Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said Monday he will establish a seven-member commission to review his "Plainfield Promise" proposal and to report back in six months. Its charge will be to "take a new look" at the tuition and financial literacy proposal, especially regarding sale of the city-owned Bierstadt paintings as a funding source.
"It has been said that a politician plans for the next election, but a statesman plans for the next generation," Mapp said at Monday's City Council meeting.
Mapp first announced the Plainfield Promise in his State of the City Address on Feb. 9, tracing his own educational journey and suggesting a $500 bank account for every kindergartner to foster financial literacy, as well as tuition for college-eligible students who can't afford to pay on their own.
But when Plaintalker sought details, Mapp declined, saying only the plan was modeled on "Oakland Promise."
Last week, multiple news articles revealed that Mapp was seeking a court ruling on whether the city could sell the Bierstadt paintings, deemed to be worth millions but given to the city by Dr. J. Ackerman Coles with terms precluding sale, according to several past city attorneys. On Friday, Mapp explained more about his intentions in his weekly newsletter to residents, but his remarks Monday apparently mean the matter must now wait on the outcome of the commission's study.
In public comment Monday, Dr. Harold Yood said he was "very happy" to hear Mapp was appointing a commission, but said after reading Mapp's explanation in the newsletter he was "now more strongly convinced" that it was not in Plainfield's best interest. Yood questioned the cost, the projected contribution of JFK Health System and why, if one painting has been deemed to have racist overtones, a copy will be made and hung for public view.
Mapp is seeking re-election to a second term as mayor and critics, including supporters of other candidates, have called Plainfield Promise a ploy. In his remarks Monday, Mapp seemed to be setting the proposal apart, saying the coming election is important for the city.
"Whoever is elected will have an impact on the next generation," he said, but added "we cannot fail our children" by focusing on short term things such as the next election.
So far, Mapp, Councilwoman Bridget Rivers and former Councilwoman Tracey Brown have announced they will run for the four-year mayoral term. All are Democrats, pointing to a primary contest on June 6. Mustapha Muhammad has indicated he plans to file as an independent on June 6 and if so, he will be on the Nov. 7 ballot with the Democratic primary winner. No Republicans or other independents have announced campaigns. Party members must file on April 3 to run in the primary and independents file on June 6.