Thursday, August 30, 2012

On News and Meetings

Posters in the Star-Ledger Community Forum are puzzling over the Plainfield schools superintendent. One poster says he looked all over the newspapers and saw nothing about a new superintendent. For some reason, my old login doesn't work or I don't remember how to make it work in order to comment there, so I will just say the deed took place at the June 28 special meeting - way at the end, according to the agenda - and it never made the news.

Guess what, folks, the days of reporters waiting hours at lengthy meetings for news are over.

Click here to read about a community meeting to meet the finalists. Kind of obscure, no? There were two, and the ultimate winner on June 28 was Anna Belin-Pyles.

I gave up trying to cover those meetings myself. In the old days, the name of the winning candidate, a bio, the salary and contract details and a statement from the winner would be part of a news story. There was a poignant aspect this time, as the new permanent superintendent had recently lost her mother. But it is a new era for newsgathering, so don't necessarily depend on the newspapers for all the news.

Maybe there will be some notice of the district having a permanent superintendent if papers still do roundups on the upcoming school year. But the troops are spread very thin nowadays.

Speaking of stuff I don't feel like doing, I am skipping the mayor's forum tonight. It would cost me taxi money to get there and back and the taxi companies do not obey the rate charts, so I would have to pay 45 percent more than I should. So never mind.

Just checked my messages and I had an offer of a ride, which I missed due to being in the shower. Thanks anyway!


August Images

As always, the seasons bring some odd sights. Here are some Stinkhorns growing in mulch at the side of an apartment building at Park & Crescent.
On one of those days when the sky was milky-white, I got this silhouette of a Praying Mantis in the Butterfly Bush.
Somebody put up a Christmas wreath on a Plane Tree on Park Avenue.
The marquee still says Hubblee Bubblee, but the new sign is for Park Ave BBQ, Portuguese Style.
Bike fragments near the train station.
Dee & Dee, departing from the downtown.
 Harking back to the old days, a modern scissors-grinder truck. In the 1940s, venders of all sorts of goods and services came to neighborhoods. Does anyone remember the butter-and-egg man or the Dugan's Bakery guy? Nowadays "grinding" can also mean selling drugs on the street.

I don't have an image yet of another new sight around the city, but maybe you have seen the early campaign signs popping up for the November election. Usually the push is on after Labor Day, but I hear campaign headquarters are open and the race for votes is on. More later on that topic.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Party On

In Plainfield, Democrats outnumber Republicans 12 to 1, but you can bet there were more than a few who tuned in to hear Gov. Chris Christie give the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention. More than 40 percent of Union County voters pushed the voting booth button for Chris Christie in 2009 and he has been pushing other people's buttons ever since.

For some, Christie represented a possible correction to the entrenched Democratic rule that in some cases had lapsed into entitlement and even actionable corruption. Commenters on newspaper forums clamored for Christie to bring his reform team to Union County, but as the recent news from Trenton attests, there were more serious issues elsewhere.

As Republicans at the national level formed an implacable wall against President Barack Obama, Christie went mano a mano against Democratic leadership in New Jersey and wrested compromises on some thorny issues. He even mentioned this tack in his keynote speech, though it contrasts with the salted-earth tactics of national Republican leaders whose only goal was a one-term Obama.

But one reason local Democratic voters want Obama re-elected is that they cannot envision having hard-hearted, monomaniac Republicans in charge of the nation. Obama's use of reason and compassion in national leadership is something these voters want to preserve.

The sharp contrast between national party leaders is almost reversed at the state or local levels. Democrats who revere Obama deplore the small-minded outlook of some entrenched local leaders, while those running for office as Republicans often must distinguish themselves from the larger GOP representation.

This dichotomy has at times led to calls for non-partisan city elections, but meanwhile voters do have the option of choosing across party lines in the November general election. In 2012, city Democrats can pretty much look with favor on the whole ticket, but for the future, it is good to remember that options can exist in November.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Big Accident At Park & Seventh

As a frequent crosser of the intersection of Park & Seventh, I was shocked but not totally surprised to hear of a very bad accident there this morning. I heard all the commotion of public safety vehicles during a heavy rainstorm, but didn't go out until my son came home after noon and told me television crews were outside at the intersection.

According to a breaking news report from the Courier News, six people were injured, three of them being pedestrians. Three vehicles were involved.
Apparently this truck had the light, but a southbound vehicle ran the red light.
Only the truck and this vehicle were still at the scene by the time I got there.
A cap and sneakers remained on the corner where the truck jumped the curb.
Here is another view of that corner.
News crews were indeed on hand. Look for reports tonight on Eyewitness News and WPIX.

This intersection received improvements in 2008 after being deemed very dangerous. See Plaintalker's report here.

Unfortunately, soon afterward, the signal stanchion on the Park News corner was clipped off at the base in an accident and was never replaced. The accident today leaves two corners without signals for cars or pedestrians.

My thoughts are with all those who were injured today. The three pedestrians were hospitalized, according to the Courier News. Please, people on foot and in cars, be very careful at Park & Seventh. I hope the improvements from 2008 will be restored, as this intersection once again proves to remain very dangerous.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Telling The City's Story

Last week I watched a young man with pen and notebook among the small crowd at a community meeting held by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. As the mayor spent half an hour on a rapid-fire listing of events and   statistics, his pen never touched paper. Many of what the mayor called "commercials" were lifted right from the city web site and I wasn't about to try to recount them all either.

The incumbent in any political race has a big advantage in gaining media attention, but unless the opportunity is properly used, it is wasted.

For example, at one point, the mayor said Part 1 crime was down by 100, a figure that Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig corrected to 116.

"It's wonderful to know that Part One crime decreased tremendously," the mayor said. Citing 10 new firefighters and 10 new police officers, she added, "This time last year there was quite a bit of gunfire and several homicides," noting only three this year.

I wrote a note to myself, "What does it mean?"

To understand the remarks, one would have to know that all 566 New Jersey municipalities must report crimes to the state for an annual Uniform Crime Report that is published by the State Police. It is divided into Violent Crimes and Non-Violent Crimes and also includes demographic data. Part 1 crimes are the violent ones, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. In isolation, the number 116 did not tell much of a story.

The latest UCR on record was for 2010, so I e-mailed Director Hellwig for further information. The 116 represented the difference in total Part 1 crimes from January through July for 2012 over the same time period for 2011. The complete reports are not issued until much later in the following year, so the 2011 report is not even out yet officially.

So according to internal numbers, Plainfield had 1,204 violent crimes from January through July of this year, down from 1,320 for the same time frame in 2011. That translates to an 8.7 percent reduction in violent crime, which a reporter could round off to 9 percent.

But then one might ask, how many in each category and how does that compare overall with other municipalities. Hellwig noted in his e-mail that homicides numbered five in 2008, two in 2009, eight in 2010 and 10 in 2011, with only three so far this year. I did not ask for a full statistical breakdown of other violent crimes.

(In the old days of news gathering, these reports always generated stories comparing crime in towns covered by the newspaper. With the new ability to sort statistics, readers can now also get charts like this one from the Courier News. )

The trouble with statistics is that they can always be read different ways. A 9 percent reduction in violent crime may look good until one realizes that the city's crime rate in general is much higher than that of surrounding communities. So there is always the "compared to what?" factor. A reporter who brought back an isolated number to the newsroom would undoubtedly get an editor's admonishment to put some context on it or not try to use it in a story.

The point of my somewhat rambling commentary here is that to say "Part 1 crimes are down by 100" is not really intelligible to the public and only invites the media to look further into it or just ignore the whole thing.

The city has suffered over the past several years from not having a media professional who can help tell the city's story in a concise and articulate way.

A few years ago, the mayor and her then-public information officer confronted the Courier News over perceived slights. The Courier actually gave the mayor an unprecedented amount of column inches on the editorial page to rant about it. The mayor promised (or threatened) to submit three good-news stories per week for publication. Well, that didn't happen. The PIO got dismissed and there wasn't been another one until this year's brief transit of a new PIO from Trenton.

The mayor is holding another community meeting at 6 p.m. on Aug. 30 at Washington Community School. The public and press are invited. It's another opportunity to talk about Plainfield. Will communication take place?


Friday, August 24, 2012

Response To PMUA Commenter

I get so sick and tired of the berating of PMUA. What does it matter when they get it as long as they get it! There is a process they use and just because YOU BERNICE don't know it, it irks you! I have never seen such a group of unhappy, unfullfilled people be concerned about trash. Why don't you just say what the real issue is and stop making insinuations. I did not see you harping this much when one of the workers was injured picking up the garbage, nor did I see the praise when he came back to work. COMPLAIN, COMPLAIN, COMPLAIN. Who sits in the window waiting on the trash truck so they can take pictures and complain. BUT FYI, if this was Tuesday, they pick up EVERYTHING so that most of the staff can be used to do city wide recycling. SO THERE YOU HAVE IT! 

OK, so this morning a PMUA truck pulls up next door, workers see that the garbage bin is empty, so they come to our side and see that our bin was also emptied. What's the big deal? If there is a "process" they use that defies their own schedule, wouldn't it be smart to tell staff so they don't drive a huge truck around, wasting gas and the workers' time?

This is the same agency that fined ratepayers for infractions such as leaving a lid open or not pulling in receptacles by a certain time. So mere mortal ratepayers are supposed to obey all the rules, but PMUA can ignore its own? Try sleeping in on a legal holiday, when PMUA says there is no collection, yet a big, noisy truck pulls up at anywhere from 1:30 to 4 a.m. and wakes you up. This happens on every legal holiday.

As for making this personal, I, Bernice, am just one of hundreds of people who can't fathom how the PMUA operates. Yes, it irks me and a lot more residents. The logic of comparing a tragic incident with adherence to everyday rules is asinine.

In my opinion, PMUA has developed a culture of entitlement that needs correction. DumpPMUA came about for that very reason. So did the more recent interest in disbanding the authority.  When a corporation goes off the rails, stakeholders force management to make changes or else. Ratepayers - or maybe the state - will do the same when an authority loses sight of its reason for being.

The real issue here is the fact that PMUA needs to assess whether it is truly adhering to its stated mission.

Apologists for the PMUA will point to its opportunities for parolees and its "family" feeling as an entity. Both are commendable. But the reason authorities statewide are under increased scrutiny is that some have made egregious errors in judgment over fiscal and operational responsibilities. It is simply wasteful to have a posted schedule and then to ignore it for some "process" that not even the workers are privy to, otherwise they would not  meet each other coming and going.

The pickups are the most visible manifestation of the PMUA operation to city residents. When people end up having to store trash in their garages because the bins are overflowing due to missed pickups, it does irk them. So does seeing workers show up on a fool's errand because their colleagues have already picked up. 

City residents do not want to see inefficiency in basic services. It is as simple as that.


An Event Not To Miss!

Don't forget!
Peach Festival
Carillon Concert
12 noon Sunday
Grace Episcopal Church
Cleveland and E. Seventh

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Day Laborers, Roads, Landlords Among Forum Topics

Police tell young black people to move along while allowing "other ethnicities" to congregate on downtown streets, resident Norman Johnson told Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig at a community forum Wednesday.

"I'm not aware of that," Hellwig said, promising to "look into that."

Johnson's concern was among several raised by residents at the first of two community meetings set by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. Wednesday's meeting was for First and Second Ward residents and those in the Third and Fourth wards are invited to meet with the mayor at 6 p.m. Aug. 30 at Washington Community School.

Johnson, one of about 25 people who attended Wednesday's meeting, repeated his complaint after another resident, Delois "Dee" Dameron, said there was too much loitering on East Second Street in the First`Ward. Johnson agreed, but said, "Nobody complains about Front Street - let's apply the law equally."

When the mayor asked where on Front Street, Johnson said it was around McDonald's where "those people" get a pass.

The block is among several where Latino day laborers wait for pick-up jobs.

The mayor said she knew people were looking for work and that people congregating was a known problem.

"We're trying to look at it respectfully," she said. "People are trying to survive."

She traced past efforts to establish a place where workers and employers could meet and said it was not just Latinos, but others who are looking for work.

Johnson said if African-Americans stood on corners looking for work, "They would be judged," but the mayor said black people, Latinos and Caucasians "stand in different areas" and to her knowledge, none have been moved.

The issue of day laborers dates back many years. See Plaintalker's 2006 post here.

Among other issues, resident Jeanette Criscione asked how the city is helping Lawrence Gardens residents who came to a July City Council meeting to complain about mold, roaches and mice. Public Works & Urban Development Director Eric Jackson said city inspectors as well as staff from the Health and Fire divisions performed a "mass inspection of all units" at the site. Jackson said state officials also came in and a large number of citations were written. He stressed that the city can only bring its strength to bear on such problems when residents make them known.

"If there is something wrong, call us," he said.

Jackson said the city will continue to monitor Lawrence Gardens.

"We are in constant communication with the residents who came out," he said. "If you call us, we are going to be responsive. It is a partnership."

(To reach Inspections, call (908) 753-3386.)

Although the mayor had reported on recent road work, Dameron asked for attention to East Second Street, which she said resembles a "roller coaster." Resident Jim Spear commended the administration for all the work done so far, but asked that pedestrian crossing signs be placed on South Avenue and East Seventh Street at Belvidere Avenue. South Avenue previously had "bumpouts" that extended into the roadway to calm traffic and help pedestrians cross the busy street safely.

Both Dameron and Alan Goldstein asked about a proposed streetscape project on East Second Street. Dameron said residents had been invited to a meeting earlier this year to discuss what amenities they wanted included in the plan, but nothing has been heard since. Jackson said he would have to check on the status of the streetscape project.

Goldstein also asked for an update on a committee that was supposed to be formed to study the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority and the mayor said she was waiting for a response from the City Council on three nominees.

"As soon as we get the three names, we will move forward," she said.

Goldstein also asked about disposal of brush and debris and was told it is all being taken to the Rock Avenue transfer station.

Residents had their say in the last half hour of the one-hour session. The first part was taken up with announcements by the mayor, many the same as what is posted on the city web site. The recitation resembled the mayor's State of the City address in that it also included various statistics such as 5,300 tons of storm debris being collected and a list of capital projects.

Among other announcements, she said 10 new police officers and 10 new firefighters are on the job and major crimes are down. A concession stand proposal rejected by the City Council will be resubmitted for a vote, she said.

In all, "It is phenomenal - a lot of good things are going on," the mayor said.

Anyone who missed the first meeting is welcome to attend the second one on Aug. 30.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Carillon Concert Sunday

For a unique Plainfield experience, bring your lawn chair over to Cleveland Avenue Sunday for the Peach Festival and Carillon Concert at Grace Episcopal Church.

Each year at this time, Grace brings in a well-known carilloneur to give a concert at the church, which has one of just four carillons in the state. Church members provide the peach desserts.  See event details here.

The 12 p.m. concert featuring carillonur Jon Lehrer follows a 10:30 a.m. service with guest preacher Rev. Jon Hartman. Some may recall Rev. Hartman as a former Plainfielder who served for a time on the Plainfield Redevelopment Agency with great devotion before taking up seminary studies.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Talking Trash

I have been meaning to write to Dan Williamson, the new executive director of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, to ask for help with the way trash pickups are handled at my location. But an incident today summed up the problem in a graphic way.
The big multi-family apartment building next door is supposed to get trash pickups on Monday and Thursday.Our six-family building is supposed to get pickups on Tuesday and Friday. So this morning a truck arrives noisily and goes next door, where PMUA already picked up yesterday. Meanwhile, another truck (foreground, under my window) comes down our driveway and stops when workers see the other truck. They leave.
So the first crew begins unloading recyclables, which are supposed to be picked up on Wednesdays. They are in the blue can and the Dumpster on the left.
This goes on for a while. I am wondering whether, as sometimes happens, the Monday-Thursday truck will then come over here and take our Tuesday-Friday trash.
No such luck. After they leave, I check our Dumpster and see it is still full of trash. Oh well, maybe our guys will come back on Friday. Or maybe the Thursday guys will pick it up. Whatever.

This randomness irks the hell out of me. These routes have been in effect for years. Why do they tell people a schedule and then not adhere to it? I see the workers consult clipboards , but what does it say on there? Once my neighbor and I asked a driver why they have such mix-ups and he said it was because their boss didn't know what he was doing.

Well, now that Dan Williamson is the boss over all, I expect efficiency and competency to trickle down to the frontline troops.

Wait, wait! Just now, at 9:10 a.m., our Tuesday truck is back! Yay!! Maybe Dan has supernormal powers to know when a mistake needs correction! Go, Dan! I hear the Dumpster being emptied ... problem solved.


Council Report

As befits the August doldrums, Monday's regular City Council meeting did not produce any major stories, so Plaintalker is just listing some topics.

First, there was an unusual presentation by Dore Beinhaker, an attorney for Bill Homer, owner of the office building at East Front Street and Watchung Avenue.  The building suffered an underground fire and Homer needs a permit to open the street in order for PSE&G to make repairs, but the city has declared a moratorium on street openings on newly-paved streets. Beinhaker said he was told he had to petition the council for permission to open the street. He said the repairs are necessary "to give full service to the tenants," which include the relocated Barack Obama Green Charter School and Assemblyman Jerry Green.

Council President Adrian Mapp told Beinhaker "we are business-friendly" but said the moratorium came about due to a number of cuts in streets. He said one condition of receiving permission for a street cut would be that the applicant would have to restore the street using infra-red technology for a seamless repair.

But City Solicitor David Minchello then raised the issue of Homer and his company currently "suing the city."
Beinhaker said it was not a lawsuit, but a prerogative writ to reverse the decision of the Planning Board to deny a certificate of occupancy. The upshot was that the matter was tabled until the Sept. 10 council meeting in order for Beinhaker to "weigh in" with the city corporation counsel's office on the matter.

In other matters:

- The council voted final passage of salary ordinances for the Policemen's Benevolent Association and the PBA Superior Officers and passage on first reading of salary ordinances for the Plainfield Municipal Employees Association and the Firemen Mutual Benevolent Association.

- A resolution to pay $71,432.03 for a pre-cast concrete concession stand was tabled. Council members had expressed dismay after finding out the total cost of the project, with engineering included, would be $193,000.

- Approval was granted for a new payroll company that will document employee attendance time. In earlier discussions, Mapp had sought support for a biometric sign-in system, but the council did not endorse it.

-  Several resolutions regarding legal representation had to be amended because they ran from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. To keep them within the current budget year, the end dates were changed to Dec. 31, 2012.

- Club owner Edison Garcia received permission to hold a fiesta celebrating Central American Independence on Sept. 15-16 in parking lots 8 and 8A.

- Liquor license renewals for Chez Maree, Clinton Deli & Grocery, Pueblo Viejo, JC's Lounge and Watchung Liquors were approved.

Be sure to read Dr. Yood's "Doc's Potpourri" as well for his commentary on the council meeting.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Insect Mimicry

Once again, our back yard at Park & Seventh provides an opportunity to observe Mother Nature's magic tricks.

While trying to take a roll call of our resident Praying Mantises, I came across a Katydid. It has a green, leaf-shaped body and incredibly long antennae. I am enjoying the Fall-is-coming chorus of Snowy Tree Crickets during these August evenings and hope to hear the Katydid sing soon as well.
The Katydid's body is textured just like a leaf, so when it sits down, it is barely visible.
The tan line down its back even mimics the midrib of a leaf. It seems to be saying, "Nothing to see here, folks - and predators!"

As for the roll call, my neighbor and I spotted three Praying Mantises on the Butterfly Bush, each one a different size and coloration. That made us hopeful for another generation to hatch out in the yard next spring.
(Click on photos to enlarge.)


What Is City Solicitor's Status?

As Dr. Yood notes, tonight's agenda includes a large number of items under Corporation Counsel. The one that interests me calls for authorizing an additional $75,000 for City Solicitor David Minchello, who received the same amount in a May resolution retroactive to Jan. 1. That would make his compensation for 2012 $150,000, well within the range of what former Corporation Counsel Dan Williams received annually.

Minchello has served the city well. He had a stint as acting corporation counsel in 2011, when Williamson served three months as acting city administrator. This year, he began filling in for Williamson after he announced he was leaving to become executive director of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority as of July 1.

Sec. 2:4-3.    Assistant Corporation Counsels.

    The Corporation Counsel may with the written approval of the Mayor and the advice and consent of the Council, appoint bond counsel, and two (2) Assistant Corporation Counsels, to serve at his/her pleasure. The first assistant shall be designated as City Solicitor and the second assistant as City Prosecutor. In the event of the temporary absence or inability of the Corporation Counsel to act, the City Solicitor may serve temporarily in his/her place and stead.
(A.C. 1969, 4.3, as amended May 5, 1969; MC 1998-01, § 1, January 28, 1998.)

Five Liquor License Renewals Up Tonight

Liquor license renewals were due by June 30, but tonight the City Council will deal with five renewals still pending.

Plainfield Liquors on Watchung Avenue is up for renewal now that outstanding renewal fees have been paid and JC's Lounge on Richmond Street has received clearance for a change in corporate structure due to the death of the license holder. The other three - Chez Maree, Pueblo Viejo and Clinton Liquors - failed to get the four votes necessary for renewal at a June 28 special meeting. The latter two only attained renewal in 2011 after the council imposed special conditions to address problems uncovered in police inspections.

The city has 32 liquor license holders, down from 38 in years past, but still too many to suit Councilman William Reid. At the Aug. 13 agenda fixing session, Reid said the city has more liquor licenses than all four neighboring towns together. Reid said they detract from the city and are a burden on police, and called license holders "entrepreneurs who don't give a durn (sic) about the city."

Actually, most licenses are renewed without any problem, but a handful have had past offenses including fights, drug sales, prostitution and infractions of state Alcoholic Beverage Control rules regarding employees.

The council has requested reports of police calls to each establishment and even considered giving over the governing body's status as the ABC board to an external one that would meet monthly to monitor establishments with liquor licenses. The board would have to be set up to conform with a state statute and would have three members appointed by the mayor.

Councilman Cory Storch said he has been on the council for nine years, and a number of liquor establishments have had problems every year. But after hearing about the makeup of the board, Storch said he didn't think it would be better.

Another issue was the fact that police recommended renewal of most licenses.  If a license holder contested a denial of renewal, City Solicitor David Minchello said, "I assure you, I would not prevail (in court) without  a recommendation from the Police Division."

The proposal for a new ABC board failed to get a consensus on Aug. 13 to move it to the regular meeting for a vote.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Attend A City Council Meeting

The City Council meets Monday (Aug. 20) to vote on 56 resolutions and six ordinances. Review them here.

The meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

Attendance at these meetings has fallen off quite a bit from the old days. As some may recall, the council began tinkering a few years ago with its traditional schedule of two regular meetings per month, each preceded by an agenda-fixing session. All meetings were on Mondays. First the council moved to a schedule that called for a Monday agenda-fixing session followed by a Wednesday voting meeting, which drove away the residents who attend Wednesday Bible study at their churches.

Later the council reverted to all-Monday meetings, but only one agenda-fixing and one regular meeting per month, resulting in really long meetings, often running to midnight or even later. Council watchers detected a sense of overload that resulted in some topics getting short shrift, especially if a large group came out to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Reporters used to attend these meetings, but that also is a thing of the past. If a resident does not attend or watch the proceedings on local television stations 96 or 34, the actions of the governing body can only be followed through posts of a couple of bloggers. Plaintalker tends to pick out specific topics for stories, while Dr. Yood gives broader overviews of the matters at hand. Dan Damon also comments, though he seldom stays for a whole meeting.

Anyone interested in the workings of government should try at least once to look at the agenda ahead of time, maybe look up background documents for context and then attend a meeting to see how it goes. Young people or anyone hoping to run for office should especially take the time for this civic exercise.

As Councilman William Reid has stated, observers of council meetings often need some context to understand the brief titles of resolutions and ordinances. Usually the council president will call on the city administrator or corporation counsel for an explanation of new ordinances. Department heads will be asked at the meetings to explain certain resolutions. Dr. Yood and Plaintalker try to do this by reading all the background documents at the Plainfield Public Library on Saturdays in order to highlight significant new legislation at upcoming meetings.

Anyone with a computer can become a blogger almost instantly and, if so inclined, can learn how to be a "citizen journalist" as the traditional news outlets turn away from routine coverage of municipal government. It requires commitment and some slogging through documents to uncover the impact of governmental decisions, but it can be done. A good example of citizen action is Dump PMUA, in which citizens tackled a powerful authority and forced reform that has benefited the ratepayer.

More later on Monday's meeting, but meanwhile think about attending a council meeting sometime. Here is the meeting schedule.


Mayor Anounces Community Forums

Hear ye, hear ye! The new city web site has an announcement of two upcoming forums, one on Wednesday and another on Aug. 30.

Both are at 6 p.m., a bit early for commuters, and certainly not Dr. Yood's preferred hour for meetings. Plaintalker will attempt to attend the one on Wednesday.

While you are on the new web site (link above), take a look around and maybe bookmark it. If properly managed, it could be your best way to find out what's new in city government.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Eid Mubarak

Banner at Plainfield Center for Islamic Enlightenment, North Avenue

Eid Mubarak
 to all our friends and neighbors
 who are marking
 the conclusion of Ramadan

Plaintalker Distracted, CFO Saga Continues

Even though I had it marked on my calendar, somehow I managed to forget all about the 3 p.m. PMUA meeting Friday. If any readers attended, I welcome your comments.

As Dr. Yood has noted, bloggers have only touched upon a few of the many topics that came up at Monday's agenda fixing session. I confess that I have too many personal distractions currently to pay proper attention to blogging. I am only attempting to catch up a bit right now because the cat woke me up at 3 a.m.

Regarding the Chief Financial Officer vacancy, City Administrator Eric Berry said Monday the administration is "actively searching" for a CFO. Berry called on Finance Director Al Restaino to give details. Restaino said three other individuals (presumably besides the person just hired as city treasurer, who had first been considered for CFO) applied for the post. Two had salary demands as much as 30 percent higher than allowed in the city's salary ordinance for the job, which has a maximum of $125,000. Another only recently secured the title of chief municipal financial officer.

Restaino said the city was posting the job with the League of Municipalities in hopes of developing a larger pool of candidates. A check just now showed this posting, apparently just made yesterday (third one down). The job posting alludes to more details on the city web site, but that link has the old maximum salary of $114,801.

Restaino said prior efforts have yielded only candidates with higher salary requirements or not enough experience. Asked what the city is doing in the meantime, Restaino said the new treasurer, Diane Sherry-Buono, has "really hit the ground running" and is the "lead person in that office." It was not clear whether she is acting as CFO.

Former CFO Ron Zilinski left the city in January after serving one year. He held both titles, but only got paid $15,000 as treasurer for pension reasons. The city later hired Glenn Cullen on a part-time basis at $800 for five to eight hours per week. Considering that the city got in trouble with the state Division of Local Government Services for not having a CFO as required by state statute, the current seeming drift in addressing this problem is worrisome. The state cracked down in 2010 after a three-year vacancy in the post.

Observers got the impression Monday that the city would attempt to recruit a CFO at the League of Municipalities conference, which takes place in November. But perhaps the reference was just to placing an ad in the League's job listings.

(The lack of precision in fiscal matters was also apparent when Restaino was asked to state the current tax rate and say whether it had gone up. He said taxes had increased, but could not state the current rate. Surely of all facts, a finance director should be able to recite the tax rate when asked. The city is adrift and so am I. Anybody want to take up blogging about Plainfield government?)


Friday, August 17, 2012

Dual Events Raise Questions

City officials are still weighing the pros and cons of having two downtown events on the same September weekend. Nightclub owner Edison Garcia will find out Monday whether he can hold his fourth annual Central American Independence celebration, while Rodney Maree has already received City Council permission for his first outdoor event.

Garcia has been holding events in July and September in Municipal Parking Lots 8 and 8A between Somerset Street and Watchung Avenue (lower left on Google image above). Maree is planning his event for Municipal Lot 1, behind the Chez Maree nightclub and the Strand Theater, with an entrance off Watchung Avenue (top, center). Garcia's events have drawn huge crowds and Maree said Monday he has spent $25,000 on advertising and also expects a large crowd. Both events are planned for Sept. 15 and 16.

Public safety and parking were the two major concerns voiced by officials at Monday's City Council agenda-fixing session. Garcia said he hires city police and also has his own security. His July 7 event this year went off without a single incident, he said.

Maree said he understands that he will have to pay for police coverage. But he also complained that he submitted his paperwork and had received no response from Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig, who has to sign off on the event. Hellwig said Maree applied earlier for another event and was told to "touch base with me," but never did. For the September event, Hellwig said, he had received Maree's paperwork "within the last week or to," but was holding it pending what he understood to be some discussion between Maree and Garcia about alternate dates.

Maree said he just wanted the same opportunity as Garcia.

Councilman William Reid asked Hellwig whether he thought police would need county or state assistance to handle public safety for the dual events, but Hellwig said he did not normally request help. He said the situation would strain police, but added, "I believe this is the last time we have to do this."

Hellwig then said police will be able to handle the events.

Councilwoman Annie McWilliams questioned the approval procedures, saying the decision should rest on who applied first, not on the basis of whether an individual had "history" on using a date. Council President Adrian Mapp said he would agree if two individuals wanted the same location, but two different parking lots were involved.

"Quite frankly, I think it's great to have two events," Mapp said, noting they will bring different cultures to the city.

Councilman Cory Storch asked whether both would have amplified outdoor music that might conflict. but Maree said, "The problem will be parking."

Maree said when he tried to get approvals for his initial event, featuring nationally-known musicians such as Chris Brown and Drake, parking issues led to his request being denied.

The events will prevent use of 152 spaces on Lot 1 and 145 on Lots 8 and 8A. Visitors will have to seek alternative places to park, but the city does not have signage directing people to other lots. See Plaintalker's parking lot survey here.

Despite the concerns, Mapp said, "I say to both of you, make us proud."

Mapp said he will ask Special Improvement District officials to report back on the impact the events may have on downtown business.

The regular meeting at which Garcia's request will be voted on is 8 p.m. Monday (Aug. 20) in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Concession Stand Costs Perturb Council

I'm guessing you have never bought a pre-cast concrete concession stand, but just in case, here is a reminder: Before it arrives, you need to prepare the ground it will sit on. Then if you expect actually to use it, you need electrical, water and sewer connections. Pretty soon that cute little $71,000, 260-square-foot object of your desire will have you on the hook for nearly $200,000!

Or, as City Council President Adrian Mapp put it in talking about a real-life purchase of a pre-cast concrete concession stand, someone in the administration put taxpayers on the hook for the initial $71,000. And now the governing body is hearing the rest of the story.

The purchase, from a Spokane, Wash. company, was apparently made in January and former Chief Finance Officer Ron Zilinski's name, along with the initials "L.M.," was on the certification attesting that grant funds were available to pay for it. But on Monday the governing body was asked to consider using money from a bond ordinance to pay $30,000 for engineering costs, and a document in the packet spelled out the estimated total with contingencies and design costs - $193,952.

Councilman William Reid, in a second public instance of using barnyard imagery, called the engineering charges a case of "sucking too hard on the teat."

But the city engineers are only letting the governing body know what it might take to turn a concrete shell into  a functioning concession stand that meets building codes.

Someone mentioned the Bryant Park restroom as a prior example of not taking all aspects of a project into account in a timely way. Looks like lessons were not learned.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

ShotSpotter Needs More Fine-Tuning

Out of 11 shooting incidents since July 1, the much-vaunted ShotSpotter system detected four. The others were "on the perimeter of the coverage area," Public Safety Director Martin  Hellwig told the City Council Monday.

The system may now require more acoustic sensors, Hellwig said.

Introduced two years ago with a $1 million price tag, the system resurfaced in 2011 as a lease program for $169,000 annually. The City Council approved the lease plan in June 2011, but instead of the promised "turnkey operation," the company ran into problems with mounting sensors on utility poles and never got launched until about six weeks ago.

Hellwig said Monday officials were still "bringng all things together," referring to ShotSpotter plus a closed circuit television system. A former shooting range in the basement of police headquarters was being converted to use as a monitoring station when workers uncovered "new space," which will require changes to the remodeling plans.

Meanwhile, Hellwig noted one ShotSpotter response that resulted in a police chase and confiscation of a gun. He also talked about a robbery/homicide at East Front Street and Roosevelt Avenue that was captured on video, saying if ShotSpotter had been in place, police might have been better able to identify the assailant's car.

Although police are working on bringing all things together - ShotSpotter, officers on the road and CCTV - he said he was "not happy with ShotSpotter to date." He said seven more devices were installed after he spent some evening hours with ShotSpotter representatives in the problematic areas. But Hellwig called the system "valuable" and "worthwhile"and told the council, "We just have to give a little bit of time to work the kinks out."

"I agonize at times over the crime within the the city," he said, but assured the council that he and the police were "doing everything."

Hellwig added an anecdote about a officer who, "at his own risk," took a loaded .357 Magnum gun out of a stopped car. The weapon proved to be the one used in the Front Street homicide, he said.

Apparently stung by criticism and doubt over the ShotSpotter program, Hellwig said, "I'm not hiding anything. I wouldn't do anything unscrupulous."

In council comments, Councilman William Reid asked about adding cameras to the acoustic sensors, but Hellwig said the council held the final decision on that. Reid had raised many objections to the program and Hellwig tossed back one of Reid's cracks that the city had "50,000 shot spotters" in its citizens, who could call police and report gunshots.

'There was one shooting no one called in, and ShotSpotter got it," Hellwig said.

Council President Adrian Mapp asked when the "clock began" on the ShotSpotter lease and  Hellwig said it was July 1.

"Can you verify that for us?" Mapp asked.

In his remarks, Hellwig had a couple of lapses, calling the homicide location "Front and Richmond" and stating the number of shooting incidents first as 11, then as nine. Mapp said he was"not comfortable" with ShotSpotter getting four of nine, "as opposed to seven of nine," adding, "but it is still a bit early."


Blogging Wil Be Delayed

Halloween came early to my premises last night.

After a somewhat batty City Council meeting with lots of topics, I was finishing a snack and trying to read my notes when I saw a strange look on Mau's face. It was the wide-eyed stare he gets when there is a bug on the ceiling, but he was not making his special bug noise. And no wonder. This invader was not some eensy-weensy spider, it was a bat!

Shrieking ensued. I was screaming, Michael was in his room yelling and Mau decided to duck under the futon for the nonce.

What to do. With no spouse to foist the task off on, I saw it was going to be up to me to take action. From behind his door, Michael was offering fruitless suggestions ("Call 9-1-1! Call pest control!") while the bat swooped around, occasionally landing on a screened window and folding itself up to a litle package. When it took flight again, it looked as big as a pterodactyl to me.

Seeing no help from any other quarter, I put on a hoodie (bats in hair?) and took up a broom to deal with the bat. First I had to open a screen, then convince him to leave. Wielding the broom, I got over to the window by degrees and pushed up the screen, then urged him with the business end of the broom to fly out.

More shrieking. More swooping and fluttering by the bat. And then poof! It was gone.

By this time it was nearly 1 a.m. Trying to figure out how the bat got in, I settled on the thought that he came out of the hole in the porch ceiling left by the recent raccoon invasion. Both previous incidents of bat invasion since 1992 took place on the enclosed porch and I could envision bats hanging from the rafters above the dropped ceiling, just friendly insect-eaters and ecological pals until they get in my personal space.

So that's why blogging on council matters will be delayed. According to an online search, the invader was most likely a Little Brown Bat, but it looked darned big from my vantage point behind the broom. I envisioned it outside, eating up all those mosquitoes that have been plaguing me in the garden. All in all, it was a happy ending, but as for me, I was finished. I took a stab at blogging but just fell asleep at the keyboard and gave it up.

Check back later.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Watch Out For Wrigglers

This morning I walked over to Library Park to see whether the benches had actually been removed. I saw a few benches and found the park quite clean. However, on the Eighth Street side I saw something that reminded me of another issue, mosquito control.
This structure has standing water on top - not much, but enough to support the development of mosquito larvae. When I took a close look, I could see some "wrigglers" in this shallow puddle.
Click to learn more about the life cycle of mosquitoes.

My neighbor and I and probably many more Plainfielders have itchy mosquito bites right now that make us try to think of ways to prevent them from invading our yards. The best prevention is to interrupt their growth cycle by depriving them of places to lay eggs.
Maybe today's sun will dry up this puddle and solve the problem.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Supersize Caution on Sugar

My son and I have been having a debate about his love of Vanilla Coke. He will go out of his way to find it, while I am constantly reminding him about the sugar content.

Soda in the old days came in rather small bottles, but now 20-ounce bottles are common. Labels may cite a smaller serving size than the whole bottle, but how many people actually read the label and caculate the amount of sugar? My son has at least stopped drinking a whole bottle all at once.

Take a look at this old Pepsi ad and reflect on how times change. Maybe we don't need a nanny state to make us change our ways, but our perceptions could use a nudge. Go, Mayor Bloomberg!


Garcia Seeks September Event Approvals

Monday's City Council agenda includes consideration of approval for a downtown event celebrating Central American independence on the same weekend as another event on the next block.

Nightclub owner Edison Garcia inaugurated the celebration in 2009 and later added a similar event in July to celebrate American independence. His events generally run from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. on two days and generate huge crowds. In July, Garcia brought photos of his latest July 7 event to the City Council and invited members to attend his September event. But he was unaware that the council had just approved Rodney Maree's request to hold a large event on the next block on the same weekend.

It turned out that even though Garcia had secured the July 7 date way back in March, he never sought approvals for the September 15-16 event. It is now up for consideration by the City Council Monday, pending approval of Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig.

Because the Plainfield Public Library is closed for renovations, bloggers could not access the council packet there for review over the weekend. Therefore, Plaintalker does not have full details of Garcia's request. However, as noted in this post, he has a track record with his events, whereas Maree settled on the Sept. 15-16 weekend after officials rejected his prior plan for a large event featuring nationally-known musicians. The nature of his new event and the anticipated audience was not spelled out.

The council meeting is 7:30 p.m. Monday in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave. If a consensus of council members agree, Garcia's proposal will be voted on at the regular meeting, 8 p.m. on Aug. 20 in Municipal Court.



Muhlenberg Rally Today

Residents are invited to gather at 3 p.m. today on Park Avenue at Randolph Road to commemorate the closing of Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center and to demand restoration of a full-service health facility.

Sponsors are the People's Organization for Progress and the Restore Muhlenberg Coalition.

A proposal has been floated to put 600 units of luxury rental housing on the site, but protest organizers say the hospital closing has left the area with grossly inadequate health services and only a restoration to a full-service health facility will do.

Call (908) 668-1149 or (908) 361-9171 for more information.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

PMUA Nominations Up Again

Maybe the fifth time will be the charm.

The agenda for Monday's City Council meeting includes correspondence from the mayor on four appointments to the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority. Named are Cecil Sanders Jr., Alex Toliver, Harold Mitchell and Darcella Sessomes. Terms and successions are not indicated on the agenda, except that Mitchell, currently a holdover who is also chairman of the board of commissioners, is targeted for an alternate's seat that would disqualify him to continue as chairman.

The mayor has brought forth PMUA nominations in January, February, March and June without success. The lineup has varied somewhat, so much so that Plaintalker had to develop a chart to follow the permutations, but besides knocking Mitchell out of his chair, another goal appears to be to give Sanders a full commissionership instead of an alternate's seat. Toliver is currently a holdover and has been named for reappointment in past tries. Sessomes is a newcomer and has always been nominated for a two-year alternate's seat.

Sometimes the nominations have only been presented as correspondence, but when resolutions were submitted in June, Council President Adrian Mapp used his prerogative not to move the items to the agenda for a vote.

The long drawn-out tug of war between the administration and a council majority over PMUA appointments may go on all year at this rate, but if current PMUA Commissioner Tracey Brown prevails as expected in her run for the citywide at-large council seat, observers expect the majority to shift to one more favorable to the administration. The bonus might then be that Brown's PMUA seat will then be vacant and the mayor can get even a larger slate on the PMUA board, although major decisions require only three of five votes on that board.

A`controversial $1 million settlement with past top PMUA officials Eric Watson and David Ervin passed with the approval of Commissioners Malcolm Dunn, Toliver and Sanders, who voted as an alternate in the absence of Brown, who was absent. Mitchell and Commissioner Carol Brokaw voted "no" on the settlement. Brokaw has been targeted for replacement in the mayoral nominations since then, along with Mitchell's shift to a seat that would disallow his chairmanship.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Litter - Still A Problem

Should people really have to be reminded that trash belongs in trash cans? Apparently so.

Despite the many receptacles for trash and recyclables on city streets, people insist on shoving bottles and cans into bushes or down sewer grates or just plopping them on top of what in other towns might really be "ornamental" planters.

The sidewalks around Park & Seventh were once gleaming white - like for maybe a couple of days after their installation as part of a streetscape improvement program years ago - but soon bore the proof of residents' disregard as wads of spent chewing gum appeared all over them.

There have been many appeals to the public to show pride in Plainfield by not littering, but obviously there is more work to be done. Some who eat and drink on the street still feel free to discard their leavings at will, oblivious to the way it looks to others.

The Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority empties those trash and recyclable cans at a cost to the ratepayer, namely "shared services" fees. PMUA workers also scour the business districts with brooms and dustpans to get rid of litter on the sidewalks. But no one is likely to take time to pluck trash out of the shrubbery or planters. It is up to the litterer to stop being so careless and to use the proper receptacles.

An official once declared that sales of snacks such as potato chips should be banned  in order to prevent the bags from ending up on the street. But it is not the merchant who is to blame, it is the consumers - often schoolchildren - who need to take responsibility.

The next time you see someone toss trash, would you be bold enough to speak up and say something to the litterer? Or should we rely on yet another anti-litter educational campaign? Or one of those do-good clean-up efforts? Until littering becomes just generally unacceptable in Plainfield, we probably will have to keep doing all of the above.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mercury Goes Direct

When I heard a WNYC news reader say someone was "not reason by guilty of insanity," I hoped it was the final effect of the phenomenon known as Mercury in Retrograde for the time being. Here is how Larry Schwimmer describes it in Huffington Post.

The late Pepsi Charles was a true believer in this astrological event that could upset all forms of communication. Here is one example from 2008.

I mentioned it again in 2010. It comes up in cycles and anyone interested can look up when it will occur.

Communication and other activities ruled by Mercury should improve now that the period is over. It is just in time for the City Council to resume its schedule with an agenda-fixing session on Monday and a regular meeting on Aug. 20. Maybe we can get some solid information on topics of interest, such as what's going on with downtown redevelopment. Two of developer Frank Cretella's projects are nearly complete, while five others have approvals. Meanwile, Cretella has finally acquired some North Avenue properties for rehabilitation. In 2006, the focus was on the North Avenue Historic District by the main train station before it shifted to the PNC Bank block. It would be nice to get an update on all the projects.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"I Have Nothing To Say"

After spending some post-midnight hours reviewing the blog for unfinished business in 2012, I had a list of about a dozen items. For example, in May Council President Adrian Mapp asked for a complete accounting of what is being done with the Uran Enterprise Zone money since it was turned back to the city. Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson left the city with the matter of a quarter-million dollars debt claimed by developer Glen Fishman unresolved. Councilwoman Rebecca Williams began asking early for a full review of costs and city pay-outs for the July 7 events, but so far no luck.

This backlog of chapters with no ending in sight struck me as slightly absurd, which naturally made me think of Laurel & Hardy. At least when those guys had a situation, Oliver Hardy could twiddle his tie and declare, "Another nice mess you've gotten me into."

Click here and you will see a full array of Laurel & Hardy lines. Having drawn a blank on where to start with all the unfinished business, I must state, "I have nothing to say."


Monday, August 6, 2012

Top Legal Post Remains Vacant

It is now more than a month since former Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson left City Hall to become executive director of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority. The position as head of the city's in-house legal department is still listed as vacant on the city web site.

Given the responsibilities of the office (legal advisor to the mayor and City Counsel, drafting all legislation and agreements for the city, providing legal representation for the city in all matters, advising all administrative departments and boards and commissions except for the land use boards), it is hard to understand why no one has been named to be in charge. Williamson's term was concurrent with that of the mayor, meaning the vacancy spans 18 months to Dec. 31, 2013.

City Solicitor David Minchello has appeared in Williamson's stead in recent weeks, as provided by the Municipal Code, which allows for him to serve in this capacity "temporarily" in Williamson's absence. But Williamson is not just absent for a meeting or two, he is gone.

Given the burden of responsibility outlined in the Municipal Code, it is hard to imagine the city can just wing it  for a year and a half. Anyone stepping in, even someone who has worked closely with Williamson, will need time to get a grip on all the pending cases and all the legal needs of the administration and governing body.

The city is already experiencing a kind of drift with no chief financial officer and other key vacancies. The city administrator and one of the three department heads each have less than one year's experience in Plainfield. Lack of a chief legal advisor can only add to the instability.

The City Council does not meet again until Aug.13 for an agenda-fixing session and the regular meeting will follow on Aug. 20. Perhaps by then someone will be named to head the in-house legal department. The scope of this office may not be visible to the average observer of city government, but it is certainly one of the most important functions of city government.

Meanwhile, if you want to follow Williamson's progress at the PMUA, the August meeting of the authority has been rescheduled from 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14, to 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17. See details here.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Lives of the Mantids

No review of my back yard garden is complete without a search for praying mantises. We have been able to  see their entire, fascinating life cycle right in our yard at Park & Seventh. This year we had two egg cases that produced hundreds of tiny mantises, but they have many enemies, including their own kind, so few grow to maturity.

I have seen as many as four good-sized specimens in one tour of the yard this year. They have grown from no larger than a staple to several inches as they shed their skins.
Up till now, we only saw green ones, but then I spotted a brown one on the butterfly bush.
This one also has two new sets of wings observable. They will eventually grow very large. In some, the color develops into a beautiful bronze.

Their life culminates in mating and egg-laying in the fall and then they die. The female leaves behind a new egg case that will shelter the next generation through the harshness of winter. In spring, the nymphs emerge to repeat the cycle once again.

The drama of mating and the female's destruction of the male played out in our yard unseen until by chance it happened while I was nearby with a camera. Click here to see what happened.

You can click on any of the images to enlarge them.

Having a large back yard in the middle of an urban block is something that provides endless entertainment and education for this nature-minded blogger. I hope you will enjoy this little glimpse as well.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Happy Caturday

Mau is snoozing his way through another hot spell, although cats will use any excuse to take a nap.

Friday, August 3, 2012

On Benches

Street benches: A necessary amenity or just an attraction for street people?

Plainfield has come down on both sides of this issue. One can point to the eighty benches with "City of Plainfield" logos purchased in another administration, or to the recent removal of seating at Park & Seventh. On an empty lot downtown, the city and some volunteers created a pocket park with shrubbery and benches, but  now, I'm told, benches have been removed from Library Park.

The current flash point for this debate is the peninsula, where some feel benches will be the final touch after new lighting and landscaping, while others predict an influx of ill-behaved sitters who will mar the tranquility of the small oasis at Park and Ninth.

San Francisco has struggled with this dichotomy and is now leaning toward the pro-bench philosophy. See article here. 

Plainfield certainly has its own contingent of homeless, who socialize and even take care of personal functions outside. As a pedestrian, I may see more of them than people in cars and I must admit it is annoying to have to break through a bunch of street people to keep walking on an errand on Park Avenue. Now that the Plainfield Public Library is closed for three weeks, I expect to see the regulars who spend time there to be out and about at Park & Seventh.

The city also has some agencies or places that expect people who live there to spend time out of the building.   An interesting accommodation for residents of the Park Hotel was a private seating area on the residence's grounds, erected several years ago by a benefactor. The seats are screened off and allow some dignity for those who live there. But around City Hall, public benches at bus stops fill up with people who stay in a nearby shelter or single-room residence across the street.

Plainfield society has many striations and they don't necessarily mingle very often. Many neighborhoods, whether modest or affluent, are self-contained. It seems to be the business districts and public venues such as  parks where the controversy over seating arises. Recent changes indicate a trend to do away with benches. If you were in charge, what would your policy be?


Thursday, August 2, 2012

If Plainfield Had Badges

Yesterday I ran across a very entertaining blog post about earning badges as one acquired the traits of a true resident of the Pacific Northwest. I have visited Seattle enough now to get the references. It made me wonder what badges one might earn while becoming a real Plainfielder.

Just offhand, I can think of the Texas Weiner badge, Raritan Valley Line badge and Shakespeare Garden badge. You might get one for the Outdoor Art Festival or the FOSH Garage Sale (either selling or buying).

How about a West End Reunion badge or one for House Restoration?

East Enders might get a Backyard Fig Tree badge (although I know of one fig tree on Lee Place). Walkers could earn a Hub Stine Track badge. It would be fun to get a Dairy Queen badge.

What iconic Plainfield things or activities can you think of that could generate a badge?


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Check Peninsula Comments

Comments are still rolling in on my post about the peninsula at Park & Ninth. Today there is a definitive comment from Maria Pellum on several aspects of the project, including the topic of benches. Click here to review the story and c.atch up on the comments.