Sunday, October 31, 2010

November Packed with Meetings

Random image: Waiting for the killing frost.

November is shaping up as a marathon month for those who like to keep up with public meetings.

The coming week has two budget sessions, both of which conflict with land use meetings. On Wednesday, there will be a budget session from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Senior Center, 400 E. Front St., with Public Works and Recreation on the agenda. There is also the regular Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library. Unfortunately for this blogger, I will most likely miss both as I have an obligation to attend the League of Women Voters meeting.

On Thursday, the 7 p.m. budget session at the senior center will cover Social Services and Health, while back at City Hall the Planning Board will meet.

The Nov. 8 budget session will be 7 to 9 p.m. at City Hall Library and will highlight offices of the Tax Collector, Tax Assessor, Audit & Control and Purchasing. This date is also when the November agenda-fixing session is supposed to take place, starting at 7:30 p.m. I’m told the City Council’s November meeting schedule will be pushed up a week, so that the agenda session will take place Nov. 15 and the regular meeting will be Nov. 22 instead of Nov. 15.

On Nov. 9 in City Hall Library, the council will discuss budgets of the Public Library, City Clerk and IT/Media.

The meeting will move back to the senior center on Nov. 10, when the council will go over budgets for Planning and Economic Development as well as the Capital Budget.

OK, take a breath, take a stretch.

On to Nov. 15, when a hearing will be held on the introduced budget, which calls for a SFY 2011 municipal tax levy of $50,457,669.58, up from $48,241,707.62. This is the budget figure that is now subject to council modification after budget deliberations. The meeting is 8 p.m. in City Hall Library and the council will hear any objections to the budget as introduced. This date had been the same as the regular council meeting, which is apparently now scheduled for Nov. 22, according to legal notices on hearings for two ordinances.

If the council can formulate budget amendments by the end of the month, the SFY 2011 budget could possibly be passed in December. If more discussion is needed, look for extra meetings. The current council schedule calls for an agenda-fixing session on Dec. 6 and a regular meeting on Dec. 13, with the agenda-fixing session for the 2011 Annual Reorganization on Dec. 20, but these meetings may also be pushed up. As in November, the schedule will nudge into a holiday week.

Even with a brace of bloggers, a retinue of reporters and a cluster of citizens, it will be hard to follow all these meetings. The budget amendments will eventually tell us what was decided, but not necessarily why. Perhaps the council members or the Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee can elucidate somehow when the process is wrapping up.

--Bernice Paglia

Council Probes Code Enforcement Budget

In budget talks Thursday, Chief Code Enforcement Officer Oscar Turk asked the City Council not to lay off clerical staff, but Councilman William Reid urged him to consider possible loss of inspectors.

Turk said two clerical workers were facing reduced hours in the Inspections Division, which upholds the city’s property maintenance code.

“How many inspectors do you have?” Reid asked.

Turk said there were six.

“What if you lost those?” Reid asked.

“We would be ineffective,” Turk said.

“You think you are effective now?” Reid asked.

“Yes,” Turk answered, giving examples of the division’s workload.

He noted other municipalities have pickups of construction debris, for example, but in Plainfield inspectors must respond and cite owners of property where such debris is set out.

In addition, the division recently had to take action when the owner of most of the city’s multi-family apartment buildings had numerous code violations and ended up losing many of his properties. The division then had to work with rent receivers and new buyers to make sure they brought the properties into compliance. Turk said he meets with buyers to make sure they have a superintendent on site and can be reached by phone.

Reid still insisted, “You really need to think about losing some of your inspectors. Think about if it were to come and think of ways to save dollars, because we’re getting to a very critical point with the budget.”

“I watch literally every penny,” Turk said, describing the division as “the police for property.”

Without inspectors, Turk asked what would become of city property.

“Our tax base has to do with the value of our property,” he said.

City Administrator Bibi Taylor said only one person from the division was in the layoff plan and one vacancy was not going to be funded.

Turk said he wanted to close the counter for half a day each week to give remaining staff the time to do paperwork.

Although plans to purchase software for Inspections have been discussed for several years, inspectors and clerical staff are still working with paper records and notices. If the software could be purchased, Turk said, it “could go a long way” toward offsetting any loss of clerical staff.

Another issue that also came up in budget talks with the Fire Division is combining inspection duties. But officials said code enforcement and fire safety inspections are two different things, with separate training and certifications. Turk said it would cost $700 to $800 each for his inspectors to become licensed as fire inspectors, and there is a difference in salaries.

Councilman Cory Storch asked Taylor about the possibility of cross-training, but Taylor said she just heard about it and could make no decision overnight. Taylor cited “turf issues” and said the issue needs “higher-level” discussion.

Storch asked Turk to name one thing that, if eliminated, would ease the burden of Inspections and Turk named inspecting pool halls.

“Pick another,” Storch said, calling pool hall inspection "pretty small.”

Turk suggested inspections for special projects such as a program that funds repairs for low-income homeowners.

City Council President Annie McWilliams recalled her father, the late Mayor Albert T. McWilliams, describing code enforcement as a “constant issue.” Click here to see an October 2009 Plaintalker post on the issue.

--Bernice Paglia

Friday, October 29, 2010

Council Questions Videography Costs

Videographer Brian Cox records an event at City Hall.

After first asking why the city's new videographer was not taping budget talks Tuesday and Thursday, council members turned to asking how much of a tab the $100-an-hour service has run up since July.

The city lost its former videographer to a layoff plan, then sought bids for the service in SFY 2011. The council approved BC Productions of Plainfield for an amount not to exceed $30,000 for the year. From a Plaintalker post at the time:

"Another item would grant BC Productions of Plainfield a video recording contract at $100 per hour. Challengers included a Snellville, GA firm that wanted $173.25 an hour plus travel expenses. Not sure whether this is for regular City Council recording or something else."

On Thursday, City Administrator Bibi Taylor said the contract included council meetings as well as city-sponsored public events.

Councilman Rashid Burney stressed the importance of the budget deliberations and said, "Government functions should not be short-changed."

Councilman Adrian Mapp said concerts at Plainwood Square were being taped, leading Council President Annie McWilliams to ask Taylor for a list of what has been taped. It was also unclear who assigns Cox to events. With the hiring of an information technology manager, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs said IT and Media will report directly to her, despite the City Charter's mandate for all operations to come under three city departments.

Earlier in the budget session, Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson had asked the council to support hiring outside counsel for "at least" $125 an hour instead of the present rate of $95 an hour, saying it was hard to get the best representation at the lower rate. So the videographer is being compensated at a higher rate than outside attorneys. In addition, the tapes are supposed to be shown on local channels 96 and 34, but the city's television studio was off the air for seven weeks recently due to lack of a certain piece of equipment.

Based on the annual salary of the former media person who was laid off, his hourly rate was about one-third of contracted videographer.

According to a schedule of budget sessions, IT/Media functions and costs will be discussed on Nov. 9 at a 7 p.m. meeting in City Hall Library.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

State Orders City to Hire a CFO

The state Division of Local Government Services has ordered the mayor and governing body to hire a chief finance officer within 30 days or face personal fines of $25 per day until one is hired.

The city has been without a permanent chief finance officer since the end of 2007. In his letter, Acting DLGS Director Thomas H. Neff said the time period was “well beyond” the two one-year appointments allowed for a non-certified person to serve. Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs had offered two candidates in the interim, but City Council President Annie McWilliams said one made statements such that council members agreed they could not consent to the appointment. The other individual did not respond to a council request for work references and proof of CFO certification, she said.

In July, the City Council asked the DLGS to appoint a temporary CFO if one was not appointed by July 28, but in the letter the governing body received just before Thursday’s budget session, the state agency denied the request.

The mayor and governing body can seek a review of the DLGS finding that the city is now out of compliance by sending a letter within 10 days. In a discussion after the budget deliberations, council members agreed to do so.

Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson and council members noted there are two scenarios that could lead to the fines. One would be if the mayor offered a nominee and the council took no action on the nomination, and the other would be if the mayor submitted no name to the council by the deadline. In either case, an issue of fairness arose over both entities being fined.

Councilman Adrian Mapp, chairman of the Finance Committee, said of the CFO search Thursday, “We have acted responsibly.”

City Administrator Bibi Taylor suggested that council members should “have these conversations in concert with the mayor.”

Mapp said he had reached out to the mayor to have “a very candid conversation” and to “remove all the politics.” He said he had not yet received a call back, but added, “It’s very urgent.”

“I think this letter is exactly what we needed,” Mapp said. “This is going to get the job done.”

Mapp received some ribbing from Councilman William Reid, who noted Mapp is a certified chief finance officer who is not currently employed in that title. Reid joked that Mapp could increase his $9,500 council salary to more than $100,000 if he took the job. Reid also said the upcoming League of Municipalities convention might yield a candidate.

After discussing the letter, the council went into closed session Thursday to talk about personnel issues related to the CFO matter.

--Bernice Paglia

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

LWV Forum Showcases Candidates

A candidates’ forum Wednesday revealed that the contenders for the Second & Third Ward at-large seat are friends and neighbors. The First Ward candidates share a background that includes experience in Housing Authority administration. And all are devoted to Plainfield.

It was one of the most cordial League of Women Voters forums this writer has ever seen, giving voters a roster nearly guaranteed to benefit the city, no matter which way the votes go. And all vowed to stay involved and lend advice on city matters, win or lose.

In the Second & Third Ward at-large race, veteran New Democrat campaigner Rebecca Williams is now stepping out for a council seat herself, saying, “My time has come.” Williams successfully backed several challengers to the Regular Democratic Organization and in fact beat the RDO-endorsed incumbent in the June primary to get the line for the November election.

Her Republican opponent is retired scientist and Habitat for Humanity volunteer James Pivnichny, who helped build the last five homes the non-profit group erected in Plainfield. Pivnichny was the Republican challenger to Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs last year in her campaign for a second term and has been a constant presence at City Council meetings for the past couple years.

In the First Ward, Democrat William Reid is hoping to retain the seat he has held since an initial appointment in December 2007, replacing Rayland Van Blake, who became a Union County freeholder. Reid was unopposed when he ran for the balance of Van Blake’s term in 2008 and is now seeking a full four-year term.

Republican First Ward challenger Sean Alfred previously ran for a seat representing the First & Fourth Ward, but had to drop out due to Hatch Act restrictions on his federal employment with the Housing Authority. Now free to run, he stressed the broad range of his experiences in the corporate, governmental and volunteer worlds.

Questions from the audience Tuesday included queries in how the candidates would handle road improvements, restructuring of city departments and crime reduction.

On roads, Pivnichny said the city is currently paying about a million dollars per mile to repair streets and called for competitive bidding on road contracts. Williams said a road improvement plan generated by the administration preceding the current mayor was “abandoned and neglected,” leaving gateways to the city in “terrible condition.” Reid said many of the bad roads have been repaired and cited a new city newsletter that gave road repair updates. Alfred said the real question was whether work should be done in-house or by competitive bidding and said once the city gets a chief finance officer, a competitive analysis should be made. (The city has been lacking a CFO since the end of 2007.)

On restructuring of city departments, Alfred favored modernizing them, while Pivnichny called for restoration of the police chief title that was scrapped in favor of a civilian police director. Williams said any such action should take place after the city gets a CFO and a finance director. Reid said the council was grappling with just that issue in budget talks that started this week.
On crime reduction, Williams suggested a review of how police officers are deployed and noted numerous burglaries in the Second & Third wards. Pivnichny said the post of police chief must be restored. Reid called for renewal of jobs program to provide an alternative to crime. Alfred said community assets should be brought to bear on the problem, such as easily accessible computer programs.

Voters will have their say Nov. 2, when polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Winners of the general election for council seats will take office on Jan. 1, 2011 for four-year terms.

--Bernice Paglia

New Strictures Color Budget Talks

As budget talks began Tuesday, City Council President Annie McWilliams asked City Administrator Bibi Taylor to explain state legislation that will rein in municipal tax increases next year.

Taylor said the current 4 percent cap on increases will become 2 percent in the city's next fiscal year, meaning the SFY 2012 budget might have to be reduced by $960,000.

Click here for a New York Times article on the legislation.

McWilliams was making a point that any decisions on spending this year had to take into account the future impact of the lowered cap. The current budget year began July 1 and operating costs are being paid out monthly at last year's levels until budget passage. Given that months are also likely to elapse in SFY 2012 before the budget passes, McWilliams called for a long view on curbing spending.

"I don't want to be in a position where all we can do is lay off people," she said.

Council members agreed on the need to conserve now.

Councilman Rashid Burney called on residents to ask for relief on unfunded state mandates and for unions to recognize the city's fiscal dilemma.

"Look at the situation we're in - I don't know how budgeting gets any more dire," he said. "We have to work together on this."

Councilman William Reid agreed, saying, "I'm very, very concerned about this budget."

He suggested that each department head consider ways to save money.

Rather than have the open dialogue of past budget talks, McWilliams said she had asked the administration to provide 10 questions to each presenter, with answers to be provided to the council in writing. The questions sought data on items such as tasks, performance and shared services.

Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig said Tuesday he is reorganizing the Fire Division by putting two people in administration back into fire suppression. He also wants promotions before Nov. 30 to break a cycle of filling absences with lower-rank officers in acting capacity. Hellwig also suggested leasing new equipment instead of outright purchase.

The Fire Division will be able to hire seven firefighters under a grant program that pays for two years of service. The city must then pay for at least a third year of service. The program will partially offset an expected drop in personnel due to retirements.

Hellwig, also the city's police director, said the Police Division was considering shared dispatch services and was working on a plan to alleviate overtime and "out-of-title" pay for staff filling in higher-rank positions.

The recurring theme prompted McWilliams to say that acting pay and overtime issues crop up every year and are never resolved.

"I think we should be looking into it to settle for once and for all," she said.

Six members of the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee attended Tuesday's session. Budget talks resume at 7 p.m. Thursday in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.

--Bernice Paglia

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Budget Deliberations Start

With a workforce facing more layoffs and proposed furloughs, the City Council’s first budget session Tuesday produced concerns on how to limit acting pay and overtime to fill in the gaps.

The governing body launched budget deliberations on the SFY 2011 budget with reviews of the city’s two largest divisions, Police and Fire within the Department of Public Safety. Salaries and wages for both divisions are down from last year in the introduced budget, but the responsibility for coverage of public safety duties will basically remain the same. Among suggestions to stretch personnel, the Fire Division will seek promotions to avoid acting pay and the Police Division will try to get more civilians employed to prevent sworn officers from having to fill in for dispatchers and cell block attendants.

The public safety scenario will likely be echoed in other departments, as Public Works employees may face 10-day furloughs while trying to keep up with their busy year-round schedule.

Speakers Tuesday described past shrinkage, such as a drop in Fire Division administrative staff from 19 in 2004 to nine presently. In the Police Division, a civilian staff that deals with gun permits, police reports and staffing the front desk has dwindled from seven to four, three of whom are facing reduction to part-time hours.

The council also discussed issues including emergency medical coverage for the city, crime prevention strategies including downtown cameras and a gunshot detection system, the need for improvements at the South Avenue firehouse, the impending retirements of numerous Fire Division staff, and shared services within the city and with Union County.

Presenters had been given 10 questions to answer, to streamline the budget review process, but City Council President Annie McWilliams was not pleased with some of the answers Tuesday.

“If anyone is coming before us asking for money, they should be prepared,” she said, noting the governing body deserved more than “five or six pages that we can read on the city web site.”

She said the council only received answers that night on the 10 questions for public safety divisions. With seven to 10 more budget sessions scheduled, McWilliams said she wanted five-year data comparisons from divisions, whose directors “should be able to do off the top of their heads.”

The next budget session is 7 p.m. Thursday in City Hall Library. To see the Council President's blog post on budget deliberations, click here.

--Bernice Paglia

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pen Madness

As always, my visit to Seattle had to include a stop at the Kinokuniya Bookstore. I had no excuse to buy any more notebooks, but of course there were pens to be had.

My favorite Pilot Hi-Tec-C pens were there in abundance, but then I saw the Coleto pen. One can buy the hollow pen and fill it up with inks of any color.

Back in New Jersey, I couldn't figure out how to get the ink cartridges in the barrel, but a zip around the interwebs cleared it up.

Click here to see more about this pen's qualities and addictiveness.


Some Curiosities

Returning from vacation, I have spent some time checking my accumulated mail and looking at web sites to catch up.

There was an "official city newsletter" in the mail that had lots of information, including Public Works Service Zones. Being the kind of person who read the back of cereal boxes as a child and who can hardly refrain from perusing those long lists of tax lien delinquents, I scanned the two-page chart and found not only a few typos, but the very interesting inadvertent "product placement" reference to "Cranapple Lane." Maybe the company will send over a few cases of juice for the free plug.

The city web site has yet another religious reference, this time to the Bahai holiday, "Birth of the Bab." Click here for more information. Not sure why it was on the calendar, although I am a great advocate of learning more about religious beliefs other than one's own.

Nor did I get the reason why there should be not only a notation, but a link to the Far Hills Race Meet. I have had to cover that event in the past as a reporter and I can't imagine anything so far removed from the urban experience. I was always glad to get back to Plainfield after one of those assignments.

Anyway, this is not to criticize, just to reflect my surprise at these little curiosities. I'm just sayin.'


Stern Last Year, DLGS Now Too Weak to Act?

About a year ago, the City Council was trying to resolve the lack of a chief finance officer when it came out that the proposed action would not be allowed by the state Division of Local Government Services. Click here to read Plaintalker's post on the meeting.

Little has changed in the interim. An acting CFO is still signing off on the availablity of funds for various council actions. A city request for a temporary CFO to be assigned to Plainfield was promised a timely response, which did not happen. A tepid search process for a CFO has not attracted many candidates.

Plainfield clearly needs some help to attain fiscal stability, but after reading Maria's post on state Comptroller Matthew Boxer's findings on PILOT programs, I am guessing it will not come from the state anytime soon. Boxer cites many kinds of oversight or guidance that DLGS formerly gave to municipalities, but which are no longer available due to lack of resources.

My recollections of DLGS from my early days as a reporter were that of a voice that municipalities had to heed. I recall it as a supportive yet demanding agency that was pretty much up to the task of keeping municipal officials on track fiscally as part of the Department of Community Affairs.

In July 2009, DCA Commissioner Joseph Doria stepped down at about the same time 44 people were arrested in a massive corruption probe. Doria's home in Bayonne and office in Trenton were raided by investigators, but he was not charged with any wrongdoing. Still, the sudden resignation gave me a sense that DCA had become rudderless, if only temporarily, and that DLGS would be impacted.

These are only impressions, but the ensuing months have not restored my faith that necessary checks and balances are in place between municipal autonomy and state oversight. If there is any way for Gov. Chris Christie to provide DLGS with the resources it needs to address Boxer's findings, let alone Plainfield's issues, I hope he will do so. Something needs to happen to set Plainfield back on the path to fiscal stability and accountability.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

An Air Force One Sighting in Seattle

On Thursday, Audrey, Peter and I watched on television as President Barack Obama delivered a stirring speech in support of Sen. Patty Murray. A little while later, we passed an airfield where Audrey spotted Air Force One and a small crowd that had gathered to watch the president fly on to Portland. People were standing in pickup truck beds and on their car roofs just to get a glimpse of Obama.

After a few tricky maneuvers to figure out how to get into the parking lot, we joined the group and were soon rewarded with the sight of a long cavalcade of vehicles that circled around to the plane. Of course, there were two long black cars with flags flying, so we only knew the president was in one of them. Still, Audrey was especially excited to be in proximity to Obama.

The president was on a mission to get out the Democratic vote in the Nov. 2 election. A local effort took place here in Plainfield today. But whatever one's affiliation, voting is an important right that should be exercised.

According to the Union County Board of Elections, there are 4,980 people registered to vote in the First Ward, where incumbent Councilman William Reid is challenged by Republican Sean Alfred. Voters include 2,789 Democrats, 146 Republicans and 2,045 unaffiliated voters.

The other council race this year is for the Second & Third Ward at-large seat. Democratic primary winner Rebecca Williams is facing Republican James Pivnichny, who ran for mayor in 2009. In the Second Ward, there are 6,347 eligible voters, including 3,666 Democrats, two Green Party, two Libertarians, 519 Republicans and 2,158 unaffiliated voters.

There are 6,093 registered voters in the Third Ward, including 3,655 Democrats, 259 Republicans and 2,179 unaffiliated.

Voters should have received their ballots by now, with a polling place indicated for each district. In the general election, voters can choose candidates across party lines if they wish.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 2.

Don't forget, all City Council candidates have been invited to take part in a League of Women Voters forum at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Emerson Community School, 305 Emerson Ave.


Superintendent Search Archive - Any Lessons?

I am having a hard time reorienting myself to the daily grind after a lovely vacation. Meanwhile, the news of a settlement with Superintendent Steve Gallon III made me recall the early days of hope for the district with a new person at the helm. I'm guessing that soon the community will be seeing another search process. Take a spin through this archive from Plainfield Plaintalker and see what you think in retrospect.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Two Favorite Seattle Parks

Gasworks Park is on a hill overlooking Lake Union. Its imposing industrial structures stand in contrast to the fanciful bas-relief sculptures at the top of the hill.

Views include this example of the city's maritime activities.

Across the lake is the downtown skyline. The promontory is a favorite spot for kite-flying and viewing fireworks.

Visitors love to sit on the slopes for sunbathing and picnics. In this view, the Eastlake neighborhood is in the distance.

Here is the sun dial at the top of the hill. Seattle is full of references to the natural world.

The Space Needle is a part of many vistas in Seattle.

People live in houseboats on Lake Union's shores, as was seen in the film, "Sleepless in Seattle."

This is a new park, built through a collaborative effort that included fundraising by the Friends of Fremont Peak Park to the tune of $1.5 million for land acquisition and $400,000 for design work. Click here for more information.

The myth of Theseus and Ariadne is carried out even in the walkways bordered by the silver thread.

Click here to learn more about the volunteer group that fosters and maintains the park.

Seattle is fortunate to have so many dedicated park lovers!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Columbia City Market

Today was the last day for the Columbia City Farmers' Market, one of many in Seattle neighborhoods.

Radio Flyer wagons are your shopping carts here.

A display of ingredients for fresh-made pasta.

And here are some of the results.

Peter likes to buy greens from this vendor.

Every market has flowers along with food.

Columbia City Bakery has a market stall as well as a store in the district for exceptional bread and cookies.

Organic vegetables abound, in many shapes and colors. This is just another example of life in a different sphere, which one day may come about in the Queen City.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Seattle Walls: The Living and the Undead

Believe it or not, the smooth, impervious wall shown here is a hedge. These living walls are very common in Seattle, oftentimes massive and usually sheared to perfection.

Here is a front view from the street. It is doubtful any noise can penetrate and certainly no trespassers. These hedges lend grandeur and propriety to their neighborhoods.

And then you have the mad opposite. This former hot tub venue closed in 2007 and the owner gave permission to graffiti artists to use it for their work. Because he did so, the city's anti-graffiti rules could not be enforced.

There was a plan to demolish the building and put up a 60-unit apartment building, but, according to local sources, financing fell through.

Dead as a viable business or development venue, Tubs lives on in a twilight world that attracts spray paint artists from all over, and others who want to use the site as a backdrop for videos and the like. Click here for an article on it.

The living walls are far more interesting to me. Their lush growth is probably due to Seattle's location in Hardiness Zone 8, shared with East Coast southern climes. Boxwood and oleander thrive in the Emerald City.

So there you have it, the living and the undead. Hope you liked the contrast!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Haze Over Plainfield?

Statue of Jimi Hendrix at Broadway and Pine on Capitol Hill

Reading the news from afar, I get the feeling there is some sort of haze over the Queen City lately, maybe not purple, maybe some other swirling dark shade. So many issues unresolved and so few clues on how to proceed! Before I left for Seattle, someone said it was up to the bloggers to take action. Others say more citizens must take action. But action on what? Can citizens or bloggers make a CFO appear in City Hall or get the budget passed in a timely fashion?

Well, I certainly worry about such things, but being on vacation, I must also take a break from worries. What better spot than the Volunteer Park Dahlia Garden? Take a look at the slide show below. You too can marvel at the magnificent trees that tower over the garden and then move in close to see dahlias in a mesmerising display of shapes and colors, all grown and maintained by members of the Puget Sound Dahlia Association. Click here to receive their advice on dahlia culture.

Thanks to the PSDA members for making their corner of the Northwest more lovely. In weeks and months to come, I'm sure Plainfielders - singly and jointly - can come up with ways to make the Queen City better. What do you think?



Sunday, October 17, 2010

More Seattle Scenes

Today we took a long walk around the shore at Alki, which juts out into the Puget Sound. Here is an image of it. There are many parks along the beach. The view above is from Solstice Park, which has markers for viewing at the winter and summer solstices.

Along the trail to the park, there is a group of community gardens. These gardens are scattered all over Seattle and are known as P-Patches. This one has Tibetan prayer flags flying over it.

Audrey and Peter are looking at the view from Mee-Kwa-Mooks Park, where orca pods recently passed by.

To help visitors orient themselves, there are lots of guides, such as this bronze model of mountains and islands that can be seen across the water.

Cormorant Cove is another place on the trail. Embedded in the stonework are bronze images of common waterfowl in Puget Sound.

Another pretty view from the beach. All these parks and overlooks have magnificent arrays of shrubs and flowers.

Here is a representation of a tidal pool and creatures that may be seen at low tide.

Constellation Park is named for a rare lineup of planets on the date noted. Other markers show the planetary sequence.

A replica of the Statue of Liberty stands in Alki Park. The skyline to the right includes the Space Needle.

Historical information is posted at sites along the beach. Here a debt to Chief Seattle is acknowledged.

History of another sort is noted on this plaque at a beachfront home.

On the way back home, I snapped this image. Several farmers' markets closed this weekend, but this one stays open year-round.

Here is one of the Hybrid-Electric double buses that are part of the city's complex transportation scheme.

With that, I bid good night to all in the Queen City - out here it is just about dinner time.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Seattle Scenes

My first adventure on my Seattle visit was taking the new light rail from Sea-Tac airport to Westlake Center in the downtown. See the skyline in the background and port activities in the foreground. We stopped at Nordstrom's before taking a bus to West Seattle. Public transit, y'all.

Is this a sub?? Not hardly. It's a bahn mi. Click here for more information.

The Georgetown Farmers' Market is located in an old industrial area. This building was formerly a stockhouse.

All of Seattle's farmers' markets feature organic specialties. Flower stalls and flea markets are also common.

Hey Mark! This old building was once a brewery.

Fresh-picked fruits and vegetables are sold near where they are grown, only minimal trucking involved.

Artisanal bread is a prime feature of the markets.

Today was the Georgetown market's last day until spring, but another market in West Seattle is open all year round. Locavores rejoice!