Sunday, March 5, 2017

Council Relocates, Overlaps Town Meeting

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.


  1. Ghost of William HetfieldMarch 5, 2017 at 10:35 PM

    I better get in before Timmy Timmy Timmy Priano.

    Why did this take so long? I feel much better about Plainfield Promise after reading the article (especially the taxes part) but honestly this should have come out with the original announcement.

    Still not happy about the paintings.

    1. William Harmon Hetfield died unexpectedly in Plainfield on Monday, January 11, 2010. Mr. Hetfield, son of the late George F. and Jane Harmon Hetfield, was born in Plainfield on July 17, 1940. After graduating from the Pingry School and the University of Miami, he spent a year traveling around the world before returning in 1964 to Plainfield, where he founded his real estate appraisal and consulting business in 1971. He was a member of the Appraisal Institute and was active in commercial real estate. Recently, he expanded his real estate interests to Imperial Beach, CA, where he was happy tending his garden and enjoying a new home.

      Bill Hetfield was a passionate advocate for Plainfield, spearheading the historic preservation movement in the 1970s and 80s and founding both the Crescent Historic District and North Avenue District. As a member of the Planning Board, he was instrumental in writing the city's Historic District ordinance. He took pride in renovating and maintaining five Victorian buildings in Plainfield. In 1997, Mr. Hetfield was the Republican candidate for Mayor of Plainfield.

      An accomplished and dedicated Toastmaster, Bill was a member of Toastmasters of Westfield for over 20 years, serving as President and Area Governor. He attained the Advanced Toast Master distinction and enjoyed encouraging and mentoring new members.

      From an early age, Bill was an avid golfer, becoming Junior Club Champion at Plainfield Country Club and eventually Club Champion at 21 years of age. As Captain of the golf team at Pingry, Bill was a member of two Union County Conference championship teams, as well as winning the County individual title his junior year. We need more people who cared about the historic Plainfield

    2. You feel much better about the tax part. Wouldn't you feel much better that if paintings and art work were sold, they could go to reduce your taxes?

    3. Plainfield was left many endowments, trusts, gifts, and scholarships by the deceased community members of the City. Many of these benevolent acts have been systematically dismantled which is a great loss to future generations. The dead are rolling in their graves including the ones under a portion of Plainfield High School. The dead are also walking the grounds of Muhlenberg. Bill Hetfield, rest in peace along with all the other benevolent deceased Plainfield residents.

  2. Please everyone who is attending, make sure we save seats for our bloggers, Last meeting Bernice and Dan had to stand. Dr Yood is 97 respect those who tirelessly report on our community.

  3. One of the reasons given for selling the paintings are racism. Then we are told if they are sold full sized copies will be made and hung in their place???

  4. Bernice, What happened to your policy of not publishing on your blog through Anonymous. Signed Plainfield Watcher

  5. the paintings are protected by the historic district
    Signed Timothy

  6. The paintings are racist and should be removed. Preferably destroyed because their racist message is not eradicated by their removal , merely transferred. We can celebrate their demise by rallying at the City hall and burning them. In furtherance of the purification of objectionable history let's expunge any reference to Columbus, the perpetrator of blatant racism, from our history books. That's just the warm up. Then there are those slave owners, Washington, Jefferson. Hamilton. Jackson, etc. They don't deserve to be memorialized. That progressive Democrat Woodrow Wilson has something to answer for also. Of course we will need a committee to rewrite history as there will be a great many gaps. If the job is properly done our children will never know the history of slavery, never know the depths to which the human condition can descend, never know about the heroics of those who overcame, and be content awash in the blissful ignorance of revisionist fairy tales. Bill Kruse

    1. Bill I couldn’t agree with your more. I actually had this same conversation with someone on Saturday right in the middle of Lord & Taylor (we just happen to be there at the same time). To try and whitewash our history is dangerous. What next, take all reference of slavery and lynching out of our history books because we as blacks find it offensive. I could go on and on about this subject, just consider, those who fail to remember are doomed to repeat!

    2. I completely agree with Mr. Kruse. Mayor Mapp must run through the town and sell off anything that is objectionable to some and connected to the sins of the past. Jefferson and Washington schools must be renamed because they are connected to white men who did not support equality for minorities and women. Also the city must rename all the streets named after dead white men who would not measure up in today’s “enlightened” society. The Mayor should also comb through the textbooks of Plainfield students and tear out all the sections retelling the stories of slavery, gender inequality, classism, nationalism, etc. All this due to the simple idea that showing the sins of the past to the youth means you must be endorsing those sins being displayed.

      Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it

      Richard Stewart

    3. I don't know what koolaid ya'all been drinking but you're way out in left field.

      How can you justify such distasteful rhetoric from a statement that said some people find the paintings to be offensive? (Rashid Haqq is rolling over in his grave).

      If you want to disagree with those that feel that way then well please do so. But to use this opportunity for your personal vendetta's, or for grandstanding against our Mayor is just wrong.

      Don't we have to put up with enough of this type of behavior on the national stage?

    4. Jim, you may need to step back and think about what you‘re saying. Please don’t cross the line by trying to diminish the bigger picture, which is reserving the history of black folks. Which I don’t understand how we got that from this picture but anyway. I do agree no one should be taking this as an opportunity to attack the Mayor or try to imply Plainfield Promise is only a ploy to garner votes. Knowing the Mayor and in my opinion the Mayor is a good person and has proven to be a good Mayor for Plainfield, I think most would agree to that. The Plainfield Promise is not too much different than when President Obama said he wanted to have a program for everyone to attend junior college for free. As it should be. I think it’s very noble of the Mayor to want to make a way for our youths to attend college and not have to worry or give up before they start because they think financially, it’s out of reach. This is especially true when they don’t have anyone showing them how to apply for grants, financial aid etc. If a student knew for sure they could attend a two year college upon graduation of high school for free and with ease, I truly believe we would have a lot more students graduating and going to college than not. Selling Plainfield treasures is not the way to fund this program, but the program is without doubt worthy of our effort in it’s implementation. A free education to a two year college for all students, but especially blacks, is something we all should work together to try to achieve.

      Jim, as a point of reference, Rashid Haqq is not even hearing this conversation, as the dead has absolutely no communication with the living. You can find that in the bible (KJV),and you trying to inject him into this conversation is pointless. One opinion is no more important than the next. R.

  7. For goodness sakes. Our history has already been white washed enough. The history books never elaborated on the contributions of Black people. There is no need to go to the sarcastic extremes as stated. I think everyone should know just how brutalized our people have been but yet we survived.