on first reading. "Unions are doing it for their own recruitment."

Brown, Goode, Rivers, Williams and Storch voted "yes" for the paid sick leave ordinance and Toliver abstained.

Rivers called developer Patrick Terborg out of the audience to ask whether he would be opposed to the law. Terborg's firm and another received approvals for financial breaks Monday related to development of a five-acre city-owned site in the West End.

Terborg said both firms have sick leave policies, as do most large contractors.

"I'm not against the sick leave," he said. "I think it's a great idea."

Terborg said communicable diseases "make everybody sick."

The paid sick leave ordinance will be up for a public hearing and final passage on March 14 and if passed will not take effect for another 120 days, to allow for business owners to be informed of their obligations under the law.

--Bernice

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

See `Dan Post

Blogging will be really delayed.

Meanwhile, I will turn the tables
by aggregating
for a change.

Posting Later

Blogging will be delayed

Monday, February 8, 2016

Council to Vote on Paid Sick Leave Ordinance

A paid sick leave ordinance is on tonight's City Council agenda, but may encounter opposition from merchants as it did last year.

The paid sick leave ordinance failed last April, lacking a fourth vote needed for passage. In September, it was tabled indefinitely as more controversy arose.

Advocates who spoke at the Feb. 1 agenda-fixing session said since then, the concerns of merchants have been addressed, such as by a $2000 proposed fine for noncompliance being reduced the $750. But also on Feb. 1, Councilwoman Gloria Taylor said a compromise meeting with Special Improvement District officials was never held, and a counter proposal from the business association received no response from the city.

On Feb. 1, a small group of advocates of the paid sick leave plan attended the council meeting, but no merchants were present. Despite the reservations raised by Taylor, who is the governing body's liaison to the SID, all seven members agreed to put it up for a vote on first reading tonight.

Among details of the paid sick leave plan endorsed by NJ Working Families, workers could earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employers with more than 10 employees would not have to pay more than 40 hours a year, with a 24-hour cap for those employing fewer than 10. The hours accrued could be used for the employee's illness or to take care of sick relatives. The ordinance runs to eight pages, so not all aspects can be summarized here.

Plaintalker received a copy of the one-page SID proposal, dated October 15, 2015. Its two programs are the "Paid Time Off" Incentive Program and the "Pro-Active Property Owner" Incentive Program. The former, dubbed PTO, would rely on $50,000 in Urban Enterprise Zone funding to start a program, accommodating an estimated 250 businesses. The proposal states there are 1,000 businesses in Plainfield, with 550 being part of the SID. The PTO program would give employers a 50 percent reimbursement for every $1 expended on paid time off, among other provisions.

The latter, called PAPO, would give tax credits or breaks to merchants who attend city/SID seminars on topics such as landlord-tenant relations in city business districts. The proposal also suggests use of signs to identify participants.

By contrast, all employers except federal, state and local agencies would be affected by the proposed ordinance.

The Urban Enterprise Zone program began here in 1985, but the state turned fund balances back to municipalities in 2011. Some aspects of the program, such as tax credits for job creation, still apply. The SID budget is largely composed of a surtax imposed on businesses in the SID districts. It is unclear whether the city could allocate $50,000 a year in UEZ funds for the PTO proposal.

Tonight's City Council meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

--Bernice

Happy Lunar New Year

Happy Lunar New Year
to all our friends and neighbors
who are celebrating 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

"In Need" Study Sought for North Avenue Site

click to enlarge
With City Council approval Monday, a large swath of land north of the Raritan Valley Line and between Leland Avenue and Berckman Street will be investigated to see whether it is in need of redevelopment.

On the Google satellite image above, the Netherwood train station is marked in blue. The target blocks are rather shakily outlined in orange by me. The North Avenue side contains the blocks that will be examined for possible future commercial use. There is also a lot fronting on Johnston Avenue of North Avenue that will be investigated for possible residential use.

As readers are learning with all the new development, the governing body requests the investigation, which the Planning Board carries out and then conveys the results back to the council, which may then ask the Planning Board to make a redevelopment plan.
click to enlarge
 In this location, development guidelines fall under the TOD-N zoning ordinance. The turquoise area spanning both sides of the train tracks is the Trainside Commercial Zone. The block on Johnston Avenue is in green and is part of the Trainside Residential Zone. The entire TOD-N ordinance is on the city website (albeit sideways - you may have to use icons at the top to straighten it out.)

Anyone living in that area may want to become more familiar with the ordinance and map. It would be a good thing for neighborhood associations to discuss at one of their meetings.

After so many years of studies and plans that were filed for future reference, in this case the future is now, to use a phrase from Nam June Paik.

Monday's City Council meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

--Bernice

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Muhlenberg Update Promised Monday

At the Feb. 1 Agenda-Fixing Session, Deputy City Administrator for Economic Development Carlos Sanchez promised an update on the Muhlenberg site at the Feb. 8 regular meeting.my notes said next meeting but I am told it will be in March

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp also commented on Muhlenberg in his State of the City Address Thursday.

As readers know, the hospital closed in 2008. The Satellite Emergency Department that remained in the hospital has been relocated to another part of the campus, leaving the hospital site open for other uses. Although the city does not own the property, it has conducted studies and hired a consultant to explore future uses. Mapp says the administration is now ready to "accept viable proposals from investors or developers."

Below are excerpts from the mayor's address and two Plaintalker II posts on Muhlenberg (click on link to read). The meeting Monday is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court. Councilwoman Gloria Taylor asked Sanchez to speak also regarding Councilwoman Diane Toliver's suggestion that the site be used for a new municipal complex.

From the State of the City Address:
My administration and I have worked hard to advance the potential redevelopment of the Muhlenberg site and I am pleased to share with you that it is now ready to accept viable proposals from investors or developers.  
Throughout the past year we re-established a working relationship with JFK Health in order to move the re-development process for the now closed 10 acres of the hospital site, and conducted required studies. This allowed us to obtain the necessary recommendation and approvals from both the Planning Board and the City Council in order to declare the site an “area in need of re-development”
The site has been marketed to potential investors and developers as a site for a “health care” facility with supporting services and benefits to the Plainfield community and surrounding areas
Working closely with a re-development consultant we are now in the process of creating, generating and marketing a viable RFP to attract potential proposals for the redevelopment of the site.  
We have also worked closely with JFK   to properly assist them with the relocation and implementation of a newly renovated Satellite Emergency Room at the Kenyon House facility with expanded services to the community.
Recent Plaintalker II Posts

City Hires Real Estate/Redevelopment Consultant for Muhlenberg



--Bernice

Friday, February 5, 2016

BOE Election Update

are now available
for the
April 19
school board election.

Click link above to access
or go to

Filing date is February 29

Mapp: 2016 A "Break-Through Year"

image from slide show
Since taking office in 2014, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp has set his sights on re-establishing the city's fiscal health and challenged his team to improve operations across the board.

"If I had to describe the past year in only two words, those words would be change and progress," he said

With increasing interest from developers and investors, he sees 2016 as a time to "re-brand" the city and build on the accomplishments of the first half of his four-year term. Noting the city's historic districts and two train stations, he said through re-branding and marketing "our ability to attract more investors will expand exponentially."

"We have to see ourselves as we want others to see us," he said, calling 2016 "poised to be a breakthrough year."
Mayor Adrian O. Mapp
Mapp delivered his State of the City address before a large crowd at the Senior Center Thursday, having chosen to separate it from the annual reorganization that took place on Jan. 4.
The crowd assembles
Among the good news he could report:

On Public Safety
-Violent crime is down by 17 percent, non-violent crime is down by 9 percent.
-Police are more interactive with the community
-30 real-time security cameras are monitored at police headquarters
-Seven new officers have are on the job as of January and nine new recruits are in academy training
-Police body cameras are in use
-The Fire Division has 12 new firefighters and the American Red Cross is working with the division

On Public Works & Urban Development
-Mapp called the Public Works Division "one of the finest" for their dedication and most recently their response to the Jan. 23 blizzard
-The Recreation Division and Senior Center are now joined in providing all-age activities and held 15 culture-based field trips

Mapp switched to goals, recalling his aim to prove Plainfield is economically viable, safe and a great place to live, work and invest. He told the story of Abraham and Maria Ramos, who had built up a following for their restaurant that spanned the metropolitan area. After their North Avenue location suffered structural damage during a demolition in March 2015, city officials offered help that resulted in a new North Avenue location by November. Mapp praised the "Plainfield Open for Business" loan program's help for the couple.

Citing participation in 15 new business openings, Mapp said there are now also 56 development projects in progress, representing investments of over $135 million. He highlighted the two largest, a 212-unit residential development in the Second Ward and a 90-unit affordable housing plan in the Fourth Ward, coupled with warehouse construction that will allow a successful business to expand and stay in the city.

"This is what I call real change and progress," Mapp said.
City Council members
Another big push was for improved communication, which included electronic documents for the governing body, a revised website for ease of use and social media outreach including the "Mapp App" in recognition of residents' increased reliance on their phones for connecting to the world.

Turning to care for the needs of residents, Mapp quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."

Calling it "not unreasonable nor unattainable to seek prosperity for every one who lives here," Mapp said his administration is committed in 2016 to expand and promote opportunities opportunities for Plainfielders "in the fields of nutrition, housing, health, income stabilization, criminal justice and improved community life."

He named Plainfield Action Services as the entity to help low- and middle-income residents empower themselves and achieve self-sufficiency. A partnership with Rutgers University School of Social Work will lead to a 10 percent increase in case management. Other assistance will include tenant/landlord advocacy to prevent eviction and homelessness, as well as financial empowerment workshops.

The Community Relations division will also expand its services to help nonprofit organizations and offer consumer education.

The city will also seek means of improving re-entry of parolees into the community, aiding homeless veterans and preventing foreclosures. Municipal photo IDs will be made available to any residents who need them.

Mapp covered all the above topics and more in his 50-minute address,with some deviations from the print version. The full State of the City Address is online and the event was also recorded for viewing on local cable channels. His closing words were a call for togetherness, again quoting Dr. King: "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

Plaintalker sought comments from attendees Thursday after the speech. Several declined, but resident Norman X. Johnson spoke about the re-entry program, saying he would prefer a "no-entry" program. He said help for those returning to the community is greatly needed, but so are education, vocational training, job skills and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) knowledge for young people "on the front side rather than on the backside of release." 

--Bernice

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Paid Sick Leave Ordinance Up for Vote on Feb. 8

A group of supporters of paid sick leave sat quietly through the City Council meeting Monday until the very last item came up.

"Here we go," Councilwoman Gloria Taylor said as the council considered whether to move a sick leave ordinance to the Feb. 8 agenda for a vote.

Taylor asked about a "counter proposal" from the SID," referring to the Special Improvement District association that opposed the legislation last year. She asked whether Corporation Counsel David Minchello had received it only that night.

Someone called for a vote, but Taylor went on to talk about a compromise and said a meeting was never held with the merchants' group.

New Councilman Barry Goode said the topic had been on the agenda since he began running for office, about a year ago.

"If we have four votes, we can do it today," Councilwoman Rebecca Williams said.

Council President Cory Storch asked whether the initial legislation had been modified and called for an explanation of the changes. Williams asked Craig Garcia of NJ Working Families to come forward

Garcia said he was not aware of a counter proposal and that compromises agreed on at the last meeting were in the ordinance. They including changes to a collective bargaining clause and a longer interval before attaining sick leave hours.

Garcia said if he had to guess what (the merchants) wanted to cut out, he would say it was (benefits for) part-time workers, but he called such a cut "totally unacceptable."

The discussion was somewhat opaque to those who did not have the text of the ordinance and did not recall the merchants' objections last year. After unanimously approving the ordinance on first reading in March, the council postponed consideration for final passage due to strong objections from local merchants. Union officials and statewide activists for paid sick leave also spoke at the March meeting.

Merchants opposed penalties and fines in the ordinance and also objected to the stress on family-run businesses.The original $2,000 per day fines were reduced to $750 in the new ordinance.

In April, speakers raised new objections and the measure failed in a 3-3 tie vote, with Williams, Storch and Tracey Brown voting "yes" and Taylor, Diane Toliver and then-President Bridget Rivers voting "no." Vera Greaves was absent. On Monday, all seven members including Greaves' successor Barry Goode agreed to move the ordinance to the Feb. 8 agenda. If it passes then, the council would still have to give final approval in March.

--Bernice

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Council Seeks Retreat

Plans for a City Council/administration retreat remain open-ended after a discussion Monday on the parameters.

Council President Cory Storch spelled it out as a "one-day retreat to come to agreement on three to five high-priority goals for 2016," but council members differed on who should be included and how the retreat should be conducted.

Storch stated a need for focus and saw the participants as the council, mayor and cabinet members. He said the location would probably be out of Plainfield.

Councilwoman Gloria Taylor said the retreat should yield "more than just agreements" and cited administrative and legislative priorities as goals. She wanted a planning committee ahead of time and also wants public input, such as from block associations and faith-based organizations.

Councilwoman Bridget Rivers, who advocated a retreat when she was council president, said the retreat would come under the Open Public Meetings Act and would have to be publicized. Members differed on whether the public could comment or only observe.

Storch said the retreat should have a facilitator and suggested Reagan Burkholder as an example. (Burkholder is principal of Summit Collaborative Advisors LLC and has held various municipal administrative positions.)

While the plans got a foothold, nothing was settled Monday. Council watchers will be looking for a resolution that states the location, date and cost.

--Bernice

Snow Smoke?

If fog over the ocean is called sea smoke, could this stuff be called snow smoke?
click to enlarge
That sounds more interesting than the term I found online for mist coming off snow - sublimation.
The scene above is Lot 7, one of three dumping spots for snow removal from city streets after the big storm.

Here's a view toward Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church:
This happened Wednesday afternoon as rain fell over the snow and ice.

--Bernice



Budget Preparations Underway

With budget time approaching, the administration is asking department and division heads to reduce their 2016 requests by $1 million, City Administrator Rick Smiley said Monday.

Smiley did not give any target numbers Monday for the local tax levy or total budget. In 2015, the total appropriations were $78,054,734.57 and the total local tax was $54,607,285, if I looked in the right place on the Municipal Data Sheet.

The Citizens Budget Advisory Committee is forming, with one person named by each of the seven council members. Finance Director Ron West said budget introduction will take place in March and the CBAC can begin working on it the following week.

The council still has to announce dates and locations of budget deliberations. West said there will be a tutorial for the budget committee.

The 2015 CBAC report included recommendations for an earlier start for budget talks and a desire to hear more from departments on their needs. Council members last year also had to be reminded not to name employees, but to refer only to job titles when recommending cuts.

The city faces a unique situation going into 2016 with money owed for a settlement in the Byron Halsey case.

Halsey was found innocent of the heinous 1985 murder of two children and was freed after 19 years in prison. In April 2014, a three-judge panel ruled that Halsey could sue police officers involved in obtaining his confession. Last year's installment of the $1.4 million settlement was paid after the budget passed, so became an emergency appropriation against the 2016 budget. In all, the 2016 total owed appears to be $682,600.

Budget talks are open to the public. Plaintalker will relay the schedule when it is approved by the council.

--Bernice

.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Special Meeting for State of the City Address



City Clerk AJ Jalloh had a reminder for council members Monday. The city's special charter says the mayor "shall annually report to the council and the public on the work of the previous year and on the condition and requirements of the city government," so Thursday's event is actually a special meeting and the council should attend.

In past practice, the State of the City Address has been part of the annual reorganization held in early January. Mayor Adrian O. Mapp chose to hold it separately, first scheduling it for Jan. 26 and then having  to reschedule to Feb. 4 due to Winter Storm Jonas.

The new date clashed with a Planning Board meeting, but when I asked Planning Director Bill Nierstedt about it Monday, he said the Planning Board meeting had been canceled. The next one is on Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

I guess I will schlep over to the Senior Center Thursday, but I hope the administration will honor another old practice and have a hard copy of the address provided to the media. I expect it will be posted on the city website at some point as well, so members of the public who can't attend Thursday will be able to read it.

--Bernice

Going Down in Flames


File:Bonfire Flames.JPG
My attempt to provide some election information has unfortunately set off a flame war of sorts among friends and foes of various elected officials. I am holding several comments that do nothing to advance public understanding of the electoral process. It appears that 2016 is going to be a rough year for local politics.

So we must say later for the haters and the baiters. Election news and advisories will go on without inflammatory comments. I'm sure you will see them elsewhere.

As for the commenter who goes by "Truth Jones," you may be jonesing for the truth, but if you can't even spell your own blog address right, I guess we won't have the benefit of your erudition on local politics anytime soon.

--Bernice

Learn About Lead Hazards

A news story about lead hazards in New Jersey cities including Plainfield draws a comparison with the Flint, Mich. situation, though it does say the problem here is lead paint, not lead in water. Learn more about lead paint hazards with this HUD brochure.