Thursday, November 30, 2006

What hangs on a word?

(Mike Keefe, Denver Post)

War or
CIVIL war?

Over the past week, the media have -- finally -- taken to describing the state of affairs in Iraq as a CIVIL WAR.

George W. Bush has resisted strenuously.

A lot hangs on a word.

Admitting that Iraq has sunk into a civil war will be admitting that his policies have failed utterly.

You can understand a man of President Bush's temperament NOT wanting to admit failure.

Many people believe he has done nothing but fail upward his whole life. But this would not be an UPWARD failure, as his father and friends have been able to make all the others.

This one is the end of the road.

But more important than President Bush's self-esteem is what the realization that US troops are bogged down in a civil war in a foreign country means for EVERYONE ELSE.

Parents will be asking why their children should die in another country's civil war.

Enlistees will be asking why they should die in another country's civil war.

EVERYONE will be asking why our kids should die in another country's civil war.

Bush, however, seems to have dug his heels in. He has his own answer to the question.

In Riga, Latvia, on Tuesday, he said, "There's one thing I'm not going to do, I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete. [...] We can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren."

And minutes ago, in an NPR sound clip, Bush said, "We're gonna stay in Iraq to get the job done..." (8:30 AM)

A lot hangs on this word.

-- Dan Damon

Timeline of media references to CIVIL WAR:

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Biz Expo brings 'em out

The Chamber of Commerce's and SID's first Biz Expo last evening was an opportunity for residents to discover shopping opportunities in Plainfield they may not have known about.

Held at the BUF Center, the hall was filled with the tables of exhibitors. When things were in fulll swing, PT estimated a couple of hundred attendees in the hall. There was literally plenty of buzz, which added to the ambience.

Here are a few snaps --

SID president Lisa Cohen chats with UEZ rep Wayne Awald

Lamont of The Pillars B&B answers a question of Andrea from the Courier News

BUS's Rubye offers branded merchandise from Tees to tea towels

Greg from Truck Tech - 24-hour Towing, Service & Parts

Stephanie from New Covenant Christian Academy was a popular presenter

DQ's Donna demonstrated cake decorating

Robert K. Graham, the Chamber's new VP for New Members

-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Biz Expo tonight

'Shop Plainfield'



BUF Center
West 7th & Central Avenue

Check out what Plainfield businesses and services have to offer.


Sponsors: Chamber of Commerce, SID and City.

-- Dan Damon

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Monday, November 27, 2006

A milestone passed, sadly


President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the declaration of war
against Japan after a Joint Session of Congress, December 8, 1941,
the day after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
You can listen to his speech here. (RealAudio)

As of yesterday, November 26, the United States has been engaged in the war in Iraq longer than the entire engagement of American forces in World War II.

This is a sad milestone indeed, considering the deceptions by the Bush administration that got us into this war.

Considering the cost to the American and Iraqi peoples of this war.

Considering that the legacy of George W. Bush may well be that he destroyed many opportunities for progress in the Middle East.

And that his policies have led directly to a civil war between Sunnis and Shi'a.

May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush
declared 'Mission Accomplished' in Iraq.

It is instructive to contrast our current situation with that of World War II, where the enemy was not a tactic, where the nation was united in prosecuting the war and making the necessary sacrifices, and where, once the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) were defeated, the war came to an end.

American troop celebrate on VJ Day in Paris, August 1945.

FDR understood the necessity for a strategy, a plan, the mobilization of resources, and total engagement of the nation in winning.

George W. Bush, on the other hand, has built and run his policies along the lines of the famous motto of the University of Minnesota: 'Built on a bluff, and run on the same principle.'

What will his next milestone be?

-- Dan Damon

Articles of interest --
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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sucess, failure, or something in-between?


Stories on reviving downtowns through 'transit villages' and 'smart growth' are in the air (see links at end of post).

Key concepts include --
  • UPGRADING existing downtown living spaces

  • Building NEW MARKET-RATE if not downright UPSCALE mixed-use residential/retail projects

  • Strong support of ARTS and CULTURE (including educational institutions)

  • 'GREEN' construction methods

  • Ensuring HIGH-TECH infrastructure is put in place

  • EXPANDING public transportation opportunities, including jitneys and minibus routes.

As this Administration plans on reviving Plainfield with 'transit-oriented development' around FOUR train stations -- which would mean getting NJT to reopen two in the West End -- PT thought it might be time to lug out the sheep livers and have a look-see.

What would make the omens look good?

First, there's the things that CAN be controlled.

Having a plan and setting standards come immediately to mind. The Planning Board is working on this, and you will want to attend the December 7th meeting to see what they've come up with.

Besides having a plan, the City will have to have the will to be vigilant over any work as it progresses. With all the turmoil in the Inspections Division AND the apparent unwillingness to hold the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) or developers like AST to past -- and still unfulfilled -- promises, this part looks PROBLEMATIC AT BEST.

But more importantly, COMMUNITY INPUT seems almost lacking. For PT, an excellent model was the STRATEGIC PLANNING INITIATIVE begun under the leadership of Malcolm Dunn and Al McWilliams when they were Council members, way back in 1997.

The process involved nearly 500 residents and business people in a series of planning meetings guided by consultants and a steering committee over a period of many months.

Besides all this involvement, the process was taken to the community REPEATEDLY in meetings in each ward where elected officials, department heads and upper management were on tap to engage with residents in a give-and-take that gave the residents actual power to input and help shape the strategic plan.

It's called GETTING STAKEHOLDER BUY-IN and precious little is occuring these days. Neither the mayor's 100 Days presentation nor the Planning Board's current review process measure up to standards of participation and grassroots democracy that Plainfield residents have had in the past -- and should expect in the present.

Then, there's the things that CANNOT be controlled.

Plainfield has submitted transit village applications in the past and has not yet been designated. Can the Assemblyman pull a rabbit out of the hat?

Over Thanksgiving, PT got a chance to chat with a friend whose job involves the financing and success of urban affordable housing opportunities in several key markets throughout the country. The news is NOT good. The real estate market is undergoing a shakeout that makes the proposals for Plainfield look ll-conceived and ill-timed at best.

PT's fear is that if these projects go ahead and come to fruition in a deteriorating market, plans for CONDOS will become plans for RENTALS, and plans for MARKET-RATE will become plans for SUBSIDIZED housing meaning, once again, that Plainfield will be cheated of an oppportunity to show it can perform in the REAL-WORLD MARKETPLACE.

Reminiscent, to PT, of the three-card Monte scams he used to see in Bryant Park behind the NY Public Library, designed to part touristas from their cash.

And if the developers who are showing interest have to turn to the state for financing, will they be pressured -- as was a point of contention between Camden's administrators and Trenton -- to take on subsidized housing as the alternative to market-rate in exchange for state money?

All told, it's too early to tell, but fundamental attitudes and practices would have to change to improve the chances of success, as well as some lucky breaks from the forces that can't be easily controlled.

This Administration may not fail outright, but for Plainfield, 'something in-between' would be as bad as failure.

Something which NOBODY wants.

-- Dan Damon

Articles of interest --

Transit Villages: "Towns warm up to idea of transit village"
..... - Plainfield [last section]: "Development planned around four train stations"
'Smarth Growth': "Cities Compete in Hipness Battle to Attract Young" -- and chart.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Plainfield vs. Westfield this morning




11 a.m. Today

Hub-Stine Field

-- Dan Damon

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Friday, November 24, 2006

The OTHER Dr. Seuss


The 50th Anniversary of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch stole Christmas is being celebrated with the release on DVD of the famous 1966 animated TV special that was narrated by Boris Karloff. A review is here. And an Amazon link is here.

The DVD is sure to be a blockbuster and will no doubt show up in many stockings this holiday season -- and not just those of kids.

But before the Grinch stole Dr. Seuss, he had ANOTHER career.

Dr. Seuss's cartoons promoted WWII efforts

And, fortunately for us, that career is documented online.

Through a good part of World War II, Theodor Geisel, under his pen name 'Dr. Seuss', drew cartoons in support of the war effort for the New York newspaper PM, a leftish daily solidly behind President Roosevelt's New Deal programs and strongly in support of the war effort.

FDR was lauded for his efforts against RED TAPE,
as were others throughout the war

Besides cartooning in support of War Bond drives and against waste, red tape and bureaucracy, Dr. Seuss made jabs at anti-Semitic attitudes and at isolationists who resisted entry into and prosecution of the war -- the New York Daily News being a favorite target.

He targeted isolationist sentiment,
including that of the the NY
Daily News

A creature of his time, he also was not beyond caricaturing the Japanese and Germans, and his cartoons have been criticized for portraying Japanese-Americans unfairly and in a racist manner.

His renderings of Japanese and Japanese-Americans are now seen as racist

Touring this online exhibition will remind a visitor of several things -- how differently and effectively American public opinion had been mobilized in support of THAT war, and how much ground has been gained in understanding and accepting America's diversity since those days.

At what cost, though, is not a part of this particular story.
-- Dan Damon
Links of interest --
Review: "Dr. Seuss's 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas', 1966 animated TV special"

Amazon: "How the Grinch stole Christmas" - Newly remastered edition of 1966 animation, Boris Karloff, narrator. Released 11/21/2006.

Online Exhibit: "Dr. Seus goes to war"

2002 NPR segment: "How The Grinch Stole Christmas"

Wikipedia: "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" -- Spoiler warning!
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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Help for turkeys


The cook or the bird? I'm not going there.

But here are some helpful links, just in case you don't have thirty people helping, advising and critiquing you today --

"Butterball® Help and Hotline"

"USDA 'Ask Karen' Page" and Hotline at 888-674-6854

If the help you need is managing guests and avoiding landmines, check out "Pass a Drumstick, and an Olive Branch".

For a meditation on our Thanksgiving history, turn to Joel Schwartzenberg's OpEd in today's Ledger, "Turkeys, yesterday and today"

And for your good humor dose, there's always Art Buchwald, "A Turkey With French Dressing"

Plastic turkeys, like the one President George W. Bush was pictured with while making a surprise visit to the troops in Baghdad on Thanksgiving Day, 2003, are not recommended.

The news this morning is full of reports that another turkey is on a surprise visit to Baghdad today -- Vice President Dick Cheney. Though the US refuses to confirm the visit, Baghdad media are reportedly full of pictures. Go figure.

With a little bit of help from your friends, you ought to be able to get from the top picture to this --

-- Dan Damon

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Improving your ESP

Blind people have less fun on the Web.


Because the way they browse -- using screen readers that speak web pages out loud -- leaves many gaps.

The gaps? Images.

Images that cannot convey what they are about because the Web page's designer skipped an important element -- 'tagging' the image with a phrase or key words that describe its contents.

These tags have been around since the beginning of the Web. You will see them (if they are there) when you pass your mouse over a tagged image. They'll be in a little popup window.

They are mostly unused, meaning gazillions of pictures cannot convey any information to blind surfers.

Enter ESP, the game.

ESP is an online game where you are partnered with another person at random to try and agree in a measured amount of time on the 'tag' words for a series of images you are both given simultaneously.

Certain obvious words about the image are 'taboo' to force you and your partner to come up with finer-grained descriptive words. You can pass on tough ones, provided your partner agrees.

It's fun and fast-paced. As you improve, you move up in skill levels so that you are partnered with people who have a similar level of skill.

The game is the brain child of Luis von Ahn, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

PT joined up (just choose a username and a password), logged on and played. See the results below.

Front page shows you how many are playing at the moment and recent high scorers.

Here is where you play. Type a word in and hit enter to type another word. You're running against a clock. When you and your partner agree on a 'tag,' you are automatically advanced to the next image. 15 images make a round unless the clock beats you (two minutes).

PT scores as a NOVICE. Who'da thunk it!

von Ahn's eventual hope is that the millions of images the volunteer gamesters tag will help form a knowledge base to train computers to automatically tag images found on the Web. That, of course, is waaaay in the future.

For now, log on and have some fun.

-- Dan Damon

PT's images? Thought you'd never ask. Blogger seems not to support tagging, though I have tried many times. A complaint has been logged with the powers-that-be. Meanwhile, here are useful links --
The website: "The ESP Game"

WashPost story: "Image Labeling for Blind Helps Machines 'Think'"
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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Never give a sucker an even break

W.C. Fields, the card-sharp

Never give a sucker an even break. -- W. C. Fields

For the third time, the Administration brought a proposal to increase fees for Certificates of Compliance (needed when homeowners sell or landlords rent to new tenants) to the Council in the form of proposed ordinance MC-2006-38. The ordinance would raise the fee 350%, from $50 to $175.

And for the third time, as Bernice reports, the Council decided not to take it up. For now.

While fees are supposed to cover actual costs for a service, the state forbids municipalities to use fees as a way to raise general revenues.

This would imply the Realtors would have an interest in pressing the Administration closely about the basis for proposing a 350% increase, if it seems like the Council is likely to eventually agree to the Administration's proposal for fee changes.

Not to do so would be to play the sucker.

-- Dan Damon

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Cn u rd ths?


(Photo, IAMPETH)

Cn u rd ths?

Anyone who has received an email from PT knows that he is guilty of the quick abbreviation for email msgs.

But two recent stories on written communication (Ledger and Washington Post) set PT off on an Internet tangent that is part reminiscence, part instruction.

PT learned to write the old-fashioned way -- meaning the Palmer method. Once we got to 3rd grade (the 'middle' room in my 3-room country schoolhouse), we were led to put aside the childish printed letters we had learned in the earlier grades and start the path to 'grown-up' writing.

How exciting it was! How laborious! How life-changing!

And, potentially, how messy, since we used steel penpoints in wooden holders dipped into glass inkwells recessed into our desktops and filled with REAL ink. Learning to manage the pen and the ink was as much part of entering this new world as was mastering the shapes on the page.

Patiently, Miss Cumro would march up and down the aisles, checking our work and occasionally stopping to help a little hand learn how better to grasp the pen, how more smoothly to move the hand across the paper.

It was assumed EVERYONE would write clearly and acceptably -- and it seems everyone did!

PENMANSHIP was even a category to be graded on the dreaded Report Card.

Repetition wasn't meant for its own sake, it was intended to make the writing second nature, like riding a bike, driving a car or playing a musical instrument. Psychologists refer to it as kinesthesia or proprioception. It is so effective that people can even write a legible note IN THE DARK as a result.

We would take our handwriting worksheets, with the teacher's comments, home as proudly as any kid today -- though, of course, there were no fridge magnets and hence fridge art had not yet been invented. Some parents would keep these (and other items) in scrapbooks to record a child's growing years. Imagine!

Though we copied the loops and swirls and practiced the shapes and frills of the various letters, we were allowed -- even expected -- to personalize our handwriting within the parameters. This always led to a kind of cat-and-mouse with the teacher as kids would explore the boundaries of what was acceptable.

Who knew such large lessons would lie in wait in such repetitive scribblings?

But Mr. Palmer actually had SEVERAL things in mind in developing his famous method. He was concerned that writers develop not only LEGIBILITY, but EASE, RAPIDITY and ENDURANCE.

Remember, his style was developed before typewriters or computers. It was an important part of business education, since the keeping of records and handling of correspondence (including copying) could occupy some people's entire work days.

So why, if we learned to write so clearly, smoothly and effortlessly, is our handwriting so wretched and crabbed today?

Part of it surely has to be the accelerated pace of everything. We are in a constant rush. There is so much to do, so much to pay atttention to, so little time.

Part of it has to be the change in technology. When we dipped our pens into actual ink and wrote a few lines until we had to dip again, there was an organic connection to what was going on. How many miles, how many months would you have to write before your ballpoint started to skip today?

In fact, ink and pens to hold them are now an exotic -- and pricey -- niche market.

Something for aging and nostalgic Boomers to indulge in, now that they presumably have reached that stage in life where they have disposable income to do same.

But the democracy of it all is lost.

Which is where the kids and their racy new email and IM language comes in -- they are devising a way of keeping Mr. Palmer's hallmarks -- legibility, ease, rapidity and endurance -- as current as the latest gamebox.

Well, maybe excepting endurance.

Have we gained, or lost, or simply changed?

-- Dan Damon

Some links of interest--

Washington Post: "The Handwriting Is on the Wall: Researchers See a Downside as Keyboards Replace Pens in Schools"

"Class assignments, cover letters in e-mail lingo don't hack it" -- and a primer.

A remembrance of Catholic school writing: "Palmer Script Handwriting"

The Ames (Iowa) Historical Society:
"Ornamental Penmanship Flourishes"

Debbie Jenae, Handwriting Analyst: "The Palmer Writing Method"

Lessons in
"Calligraphy and Penmanship"

Certificates, Engrossers and Teachers: "The International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting"

(Autograph card, Ames Historical Society)

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Lost...and found on the Internet: Ray Blanco


When posting my videoclip from the League Conference, I 'tagged' it with the phrase 'Plainfield' which would cause it to come back as a result for anyone who searched on that word. Nice trick, but not remarkable anymore.

A neater thing was that after I tagged the clip, YouTube (the video hosting service) popped up a selection of videos that also had 'Plainfield' as a tag.

Lo and behold, the first item was a short video of the after-party from this year's July 4th Parade. Held on the plaza between the YWCA and Hugo's. Food, folks, fun.

And then there was Ray Blanco -- in some candid footage that captured more of the essence of the Ray we knew and loved than any still photo ever could. Check it out here.

Which only underscores something about the Internet we tend to forget -- once something has found its way to the Web, it gets a life of its own and persists long after we may have forgottten about it. Coming back to surprise us, sometimes. (This also holds true of email, as some pols have learned to their chagrin.)

Here are some of the other Plainfield items turned up, listed by their 'handle' or screen name, with links to their profile page. Some are stunningly polished, some are not, all are interesting. Check them out -- but beware some have STRONG LANGUAGE.
Screen Name: orionpax1
Video: "Plainfield NJ After July 4th Parade"

Screen Name: angels2014
Video: "Plainfield High Talent Show 10.27.06 #2"
Video: "My Room Devoted 2 Chris Brown"

Screen Name: brown5832
Video: "Told Ya" (PHS Talent Show)

Screen Name: zildjian22
Video: "resena la IPU DE PLAINFIELD" (United Pentecostal Church of Plainfield history)

Screen Name: elizana
Video: "predica de pastor santibanez en NJ USA"

Screen Name: ptheory
Video: "Ever Wondered where the funk began?" (Greater Refuge Church of Christ)

Screen Name: aroid
Video: "Finding Danny" (Adopting a dog at the Plainfield Humane Society)

Screen Name: kaybarco
Video: "myspace for prez"

Screen Name: tiipsychino908
Video: "Nucc Jersey"

Screen Name: bencar
Video: "South Plainfield NJ Labor Day Parade 9-4-2006"
Video: "Ben's Car Show & Cruise Night Channel"
and his website.
-- Dan Damon

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Aisle sweepings


No blue light in Aisle 9?

From my years of organizing advertising trade shows at the old Coliseum at Columbus Circle, PT learned a few tricks of the trade -- wear sensible shoes, be thorough in canvassing the exhibits, make notes right on vendor literature, take the gewgaws, skip the candy.

But one can be dragged off course. Which is what happened to PT. About three quarters through the exhibits, I ran into some acquaintances at an aisle crossing and got involved in conversation. Resuming my march, I forgot to complete that aisle.

Later, someone asked if I had seen the Plainfield booth. I hadn't, because I'd gotten sidetracked. But I also didn't remember what aisle that had been. So, PT turned to the directory.

Surprise! No listing for Plainfield among the hundreds of vendor exhibits.

PT went out to the registration area, where a busy but very kindly supervisor hauled out the enormous ring binder with the space contracts filed in it. She quickly found the listing and gave me the booth number, casually adding "Well, the reason it's not in the printed directory is the reservation came in at the last minute."

Ah, Plainfield! Sigh.

Finally found the booth, sandwiched in a nook at the end of an aisle. With a small selection of handouts -- the UEZ's 'Home Arts' program brochure and a new piece entitled 'Growth by Unity.' Director Jenny Wenson-Maier was holding down the fort when I visited, having given UEZ coordinator Jacques Howard and recently-returned Wayne Awald a break to tour the show themselves.

A few rows away, PT spotted a parking meter manufacturer that was intriguing because they offered an electronic management system allowing many parking spaces to be managed by one 'meter' which tracked the money, the time and made all its data available wirelessly to parking authority workers carrying handhelds.

Councilors Linda Carter and Elliott Simmons were also looking over the system and gave PT an opportunity to try out my new toy -- a cellphone sized camcorder.

You can see the very first effort as posted on YouTube here:



PT was also pleasantly surprised to find Front Street merchant Cooper Furniture also had taken a booth. I was told the show is a very good one for them, and that they always book business installing new office furniture in various municipal, county and state offices as a result.

Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs took part in the proceedings, too.

She moderated a panel on women in politics which PT checked out, and did a good job at it. The mayor also took part as a speaker at another panel on affirmative action. That one I was not able to attend.

The presence of her security detail did arouse considerable comment from attendees who asked what that was about. PT noted that several mayors I spotted -- including Cory Booker and Robert Bowser -- seemed to be traveliing without armed escort, though being enormously popular they always had a crowd around.

That means the taxpayers footed the bill for hotels and meals for the entourage.

Business as usual for the Queen City.

-- Dan Damon

Check out PT's previous post on the League of Municipalities 91st conference at
"Connect! Motivate! Inspire!".

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Jocelyn Pringley dies suddenly

Jocelyn Pringley, director of the city's Division of Inspections, passed away unexpectedly yesterday (Thursday, November 16, 2006).

A city employee for over thirty years, her position at the center of administering permits and code enforcement meant she was known to perhaps more people than even the most gregarious elected official.

Not always, of course, affectionately, but she took that in stride, understanding that doing her job sometimes brought her into conflict with residents and contractors looking for a shortcut.

A reader emailed me not long ago, asking why I was taking such a strong line defending Jocelyn on Plainfield Today. This reader knows that I had sometimes been critical of the Inspections Division's record in my years at City Hall.

The answer is simple. While I may have had issues with how Inspections performed at times, I never had a reason to think of Jocelyn as other than a valued city employee who did the best she could by her lights. And a friendly and helpful co-worker, to boot.

Doing the best she could certainly was not made easier by her treatment under the current Administration, about which I have written elsewhere (see "The simmering feud", "What ever happened to the 'Safe Homes' initiative?", "Inspections Division in open revolt", and "Another [phone] number of interest").

Jocelyn had many friends at City Hall and in the community. It is very sad to see her life cut short. PT is firmly of the opinion that the stresses of the past ten months or so played a role in her untimely death. She will be greatly missed.

My sympathy to her family.

-- Dan Damon

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Connect! Motivate! Inspire!

There is a classic advertising myth that attributes the success of Rogers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! to the addition of the exclamation point [!] at the end. It supposedly generated a sense of excitement that was lacking in just titling the musical with the name of the state.

Whether or not you accept the lore, the fact is that the musical was a groundbreaking innovation, a tremendous success, and a moneymaker -- still is, for that matter.

Did the NJ League of Municipalities have this in mind when it titled its 91st Annual Conference "
Connect! Motivate! Inspire!"?

Maybe. Though it hardly delivered the punch of
Oklahoma!, it was perfectly serviceable. Which is an acceptable goal if you're doing something for the 91st time.


With a little shy of 500 communities, with most sending their elected officials, department heads and various staffers and board or commission members, the attendance quickly rises into the range of 4,000 plus. Add maybe another thousand for the vendors, suppliers, consultants and lobbyists who are angling for business and you have a happening event.

Good for everyone from the hotels to the hot dog vendors to the heavy equipment suppliers. (It was a little scary to walk UNDERNEATH a monstrous dump truck suspended above the exhibition floor on four hydraulic lifts, where a salesman was busy making his pitch.)

And connecting continued over lunch and in the halls, but ESPECIALLY in the suite parties that rage through the evenings, and for which invitations are eagerly sought. Legendarily awash in booze and hors d'oeuvres, PT wonders whether many can even remember in the morning whatever they were angling for the night before. But, hey, it's a tradition.


Constitutionally mandated officers -- such as municipal clerks, tax assessors and tax collectors -- are mandated to undertake professional improvement and continuing education activities annually. The Conference provides opportunities to fulfill these part of these requirements as well as get motivated with new techniques and technologies.

The Conference also provides an opportunity for organizations of these professionals to have their annual business gatherings.


Between the offerings in the exhibit hall and the workshop presentations, there is more than enough to inspire.

PT dropped in on several workshops. Quality varies, but if you are seriously looking to take away a good idea or two, you will always find them.

East Orange mayor Robert Bowser is one of PT's favorites. Savvy, suave and street-smart, he always brings a certain frisson to any panel in which he participates. And his advice is always on target.

As, for instance, when he presented on GANG INTERVENTION programs: "Don't ever use the word 'gang' in connection with your programs -- unless, of course, you don't want anyone to come to them." "Remember, many of these kids are getting whupped at home every day -- what they need is consistent structure, support and recognition." "Always reward the kids for achievements." "Never have one-on-ones with gang members -- the last thing you want to hear in the street is 'Yeah, I have the ear of the mayor.'"

Another interesting workshop was on the newly competitive cable TV situation in New Jersey, and what impact it will have on the local public access channel options that have traditionally been a part of franchise agreements with the cable providers. State Senator and Bayonne Mayor Joe Doria led participants through a thicket of issues and opportunities.

Prediction: As the wrinkles get worked out, local cable has the potential of getting more interesting -- if, of course, the municipalities hire
GOOD STAFF and dedicate the FRANCHISE FEES to station operation. Unless satellite TV outstrips cable. In which case, communities may find themselves without a means to reach many of their residents as satellite systems fall outside the current scheme of regulation.

Is there a down side to the annual Conference? Many towns' business practically comes to a halt during Conference week, not to resume until the following Monday.

Is that a down side? Depends on your point of view, I guess.

-- Dan Damon

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

In the Devil's lair?


My paternal grandmother -- a teetotaling Methodist and a founding matron of the Webster Road Ladies' Aid Society -- will probably be spinning in her grave Wednesday as I take in the League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City.

To be anywhere near so many gamblers and so much hard drink and wickedness would be to enter the Devil's own lair.

Not to worry, I would tell her, I'll be safe. I'll be hanging out with the politicians.

-- Dan Damon

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From the Mailbag

Catching up on a few items from the mailbag --


Some readers have said they cannot see their COMMENTS posted on PLAINFIELD TODAY. To view a
COMMENTS, you must be on the ARTICLE PAGE, not the MAIN PAGE. How to tell where you are? If you scroll down and see more than one story, you are on the MAIN page. To see comments, scroll to the bottom of the story you want and click on the TIME POSTED link right after my name. This will open the story BY ITSELF and you will see the comments at the bottom in the order received.


A reader wrote asking whether the ONLINE AUCTION of Bond Anticipatory Notes (BANs) was a good thing or a bad thing, whether something 'unbecoming' was done and whether the bidding should have been brought before the public. (See the original post, and the followup.)

PT thinks the online bidding is a good thing, because it broadens the pool of bidders for our debt and more competition means the City can potentially get a better deal on the interest rate it must pay.

As to the other questions, PT thinks there WAS something unbecoming in the way this 'rollover' was done -- basically behind the Council and the public's back -- by former City Administrator Carlton McGee and, yes, it should have come before the Council and the public.

As a bonus, the City has been left with the necessity of rolling these BANs over again before March 20, 2007.


The Fall Recreation Division calendar came in the mail in the past couple of days. If you didn't get yours, you can pick one up at City Hall or the Rec Division in the Annex. Program information, registration deadlines, and other details of interest. Threw? Yes, 'threw.'


A reader active in the NAACP has forwarded a link to online information about the NAACP Leadership 500 Summit, being held in Destin, FL, from December 7 - 10, 2006. For more information, check out the website.

-- Dan Damon

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Losing by the rules, yet maybe winning


As if corruption stories in New Jersey weren't disgusting enough, UMDNJ now comes up with a topper, and there's a local angle.

The Ledger broke the story of a kickback scheme at UMDNJ involving referrals of heart patients on Sunday (
"At UMDNJ, an attempt to cover up $36M fraud"). The scheme is detailed in a report by the federal monitor to be released today.

The Courier picked up the AP story today (
"UMDNJ illegally took $36 million, report says") and the Ledger editorialized about the broken trust ("UMDNJ's violation of trust").

There is no doubt in PT's mind that when this is all unraveled, politics and political backscratching will come to the fore.

Which brings PT to the matter of Muhlenberg.

While UMDNJ was busy milking and bilking Medicare and Medicaid to bolster its heart program, Muhlenberg -- scrupulously playing by the state's rules -- lost out on getting a cardiac surgery license a few years back, when it was considered a matter of salvaging Muhlenberg's very existence as a hospital.

The loss was devastating -- though as a sop Muhlenberg was praised for the quality of its research and the case it presented.

PT always thought the decision on who got and who didn't was political. For instance, Jersey City 'banked' its license and never opened a program in the time frame promised.

Clearly, whatever political clout Plainfield's legislative crew could muster was weighed in the balance and found wanting in the face of that of the political 'big dogs.'

Muhlenberg was left to settle for what was then considered 'second best' -- the right to perform emergency angioplasties with the possibility of moving up to non-emergency, elective angioplasties.

And now we get glimmers that the political big dogs may not have been concerned with patients' lives at all, but with padding their pet projects and protecting their political bases.

Medical science, though, marches on.

As it turns out, angioplasties are now preferred over surgery. And in getting 'second best,' Muhlenberg may have gotten the better part of the deal.

If you thought politics was a blood sport, you would be shocked at the politicking and jockeying among New Jersey's hospitals in attempts to kill off the little guys and consolidate market share -- regardless of whether populations are better served by the outcomes.

Muhlenberg has survived a particularly nasty period, for which we should be thankful.

Will our elected officials be up to protecting Muhlenberg in the next fight?

-- Dan Damon

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Editorial Cartoonists Survey the Election

OK, you know PT is hooked on editorial cartoons.

Here are some of the best since Tuesday's midterm election.

Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle

Matson, Roll Call

Matson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle

Larry Wright, Detroit News

-- Dan Damon

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans Day 2006

(Veterans Day 2005, Veterans' color guard)

(Veterans Day 2005, PHS Junior ROTC marches to ceremonies)

VETERANS DAY will be observed this morning at 10 AM at the War Memorial flagpole at East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue.

Plainfield's veterans groups will conduct the annual ceremony, which includes a color guard, remarks by veterans and dignitaries and the laying of a wreath at the Memorial by the mayor.

ARMISTICE DAY became the international observation of the cessation of World War I hostilities at 11 AM on the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918 -- after protracted and complicated negotiations.

Over the years, large parades and well-attended civic ceremonies were held in countless towns and cities across the country. The President led national ceremonies at Arlington National Ceremony. An example is President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1941 Armistice Day address, on the eve of World War II.

(A 1920s Armistice Day Parade in Rochester, NY)

(Carrying a large American flag, Rochester, NY)

Armistice Day was traditionally observed throughout the community by the complete cessation of activity for two minutes of silent observation at 11 AM -- including all those who were unable to attend the ceremonies. In many places that tradition continues, though not, sadly, in Plainfield.

In 1954, following a countrywide grassroots campaign, Congress designated the day as VETERANS DAY, making it an official federal holiday.

As a result, the day has come to focus more on honoring the service and contributions of VETERANS, as distinct from its original purpose as a DAY OF REMEMBRANCE for those who died in World War I. (In Canada and other British Commonwealth countries, the day is still known as Remembrance Day.)

MEMORIAL DAY, which had its origins in remembering the Civil War dead, came to be the focus of remembrance of all who had died in wars past.

-- Dan Damon

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Let the regerrymandering begin


Plainfield - The 'hinge' of two Districts

Is it time for New Jersey's Democratic-led Legislature to steal a page from Karl Rove's playbook?

To the great glee of Rove and Co., the US Supreme Court ruled in June of 2006 that the Texas GOP's redistricting plan could stand, except for one small portion. (See articles cited at end of post.)

The Court also ruled that state legislators may REDRAW CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT MAPS AS OFTEN AS THEY WISH.

This all came to PT while watching the returns on Tuesday in New Jersey's 7th Congressional District race -- Linda Stender vs. Mike Ferguson.

You will recall that in 2001, in the mandatory redrawing of district lines following the 2000 Census, Plainfield was REMOVED from the 7th CD and put into the 6th CD -- Frank Pallone's district. See maps below.

2001 Redistricting - 6th CD - Plainfield ADDED.
(As always, click on image to enlarge or print.)

2001 Redistricting - 7th CD - Plainfield REMOVED.
(As always, click on image to enlarge or print.)

Plainfield was hardly necessary for Rep. Pallone to continue to ride high and get reelection by generous margins every two years. Getting us was like icing on the cake, to coin a metaphor.

On the other hand, taking Plainfield away from Mike Ferguson's district was an effort to ensure a safe seat for the GOP -- in exchange for Rush Holt being assured another safe Dem seat in the 12th CD.

Why should anyone even raise the question at this time?

Aside from a desire to see Karl Rove hoist by his own petard?

That, plus noting another interesting fact: Ferguson only beat Stender by 3,653 votes. Plainfield delivered 6,054 votes to Menendez and 5,329 votes to citywide candidate Harold Gibson.

You do the math. Either figure would have put Stender in Congress.

But wait! There's more!

Pundits have been talking about the 'blue-ing' of the suburbs for some time now, and the 2006 election offers some tantalizing hints in New Jersey.

PT noticed that Caldwell, Chatham Township and Mountain Lakes -- all longtime 'safe' Republican strongholds, elected Democratic councils and mayors this go-round.

Closer to home, South Bound Brook, which has been Republican as long as PT has been in NJ, saw a Dem sweep of the Council and mayoral races.

So. A modest proposal.

Would it not be right and proper for Plainfield's Assemblyman Jerry Green to introduce legislation to redraw the New Jersey congressional districts posthaste and RESTORE Plainfield to its rightful Congressional District?

Let the regerrymandering begin.

-- Dan Damon

On the US Supreme Court ruling --
Washington Post: "Justices Affirm GOP Map For Texas; Other States May Follow Suit"

MSNBC: "Court rules state legislators may draw new maps as often as they like"

The exception in the Supreme Court ruling was the infamous 25th CD 'fajita strip' redistrict plan, which the Court threw out.

The map below -- taken from the Wikipedia gerrymander article -- illustrates this outrageous attempt. The new orange district is the infamous 'fajita strip.'

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