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.