Monday, October 31, 2016

Taxis, Speed Among Council Concerns

Among items up for a vote at the Nov. 1 City Council meeting, one ordinance targets out-of-town taxis that compete with city-licensed cabs and another aims to slow traffic on East Second Street to 25 miles per hour.

The combined agenda-fixing/regular meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday at Clinton Elementary School, 1302 West Fourth Street.

In 2014, the owner of Soria Taxi asked the council to reconsider a ban on his cabs, but a city taxi owners' group is adamantly opposed and protested at the Oct. 11 council meeting (reported by Dan).  The proposed change in the taxi ordinance allows for outside taxis to be taken off the road:

(e) Any vehicle operating in violation of this chapter shall be deemed a nuisance and a menace to the safe and proper regulation of traffic, and any Police Officer upon his or her discretion, may provide for the removal of that vehicle. The owner shall bear the costs of removal and storage which may result from such removal before regaining possession of the vehicle

Measures so far have not deterred Soria from picking up passengers in Plainfield, opponents allege, saying the owner just considers fines part of the cost of doing business. The ordinance amendment will have to pass on two readings before taking effect.

The other ordinance change limits speed on East Second Street. I did not attend the Oct. 11 meeting and heard no discussion of the need for a 25 mph rule, but I do know the street narrows as it goes east. It is a bus route and I have seen it become a tight squeeze when two 59 buses must pass each other.

East Second Street (a) 25 MPH from the center of Park Avenue to the center of Roosevelt Avenue; (b) 25 MPH from the center of Roosevelt Avenue to the easterly Plainfield Line (Terrill Road).

The agenda also includes a discussion item regarding "Loitering & Public Nuisance" at Park Avenue and West Seventh Street.

Pay At the Booth On Lot 6

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Attendants at this temporary booth on Municipal Parking Lot 6 will take change only for parking fees while awaiting installation of automated pay stations.

I was so intrigued by the sight of this booth that I forgot to write down how much time you get for a quarter, the preferred coin for transactions. Also I found out when I went to download the photos that I had done something on the smart phone to make the photos back and white.

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The parking lot was milled and repaved and will soon be striped. New fencing will also be installed, Public Works Superintendent John Louise said.

Click to see Plaintalker's earlier post on the parking lot makeover.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Democrats Lead Ranks of Plainfield Voters

The number of registered voters here for the Nov. 8 election is an unprecedented 23,321 and 62 percent are Democrats.

Figures released on Oct. 23 by the Union County Board of Elections show 14,524 Democrats, 7,793 unaffiliated (no party declaration) and 930 Republicans, along with smatterings of support for various other parties. To see the complete list, go to Affiliation Statistics and scroll down to page 14 for Plainfield. The key to party codes is on the last page.

The only contested race in Plainfield is for the Third Ward City Council seat. Registered voters in the Third Ward number 6,413. Democrat Charles McRae won the June 7 primary and former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs filed the same day as an Independent, assuring a place on the Nov. 8 ballot. The Board of Elections statistics show the number of voters in each of the city's 34 voting districts. Ward 1 has eight districts, Ward 2 has eleven, Ward 3 has ten and Ward 4 has five voting districts.

Turnout is the key and there are two campaign offices in Plainfield, one on Watchung Avenue led by Plainfield Democratic Party Chairman Mayor Adrian O. Mapp and another on Park Avenue established by Union County Democratic Party Chairman Assemblyman Jerry Green.

Voters should have received sample ballots by now. The tumultuous presidential race is at the top of the ticket, with Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump as the main challengers and seven lesser-known candidates for the nation's highest office.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Happy Diwali

  Happy Diwali 
to all our
Hindu friends and neighbors

Friday, October 28, 2016

Commentary on the Candidates' Forum

It was fairly clear at Wednesday's candidate forum that former two-term Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs is still not over her long competition with current Mayor Adrian Mapp. She lost a third-term bid to him in the June 2013 primary, but showed up to chide him at many meetings after he took office in January 2014. Now she is running as an Independent against Democrat Charles McRae for the Third Ward City Council seat which Mapp previously held.

This post on a few topics is a follow-up to my earlier post on the forum.

Hiring and Firing: After eight years as mayor, Sharon Robinson-Briggs should have a better understanding of the separation of powers. As a Third Ward council representative, she would be in the legislative branch, not the executive branch and so would have no power over hiring or firing staff, despite her remarks Wednesday.

Economic Development: Robinson-Briggs contrasted the city with Westfield and Cranford and said Plainfield has "more than our allotted number of dollar stores and nail places." Prior to her administration, the city had a cabinet-level deputy city administrator for economic development, but she p but the responsibility in the hands of a middle manager of Community Development who could be found on the city website only by drilling down several steps. Currently Economic Development is on the front page with a link to the deputy city administrator levels.

The Vet Center: Former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs signed a deal with developer Glen Fishman that said the Veterans' Center would be sold to the city for $1 only after all 63 condos on the upper three floors were sold. After years of limited sales, some condos were rented and the proposed center remained an office for the Monarch management. She said Wednesday it was the "council :led by our mayor" that would not allow a fee to be paid to open the center during her tenure. It was not occupied by veterans until Veterans' Day 2014, at which time the former mayor took credit.

The Typo: I was not sure I heard Charles McRae take credit for finding a large error in a past city budget, but Dan today wrote "McRae pointed out that, as a member of the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, he caught a $1 million+ error in the budget that Robinson-Briggs had submitted (he politely refrained from naming her, only saying it was during a 'previous administration')"

Actually, I found that error and urged then-City Administrator Marc Dashield to take a look. Initially I did not want to "be .part of the story," a grave sin for journalists, but as a blogger it kind of got to me how the error went unnoticed by so many officials who sent the Municipal Data Sheet document to Trenton with their signatures on it. Read "A Bit of a Stretch" from 2008.

The general election is Nov. 8. Check your sample ballot for your polling place and review your choices for president, Congress, freeholders and Third Ward City Council. (In the other council race, Rebecca Williams is running unopposed for the Citywide at-large seat.

As of Oct. 23, there are 23,321 total Plainfield registered voters, including 14,524 Democrats, 12 Green Party, 12 Libertarian Party, five National Law Party,  two Reform Party, 930 Republicans, six Socialist Party, 23 Conservative Party and 7,793 unaffiliated voters. In the general election, you can vote across party lines as you wish.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Enough Already

I tried to post a straight story on the candidates' forum with maybe a commentary to follow later. Then two things happened. I got to a part of my notes where a loaded question was posed to former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. There was not enough context for the reader or maybe even last night's audience to know what it was all about. Apparently it had to do with a controversial CNN interview from 2011. The mayor's opponent for the Third Ward seat, Charles McRae, alluded to the news tape and stressed the need for positive exposure of Plainfield in the media. I couldn't find the right words for this situation. Maybe Dan will write about it in a comprehensible way..

The other thing was that I had posted pictures on the netbook and then was using the laptop to write the report itself. The laptop lacks memory for photo downloads but I can call up the pictures and text through Blogger. It's a mess and a pain in the keister to work this way. So then one of the photos disappears off the story in the laptop. Back to the netbook to bring up the photo and insert it again. Oy. It's 3:30 a.m. and I quit.

LWV's Third Ward Forum

Sharon Robinson-Briggs, Charles McRae

Third Ward City Council candidates in the only local Nov. 8 contest met the public at the Plainfield League of Women Voters forum Wednesday. 
Moderator Sandra Matsen of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey posed questions from the local league and the audience.

In opening statements, Democrat Charles McRae described himself as a 32-year city resident steadily involved in "organizations that push the city forward," including his block association, PTA, city Zoning Board and Citizens' Budget Advisory Board. He said he is "self-motivated and very energetic" and wants to represent the Third Ward on the City Council. Sharon Robinson-Briggs said she is a registered Democrat running as an Independent and led off with a couple of anecdotes about registering people to vote when she was only six years old and supporting same-sex marriage in her first term as mayor. She also took credit for a veterans' march, a City Hall garden, a clock at Municipal Court and street repairs.

Among the questions:

Q. What have you done to prepare yourself for this position?
Robinson-Briggs named serving two terms as the city's first female mayor, school board service including presidency, affiliations with numerous organizations including her block association, NAACP, Angels for Action and CBAC
"I show leadership and continue to show advocacy for the city of Plainfield." she said.
Democrat Charles McRae, Column A
McRae described founding the first African-American fraternity at Rutgers University, PTA presidency and working to pass a $33 million bond issue to build Washington Community School, serving on CBAC and dealing with a $1.8 million budget omission, presidency of his block association and mentoring 70 young men.

Q. What is the city's single biggest issue and specific steps you will take in your first six months to address it?
"Taxes," McRae said, vowing to work with the administration to find ways to reduce taxes. McRae pledged to "be fiscally responsible and not spend money frivolously."
Independent Sharon Robinson-Briggs, Column C
Robinson-Briggs named crime and unemployment as the most serious issues facing the city and called for establishment of a youth center and a training center to reduce crime and help people become gainfully employed. She urged going back "to things that actually work," such as mentoring, community outreach and a gun buy-back program. 

Asked about her most meaningful contribution to government, Robinson-Briggs cited school and city budgets over 11 years and her "unique experience" as mayor.

McRae said he would bring "civility and knowledge, wisdom and understanding of government" to the council, as well as professionalism and Robert's Rules of Order. He said he would read the agenda, interpret the information and be able to have questions ( ask).

Questions from the audience concerned speeding, infighting among council members, how to assess need for veterans' services, Third Ward needs, youth development, quality of life, uses for the former Muhlenberg hospital site and how to keep the city moving forward. On the last one, McRae said he would work with the administration on "projects we have right now," citing a "new-found zeal " of developers to build in the city. he said one issue is the time it takes to move projects through various board approvals and said a technical review committee now helps streamline the process. He said the council also has an Economic Development Committee that should be working to help the city get good, sound development.

Robinson-Briggs said, "We've had positive investment in Plainfield for several years. We're suburban, urban, rural." 

But she objected to a "gigantic" new project on South Second Street, "across from a house of worship."

"I definitely have to learn more about it," she said. "It's not a good look for Plainfield."

(To be continued)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Third Ward Candidate Forum Tonight

There is only one contest at the local level in the Nov. 8 general election, for the Third Ward City Council seat. Candidates are Democrat Charles McRae and Independent Sharon Robinson-Briggs. The winner will serve a four-year term beginning on Jan. 1, 2017.

You can hear the candidates answer questions at the annual Plainfield League of Women Voters forum, 7 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. tonight (Wednesday, Oct. 26) in the Anne Louise Davis Room of the Plainfield Public Library. Candidates have submitted biographical sketches which are posted online at this link:
2016 LWV Candidate Information

The other City Council seat up for election on Nov. 8 is the Citywide at-large seat, representing all four wards. Councilwoman Rebecca Williams, a Democrat currently representing the Second and Third Wards at-large, is running unopposed.

Visit Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi's link for complete voting information.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Two Cretella Projects Nearing Completion

Gavett Place Properties LLC

Developer Frank Cretella is putting the finishing touches on two projects on East Second Street flanking Gavett Place. Above, eight apartments are completed and plans call for a restaurant on the ground floor. A patio for outdoor dining is nearing completion.

Art Lofts I LLC

Art Lofts I LLC will have 20 apartments over commercial space at ground level. Cretella held a groundbreaking in July 2014. An adjacent city-owned space facing the main train station  is envisioned as an event venue and Gavett Place itself may be closed at times for large events.

The two projects are among nearly a dozen proposals by Cretella's company, Landmark Developers.
The largest is a mixed-use complex with 148 apartments and 26,830 square feet for office, retail and adult day care uses. The application dates back to 2008 and would be located on a former bank parking lot on West Second Street off Park Avenue.

Meanwhile, Cretella has renovated the Ryland Inn in Whitehouse Station and the Hotel du Village in New Hope, among other projects in the hospitality branch of his company. Keep- an eye on Gavett Place in 2017 to see how the plans for events and restaurants develop here.

Stating The Obvious

I can't imagine who would need this reminder, except maybe a person staring into a cell phone while walking on Park Avenue. And that person won't even see a sign, being too mesmerized by the phone. Crash!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Why I Am Voting For Rebecca

Councilwoman Rebecca Williams
Reporters are never supposed to endorse candidates, but because Councilwoman Rebecca Williams is running unopposed, I guess a few words in her favor can't be construed as partisan.

Elected twice to the Second & Third Ward City Council seat, she is now running (on the line, for the first time) for the Citywide at-large seat. She defeated incumbent Councilwoman Tracey Brown in the June primary and is on the ballot in Column A with a roster of Democrats topped by Hillary Clinton for president.

Having observed municipal government in Plainfield for more than thirty years, I have a pretty good notion of what constitutes effective public service. A responsible council member goes through the packet each member receives before a meeting and prepares to support a resolution or ordinance by reading it and asking any necessary questions. If it is unacceptable, the councilperson should be able to state reasons for not approving it. In my opinion, Rebecca understands her role as a legislator.

Rebecca also advocates for community causes through social media and her blogs. She informs herself and does not berate members of the administration over items that are already explained in the packet. She knows Robert's Rules of Order and honors proper procedure in meetings. She is one of the few council members who give committee assignment reports to the full governing body and public.

As the only openly gay council member, she highlights significant dates in the LGBT community to foster understanding citywide and to counter homophobia. She has met attacks on her personal status and beliefs with forbearance, even when the attacks are extreme.

Rebecca celebrates Plainfield's diversity and champions its cultural assets, encourages civic engagement and supports city youth in their aspirations. For all these reasons, she has my vote on Nov. 8.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Casino Question on Nov. 8 Ballot

An off-topic commenter who types in all caps wants you to know about a rumor that a casino is coming to Plainfield. Also I have been deleting numerous emails from another annoying person who wants people to vote "No" on the question.  Today I realized that my nearly life-long aversion to gambling has prevented me from even thinking about this question. I tried to inform myself online with no luck until I came across an overview by Ballotpedia, which includes both sides of the issue. Click on the link below.

 (Allowance for Casinos in Two Additional Counties)

My dislike for gambling comes from seeing its effects on relatives in both my family and my ex-husband's family. It is too easy to get caught up on the fantasy of luck that will solve all your problems. In fact, the gambler often loses much more than he or she ever gains, leading to debt and even prison for taking money to support the gambling habit.

At my 1958 wedding reception when relatives were filing up with envelopes as was the custom, one gambler uncle whispered not to tell his wife that he had taken out some of the gift money! In my family, as a child I felt queasy at the sight of daily racing forms used for betting. Visiting Atlantic City, I had no desire to enter a casino and felt sorry for those mindlessly playing the slot machines. 

The arguments pro and con casino expansion appear to be based mostly on economic considerations.. Look at your sample ballot, read the overview at the link above and vote!

Lot 6 Gets Makeover

A very popular parking lot was among four locations that just received milling and paving with funds left over from a larger road project.

Municipal Parking Lot 6 downtown, Melrose Place and Melrose Avenue in the West End and Academy Street in the East End were refurbished at a cost of $150,000, according to a resolution the City Council passed on Oct. 11. The city had joined the Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council to save costs on road resurfacing and the contractor, Tilcon New York of Piscataway, was able to add the lot and the small streets to its schedule.

City Administrator Rick Smiley said Lot 6 will soon have two pay stations for credit card use and more lights. For a short time while work is being completed, attendants will take parking fees, he said. As of Friday, the paving was complete and striping will follow. (Old-timers will recall when there was a booth and an attendant taking fees before parking meters were installed.)

The parking lot is behind Bill's Luncheonette and other popular East Front Street destinations. Here's how it looked in March 2015:


Footing for Pay Station
Entrance/exit with planter

The parking lot once had an entrance on the west side and exit on the east side. When it was changed to an entrance and exit both on the west side, trucks tended to run over the concrete because the turn off East Second Street was too sharp.   Now it should be easier for delivery trucks and such to make the turn. And I really like the addition of a planter!

I need to do an update on the statistics below, but besides income from parking meters, the city receives income from monthly parking permits. Most of the lots need upgrades. 

Here is a 2009 overview of municipal parking lots.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Art Does the Trick

This traffic control box was one of four in the city to be covered with art in December. This box used to be covered with posters and advertisements, but I realized yesterday the artwork has stayed clean. Well, there was one small stick-on ad for naughty toys that has since been removed.

Read Plaintalker's post on public art here.

Read more about Union County's Art Outside the Box program here.

The first time I visited Seattle, I was amazed by all the public art. It is funded through a 1 percent for art allocation of capital improvement money. Here is the rationale:

The program specifies that 1% of eligible city capital improvement project funds be set aside for the commission, purchase and installation of artworks in a variety of settings. By providing opportunities for individuals to encounter art in parks, libraries, community centers, on roadways, bridges and other public venues, we simultaneously enrich citizens' daily lives and give voice to artists.

Read more about Seattle's Public Art here.

A former chairman of the Plainfield Cultural & Heritage Commission here proposed a plan to set aside $50,000, or about $1 per person in Plainfield for art. The commission ran into problems with appointments a few years ago and lacked members for a while. I believe it still gives grants, though the commission's 2015 budget amount was $27,500.

Next Clean-up on Park Avenue Sunday

Besides cleaning litter, Queen City Pride Plainfield NJ is also taking down illegal signs on poles.

Queen City Pride invites volunteers to join an effort Sunday to clean up Park Avenue from Sloane Boulevard to Seventh Street, up the east side and back down the west side, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The organizers are dubbing it the "Puttin' on the Ritz" campaign, which gave me an instant earworm of the Irving Berlin song. But then the hip-hop dirge "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash took over my brain as I pondered some other urban issues around Park & Seventh.

Anyway, the Oct. 15 turnout was the best yet, organizers said, They are recommending the effort as a way for those who need civic hours for Boy or Girl Scouts, Confirmation or school to gain credits. 

The group now has a Facebook page and has taken down 350 of those ads people post on poles.

Congratulations to all who took part or will join in on Sunday!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

LWV Candidates Forum Wednesday

League of Women Voters 
of Plainfield
Candidates Forum
Wednesday, Oct. 26
7 p.m. - 8:15 p.m.
Plainfield Public Library
Anne Louise Davis Room
800 Park Ave.
Two Third Ward candidates
One Democrat - One Independent
Seeking 1 4-year term

See Candidate Information Here

A Carolina Mantis Visits Block 832

Today was a good news/bad news kind of day, with bits of progress mixed with obstacles - and one big surprise.
click to enlarge
For all the years I have been watching mantises in the back yard, I have seen only long, slender green or bronzy-brown ones. Today literally on my doorstep I found a different one, with big spotted wings and an unusual shape. I was on my way out to the post office with a long-delayed package to send to Seattle, so I just took notice of the little stranger and hurried on. 

Back home, I didn't see it at first, but realized it was worth looking up and studying. When I spotted it trying to climb up a short step, I used a letter from my messenger bag to transport it around back to a Cosmos plant. Its odd shape, grayish color and large wings were clues to its identity. Because of the hot weather, the Cosmos was swarming with huge bees, but their wingspan was almost as large as the mantis and they would have been hard to catch.
 The other mantises were five or six inches long by Autumn, while this one was closer to two inches.
I took a lot of photos, but my aging camera declined to take macro shots, so only a few were good. 
The sunlight hit the creature's wings in this shot, in a way that emphasized its lacy wings. 

Google images turned up a name - Carolina Mantis. I went out with a ruler later to verify its size and forgot my camera, so missed the chance to get a photo of the mantis dining on a suitably small bee.

I find these little nature vignettes in the heart of the city simply entrancing, especially after all the recent household turmoil and of course the nerve-wracking final weeks before the election. It made up for all the mishaps of the day as well. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Last Day to Register for Nov. 8 Election!

Need to register to vote in the Nov. 8 general election? Today is the last day to register and City Clerk Abubakar Jalloh's office will be open from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. for voter registration. The office is on the first floor of City Hall, 515 Watchung Ave.

You can download a voter registration form at this link:

A week or so after registration is closed, the Union County Board of Elections will post voter affiliation numbers. Before the June primary, there were 13,071 Democrats, 836 Republicans and 8,268 unaffiliated voters, along with three Libertarians, five Green Party members and six more in three groups whose abbreviations I did not understand. The total number of registered voters for the primary was 22,202.

Democrats dominate in Plainfield. For the Feb. 5 presidential primary in 2008, there were 8,553 Democrats and 1,034 Republicans. By the 2012 primary, Democrats numbered 11,992 and this year the Democratic ranks for the primary swelled to 13,071, while only 836 Republicans remained.

There are two Democratic campaign offices in Plainfield currently. Assemblyman Jerry Green, who is also the Union County Democratic Party chairman, has election headquarters at 633 Park Avenue. Although signs urge Democrats to vote Column A, Green's list of candidates starts at county freeholders and goes up to Hillary Clinton.

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, who is the Plainfield Democratic Party chairman, has campaign headquarters at 31 Watchung Avenue and volunteers can work for City Council candidates Rebecca Williams and Charles McRae as well as the rest of Column A. There will be a "debate watch party" Wednesday at that location.

No Republicans filed for City Council. Williams is running unopposed for the Citywide at-large council seat. McRae is running for the Third Ward seat, with a challenge from former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who filed as an independent candidate, though her Facebook campaign page features a photo with Bill Clinton.
Sharon Robinson Briggs's Profile Photo
Political observers have called the presidential choices the most problematic in many years. With Democrats 13 to 1 over Republicans, the main task here will likely be getting out the vote for the dominant party.

Three weeks to go! Look for your sample ballot in the mail and check your polling place and hours. Make up your mind and vote on Nov. 8!


Monday, October 17, 2016

Pumpkin Spice Madness and Perplexing Pumpkins

Stop & Shop, Watchung
Autumn no sooner arrives than some people simply must have pumpkin spice everything to mark the season. My son happens to fall in this category. So far he is drinking pumpkin spice coffee and eating pumpkin spice Oreos, but it won't stop there. Click the link to see a complete compendium of Pumpkin Spice 2016 products, I only got halfway through the 58 slides before I quit, but I definitely will try the Kind Bar if I discover it at Stop & Shop.

The weather forecast for 80-degree temperatures may have you thinking Autumn was just making a cameo appearance last week, but it has been my experience that the third week of October tends to get very warm, as does the third week of April. If you have put all your summer clothes away already, you may have to unpack a T-shirt to get through the beginning of the week. Don't worry, it will cool down toward the weekend.
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"Varietal Pumpkins"
Is there no end to our need for novelty? Picture some warty, dull white pumpkins on your doorstep. The beige, white and multi-color ones are intriguing, but the lumpy ones look like examples of unfortunate skin conditions. Turns out the warty ones come in various colors, are called knucklehead pumpkins and according to one source may need 10 years of crossbreeding to develop them. Other names are Warty Goblin and Superfreak, though be careful doing an online search for the latter, as something other than pumpkins might show up.

The Stop & Shop had an impressive display of pumpkin-carving tools, good for fun with the kiddies. 

So carve a jack-o'-lantern, sip a pumpkin spice latte, enjoy the weather and forget the goblins and superfreaks of politics for a little while! 


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Missing Money, Yours and Theirs

Your money: A recent Plaintalker post included names of many city residents who have forgotten amounts of money that they can claim through

Their money: On Oct. 20, residents who owe money to the city or PMUA will be subject to a tax lien sale, meaning a purchaser may pay the money owed and then the property owner owes the lien holder the amount, with up to 18 percent interest. If the lien and interest remain unpaid for two years, the lien holder can move to foreclose on the property.

Back to the first category. On this "missing money" post from August, you can see all the names that appeared in a large ad published by the New Jersey Department of the Treasury. I noticed that instead of having just Somerset County residents, this ad had a lot of Plainfield names, some very familiar. So I laboriously keyed them all in, and a few people told me they followed through to claim the missing money. I think eventually any unclaimed money goes to the state if the owner does not come forward.

As for the tax lien sale scheduled for 10 a.m. on Oct. 20 in City Hall Library, the notice ran twice, listing the block and lot, amount of taxes owed to the city and fees owed to the PMUA, along with an admonition that all bidders must register in advance (the deadline was Oct. 5). Any unsold liens go to the city at 18 percent interest.

As an example of how interest can mount up, I once had to look up a case where the original amount owed was $7,155. As the taxes kept accruing, charges totaling $30,920 were added, along with $13,358 in interest. With a couple of fees added, the total needed to redeem the lien after two years had grown to $51,732.

The city has seen an increase in its collection rate recently to (as I recall) 97 percent, so on this list of more than 1,400 items, only about 170 include city taxes. Most of the six-page list is for money owed to the PMUA, an independent authority which provides sewer and solid waste services to the city .

In 2010, the PMUA was owed $1.2 million from ratepayers who didn't pay. I did not try to add up the debt this time, but it must be a lot to fill up six pages.

The top debtor, if I scanned the pages correctly, is a North Avenue company that owes nearly $45,000. As always, the list includes some well-known personalities: one councilwoman, one present and several past school board members, one would-be political  bigwig, two disgraced police officers and some business owners.

Click to link to the Tax Collector's office for some general information and contact numbers.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Trigger Warning, Trump Is Talking

The Watch Cat self-defense keychain  from the 1980s
Donald Trump's horrible attitudes toward women, as seen on a video, brought up bad memories for many women. One very courageous former Plainfielder, who is now a prestigious scientist and engineer, recounted on Facebook an experience in college where an instructor forced himself on her, kissing and groping, leaving her emotionally harmed for years.

I felt the same way regarding some childhood experiences that were very damaging.

Whether it is a teacher, pastor, family friend, neighbor or just some show-off guy, a man who takes advantage of a girl or woman is harming her in many ways. She may not trust men in general or may not assert herself in class. She might even feel enough shame over an assault that she feels defenseless against future unwanted advances.

Beyond what Trump calls "locker room talk," there is violence toward women that is based on the same general notion - that men are entitled to do what they want, be it harassment or actual physical harm. During the 1980s there was a movement to "Take Back the Night," meaning that women should be free to travel or just go out for the evening without interference from men.
In Plainfield, a young woman named Karissa Davis was abducted in September 1983 while she was walking away from a restaurant where she had auditioned for a job playing piano. Her body.was later found in Tinton Falls in Monmouth County. Women including then-Councilwoman Helen Miller and Plainfield Area NOW members, including two men, held a vigil and protest on Nov. 10, 1983. The victim's mother also marched with the NOW chapter (I was the coordinator) and Jack Gill covered it for The Courier-News.
Thirty-three years later, women have much more autonomy, but may still encounter domestic or public violence. And we have a presidential candidate who thinks it is OK to grope and kiss women at will.

November 10, 2016 happens to fall on a Thursday. By then we shall know who won the election. If it happens to be Trump, we might need another rally - or maybe just to grab that Watch Cat.

Trigger Warning, Trump Is Talking

The Watch Cat self-defense keychain  from the 1980s
Donald Trump's horrible attitudes toward women, as seen on a video, brought up bad memories for many women. One very courageous former Plainfielder, who is now a prestigious scientist and engineer, recounted on Facebook an experience in college where an instructor forced himself on her, kissing and groping, leaving her emotionally harmed for years.

I felt the same way regarding some childhood experiences that were very damaging.

Whether it is a teacher, pastor, family friend, neighbor or just some show-off guy, a man who takes advantage of a girl or woman is harming her in many ways. She may not trust men in general or may not assert herself in class. She might even feel enough shame over an assault that she feels defenseless against future unwanted advances.

Beyond what Trump calls "locker room talk," there is violence toward women that is based on the same general notion - that men are entitled to do what they want, be it harassment or actual physical harm. During the 1980s there was a movement to "Take Back the Night," meaning that women should be free to travel or just go out for the evening without interference from men.
In Plainfield, a young woman named Karissa Davis was abducted in September 1983 while she was walking away from a restaurant where she had auditioned for a job playing piano. Her body.was later found in Tinton Falls in Monmouth County. Women including then-Councilwoman Helen Miller and Plainfield Area NOW members, including two men, held a vigil and protest on Nov. 10, 1983. The victim's mother also marched with the NOW chapter (I was the coordinator) and Jack Gill covered it for The Courier-News.
Thirty-three years later, women have much more autonomy, but may still encounter domestic or public violence. And we have a presidential candidate who thinks it is OK to grope and kiss women at will.

November 10, 2016 happens to fall on a Thursday. By then we shall know who won the election. If it happens to be Trump, we might need another rally - or maybe just to grab that Watch Cat.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Check This, Climate Change Deniers!

Office of the New Jersey Climatologist -click to enlarge

Wow, if this trend continues, maybe it won't matter that we won't have heat in our building "for a few weeks" while asbestos is removed from the basement.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Yom Kippur

G'mar Hatima Tova
to all our 
Jewish friends and neighbors.

(If you are of another belief, 
 click here to learn more about Yom Kippur) 

Council Meets at Emerson School

October's regular City Council meeting will be held at 8 p.m. tonight in Emerson Elementary School, 305 Emerson Ave.

See the agenda for Oct. 11

This agenda has 28 resolutions, 20 of which are on the consent agenda to be approved in one vote. There is one non-controversial ordinance. It seems to be a meeting that will take a half hour or less, barring any council bloviation or prolonged public comment.

Also tonight the Board of Education is holding a retreat starting at 6:30 p.m. See the agenda here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Indigenous Peoples Day

While New Jersey's tribal legacy is not well-known, awareness is much higher in Seattle, my favorite destination in the PNW (Pacific Northwest). Washington State has many tribal lands and the cultures are celebrated on the holiday known elsewhere as Columbus Day. The Seahawks are named for an emblematic bird seen on totem poles and masks, including the original seahawk mask at the Burke Museum. The city itself is named for Chief Sealth, the 18th century leader of a tribe that inhabited the Central Puget Sound area for 10,000 years.

Image result
click to enlarge

Central Jersey's legacy lives on in place names such as Piscataway and Raritan. The Lenni Lenape tribe's trails established travel routes that are still used today.

Plainfield advocates for Columbus met challenges from opponents including the late Rasheed Abdul-Haqq, who objected to having an Albert Bierstadt painting in Municipal Court behind the judge's seat. The painting, now on a side wall, depicts natives bowing to the explorer and his men as they landed on San Salvador.
Columbus Landing at San Salvador

Whether you celebrate Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day or just go shopping for sales, enjoy the day off!

Why No Blog Post?


The condition that I call a sh*t-storm on my personal weather map continues today with a broken toilet in the apartment above that is causing big leaks in my kitchen.

Whoever converted this building to a six-family put bathrooms over kitchens and vice versa.. My "kitchen" is a former master bedroom closet. You can see where the double doors were removed from the frame because part of the hinges remain. The upstairs tenants claim they shut the water off, but I am having to take various buckets downstairs to empty them outside.
As previously noted, my storage bin was on the verge of being emptied and all contents tossed out when I happened to go outside last Monday and see what was happening. A marathon schlepping effort saved a lot of our stuff, which is now crammed in the garage or apartment.


The leak stopped Sunday night. The walls and ceiling will be fixed once they dry out, the super says.

Since last Monday, we have had a few other surprises. One was a water shut-off notice due to non-payment by the landlord. Another was a warning that asbestos removal will be taking place over the next several weeks, so we must not enter the basement. This means no use of the laundry equipment and apparently no heat, though at the end of the process we will have new washers and dryers and a new furnace.

Other diversions: A package from Seattle led to four days of confusion and two trips to the post office because the address was wrong. My son's birthday card from his father in California is still lost in the mail. A postcard came warning some tenants they must appear in court over garage issues. 

Midway through this spate of odd occurrences I actually looked up the dates for Mercury in retrograde, which the late Pepsi Charles used to blame for things going wrong. According to dates in the Old Farmer's Almanac, it's not happening now, so there must be some other reason. Of course, the somewhat apocalyptic political season seems to indicate turbulence in the spheres, so what's a little household inconvenience thrown in? I just had to remind myself also of the utter turmoil around the world with natural disasters and displacement of families to put all this in context. As the saying goes, it could be worse. So on with the thermals and down vest, off to the laundromat, fingers crossed that bills will be paid and projects will get done fast. One of my favorite things (besides whiskers on kittens, etc.) is yard work and heaven knows in Autumn there is plenty of that to take my mind off troubles.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

PACHA Leader Finds Voting Age Discrepancy

As the deadline approaches to register to vote in the Nov. 8 general election, teenagers need to watch out for an apparent discrepancy between registration forms in English and Spanish.

At a Sept. 27 voter registration event, Flor Gonzales of the Plainfield Advisory Committee on Hispanic Affairs showed me the two forms and pointed out a section on eligibility based on age.

The English version asks, "Will you be 18 years of age by the next election?" and if the answer is "No," the teen is advised not to fill out the form. However, a person who will be 18 by Nov. 8 may register by the final filing date of Oct. 18. Gonzales pointed out that the Spanish-language form asks whether the applicant is at least 17 years old.("Tiene 17 anos de edad como minimo?" If the answer is "No," the applicant is told not to fill out the form.

The issue is that a teenager may be 17, but not 18 by Nov. 8. It is spelled out on the website for the New Jersey Division of Elections under the heading Voter Registration & Voting.

It is also spelled out lower down on the Spanish registration form in a box labeled "Declaracion."

Gonzales wants to make sure teenagers are aware of the difference. In effect, it will only matter to those turning 18 by Nov. 8, but every vote is especially important in a presidential election. Anyone helping Spanish-speaking teenagers to register should point out the fine print in the box numbered 11 on the registration form..

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Spam Warning

If you get an email from "plaintalker," delete it or report it as spam!

A reader reported it to me. I don't know what this is all about, except that it is some kind of mischief.


Dan Deals a Deja Vu

One post that Dan listed for my blog today actually ran on Nov. 13, 2015, but is still relevant:

A Word For Family Dollar 

 The other one Dan listed for today ran on Nov. 12, 2015, but it's still of interest for reflecting how council meetings become venues for rehashing various beefs.

Hoops Hooray?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Would Single-Sales Alcohol Ban Keep Plainfield Cleaner?

After hearing the disappointment of city residents who cleaned up trash only to find more just a day later, I wondered whether a ban on selling single containers of beer or alcohol would help. Much of the trash seems to be empty cans and bottles from public drinking.

New Jersey municipalities have a lot of power over beer and alcohol sales, ranging from setting hours of operation for liquor stores to outright bans on all sales of alcohol. A restriction on single-container sales would no doubt put a dent in revenues at neighborhood liquor stores, but might prevent the all-day drinking at train stations that undoes the work of volunteer cleanup campaigns..

Resident Timothy Priano expressed frustration at Monday's City Council meeting over the chronic problem of trash at the train stations. He and other Queen City Pride volunteers cleaned up around the Netherwood station Sunday, and Councilman Barry Goode led a neighborhood cleanup Saturday at Clinton Avenue and West Front Street. Priano called for increased police patrols at the train stations, but NJ Transit is actually in charge of the stations. Still, Police Director Carl Riley said city police responded over 100 times to problems at the main station downtown and 70 times to the Netherwood station. He said police have picked up intoxicated individuals, but must take the most severely impaired to hospitals to be treated for possible alcohol poisoning.

(A ban on single sales was not mentioned Monday, it was just a thought of mine later,)

Priano also asked about a NJ Clean Communities grant to Plainfield, which is passed to the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority for cleaning up business districts in the city. Finance Director Ron West said a prior council approved turning the grant money over to the PMUA and promised to research it. The 2016 grant was $85,719.58.

Here is Queen City Pride's message about Sunday's cleanup:

What an amazing weekend of our neighbors that came out and joined in both Clean-ups in our Queen City

A little love and caring goes a long way, people do smile when they see you out in the streets, chasing plastic bags, cutting weeds and making everything looks nice and shiny.

We will leave it up to Councilman Barry N Goode to report on the amount of trash that Saturday produced and give us a proper account of the hands that were walking the streets to make Ward 4 sparkle up and down West 7th Street, West Front Street, Clinton Avenue and Grant Avenue.
 Displaying busy work.jpg
As far as Queen City Pride, Part one at the Netherwood Train Station on South Street. We were able to Plant in the planters out front, clean and make a big dent on the South Side 14 hands on Sunday, again the magic number of 20 bags of litter, bottles, 2 tires, and one dead rat ugh

Councilwoman Rebecca Williams was in the thick of the clean-up, moving dumpsters and tossing the bags in!!

So so sad today, people are still just tossing down litter, as residents need to say something, be kind like “Sir you drop your cup” or do what we do, carry plastic bags with us when we are commuting, Dog walking and Running! make a sport of picking up litter, you will be surprised by the reactions!
 Displaying signage.jpg
A few of us have taken it upon ourselves to take down the “we buy” signs on the corners of the intersections of the city, they are getting tricky by putting the signs up higher, but never fear, we have tools to knock them down too, just have to work a little hard to pull them down, if you see the signs, send us a message

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Zoning Board Approves Lot Merger for Classic Car Restorer

A man with a 31-year passion for classic car restoration won Zoning Board approvals Wednesday to combine two North Avenue lots for an improved and expanded enterprise.

John Bruno said he expects his location near the Netherwood train station to add interest to the neighborhood and bring positive attention to the city. The painstaking work yields about fifteen restored cars per year, using parts from all over the world, he said. Besides repairs to get the vehicles running, he said skills to restore metal, leather, wood and electrical components come into play.

"Each restoration is a complete disassembly," he said, and afterwards a complete reassembly.

His vehicles, which he calls "rolling artwork," have been used on television shows and film production.

"It's fun to see them up on the screen," Bruno said.

Zoning Board  members had concerns about how the business would fit in with objectives for the recently designated commercial "trainside" zone near the Netherwood station, but Bruno's team of experts, including architect Roger Winkle, engineer William Hollows, planner Paul Ricci and attorney Corey Klein testified and answered the board's many questions. Bruno and the witnesses stressed that the restoration company would be a "boutique" or "niche" type of business, not an auto body shop.

Bruno plans to keep several examples of nearly restored cars in front of the business so that commuters and others passing by can enjoy seeing them, while vehicles still being worked on will be in the rear. He said a teen neighbor became so interested in the vehicles that he asked to become an apprentice, and his own son left the corporate world to join the business.

Hours of operation will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Bruno agreed to remove barbed wire, improve ventilation for a spray booth and plant a tree in cooperation with the Shade Tree Commission.

Commentary - The discussion reminded me of the days when Plainfield sought to have a transportation museum on North Avenue. Supporters of the effort publicized it by driving a motorized antique trolley around the city. Alas, the New Jersey Railroad & Transportation Museum Commission chose Phillipsburg as the site in 1998.

Bruno's remarks about showing visitors the city's historic architecture recalled its attraction to film makers. A city resident used to recommend various locations to the state Motion Picture & Television Commission. More recently, urban fiction author JM Benjamin has used some of the grittier locales as backdrops for films based on his books.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Since December 9, 2014, our household has been subject to disruption of one kind or another.

First it was caused by a squirrel invading the 9-by-30-foot enclosed porch that is more than one-third of our small apartment. I wrote a jokey post about it a couple weeks later, never thinking it would take eight months to get rid of the squirrel. By April 2015, I was too distracted to work on the blog.

After many promises for action, the management company solved the problem in mid- August. We had a month of relative normalcy before the company began a program of repairs in order to sell the building.

Underground tank removal obliterated one of my garden spots in spring. On April 20, a landscaper inexplicably cut all vegetation down to the dirt on two other garden sections, wiping out numerous flower seedlings in the process.

The sale went through in June and then began the process of getting to know the new people in charge. Things mostly looked good until I went outside Monday and found out all the basement storage bins were being emptied. If I had not just stepped outside to water some plants, all our winter clothes, books, photos, mementos, tools, laundry supplies and more would have just disappeared.
 A manager claimed tenants were given notice, but we never got any. As a retiree, I was home all day when the notice was supposedly given last week, but neither I nor other tenants received any warning that our bins were about to be emptied. The locks were cut off and everything had to go, the manager said.
One box that we saved had a bunch of turtles inside. My best turtles, including the turquoise Flo and fire opal Eddie, are in my room at my daughter's home in West Seattle. 

All this stuff has left me anxious and depressed a lot of the time. I still have residual health problems from my June 2014 surgery in addition. There are other annoyances that I won't go into. So blogging has gotten spotty and may get even spottier this winter. If anyone wants to take up hyperlocal blogging about municipal government and development in Plainfield, I will gladly pass the baton.


Silly Cat

Mau always claims Amazon boxes as soon as they are empty. When this package arrived, even though it was basically a cardboard envelope, Mau staked his claim anyway. It may have been flat, but still good for sharpening claws and biting off pieces, Mau declared.

Meetings in Motion

Interest in local affairs may be waning as the presidential election looms, but if you are among the intrepid few who follow municipal government, please note these changes in meeting locations:

- Tonight (Oct. 5) the Zoning Board of Adjustment will meet at 7 p.m. in the Senior Center, 400 East Front Street, not in City Hall Library. The change of venue was announced weeks ago when a large crowd was anticipated to hear an application to locate a charter school on Central Avenue. The application has been withdrawn, but the change of venue remains. See tonight's ZBOA agenda here.

- Tuesday, Oct. 11: The regular City Council meeting will be held at Emerson Elementary School, 305 Emerson Ave., at 8 p.m. While it was not explained as such, I believe the decision to move the meeting from Municipal Court may have been based on Council President Cory Storch's proposal to hold meetings in each of the city's four wards to encourage neighborhood participation. The school is in the First Ward.

Tuesday, Nov. 1: A combination agenda-fixing session and regular meeting of the City Council will be held at Clinton Elementary School, 1302 West Fourth St. at 7 p.m. This meeting, now in the Fourth Ward, had previously been scheduled for Nov. 14 in Municipal Court as an accommodation to the annual League of Municipalities Conference, which most officials wish to attend. The League's theme this year is "Meeting the Challenges of Municipal Government." Please note this City Council meeting is the only one in November. The change will place it in advance of the Nov. 8 general election instead of afterwards.

The council schedule will wrap up with three meetings in December, an agenda-fixing session on Dec. 5, a regular meeting on Dec. 12 and an agenda-fixing session on Dec. 19 for the annual reorganization in January, which will include the swearing-in of council members elected in the Nov. 8 general election. Stay tuned for any further changes in venue.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Taylor Calls For Turnout Against Violence

Dan's forecast of a quiet City Council meeting tonight may not prove to be correct if Councilwoman Gloria Taylor has her way.

Taylor posted on a Facebook page urging people to attend tonight's agenda-fixing session and "next Monday's" meeting (it's actually on Tuesday) to speak out against violence. Referring to a televised speech by Congresswoman Nina Turner, Taylor says:

City Council & Mayor- Community oversight& Community Policing is not happening because we are still playing dirty politics while Plainfield is "burning"-meaning we are getting further & further away from a connected Community-pro people & anti violence. Another shooting today while Children& Families were engaged in organized sports?Come to Council meeting this Monday& next Monday...When is the City Council & Mayor going to use the POWER OF PUBLIC POLICY TO ADDRESS OUR ISSUES IN PLAINFIELD? 

A news report on the alleged shooting said an investigation turned up one shell casing but no victims.

Although she is not seeking another term representing the Third Ward, Taylor vows in another post titled "Elect Gloria Taylor Third Ward Councilwoman" that she will continue to work for the community to overcome a climate of "partisan politics."

"There is much work to do. I can better serve, in this climate, by supporting, working within our Community, to connect, problem solve, & work towards real Community," Taylor asserted on Facebook's "The Buzz In and Around Plainfield" link.

Tonight's meeting is 7:30 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave. Next Monday is Columbus Day, still a federal, state and city holiday though controversial to many. The regular City Council meeting will therefore be Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. in Municipal Court.

The Third Ward contest this year includes Democrat Charles McRae, who defeated Alma Blanco in the June primary to be on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. Former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs filed on June 7 as an independent for the Third Ward seat, with the slogan, "The People's Candidate." No Republicans filed for City Council seats this year. Councilwoman Rebecca Williams, currently representing the Second & Third Wards at-large, defeated incumbent Citywide at-large Councilwoman Tracey Brown in the June Democratic primary and is now running unopposed on Nov. 8.

Plainfield Heat Season Starts

Time for a reminder about Plainfield's Heating Requirements, October 1 to May 1.

From the Municipal Code:

Heating Requirements.  Except as hereinafter stated, from October 1 of each year to the next succeeding May 1, the interior of every dwelling unit or rooming unit, bathroom and water closet compartment shall be maintained at least at sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit (68°F) whenever the outside temperature falls below fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit (55°F) during the daytime hours from six (6:00) a.m. in the morning and eleven (11:00) p.m. in the evening.  At times other than those specified, interiors of units of dwelling  space shall be maintained at least at sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit  (65°F) whenever the outside temperature falls below forty degrees Fahrenheit (40°F).
Except as hereinafter stated, from May 1 to October 1, every dwelling unit, rooming unit, bathroom and water closet compartment shall be maintained at a temperature of sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit (68°F) during the daytime hours from six (6:00) a.m. in the morning and eleven (11:00) p.m. in the evening whenever the outside temperature falls below fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit (55°F).  At times other than those specified, interiors of units of dwelling space shall be maintained at least at sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit (65°F) whenever the outside temperature falls below forty degrees Fahrenheit (40°F).

    In meeting the aforesaid standards, the owner shall not be responsible for heat loss and the consequent drop in the interior temperature arising out of action by the occupant in leaving windows or doors open to the exterior of the building.

L'Shanah Tovah!

L'Shanah Tovah!
 to all our Jewish friends and neighbors
Rosh Hashanah 
Jewish New Year 5777

If you are not Jewish but want to know more about the holiday,

Saturday, October 1, 2016

PBA President Calls For Council Backing

Under a past administration, some police personnel dealt directly with the mayor, sidestepping rules and leading to "command structure breakdown, personnel divide, low morale" and even allegations of criminal activity resulting in violations and even criminal charges.

So says a letter from PBA President Andre Crawford to City Council President Cory Storch in Monday's council packet that then describes new accountability and advances under Police Director Carl Riley, with a call for support from the governing body.

The letter echoes the message of a March presentation on police accreditation which detailed many improvements in local law enforcement, but failed to get full council support. Councilwoman Gloria Taylor had called for a council investigation of police "procedures and culture" and continued to do so in following months. A related issue, the alleged unfair treatment of Lt. Ken Reid, brought many speakers to the March meeting in support of Reid, including former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. Mayor Adrian O. Mapp disclosed that five officers, both white and black, were facing disciplinary charges, but Reid supporters continued to allege racism in his case, even though details of the internal affairs matter were never disclosed. Reid has since retired.

Despite having drawn criticism for remarks on the 1967 killing of a police officer, Taylor repeated her call for an investigation in August and chastised Storch for not putting a resolution to investigate on the agenda. (See Plaintalker's August commentary on accreditation here)

In contrast to Taylor's depiction of Plainfield police, Crawford's letter states that under Riley's leadership, the division now has "structure, chain of command, and increased accountability of supervisors and officers."

"The Police Division now has a clear vision to address the best interest of Plainfield through accountability, division wide community policing, training, technology and better hiring practices," Crawford wrote. The letter also noted two police-sponsored community parties this summer, aimed at generating"positive interaction between the community and the police officers."

The letter concludes with a call for support from the governing body, whose members were copied on the correspondence.

"We don't need negative rhetoric in an attempt to derail our progression," Crawford writes. "Through some very troubling times, where the relationships are strained, at best, filled with doubt and a lack of trust," he says, "We should strive to be the example of police community relations by forging a positive working relationship and avoiding any negativity that could possibly derail our progression."

The letter is noted on the agenda for Monday's council meeting, 7:30 p.m. in Municipal Court, though no action is indicated.