Friday, June 16, 2017

End of the Blog

Thanks to all my readers, followers, donors and critics who have made my twelve years of blogging so interesting. The blog began in partnership with Barbara Todd Kerr in 2005 and later became a solo operation. My main topics were municipal government and land use, meaning I attended many meetings, some as long as five hours, before sitting down to compose a post. It was not unusual for me to hit the "Publish" button at 1, 2 or 3 a.m. and my average of more than 500 posts a year indicates I sometimes posted more than one a day.

As some may recall, I had hoped to sign off in 2015, at the 10-year mark. I kept blogging through the next anniversary, on June 17, 2016. But now I must move on to other things that have kept falling off my to-do list. Knowing I will turn 80 on my next birthday has given me a sense of urgency to get on with those other things.
Both Plainfield Plaintalker (2005-2010) and Plaintalker II (2010-2017) will remain online as archives. Feel free to look up topics or just take a spin through Plainfield's recent past by reading older posts. Some of the photos have gone missing for technical reasons that I don't understand, but there are still quite a few.

Today there are many new ways to find out what's going on in Plainfield, from social media to TAPintoPlainfield to the mayor's weekly newsletter. Queen City Pride and Downtown Plainfield Alliance are among the newest sources.

As you may know, those born under the sign of Taurus tend to hate change, and I am no exception. I have joked that it used to take me eight years to make up my mind to leave a job. I have lived in the same apartment for 25 years. Marie Kondo would smack me if she saw some of the possessions that still "spark joy" for me after decades. But now I have to admit it's time to step away from the blog. So thanks again for everything, Plainfield!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Plainfield Celebrates Pride

After a welcome by City Council President Rebecca Williams, an invocation by Rev. Damaris Ortega of United Church of Christ Congregational and remarks by Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, a rainbow flag was raised in celebration of LGBT Pride Month.

More images:

Here is the City Council resolution designating LGBT Pride Month 2017:

Introduced by Council President Rebecca L. Williams:

WHEREAS, LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society; and
WHEREAS, as long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit; and
WHEREAS, with each passing year the American people become more receptive to diversity and more open to those who are different from themselves. Our Nation is at last realizing that gays and lesbians must no longer be "strangers among friends," and that we must finally recognize these Americans for what they are: our colleagues, neighbors, daughters, sons, sisters and brothers, friends and partners, and
WHEREAS, many challenges still lie before us. As we have witnessed from recent acts of “ugly free speech” within this Plainfield Community, prejudice against gays and lesbians can still erupt into acts of hatred and violence; and
WHEREAS, this June, recognizing the joys and sorrows that the gay and lesbian movement has witnessed and the work that remains to be done, we observe Gay and Lesbian Pride Month and celebrate the progress we have made in creating a community more inclusive and accepting of gays and lesbians; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, that the Governing Body of the City of Plainfield stands committed and united to help break down the walls of fear and prejudice and will work to build a bridge to understanding and tolerance, until gays and lesbians are afforded the same rights and responsibilities as all Americans; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Governing Body of the City of Plainfield does hereby call upon its residents, employees and elected officials to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and does further encourage all to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that celebrate our diversity and recognize the gay and lesbian Americans whose many and varied contributions have enriched our national life. Scheduled by the City Council June 13, 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Muhlenberg Plan Raises Questions

Tuesday's City Council meeting was brief, with only a couple of public comments on the Muhlenberg redevelopment plan.

"This has been going on since 2012," resident Robin Bright said, alluding to a meeting where a real estate expert said the best use of the property where Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center closed in 2008 would be a 600-unit residential complex.

Ever since, housing and who would occupy it have loomed large as worries for nearby residents such as Bright. She questioned the 140 dwelling units in the current plan, saying there might be more.

"It could be any amount," she said

Carlos Sanchez, the deputy city administrator for Economic Development, explained that the redevelopment plan is a guide and the 140 units represent the maximum allowed. The main purpose of any development there, he said, is for medical uses. Sanchez said after the redevelopment plan receives City Council approval on second reading, the city will have the ability to negotiate a redevelopment agreement with specific terms..

The final redevelopment plan (click link to view) will be up for first reading at the regular meeting, 8 p.m. Monday, June 19, in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave. Second reading is expected at a joint agenda-fixing and regular meeting on July 10.

Resident Nancy Piwowar, an activist for the restoration of a hospital at the site since 2008, questioned whether cell phone towers were in the plan. Bright, who has closely compared iterations of the plan, commented from the sidelines that it was included. Piwowar said she heard the towers were for the reverse 9-1-1 that the city uses for notifications, but no officials confirmed that Tuesday. T-Mobile representatives appeared before the Zoning Board of Adjustment on May 3 regarding upgrades to the existing towers. Language regarding cell towers as a permitted use is in the final plan referenced above.

In another comment on the Muhlenberg site, Councilwoman Diane Toliver asked whether a municipal complex had been considered for the site.

"Numerous of our buildings are old," she said, citing the expense of maintaining them.

But even though Toliver insisted a municipal complex "should and could" be put on the site, City Administrator Rick Smiley said it was not being considered.

Toliver has been suggesting a municipal complex at the site since January 2016 and Councilwoman Bridget Rivers endorsed the idea when Toliver brought it up then. (Click link above to read Plaintalker's post.)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Mapp Wins PDCC Chairmanship Again

Members of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee re-elected Mayor Adrian O. Mapp Monday to serve as chairman for the next two years and selected other officers at their biennial reorganization.

Assemblyman Jerry Green, chairman of the Regular Democratic Organization of Union County, expects to be re-elected tomorrow, when municipal committees gather at the Gran Centurion in Clark for the county reorganization.

In comments to the group, Green declared a new political day by saying "the power is not in Elizabeth, it is right here in Plainfield." He said Charlotte (DeFilippo) and (Ray) Lesniak "do not run this city, I will run this city." 

Correction: I am told that Green said he would run the county and Mapp would run the city. My apologies to all.

DeFilippo, a Union County political broker for decades, died in February. Lesniak lost a bid for governor on June 6 in the final election of a four-decade political career.

Although in the past Green has not always supported Mapp and even attacked him, they ran and won on the same slate in the primary. Green told the committee, "Sometimes you have to put your differences on the side." and urged the city committee members, largely Mapp supporters, to "get behind your mayor."

The city committee also elected a roster of officers and ward leaders before adjourning.

Official Primary Results Now Posted

Official results show the winners of the June 6 primary to be Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, seeking re-election for four years; Councilwoman Joylette Mills-Ransome for a one-year unexpired Second & Third Wards at-large term in the seat she now holds as an appointee; and Steve Hockaday for the four-year Fourth Ward term.

Mills-Ransome and Hockaday are unopposed for the Nov. 7 general election, as no Republicans or independents filed to run for those seats. No Republicans filed for the mayoral seat, but Mustapha Muhammad filed June 6 as an independent challenger to Mapp.

Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi posted the official primary results today. In the mayoral race, Mapp received 2,970 votes, followed by Rev. Tracey Brown with 2,331. Councilwoman Bridget Rivers got 470 votes and Dr. Henrilynn Davis Ibezim trailed with 148.

In the Second & Third Wards at-large race, Councilwoman Mills- Ransome led strongly with 1,795 to 570 for Cameron Cox and 333 for Alma Blanco.

Just as Muhammad urged voters prior to the primary to vote for Brown for mayor, Brown is now calling on all who voted for her to back Muhammad on Nov. 7.

Blanco's defeat is her second in two years. She ran on a ticket with Brown in the June 2016 primary and both lost.

Hockaday ran last year on a slate opposing Mapp-backed candidates, but this year Democrats formerly at odds joined forces to run on a slate with Phil Murphy for governor at the top. Column A featured Regular Democrats all the way, while the ballot format lumped all splinter Democrats together on Column G.
Here are all the slates and their totals (in red)

Mayor, Four-year term: Adrian O. Mapp 2,970
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired One-year Term: Joylette E. Mills-Ransome 1,795
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Steve Hockaday 307

Mayor, Four-year term: Dr. Henrilynn Davis Ibezim 148
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired One-year Term: Cameron E. Cox 570
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Elliott Simmons 89

Mayor, Four-year term: Bridget Rivers 470
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired One-year Term: Alma Blanco 333
(no Fourth Ward candidate filed)

Mayor, Four-year term: Tracey L. Brown 2,331
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Terri Briggs 290
(Second & Third Ward candidate filing was ruled invalid)

Youth Commission Nominees Announced

Congratulations to the seven young people who have applied to serve on the Youth Commission!

It has been somewhat of a hard sell to fill seats on the commission with so many other activities and interests competing for their interest. Kudos to Alexis Henderson, Dante Porter, Kayla Harris, Janay Porter, Thom Taylor, Jade Williams and Peixe Williams for applying. The terms are concurrent with that of the mayor, which expires at the end of 2017, so the initial commitment is relatively short.

Former Councilwoman Linda Carter, now a freeholder, championed the Youth Commission when she was on the council, but it went fallow after all the initial appointments expired.

See Plaintalker's previous post on the Youth Commission here.

The new members' nominations will be considered Tuesday and if moved to the agenda, will be voted on at the June 19 meeting. We look forward to their involvement!

$1.4 Million For Seidler Field Reconstruction

A $1.1 million Green Acres grant will cover most of a $1.4 million reconstruction of Seidler Field.

The City Council previously approved a contract for Pennoni Associates to provide engineering services for the project. A contract with Your Way Construction of Irvington is now up for council consideration Tuesday and, if moved to the agenda, approval at the June 19 regular meeting.

Tuesday's meeting is 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave. The regular meeting is 8 p.m. June 19 in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

 According to the resolution, the upgrades will include a synthetic turf, new LED lighting, bleachers, scoreboard and interior fencing. The City received a grant award of $1,100,000.00 from Green Acres for the project. Two city accounts of $63,000.00 and $217,628.79 will provide the balance of the $1,380,628.79 cost of the project.

The Seidler Field site in the city's East End includes a pool and fields used by Pop Warner football teams.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Muhlenberg, TODD West Redevelopment Plans on Tuesday's Agenda

Tuesday's City Council agenda-fixing session includes consideration of two redevelopment plans, one for the 10-acre Muhlenberg site and one for an entire downtown block. The governing body will decide whether to move either or both to the June 19 regular meeting for a vote.

Tuesday's meeting is 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.. The regular meeting is 8 p.m. on Monday, June 19 in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave. Those who want to comment at either meeting should refer to Ordinance MC 2017-17 for the Muhlenberg redevelopment plan or MC 2017-18 for the plan affecting the block bounded by West Second Street, Madison Avenue, West Front Street and Central Avenue.

The final Muhlenberg redevelopment plan (dated May 5, 2017) is not on the city's website yet, but may be by next week. Among residents' concerns are the scope of medical services to be offered and the type of housing involved.

Here are some prior posts on the Muhlenberg issues:

Hopes, Fears Expressed for Muhlenberg Site

Residents React To Muhlenberg Plan

Here is a blog post about the downtown block plan, titled TODD-WEST.

Redevelopment Plan Includes A Whole Downtown Block

(The City Council agenda-fixing session is on Tuesday to allow for the Democratic City Committee to reorganize Monday. Mayor Adrian O. Mapp has stated his intention to seek another two-year term as chairman of the committee and his team won 60 of the 68 committee seats, so it is likely he will be named chairman again.) 


A Commentary on Plainfield's Diversity

When I started writing about Plainfield in the early 1980s, one of the tasks I set for myself was to learn about what was important to the city's many populations. As I went from a weekly to a daily newspaper and then to a blog after retiring, I retained that goal.

The spectrum was wide, and I was not always welcome in some places. Marshall Brown ordered me out of an event at the Plainfield Public Library and Mayor Richard L. Taylor regularly complained that only a black reporter should cover Plainfield. Nevertheless, I persisted.

Coming from a bucolic township bordering the Great Swamp, I had a lot to learn about the region's only urban center. In just one aspect, gradually I understood the difference between Masjidullah and Mosque No. 80, the Muslim Journal and The Final Call. When I was assigned to visit Meadowbrook Village after the tragic killing of Police Officer Abigail Powell, I knew NOI brothers were voluntarily patrolling the troubled complex. Assigned with another reporter to cover Minister Louis Farrakhan's visit to Plainfield High School, I knew enough to carry a small purse to expedite the mandatory search, while my colleague lugged the typical catch-all bag and took a lot longer to pass through the sisters' pat-down. We both sat in the front row and took some "blue-eyed devil" verbal abuse while reporting.

I also learned about all the many other affiliations in Plainfield, the synagogues now gone, the broad range of houses of worship, the cultural and social spheres that run side by side and seldom mingle and of course the political and racial divides. When it was proposed to give Farrakhan a key to the city on another visit, the reactions went every which way.

Minister Farrakhan gave Mustapha Muhammad his name in a Park Avenue venue. Others went to Saviours' Day events and came back with the surname "Muhammad." City folks knew their birth names. For some, a new name marked a new life after prison and a new intention to "do for self" and leave crime behind. Having heard that Plainfield received as many as 400 parolees a year, I had to acknowledge the discipline of NOI followers despite strong condemnations of the organization.

Most people know how Malcolm X changed his mind about the Nation of Islam and came to embrace the Muslim religion after making a pilgrimage to Mecca. In 2008, a Plaintalker post acknowledged the passing of W. Deen Mohammed, who had a similar change of heart. By degrees, more and more people have learned about Ramadan and major Muslim observances worldwide. In 2011, a blog post detailed my own evolution in understanding Ramadan.

I am among the many Plainfielders who find the city's diversity appealing. The downside of diversity, however, can be dissension - over beliefs, behaviors or background of fellow residents. We see it in the social media and in our daily interactions. Some call it crabs in a barrel, some just say, "That's Plainfield for you."

It's easy to see that we're headed for much confrontation over the November election. Can we hold our own views without trashing those of others? I'm hoping.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Mapp vs. Muhammad: The Re-match

As he promised, Mustapha Muhammad filed as an independent for mayor Tuesday, meaning he will be challenging Mayor Adrian O. Mapp on Nov. 7.

Mustapha Muhammad and his wife with city leaders in support of the Nation of Islam's Million Family March in 2000
In 2013, Muhammad was one of three opponents to then-Councilman Mapp, the others being Republican Sandy Spector and independent D. Scott Belin. Mapp won with 5,234 votes and Muhammad came in second with 1,061, followed by Spector with 765 and Belin with 392.

This time, no Republicans filed for the office and Mapp handily won over primary challengers Rev. Tracey Brown, Councilwoman Bridget Rivers and political newcomer Dr. Henrilynn Davis Ibezim on Tuesday. 

Muhammad filed Tuesday with the slogan, "Independent/Justice Party."

Leading up to the primary, Muhammad kept up a barrage of posts on Facebook, most recently urging voters to vote for Brown for mayor. Today on Facebook he announced his own official candidacy.


RDO Sweeps City Committee Election

Tuesday's election included contests for the most grassroots of all elective offices, one male and one female representative in each of the city's 34 voting districts. The Regular Democratic Organization of Union County (aka Column A) took 60 of the 68 seats, likely ensuring a smooth process Monday when the new city committee members meet to elect a chairman and ward leaders for the next two years.

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp won the Plainfield chairmanship in 2015, taking it from Assemblyman Jerry Green, who retained the Union County chairmanship. A query to Mapp on whether he would seek another term as city chairman was not immediately returned.

Mapp said Wednesday, "I intend to seek the support of the elected committee members to continue as chair of the PDCC."

Green and Mapp have been at odds in the past, but joined to run in the June primary on the Column A ticket headed by Phil Murphy for governor. Mapp won out over three challengers for the mayoral spot on the November ballot and Green is seeking another two-year term representing District 22 in the state Assembly.

Within the city's four wards, the RDO committee candidates won 14 of 16 seats in Ward 1, 20 of 22 seats in Ward 2, 19 of 20 seats in Ward 3 and seven of 10 seats in Ward 4. The slate aligned with mayoral candidate Tracey Brown won four seats citywide and Democrats of Plainfield, aligned with Councilwoman Bridget Rivers' bid for mayor, picked up two committee seats in Ward 4. There was a tie for the male seat in Ward 1, District 3 and Peter Price won the Ward 2, District 6 seat with a write-in campaign

Among interesting outcomes, Alex Toliver and Councilwoman Diane Toliver ran as Democrats of Plainfield in Ward 1, District 6 but lost to RDO challengers. RDO winners overcame Democrats of Plainfield committee candidates Rivers and Ray Edwards in Ward 4, District 3. Rebecca Williams, who defeated Brown in November 2016 for the citywide at-large council seat, also defeated Brown Tuesday for the Ward 2, District 11 committee seat.


Mapp, Mills-Ransome, Hockaday Win Primary

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp
Unofficial primary results Tuesday showed a clear win for incumbent mayor Adrian O. Mapp over three contenders for the Democratic line on the Nov. 7 ballot. 

Mapp received 2,890 votes to 2,296 for Rev. Tracey Brown, 456 for Councilwoman Bridget Rivers and 145 for Dr. Henrilynn Davis Ibezim.
Amelia and Adrian Mapp wait for final results Tuesday
Mapp thanked a long list of campaign helpers and said, "This night belongs to you, Plainfield." 
Some of the crowd awaiting results
His campaign highlighted first-term strides in redevelopment, fiscal stability, management reform in community programs and progress toward his "One Plainfield, One Future" goal. Although he made past gains as a "New Democrat" bucking the party organization, he ran this year on a slate headed by Phil Murphy for governor, with Jerry Green for Assembly.
Mapp signs obscured by a sign for Rev. Tracey Brown
 The slogan "Column A, All the Way" rankled rivals who got lumped together on Column G.
Joylette Mills-Ransome and early numbers
His running mate for an unexpired term representing Wars 2 & 3, Joylette Mills-Ransome, won by a landslide of 1,735 votes over competitors Cameron Cox with 562 and Alma Blanco with 326, but Fourth Ward candidate Steve Hockaday won over Terri Briggs by only 17 votes, 302-285, with Elliott Simmons trailing. at 87 votes. 
Tallying votes at Mapp campaign HQ
Official results are expected Monday, when winners of Democratic committee seats will also meet to elect a chairman and ward leaders for the next two years.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Lawsuit Does Not Exist!

Image may contain: one or more people and indoor
Fire Chief Frank Tidwell

Thanks to Michael Townley for letting us know that a Notice of Tort Claim was filed, not a lawsuit. 

 According to online legal sources, this notice must be filed within 90 days of the alleged incident or injury.. The claimant must wait six months before filing a lawsuit in order to allow the public entities to investigate and possibly settle the matter.

David Rutherford published a link to the 10-page document. Although on two posts he refers to it as a lawsuit, the document clearly advises the parties noticed that "if any party is interested in solving this matter pre-litigation" they should contact the office of Gina Menola Longarzo, LLC.

Chief Tidwell is seeking $2.5 million in damages or maybe more, according to the notice. .

Plaintalker II is cited in the notice regarding an anonymous "leak" in September 2016. A check shows the comment was not published because of its nature!

If news of the "lawsuit" was meant to harm the incumbent, guess what? By the time six months has elapsed, if a new person holds the office, he or she will also be holding the bag.

One of the issues raised in the notice is that the Fire Chief's salary has not been raised in years. Interestingly, in 2014 Tidwell's salary was higher than that of the city administrator and all three department heads, including his superior, the director of Public Affairs & Safety.

The city had raised the salary of the chief financial officer in order to attract one, as there were very few available in the state and the city had gone without one for several years. The CFO salary was the only one higher than the fire chief's.

This matter will now be in the hands of legal counsel for all parties given notice of the tort claim. 


Monday, June 5, 2017

Council Meets on June 13

The City Council will not meet until Tuesday, June 13 for an agenda-fixing session. It's on a Tuesday to allow for the Democrats to reorganize on Monday, June 12 and elect a chairman and other officials for two years. The Democratic City Committee members are on the June 6 primary ballot and those elected will serve for two years. There is one write-in campaign, for Peter Price in Ward 2, District 6. Look at your sample ballot to verify your voting district and polling place.

June 13 is also the date of the PMUA public board meeting for the month, and also coincides with a Board of Education work and study meeting.

All items moved to the City Council agenda will be voted on at the June 19 regular meeting, 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

Meanwhile, be sure to vote in the primary tomorrow (June 6). Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is your chance to vote for a governor, state senator, Assembly member, county sheriff, freeholders, state committee members, mayor of Plainfield, City Council representatives for the Second & Third Wards at-large and for Ward Four. See the League of Women Voters candidate information sheet for mayor and council.

Have your say! The winners will be on the November 7 general election ballot, along with any independents who file on June 6. Good luck to all!

May the Best Candidates Win

Well, here I am again staring at a screen and wondering what difference it makes whether I post or not.

Within 48 hours, the voters will decide which Democrat gets on the ballot for the Nov. 7 general election. Partisans of three of the four mayoral candidates have declared themselves on social media and blogs. (The fourth is apparently just a spoiler.) The obligatory last-minute bombshell was publication of Fire Chief Tidwell's lawsuit against the mayor and other city officials. Never mind that both sides will be heard in a court of law and a decision will be rendered at some future date.

I started a list of pros and cons for each candidate, but my pros and cons may not be yours. I don't expect supporters of Bridget Rivers to be swayed by my opinion that she has not gained sufficient professionalism in her two terms on the council and previous school board experience. Rev. Tracey Brown has moved in more circles beyond Plainfield, but her involvement with the Campbells make me think there will be dues to be paid if she wins. Mayor Adrian Mapp's accomplishments are self-evident to many, though not to his enemies.

The mayor that I think the city needs now is one who can go to Trenton or Washington and advocate for Plainfield as resources dwindle and competition mounts. This mayor must be able to express what the city has done for itself to deserve consideration. At home, this mayor must set an example of fairness and regard for diverse populations that make up the city.

The most valuable skill to have in Plainfield may be the ability to negotiate political pitfalls. Parties want loyalty and solo practitioners want to get paid, one way or another, for their skills. An elected official may face coercion to reward the powerful for their help and must be able to say no when the demand is transgressive.

Council candidates need to know and embrace the legislative role they are seeking, which means reading what they will be voting on, consulting with the executive branch as necessary, listening to constituents and then voting their conscience. At a minimum, council candidates must demonstrate that they know the difference between the executive and legislative branches and will respect the parameters.

What are your standards for a mayor or council member? Make sure your choices measure up and make sure you vote.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The (Election) End Is Near, We Hope

Let's see, when will all this be over?

In case you just jetted in from an ayahuasca retreat, you know I'm talking about the Plainfield primary election for mayor and two council seats.Four people want to be mayor and six others want to serve on the City Council. They are all Democrats, running under four different slogans, but the winners will magically turn into Regular Democrats (unless they are already the Regular Democrats).

I have seen a lot of campaigns since I started writing about Plainfield in 1984, but this one has more than its fair share of what the late Mayor Richard L. Taylor called "donkey dust."  Facebook and your mailbox have been filling up with disinformation, ill-conceived observations and false witness, along with some actual reasons why the candidate feels worthy of your vote..

When will it end?

If there are clear winners, unofficial results will be known shortly after the polls close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. If any of the races are close, official results on the Monday following the primary will tell the tale.

If the results are very close or a storm like Sandy interferes, it could take longer. Special voting arrangements had to made in 2012 when the superstorm struck and delayed results for 20 days.

Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi has a comprehensive guide to elections that can answer all your questions except perhaps this one: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" (Click here for the answer.)

Friday, June 2, 2017

Board Finds West End Sites Need Development

A few weeks ago I saw a legal notice about a hearing on bunch of properties that had been studied to see whether they were in need of redevelopment or rehabilitation. They spanned a long stretch of Plainfield Avenue and I though surely the prospect of change there would be interesting to West End residents.

The lots include a very large one used for church parking, various residential and commercial uses, and the site of the original Plainfield Health Center. A cemetery is south of the study area and it extends north to South Second Street.

On Thursday, the Planning Board held the hearing and only two property owners showed up. One told me he thought the room would be packed. I followed them out after the Planning Board heard the report and found the 18 parcels to be in need of redevelopment or rehabilitation. Neither one spoke in the public comment part of the meeting and did not want to be quoted by name, but we did have a conversation outside City Hall Library.

One man was retired and relied on income from rentals of property he owns. His home was also on the list. A younger man said his family in a neighboring town also needs the rental income from a building on the roster. The Plainfield man had expected a full room for the hearing, he said, and was quite sure a neighbor had not received notice of the hearing. Notice of the hearing may have gone to an out-of-town owner, we figured.

I explained the redevelopment process - the interactions of the Planning Board and City Council - and suggested keeping track of decisions by both bodies. The longtime Plainfield resident said maybe nothing would happen anyway, and we talked about projects that get approvals but don't move forward because they lack financing. I said if a project does move, affected residents and the public at large can have their say at several junctures, both at the council meetings and at use boards.

The two owners were pleased to find out that a developer, once designated, would bear costs of the study and plan process, in addition to land acquisition. They were glad to find out eminent domain would not be invoked. I hope they get to future meetings and bring along some neighbors.

The hearing reminded me of why I started blogging in 2005 after retiring as a reporter two years earlier. I heard about a huge proposed project south of the main train station and wanted to spread the word. Newspapers had stopped routine coverage of municipal government and land use boards. I typed up some information and was handing it out to individuals when Barbara Todd Kerr suggested there was a better way - a blog. She created it and I began writing posts on council meetings and redevelopment proposals. And so it has gone, for an average of 508 posts a year!


Thursday, June 1, 2017

LWV Forum:Crowded, Contentious

Audience outbursts at Wednesday's League of Women Voters candidates' forum included one so  intense that moderator Ann Armstrong delivered a timeout by walking away from the podium.

After the meeting, she could be heard asking LWV members whether two previous forums had reached that pitch. The loudest yelling broke out when Mayor Adrian O. Mapp challenged Rev. Tracey Brown over "a lie by her campaign team"and then began to impugn her integrity as a pastor.

Her supporters rose up yelling and ignored Armstrong's warning to deal with issues, not personalities.

An estimated 250 people crowded the Emerson Community School cafetorium for the forum.

Mapp, Brown, Councilwoman Bridget Rivers and Dr. Henrilynn Ibezim are all running to be on the Democratic party line in the Nov. 7 general election. On June 6, the public will choose one.

See mayoral and council candidates' information here.

Mapp is running on his record since taking office in 2014, which includes having to right the city's finances after high turnover in the previous administration. He claimed drops in crime and unemployment during his tenure, and took credit for development including a $50 million, 212-unit apartment complex, among many other accomplishments.

His issue with Brown centers on a distribution of campaign literature with an altered news article inside alleging wrongdoing by Mapp. After the forum resumed, Mapp said, "It's just not right for my reputation to be tarnished. I stand on my record of accomplishments."

Brown defended her team and said they had nothing to do with the incident.

"As a pastor, I don't lie - I preach the Gospel," she said, calling Mapp's comments "a disgrace," which set off more yelling.

Rivers called for mixed use development instead of all apartments, and claimed as an accomplishment passage of a tethering law  She and all others pledged to work for a full-service youth center.

Ibezim drew laughs with his jibes at Mapp, but gave few indications of what he would do as mayor. He and others made sure to point out they were on Column G at the right side of the ballot.

"On June 6, forget about Column A - vote for Column G," he said, a tricky bit of advice as opposing candidates are all lumped together on Column G. Others made sure to give both column and line on the ballot

The City Council candidates followed the mayoral forum. Running for an unexpired one-year term are Joylette Mills-Ransome, currently an appointee to the seat and on Column A with Mapp; Cameron E. Cox, running with Ibezim; and Alma Blanco, running with Rivers. Blanco said she hoped to resolve the "great divide" in Plainfield, cut wasteful spending and work for a "state of the art community recreation center." Cox disagreed that crime is down and said if elected, he would "bring in a public safety director that will be honest" about crime. Mills-Ransome said she has been very active in council committee work and constituent service, which she hopes to continue if elected.

Elliott Simmons, Terri Briggs and Steve Hockaday are vying for a four-year term serving the Fourth Ward. Simmons, on Ibezim's slate, was absent Wednesday. Briggs is running with Brown and wants to help "older children" get jobs. She envisions a partnership with Neighborhood House to have a recreation center. Hockaday, on Column A with Mapp, wants young people to learn coding and sees Plainfield becoming "the Silicon Valley of the East."

Voters may find one more round of campaign flyers in their mailboxes over the weekend. Sample ballots have been mailed. Polls will be open on June 6 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Check ballot for your polling place.) Independents must file by 4 p.m. on June 6 to be on the November ballot along with primary winners.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Transporting Sound of the Kora Harp

My visit to the Plainfield Public Library Tuesday took me back to another era, the time of the griot,

It still exists in some places, that tradition of story-telling with music, an aural/oral history far removed from tweets and likes. Between songs on the Kora harp, performer Sean Gaskell described going to West Africa to study with a griot, living in a large communal household and learning songs centuries old that told of warriors and leaders.

It reminded me of my Irish ancestors' life in the days before planes and trains and social media, when traveling bards brought news and history to villagers through music and poetry.

The griot is a revered figure in African culture, still invoked today. This biographical note on Queen Mother Mary Carter Smith describes a re-awakening of understanding the importance of the griot.

Before attending the Kora harp concert, I wondered a bit about that new issue, cultural appropriation. But Sean Gaskell's obvious respect for the Kora tradition and his acceptance as a live-in student reflected more of a mutual celebration than an appropriation.

Maybe that's the trade-off in sharing cultures - we are no longer confined to our villages, but can have the best of world music no matter where we are or where we came from. Mickey Hart's Planet Drum is one such effort, Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble are another and last night Sean Gaskell brought the enchanting sound of the Kora harp to Plainfield.

Thanks to Plainfield Public Library for this wonderful event and I hope Sean Gaskell will be back again soon.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Dems By the Numbers

The Union County Board of Elections has posted the final affiliation stats before the primary. There are 14,309 registered Democrats eligible to vote on June 6.

As everyone must know by now, four Democrats want to be mayor, three want the Fourth Ward City Council seat and three are vying for a one-year unexpired term representing the Second & Third Wards at-large.

Your last chance to hear the candidates is 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Emerson Community School when the Plainfield League of Women Voters holds a forum. If you can't make the forum, you can review the candidates online at the LWV website. (Click the link)

Broken down, all 14,309 Democrats are eligible to vote for mayor in the primary. For the Fourth Ward seat, 2,552 Democrats are eligible, and 8,329 can vote for the Second & Third Wards at-large seat.

Turnout is generally much lower than the number of those eligible to vote. In the 2016 primary, turnout among the city's 34 voting districts ranged from a low of under 23 percent to a high of over 46 percent.

Before these final numbers, it appeared that the total of all registered voters had dropped by 864 from the 2016 general election. That number now is down to 779.

For all the rhetoric leading up to the primary, the thing that really counts is making sure the voters get to the polls on June 6. Some people may already have voted by mail, but most vote in person. You can bet candidates will be offering  reminders and rides to get out the vote on June 6. In the not too distant past, "street money" and vouchers for free drinks were also used to convince people to step into the voting booth.
You should soon get your sample ballot. Note your polling place and review the candidates. And go vote on June 6!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Urban Nature Study

Crossing the city parking lot on Cleveland and Fourth, I came across this supersized puffball. It's a relative of the Dandelion and from past nature study I recalled the name, Goat's Beard.

A Dandelion puffball might be the size of a ping-pong ball, but this one is almost as big as the "Spaldeen," the pink rubber Spalding ball so vital to the old game of stickball..

How times change. I just found out online that instead of scouring the street for a suitable stick, you can now buy one on Amazon for $46.98, or two Spaldeens and a stick for $61.82!

I think I'll stick to nature study.

Memorial Day Ceremony Photos

At City Hall
Vietnam Veteran
Color Guard
National Anthem
Through the umbrella
Mayor Adrian Mapp
Council President Rebecca Williams

Memorial Day

Memorial Day will be observed today at City Hall, 515 Watchung Ave.

See more images of past Memorial Day observances here.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Trouble In Rivers' City

With a little more than a week to go for the all-Democratic primary contest, cries of plagiarism arose as offline candidates struggled to call attention to their ballot location.

The creator of a poster for Rev. Tracey Brown took to Facebook to complain her design was lifted without her permission. Graphic artist Najiyyah Bailey posted side-by-side images on Facebook of the two fliers. the original for Rev. Tracey Brown and the alleged rip-off for Bridget Rivers. Both are running for mayor, and landed in Column G on the ballot, along with candidate Dr. Henrilynn Davis Ibezim.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text
To direct voters' attention to the far right side of the ballot, Bailey used a large, bright red "G" and spotlighted Brown on line 15. A background pattern repeats the ballot location.

Bailey took umbrage at the copycat version that has many of the same elements and notes Rivers' ballot position on column G, line 17. A slogan is superimposed on the repeat images of 17G, with what appears to be a misspelling of "United."
Image may contain: 1 person

Rivers' campaign had another apparent gaffe when the person she calls her boyfriend posted on FaceBook a photo of an employee in his restaurant wearing a campaign shirt for Mayor Adrian O. Mapp. Rivers posted separately that the Mapp campaign did not put the woman up to it, and tried to distance herself from the stunt.

Mapp and his running mates are all on Line A, a full roster of Democratic candidates for governor, freeholder, Assembly, County Sheriff and so on down to City Council candidates. Five other Democratic gubernatorial candidates without slates occupy lines B through F, resulting in the Plainfield pileup on line G.

Republicans running for governor have ballot positions on lines A through E, with only E having a slate.

To add to the confusion, some FB posters urged Brown and Rivers to team up against Mapp, an absurdity at this late date. Rivers could have chosen in April to seek a third term as the Fourth Ward council representative, but instead filed for mayor with no Ward 4 running mate. Brown has a Fourth Ward running mate and couldn't switch now even if she wanted to.

The candidates have one more forum, 6:30 p.m. May 31 at Emerson School, and then it's just a matter of getting out the vote on June 6. Primary winners will be on the Nov. 7 ballot, along with any independents who file on June 6.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

More On The Shiloh Forum

A lot of the talk at Thursday's candidates' forum had to do with young people.

One of the questions from the audience was on what youth services each mayoral candidate planned.

Mayoral candidate Bridget Rivers said, "Our youth, our millennials are important," but quickly added, "Our youth are lost" and said a community center is needed.

Rev. Tracey Brown, also running for mayor, said she has a background in counseling. She said young people need a place to go and while other youth centers close before dark, young people 18 and over are still on the street, so a center needs later hours and also job counseling.

Making  his first foray into Plainfield by running for mayor, Dr. Henrilynn Ibezim chided the others for "talking about things that should have been done 20 years ago" and said it is time for change and a new direction.

Incumbent Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said $1.7 million will be invested in a "multi-service sports facility" and also hailed a new skate park for youth. He mentioned job training and nanotechnology and said, "We are focusing on the whole person."

On combating crime and gang violence, Brown and Ibezim both said jobs would help keep young people off the streets. Mapp noted he had 62 students shadow City Hall staff last Monday (with an eye to future careers) and also held "Mayor for a Day" sessions for students.

Among council candidates, Steve Hockaday advocated coding and STEM education, noting the film "Hidden Figures," and said he wanted Plainfield to become the "Silicon Valley of the East." Elliott Simmons said children should be educated about gang violence, but also be shown love.

"It sounds kind of corny, going back to the '60s," he said, calling for "love and understanding."

Cameron Cox mentioned the Boys & Girls Club as a resource.

In response to a question on helping young girls at risk of incarceration, Joylette Mills-Ransome said there are sororities "that reach out very early to young ladies."

"The engagement piece is very important to them," she said.

"Reach out to the resources we already have," Terri Briggs said.

Briggs, Simmons and Hockaday are all running for the Fourth Ward seat. Cox, Mills-Ransome and Alma Blanco are vying for a one-year unexpired term representing the Second & Third Wards at-large. (Blanco was ill and did not attend the forum.)

See the Shiloh Baptist Church Facebook page for videos of the mayoral and council forums.

The League of Women Voters candidates' forum is 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 31 at Emerson Community School, 305 Emerson Ave. All the candidates are Democrats running in the June 6 primary.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Regarding Safe Haven

A couple of candidates mentioned the Safe Haven program at Thursday's forum and one blamed the city for its demise. As I recall, the Safe Haven program was initially based on a five-year grant. When the grant expired, I believe the city helped out for a time, but could not fund it indefinitely. I wondered at the time why, if there was a five-year grant and five years elapsed, why was it a big surprise and dilemma that there was no more funding? As I recall, a city that received the grant could not just reapply, so the logical thing would have been to look for other outside funding sources in time to assure continuity.

I hope anyone who remembers the situation will add factual information about what went down.

Meanwhile, here is a very good description of "Project Vision" in Plainfield, a 2005 program meant to deter young people from gang involvement. The elements of this program can still be applied by any other organization today, on whatever scale possible.

Posting on Forum Later Today

Last night a thunderstorm broke out while I was trying to do a blog post on the candidates' forum. I turned off the computer to wait it out, but when I got back on, I was too tired to compose a post. After nodding off a few times, I gave up.

These forums are difficult to report on, because there is so much content packed into a short time.As promised, there is video of the forum up on Facebook at Shiloh's FB page. I suggest taking a look at that and I will post later. Thank you.


Initial Post on Forum, More Later

About 150 people came out Thursday to hear mayoral and council candidate pitches at Shiloh Baptist Church, but if you missed it, a video may be up soon.
videos are up on Shiloh Baptist Church Facebook site
Pastor Hodari K. Hamilton welcomed the crowd and gave a prayer before the four mayoral candidates and five of the six council candidates spoke.

The mayoral field includes incumbent Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, seeking a second four-year term; first-time candidate Dr. Henrilynn Ibezim, a former Citywide at-large Councilwoman Tracey Brown, pastor of Ruth Fellowship  Ministries; and Fourth Ward Councilwoman Bridget Rivers.

Running with Mapp are Fourth Ward candidate Steve Hockaday for a four-year term, and Councilwoman Joylette Mills-Ransome, who was appointed in January to the Second & Third Ward at-large seat and is seeking the balance of the unexpired term;to Dec. 31, 2018. Ibezim's running mates are former Councilman Elliott Simmons for Fourth Ward  and Cameron Cox for the unexpired term. Brown is running with Terri Briggs for Fourth Ward. Rivers will be on the ballot with Alma Blanco for the unexpired term. Blanco was ill and did not attend the forum.

Reminder: Candidates submitted bios to the League of Women Voters - see here

Issues included public safety, redevelopment, gun violence, need for a community center and the type of medical facility desired for the Muhlenberg site.
Bridget Rivers
In opening remarks, Rivers said, "I understand politics," and promised a "full-services community center for our youth."

 Dr. Henrilynn Ibezim
Ibezim mentioned Psalm27 and said, "I am running to make a difference."
Rev. Tracey Brown
Brown gave a long list of credentials, including leading 30 churches, and said the city needs a youth center that is open late.
Mayor Adrian Mapp
Mapp said when he came into office, he found "a city in need of being remade," lacking a chief financial officer for seven years, among other things. Now, he said, crime is down 25 percent and economic development is at an all-time high.

Regarding the 10-acre Muhlenberg tract, Brown, Ibezim and Rivers said the city needs a full-service hospital. . Mapp said, "We are returning health care services to the Muhlenberg campus," saying it had been "abandoned" for the past eight years.

To be continued tomorrow

 Terri Briggs, Cameron Cox, Steve Hockaday

Hockaday, Joylette Mills-Ransome, Elliott Simmons

Ramadan Mubarak

Ramadan Mubarak
to all our
Muslim friends

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Stepping It Up

Looks good, eh? Never mind that the device considered my gyrations while sifting compost to be "steps."

My daughter gave me the little step counter a while back and I used it until the battery died. I forgot about it while we were enduring the most recent dislocations in the apartment. In fact, I wasn't even sure where it was with all the shifting of possessions since the November squirrel invasion, January's Friday the 13th massive leak and six weeks of repairs starting in March.

This month, I took action! Looked up the kind of battery needed and ordered it from Amazon. It arrived in a box plastered with warnings about lithium batteries (land shipment only, not by aircraft, etc. etc.). I had to mummify the old one in tape lest it get wet or touch another one in the trash and explode.

Next task, unearth that set of tiny Phillips screwdrivers and pick the right size, Unscrew the back, replace battery, screw it shut. It didn't want to line up - I nearly said "screw it" but persisted until it took hold.

Since then, my step totals have varied wildly but never reached 10,000 until I did some errands on foot and then spent an hour shaking compost through a large sieve (or riddle, as the English say). The result made me think a 1950s belt massager would have shaken out those last thousand steps, or in these times a Big Freedia tutorial might help. But I do love sifting compost, so I'll just keep it in mind for back-up to get those "steps" when I don't feel like traipsing down to the bank or the P.O.


Shiloh Community Forum Tonight

From the Shiloh Baptist Church calendar:

Shiloh Community Forum

When: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Where: Sanctuary

The church is located at 515 West Fourth Street. According to Dan, this forum is for mayoral and council candidates.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

LWV Posts Candidates' Bios, Responses

The Plainfield League of Women Voters is holding a forum from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on May 31 at Emerson Community School, 305 Emerson Ave. Candidates were asked to submit brief bios and responses to LWV questions. (At the forum, a moderator will also ask candidates to respond to written questions from the audience.)

See Candidate Bios and Responses to LWV Questions

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

An Image of Plainfield

A chance comment on Facebook led me to a web series filmed in Plainfield. In the genre known on IMDb as "hood" movies, it included drug dealing, gun violence, murder, jail, poverty and general social dysfunction.

I had two reactions (well, three) after seeing this production. It depicted Plainfield as a dangerous place, with crime part and parcel of the residents' lives, a shooting in a downtown alley, and a cameo appearance by one of Park & Seventh's prime disrupters - in other words, just the image that people say outsiders wrongly pin on the city. As a  Plainfielder since 1983, I was horrified.

Another reaction was to wonder how the series was filmed. Was it all freelance, without any city permissions or knowledge? I know nowadays practically anyone with a camera is their own auteur, but I remembered how "The Messenger," "Basket Case" and "Kinsey" all required approvals for use of city locales.

I will reserve my other reaction for a later date, but let's just say the series had an unexpected (to me) political coda.

Comments on YouTube showed the series had a lot of fans, and I guess overall it was no worse than some thriller filmed on the streets of New York City. It was just disconcerting to see someone "shot" just a few steps from a downtown bank I use, among other juxtapositions of the familiar with the unthinkable.

I know some will say it is not my place to say anything on this topic. It recalled to me a time when as a reporter I stopped at Clinton School on election day to get a comment on turnout, and a woman said, "What are you doing here?" There are divides and lines in the sand here. But I am a Plainfielder too, and this is just how I feel today.


Voter Numbers Down As Of May 1

The number of registered voters in Plainfield dropped by 864 from October 23 to May 1, with Democrats showing the greatest loss.

All the primary candidates for mayor or City Council are Democrats.

In contrast to a drop of 282 for Democrats, the small Conservative, Green and Libertarian parties all gained members since the 2016 general election.  The numbers of Republicans and unaffiliated voters, already puny compared to Democrats in Plainfield, saw further reductions.

The last day to register for the June 6 primary was May 16, so numbers may change in the Union County Election Board's next tally. Several groups held voter registration drives and City Clerk AJ Jalloh opened his office from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. for registration on May 16.

Moving can affect one's eligibility to vote. See a FAQ on New Jersey voting rules for various circumstances, including moves. There is also a section on challengers and one on electioneering that voters should check. We have all heard stories of people trying to interfere with voters at the polls or going into the booth with a voter to "help" them. Be forewarned - know your rights!

It's probably too late for the primary, but before the Nov. 7 general election a person with a criminal conviction should follow ACLU guidelines for registering to vote.

After the Democratic primary, only one mayoral candidate, one Fourth Ward candidate and one choice for the unexpired Second & Third Ward at-large seat will have the party line on the November ballot. Independents who file on June 6 for any of those seats will also be on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Two More Forums To Go

With everything else on my mind, I totally forgot about yesterday's candidates' forum.

If you missed it too, you can see at least the mayoral portion on Facebook. Three of the four candidates took part. I found myself yelling at the netbook over some non-factual items.

If I attend the other ones, I will have to take notes, mind my manners and never mind the whoppers that may crop up.

Dan reports that there will be a forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday (May 25 23) at Shiloh Baptist Church, 515 West Fourth Street. I thought it was somewhat unusual to have a candidates' forum in a church, but while searching online I found there had been a mayoral candidates' forum  at Shiloh in 2009, when six people were competing for the line in the June primary. This year, it's a four-way race.

The Plainfield League of Women Voters will hold a candidates' forum on May 31 at Emerson School. The mayoral candidates will give statements and answer written questions from the audience between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. City Council candidates will do the same from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The primary is June 6. Winners will be on the November 7 general election ballot, along with any independent candidates who file on June 6.

As a reminder, here are the four slates with their slogans:

Mayor, Four-year term: Adrian O. Mapp
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Joylette E. Mills-Ransome
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Steve Hockaday

Mayor, Four-year term: Dr. Henrilynn Davis Ibezim
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Cameron E. Cox
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Elliott Simmons

Mayor, Four-year term: Bridget Rivers
City Council, Second & Third Wards Unexpired Term: Alma Blanco
(no Fourth Ward candidate filed)

Mayor, Four-year term: Tracey L. Brown
Fourth Ward, Four-year term: Terri Briggs
(Second & Third Ward candidate filing was ruled invalid)

Please, No "Jake Brakes"

Day or night, trucks pull up to the traffic light at Park & Seventh with a loud stuttering roar that drowns out my radio. This noise is due to a form of braking that some drivers use. It's called "Jake braking" and is banned in some places, although the company that makes the mechanism has sued municipalities for putting up signs that link it to the racket.

I have mentioned it before, but it has become so frequent lately that it is beyond annoying. The most recent blast was at 1:30 a.m,

I know other people on major roads in Plainfield must be hearing that horrible noise. I have wished for police to ticket drivers for this excessive noise, although :it might be too hard to catch them in action. Hear an example here.

My building is set back 100 feet from the street and the corner is about another 100 feet. Anyone living at an intersection with a smaller setback must be even more affected by this noise. Have you heard it? What do you think would help?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Stressed Out

A few too many recent challenges have just worn me out and impaired my ability to come up with blog posts.

Luckily for Plainfield, there are many more news sources than when the blog started in 2005. Jennifer Popper is doing an excellent job as the new editor of Tap into Plainfield and Timothy Priano has lots of information on his Queen City Pride website.

Every week, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp publishes a newsletter with events, updates and news about Plainfield, which residents can sign up for.through the city website at the "Stay Connected" link.  The website itself has City Council and land use board agendas, links to departments and divisions (including a roster of Recreation programs), and much more.

Most of the resources above are also on Facebook, and there is also a link to The Buzz In and Around Plainfield. As always, Dan publishes event notices and links to news articles on his blogs.

In my expanding menagerie of devices, laptop repairs took a month but something failed and another month is elapsing for more repairs. Meanwhile I am making do with the little netbook. I have to go back to PNC Bank for more help in setting up online banking on the iPhone and I am trying to learn how to operate a new tablet device. Even the Kindle demands attention for an update that so far I can't attain. It's harder for me to read small letters and numbers nowadays, which adds to the stress.

My measures to reduce stress have included getting some ylang ylang oil for an aromatherapy locket and fixing a little step counter to encourage more walking. Intrigued by a notice for a kora harp concert at the Plainfield Public Library, I looked up kora music and I must say it has a beautiful, calming sound. Hoping to make the May 30 concert by Sean Gaskell at 7 p.m. in the library. See more about the kora here.

The garden is also a stress reliever, except when landscapers denude it with weed whackers. We have a new landscaper who seems to be more attuned to gardens.

Love in a Mist
There is always something new coming up in the garden and this week it is a delicate flower called Love in a Mist, with blossoms in shades of blue surrounded by feathery foliage. So pretty!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

New ABC Board Organizes on May 31

A legal notice Tuesday heralds the organizational meeting of the new three-person Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

The meeting is 7 p.m. May 31 in City Hall Library and the two items of business are selecting a chairman and designating meeting dates.

Plainfield has about 38 places where liquor is dispensed, including social clubs, bars and restaurants and liquor stores. All the liquor license establishments are subject to review by the Police, Fire, Health and Inspections divisions. License holders must also meet state requirements before municipal approval. All licenses must be renewed annually and were formerly approved or denied by the seven-member City Council.

Earlier this year, the governing body approved a change to a three-member ABC board, as allowed by state law. In 2014, the change was blocked by then-Council President Bridget Rivers, who wanted the council to retain control. In 2015, she voted approval of a controversial night club which has since gone out of business.

This year, she joined in unanimous votes on two readings to pass the ordinance for the three-person board.

The three ABC board members were approved unanimously in April. Initial nominees have staggered terms. Successors will all have three-year terms. The ordinance also requires one of the three to be of the opposite political party. They are:

- James Perry, who cites extensive board service on his resume in addition to being the founding Chief Financial Officer of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, serving from 1996 to 2013. His board affiliations include 23 years with Union County College,and 28 years with King's Daughters Day School. He was former chair of the Plainfield Redevelopment Authority and a founding member of the Plainfield Business Development Corp. A Democrat, he is nominated for the initial three-year term.

- David Graves, a repairer with the State of New Jersey, having previous managerial and technical positions in entertainment and manufacturing. Though not noted on his resume, Graves is well-known for community activities as well. He is a Democrat and is nominated for the two-year term.

- Oscar Riba, who is now vice president of Two Sigma Investments, LLC but who gained knowledge of ABC regulations as owner/operator of a New York bar for a decade ending in 2012. According to the resolution, he is a Republican and is nominated for a one-year initial term.

License renewals are supposed to take place by June 30, but a few license holders miss the deadline every year. The board may also have to schedule hearings past the deadline in case of denials.

(I will not be able to attend the May 31 meeting, as it coincides with the League of Women Voters' Primary Candidates Forum at Emerson School, but will post a follow-up on the chairman and meeting schedule.) 


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Three Weeks To Primary, Please Curb Insults

I made the mistake yesterday of posting a response on my blog to something that Dan posted.

Dan does not post comments, so people brought their reactions over here. I held most of them, but I regret initially putting up one.

With three weeks to go, we are now in the ugly phase of primary campaigning. Call me a tender blossom, but even after 30 years I feel very queasy when the stink bombs are tossed just before an election.

I have seen some extreme tricks in the past. One year, someone paid a quarter to open a newspaper box in front of City Hall, then inserted a scurrilous flyer in each of the newspapers inside. Anyone who legitimately bought a paper saw the flyer. It caused much gossip and also made it seem that the newspaper company was complicit.

Another very bad incident occurred when a local politician took out an ad in the daily newspaper warning of a huge tax increase. A woman who came to a City Council meeting to complain became so distraught that she collapsed and later died. The projected increase later proved to be falsely exaggerated.

I hope people will stick to the issues and not make personal attacks or false claims between now and June 6. Comments along those lines will not be posted. If you agree or disagree with Dan, you can send him your questions or suggestions at

The primary race will be over soon and so will the decision on chairman of the Democratic City Committee. We may then be free to enjoy the summer before people take up the cudgels for the Nov. 7 general election and school board contest (yes, it was moved from April to November, then back to April and once again back to November).


Monday, May 15, 2017

Be Ready To Vote on June 6!

Tuesday, May 16 is the last day to register for the June 6 primary!

Make sure you are registered. If you haven't voted for a while or have changed your address, you need to check your status. The City Clerk's office in City Hall, 515 Watchung Ave. will be open from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday for voter registration.

See for more information.

This primary is very important! Four Democrats want your vote for a four-year mayoral term, One will go on the ballot for the November 7 general election. See mayoral and City Council candidates at the NAACP forum on May 21 or the LWV forum on May 31.

People have died for your right to vote - don't waste it! Take part! We all see what happens when a large number of voters fail to exercise their franchise. Don't let it happen here.