Monday, July 31, 2006

TW3: Jul 24 - 30, 2006 - Blanco memorial service... Gay marriage debate... Women to be ordained as Catholic priests...

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.


DEATH OF COUNCILOR RAY BLANCO -- Plainfielders were deeply shocked and saddened to learn on Saturday of the sudden passing of Council President Ray Blanco, stricken with an apparent heart attack while home alone on Friday. Word began spreading by phone and email late Friday evening, and PT first made the news public on Saturday morning (
"Council President Ray Blanco Dies"). Later on Saturday, Bernice posted a moving personal remembrance on the Plaintalker ("Remembering Ray Blanco").

On Sunday, the Ledger ran a long and thoughtful news obituary on the front page of the New Jersey section (
"Ray Blanco, popular activist, politician and producer"), for which PT supplied the photo used to illustrate the piece. The Courier also ran a news obituary ("Plainfield's Ray Blanco dies at 50"). A memorial service has been set, with details in today's papers (see CLIPS).

SOUTH AVENUE CONDO PROPOSAL -- While the Ledger and Courier editors decided the schools were the big issue last week, the citizens and the blogs focused on the proposed South Avenue condo development.

The Plaintalker (
"Zoning Board Continues South Avenue Hearing") and PT ("Viagra for Plainfield planning?") beat the drums in advance, and are at least partly responsible for the room-filling turnout at Wednesday's special Zoning Board meeting.

Both continued in their Thursday posts with reportage -- the Plaintalker (
"South Avenue Hearing Continues") -- and an assessment by PT ("Development Puzzle: First pieces on table") of issues and concerns presented by the applicant's expert witnesses.

Apropos of issues related to successful transit-friendly development, the Courier carried a notice on Friday (
"Proposed tunnel is topic of rail group") of a meeting of the Raritan Valley Coalition set for this week to discuss the proposed second Hudson River rail tunnel. Having a MIDTOWN DIRECT CONNECTION from Plainfield to Manhattan would be key to really putting Plainfield on the development map.

This of course would have to include solving the perennial problem of getting the Raritan Valley's diesel trains onto the electric-only line for Manhattan. It's NOT insoluble -- there have been electric-diesel combo engines for years. But the politicos -- local and state -- have to have the political will to get it done. When will we hear of our elected officials pushing for a truly comprehensive planning and development view?

-- Superior Court Thomas Lyons finally ruled on the challenge to Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs' qualification to serve in light of the residency requirement of the City's special charter. Bernice broke the story with a post on Wednesday (
"Mayor Prevails in Residency Challenge") and the Courier filed a report on Thursday ("Challenge against Plainfield mayoral post nixed"), with the Ledger following up on Friday ("Residency lawsuit vs. mayor is tossed"). The Courier editorialized on Saturday ("Ruling for Plainfield mayor best for city").

The residency requirement was brought to light by Bernice back in the early days of the Mayor's term. Several GOP activists filed the suit, but it was clear to most obervers at the time of filing that it was long past any time frames set out in law.

The judge, however, did set out some enlightening thoughts on two issues involving the charter: four years residency cannot not mean four consecutive years as it is NOT specifically spelled out. However, the special charter's four year requirement TRUMPS the general state law of one year's residency since the Legislature enacted the special charter and it is presumed the Legislature knew what it was doing in giving the City a different rule. File all of that away under INTERESTING THINGS TO KNOW.

SCHOOLS: UNIFORMS & BUDGET -- The editors at the Courier (
Tuesday: "Plainfield considers uniforms at all city schools" AND Wednesday: "Uniform discussion at forum tonight") felt that the school uniforms story was more compelling than the South Avenue condo proposal, and deployed its reporter accordingly, including a followup story on Thursday ("Plainfield soliciting support for public school uniforms").

The Ledger chose to focus on the impact the state-mandated FLAT BUDGET (which is, in reality, a REDUCTION in funding), by focusing on the danger to an important preschool program at Woodland School (
"Preschool program for disabled in danger").

CRIME & JUSTICE -- A man was attacked and robbed by a group of men on Sunday (7/24), in an incident that was reported as a brief by the Ledger in the print edition only on Thursday. The incident was typed up and posted online by PT ("Group attacks man, robs him outside bar").

The system has finally meted out justice in the 2004 slaying of Ana Castillo-Rivera in her apartment on Clinton Avenue. Her husband, William Rivera, was found guilty of murder on Thursday, as reported in Friday's Ledger (
"Plainfield man found guilty in his wife's 2004 murder") and Courier ("Man found guilty in wife's 2004 murder").

Also this week, as reported by the Ledger (
"Judge rejects teen's bid to toss murder confession"), a Somerset County judge rejected the bid to throw out the confession of a North Plainfield teen accused of murdering a Salvadoran man visiting his family in North Plainfield. Though the crime occurred in the Somerset County borough, the teen's accomplice was a 13-year old Plainfield youth who has yet to come to trial.

MISCELLANEA -- This year, Plainfield's observance of NATIONAL NIGHT OUT -- the first Tuesday of August -- has been stretched into a week of events. PT posted links to the online calendar and a downloadable flyer (
"National Night Out weeklong celebration begins today") on Sunday...

...ROUTE 78 RECONSTRUCTION -- Be forewarned: Route 78 between Route 24 and the GSP will be a nightmare over the next few months while the EASTBOUND EXPRESS LANES are reconstructed. This is not a simple mill-and-pave, it is a RECONSTRUCTION. The bright lights planning this maneuver evidently intended to do both the East AND West bound express lanes at the same time. Yep! The press stories (
"Route 78 Indigestion") prompted such an outcry that the work has been postponed for a week, but make your plans for ALTERNATIVE ROUTES now. Or be sorry.

...After all that, how 'bout a little whimsy? Maybe you want to stroll on over and check out PT's Wednesday post (
"Signs of the times"), an album of Plainfield pictures presenting signs of our times...

Last Friday's H.I.T.S.:
"HITS: Heard in the street" --Green, Moriarty & Sweeney break up?... Pallone a hot ticket?... Mapp targeted?..." plus yesterday's (technically delayed) post on South Avenue condos --
Last Monday's TW3: "TW3 - Jul 17 - 23, 2006" -- Digest of past week's Plainfield news


Drake House: "Restoring a piece of Plainfield history"
Fire: "One person injured in West 2nd Street house blaze"

Muhlenberg RMC [last item]: "Hospital receives $60,000 grant"
Restaurant Review: "Cousin's serves up Caribbean fare in city"
School Violence - SL: "By the numbers, schools show a sharp drop in violence"
School Violence - CN: "School violence drops statewide"
Shiloh Court Groundbreaking [last item]: "Single-family houses a major development"


Arts: "'The Black Factory' engages audiences on the nature of racial tension"
Athletic Field Maintenance: "Suburbia's game within a game: Finding time for care"
Crime-Fighting Mayor: "Miss. Mayor's Anti-Crime Tactics Draw Fire"
Crime Fighting Tool: "Bail Source Hearings: Where does the money come from?"
Development: "Blight, Like Beauty, Can Be in the Eye of the Beholder"
Development: "Cities Shed Middle Class, and Are Richer and Poorer for It"
Development: "Homes for Those Displaced by Renewal"
Development: "New Condos in Old Industrial Spaces"
Development: "Landmark hotel sold at auction for luxury condos"
Flood Insurance: "Flood Insurance Often Insufficient"
Gangs, Bloods - SL: "State roundup nets 41 reputed gangsters"
Gangs, Bloods - CN: "More than 60 charged in statewide gang sweep"
Gangs, Bloods - NYT: "N.J. Police Arrest More Than 60 in Gang Crackdown"
Gangs, Bloods - TT: "Alleged gang members are arraigned via video"
Gangs, Bloods - AP: "More arrests expected as police try to decimate street gang"
Gangs - Editorial, SL: "Ganging up on street gangs"
Gunplay: "3 men charged in 2 unrelated slayings" -- Using guns to settle grudges...
Hudson River Tunnel - SL: "$1 billion is earmarked for rail tunnel to Manhattan"
Hudson River Tunnel - NYT: "Port Authority Set to Vote on Hudson Tunnel Fund"
Immigrants, Illegal: "Riverside OKs measure to punish landlords, employers of illegal aliens"
Mortgage Creativity: "Re-Refinancing, and Putting Off Mortgage Pain"
Property Violations: "Tenant's gripe with landlord: Too many violations"
Public Employee Contracts - "Mayor's ad against labor contract has Council fuming"
Public Employee Contracts : "Montclair hikes pay of town manager to $145K"
Real Estate - Bergen Record: "North Jersey feels housing market chill"
Real Estate - NYT: "Housing Slows, Taking Big Toll on the Economy"
Redevelopment Plans: "Bloomfield OKs updated study to jump-start redevelopment"


MON 7/24
Tax Reform, CN: "Corzine plans major address on property tax reform"

TUE 7/25
Opinion, SL: Paul Mulshine: "On taxes, Corzine misses the big picture"
Special Session, CN: "Hopes dim for special legislative session"
Legislature, CN: "Officials set to puzzle property tax reform"

WED 7/26
Corzine Plan - Editorial, CN: "Corzine's pension plan deserves shot"

FRI /28
Analysis, SL: "Governor's proposals today stress link between property taxes and budget woes"
Analysis, CN: "For now, N.J. to see property tax reform talk, little action"
Analysis, NYT: "New Jersey Lawmakers to Tackle Rising Property Taxes"
Sweeney & Moriarty, Courier Post: "S.J. pair renew drive -- sans Green -- to reduce benefits for state workers"

SAT 7/29
Corzine Speech, SL: "Corzine sets out steps to restrain property taxes"
Corzine Speech, SL: "Text: Corzine's address to Special Session"
Corzine Speech, CN: "Corzine puts it all on table for tax reform"
Corzine Speech, NYT: "Corzine Offers His Ideas About Fixing New Jersey
Legislature, SL: "Legislators of both parties say they're ready to act"
Legislature, CN: "Central Jersey legislators applaud Corzine's proposals"
Support, CN:
"Supporters of citizens' convention get behind Corzine plan"
Proposals, CN:
"Proposal for two-tiered benefits draws state workers' opposition"
Tax Relief, SL: "State doles out millions in town property tax relief"

SUN 7/30
OpEd, SL: John Farmer: "The property tax spiral"
Analysis - SL: "Why some low property tax bills are no bargain"
..... - "Taxes driving people out of Jersey"
Editorial, SL: "Time's a wastin' on property tax relief"
Editorial, CN: "Nice speech on reform, but now's the hard part"
Analysis - CN: "Corzine not shying away from tax reform plan"

-- Dan Damon

Sunday, July 30, 2006

National Night Out weeklong celebration begins today


Today begins a new, weeklong celebration of NATIONAL NIGHT OUT -- check out the complete calendar. Or download a copy of the 2006 flyer.

-- Dan Damon

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Council President Ray Blanco Dies


Plainfield Today learned early this morning (Saturday) of the passing of Council President and Councilor-at-large Ray Blanco after suffering a massive heart attack at home last night.

Our sympathy is extended to his partner, Ken Edwards, and to all his family and friends.

Condolences and expressions of sympathy may be sent to:
Mr. Ken Edwards
695 West Seventh Street
Plainfield, NJ 07060
Plainfield Today will advise of funeral arrangements as they become known.

-- Dan Damon

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Friday, July 28, 2006

HITS: Green, Moriarty & Sweeney break up?... Pallone a hot ticket?... Mapp targeted?...



With Gov. Corzine convening a special session of the Legislature today to hear his proposals about tax reform and then get organized to do (?) something about it, this press release is of more than passing interest: "Sweeney and Moriarty Unveil Legislative Agenda for Government Employee Compensation Reform"

The really interesting thing is that Jerry Green's name is missing. What happened to the troika that attacked public worker compensation packages? Can it be that Charlotte De Filippo's remark about being "underwhelmed" with Green's participation in the budget process has had its effect? Hmmmmmmmmmm.... Does this portend anything in reference to next year's Assembly runs?...


If you got the postcard -- and PT understands not everyone did -- you know that Congressman Pallone has scheduled a community forum for next Thursday, 7:30 - 9:30 PM -- at CITY HALL. CITY HALL IN AUGUST? Yep...

With several air-conditioned venues available, the Congressman's office -- for some inexplicable reason -- chose City Hall where, those who endured Wednesday's Zoning Board meeting can attest, you can have (feeble) air conditioning or hear what's going on, but not both. Oh, and the backup plan in case of overflow is said to be placing chairs in the rotunda -- where there is NO AIR.

Public Library Director Joe Da Rold reached out to Pallone's office as soon as he got the postcard to offer the Library's spacious, air-conditioned meeting room, but was told they felt committed as the postcard had already been mailed. Was this a gaffe by the Congressman's office... or just thoughtlessness at City Hall?


After Judge Lyons on Wednesday dismissed the lawsuit over the City charter's residency clause and Mayor Robinson-Briggs' qualifications to serve, PT heard that Freeholder Adrian Mapp was being blamed as the motive force behind the lawsuit.

Not so, PT has been told.

Seems to be a classic case of DISINFORMATION -- "Erroneous material intentionally promoted to confuse, distract and otherwise make it more difficult to determine the truth."

Now, where on earth could this have gotten its start? Does it have anything to do with the recent war of words in the letters-to-the-editor pages? Or the fact that Freeholder Mapp's term is up next year?...


Checked back in to see how the update on the website is going... The basic 'guts' seem to be untouched -- with the exception that the language of the Mayor's welcome letter has been corrected.

But... still no schedule of the revised COUNCIL MEETINGS -- either a table or a list. Just the text description by which the reader is expected to make their own calculations (sort of like the table for computing the date of Easter in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer -- and as arcane).

...Carlton McGee is still listed as Acting Director of Administration and Finance though by law this cannot be the case... the LINKS page mysteriously fails to include (as it once had) such staples as the Public Library, the Public Schools or Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center... there is no consistency about department and division listings -- some give fax and email, many don't.. Council emails are not given...why not? It's the easiest way to make contact in this wired age...

...the site has a lot of snazzy little Flash thingies zipping through photo cycles here, there and everywhere... but try to get a simple printed page! One cannot get the fancy graphic header of the page to print, only the main text, and then a separate sheet that contains ONLY the "About Plainfield" line... Sloppy!

We'll be checking back...


Meanwhile, the overburdened Greetstaff at the City Hall information counter seem not to have time to go through the materials on the counter and discard those for outdated events... at Wednesday evening's Zoning Board hearing, PT noticed postcards still there for the Outdoor Art Festival held July 15th... And the only copy of the PCTV-74 weekly schedule was taped to the counter so it could not be removed... What's up with that?...


Meanwhile, PT has spotted some VIRTUOUS POLS -- OK, ex-pols. Both former GOP 2nd Ward Councilor Donna Vose and former Dem 3rd Ward Councilor Malcolm R. Dunn have been spotted tooling around town in energy-conserving PRIUS hybrids.

Right on!...

and... last, but not least, PT has heard but has not yet been able to confirm that a certain ex-pol is now on the payroll of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority. If true, this will certainly be eligible for nomination to the IRONY OF THE YEAR awards...

DISCLAIMER: In the interest of fairness, any person identified in a HITS 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

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Development Puzzle: First pieces on table


Important people want the South Avenue condo proposal to fly, so it was interesting to see what developed at Wednesday's special Zoning Board of Appeals meeting.

The library at City Hall was packed -- one Councilor noted that there were more people there than attend City Council meetings.

Under state law, the applicant is allowed to -- as it was put -- "bifurcate" their application, asking the Board first to consider and rule on a USE VARIANCE, and then, if that is granted, to consider the SITE PLAN.

Given the public interest in the project and the issues put on the table by the applicant's requests for variances, this may take several hearings and become rather contentious.

Wednesday evening, the applicant presented its architect and traffic and planning consultants to give testimony supporting the variances it is requesting.


THE ARCHITECT -- While detailed consideration of the site plan would take place in another phase, the architect presented an overview of the project with plans and renderings to place the variances being requested into context. PT was struck in particular by the renderings -- one a complete street facade, another a detail of a portion.

Given the width and depth of the lot shown in the rough SITE PLAN, the width and height of the proposed building in the RENDERING seemed unrealistic. To this observer, it seemed stretched width-wise to make it more impressive than it might actually be if constructed. PT remembers the bitterness with which all parties viewed the Arlington Heights condo project once it was built.

Where the rendering had shown a neat townhome-style project with small but adequate front yards and a few steps up to the first floor entry. As built, the yards became miniscule and the flight of steps was steeper than rendered (owing to the shallowness of the setback) and literally pitched the user onto the front sidewalk. (You can drive by yourself -- the project is at the corner of Arlington Avenue and Randolph Road.)

The lesson on RENDERINGS: Beware! What you see is not likely to be what you get.

THE TRAFFIC CONSULTANT -- This testimony was in two parts: TRIP GENERATION and PARKING.

On trip generation, the consultant was at pains to assure everyone that the NUMBER OF TRIPS expected to be generated were within generally accepted guidelines (31 trips per hour during the peak AM hour, as PT understood it) and the KIND OF TRAFFIC would be more residential-friendly -- no trucks.

With regard to PARKING, the consultant noted the proximity to the Netherwood train station and the fact that a New York bus stopped across the street as reasons to grant relief on the parking requirement of TWO SPACES PER UNIT.

PT is not one who has drunk the Kool-Aid that people are clamoring to use public transportation and will find it quite to their liking to get along with one vehicle per household. Especially since there are no amenities within walking distance. As for trip generation, however reasonable the number of trips likely to be generated in and out of the site, it will be no fun for the resident who must wait for 15 or 20 vehicles to pass by on this busy street before they can cut across traffic to get in or out of the drive.

Those of us who live on busy streets (PT is on West 7th, near new condo and home construction) can testify to how the experience of new housing with increased traffic and on-street parking clogging the thoroughfare have impacted the daily grind.

The lesson on PARKING: Two spaces per unit will likely be barely enough to suffice. And what about guest parking?

THE PLANNER -- This was the real snake-oil portion of the evening. The planner was smooth and covered a lot of ground, but one had to swallow hard to accept the premises -- especially if familiar with the area, which the planner was at pains to characterize as mainly residential.

Like a Boardwalk vendor making a smoothie, he whirled together Sixth Street residential, the Light Industrial zone of the project and the Mixed-Use zone of other South Avenue properties to contend that a residential use would improve the area and that light industrial would not.

And, of course, another chorus of the siren-song about new residents walking to the Netherwood station and queueing up to use public transportation.

The lesson on PLANNING: Applicant needs to go back to the drawing board. Not compelling. AND -- while the presence of the DPW garage on the western edge of the site was briefly mentioned, NO ONE brought up that the word in the street is the City wants the PMUA to give up plans to build its new headquarters, equipment shop and parking lots on Cottage Place and move instead to -- you guessed it, SOUTH AVENUE!

This may be a very good project, but it needs to be sold in a more convincing manner. And with fewer gimmes. And it needs to fit into a larger picture -- what is projected for the entire area? Why would anyone spend the kind of money being talked about to live next to the DPW or the PMUA?


The public presence at both meetings on this proposal demontrate that people understand the project is an important one AND -- PT thinks --
that people understand that everything is connected to everything else.

Take the response of some of the other South Avenue business owners. There is some consternation that this project represents nothing more than the opening salvo in a drive to banish them from the area where they and their employees make their livelihood. One can understand their anxiety, given that it was not so long ago that South Avenue's zoning came under discussion in order to push the automotive businesses away from the area between Leland Avenue and Terrill Road.

The Zoning Board may not be where this gets hashed out -- they, after all, are concerned with trees, not forests.

This is where the 'vision thing' comes into play. The Administration has asked that the Master Plan be revisited. Good idea.

Will the revision take care to provide for LIGHT INDUSTRIAL and MIXED USES as essential to the economic health of the community?

Or will the 'transit-friendly' vision prevail: All residents will use public transportation. All will be residential. All shopping will be done at Wal-Mart. All goods will be made in China. Products will not be serviced or repaired, they will be thrown away.

Butchers, bakers, candlestick-makers, auto repair and supply facilities, be gone! In progress' name.

-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Signs of the times

Signs of the times

NJ American Water wants you to know they OWN it

What would Dr. Pappas think!?

Hold the fort! Luxury is on the way!

Friends and their friends are concerned

Heart of downtown

Open air advertising?

Where the corn is as high as an elephant's eye...

For 8-foot tall dog walkers

Hanging out -- and hanging over -- in Plainfield

Guerilla marketing

Eight ball in the corner pocket!

Opinionated, but no spelling champ

YWCA rules!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Viagra for Plainfield planning?


Quick, get the LeFrak brothers! No, get some Viagra first! Then the LeFrak brothers.

With development beginning to be much in the air, Plainfield needs a good dose of Viagra -- of the planning type.

Or to study the game of the LeFrak brothers, who have played out a long strategy to turn Jersey City's ugly waterfront into a Gold Coast. Long story short: They had a vision. They developed a plan. They stuck to it. Year after year after year. Oh, did we mention they had resources to do it?

When the Zoning Board has its special meeting tomorrow night, it will take up a proposal for a condo development on South Avenue.

The temptation will be to view the project narrowly, and make a determination whether to grant the required variances on the narrowest of possible grounds. This is, after all, the Board of Adjustment -- its job is to excuse applicants from the strictest interpretation of the zoning requirements if it deems it should.

But SOMEONE has to take a longer view --
  • of the area in which the proposal is set and plans for its long-term future
  • of the baseline of requirements such as parking, buffer areas, amenities, etc.
  • of the economic viability of such proposals if larger issues are not also addressed (rail improvements or express buses, for example)
  • of the displacement of non-residential ratepayers, making the tax base even MORE DEPENDENT on the residential portion
And then there are the questions about the developers --
  • will they be creative enough to take the Viagra view (build up rather than spread out) and leave some ground to meet zoning requirements?
  • do they have the financial muscle to pull projects off as market-rate projects, without going the SUBSIDIZED HOUSING route?
  • are they prepared to partner with the community -- as opposed to steamrolling it?
  • will they become REAL ratepayers, and not PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes)?
Tomorrow may be the opening of a long and potentially beneficial phase in Plainfield's future. Or it may not. Whether it will ultimately be beneficial will depend on the quality of the contribution of Plainfield's players -- elected officials, professional staff and the citizen-volunteers who interpret the land-use law and make the judgments about how Plainfield will develop.

In Chinese, the ideogram for OPPORTUNITY and DANGER is one and the same.
Zoning Board Special Meeting
Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 26
7:00 PM
City Hall Library
Topic: South Avenue Condo Proposal

-- Dan Damon

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Monday, July 24, 2006

TW3 - Jul 17 - 23, 2006: Digest of past week's Plainfield news

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.


COUNCIL -- Just when you thought it was s-u-m-m-e-r and things would slow down, Bernice pointed out that we had an all-star week of meetings, meetings, meetings. To be specific, two Council and two Board of Ed.

Relations between the Council and the Administration hit a bumpy stretch of road this week. The Administration continued to bring business to the Council at the last minute, without advance public notice, without it being on the Council's printed agenda, without the Councilors getting advance notice. To the great annoyance of the Council.

Bernice pointed out the friction in her Tuesday post,
"Order Lacking At Council Meeting" and also noted that the DPW was scheduled to get its long-sought road equipment so that the city could take over more of the routine road maintenance and save the taxpayer's bond dollars for the bigger jobs.

On Wednesday afternoon, Bernice posted an item on Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs' nominations proposed for Wednesday evening,
"Mayor Offers Nominees".

But the fireworks were reserved for Wednesday's Council meeting, as reviewed by Plainfield Today (
"Blanco lashes Administration over appointments"), and the Plaintalker ("Blanco Shoots Down Nominees").

With all the sparks and smoke, citizens may have missed a key item -- the Mayor brought a nomination forward on Wednesday evening that was a complete surprise, with no backup information, on grounds that turned out to be false.

The surprise nomination was to replace a member of the Zoning Board who had abruptly resigned. There was no resume or other information on the Mayor's proposed appointee, no paperwork of any kind. And the reason the Mayor gave the Council was that it was an emergency and the Board was now short of a quorum and being able to conduct business.

Councilor Storch asked City Clerk Laddie Wyatt to confirm the Zoning Board was shy of a quorum. Upon checking her records -- which are the OFFICIAL records -- it was shown that there were enough members to conduct business, and the 'emergency' alleged by the Mayor didn't exist.

An awkward moment for the Mayor!

But not as awkward as it was to get once Council President got there and went ballistic over the Administration moves. To get the flavor of all that, you must read the blog posts...

SCHOOL BOARD -- Meanwhile, the Board of Education has its own drama going on. Two issues may be coming together to make a perfect storm of difficulties for the schools: the state is demanding the District hold to last year's funding level for Abbott aid, and the teachers' union (which also represents other school employees) is getting restless over the fact that they STILL do not have a contract (see the Courier's
"Plainfield teachers planning protest").

Bernice (
"BOE Faces Budget Crisis"), the Ledger ("Plainfield schools prepare to trim 30 to 40 jobs") and the Courier ("School workers waiting to hear if jobs remain") all covered the meetings and issues.

On Wednesday, Abbott district officials gave the Legislature's Joint Committee on Public Schools an earful (Ledger:
"District execs grow testy at hearing on state of schools") about conditions and the privations that frozen funding were visiting on the state's urban schools. Legislators pushed back, but we are clearly in for a long, painful struggle over Abbott funding -- and I'll bet you a cup of coffee the formula is going to end up changing, restrictively.

On Friday, the Ledger used the bully pulpit of its editorial pages (
"A black mark for state education officials") to lambaste the state for refusing to release the study of school funding that former Gov. Jim McGreevey commissioned. The Ledger asserts refusing to bare it perpetuates waste and inefficiency in the management of Abbott districts. An issue on which more than just Republican hardliners are now beginning to make noises.

SENIOR CENTER PROPOSAL -- At last Tuesday monthly meeting with the Seniors, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and Assemblyman Jerry Green presented a revised proposal for a combination senior and residential complex on the East Front Street site the City and County bought several years ago at the insistence of the Seniors. The Courier (
"City's mayor presents plans for senior center") and the Ledger ("Plainfield senior condos planned; 63 units would raise $400,000 in taxes") both reported on the presentation. But, of course, this is just the opening shot in another round and there are now even more questions: Will these be condos? Market-rate? Is the proposed parking sufficient? Is the developer financially capable? Etc.

COVERING THE WATERFRONT... -- CITY HALL -- PT reported on the interactions of the Greetstaff at City Hall with those of the public for whom English is not their mother-tongue (
"Info at City Hall English-only?"). The post generated a host of comments, some of which were highlighted in Friday's HITS ("HITS - Roundup of reader feedback...") and continued over the weekend. What ARE the Administration's plans to address services and information for those whose mother tongue is not English?... PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PAY & BENEFITS -- The Bergen Record ran a multi-part series all week long investigating the issues around public employee pay and benefits.This is definitely a keeper and PT not only posted the originals of the entire series (see CONNECTIONS section below ), but archived it as well ("Public Employee Pay - The 'Bergen Record' series and more") so that it will be available even if the Record eventually takes it down. Sure to be helpful as this conversation continues to unfold over the next year or so... MARK YOUR CALENDARS -- The Courier pointed out ("City apartment plan topic of Wednesday hearing") that the Zoning Board has a special meeting this Wednesday to continue hearing the proposal for condos on South Avenue... MISCELLANEA -- Plainfield Today congratulated Rebecca Williams on her new position on the faculty of Essex County College ("Kongrats, perfesser!") and gave Council President Blanco space to comment in Friday's HITS ("HITS - Roundup of reader feedback...") as well as yet another opportunity to show by apology that Dan is the humblest egomaniac you know (with the possible exception of yourselves -- you know who you are!). Was it the humility or the egomania that led PT to rant about the bloviation on the groundbreaking for the new homes on Shiloh Court ("Ground broken on Plainfield subdivision")? Now don't get PT wrong: New homes are good. West End is good. 'Luxury' is good. But first in half a century!? Just the facts, please: the Hovnanians' Woodland Avenue development was new, luxury, some is in Plainfield, and the prices were quite nice. PT will be comparing the two projects, now that the powers that be have floated this overheated hyperbole... CRIME -- Not that we should think crime has gone away, it hasn't -- even if the Mayor refuses to talk about it and if the Council and various agencies are giving it a 'going-away party' all next week (be sure to check the online CALENDAR) -- but 21, that's TWENTY ONE, members of the Plainfield-based Cash Money Gang drug ring, busted on Mayor AlMcWilliams' watch, were indicted last week ("21 Accused drug ring members indicted") and face some serious jail time. ALBUM -- Just to show you PT has a warm, fuzzy side and it's not always bitch, bitch, bitch, an album of pleasant Plainfield pix was posted on Sunday ("A Plainfield Album - July 2006").

Wednesday night. Mark your calendars. Zoning Board, 7:00 PM, City Hall Library...

Last Friday's H.I.T.S.: "Roundup of reader feedback..."
Comments on 'English-only at City Hall?... City Charter court case... Domestic violence grant... Library's photo exhibit now on Web... Dangers of online forums...
Last Monday's TW3: "Jul 9 - 16, 2006: News digest of the past week"
Murders 6 and 7... SID expansion... Public employee salaries and benefits... City charter court case...


Mon 7/17
Letter, CN: Jerry Green: "Budget initiative not against unions"
Haste Makes Waste?: "Lawmakers hope for no N.J. budget hangovers"

Tue 7/18

Budget 'pork': Linda Stamato: "Tacking on pork and undermining public trust"
Tax Reform - Editorial, CN: "If legislators can't deliver, time for tax convention"

Thu 7/20

Shutdown - Editorial, SL: "Avoiding a shutdown"
Tax Relief: "Corzine proposes borrowing $7B for towns that lower property taxes"
Unions: David Rebovich: "Government workers fight stereotypes"

Sun 7/23

Consolidation: Fran Wood: "Will consolidation gamble pay off?"
..... - Poll: Monmouth/Gannett Poll: "Shared services gaining support"
Property Tax Reform - OpEd, CN: Freeholder Adrian Mapp: "Finance reform needs changes near and far"
..... - OpEd, CN: Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts: "Property tax relief is light at end of tunnel"
Property Tax Reform - SL: "Giant stakes in property tax debate; Lobbyists await conflicting agendas"
Rutgers: "Dropping a Few Sports at Rutgers, and Putting Pressure on Trenton"


Abbott Schools: "Advocates sue for release of report on school funding"
CERT: "6 West Essex towns teaming up in the name of safety"
Cop & Teacher Salaries & Benefits - a 6-part series by the Bergen Record:

.. - Fri: "Transparency: Tracking tax dollars, blocked at every turn"
.. - Thu: "Police contracts cost towns big"
.. - Wed: "Tenure helps good teachers and shelters the bad ones"
.. - Tue: "Workers' health care causing pain"
.. - Mon: "Unions drive a hard bargain"
.. - Sun: "Can N.J. afford the rising cost of teachers and cops?"

Crime: "Orlando Set to Shatter Homicide Record"
Development: "Bloomfield mayor backs $200 million housing plan"
Development: "Edison hopes to transform 'blighted' properties"
Development - Editorial, SL: "Development or Hispanic displacement?"
Dual Officeholding - Editorial, SL: "Ban dual office-holding"
Eminent Domain: "Halpers' Last Stand: The movie"
Gangs: "Gangs and kids: Cops speak out"
Gangs, Bullies: "Fed up, Elizabeth residents put Bloods bully behind bars"
'Ghetto Tax': "Study Documents ‘Ghetto Tax' Paid by the Urban Poor" and the study
Hudson Rail Tunnel: "Rail tunnel plan gains steam, but commuters voice concerns"
Illegal Immigrants in Workforce: "No papers? No problem"
NAACP: "NAACP Honors Early Sit-In Protesters"
Pay-to-Play: "Edison ordinance outlaws pay-to-play; Bans developers' political donations"
Pay-to-Play?: "Newly sworn-in councilman admits graft"
Public Employee Contracts: "NYC Mayor Vows to Keep Trying for Concessions by Unions"
Salary, Council, Mayor: "Irvington raises wages for council to $20K, and mayor to $80K"
Salary, Mayoral: "Morristown doubles mayor's pay to $52K, 4-3"
SCC: "State targeting school architects, builders it says wasted SCC funds"
State Pensions: "Sharpe James to cost taxpayers $323,654 a year"
Trees: "Madison finds too many lost to poor care during construction,proposes rules"
Union County Alliance: "Dems deny flier is campaign lit"
Voter Turnout: "Arizona Ballot Could Become Lottery Ticket"


Crime - Phone Threats: "Plainfielder indicted in phone threats"
Farmers' Market [last item]: "Farmers' market vouchers available"

West End [2nd item]: "Anti-litter campaign takes to the streets"

Letter - CN: Dottie Gutenkauf: "Marriage defense stereotypical rant"
Letter - CN: Maria Pellum: "Homophobia ignores real ills"

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Plainfield Album - July 2006

A Plainfield Album - July 2006

(As always, click on any picture to enlarge)

July 4th Parade - Stepping into July in style

43rd Outdoor Art Festival - Nellie Dixon and crew

43rd Outdoor Art Festival - Artist Indira Bailey

43rd Outdoor Art Festival - Fountain Boyz

43rd Outdoor Art Festival - Clown

43rd Outdoor Art Festival - Tees 4 sale

43rd Outdoor Art Festival - Kidz Artz

Flash Flooding - Cedar Brook Park - Soccer Fields 1

Flash Flooding - Cedar Brook Park - Soccer Fields 2

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Public Employee Pay - The 'Bergen Record' series and more

(Click on image to enlarge)
The Bergen Record has run a multi-part series of articles investigating the pay of public employees and its consequences for New Jersey taxpayers this past week (July 16 - 23, 2006)

PT has archived the articles, tables and charts from this series in the belief that the work done by the Record will be useful in the discussion which will be unfolding over the issue of pay and benefits for public employees.

The stories are listed below. The links will take you to PT's permanently archived copies of the articles. Each article also contains -- near the bottom -- a link to the original online source.
1 of 6: "Can N.J. afford the rising cost of teachers and cops?"
..... - "Tables: Tax rate increases"
..... - "Tables: Bergen and Fairfax Counties compared"
..... - "Chart - Tale of one cop's pay"

2 of 6: "Unions drive a hard bargain"
..... - "Timing was everything for NJEA power broker"

3 of 6: "Workers' health care causing pain"
..... - "Editorial - Big bucks"

4 of 6: "Tenure helps good teachers and shelters the bad ones"
..... - "OpEd: Linking pay to property taxes"

5 of 6: "Police contracts cost towns big"
..... - "The high cost of contract arbitration"
..... - "Chart - One town in focus: Hillsdale"

6 of 6: "Tracking tax dollars, blocked at every turn"
..... - "Editorial: Open secret"

Coming: Sunday, July 23, 2006: Reader responses to the series.

David Rebovich,
Managing Director of the Rider University Institute for New Jersey Politics, also published an important piece in a post to PoliticsNJ on Sunday, July 16, 2006:
"Government Workers Fight Stereotypes"

PT will be adding pieces to this page -- a sort of link to the links -- as the discussion ensues.

-- Dan Damon

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