Monday, June 30, 2014

July 4 Parade, Fireworks Are On July 5

Don't haul your lawn chairs down to Front Street Friday for the 91st Central Jersey July 4 Celebration, unless you plan to stay overnight. The parade will step off at 10 a.m. Saturday and the fireworks will start at dusk Saturday in Cedar Brook Park.

Old-timers may remember when the "Central Jersey" part referred to a joint effort by eight or nine municipalities to organize and fund the celebration. A committee worked year-round to make the arrangements. All their terms expired in 1993 and although legislation passed in 2006 to establish an all-Plainfield committee, no members were ever named. I'm told that may change for 2015, ending the practice of ad hoc planning for the event and a bit of mystery about the costs involved.

The city has budgeted $52,400 for the event this year. In 2012, a request for details of the costs did not get a response until January 2013. But as noted in this post, the issue of cost disclosure went back to 2006.

The issue of costs came up also when a contribution from Investors Savings Bank for the event in 2010 was apparently diverted to a controversial "Town Hall" radio show featuring Rev Al Sharpton.

All in all, the celebration is overdue for some rigorous planning with full disclosure of costs and it seems that will be the way it goes next year. The reason given in the past for not holding the event on July 4th was extra pay for employees. Maybe an analysis can pinpoint the difference and adjustments can be made so that the 92nd Central Jersey July 4 Celebration will be on July 4.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mapp Answers Q&A on Jackson's Successor

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp has responded to my request for a Q&A on Eric Jackson's successor. Jackson, the city's director of Public Works & Urban Renewal since September 2011, won the May 10 mayoral runoff election in Trenton and will take office July 1.

Jackson was so popular and highly regarded here that he was asked to stay on in his post after Mayor Mapp took office on Jan. 1. Among his accomplishments were several departmental improvements, such as a review of the capital improvement process. He also oversaw the renovation of City Hall, including restoration of the original 1917 seal on the rotunda floor. Working with several commissions, he planned and executed a transformation of the grounds of City Hall as well, a visible legacy that all can admire and enjoy.

Here is Mayor Mapp's response:

Will you be making a search for a new Public Works & Urban Development director now that Eric Jackson has become mayor of Trenton? Yes, I will be advertising for Eric Jackson’s replacement very shortly.
The department has two aspects, one being Public Works (maintenance of roads and fields and seasonal tasks such as snow removal and various pickups}. But the Urban Development aspect is now front-and-center with the Transit Village designation, new TOD zones and a cabinet-level director for economic development who will rely on Planning to work with developers. In light of this, what talents or skills will you seek in candidates for the PW&UD post at this juncture? Eric’s replacement has to be a highly skilled professional, preferably with an engineering background and some urban planning experience. The person must be able to hit the ground running. The individual must have very good communication skills and must be able to communicate in an assertive and effective manner with the governing body and the public.
This is an advice-and-consent position. How soon do you hope to present a nominee to the council? My goal is to nominate a candidate for advice and consent within the next 30 – 60 days.


Health Fair Today

Lenin Aguirre writes to say, "There is a 'Health Festival' this Sunday - June 29 from 10:00AM-4:00PM in Plainfield! It will be held behind Supremo Supermarket-249 East Front Street, Plainfield NJ. I strongly recommend everyone to attend and show your support in this great cause."

Summer Flowers

One of the prettiest sights upon returning home was the Catchfly in bloom. My neighbor had planted wildflower seeds last year and after they bloomed, my seed-gathering urge kicked in. Catchfly seeds are a little bigger than dust particles. I was not sure they would germinate. What a nice surprise to see these flowers! And yes, they do have stalks with a sticky substance that could catch a fly - well, a little fly.

The gift that keeps on giving, these Black-Eyed Susans are the newest generation from a bag of seed heads that the owner of Schmiede's Nursery permitted me to collect from the bank in front of his business many years ago. Early on, the show was spectacular. Later, the flowers popped up so ubiquitously that they were practically weeds, as in the old definition that a weed is just a flower in the wrong place.

A handsome flower and a handsome bug. The Purple Coneflower, beloved of cold remedy illustrators, is always pleasing to see in the garden. It is not as quick to spread as some of its fellow composites, so a little lifting and re-planting is in order. I have moved them around to spots where they are easier to view when it's showtime.

I thought the feathery leaves of Dill would set off other plants nicely, so I gathered seeds and scattered them in maybe too many other places than the original site. The umbel of tiny yellow flowers is nice to contemplate while making a mental shopping list including a piece of salmon.

Nasturtiums are one of my favorites. I had an early success (or nightmare) with a climbing Nasturtium that pooled out six feet over the lawn for lack of a trellis. I had purchased a pricey compost bin after interminable fretting over the cost, and when I pulled up the prolific Nasturtium at the end of the season, it filled the entire bin! Luckily it wilted down to make room for my other compostables.

Hope you enjoyed the images! I sure was glad to be in the garden to see them. After the only major surgery in my life, I was, as the joke goes, glad to be anywhere!


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ramadan Greetings

Ramadan Mubarak
to all our
friends and neighbors

Gold and Rules

In these tough economic times, cleaning out the jewelry box to raise cash may sound like a good idea. But as a story in the Courier News notes, one must be aware of the rules for buying and selling gold or run the risk of being cheated.

Five Plainfield stores were among 21 cited for possible violations of "cash for gold" consumer protection laws. They are Electronic and Jewelry Spot, Gold Breeze Jewelry, Gold Star Jewelry, Dia Jewelers and Bong Jewelers.

According to the story, "The violations range from failing to post prices for precious metals to failing to keep scales in plain view and failing to maintain receipts."

The only gold jewelry I own is a $12 wedding band purchased in 1958 from Bamberger's, but if you have valuable pieces that you are thinking of selling, first read this state-issued brochure, "Selling Your Precious Metals and Jewelry."


Friday, June 27, 2014

SID Party Tomorrow

To see some of what you can expect at Saturday's Special Improvement District Block Party, here is a post from 2011. 

The event is from noon to 4 p.m. on East Front Street between Park and Watchung in the city's original downtown.

Every household should have received the SID magazine, Positively Plainfield, that has a schedule of music and dance performances. There will also be a car, truck and bike show, local vendors and a patriotic opening ceremony.

The SID is marking its 10th anniversary of promoting Plainfield's shopping districts, so if you see any of the board members (pictured on Page 3 of the magazine), wish them well for another decade and more!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

A New Look at Plainfield


Plainfield is a very old city and its residents greatly value longevity. I have been here since 1983, so to many I am still a newcomer. But changes are always taking place, and it's good every so often to see the city through another's eyes. Hence my suggestion that you take a look at a new blog that features people and places you might find interesting.

Using the big-city formula of creating names for districts, the creators are calling it "Plai-do," for Downtown Plainfield. You can find it here
Recent posts feature artist Gerry Heydt, a new Tex-Mex restaurant, the Boys & Girls Club and, because it is backed by developer Frank Cretella, posts about the Courier News Building and some other renovated buildings clustered around the main train station.

Some may recall when Plainfield's blog roster swelled from just a few to nearly thirty. Blogs are time-consuming to maintain and over the years many fell away. But here is a new one! So take a look!


The Intolerable Mr. Toliver

Four months after Alex Toliver exploded in anger at being replaced on the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, he now claims he resigned.

In his Feb. 10 outburst where the City Council voted 4-3 to replace him with mayoral nominee Charles Tyndale, Toliver became so angry he had to be escorted out by a police officer.

Before the vote, Toliver and his wife, Diane, both lashed out at Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, saying they worked hard for him, presumably in the effort that won Mapp the mayoralty in November. Toliver suggested Mapp "may be temporary" and claimed the mayor was giving away the city to "carpetbaggers." He predicted a breakdown of PMUA systems like a "tsunami" and said, "The city is going to collapse right before your feet."

See full post here.

While a commissioner, Toliver joined Malcolm Dunn and Cecil Sanders in a 2012 vote to give former PMUA executives Eric Watson and David Ervin additional settlements that pushed Watson's total to $901,000, up from $151,000 and Ervin's to $424,000 instead of $124,000. Toliver  now claims he was just one of six commissioners, but it only takes three votes to pass PMUA resolutions and his was one.

Now Toliver is on a rampage against Councilwoman Rebecca Williams. As reported on her blog, there was a time when he sent her flowery, flirty messages. Now he suggests she should be beheaded.

Also on Sunday,I received two similar "anonymous" replies to comments by Williams on a May 3 Plaintalker post, "About That Mailing." I published one, but then removed it. I did not publish the longer one. Here they are:


a good liar is not a great liar this you should have learn from what ever your studies 1/e lesson 101 you would bite the hand that fed you !! WOW NOW ALL OG PLAINFIELD IS COMING FOR YOU AND ALL OF YOR SDUPPOSE FRIENDS YOU CANT BE TRUSTED

These comments have Toliver's M.O., even if posted anonymously. Maybe he realized verifiable threats are actionable.

The Plainfield Democratic situation is bad enough without anyone suggesting it advance to people "coming for you" or that "you need to be removed." Such individuals may preach political loyalty, but as one can see in "About That Mailing," dumb loyalty often leads to regret.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Thanks to All

Hi, everybody.

I have been sidelined for medical reasons and will probably be recuperating for a while. I wasn't going to specify the reason for my "break," but apparently enough people have heard about it by now. I am not going to share details, but I had to have surgery and it turned out to be more complicated than expected.

Anyway, I expect it will be a while before I can traipse around and put up with long meetings.Blogging will be curtailed but I will post as able.

So thanks for all your nice comments and I will be up and about as soon as possible.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Time for a Break

Plainfield Plaintalker began in June 2005, out of my desire to inform city residents and Barbara Todd Kerr's willingness to devise a way. Few people knew what a blog was then. Initially, I didn't either. Barbara set the whole thing up, with a "soft launch." As people became aware of an online source for news about Plainfield, readership picked up. One early reader told me he read the "blob" every day.

I had been a reporter, retiring in 2003, around the time that the newspaper industry began major shifts in focus. One editor decided coverage should be based on the mantra, "eat, shop, work, play." I felt there were things readers needed to know beyond that, such as how their tax money was being spent and how well their public servants were serving. This meant going to public meetings, researching documents, explaining what the City Council was voting on. My hope was to engage citizens in local decision-making.

Barbara was in charge of production and I provided most of the content. Initially, we both had free time to work on the blog, but Barbara later had demands on her time that led to my learning how to wrangle the posting. In January 2007, it became a solo operation. I gathered content, took photos and put up the posts myself. Once Plainfield Plaintalker became large and unwieldy, I created Plaintalker II. Readers can search either blog by putting a keyword in the box at upper left.

When Barbara was in charge, we did not take comments. In March 2008, I decided to allow comments. Initially, readers stuck to the issues, but especially in political season, some comments got out of bounds. As moderator, I decide what gets posted. Last month, I made a mistake. I apologized. For some, it was not enough.

Anyway, I moved on. This month marks nine years of blogging, with more than 500 posts per year. Please be advised that I will be taking a break and will resume as soon as possible. Thanks for all your support and encouragement over the years.


Shade Tree Commission Event Saturday

Please note: I usually do not post events but as a former Shade Tree Commission member, I am making an exception:

Plainfield Shade Tree Commission is presenting a free community event in the Anne Louise Davis Room
at the Plainfield Public Library from 10 to noon on Saturday, June 21, 2014.

NJ Certified Tree Expert Pam Zipse of Hometown Forests, LLC will cover such topics as:
- Choosing the right tree for the right place on a residential property
- Choosing the appropriate tree species
- What to look for at a garden center when choosing a tree.

Also, how to plant, water mulch and do developmental pruning to prevent structural defects in trees.

There will time for a Q&A on other tree topics as well.

The event is free of charge, with first come, first served seating in the Anne Louise Davis Room, so claim your seat early! Hope to see you there,

Plainfield Shade Tree Commission

Jackson Names Transition Team

Check out Eric Jackson's transition team - a couple of familiar names are included.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Some Background on IT and Media

One advantage of having written a blog for nine years is that an archive now exists that may shed light on current city issues. Rather than expound on the present state of affairs in IT/Media, I direct your attention to past posts such as this one from 2010 titled "IT: Info Technology or Incessant Turmoil" which has links to other relevant information..

Among other quirky things that happened along the way in videography decisions, there was the time the council approved paying $100 per hour for taping meetings and events.

Questions arose in 2011 on council coverage, which is currently the topic of a perceived political tug of war between the administrative and legislative branches.

Initially former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs wanted Chris Payne to report directly to her, but the division had to be placed under one of the three departments mandated in the City Charter. It ended up under Administration, Finance, Health & Social Services, which had become a catch-all when former Mayor Mark Fury rearranged divisions under the three departments in the 1990s. The department now has 17 divisions. Click here and roll over the division headings to see the array.


Media, Liquor Licenses Dominate Council Meeting

Residents had an hour to chat at Monday's City Council meeting while the governing body met in closed session to discuss a personnel matter. When the meeting opened, Lamar Mackson Sr. led off public comment with a diatribe on the June 4 firing of his son, Lamar David Mackson, the former producer of PCTV programming.

The elder Mackson had railed against the firing last week, along with more than a dozen other supporters of his son, and Council President Bridget Rivers called it a "travesty." She called last week for a closed-door session on the spot to discuss the issue; presumably that was what happened Monday.
Besides praising his son's work at the local television channel, Mackson Sr. alluded Monday to a "biased" transition team report on the media division that he said did not take his son's accomplishments into account.

"It was completely negative," he said.

A member of the team later became the city public information officer and competed for his son's job, he said.

Complicating the subject further, the agenda for Monday's meeting included a resolution for $17,499 to hire a local firm for videography services. The firm includes the person taping the meeting and she had previously worked with the younger Mackson in the same capacity. Finance Director Ron West said there should have been a contract for the services drawn up at the beginning of the year and the action Monday was to "legitimize" the service.

"There should have been a resolution all along," West said.

Councilwoman Gloria Taylor questioned whether the videographer had been getting paid all along.

Rivers said the council and administration were "still in discussion in reference to the future of the media department."

In amending the budget last month, a council majority took funds out of the media salary line specifically for the title of public information officer.
The closed session, along with 49 resolutions and five ordinances, pushed the meeting to nearly four hours.

Many of the resolutions had to do with liquor license renewals, which must be approved by June 30. The roster of proposed renewals last week included three club licenses, eight bar or restaurant licenses and seven liquor store licenses. The council did not receive police reports in last week's packets, but upon review of the number of incidents requiring police response, resolutions for three bars and three liquor stores were tabled Monday.

Councilman Cory Storch began the move to table by noting that a Front Street night club, Faraones, had 148 incidents. Police Captain Steven Soltys said the reports were on non-criminal incidents, such as fights and disorderly conduct, but Storch said the club owner was in effect using the city police force as security. He called for a hearing on the license renewal, but Corporation Counsel David Minchello explained that the governing body, acting as the local Alcoholic Beverage Control board, could impose conditions without a hearing.

"A number of these reports are very troubling," Storch said, and the council went on to table more resolutions for renewal, even though police had approved them.

In public comment later, La Bamba Inn attorney Robert Ferb said putting the resolution off until July would mean his client's license would expire as of June 30. Minchello said the license holder could obtain an ad interim license, but Ferb said it would cause his client an expense.

"Very sorry, Mr. Ferb," Minchello said.

According to the state ABC Handbook, the temporary ad interim license is $75 plus $5 per day. The next regular council meeting is July 14. The other tabled resolutions were for El Palacio Latino Corp., Ben Franklin Liquors, San Homa Liquors and Pickwick Liquor Store.

A resolution to renew the license for Plainfield Liquors was added as a new item and passed, leaving 13 others still not ready for renewal by the June 30 deadline.

The council voted to deny renewal for Arlington Liquors/Clinton Grocery &Deli, based on a police recommendation. Minchello said that action will trigger a hearing.

The next council meeting is an agenda-fixing session at 7:30 p.m. on July 7 in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.


Monday, June 16, 2014

City Needs Updated Table of Organization

Over recent months, new city titles have been created and older titles have been revived. It's time to spell out the current organizational set-up, even if some of these posts are vacant right now.

For example, does anybody recall passage of a resolution permitting hiring of two deputy police directors? Where do they fit in with the present structure of the Police Division? During the previous administration, the number of captains changed several times, most recently to five in charge of seven bureaus but previously as low as three and as high as seven.

The title and salary band for the chief of staff position were approved last year, although the City Council rejected the mayor's appointee by cutting the 2014 budget. There is a new deputy city administrator for economic development, even though no one held the position foe eight years and it is not presently reflected on the city's web site.

Divisional changes have resulted in a split-off of Media from Information Technology and there is confusion over job titles there. Is the person in charge an "audio visual specialist" or media director?

The title of Public Information Officer goes back many years, although it was vacated by way of defunding it for several years, revived and most recently defunded again. There is also some confusion over whether it is a cabinet-level post.

The city has six bargaining units, including the Plainfield Municipal Managers Association and the Plainfield Municipal Employees Association, as well as a rather long list of non-union or non-represented employees. With changes in recent years, it would be good to know for planning and budgeting purposes who reports to whom across the organization.

These basic structural considerations may have gotten lost in the political brouhaha that has reigned since the beginning of 2014. A chart of the titles and chain of command can be drawn up and made public despite the controversies, so that when and if the dust settles, at least the framework of the administration will be known and recognized.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

For Father's Day

For Father's Day I am reposting a remembrance of my father, originally posted in 2010:

Remembering My Father

Direct Deposit Proposed for City Employees

Mandatory direct deposit of paychecks, described as "commonsense legislation" when signed by Gov. Chris Christie, did not make sense to all City Council members Tuesday.

The bill mandating direct deposit for all state employees as of July 1 also provided for municipalities and school districts to follow suit, but council members were reluctant to force it on city employees, saying many do not have or may not be able to get bank accounts. The proposed ordinance would apply to all part-time and full-time city workers and seasonal employees would have the option of requesting direct deposit.

Only one speaker, a firefighter, spoke against the proposal in public comment, but Councilwoman Vera Greaves said she wanted it to be transitioned and Council President Bridget Rivers raised the issue of workers not being eligible to get checking accounts.

City Administrator Rick Smiley said it costs about 51 cents to issue a paycheck and the city has 500 employees. He said the city would set up meetings with banks so employees could get accounts. Councilman Cory Storch said credit unions should also be considered, as they do not charge fees for transactions.

Poor credit is one reason why a bank might deny a consumer a checking account, according to this FDIC article which offers possible options such as a 'second chance" account.

Council members agreed to consider an ordinance, but instead of it taking effect July 1, the council favored a Jan. 1, 2015 starting date.

The ordinance, MC 2014-14, is on the agenda for first reading Monday. The meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Alice Logie Honored

The League of Women Voters of Plainfield honored one of its most active and loyal members at the annual dinner Wednesday. Alice Logie is a fine example of a dedicated Plainfielder and if you don't know her already, I hope this link will let you appreciate her devotion to voter registration and education for more than half a century in the Queen City.

Council Seeks Expenses for Special Events

Municipal Code "Special event means carnivals (limited to the operation of ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, whips, automatic rides or devices mounted on trucks), circuses, menageries, motion pictures, and outdoor festivals and tent shows."

The recent proliferation of downtown festivals has raised new issues for government, one being costs associated with having thousands of visitors streaming in. An ordinance amending the rules for special events would provide for reimbursement to the city.

If the proposed changes are approved, a special events license holder would have to "bear all municipal costs" for police, fire, health and public works expenses associated with an event. The City Clerk, in consultation with the appropriate department heads, would estimate the cost after granting of a license but before the event. The applicant would then be asked to provide a certified check for the estimated costs no later than 10 days before the first day of the event.

The funds would be held in escrow and any balance returned to the license holder. In case the funds were not sufficient, the license holder would have 30 days to pay the balance. If the clerk does not receive the certified check 10 days in advance, the license shall be considered forfeited. The proposed new fees are "separate and apart" from any fee for the license itself.

Special events would be limited to no more than three days and would have to close by 11 p.m. each day.

A somewhat controversial part is that applicants, except for governmental and related agencies, would be limited to one special event per year. Last year, two nightclub owners wanted more than one event each. One held celebrations for both the United States and Central American Independence Days. The other wanted a rodeo in addition to a Central American Independence Day celebration, but the rodeo plan did not even get put up for a vote. While presented as cultural events, the celebrations have been perceived as commercial enterprises by some residents and have generated noise complaints for amplified music.

The ordinance is up for first reading Monday at the regular City Council meeting, 8 p.m. in Municipal Court.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Latin Dance Concert Saturday

The Friends of the Plainfield Public Library will present a free Latin dance concert Saturday (June 14) featuring Grupo Musical Salvacion.

The event is from 3 to 7 p.m. on College Place, between the library and Library Park. Attendees are advised to bring their dancing shoes and lawn chairs to enjoy the concert.

If you have not done so already, bookmark the Plainfield Public Library web site to keep up with events and information about this valued resource for our city. Library news includes the announcement that it will become the third city site to be certified as an official GED testing site. You can also look up books and even download material through the link.

The Friends of the Plainfield Public Library support library needs and provide many activities for the community. You can learn more and download a membership form at the link. 


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Controversial Liquor Store Had 80 Violations

A liquor store with troubles dating back nearly a quarter-century had 80 violations this year, an investigating police detective told the City Council Tuesday.

Naicken Inc., trading as Arlington Liquors/Clinton Deli & Grocery is slated for non-renewal of the owner's liquor license for the 2014-2015 term. The city has 33 liquor establishments and the council acts as the local Alcoholic Beverage Control board, granting or denying renewal each year. Eighteen licenses are up for renewal at the June 16 council meeting where owner Vadrajan Naicken faces non-renewal. Fourteen more have unresolved issues such as non-payment of state and local fees or failure to pass reviews by the Police, Fire or Inspections Divisions.

Naicken was denied license renewal last year, but appealed to the state ABC board and a decision is pending. Council President Bridget Rivers, who along with Councilman William Reid and Councilwoman Vera Greaves defended him last year, wanted to wait for the outcome. Councilwoman Gloria Taylor sought more information Tuesday, but Councilman Cory Storch asked whether there was "any downside" to passing the resolution for non-renewal. Acting Corporation Counsel John Motta said, "This is current."

"In this current year, we still have some issues," Detective Nuno Carvalho said, noting drug activity and weapons among causes for 80 violations thus far for the year.

By contrast, a nearby bar where liquor is consumed had "only 37 incidents," he said.

Carvalho said there is a "dollar figure" related to police response for the high volume of incidents.

"I recommend we go ahead," Storch said.

The "Arlington Liquors" part of the name relates to Naicken's former store on Arlington Avenue, which, according to news clips, drew complaints as far back as 1990 about loitering and drug activity. But even then, Naicken had supporters in City Council President Helen Miller and Planning Board member Rose Walker, both now deceased, who defended him at a council meeting that year.
The problems at that location ended when the city paid Naicken $90,000 for his store and $30,000 in relocation funds because of a redevelopment plan for the area. The city also paid attorney Michele Donato $5,000 for legal costs associated with the relocation. Resident Nancy Piwowar suggested at the time that the city should buy Naicken's license, but that did not happen due to concerns over the possible cost.
Naicken eventually relocated to West Front Street near Clinton Avenue, but problems continued. He only won license renewal in 2011 with requirements that he install multiple security cameras and hire armed guards. But when the 2012-2013 renewal period came up, police reported 254 calls to the premises in the 2011-12 term for incidents including sale of alcohol to minors, drug possession, fights, assaults, weapons offenses and sale of loose cigarettes. The most disturbing report to city officials and police was that drugs were found on several occasions “beneath the ice cream freezer” within the store, where ice cream and candy were sold to children.


Jackson Wins Trenton Mayoralty

Council President Bridget Rivers interrupted Tuesday's council meeting at 9:10 p.m. to announce that Eric Jackson had won the Trenton runoff election for mayor.

Jackson came to Plainfield in September 2011 and almost instantly won a following for his professional demeanor and genial personality. As director of the Department of Public Works & Urban Development, he oversaw renovations at City Hall to create a "clean, uncluttered look" more befitting the Queen City than the previous decor.

He and Public Works Superintendent John Louise also gave a new look to the exterior and grounds of City Hall. 

After the June 2013 primary in Plainfield, a new administration was in the city's future and Plaintalker was among those who hoped the next mayor would keep Jackson in the cabinet. Mayor Adrian O. Mapp did just that.

Jackson began an unpaid leave in March, just before the Trenton filing date. He was one of six candidates and in the May nonpartisan election he did not achieve the required 50 percent for a win. He then faced Paul Perez in the June 10 runoff and received 55 percent of the votes.

If as expected he leaves the city to be mayor of his hometown, it will be a reversal of Plaintalker's 2011 commentary that called Trenton's loss Plainfield's gain. We wish him all the best.


Residents Protest Mackson Firing

Lamar Mackson
His father spoke first, and then a dozen friends and colleagues followed Tuesday in protest of the firing of PCTV producer Lamar Mackson for what many called political motives on the part of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp.

The outcry took up an hour of public comment at the City Council agenda-fixing meeting and left Council President Bridget Rivers vowing to bring Mackson back, even if the council had to hire him as a consultant.
Richard Stewart (standing, center) addresses the council.
Richard Stewart, chairman of the 2014 Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, offered a timeline that included taking the public information officer's salary out of the budget, Mapp's controversial YouTube video charging obstruction of his new administration, a special council meeting to express disapproval of the video, Mapp's move to cut funding for taping all but regular council meetings, the June 3 primary where a Mapp-backed slate got only two of three seats and, Stewart said, "The next day Lamar Mackson was fired."

Mapp was not present Tuesday, but City Administrator Rick Smiley defended the action, saying, "While it was  hurtful, it was a necessary thing.

"We also no longer have a PIO," Smiley said, referring to the council cut.

Rivers countered that the balance of funding for the Media Division had remained the same.

"The money's there," she said, calling Mackson's firing "a travesty."

Councilwoman Gloria Taylor called for an investigation, labeling the firing "a dirty blow on the backs of our children," but Councilman Cory Storch reminded the council of the separation of powers between the administrative and legislative branches and suggested his colleagues "take a deep breath and think this through."

But Rivers said he was "totally incorrect."

"We specifically took out the amount of money added for the public information officer," Rivers said. "That money for Lamar Mackson still sits in the budget."

Rivers called for a recess "behind closed doors," adding, "We need to work this out." 

But Smiley said, "That's not the way we are doing business tonight," adding the firing was clearly "the prerogative of the administration."

Mackson formerly headed the Plainfield Cable Television Advisory Board, but became more and more involved with the production side, leading to his hiring in May 2013 as an employee in the Media Division. Many speakers praised his innovations for the two local channels, PCTV Comcast 96/Verizon 34. He was singled out for involving young people as interns and establishing a YouTube channel to put forth a positive image of the city. 

Mackson's father, Lamar Mackson Sr., voiced anger at the firing, saying his son did not get proper notice and declaring, "He's been doing the job admirably."

Allison McWilliams a daughter of the late Mayor Albert T. McWilliams, said she was always amazed at the amount of "bickering and backstabbing" in Plainfield since she was a child. But she said Mackson gives young people "a reason to come back." 

Lesli Price called Mackson the "glue" for Plainfield and said he put children "back in the forefront."

Lyle Hickman compared Mackson to a prophet not respected in his own land and said, "I like PCTV. It's fun. It's exciting. It captivates people."


Monday, June 9, 2014

Beware! If You'se a Viper - Or a Vaper

Cannabis sativa image, 6th Century
Well, maybe it's high time the city broadened its "no smoking" rules to deal with the possibility of legal marijuana and the increased popularity of electronic cigarettes.

A proposed ordinance broadens the term "smoke" to include electronic cigarette vapors and marijuana smoke along with tobacco in prohibiting such indulgences in municipal buildings and city agencies..

It says smoking means "engaging in an act that generates smoke, such as for example, but not limited to, possessing a lighted pipe, a lighted hookah pipe, a lighted cigar, an operating electronic cigarette, a lighted cigarette of any kind or a lighted smoke inhalation device of any kind that generates smoke, or the act of lighting or igniting a pipe, a hookah pipe, a cigar, a cigarette or smoke inhalation device of any kind that generates smoke."

The lore around smoking marijuana goes way back into the 20th Century, as in this 1936 Stuff Smith tune, "You'se a Viper."  Curiously enough, those who use electronic cigarettes are known as "vapers."

So if this legislation passes, both vipers and vapers will have to join those lonely smokers standing around outside municipal buildings satisfying their habits while their nonsmoking colleagues are inside working. Psst - there's a hookah shop downtown in case that's your style. You'll just have to keep it under your desk when not in use outside.


Fire Officers' Pay, More on Tonight's Agenda

Firefighters are due to receive a 1.25 percent cost of living increase for 2013 if the City Council approves a resolution next week.

Also up for a vote next week if the council moves it to the agenda is an ordinance to increase pay for fire officers. Wage ranges would be from $63,402 to $98,280 for fire lieutenants, $73,039 to $113,180 for fire captains, $78,635 to $121,855 for a battalion chief and $84,229 to $130,529 for a deputy fire chief. If passed on two readings, the increases would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013.

Those measures are up for consideration tonight (June 10) at the agenda-fixing session, 7:30 p.m. in Municipal Court.

Also up for discussion:

-Award of a contract for media production services to WBN Production Services at a cost not to exceed $17,499.

- An amendment to an ordinance on television coverage of council meetings indicating all meetings (agenda/work meetings, regular meetings, special meetings and emergency meetings) shall be video-recorded. This comes in the wake of the administration's ruling that only regular meetings will be televised for the balance of 2014 due to budget constraints. Council President Bridget Rivers announced at a May 29 special meeting that the council was paying for that night's coverage on video. The special meeting was called to disapprove of a video featuring Mayor Adrian Mapp.

-Modification of special event rules to include a requirement that organizers bear all municipal costs associated with the event. An estimate will be given after receiving permission but before the event takes place. The organizer must pay by certified check in advance and will later receive any unexpended balance. Special events must not exceed three days' duration and cannot run past 11 p.m., according to the proposed amendments.


Official 2014 Primary Results

Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi has posted official results of the June primary, but to save you from having to scroll through all the results, here are the numbers in the Democratic contests:
First Ward
Diane Toliver, 510 (63.51 percent)
Emmett Swan, :206 (25.65 percent)
Siddeeq El-Amin, 87 (10.83 percent)

Second & Third Ward at-large
Charles Eke, 1,017 (46.89 percent)
Rebecca Williams, 1,151 (53.07 percent)

Third Ward
Gloria Taylor, 568 (50.85 percent)
Charles McRae, 515 (46.11 percent)
Rasheed Abdul-Haqq, 34 (3.04 percent)

No Republican filed in the First Ward. For the Second & Third Ward at-large seat, Randy Bullock got 90 votes and for the Third Ward seat, Charles A. Jones Jr. got 30 votes. The Democratic winners will face the Republicans in those wards in the Nov. 4 general election. 

Speaking of elections, the Tuesday (June 10) mayoral run-off  in Trenton pits Eric Jackson against Paul Perez and the winner will take office on July 1. Jackson is on unpaid leave as Plainfield's director of Public Works & Urban Development, with City Administrator Rick Smiley holding the additional post in acting capacity.


Liquor Licenses Up for Renewal, One Denial Proposed

It's liquor license renewal time and at Tuesday's City Council meeting the governing body will consider renewals for three social clubs, eight bars or restaurants and seven liquor stores, along with the proposed non-renewal of one store for a second time.

Fourteen other liquor license holders have not yet met all the state and local requirements for renewal.

The troubled Clinton Deli & Grocery stayed open in the 2012-2013 term only after owner Vadrajan Naicken promised to install cameras on the premises to help prevent violations, but he was reluctant to hire security guards as city officials asked. Police reported 254 calls to the premises in the 2011-12 term for incidents including sale of alcohol to minors, drug possession, fights, assaults weapons offenses and sale of loose cigarettes. The most disturbing report to city officials and police was that drugs were found on several occasions “beneath the ice cream freezer” within the store, where ice cream and candy were sold to children.

Last year, a hearing revealed new violations, but when it came to a vote, a council majority was reluctant to deny Naicken's renewal.  At the Aug. 19 meeting, Councilwoman Tracey Brown initially sided with Vera Greaves, William Reid and Council President Bridget Rivers in not adding the matter to the agenda. But after Councilman Adrian Mapp and Councilwoman Rebecca Williams recalled police findings of underage alcohol and drug sales at the store and argued for denial, Brown, who had not attended the hearing where police testified, joined them and Cory Storch for a consensus to add the item. After several residents spoke against the renewal, the council voted unanimously to deny it.

Plaintalker was told months later that Naicken was allowed to stay in business while he appealed the denial.

The deadline for liquor license renewals is June 30 for the 2014-2015 term. But the process tends to drag on as stragglers pay their state sales tax and local renewal fees or fail reviews by the Police, Fire or Inspections divisions. In Plainfield, the City Council is the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and rules on approvals and denials of licenses. Other municipalities have commissions, and in April it was proposed that Plainfield change to having a three-member ABC commission. The idea was rejected by Rivers, who as council president decides what goes on the agenda.

Tuesday's agenda-fixing session is 7:30 p.m. in Municipal Court. The regular meeting will be held at 8 p.m. June 16 in Municipal Court.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

On Political Season(ings)

Today's political sermon is on the topic of salt, an element that loomed large in Biblical times. It could symbolize either worth or devastation, opposites often raised in local campaigns here.

Take the example of Plainfield Democratic factions. To her followers, Rebecca Williams is the salt of the earth, a most worthy person, as wholesome as her trademark blue-and-white gingham shirt. To her  detractors, not only has she lost her savor, they would "salt the earth" her followers (New Democrats) tread.

Salting the earth meant not just overcoming the enemy, but ruining its turf forever. So even though Rebecca won the June primary and is the candidate of choice for a majority in the Second and Third wards, the opposition is out to trample her into the earth and make it sterile for New Democrats and their sympathizers.

So overweening is this desire that some commenters on the blog since June 3 and maybe even the Regular Democratic leadership is willing to promote a Republican on the November ballot.

Now, some may recall that "Republican" as used by the Regular Democratic Organization (RDO) is a virtual curse word. When Jerry Green wants to denounce someone (such as a blogger), he whips out the term "Republican." Well, sometimes he has some other curses, as we have heard and seen, but "Republican/New Democrat" is one of his traditional insults.

So now an actual Republican is being vaunted as the anti-Rebecca. What shall he be called, an RDO/Republican? There is a precedent. The former mayor was a Republican before she became the face of the RDOs in City Hall. Of course, she was cast out, but is now back in the bosom of the RDOs, and the current mayor, RDO-backed last year, is anathema.

Candidate Randy Bullock is an amiable sort. He has supported community-based affordable housing organizations, so maybe that increases his value as an RDO/Republican in the eyes of the "head of housing." When he ran for the Third Ward seat in 2012 against Adrian Mapp, he got 208 votes to Mapp's 2,846 - not bad, considering there were only 235 registered Republicans in the Third Ward.

If support builds for an RDO/Republican in the Second & Third Ward at-large race in November, it could be very interesting, especially if Bullock manages to win. Republicans are reorganizing Monday, picking a chairman and other officers. Bullock could find himself torn between two party chairmen, RDO leader Jerry Green and whoever the Regular Organization Republican of Union County chairman turns out to be. As in those cartoons depicting an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, Bullock could find himself getting conflicting demands and from one side, some salty language.

Well, with the primary over, there are many months to go before the general election. We shall just have to wait and see how things shake out.


Phone Snooping Exposed

I am old enough to remember the party line, a shared telecom network where nosy neighbors might surreptitiously listen in to gather gossip. Now it seems listening in is a widespread governmental activity, as in this article on Vodaphone's disclosures. Something to think about?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Go on the Garden Tour Sunday

All about Sunday's Garden Tour!

City Announces July 4 Parade Details

Plaintalker file photo


Plainfield, NJ – June 6, 2014 –   The City of Plainfield announced today that it will host the 91st Central Jersey July 4th Celebration on Saturday, July 5, 2014. This year’s theme is “Progress Through Innovation,” and Dr. James E. West, Sr., noted inventor and scientist, will serve as the parade’s Grand Marshal.

“The City of Plainfield has a long, proud tradition of hosting one of Central Jersey’s most significant 4th of July observances,” said Mayor Adrian Mapp. “We’re honored to have Dr. James West serving as our Grand Marshal.  His record of accomplishment fits perfectly with the innovation that is transforming Plainfield right now.”

Dr. West, a Plainfield resident, is a co-inventor of the electret microphone, which is used in 90 percent of all contemporary microphones today.  He has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.  He has also worked with initiatives that encourage women and men of color to pursue careers in science and technology.

The parade begins at 10:00 am on East Front Street.  A fireworks display will begin at dusk in Cedar Brook Park.  The parade and fireworks display are free.  Refreshments will be sold by participating food vendors. 

Applications for parade floats and participants are available through Plainfield’s Division of  Recreation.  For more information, contact the Division at (908) 753-3097.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Aguirre's Leap of Faith

Some people skydive to mark a milestone, such as a significant birthday. It can be a daring and memorable rite of passage. City entrepreneur Lenin Aguirre chose to strap on a parachute and jump from an airplane, he says, “to unite Plainfield.”

Heaven knows the city could use uniting. The very diversity that so many residents prize can sometimes Plainfield’s biggest fault. So many points of view, politically, socially – imagine taking sides not just during World Cup season, but all the time, and you have an outsider’s concept of the Queen City. East End/West End, black/white, 23 Latino homelands – That and more present a challenge to someone who would “unite Plainfield.”

Lenny says he got the idea after doing research on the City of Plainfield website.

"After many hours of research, I was inspired by the history of Plainfield in which George Washington, our first president and the founding father of the United States, set up his headquarters at the Nathaniel Drake House located in Plainfield."

Inspired by George Washington’s vision of wanting something far greater than his own ambition and
self, that being the unification of people to create what is regarded as the greatest nation on earth,

Lenny says he "decided to do the unthinkable". – Jump out of a plane and stick to his vision of unifying and
sending a message to all Plainfield residents that "we must collectively push ourselves to reach new

“ I must say that I felt not only nervous but also determined to accomplish my vision of sending a message to everyone. There are so many issues in Plainfield that the only way to resolve these issues would be to unite and have more people involved in our local government. There is too much separation and not enough unity!

“As I was in the air and gazing on the vast landscapes, I thought to myself, it’s time to awaken the Queen City! I have taken this first step with the hopes that others will follow. “

Aguirre said, "This leap of faith symbolizes that Plainfield needs to reach new heights this year!"

The owner of Mayan Mobile Marketing said more than 40 Plainfielders received the skydiving video via email and it has been viewed on Facebook by more than 1,200 people.

See Lenin Aguirre's video here.

Three Takes on Newsgathering

A headline in the acknowledged "newspaper of record" caught my eye yesterday. The headline said Westfield was changing its rules on selling and serving alcoholic beverages. But when I clicked on it, the so-called news article was three sentences, none of which explained what the changes were.

First I tried the local weekly, but it required a subscription. I only wanted to read the one article, because Plainfield will be working on its own liquor license renewal process in June and I was curious to know what kind of changes were approved in Westfield. But I did not want to subscribe.

I put in some keywords and found another article with a bit more information, posted by a well-known online news outlet that concentrates on mostly affluent suburban towns. To my surprise, that one was quoting another source, also an online "hometown news" outlet.

That last one was a comprehensive news story that made the big daily's report look like a kindergarten scribble.

It was a lesson to me to see how news gathering has changed, from the days when the "newspaper of record" set the standard for the industry. True, their article had been picked up from one of their own subsidiaries, but it would not have made it past the copy desk in another time. The citizen reader who wants to know more about local government actions is at a distinct disadvantage when snippets pass for news in major dailies.


Satellite Relocation Approval Memorialized Tonight

Tonight's Planning Board agenda includes memorialization of the board's May action to give preliminary site plan approval for Muhlenberg's relocation of the Satellite Emergency Department to the Kenyon Building.

Officials of Muhlenberg parent organization JFK Health System need the memorialization to move forward with the relocation plan. The meeting is 7 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Avenue. As Plaintalker reported previously, the relocation will free up the largest of three parcels at the Randolph Road site where the SED is currently operating inside the shuttered Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center. The hospital closed in 2008, but JFK maintained the SED and some other services at the site. Patients needing acute care are now served at JFK Medical Center in Edison.

Activists who fought the closing and then campaigned for the hospital's restoration are planning an event this year on the Saturday in August nearest to the closing anniversary. Details will be announced later.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Update on Candidates

The Union County Clerk's Office confirmed that no independents filed Tuesday to be on the November ballot, so it will be the Democratic primary winners versus Republicans in the general election. There is always the possibility of a write-in campaign, but I know of only one instance where such a candidate won and it was for a school board seat in the 1980s. Marie DeNoia created a stealth campaign and secured enough votes for a surprise win on Election Day. But that would be a very long shot for a City Council race, so the contests will be as follows:

First Ward: Democrat Diane Toliver, unopposed. (Councilman William Reid, the incumbent, has hinted that he might step down before Dec. 31 and one can bet that Toliver would get the seat early in that case through appointment. The Democratic City Committee has to give the council three names, but the majority would be bound to choose Toliver. 

Second & Third Ward at-large: Democrat Rebecca Williams and Republican Randy Bullock.

Third Ward: Democrat Gloria Taylor and Republican Charles A. Jones Jr. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Williams, Toliver, Taylor Win in Primary

Plainfield's political folk wisdom holds that in this heavily Democratic city, winning the June primary is tantamount to winning the November general election. If so, the balance of New Democrats versus Regular Democrats on the City Council will remain the same, with the party led by Chairman Jerry Green having the majority.
New Democrat incumbent Rebecca Williams beat Charles Eke, who had the party line for the Second & Third Ward at-large seat. With 7,694 registered Democrats in the two wards, Williams received 1,148 votes and Eke garnered 1,016. Two and a half hours after the polls closed, Union County's new online tally still showed one district outstanding, but the Plainfield city clerk's office gave the unofficial results as noted.
Political newcomer Diane Toliver won in the First Ward Democratic contest with 507 votes to 203 for Emmett Swan, a New Democrat also making his first bid for public office. Retired Police Captain Siddeeq El-Amin received 87 votes. The First Ward seat is currently held by William Reid, who announced earlier this year he was not seeking re-election. There are 3,051 registered Democrats in the First Ward, meaning the contest only brought out one-fourth of eligible voters.
In the Third Ward, appointee Gloria Taylor ran on the party line and overcame New Democrat Charles McRae, 568 to 514. Rasheed Abdul-Haqq trailed with 34 votes. Taylor was appointed to the unexpired term of Adrian O. Mapp, who won the mayoralty in November 2013 and took office on Jan. 1 for a four-year term. The turnout was 28 percent of the Third Ward's 3,822 registered Democrats.

As widely reported, Mapp won on the line last year and got words of support from Green, Taylor and others in January, but then Green turned on him in a mailer, saying he only put Mapp on the line under duress from former Union County Democratic Chairman Charlotte DeFilippo. Green is now county chairman in addition to being Plainfield's party leader and also serves as District 22 assemblyman. Mapp was formerly president of the New Democrats political club, a title now held by Williams.

The winning Democrats will face any independents that filed Tuesday, as well as Republicans in two races. Randy Bullock is the GOP contender against Williams and Charles A. Jones will be on the Republican line for the Third Ward in November.

Mapp is only six months into a four-year term and unless he can pick up support in coming years, his goal of re-branding the city and capitalizing on its new designation as a transit village may be a tough road to hoe. A Regular Democrat council majority cut two of his key staff positions out of the 2014 budget last month. To get things done in Plainfield, the adage goes, you must be able to "count to four" on the seven-member council.


BOE Filing is July 28

Wow! I realized how long it has been since I covered the school board when I was informed that the filing date for November school board elections was changed to July 28.

See more information on school board elections from the Union County Clerk's Office.

When the dates first changed from April, the filing date was the same as the June primary, which must have put a huge burden on the county clerk. Now that it is July 28, interested parties can download the New Jersey School Board Association Candidates' Kit at the link above and see whether they want to run.


Primary Day 2014





Monday, June 2, 2014

The Last 100 Feet

Some campaigns begin a year or more before an election. Running a campaign, even for municipal council, may require thousands of dollars and untold hours of volunteer effort. But all is for naught if the voter does not walk that last 100 feet and enter the polling place.

When I first began learning about local politics, I was told about "palm cards," "street money" and free drinks in exchange for voting for a specific candidate.  That was 30 years ago, but it may be that some individuals even today would trade their precious right to vote for some token. That's one possible advantage for an unscrupulous candidate.

All candidates need to make sure voters physically show up at the polls. They may have promised to vote, but then forgot about it. The campaigners who play rough will do anything to get people to the polls. Honest candidates need to push equally hard in a legitimate way to get their supporters to the voting booth.
This election is ostensibly about three City Council seats on the local level, but as we have seen in recent weeks, it is also about what kind of governance Plainfielders want. The controversy has been explored not just on the blogs, but on Politicker NJ (click here for the latest story) and in the Courier News.

If you are a registered voter, think about what you want for yourself, your family and your neighborhood and vote accordingly. When the polls close and the people have spoken, make sure your voice was heard.

Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi has announced a new feature in reporting election results this year. At you will be able to see results from across Union County. As described in a press release, "The website will report the number of registered voters, ballots cast, the number of districts reporting, and the voter turnout in each election district and municipality. The information will be available in English and Spanish. The data can be viewed in graphs, reporting documents such as excel, and on a map representing all 427 election districts in Union County."


Sunday, June 1, 2014

When Jerry Dumped Bonnie

A story on Politicker NJ tells how a mailer touts Column A in Plainfield, urging voters to choose Democrats by name in the categories of United States Senator, Surrogate, Freeholder and City Council but for member of House of Representatives indicating only "Your Congressional Democrat."

Well, there are four Democrats who want that seat succeeding Congressman Rush Holt, and Union County Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green came out for earlier for Bonnie Watson Coleman. Now he wants the voter to decide which of the four to choose.

The story quotes Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp as attributing the curious lapse to Green's wish to appease Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe. Alternatively, an unnamed Union County source links the reason for the generic "Your Congressional Democrat" to the mailer being funded in part by Cory Booker, who is at the top of the ticket running for a six-year U.S. Senate term and allegedly did not want to be drawn into what Politicker NJ calls the "congressional warzone."

But in the upper left corner of the mailer, complete with union "bug" missing a preposition, is "Paid for Jerry Green for Assembly." That would seem to refute the Booker theory.

Green prides himself on having his finger on the political pulse, but here he just seems to be giving Watson Coleman the Jersey Salute.


When Jerry Dumped Sharon

Political bliss today ... how times change.

In March 2013, SRB got the cold shoulder from Jerry.