Sunday, April 30, 2006

Can this radio save your life?



At least, it can keep you connected under 'off the grid' circumstances -- as in when the power's out, whether because a squirrel got fried chewing on a line or a cat 5 storm is bearing down on your location.

I picked one of these up last Christmas time as a gift. And then went back and got one for the house. Good idea.

The model I got is a Grundig-Eton, handcranked AM/FM/Shortwave/NOAA receiver, with a lamp AND a cellphone battery charger. $49.99. $39.99 without the charger. Dayglo safety orange -- plus other colors.

I saw them recently at Circuit City and it reminded me of how useful they are.

Think camping. Think boating. Think hiking. Think a long bike ride. Think a power outage, and you want to find out if that is a cat 5 hurricane heading your way.

Useful. Cool. Can it save your life? Perhaps.

-- Dan Damon

Saturday, April 29, 2006

'Plainfield Cooks' eat-for-scholarships event today


Some of Plainfield's finest cooks will provide samples of their best dishes for the delight of hungry food fans and to raise money for scholarships at 'Plainfield Cooks' this afternoon

'Plainfield Cooks' returns as the premier scholarship fundraiser for Plainfield High School seniors who 'Beat The Odds.' Proceeds of the event provide scholarship aid to students who have overcome some adversity in making it through high school and being accepted into a college or university.

"Some have overcome health issues in their family, or been raised by a single parent or have had to deal with homelessness or other stressful adversities," said Tracy Bennett, Plainfield's tax assessor and one of the event's founders.

Chef participants cook up a storm and the public gets to sample everyone's specialties, as well as browse vendor booths and bid on silent auction items.

Tiffany Thompson, a 1999 Plainfield High graduate who was the first recipient of a 'Beat the Odds' scholarship is expected to attend Saturday's event.

"I can't tell you how much the scholarship meant to me," Ms. Thompson says, "as I lost my father to AIDS when I was in 8th grade, and my high school years were very hard for my mother. The scholarship really helped me get my college education off to a good start, and I appreciate the hard work that the volunteers have put into the 'Plainfield Cooks' project to make the scholarships available."

Ms. Thompson is a graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, and is now an analyst with Accenture, the services consulting firm.

Today's event will honor the late 'Pepsi' Charles and Leland Paul Michael, founding and guiding spirits of the project, which has given thousands of dollars in scholarships over the last seven years.

'Plainfield Cooks' is today, Noon to 3:00 p.m. at the Washington School Cafetorium, 427 Darrow Avenue, Plainfield.

Tickets available at the door. $20 for adults, and $10 for those over 55 and between the ages of 5 and 10. Children under 4 are admitted free with their families.

'Plainfield Cooks' is sponsored by the Plainfield Public Schools' School-Based Youth Services program and the volunteers of the Plainfield Cooks Committee.

-- Dan Damon

Friday, April 28, 2006

H.I.T.S.: Illegal rooming houses... New Finance director?... Kenyon Ave waits for a callback... Jocelyn wages war?... Drugs where!!?...


While on the way to the Mayor's town hall meeting last night, I happened down Kenyon Avenue -- looking spiffy thanks to the Council's commitment and Star Of The Sea's hard work -- and ran into a neighborhood activist out working on the lawn. Seems they have an issue. Actually, two.

The first is that the block association has suspicions an illegal rooming house is being run on the block. The second is they are having a devil of a time getting the Administration's attention. Seems after many calls and emails, they finally got a meeting with several City Hall types and their Council reps. Residents vent. Officials promise. No one gets back to them. So what's the status? No one knows. Among those present and not getting back to the residents, per my contact: Jenny Wenson Maier and Nagy Sileem...

...Speaking of Mr. Sileem, you did notice in yesterday's Ledger that he was elected president of the Hillside board of education, did you not? Hillside is just like Plainfield, only more so...

...But back to the issue of illegal rooming houses. What ever happened to the 'Safe Homes' initiative, under which Jocelyn Pringley was to lead her -- augmented -- troops in clamping down on overcrowdingand the accompanying safety issues by absentee landlords ? Seems to have vanished into thin air.

Which is more than you can say about Jocelyn. She is not vanishing anywhere, as Nagy Sileem has found out. Not only that, word has it she is waging bureaucratic guerilla warfare, the way the colonists would take potshots at the British and then melt into the woods.

...Word in the street is that the Mayor is close to naming a new Director of Administration and Finance, to fill the position left vacant when Norton Bonaparte escaped to moved on to Topeka, Kansas. And the envelope, please...[drumroll] it...Steve Holmes? Stay tuned...

CATCH-ALL: Monday's CLIPPINGS pointed to two stories about the mess with the Schools Construction Corp. -- the Courier's "Officials to probe accelerated reviews of school sites" and the Bergen Record's "Safety didn't come first in hunt for N.J. school sites" -- with the editorial question
"Is this the program that was to hasten putting a school at Muhlenberg?" which some readers though meant I was implying there were environmental issues with the proposal for a school on the Muhlenberg site. Not at all.

It was the 'expedited' part of the story that caught my eye. What had been proposed for the Muhlenberg site was making it a 'demonstration' project, which would have included expedited reviews as well as a general loosening of the restrictions on bidding and contracts. It was this latter which has led to so much abuse and put the SCC in the crosshairs of investigators. And that, I think, is the embarrassment from which the gods chose to spare us. At least this time...

...Lastly, I took a drubbing from Mrs. G. over the mention in Monday's TW3 that the young man running an East End drug operation [link to Ledger story] lived next door to a prominent citizen. Did I fail to mention that this is also down the street from former Councilman Bob Ferraro and around the corner from the Democratic City Committee's 2-5 female rep? Sorry. The point is that drugs and guns are in some of our nicest neighborhoods, and not just -- as many people assume -- "where poor people live." Question is, what's being done about it?

DISCLAIMER: In the interest of fairness, any person identified in a H.I.T.S. post who believes he/she has been portrayed unfairly or that the information about him/her is untrue will have the opportunity to respond in this space.

-- Dan Damon
Keywords: H.I.T.S.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

More than flyers found in the garbage...

"Found in today's garbage...",
about the PMUA's putting out notices for the Mayor's town hall meeting tonight, drew some offline comments as well. Here are some highlights:

"So what are Hispanics, chopped liver?" Several people stopped me in the street to say they were appalled that the city would put out a flyer in English only. "Don't Spanish-speaking residents count?" and "Was this on purpose, or did the city just not get its act together in time to do a translation?" were just two of the other comments on this subject. The city, the school district and the PMUA have been accustomed to
give notices in Spanish as well as English for years. In this day, it is a gross oversight not to. Some people also said they saw no notices in the Spanish-language press -- which, since these are weeklies, need more advance notice. A final quote: "Does this mean one third of the city's residents are not invited?"

"And what about the half of Plainfielders who live in apartments and don't have PMUA garbage receptacles?" It's true -- about half of Plainfield's residents are renters and live in buildings where they do not have individual trash and recycle containers. Does this mean renters are not invited to this evening's event? Fair question.

"How much money did the city save?" was asked by someone who saw this anonymous post on the blog: "
When the city finds a way to save money, people complain." Well, the postage from a citywide residents mailing would have amounted to about $2,300, plus mailing house charges of $600-$700. Having envelopes made up would have come to perhaps another $1,300. Yes, there was a savings, but was it at the cost of having the PMUA be a "good corporate citizen" and absorb the cost?

"Didn't the PMUA commissioners know?" Seems they likely didn't. Whatever decision was arrived at to distribute the flyers for the city, the commissioners were not involved. Should they have been asked?

"Why should the PMUA distribute the city's flyers?" Some suggested it was improper for the PMUA to distribute the flyers since the agency and the city are supposed to do business "at arm's length." I suppose the city could get around this objection if the PMUA were paid some market-based dollar amount for the service rendered. But did it?

-- Dan Damon

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Confusion over Mayor's '100 Days' Town Meeting

I have gotten a lot of emails about tomorrow night's
'100 Days' Town Meeting presentation by Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs.

Some have said the time was listed as 6:00 p.m. on the city's website several days ago. True enough, and that was my first inkling of it, as I reported in last Friday HITS.

The website currently says things start at 7:00 p.m. (that's as of 6:30 this morning).

The flyer stuffed in garbage bins yesterday says 6:30 p.m.

This morning's Courier says 6:30 p.m. The Ledger is silent on the whole matter.

Seems possible there will be 'refreshments' at 6:30 p.m. and the program will get under way at 7:00 p.m.

Don't get your knickers in a twist over the lack of clarity -- 'be there or be square.'

-- Dan Damon

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Found in today's garbage...

Tuesday is garbage pickup in my neighborhood.

Retrieving my garbage bin from the curb about 6:15 this morning, I found this flyer stuck half inside the lid, courtesy of the PMUA. I'm guessing some neighborhoods got it yesterday and others today. It may not be classy, but it surely is a novel way to get communications from the Mayor.

Read the flyer. Mark your calendar. Come out to the Mayor's town hall meeting Thursday evening.

(Click on image to enlarge)

-- Dan Damon

What is Prosecutor Romankow trying to tell us?

There was an odd statement by Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow, quoted in the Sunday Courier story of the tragic death of
Fausto Fabin Ramos, a North Plainfield man who was struck by a Plainfield police vehicle driven by Det. Robert Henderson. Henderson was answering a report of gunshots fired on Putnam Avenue.

(The online story is here:
Plainfield police vehicle causes fatality.)

What caught my eye was the following:

". . .Calling Henderson "one of the good guys" on the city police department, Romankow said there was no indication the officer was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident."

I have reread that statement many times since Sunday, and find it puzzling. Did Prosecutor Romankow mean to imply that some of the cops in the city's police department are NOT 'good guys'? Or that some cops are, or could be found to be, 'under the influence of drugs or alcohol' while on duty?

There were rumors circulating last Spring that the Attorney General's office was inquiring into alleged irregularities in PBA finances, but no public action was ever taken by the AG, nor did any stories ever surface in the press. Is the prosecutor making an oblique reference to this? Or was he referencing some other issues of which he has knowledge?

Was Romankow trying to tell us something? Or did he just speak thoughtlessly to the reporter? Will we ever know?
-- Dan Damon

Monday, April 24, 2006

TW3: April 17 - April 23, 2006: Plainfield-centered news digest of the past week

Mondays, PLAINFIELD TODAY is a digest of Plainfield-only news from the past week: That Was The Week That Was -- or TW3 -- with links to the online stories.


SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS: The annual school board elections took center stage early in the week. The well-heeled, well-signed Lovely-Brown/Logan-Leach/Wilkins (CLR) team was silently promoted by a last-minute slime attack on Pat Barksdale and Rasheed Abdul-Haqq that arrived in many mailboxes on Monday, the day before the election. Plainfield Today endorsed Barksdale and Abdul-Haqq on Monday and responded to the sliming mailer on Tuesday--urging people to get out and vote. Results? As noted by Bernice in the Plaintalker, Dan in Plainfield Today and separately by the Courier, Pat Barksdale was the top vote-getter, with Rasheed Abdul-Haqq outdistancing the third-place candidate, Lisa Logan-Leach by more than 130 votes. Dan posted the unofficial stats., and analyzed the sliming mailer in his Friday post. And who do you think mailed it? Coming along at the end of the parade, the Rev. Rick had a letter supporting the Courier's editorial knock on Superintendent Howard from the previous week. As pointed out in Friday's HITS, word in the street is that the good reverend is really peeved that his wife, the Rev. Gloria, has not been given a principalship...

COUNCIL'S NEW MEETING SCHEDULE: This past week launched the Council's new meeting schedule -- and with the school board election sandwiched in, made for a perfect storm of meetings for City Clerk Laddie Wyatt (who along with her staff was thanked for their endurance by Council President Blanco at Wednesday's meeting). Bernice reported in depth on the public comment at the end of the meeting, and Dan logged in with a note on the low attendance by the public.

CRIME: Shootings continued unabated, with two more being added this week. The young man from North Plainfield, shot in the back across from the McDonald's on West Front Street, was reported still in critical condition as of Sunday. As Dan noted, people are dying to hear what is going to be done. Meanwhile, one of the three young Plainfield men busted in Westfield for marijuana and gun possession has now been fingered by the cops as running an East End drug operation. Turns out he had a stash of guns and cash at his home, which happens to be next door to that of Plainfield Area Equality's founder. (See today's CLIPPINGS for today's New York Times story on the Staten Island arrest in the murder of Robert Cody.)

Sunday's Courier and Ledger both reported on the tragic death of Fausto Fabin Ramos, a North Plainfield resident struck and killed by a Plainfield police cruise responding to a report of shots fired on Putnam Avenue. The Ledger got it online, but the Courier flubbed the dub and the story was transcribed and posted by Dan. They did get their act together and put it online later in the day.

ODDS 'n ENDS: Council President Blanco, as duly noted by Dan, called attention to some missing web-production software, duly returned and receipted. The tool is one of the best for building websites, but is only a tool. What is designed depends on the skills of the designer -- and everyone will be watching Plainfield's website to see what happens. (BTW, perfectly adequate sites can be built without the tool the old-fashioned way, using a text editor like Notepad.)

Lastly, a brief in Thursday's Courier noted that
Sharpe, Maddox and Soaries are to be honored at a celebrity brunch. After rereading the piece several times, it still is not clear whether they will actually be there to be recognized. Hmmmmmmmmm.......

Last week's H.I.T.S.: "HITS: Laddie a gold-digger?... Rev. Rick riffs on schools... CSI: Plainfield..."
Last TW3: "TW3: April 3 - April 9, 2006"


DuCret Student Makes Good: "Step by step to cultural arbiter of the county"
Fire: "Tuesday night fire destroys Brewster Court home"
Green Brook Flood Control: "With video of devastation, officials plead for further funds"
Plainfield Artist Honored [last item]: "Group to honor Mel Holston at annual lunch"
Veterans: "American Legion Post seeking veterans"
Letters to Editor - CN: Maria Pellum: "City should better image, fight crime"
..... - Robert Darden: "Schools' Lobbying: Wrong use of funds"
..... - Valerie Cummings: "City forum offered hope for future"
..... - QUEST: "QUEST challenges School Board on ethics issues"


..... - Condos: "Condos coming to Bound Brook"
..... - Construction Inspections: "Licenses suspended amid flak over W. Orange club"
.......... DCA: Inspectors have no right to ignore planning or zoning board decisions
..... - False Alarms at Schools: "Outwitting false alarms at schools"
..... - Gooses and Golden Eggs: "Nest egg set aside by Suliga is eaten by Council"
..... - Homelessness: "Los Angeles aims to conquer homelessness"
..... - Immigration: Robert Samuelson: "Conspiracy Against Assimilation"
..... - Loft Condos: "Lofts proposed for East Newark"
..... - Public Housing Rents: "27% of Tenants Face More Rent Under NYC Plan"
..... - Public Records: "Old Bridge to simplify access, make executive sessions more timely"
..... - Schools: "Corzine backs new scrutiny of school district spending"
..... - Shootings: "Newark cops seize more guns; Violence grows, shootings rise nearly 10%"
..... - Surveillance Cams: "The Camera Never Blinks, but It Multiplies"
..... - Sweetheart deals: "Booker criticizes city sale of properties; says builders get deals'"
..... - Taxes: "Settlement creating different assessments causes tension and confusion"
..... - Transition Plans: "Booker nonprofit creating a guide on urban issues"
.... - Verizon vs. Cable: "Long Island: Tug of War Played With Cable"
..... - Voting Machines: "Voting machine glitch casts doubt on election outcome"

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Phyllis Mason's months' minds

It is one month since Phyllis Mason died.

In the days when England was Catholic, before Henry divorced, the dead were remembered regulary in what were called months' minds. Mass was offered, prayers were said for the departed, and they were 'called to mind and remembered by name' monthly for the first year after their death. Months' minds were a big deal in the community.

We're moderns, we don't have that focus any more. And we're the poorer for it, as we are swept along in the busyness of our daily rounds. Those we have lost are quickly lost to memory with no structured way to recall them and their significance for the life of the community.

I was sorting through old papers this weekend, and found two items that make perfect months' minds for Phyllis. I have scanned them, and you can take a look. The first is a flyer from her campaign for a City Council seat. Straightforward, no frills Phyllis.

The second is a Speaking Out piece she did for the Courier on July 7, 1997, entitled 'Plainfield government must mind its Ps and Qs.' It is quintessential Phyllis, delighting in P words and Q words. Her closing thought we would do well to dwell upon even today:

". . .to achieve real quality in Plainfield the residents as well as the government need to mind these 'Ps' and 'Qs.' To paraphrase President Kennedy: Ask what you can do for your city, not what your city can do for you. Suggest ideas for improvements, do what you can to keep things moving, don't waste time on negative thoughts and actions, and don't settle for second best from yourselves or your government. We all need to pull together to make Plainfield the Queen City again."

Well said, Phyllis. We call you to mind and remember you. Rest in peace.

-- Dan Damon

Plainfield police vehicle causes fatality

Published in the Courier News, Sunday, 4/23/2006, Page A1 - not online

Plainfield police vehicle causes fatality

Staff Writer

PLAINFIELD -- A police car driven by a detective responding to a report of gunfire struck and killed a pedestrian who walked into the street early Saturday, authorities said.

Fausto Fabin Ramos, 51, of 57 Manning Ave., North Plainfield, was fatally hit by the marked police cruiser about 4:20 a.m. near the intersection of Oxford Place and West Front Street in Plainfield, city police Chief Edward Santiago said.

Ramos was treated at the scene but pronounced dead there a short time later, police said.

Santiago said the Union County Prosecutor's Office and the county police department are handling the investigation into the accident, as is standard procedure.

Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow identified the driver of the police unit as Detective Robert Henderson, who has been with the department for more than a decade.

Romankow said Henderson was en route to Putnam Avenue to investigate a report that gunshots had been fired in the area. He was driving east on West Front Street when Ramos evidently stepped out from between two parked vehicles, Romankow added.

It was unclear Saturday whether Henderson had his overhead lights or siren activated at the time.

Maria Ramos, 22, of North Plainfield said family members found out about the accident when they placed a call to her father's cell phone after 4:30 a.m. to find out where he was. A police officer answered and told them what had happened.

A married father of five with two granddaughters, Fausto Ramos had lived in North Plainfield since he moved to American from Ecuador 22 years ago. He worked in construction, had a great sense of humor and liked to travel, Maria Ramos said.

"Basically, he was just willing to help anyone," she said. "He always had his front door open, you know what I mean? He was always willing to help."

A police officer came to the family's front door later with a photograph so they could positively identify her father as the victim, she added.

Officials said the cause of the accident will be investigated further, and an autopsy and toxicology test will be performed to determine the exact cause of death.

Calling Henderson "one of the good guy" on the city police department, Romankow said there was no indication the officer was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident.

He also said excessive speed did not appear to be a factor.

"We're going to conduct a full investigation, and once a full report is presented to me, we'll determine whether there was any conduct that was in violation of any regulation," he said. "It was just a tragic set of circumstances, but it does not seem the officer deviated from the norm."

Santiago also described the accident as a sad mishap.

"The mayor extends her condolences to the family, as well as (does) the entire police department," he said.

Another officer followed up on the Putnam Avenue shooting report, but no evidence such as shell casings was found in the area, Santiago added.

Funeral arrangements for Fausto Ramos still were being made late Saturday, family said.
What you can do

Anyone who saw the accident is asked to call Detective Dean Marcantonio of the Union County Prosecutor's Office at (908) 527-4500, Plainfield police Lt. Gregory Turner at (908) 753-3050 or Detective Kevin Egbert at (908) 753-3044. Witnesses can also call the Union County police at (908) 654-9800.
Chad Weihrauch can be reached at (908) 707-3137.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

People are dying to hear...

Day 112

3 Murdered

6 Shot

People are dying
to hear what's going to be done.

Friday, April 21, 2006

HITS: Laddie a gold-digger?... Rev. Rick Taylor riffs on schools... CSI: Plainfield - a forensic slash at the slimy school campaign mailer...


(Click to enlarge)

Laddie a gold-digger?:
Well, Laddie digs gold... City Clerk Laddie Wyatt has added another accomplishment to her list -- she designed Council President Ray Blanco's new business card. The most striking element on the card is the gold embossed seal of the city. You can be sure card envy will soon be in full bloom -- expect to see the shiny seal soon on a card coming to you. Your tax dollars at work...

...speaking of gold-digging, what's up with the Somerset County Library system? Seems they have moved to break the long-standing reciprocity agreement between the Plainfield Public Library and the North Plainfield Memorial Library, which is part of the Somerset County system. For more years than anyone can remember, residents of the neighboring towns were able to use their library cards to borrow from each other's libraries. No longer. Plainfielders wanting to use the North Plainfield library will have to ante up $135 dollars for the privilege. Coming the other way across the Green Brook will cost North Plainfielders in the neighborhood of $30. North Plainfield's loss...since the Plainfield collection is much richer than any of the various branches of the Somerset County system, where a large percentage of the books -- 70%? - 80%? -- are the same from branch to branch...

I met Tony Grey on Tuesday, when I was returning the Dreamweaver software (link will take you to story) to City Hall. He's the new hire responsible for the city's website and the cable TV station, PCTV-74. I spoke with him about the importance of getting a message to the public on the cable station's phone (753-3301) so people can figure out how to get programming to the station. Craig Smith was part of the conversation, so I hope you can see some movement on this point. Meanwhile, if you haven't checked the city's website recently, you owe it to yourself to stroll on over and see what's going on. Though Tony has redone the front page, the inner pages still bear the design imprint of John Di Pane, the city's recently retired former webmaster. Take a gander and give me your thoughts...

...You will find some interesting news on the front page that you may not have seen elsewhere -- like the Mayor's '100 Day Report' event -- but the page suffers from an unsteady hand with the palette and fonts, and some greenhorn mistakes such as not giving the page a title (it shows up as 'index.html' if you hover over it) and a clear need for spell- and grammar-checking before posting. One real kvetch: The design/management notice and email address on the front page. The city should issue a city email address at once and take down the private one. It looks too much like someone using a public site to fish for private business -- a no-no. Who is watching out for this small stuff, which creates such a big impression? Here's my first impression: though green, Tony seems earnest. There is no reason for any of the city's public 'faces' -- web, cable or print -- to look less professional than they have in the past. We'll see how things turn out...
CSI: Plainfield... speaking of 'greenhorn mistakes,' whoever put out the last-minute slime piece against Pat Barksdale and Rasheed Abdul-Haqq (you do know they were the top vote-getters, right?) made a bunch. Let's take our scalpel and slash right in....

...First, the timing. Getting political mailers into mailboxes at the right moment is like skipping stones across a pond: angle, velocity and spin make the difference between a stone that skips and a sinker. When and how the mail is dropped help make a skipper or a sinker. My copy and my neighbor's arrived the day after the election, though some got it on Monday. One sinker.

...Second, mailing it from Newark. A mailing house using a Newark postal permit had to deliver the piece to the regional facility, with the potential for slowing things down. Experienced mailers use a local lettershop which sorts and bags the pieces and delivers them directly to the local postal stations. I have had bulk mail pieces turn up in people's mailboxes the day after dropped. Not this one. Another sinker.

...Third, wasting the 'front' page, the one with the address. Greenhorns don't know how to put a message on this page that tells the mail carriers this piece must go out to the postal patrons at once. A sinker, yet again.

...Fourth, mailing too many pieces. Each piece costs money -- probably in the range of 22¢ or so. That can add up. Experienced campaign professionals use collapsed mailing lists, usually called a 'household' list -- what you get when it says 'Postal patron' or 'Our friend at...'. It's a difference of thousands of pieces. You do the math. Sinker? You bet.

...Fifth, the slime worked against the senders, rather than for. See my analysis of the falsehoods in the piece and pictures of the piece's individual pages. Thousands of people saw my pages and heard the robot phone message that the For The Kids team put out Monday evening. I can tell from my email traffic that people are fed up with baseless negativity. Another sinker for the slimers.

Who did it? I don't know, but I have my suspicions. As the Romans used to say, 'Cui bono?' -- who benefits? Nan Anderson and David Graves ran decent, low-budget, low-profile campaigns. If they had the money, why wouldn't they do positive pieces on themselves? Far more likely it was the Logan-Leach, Lovely-Brown, Wilkins team's backers. They -- and their backers -- had the money (think headquarters, signs, multiple mailings), the motive, and the opportunity. In the end, with all that huffing and puffing and all that money spent (guesstimating $7-8,000), they spent about $100-$115 per vote to get Logan-Leach elected. Another sinker?
Have you been following the Rev. Rick's riffs on Schools Superintendent Paula Howard? This past Wednesday he was chiming in to get another dig in. Word in the street has it that his jazz-like loquaciousness is fueled by his pique at the school district's not giving his wife, the Rev. Gloria, a principalship...

Lastly, the SID's quarterly magazine, Positively Plainfield, arrived in mailboxes on Monday. I hope the SID board will tell the consultant- turned-coordinator, David Biagini, that the world is watching and he needs to tighten up. There is a lot of good info, but some sloppiness. On page 14, Director Al Pittis' name is printed over and illegible. The story on surveillance cams is great, but do we really need to see pix of the horse ride from December? Surely, something SID-wise happened in between then and now? The SID is paying good money for his services and the magazine should be flawless... are all my humble opinions...

DISCLAIMER: In the interest of fairness, any person identified in a H.I.T.S. post who believes he/she has been portrayed unfairly or that the information about him/her is untrue will have the opportunity to respond in this space.

-- Dan Damon
Keywords: H.I.T.S.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Council's Wednesday debut

The people let the Council conduct the people's business pretty much without the people on the first of the new schedule of Wednesday business meetings.

By 8:20 P.M., there were five Councilors in attendance (Davis and Simmons not present), nine City employees (six members of the Administration, three from the Clerk's office), and eight members of the public.

When I left at 8:30, I was spelled by a gentleman who said he had left church to come to the meeting.

-- Dan Damon
Keyword: Council

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Thank God for Ray Blanco!

Thank God for Ray Blanco! His diligence has saved me from an embarrassing situation.

Lollng in my final days on the city payroll, I had come to think all my to-do's were completed. But Council President Blanco has come to my rescue.

Yesterday, I received the following email from Craig Smith, the city's purchasing agent:

"I was asked by ray blanco to contact you about the dreamweaver software that was purchased maybe a year ago. Do you still have it and can it be returned to me? You can call me on my cell xxx.xxxx. Thanks! Craig Smith, Purchasing Agent"

I answered Craig immediately:

I thought it was in one of the boxes which you signed for on my last day in the office, March 2nd. I think it was installed on my old machine, which died shortly after the new one (in the basement office) was set up. Meanwhile, I will check for it also. I know I was reluctant to leave anything of value around my old cubicle in the Econ Dev office after I found people trying to break into my machine and messing with my paper files back in May of 2005. In fact, it was these intrusions that led me to insist that Norton find me an office with a door that could be locked...and which I finally got in summer 2005. Dan"

Let me give some background.

For more than seven years, I worked out of a cubicle in the Economic Development office on City Hall's second floor. Never having had a budget, I furnished it with
scrounged items cast-off by others - a couple of chairs, a bookcase, and an old file cabinet with a bumped corner that I never locked because it had no key with it. And my computer.

In all that time, I never had a problem with anyone messing with my files or computer -- until late last April.

During the Primary season (you may recall it was a somewhat heated Primary), I several times found in the morning that a person or persons unknown had attempted to get into my computer. I left it on all the time as I received faxes over it, with a password-protected screen saver which would keep the desktop from prying eyes. On several successive mornings, I found that someone had shut the machine down and rebooted in an attempt to get by the screensaver password. They were foiled because I had a boot password also.

But it was troubling. Then I noticed that my files appeared to have been gone through. Those of you who remember my cubicle will be smiling as you think of the stacks of research materials, piles of printouts of drafts of flyers, brochures and other promotional items, and mounds of mail and memos being processed.

Whatever things looked like to a casual observer, I knew where everything was (just like W. C. Fields in The Bank Dick) -- and whether things had been touched. They had.

I spoke with Norton Bonaparte, then the city administrator, about the problem and insisted that in the reshuffling that was being planned to merge the Planning Division into the Economic Development office's space, I be found an office with a door that could be locked, since I sometimes had to work with confidential files in preparing press releases and study documents for the Mayor or department heads.

In the meantime, I decided that it was not a good idea to leave anything of value lying about my cubicle.

Learning early on from the lesson of Walt McNeil, Al McWilliams' first city administrator, who had a brand-new laptop stolen from his locked office one night, I had never kept the digital camera I used overnight in the office.

I now went through my drawers in search of items that might be tempting and found the fax software I had personally bought for my computer and the 'Dreamweaver' software I had gotten in anticipation of being given the time and the direct assignment to work on a redesign of the city's website.

Off they went, in a plastic bag, into the trunk of my car. And there they stayed, soon completely forgotten about.

After sending the email above, I look around and found nothing at home but the handbook for my city cellphone. Then I looked in the trunk of the car, where I kept a plastic milk-case for shuttling homework back and forth from the office. Had not looked there for months!

Lo and behold, there was the plastic bag with the errant Dreamweaver software (link will take you to pictures of all items) in its original box, now somewhat grungy...but complete with the CD, the manual and the original packing list which showed the software had been shipped in July 2004.

Now, you should know this is a powerful tool and expensive stuff -- something on the order of $800 as I recall -- and I certainly would have included it in the materials for which I had Craig sign a receipt on my last day in the office had I not forgotten about it.

But all's well that ends well. I sent the following message to Craig Smith this morning:

"Craig-- I stopped by yesterday afternoon, but you were not available. I will bring the software in this morning. Thinking about it, I believe it had been installed on the old computer (whereabouts now unknown), but never activated online as required. That should mean that whoever you are giving the software to should have no problems installing and activating it. --Dan"

The software is being returned later this morning.

Now, can anybody find out what happened to the expensive piece of equipment I hear disappeared from the PCTV-74 offices after new personnel took over there?

-- Dan Damon

Barksdale and Abdul-Haqq top vote getters

Pat Barksdale and Rasheed Abdul-Haqq were elected to the school board by a landslide on Tuesday.

Unofficial results as of late in the evening had Pat at 1005 and Rasheed at 788. Lisa Logan-Leach ran in the distance with 658.

The talk at the 'For The Kids' headquarters was of how hard the team had worked and the suspected damage that the last-minute sliming mailer did to the Logan-Leach team's prospects.

The dailies are expected to have firmer tallies in the morning, but the actual final counts -- including absentee ballots -- will be a few days coming.

For those of you who came out -- and urged others to also -- after reading the exposure of the last-minute mailing in these pages: Thank You!

Decent candidates, campaigning decently beat the money-and-sign machine.

Three cheers for decency!

Now, to work!
-- Dan Damon
Keyword: Schools

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Barksdale and Abdul-Haqq slimed in last-minute mailing piece

Board of Ed candidates Pat Barksdale and Rasheed Abdul-Haqq were slimed in a mailing piece that arrived in resident's mailboxes Monday, the day before the school board election.

I have scanned the complete 4-page piece and posted it as "Piece sliming Barksdale, Abdul-Haqq."

It is hysterical, full of falsehoods, and nearly illiterate. It should energize anyone who knows the facts to be sure to vote for Pat and Rasheed and to urge their friends and neighbors to do so, also. Here is a review of the piece:



'Lost 1.8 million dollars of the school budget'

Pat has been on the school board less than a year. The budget referred to is last year's, adopted before she was elected to the school board. There was a problem of overlooked funding for the new TEAMS charter school which got a lot of coverage in the daily press. That budget was passed by a board of which she was not yet a member, though one of her opponents in this race was.

'Supports the use of unqualify [sic] teachers'

No one can figure out what this charge means. No one on the board supports unqualified teachers. Perhaps the mailer is referring to the board's substitute teacher list, which contains some who have not yet gotten their teaching certificate?

'Removed students from neighborhood schools'

This is a reference to changes in the student body in the current academic year. Larger than expected enrollment at the High School meant that administrators in the old high school building needed to be displaced to make room for students. The original plan was to house them in the 'swing school' at Rock Avenue and West Front Street. The state would not allow that use of the space, saying instead that it must be used only for students. Consequently, and on admittedly short notice, Jefferson School students -- one of whom is a child of Pat's -- were shifted to the 'swing school' and administrative staff put in the Jefferson building. The action was one of the whole board of ed.

'Unable to secure a contract for Teachers'

It is unfortunate that there is no contract with the teachers yet. But it takes two to tango. As I understand it, both the board and the union have worked hard on crafting a contract agreeable to all. That has not happened, and matters are in the formal step known as 'mediation' at this point. It is not any one person's fault -- the whole board bears responsibility for the situation.

'Supported the use of a factory that contained asbestos for a School'

This can only refer to the 'swing school,' which was never a 'factory,' but housed the executive offices of the National Starch Corp. when it was headquartered in Plainfield. The use of the building was decided upon years before Pat came onto the board, and it's remediation was undertaken by the Schools Construction Corp., which oversaw the purchase and outfitting of the building.


'Convicted felon...'

Yes, and...? I have known and worked closely with Rasheed on many school- and community-related activities since 1988. Everyone in the community knows he had some scrapes as a young man. Whatever debt he owed has been paid long ago. He is a fully committed and active member of the community. And he has a special interest in eliminating the conditions that foster young people getting in trouble with the law.

I would trust my life in Rasheed's hands, and I am certainly going to vote for him. And I urge anyone who reads this to do so also, and to urge their friends to do likewise.

- - - - -

There is a lot more to be said about this shameful piece: who might have written and paid for it. Where the money came from. Why Al McWilliams and the New Dems are mentioned, but that will have to be for another time.

For now, go out and vote -- and urge your family, friends and neighbors to do so also.

Pat Barksdale (Row 1), Rasheed Abdul-Haqq (Row 6) and David Graves (Row 7).

Polls are open 2:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. If you are unsure of your polling location, call the City Clerk's office at (908) 753-3222.

-- Dan Damon