Saturday, November 30, 2013

Proposed Appointments Sketchy, Flawed

Resolution submitted for Community Emergency Response Team

Looking through the December 2 packet at the Plainfield Public Library revealed once again that the outgoing administration has never quite understood the appointment process.

Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs submitted nominations for the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority that mirrored a roster she offered in August. See Plaintalker post here. The idea was to switch terms around to give the longest ones to Malcolm Dunn and Cecil Sanders and replace Commissioner Harold Mitchell with former mayoral aide Barbara James  The ploy failed in August. It seems doubtful that the City Council will move it to the Dec. 9 agenda at Monday's agenda-fixing session. These terms start and end in February, so the timing is off anyway.

The appointments listed above are for the new Community Emergency Response Team. As readers can see, the terms are not specified. How can the council intelligently discuss such a vague proposal?

Nominations for the Plainfield African Caribbean Commission

Nominees for the Plainfield African Caribbean Commission have staggered terms, as is normal for a new commission, but because the mayor apparently wants to push them through before her term ends, some members will only serve a couple of weeks in 2013, despite the terms being billed as two- or three-year terms. The most confusing is a one-year term ending in 2015.

In addition, the question arises whether Charles Eke will have to give up his alternate's seat on the PMUA in order to serve on this new commission, as Plainfield has a prohibition on dual office-holding.

The worst attempt at appointments involves the Shade Tree Commission. The term "mayoral designee" means someone meant to serve during the current mayor's term.  But the proposed nominee is listed as serving to 12/31/2014. Then there an alternate designee with the same term, and another individual listed as succeeding herself for a two-year term.

Disclosure: I was an original member of this commission and served as its secretary, but did not seek a second term in part because I was appalled at how mixed-up appointments to this brand-new commission became. Duplicate nominations, wrong terms and successions - you name it. Applicants also had their information lost multiple times.

If residents are willing and qualified to serve, the mayor's office should at least be able to name them in a timely and appropriate way.  One hopes the new mayor will work with the City Clerk to fill vacancies on boards and commissions properly.

Click here to see the application to serve on a board or commission and note the rules. Regarding years of service, I happened across a city calendar from 1985 that listed members of all the city boards and commissions. Most of the individuals and even some of the boards are gone now, but one person on a land use board is still there after 28 years. Time to give somebody else a chance?


Friday, November 29, 2013

About Mayor's PMUA Nominees

Monday's City Council meeting agenda includes correspondence from the mayor regarding numerous appointments, but it remains to be seen whether they get to the point of action at the regular meeting on Dec. 8.

The same roster of names was presented in August, but no action was taken. The idea then in switching terms around seemed to be to give Malcolm Dunn and Cecil Sanders the two longest terms and to get rid of Commissioner Harold Mitchell in favor of mayoral gal pal Barbara James. See post here.

Bloggers will have to wait until tomorrow to see the council packet, if it is available at the library, to see whether the same pattern is evident, as the mayor's correspondence has no details.


Commentary on "Community ID Cards"

Courier News reporter Sergio Bichao's story on the "Community ID Card" allegedly backed by the city and police sounds an additional alarm about the program in this writer's mind.

As reported by Bichao, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and activist Carmen Salavarrieta are publicizing the program, which is operated through "Angels for Action." While Salavarrieta was not a member of the failed Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs, she was identified by Assemblyman Jerry Green as being "involved" with it:

"Mrs. Salavarrieta is not a member of the committee. The Mayor just asked her if she would be involved due to her experience in dealing with similar issues. Mr. Ortega agreed that she would be a great asset."
Norman Ortega identified himself at the time as the founder of Angels in Action Foundation (since supplanted by the 501(c)3 Angels for Action Inc.) and was a member of the commission, along with another Angels in Action member. The long-awaited commission soon became controversial, as comments on this post show, and it faded away, never to be reconstituted.

Although she is not a city resident, Salavarrieta remains a political figure in Plainfield. I think one can legitimately ask why, now that Plainfield has a 40 percent Hispanic population, politicians must rely on a non-resident for advice on how to address the needs of this demographic. The sale of "community" photo IDs through Salavarrieta's Angels For Action makes one wonder whether the recipients of these cards are unknowingly being identified for political purposes as well as for practical reasons.
The ID appears to be redundant, if one already has the documents described in a pitch for the card: "A formal protocol is used to confirm identity and domicile. Examples of combined 
documents required to obtain the Community ID Card are: passport, driver’s license, 
or consular card, AND a lease, or utility/phone bill."
Recipients are assured that "To address any privacy and confidentiality concerns, none of the personal data will be retained in digital or paper form. All cardholder information will be erased once 
the card is issued." 

Still, by applying at the Angels for Action office, recipients make themselves known to Salavarrieta or her staff. If there is any thought of political organizing for local candidates, it should be disclosed along with the stated purposes of the program.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hellwig On Leave, Served Two Terms

Public Safety Director Martin R. Hellwig, the only department head to have served through all eight years of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs' tenure, is now on leave until the end of the year.
Hellwig is sworn in, January 2006

As noted on the city web site, Hellwig's law enforcement career began with 27 years' service in Verona and he served in other roles in Essex County.

As director of the Department of Public Affairs & Safety, Hellwig oversaw the Police and Fire divisions, which both had chiefs initially. In mid-2007, Hellwig proposed elimination of the police chief title in a surprise move which caught Police Chief Edward Santiago unaware. Santiago called it "a dangerous politicization" of the Police Division, but in 2008 he was laid off, with the option of remaining on the force as captain, which he took.

The title of police director was created by ordinance in 2008 and Hellwig became acting director in addition to department head, in effect reporting to himself.

Hellwig is named Police Director in March 2009

After a year, he was given the permanent title of police director, but there was no salary attached to the title until January 2010. Though holding both titles, he received only one salary ($106,267 in 2013).

In September 2009, City Hall was the scene of Hellwig's wedding to Huiling Liu, with Robinson-Briggs officiating and Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson walking the bride down the aisle in the elaborately-decorated City Hall Library.

In February 2010, Hellwig was suspended for three days for an unspecified infraction. Neither Plaintalker nor the Courier News reported on the incident, as there was no official corroboration of the reason, but other sources linked it to a Craig's List assignation in June 2009.

Several officers allegedly tied to an investigation of the incident were later demoted, including Michael Gilliam, who went from a captain to lieutenant to sergeant. Gilliam sued Hellwig and the city and in April won back his title and pay  for the period of his demotion. Gilliam is now the acting department director while Hellwig is on leave.

Among his achievements, Hellwig pointed to a drop in homicides during his tenure. He reorganized the Police Division and won City Council approval for a ShotSpotter system to pinpoint gunshots for quick response. Even though he never moved to the city, he attended council meetings and many community events every year.

Hellwig at Senior Center event, May 2009

Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp will have to name a new Public Affairs & Safety director in January and decide whether he wants a civilian police director instead of a chief to head the Police Division.

Good luck to Director Hellwig in his future endeavors.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Turkey on Cleveland Avenue

Wishing everyone a pleasant day
 with family and friends

Give thanks!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Chanukah!

שמח חנוכה החג

Extreme Makeover

This is how a house on East Sixth Street looked in early November.
Here's how it looks now.
Not sure how this was accomplished, but there are probably dozens, if not a couple hundred, of houses across the city that could use a similar upgrade.


Council Backs Mapp on Staff Initiatives

Explanations from Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp turned the Nov. 12 tide of opposition to concurrence Tuesday as his City Council colleagues approved a salary increase for chief financial officer as well as creation of the title "chief of staff" and a salary range to go with it.

The new salary range of up to $155,000 for the chief financial officer passed 6-0 after Mapp, a CFO himself in another municipality, had Personnel Director Karen Dabney come to the table to discuss salary ranges for the title. Dabney cited a range of $168,088 to $120,000, with an average of $135,000. The information countered objections by resident Alan Goldstein, who did his own survey and found the range excessive.

Before the vote, Mapp called Plainfield a complex city with many challenges that needs a "highly skilled, highly competent" CFO.

"This position will more than pay for itself," he said.

Council members Cory Storch, Vera Greaves, Mapp and President Bridget Rivers were present in City Hall Library and Rebecca Williams, Tracey Brown and William Reid took part by speakerphone, although Reid's line in South Carolina dropped out early. The salary ordinance passed, 6-0, a pattern that continued with establishment of the title of chief of staff and passage of a salary band for that title of $60,000 to $95,000.

Mapp's pitch for the chief of staff was based on what he said was the need for someone to interface with all levels of government.on the city's behalf. He gave a personal anecdote regarding his ability to get his mortgage re-financed in a time of dire need only after he sought help from a representative in Washington.

"The next day, I got a call from the president of Bank of America," he said.

Mapp told his colleagues he needed their support for the title, which was not the same as city administrator.

"You can call it any name - I chose to call it 'chief of staff,' " he said.

Brown said, "I'm glad Mayor-elect Mapp cleared that up, because we had some serious concerns."

On Nov. 12, .the measure had failed 4-3 and the salary band ordinance was then moot. Both passed,  6-0, on Tuesday.

The budget transfer resolution that went off the rails on Nov. 12 passed, as several police officers looked on. The sticking point on Nov. 12 was initially $131,091 for controversial police promotions by lame duck Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. The council ended up funding only $51,000 in Recreation shortfalls out of the 17-item, $1.1 million transfer request. On Tuesday, Acting City Administrator Al Restaino briefly answered residents' questions about some of the budget transfers and Mapp explained why he was dropping his objections to it.

Besides declaring the handover of $163,085 in FEMA funds to the PMUA "improper," Mapp cited "irresponsible behavior " of the outgoing mayor in making the promotions. But he said if the budget transfers were not made, the city would go into the 2014 budget year with the $1 million shortfall as a "deferred charge."

"I will not allow anything to get in my way of being a successful mayor," He said. "It pains me that the mayor has put us where we are."

But he added, "My concern is not about being right, it is about being successful."

Williams objected Tuesday to an additional $45,000 for the Media budget line. Restaino chalked it up to coverage of numerous city events, but said he has now "streamlined" the schedule. The transfers passed, 5-2, with Williams and Storch voting "no."

The final item on the special meeting agenda was conveyance of city-owned land to the Housing Authority, but Corporation Counsel David Minchello deemed the ordinance "not legal" and in need of further review. He said city redevelopment counsel Robert Renaud concurred.

First, he said, the ordinance read "like an attempt to enter into a redevelopment agreement," but it referred to an area not designated for redevelopment. Secondly, terms, such as a price for the turnover, were lacking.

Wendy Monahan, an attorney for developer Cecil Sanders, said the property was being conveyed to the Housing Authority.

"In my legal opinion, there is nothing illegal about this ordinance," she said.

But the council sided with Minchello and voted to table the ordinance.

In public comment, Goldstein raised several potential conflicts of interest regarding various public officials in connection with the proposed ordinance and said, "None of this is on the table."

Randall Wood, director of the Housing Authority of Plainfield, objected to the characterization and said anyone on his board with a potential conflict "always recused themselves."

Minchello said his reasons for advising the council had nothing to do with Goldstein's comments, but were "purely related to process."

For background on the proposal to build on the city-owned sites, click here.

The next City Council meeting is an agenda-fixing session on Dec. 2, followed by a regular meeting on Dec. 9.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

About Conveying City-Owned Land To HAP

The ordinance regarding possible conveyance of Municipal Parking Lot 9 and another city-owned parcel to the Housing Authority of Plainfield is written in such dense legalese that Plaintalker can glean only a couple of points. One is that the transfer hinges on HAP and the Plainfield Community Development Corp. having financing secured for the proposed apartment complex. Any sale price will depend on the prevailing market at the time of closing.

The ordinance is up for first reading at tonight's special meeting, 7 p.m. in City Hall Library.

The apartment proposal was discussed at an Oct. 17 Planning Board meeting. Click here for details.


Budget Transfers Back At Special Meeting

Municipalities can make budget transfers in the last two months of the year, but on Nov. 12 the City Council failed to pass a resolution to transfer $1.1 million, except for $51,000 for Recreation after coach Agurs Linward "Lenny" Cathcart Jr. made an emotional protest.

The resolution is back for tonight's special meeting, with some alterations. It still includes the controversial  $131,091.38 for the Police Division, ostensibly to pay for promotions of seven sergeants to lieutenants. Objectors said lame duck Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs jumped the gun with the promotions, but the resolution failed because five votes were required to transfer funds and the vote was 4-3. Vera Greaves, William Reid, Tracey Brown and Bridget Rivers voted "yes" and Adrian Mapp, Cory Storch and Rebecca Williams voted "no."

The failed vote triggered an outburst from Cathcart and after some tortuous reconsideration, the council granted the $51,000 for Recreation with only Reid dissenting, because, he said, he didn't know what he was voting on.

The revised resolution still includes $592,750 for health benefits, $20,000 for school crossing guards and $163,085.23 to the PMUA for storm debris removal. New items  on the "to" side are $7,500 for the mayor's office and $5,000 for senior citizens.

On the "from" side, the largest item is $548,176.61 in insurance funds, with $100,000 each from Public Works, state unemployment insurance and worker's compensation. The full list of "to" and "from" funds will be available tonight in the meeting binder as item R-392-13. The meeting is 7 p.m. in City Hall Library.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Dan's Rumor Mill - Broken or Imploded in Horror?

So all day Dan has had a teaser up saying, "Please God, let THIS rumor not be true."

I took the bait and clicked on several times for an update, but as of this hour there is none.

Hmmm. So what could be the New Dems' worst worst nightmare, so bad that it has struck Dan dumb?

Hey, I think I know!

Hows about if JG puts up SRB for the Third Ward seat along with two ringers, and a council majority - BOE pal Bridget Rivers, SRB's pastor and BOE pal Tracey Brown, former SRB treasurer Bill Reid and the inestimable RDO loyalist Vera Greaves - vote her in?

Yee-haw! Five votes! For PMUA appointments, cockamamie schemes dear to certain big machers,
you name it! Plus the thrill of sticking it to her arch-enemy, Mayor Mapp!

C'mon, Dan! What gives? Tell us it ain't THIS scenario that has you tongue-tied. Or is it??

Salaries, New Position On Special Meeting Agenda

Of five items on the agenda for Tuesday's special meeting, three have to do with positions in the new administration. 

There is probably little doubt that the city needs to strengthen its fiscal operations after lacking a full-time chief financial officer for six of the past eight years. After former CFO Peter Sepelya left at the end of 2007, the city went without anyone permanent in the statutory position for so long that it took the threat of daily state fines for the mayor and each council member to get someone on the job. Even then, the next person could give the city only two days' presence in City Hall per week and only 28 hours altogether of service per week.

Since February 2012, the city has relied on the help of a part-time CFO for five to seven hours per week at $800 per week. (See post here.)

When the topic of hiring a permanent CFO has come up, there has been much talk of how scarce CFOs are across the state. The city increased the salary band for that reason in 2012 from $115,000 to $125,000, but on Nov. 12 rejected a new maximum of $155,000. The salary band is now up for reconsideration on Tuesday, although the public notice does not specify figures. Plaintalker will be checking the packet today (Monday) when City Hall opens.

The other position is new. An ordinance to create the position of "chief of staff" was also rejected on Nov. 12. As detailed in the rejected ordinance, the chief of staff would serve at the pleasure of the mayor and have these duties:

-Handle the Mayor's communications with the public;
- Assist in the creation and implementation of administrative policies and goals, including the priorities for public safety, economic development, budgeting and finance, communications and operations;
-Coordinate communication between the administration and the City Council;
-Direct all intergovernmental relations for the City, working with all levels of government, including Federal, State, County and School Boards, including shared services, grant opportunities and green initiatives; and
-Perform all other functions and duties as may be assigned by the Mayor.

This is a wide-ranging role which, it might be argued, overlaps or duplicates the role of city administrator and other existing positions.  Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp suggested that he needs someone in this role as, unlike the outgoing mayor, he has a full-time job in another municipality. (The mayoralty is not a full-time position, but Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs said she devoted 60 hours a week to the role. Day-to-day operations are supposed to be carried out by a full-time city administrator, to whom the three department heads report.)

On Nov. 12, Mapp also said he was saddened by attempts to force on him people he doesn't want for his new administration. The public at large cannot discern what led to rejection of this ordinance, whether it was the new position itself or some behind-the scenes hassles over who might be in line to fill it.

An accompanying ordinance to create a salary band of $60,000 to $95,000 for the chief of staff was removed from the Nov. 12 agenda after the council rejected creation of the post.

Again, Plaintalker must verify whether the ordinances up for a vote Tuesday are the same as those offered on Nov. 12.

The special meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 26) in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave. Click here to see background on the reason for another item, the proposed conveyance by ordinance of city-owned property to the Housing Authority of Plainfield. The remaining item involves budget transfers and Plaintalker will file a separate story on that after seeing the resolution.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Downtown Parking Needs Review

Downtown parking is a subject that has never had much analysis, although the perceived lack of sufficient parking comes up often in discussions of development.

Plaintaker made an informal review in 2009 and found most lots to be underutilized and in poor condition. At present, Lot 9 off Central Avenue is in the spotlight, as there is a proposal to erect 86 apartments on that lot and a small nearby parcel, also city-owned. At a special meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall Library. the City Council may vote on conveying the land to the Housing Authority of Plainfield for the development project. This could eliminate 113 parking spaces.

Another proposal, to add three floors of apartments to a Park Avenue bank, also raises parking issues. The site is adjacent to Lot 6, behind Bill's Luncheonette and stores in the block of East Front Street between Park and Watchung avenues. This site has been considered for a parking deck and the new Transit-Oriented Development Downtown zone indicates such a use. It may be complicated by the fact that while most of it is city-owned, there is a 10-foot strip in the middle that was acquired by Paramount Assets when the company bought the Pittis Estate several years ago. There is also the cost of building a five-story parking deck at a time when the city is behind on other capital improvement needs.

Maybe it is time for a comprehensive look at parking lot usage and projected need. When Frank Cretella received approvals for a project including the former Romond's Garage site, no parking was required, even though 20 new residential units were proposed. Cretella cited a traffic study that said at any given time, 350 parking spaces were available in city lots.

In a related issue, the city recently settled with the Union County Improvement Authority over issues involving the office building at Park and Front and its parking deck. Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig said earlier this month a "hold harmless" agreement still had to be signed before the public could use the deck on evenings and weekends. This use might help with parking for events, but not necessarily for downtown dwellers.

Whatever happens with Lot 9 on Tuesday, parking should be on the list of things to address in 2014.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

City Land Sought For Development

Four of the five items on the agenda for a special meeting Tuesday are re-runs from the Nov. 12 meeting. The last one is new. For some background on the proposed ordinance "authorizing conveyance of Block 247, Lots 7 and 9, to the Housing Authority, subject to conditions," see Plaintalker's post here.

Because the meeting is on Tuesday, the ordinance may not be available for review by bloggers and other nosy types until Monday. Some of the questions in mind are whether the city will receive compensation for the land and the relationships of the various entities involved in the proposed development. 

For example, the development arm of the Housing Authority of Plainfield is the Plainfield Community Development Corporation.

Another part of the project team is West Second Street Associates LLC.  Which of these entities will deal with the land use boards, if the governing body turns over the city-owned property?

Those who want to follow the action will have to educate themselves on these nuances. For a comprehensive report on CDCs and factors for optimum functioning, click here


Friday, November 22, 2013

Special Meeting Tuesday

Below is a notice of a special meeting. Four of these items are related to matters from the Nov. 12 combined agenda-fixing and regular meeting. Item 5 is new and will require explanation. More later.










Of Wheels And Deals

 I happened to be leaving City Hall Thursday when I saw this huge bus outside. Turns out it was taking people to Atlantic City at the invitation of Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp for a reception. The bus holds more than 50 people. Mapp and many other officials are in Atlantic City this week for the League of Municipalities convention.
 The annual convention, coming just after the November general election, is a place where political pecking orders tend to get sorted out, among many other activities. See's post here.
 Next week back in Plainfield, local issues may be taken up, as the Nov. 12 City Council meeting revealed a bit more dissension than one would expect after Mapp's stunning victory at the polls. According to The Needler in the Haystack, Mapp will soon be relinquishing his Third Ward council seat in advance of taking the office of mayor on Jan. 1. The Democratic City Committee must offer three names to the council, which will choose one as an appointee until the next general election.

The appointee will be able to vote on many important issues in coming weeks and months. With a split in evidence on Nov. 12 between Democrat factions, Mapp could avoid an embarrassing rejection of his cabinet choices at the annual reorganization by naming them directly to 90-day acting terms, but by the end of March they would have to be appointed by advice and consent.

In 2014, the governing body would also have to take action if charter change is desired. The Charter Study Commission issued its report in August and recommended petitioning the state legislature for certain changes, but Plaintalker does not recall any action taken by the council.

Mapp's first budget will have to be formulated for council approval, which will bring up unresolved issues such as whether to spin off social services, accountability for recreation programs, how to manage public safety overtime costs and more.

After eight years of one style of governance, Mapp has an opportunity, if the council concurs, to establish a new way forward. Will the governing body "get on the bus" for innovation?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

That Face

Courier News

Not to make light of the situation, but the expression on President Obama's face in a front-page photo in the Courier News is one I have been pondering recently.

Is there a name for that look?

We all know a smile or a grin when we see it.


That other face comes up when things are embarrassing.

I thought maybe it could be named for the emotion itself. Call it the cha-grin.

Well, whadda you know? There is a name for it: sturgeon face. It's even a meme.

May your day be free of circumstances that make you put on a sturgeon face.

Politics - Feh

Winning with 70 percent of the vote may look like a mandate, but as Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp found out on Nov. 12, the real contest in Plainfield is being able to count to four. By now many have seen the televised council meeting where a majority voted down two key resolutions for his incoming administration.

Mapp wanted to increase the salary line for chief financial officer and also sought creation of the position of chief of staff. Denied the first, he saw its rejection as a reaction to his failure to support a budget transfer for police promotions recently made by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs.

 "Because I didn't vote for that transfer, because it's a bad piece of legislation, my colleagues decide they are going to do to Plainfield what has been done for many years," he said.

But his remark only angered colleagues who then voted down the second resolution.

Before the vote on chief of staff, Councilman Cory Storch urged the council to give the incoming mayor the team he needs, but said he saw "history repeating itself."

It's true that other mayors have triumphed in their election, only to face an implacable council.

One could assume that each council member had his or her own rationale for the way they voted, but there was another bit of video on YouTube that was widely disseminated on Election Day, in which Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green asserts his power. So could there be a situation of political factionalism with Mapp on one side and Green on the other?

The next test of whether sides are being drawn will be how the council fills the vacancy when Mapp steps down from his Third Ward seat. The Democratic City Committee will present three names to the council, which will choose one. Local pundits are already saying the 4-3 split seen at the Nov. 12 council meeting could turn into a 5-2 alignment that will effectively stymie the incoming mayor.

This pattern is a familiar one to those who have observed previous administrations, but it is one that has caused stagnation, especially in development. It's the kind of thing that makes voters stay home out of disgust and developers wander off out of dismay. Texters may say SMH, old timers can only say "Feh."


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Williamson Gets 3 Percent Raise

Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority commissioners approved a 3 percent raise for Executive Director Dan Williamson at the authority's Nov. 12 meeting.

The $4,638 raise is retroactive to July.. Williamson left his longtime position as corporation counsel for the city in July 2012 to head the authority, at a $29,613 increase over his compensation as legal counsel to the mayor and governing body.

For full details on his contract with the PMUA when he made the change, see Plaintalker's previous post.


Still trying to make up a sleep deficit from last week. Blogging will be delayed.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

FCC: Telemarketing on Cell Phones Is Illegal

All of a sudden, my son and I are getting telemarketing calls on our cell phones. It is very annoying. Just now, I looked on line and found this article, which may be of interest to others who find themselves getting such calls.

Musings and Images

The reason for the double meeting last week was that city officials want to attend the League of Municipalities conference this week. City Hall may be very quiet with so many people away.
Meanwhile, here are some photos and random thoughts. Click on any image to enlarge.
Way up on an East Front Street facade you can see the character I call "downtown guy." He's been up there a long time. Wonder what he thinks of the latest plans for redevelopment as detailed in a Star-Ledger article this week. The part about creating offices with all the amenities built in reminded me of another downtown venture that had shared copy machines and such. It started out fine, but went off the rails when one office became a sort of church, with bread lines for the needy, and another became a studio for boudoir photography. Pretty soon it failed, saints and sinners and all. The lesson is to stick to the business model and not get too far afield.
The Masonic building at Park & Seventh is undergoing a removal of loose bricks prior to repairs. The black chute at the right is where bricks were being dropped to the ground with an odd percussive sound I could hear inside my apartment. It made me wish I had a tape recorder to capture the sound for an urban audio piece of the kind I have heard on public radio. A compilation of sounds from Park & Seventh! Better than whale singing! Or at least different ...
Walking to the bank Sunday, I saw this notice in one of the Park Avenue buildings rehabilitated by developer Frank Cretella. It is the second departure of a commercial tenant from the building next to PNC Bank. Hope he gets some new ones. It occurred to me that all the new rental space, whether residential or commercial, means new landlords downtown. That would include The Monarch's rentals and Horizons at Plainfield. As a longtime tenant myself (22 years in my current apartment), I wonder what the experience is for these various renters.
Somebody was having a party on Park Avenue Sunday. A well-dressed fellow was opening a gate on North Avenue to let people park, but I couldn't figure out where they were going from there. Nice balloons, anyway.
The Hawthorn trees planted in front of City Hall are now sporting cheery red berries. In Spring, the trees will have white blossoms. A very attractive addition to the landscaping that followed the severe pruning of the Yew bushes.
When Autumn rolls around and yard work lessens, I like to crochet hats. In the past, I have given them to the American Red Cross and the YMCA. I ran into someone today who operates a food pantry at a local church and offered the latest batch for distribution there. She agreed. By Saturday, I should have an even dozen to hand over.

And so it goes in mid-November. I also picked up some books at the Plainfield Public Library to read while the meeting schedule is in abeyance. Doris Lessing, Carson McCullers, W. Somerset Maugham. Hoping you all can enjoy some walks and diversion this week.


Monday, November 18, 2013

A Mystery Solved?

 Credit: Mayan Mobile Marketing
So the document that David R. saw being signed, and which gave Dan the vapors, is just a proclamation. The Plainfield African Caribbean Commission still has to receive appointments by advice and consent, set up an annual calendar and make all the other usual arrangements. The event as pictured in The Alternative Press looks like quite the soiree in City Hall Library. Another party courtesy of SRB.

More On Tuesday's Council Meeting

Tuesday's marathon council meeting was exhausting and so was blogging about it. By Saturday, I was still out of sorts and even ill from the after-effects. Even so, there are more items of varying importance that need to be covered.

The 2014 Capital Budget and the 2014-2019 Capital Improvement Plan are important. For whatever reasons, the city has put off major expenditures for several years and very little spending is expected for 2014. We all know what happens in a household when needed repairs or major purchases keep getting put off. The same concern applies to a municipality. A council subcommittee or even a citizens' study group would do well to look into this, but the city also needs a better fiscal team to look after bonding, debt and other long-term planning. The process has bogged down and a price will be paid for neglect of this function.

On a simpler note, there were five resolutions for lien placement due to clean-ups. The total numbers of clean-ups was 121 and the total cost was $100,652.54. That works out to an average of $831.84 per clean-up. Some properties were cleaned up more than once. The city won't get this money back until the property changes hands and the buyer pays the liens. These clean-ups seem to be occurring more frequently, as properties may be in foreclosure or owned by out-of-state banks. If, as stated at a July 2012 council meeting, some owners are just using these clean-ups as a way to avoid paying a landscaper, the city is getting cheated. Maybe some analysis is needed and pressure applied to chronic offenders to do the right thing.

The issue of funding for the Kean University Small Business Development Center came up again. The program is located in The Incubator at 320 Park Avenue. Councilwoman Rebecca Williams said Kean provides the service and " they don't need our money" to provide it. The $30,000 is "purely for rent," Councilman and Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp said.

Councilwoman Tracey Brown spoke in favor of the resolution and said, "You act like it's a terrible thing."

The matter was not moved to the agenda and will be taken up again in December.

As previously reported, only $51,000 of $1.1 million in budget transfers won approval. The rest need to be reviewed and if necessary, brought back for council approval. More needs to be known about the controversial $131,000 for police promotions. Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig and Acting City Administrator/Finance Director Al Restaino were both absent on Tuesday. Some council members saw no problem with the expenditure, while others deplored it. Since only Recreation items were approved, the others are in limbo.

The next agenda-fixing session is Dec. 2 and one hopes all department heads will be available to explain the leftover items in addition to new ones.


Forty Lashes with a Wet Noodle!

First the needle, now the noodle.

The Needler in the Haystack has taken up The Wet Noodle against other bloggers whom he deems deserving of a lashing.

David R. came in for one on Saturday and my turn came up Sunday.  My transgression had to do with the casual use of the term "hajj." I had a gut reaction that it was insensitive to call an errand to City Hall the equivalent of a holy pilgrimage.After checking several sources, I did not see any proof that the word had become generalized for such usage. Dan reached back to 200 B.C. to support his argument for my chastisement.

I would rather err on the side of caution than offend another person's religion. So bring on the noodle.

As for Dan's over-the-top reaction to perceived lapses by fellow bloggers, such officiousness bodes ill for those who may have to deal with Dan as a representative of the new administration.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Event Planners, Take Notice

Oak leaves

Groups planning events in 2014 will have to make arrangements for street and sidewalk encroachments 60 days in advance, following final approval of new rules Tuesday.

Last summer, an high number of festivals and outdoor events led to multiple street closings and even a couple of disputes over use of city parking lots. Perhaps due to the high volume of requests, the City Council did not always adhere to its own rules for higher fees and advance notice on events. The 60-day notice should allow  adequate time for review of applications by public safety officials for crowd control and traffic concerns. See a post on last summer's festival concerns here.

Groups may need a reminder of the new rules once the weather breaks in spring, or the council will again be faced with last-minute pleas for permission to hold events. One of the favorite excuses this summer was that musicians had been booked and money had been spent on advertising. The new rules may make the city the first to know about event plans, instead of the last to know.


County Clerk Posts Official Nov. 5 Results

Ginkgo leaves

Official results for the Nov. 5 general election show that Councilman Adrian Mapp took 70 percent of the 7,459 votes cast for mayor of Plainfield.

Totals posted by Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi show 5,234 for Mapp, who had the Democratic party line; 1,061 for Mustapha Muhammad, an independent candidate; 765 for Republican Sandy Spector; 392 for independent D. Scott Belin and seven "personal choice" write-ins. About one-third of the city's 21,996 registered voters cast mayoral votes.

In the 4th Ward, incumbent Democrat Bridget Rivers garnered 806 votes, or 86 percent of the turnout, while Republican Barbara Johnson received 133 votes. Less than one-fourth of the 4th Ward's 4,227 registered voters took part.

Countywide, Gov. Chris Christie edged out N.J. Sen. Barbara Buono, 58,135 to 53,869. In the 22nd District Assembly race, rookie Republican John Campbell took 21.7 percent of the vote, while incumbent Democrats Jerry Green and Linda Stender both got 29 percent. Republican Jeffrey First came in last with 18.99 percent of the tally.

Click here to see all the Union County Nov. 5 election results.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Suburban Jewelers Launches Closing Sale

Suburban Jewelers, a city destination for fine jewelry and collectibles since 1961, is closing its doors.
Suburban Jewelers is the third fine jewelry store to close downtown, following Park Jewelers and Golden Jewelers. Since the passing of Irving Cohen in 2009, his daughter Elissa has operated Suburban Jewelers. She is a certified gemologist and will remain in the jewelry profession as an appraiser and consultant, she said Thursday. She will remain in contact with her customers after the closing, which will be final in early 2014.

I want to be reachable," she said.

Here she is discussing business concerns with Chris Christie during his first run for governor.
Besides fine jewelry, the store features Lenox china and giftware.
It has a large collection of Lladro porcelain figurines.
Another collection features African-American figurines.
There is also a collection based on Norman Rockwell paintings.
What does the fox say? One of several animal and bird figurines.

Elissa, called Lisa by many downtown colleagues, served on the Chamber of Commerce and was involved with the Special Improvement District since it began. She currently serves as vice president.

She told Plaintalker she considered Plainfield her home, because she spent so much time here.

In a mailer to customers, she says she did not take the decision to close lightly, but wants to pursue new endeavors and start a new chapter in her life.

A customer picking up a Lenox Christmas ornament Thursday said she appreciated Lisa's help when a diamond fell out of her ring. In addition to fixing it, Lisa helped the city resident learn more about settings and how to be sure of quality.

"I trust her," the customer said.

Recently engaged, Lisa said she plans to be married in October 2014. Regarding the difficult decision to close, she said, "I want to go out at the top of my game."

The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and will be open on three Sundays next month, Dec. 8, 15 and 22 from noon to 5 p.m. Items are up to 70 percent off for the closing sale.

Suburban Jewelers is located at 126 East Front Street, with parking at Lot 6 off East Second Street. Phone: (908) 756-1774.


More On Budget Transfers

The list above is where budget transfers were going before Resolution 373-13 went off the rails Tuesday
(Click to enlarge). S&W is Salary & Wages, OE is Other Expenses.

The only items approved were Recreation, Recreational Seasonal and an addition of $15,000 for Other Expenses, totaling $51,000, to be taken from the Worker's Compensation line.

The $131,091.38 for the Police Division was initially the most controversial. Councilman Cory Storch called it "really inappropriate" and said it was for lame duck appointments and was not "good government." He said it would impact city finances for years to come. Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig was not present to explain, nor was acting City Administrator Al Restaino, who is also the director of Administration & Finance.

Councilwoman Tracey Brown said she had spoken to Restaino and was told taxpayers will not be compromised.

Councilman and Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp objected to the PMUA transfer of $163,085.23. Corporation Counsel David Minchello explained that the city had FEMA funds that PMUA could not directly receive. He said FEMA gave the funds to the city to give to PMUA.

"You cannot transfer a grant," said Mapp, who is a certified chief financial officer in another municipality.

Mapp said if if the money was not received at the time the budget was adopted, all grants were swept into a grant fund.

Minchello said OEM Coordinator Sheldon Green said it was considered a reimbursement, not a grant. But Mapp said there are only three ways the city, saying it was a grant. Green later explained that PMUA had helped the city clean up after the Oct. 29, 2012 storm and was in fact a "vendor" of services to help clean the streets.

The shift to concern about Recreation costs began after public comment from a parent who alluded to a "misappropriation," but said there were misappropriations in everything. She said she knew all the staff in Recreation and that their children took part along with hers in the programs.

"We need staff that cares," she said in support.

Council President Bridget Rivers said in a comment to the administration that she was appalled to be just hearing that the Recreation program was being shut down.

"I think it's so unfair," she said. "I believe you guys should have contacted us. It's embarrassing."

Later, coach Lenny Cathcart spoke on Recreation as reported here.

When the transfers came up in the regular meeting that began around 10 p.m., Police Officer Nuno Carvalho spoke in public comment about the budget transfers for police, saying in 2003 police staff was cut and crime spiked. He said if the promotions were funded, the council should make sure it had funding for new officers.

Later, Councilwoman Rebecca Williams sought to amend the resolution by taking out the police item. But the vote failed.

Mapp spoke about the police funding, saying he intended to treat everyone who works for the city of Plainfield with respect. He said police will be treated fairly and get what they justly deserve, but called the promotions "disturbing" and spoke of their future negative impact on budgets.

However, concerns about the police and PMUA items became irrelevant when the focus shifted solely to Recreation.
In retrospect, this episode of legislation through drama was very odd. I'm told the meeting is up on PCTV already, so viewers can judge for themselves. No one was present to stick up for other categories of transfers, such as crossing guards.If that budget line falls short, guards will not be paid and police will have to fill in at a much higher cost. The largest transfer would have been $592,750 for Health Benefits. No one spoke in favor of saving that line.

The council can still make transfers in December or, if necessary, could hold a special meeting to deal with the issue. The next agenda-fixing session is Dec. 2 and the regular meeting is Dec. 9.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Local Hiring Ordinance Held for Legal Review

A local hiring ordinance that would require contractors to meet a 25 percent quota of residents, including minorities, was not vetted for legal issues before appearing on the City Council agenda. On the advice of Corporation Counsel David Minchello, it was held for a legal review to avoid possible litigation.

Minchello said such laws must be based on evidence, or they will be challenged.

"We need to be sure that we have that back-up data," he said.

Asked by Mayor-elect and Councilman Adrian Mapp whether he saw the ordinance in advance, Minchello said he did not have a chance to review it.

As the council prepared to take Minchello's advice, Councilwoman Vera Greaves vigorously objected, saying, "I believe we have a right to have our people be hired."

To applause from the audience, she added, "I think that's crazy."

Minchello again asserted the need for proof, but Greaves said if a worker was "going to move a stone from here to here," no education was needed.

"It's outrageous," she said.

Councilwoman Rebecca Williams said Minchello was only saying data was needed.

"We have data. We have had it for years. Give me a break," Greaves retorted.

"The most complaints I get is there are no jobs for us," Councilman William Reid said. "None of us of color would never be sitting here now (if laws had not been changed)."

Urging passage at Tuesday's regular meeting, Reid said, "The heck with it. Lawsuits happen every day. This should be on the agenda."

Williams held out for a legal review, but a consensus including Greaves, Reid, Tracey Brown and Council President Bridget Rivers agreed to move it to the agenda, with Williams, Mapp and Councilman Cory Storch saying no.

The agenda session was held in tandem with a regular meeting Tuesday. When the ordinance came up for a vote, Minchello said, "My professional legal opinion is that the ordinance is unlawful and needs further review."

Reid then moved to table it.

The council calendar will not allow for two readings and final passage before the end of 2013, so the ordinance will be taken up again in 2014.

See Plaintalker's previous post on the ordinance here.


Down by the Political Riverside

A blog post, or even several, cannot adequately capture what went on at Tuesday's combined agenda-fixing and regular meetings. Over four and a half hours, it ran the gamut from sensible action by the city's top elected officials to a political sideshow that had audience members snickering or rolling their eyes.

It was taped for viewing on the local television channels and may surface on YouTube as well. If you can't watch it all, at least take a look and let your elected representatives know what you think. Plaintalker will keep posting on individual aspects of the meeting over the next few days and expect coverage from Dr. Yood and other bloggers as well, including the officials themselves who blog.

Over 30 years of covering Plainfield, I have seen much parrying among factions. To the combatants, it may feel like a virtuous battle; onlookers may take sides or just enjoy the spectacle.

When will that day come, when as in the old song people lay down the sword and shield and "study war no more" ... a lot of citizens want to know.

Council Majority Rejects Mapp Initiatives

A City Council majority handed Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp his first setback Tuesday by rejecting key legislation for his new administration.

Mapp wanted a chief of staff in City Hall once his four-year term starts on Jan. 1, but William Reid, Vera Greaves, Tracey Brown and Council President Bridget Rivers voted "no" Tuesday to establishing the title. He also wants to increase the salary for chief financial officer, a statutory post for which the city has failed to attract applicants even with a prior increase from $114,000 to $125,000. The same four voted "no" on an increase to $155,000. After the vote, Mapp said he would put a statement on the record, to which Brown retorted, "So what?" Clarification: Rev. Tracey Brown says she said, "Me too."

Defeated in 2009 by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, Mapp turned the tables on her in the June primary this year and went on to defeat three challengers in the November general election. He and his supporters took offense at the incumbent's recent promotion of seven sergeants to lieutenant, which Councilman Cory Storch called an "end-of-term lame duck favor" and "the most irregular move I have seen" in 10 years' service.

Storch made the comments Tuesday as the council was asked to approve budget transfers including $131,091 for the Police Division. After prolonged discussion and many twists and turns, the upshot was passage of just $39,000 for the Recreation Division and rejection of all else in the $1.1 million transfer request.

Among arguments against the promotions, Councilwoman Rebecca Williams said there was no certification of funds for the lieutenants from the city's part-time CFO, the list was never certified by the state Civil Service Commission and promotions  were supposed to take place in the new administration.

Brown and Rivers objected to Mapp's characterization of their "no" votes as some sort of retribution.

 Storch said he voted for Robinson-Briggs' cabinet nominees.

"I voted for every single one of them," Storch said. "Mayor Mapp deserves his team."

Mapp also said he had voted for Robinson-Briggs' cabinet choices after the 2009 defeat. Now, he said, he is saddened by pressure being put on him to have people he did not want in his cabinet
"The people have given me the mandate to rule, but I am getting a tremendous amount of pressure to do what others want me to do," he said.

As for those promoted to lieutenant, Corporation Counsel David Minchello said they cannot actually take the title until four people sign off on the promotions. The four are the city administrator, the police director, the personnel director who has to certify the title and the CFO, who must confirm that there are adequate funds.

The City Council has three meeting left in 2013, an agenda-fixing session on Dec. 2, a regular meeting on Dec. 9 and an agenda-fixing session on Dec. 16 for the 2014 reorganization at which Mapp must seek approval for his cabinet appointees. The date of the reorganization has not yet been announced, but it must be within the first 10 days of the New Year.

Recreation Program Salvaged In Budget Transfer Saga

A compromise close to midnight saved a recreation program after coach Lenny Cathcart vowed to bring hundreds of young athletes to the next City Council meeting.

At issue was a resolution for budget transfers in 17 categories, including police salaries, recreation, crossing guards and economic development. In rejecting the transfers because they included $131,091 for controversial police promotions, the governing body also rejected everything else.

The council was holding a combined agenda-fixing and regular meeting Tuesday. In public comment during the first portion, Cathcart made a pitch for approval of the budget transfers, citing athletes in sports on major television channels who all came up through Plainfield recreation programs. But current youth programs faced shutdown for lack of funding for staff and increased gym fees.

"We only ask for gyms, balls and whistles," Cathcart told the council. "If our kids ain't in the gym, I got 400 kids that go to the streets."

Corporation Counsel David Minchello declined comment on Cathcart's assertion that a Recreation Division employee faced layoff by Nov. 19, but Council President Bridget Rivers asked incredulously, "You cannot comment on taking programs from children? I have a problem with that."

The emotion and rhetoric escalated from then on, with allegations all around.

"Find the money for these children," Rivers insisted.

The regular meeting did not begin until after 10 p.m. When the resolution on transfers came up, Councilwoman Rebecca Williams sought to amend it by removing the funding for the Police Division. The motion to amend failed, with Williams, Cory Storch and Adrian Mapp voting "yes" and Vera Greaves, Tracey Brown, William Reid and Rivers voting "no." A lengthy discussion on the police promotions ensued (which Plaintalker will cover in a separate post). The vote on transfers then split 4-3 again, but failed because it needed a five-vote super-majority to pass.

As soon as it failed, Cathcart began yelling from the audience.

"Did it fail? No recreation now!" he shouted.

The council moved on to other votes important to Mapp, who won the Nov. 5 mayoral election and will take office Jan. 1. In 4-3 votes as above, the majority voted "no" on increasing the salary band for the title of chief financial officer, then for a proposed chief of staff. Minchello said the council should not vote on a salary band for chief of staff, as the vote to create the position had failed.

Mapp linked the rejections to his "no" vote on the transfers, a notion that upset Brown and Rivers.

"I feel very disrespected by my colleague," Rivers said.

Later, Storch called for reconsideration of the transfers, asking approval  for recreation and five other categories.

Rivers then alluded to a "shutdown in Washington, D.C." where "what they wanted to do was pick and choose and the president said no."

"Let's do it right," she said, asking approval for all the transfers.

But Williams seconded Storch's motion. City Clerk Abubakar Jalloh said the proper order was to reconsider the entire motion and then amend it. The motion to reconsider passed with Mapp, Greaves and Reid voting "no" and Brown, Storch, Williams and Rivers voting "yes."

The process bogged down for a while over which of the 17 items to leave in or out, prompting Rivers to remark, "We're looking like the Keystone Cops up here."

After a 10-minute recess to sort out the numbers, the motion to amend failed and Williams deplored the loss of recreation and school crossing guards while reiterating her concerns about the police promotions.

"It's just a sad day," she said.

Cathcart yelled, "We shut down tomorrow!"

When Rivers said she understood his feelings, he shouted, "You can't understand! This has been my life!"

In public comment later, he apologized for his outburst, but said, "You're saying no to kids ... y'all are saying no to this? I've never asked nobody for nothing. I'm saying open these doors for these kids."

He pledged to bring them to the next meeting.

After another recess, the council reconvened near midnight to amend the resolution again, this time only for recreation costs totaling $36,000, to be offset by surplus in worker's compensation. The amendment passed unanimously, and then all voted "yes" on the amended resolution except Reid, who said, "No, because I don't understand it."

The meeting adjourned with no indication of what would become of the other $1,079,176.60 in proposed transfers.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Veterans Day 2013

Stepping off from City Hall
At the War Memorial on Crescent Avenue
Wreath at the War Memorial
Gathering at the War Memorial on City Hall grounds
Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs at the podium.
When the sound system failed and could not play the national anthem, veteran John Pritchard began whistling it.
VFW Sr. Vice Commander Lamar Mackson called Pritchard to the podium, where he whistled the national anthem and received much applause.
The bell was tolled at 11:11 a.m.
Police Captain Edward Santiago read a tribute to soldiers.

Prayers were offered by Pastor Tracey L. Brown of Ruth Fellowship Ministries.

Commentary on Local Hiring Ordinance

Whereas, the City of Plainfield is an older urban municipality, a designated Urban Enterprise Zone, federal Historically Underserved Business (HUB) Zone, and an Abbott School District with the demographic and infrastructure demands that require the strategic investment of resources to create a competitive workforce and to encourage private investment;

So begins Ordinance MC 2013-17, which is up for approval on first reading tonight (Tuesday).

What do these three designations mean, and what is their implication for Plainfield's future?

Urban Enterprise Zone
This designation dates back to 1985. It permitted certified retail businesses within specific boundaries to charge only half the state sales tax as an inducement to buyers. The collected sales tax was banked for draw-down by the municipality for improvements within the zone. In Plainfield, the UEZ includes the downtown as well as the South Avenue business district. Owners were supposed to hire new employees, but in Plainfield there were many sole owners or mom-and-pop operations that could not expand staff. The city also suffered a major loss of sales tax revenue when the Macy's store downtown closed about 20 years ago.
A study released in 2011 found that for  every dollar of state investment in the UEZ program, the return was only eight cents. Participation was also lacking, and based on the exhaustive findings in the report, the program was shut down with just certain features retained. Balances in the sales tax fund were turned back to municipalities for local administration..
Historically Underserved Business Zone
Even as a longtime reporter, I was not familiar with this term. I found out it involves the Small Business Administration and SCORE, a counseling agency staffed by retired executives, in assisting entrepreneurs.
For comprehensive information, click here.
Two Plainfield locations are listed in the report, one being the Plainfield Public Library, which recently opened a job center, and The Incubator at 320 Park Avenue, which houses SBA and SCORE offices.
Abbott School District
Plainfield is one of about 30 school districts that receive special state aid as "poorer urban districts.". Read the history of Abbott schools here.
While neighboring suburban districts pay roughly 80 percent of school costs from property taxes and receive around 20 percent in state aid, Plainfield had the opposite ratio for many years. The state began taking a tougher stance on Abbott districts in 2006 (see post here) and more recently began increasing the amount local taxpayers must pay for schools in 2008 (click here), while still giving massive amounts of aid. Opponents say the state aid formula is not bringing about the desired improvements in urban school and suburbs are being short-changed.

Jobs and Plainfield's Future
Looking at all this history, it appears that Plainfield has projected an image of great need for special breaks, but things have not turned around as hoped even after several decades. With a new administration, there is hope for new strategies.

Regarding a quota imposed on contractors for local hires, the question may be whether the city is the agent to make jobs happen or whether the job development agencies in the city are the tool. A person who acquires skills need not make Plainfield's six square miles the boundaries of opportunity, given the rail, bus and highway access to three counties and beyond.

At the same time, maybe some City Hall energy needs to be directed more towards filling up the sites identified here and let economic nature take its course, rather than try to put contractors on the hook and create a new bureaucracy to monitor them.

For eight years, the city has placed the responsibility for economic development in a mid-level division. Mayor-elect Adrian Mapp says he will establish a cabinet-level post for economic development. A well-qualified person will be able to analyze Plainfield's current state of economic affairs and discern how the city comes across to potential partners for future success. There is also the benefit of a recent economic development study led by Dr. Roland Anglin and the recommendation for a follow-up process to establish a written plan for "Plainfield 2021" to guide the city's future economy and quality of life.

Whether or not Plainfield is a poor and needy city, state government is saying the UEZ and Abbott initiatives are not producing the desired changes and the city must take more responsibility for its own future. Federal programs may follow suit, so the sooner the city can find its own cures for adversity, the better. It is up to the governing body to decide whether a local hiring program is part of the solution or an ill-advised stopgap measure that will deter contractors from doing business with the city.

The City Council will hold its agenda-fixing session at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Tuesday) in Municipal Court, followed by the regular meeting at 8 p.m.