Monday's City Council agenda-fixing session has been relocated to Municipal Court, perhaps in anticipation of another crowd for and against the taxi towing penalty ordinance. The 7:30 p.m. meeting also overlaps a 6 p.m. Town Hall with Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman at the Senior Center, 400 E. Front St.
Interested citizens will have to choose or split their time.
The taxi ordinance is moving toward final passage on March 13. City-licensed taxi drivers object to incursions by out-of-town taxis and have already successfully lobbied for increased fines for unlicensed taxis picking up fares in Plainfield. The new amendment adds police power to order an out-of-town taxi towed, with owners liable for any towing and storage costs.
Opponents include owners, drivers and family members of two North Plainfield taxi companies. In public comment, they have alleged their service is more reliable and responsive than city taxis and that the ordinance will take food off the tables of Plainfield residents who work for the out-of-town companies. They say they cannot get city licenses, as none are available.
Other important matters that the council may move to the March 13 meeting for a vote are introduction of the 2017 municipal budget, appointments to the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, and final passage of a bond ordinance for road repairs.
Since news of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's move to see whether city-owned paintings by Albert Bierstadt can be sold, some residents are planning to raise objections in the public portion of the council meeting. If they can be sold, Mapp wants to use the proceeds to fund "Plainfield Promise," a scholarship and financial literacy program for students.
In his weekly newsletter to residents, Mapp included FAQs on Plainfield Promise:
Q. What is Plainfield Promise?
A. The Plainfield Promise represents Mayor Mapp's multi-faceted plan of action to help prepare our children and young adults for tomorrow. The plan of action eliminates finances as a reason for not pursuing higher education; provides job skills and vocational training opportunities; and stimulates financial literacy of our youngsters and their families, including as an incentive a savings account for each and every Plainfield child entering kindergarten and remaining a resident of Plainfield through his/her graduation from high school;
Q. How will Plainfield Promise be funded
A. Plainfield Promise will be financed from various sources, which include proceeds from the sale of City owned artwork and donations from City partners, educational institutions, and philanthropic organizations.
Q. What artwork will be sold and why is the City selling them
A. There are two Bierstadt paintings which were donated to the City in 1919 by Dr. J. Ackerman Coles of Scotch Plains in memory of his father, Abraham Coles. "The Landing of Columbus in San Salvador" and the "Autumn in the Sierras." The City's continued ownership of the paintings has become impractical as social conditions and perceptions have impaired the usefulness and benefit of the gift to the citizens of Plainfield. The painting entitled "The Landing of Columbus" is controversial and offensive in nature as it portrays Columbus disembarking from his boat with a group of his companions, as Native Americans kneel and appear to be bowing and worshipping Columbus.
In 2001, a New York Times art critic documented the City's struggle with the racist implications of the painting.
It is felt that the value of educating children far outweighs the continued ownership of the paintings.
Q. How long will the Plainfield Promise be around?
A. The intent is to fund Trust Accounts for the College Savings Accounts, College Scholarships and Vocational and Job Training initiatives which will exist for at least 20 years each. The creation of an endowment fund is also under consideration for the College Scholarships.
The income earned from the remaining balance would be made available annually in support of civic, social and cultural initiatives in the City, but the principal will remain in perpetuity. Any administrative and management costs associated with all the initiatives will be covered by the Trusts.
Q. Who are some of the partners supporting Plainfield Promise?
A. JFK Health System will soon be announcing its support of the Plainfield Promise by providing scholarships to the Snyder Schools of Nursing and Allied Health. We are currently engaging with other parties but are still negotiating the level of their financial commitment.
Several announcements in support of the Plainfield Promise are anticipated in the near future.
Q. Will there be replacements for the art that is sold?
A. If the sale of the artwork is approved, all the accounts will be named after the Coles Family from Scotch Plains, and full-sized copies of the paintings made and hung in their respective places in the Courtroom, or at the Plainfield Public Library
Q. How will the Trusts be managed?
A. A Dedication by Rider Trust account will be initially created in order to receive funds. The Trusts will be administered by outside entities. A third party financial agency in conjunction with the bank. At no time will the City have any access to these funds for any purpose other than that for which the Trusts were established.
Q. How will Plainfield Promise impact our taxes?
A. Plainfield Promise will have no impact whatsoever on Plainfield residents taxes. As mentioned above all the funding will come from sale of artwork and contributions from partners and philanthropic organizations.
Q. Will the community be given an opportunity to voice its concern or support for the proposed sale?
A. Yes! If the Superior Court grants permission to sell the two paintings, the community will be given an opportunity to provide input during a public forum or via the City's website.