The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vote!


Tuesday, November 2nd is Election Day. President Obama is under attack, and he needs our help. The so-called "Tea Party" Republicans are trying to derail the Democratic reform agenda. Our Congressman, Frank Pallone, is one of President Obama's strongest allies in the House. We have to keep Congress Democratic, but we can only do this if YOU come out to vote. Plainfield is crucial to Rep. Pallone's victory, as we all know. We need folks to come out. Our great city showed its support for the President two years ago--this year, your support for our congressman is how you can show that you still support President Obama.

I am urging you to vote for Frank Pallone for Congress--he is at the top of the Column A ticket. I am also on the ballot, running in Column A for the 2nd and 3rd Ward At-large city council seat. 

Please don't forget to read and vote on the ballot measure, the "New Jersey Wage Assessment Amendment," (Public Question 1). I am urging you to vote YES on this question! 


I would also like to invite you to join me, along with my campaign team, friends, and supporters, along with my special guests Councilman Cory Storch and Councilman Adrian Mapp, at the New Democrats Headquarters (110 East 7th Street) as we watch the election returns come in. We will be gathering at about 7:30 pm with food, drink, music, and camaraderie as we await the election results.

All best,

Rebecca

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall Library Clean-Up: Community Service



My Republican opponent, Jim Pivnichny, working alongside me at the Plainfield Public Library cleanup on Saturday morning, 10/9/10. The essence of nonpartisan community service!

It is autumn, and I have begun canvassing for my fall Democratic election campaign. I will be blogging over the next few weeks as I walk and talk with voters, listening to your concerns and sharing ideas with you.


In addition, I will be participating in the League of Women Voters of Plainfield Candidate Forum, scheduled for Wednesday, October 27 at 7:00 pm at Emerson Community School. My Republican opponent and I will be vying for your vote to serve as your elected official for the 2nd & 3rd Ward At-Large seat on the Plainfield City Council.We will also be encouraging you to participate in helping to make Plainfield a stronger city!


All best,


Rebecca

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Sincere Thanks to the Voters of Plainfield!

Dear Friends,


I am writing to thank you, my fellow Democrats, for your support of my successful grassroots campaign to become the Democratic candidate for the 2nd and 3rd Ward at-large City Council seat. I want to thank the New Democrats for Plainfield Club for their hard work in helping me win the Democratic nomination by maintaining our consistent focus on ethical leadership and good government.
This was, to me, the best kind of campaign — going door-to-door throughout the two wards and trying to reach as many homes as possible, hearing the questions and concerns of voters, sharing ideas, and working to convince 2nd and 3rd Ward Democrats that I could be an agent of real change in our city if nominated and, ultimately, elected to serve.
Although I didn't get to knock on every door this spring, I will be out again this summer and fall to continue canvassing and visiting block association meetings and events. I am a grassroots person, and I want to make sure that all residents in the two wards know that they can reach out to me anytime. I want to thank all the phone callers, all the folks who walked with me, and all those who endorsed my run. I want to thank all the people who contributed money — every donation went directly to the campaign.
I also want to thank Councilmen Rashid Burney and Don Davis for their service to Plainfield. Although we have had differing strategies in terms of how best to move the city forward, I have never, ever doubted the sincerity of either Rashid or Don as dedicated Democrats. Both adhere to the highest ideals of the Democratic Party, and each has pledged to work with me and the rest of our party in November.
Finally, I want to thank all Plainfield voters (Democrats, Republicans, and non-party affiliated voters) for coming out on June 8 to participate in the primary. Citizen involvement is of crucial importance in making our city a better place, and your participation is greatly needed every primary season as well as in November. 
I thank you, Plainfield.
All best,
Rebecca

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thank You, Plainfield!


THANK YOU, PLAINFIELD!

Update, per County Clerk:
OFFICIAL RESULTS:

Williams: 831
Burney: 568
Davis: 200

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Endorsed by Plainfield Community Activists


REAL CHANGE IS COMING TO PLAINFIELD!

As your Democratic City Council candidate for the Second and Third Ward At-Large seat, I am honored to be endorsed as the candidate of choice by these prominent Plainfield activists, educators, law enforcement, and elected officials!


Plainfield Police Captain Siddeeq El-Amin (Ret.): "Rebecca's dedication to public safety on behalf of all Plainfield residents is a refreshing, uplifting change in climate and is evident in her desire to work with the Plainfield Police Division to raise morale and advocate for more effective deployment by supporting the need for visionary leadership in the Police Division."



Mrs. Dorothy Henry, Educator and Senior Advocate (Ret.): "Rebecca fulfills the promise of the civil rights generation that came before her--the "dream" of Dr. King and now the "hope" represented by President Barack Obama--she is highly educated, enthusiastic, personable, and passionate about our city--a brilliant role model!"
(from left to right: Dr. Inez P. Durham; Democratic Committeewoman (2-5) Carol Bicket; Carol Anderson-Lewis; Rebecca; Dorothy Henry; Linda Barnes.)


 Second Ward Councilman Cory Storch: "Rebecca is smart, ethical, and independent. She will always put Plainfield first. We need her voice on the council at this time--she is my choice for change!"

Third Ward Councilman Adrian Mapp: "Rebecca will be a voice of reason on the council, she'll be visible in the community, and she'll always fight for what's best for Plainfield. Rebecca will be guided by the dictates of her conscience, not by the dictates of political bosses."


Donald Van Blake, Educator (Ret.) and Tennis Activist, pictured with a bronze plaque in his honor at the Donald Van Blake Tennis Courts.

"Donald is one of the honorary chairs of my campaign for change. I met him several years ago when I developed and curated "At the March: Plainfield Remembers," an oral history/photo exhibit for the Historical Society of Plainfield, commemorating the Plainfield presence at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, at which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his 'I Have a Dream' speech. I have been working with Donald on his own life-long dream of creating a sports and education complex right here in Plainfield."--Rebecca

I am proud to be endorsed by these outstanding individuals--they are our neighbors and friends. I hope you will join them in supporting my candidacy for the Plainfield city council by voting for me on Tuesday!

Rebecca Williams for City Council

Dedicated--Determined--Decisive

DEMOCRAT!

Column D
  
Vote Tuesday, June 8

Friday, June 4, 2010

Adrian Mapp Endorses Rebecca Williams for Council



I have been endorsed by 3rd Ward Councilman Adrian Mapp to join him on the Plainfield City Council in the 2nd and 3rd Ward At-Large seat. Here is the link to Adrian's blog:

From Adrian's Blog, May 25, 2010: I endorse Rebecca, Community Leader and Activist!
On Tuesday, June 8, 2010, voters in the 2nd and 3rd wards of Plainfield will go to the polls to choose a Democratic councilperson to represent their interests on the Plainfield City council. They will choose from amongst three candidates, most outstanding among them being Rebecca Williams, a tireless grassroots community activist who has been fighting for good government ever since the day she arrived in Plainfield thirteen years ago.
Rebecca is an educator who has spent many years of her life shaping the minds of young people at Essex County College, where she is a professor, and many hours stimulating the minds of our senior citizens when she taught American literature, politics, and cultural studies at the Plainfield Senior Citizens Center. Rebecca has worked for many community organizations (Plainfield Adult School Advisory Board, Plainfield Cultural & Heritage Commission, Al McWilliams Armory Advisory Committee, League of Women Voters) as a volunteer and has supported a number of social causes in an effort to improve the quality of life for Plainfield's diverse population. She has worked on several policy initiatives over the years that have given her a wealth of knowledge that I know she will bring to the council table.

In addition, she has dedicated years of volunteer work in voter registration, voter education, and organizing and conducting school board and municipal candidate forums as an officer of the League of Women Voters of Plainfield to ensure that Plainfield residents are aware of the issues of most concern to them.

Since arriving in Plainfield, Rebecca has headed the campaigns of several of Plainfield's current and past elected officials, and has, over the years, acquired firsthand knowledge of the issues facing city residents by visiting their homes and listening to their concerns. As a founding member of the New Democrats for Plainfield, Rebecca has focused on policy initiatives for the betterment of Plainfield. Rebecca has demonstrated, through her civic involvement as a volunteer on local boards and commissions, through community clean-ups, food drives, and community cultural events, that she is committed to serving the people of Plainfield.

Rebecca will be a voice of reason on the council and she'll be visible in the community—as she always has been—and she will always fight for what's best for Plainfield. Having worked with Rebecca for many years, I know her to be a principled individual who will not be swayed by the direction of the wind, tethered to unsavory forces, tarred by the hurricane forces of political expediency, nor compromised by selfish opportunism at the expense of others.

Rebecca will be guided by the dictates of her conscience, not by the dictates of others.

Rebecca Williams has a vision for Plainfield, one that includes an aggressive marketing plan to attract developers from around the country, stabilize property taxes, enhance our property maintenance codes and property values, improve the morale of our police department (currently at an all time low), and improve the quality of life for our residents.

My friends, we need a change--we need fresh new ideas on the council, and Rebecca, who is a force for action, not silence and acquiescence, will work with the rest of the council to provide the true checks and balances that are needed to help Plainfield move forward.

It is for all of the above reasons that my 2nd Ward colleague Cory Storch and I have enthusiastically endorsed Rebecca to be our next councilperson for the 2nd and 3rd Ward At-Large seat on the Plainfield City Council.

Please join us on Tuesday, June 8th, and vote for Rebecca, who is TRULY INDEPENDENT, ETHICAL, OUTSPOKEN, DEDICATED, DETERMINED, DECISIVE, and not beholden to anyone but the people of Plainfield.

She is a REAL DEMOCRAT who believes in good, transparent government—not empty “business as usual” rhetoric, and who will remain visible and accessible to her constituents.

On June 8th, I will be voting for Rebecca, the DEMOCRAT in COLUMN D, I hope you do too. Please take a minute to view the video below--you will see Rebecca, the Community Leader and Activist, in action!

Regards, Adrian
 
Endorsed by Councilors 
Cory Storch (Ward 2) and Adrian Mapp (Ward 3)

Rebecca Williams, City Council Candidate
New Democrats for Plainfield

Dedicated-Determined-Decisive
 
DEMOCRAT

Column D
Vote Tuesday, June 8

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cory Storch Endorses Rebecca Williams for Plainfield City Council

I have been endorsed by 2nd Ward Councilman Cory Storch as his choice to join him on the Plainfield City Council in the 2nd & 3rd Ward At-Large seat. Here is the link to Cory's blog:
Cory Storch for Good Government in Plainfield 
From Cory's Blog, June 3, 2010: Rebecca Williams for Plainfield City Council 
I am voting for Rebecca Williams for Plainfield City Council in the June 8 primary election. Plainfield needs a strong, intelligent, independent voice to join the City Council at this critical point in time and Rebecca fits this description completely.

She is not reluctant to take a principled stand in the face of pressure from "the powers that be". This will be a very useful trait as we approach the new budget year. Plainfield is not out of the fiscal woods by a long shot, and the temptation to the Administration to outsource its way out of difficulties is questionable at best. It will take a strong Council to put the interests of Plainfield taxpayers first and make prudent budget decisions in the face of special interest groups. Rebecca is a person who will weigh the needs of Plainfield and not cave in to business as usual.

The City Council provides checks and balances to the Mayor and her administration. When the Mayor shows no willingness to cooperate with the Council as is sometimes the case, a strong City Council is needed to set Plainfield in the right direction. In the past few years we have seen wasteful spending, insensitive managers and ineffective services. Two examples are the Mayor's wasteful use of police bodyguards for herself and her inability to direct the Recreation Department to cooperate with the Queen City Baseball League. Rebecca would have made a difference in both situations. Only a strong City Council can stand up and help the administration make corrections that our residents need and demand. Vote for Rebecca Williams on June 8. Plainfield needs her. 
 
Endorsed by Councilors 
Cory Storch (Ward 2) and Adrian Mapp (Ward 3)

Rebecca Williams, City Council Candidate
New Democrats for Plainfield

Dedicated-Determined-Decisive
 
DEMOCRAT

Column D
Vote Tuesday, June 8
 
 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Honest, Ethical Leadership: Setting the Record Straight on Rashid's Lies



When Barack Obama was running for president, he was attacked on a number of fronts by misleading information and some outright lies. Barack said that every lie must be answered—taking a page from his campaign note book, that is what I am doing today. I am answering the lies that Rashid Burney, an exemplar of dishonest, unprincipled, unethical leadership, has posted on his campaign blog. That he would tell such lies that can be so easily disproved by the facts shows a astonishing degree of deceitfulness.
In an attempt to obfuscate the issues facing Plainfield, Rashid has decided to smear my reputation as a community media activist. Those who know me know that I had a career in the independent film/video industry in New York for seventeen, serving for a number of years on the board of directors of Women Make Movies, the largest feminist non-profit media arts organization in the country. I also taught in the Graduate Film School at NYU’s Tisch School for many years. My reputation in New York among media activists and independent filmmakers is untarnished. In addition, I am a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and I have always advocated for open access for citizens to public media. Rashid knows all this, but instead prefers to attack me by serving up blatant lies about my service to the city as the first Station Director for Plainfield’s public access channel. That Rashid, who knows how hard I worked to get the city council meetings taped, would lie about my record is absolutely stunning, but certainly shows that he will go to any lengths—even outright lying—to try to be re-elected. Rashid goes on to insinuate that I was deliberately not taping them because I didn’t want the public to see what was going on at council meetings.
As “Mr. Transparency” has removed the public comment function from his blogs (I guess he really doesn’t want to hear from you!), I urge you all to contact Rashid directly and ask him why he would deliberately post these lies about me—his email address is: 
Five months after I began working at the Station, Rashid joined the city council (in 2005). I videotaped the January 2005 reorganization meeting of the council, along with a few other council meetings and special meetings taped at the regular council business meetings as part of my audio/video tests with MY OWN EQUIPMENT while I was in the process of researching packages for the station—these were broadcast on the station several times.  Rashid was there, and is on some of those tapes, which are ARCHIVED AT THE CITY HALL ANNEX.  So, when he writes that “no council meetings were broadcast on our local TV station,” RASHID IS AGAIN LYING.
Rashid is well aware of how hard I worked at the station, and I have an entire email file going back to 2004 that kept everyone in the loop as to my progress. I have an entire email file of my correspondence with Rashid himself wherein I discussed with him the issues facing the station, even after I left.
In addition to private email correspondence about this, here is a link to Rashid’s own blog back in 2008, along with my comments on my efforts when I worked at the station—in addition to this, I have a set of email correspondence with Rashid (going back even before that time) wherein he lauded my efforts and said that he shared my frustrations: 
Rashid goes on to insinuate that I was deliberately not taping meetings because I didn’t want the public to see what was going on at council meetings. As I said before, Rashid knows full well that there was NO camera equipment.  I immediately set out to research and purchase the first of three camera/lighting/sound packages (one for use by the station, the other two for use by the residents of Plainfield) while, at the same time, discussing with the City Administrator and Public Works Director (at the time, Norton Bonaparte and Priscilla Castles, respectively) the technical challenges that I would have to deal with in getting a live feed (which is what I thought would work best in addition to repeating the programs on the channel) from the city hall library for the agenda sessions, as well as the municipal court, where the city council business meetings are held.  
I also provided detailed monthly reports on every aspect of work that I did at the station—these reports, with timelines and action plans, were submitted to Norton and copies were in the station archives when I left. I have been in several conversations with current Advisory Board Chairman Lamar Mackson about the files and policies and other paperwork that I left at the station—he said that many items were not there—I left a full and thorough accounting of everything when I left.
Another Rashid Lie
When I was hired in July 2004 to become the part-time Station Director at 21 hours a week, I was the only employee. I was NOT hired for $50,000 per yearRashid just made it up because it sounds good, I guess. Anyone can check the budget from that year to see what I actually made, or ask Karen Dabney, the Personnel Director for the city—feel free to do so.  I worked 3 days per week, doing all the technical and managerial work related to the running of a station all by myself—Rashid knows this and yet repeats his lie—dishonesty reigns once again.
Rashid knows what I had to do to make the station work: upgrade the old computers and purchase new software for the bulletin board equipment, upgrade the Internet access for the city hall annex, and other equipment—trying to squeeze all this into 21 hours per week. In addition, I was also focused on finding a new space for the cable station, as the current space is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act—one of the spaces that I surveyed with Norton was the now-notorious basement of the Tepper’s building on East Front Street, which was also being considered for city council offices at the time.
As I was working through these and other significant challenges, I also had to create policy manuals for the “public access” portion of the station—I submitted these through Corporation Counsel and, after a thorough review, they were approved and set in place. So, working three days a week—doing programming, building and maintaining the community bulletin board, holding community workshops in the evening to introduce the station to residents who wanted to serve as community producers, and analyzing, reviewing, and ordering equipment, all within the space of 21 hours a week. In addition, when there were technical emergencies (given the age of the city hall annex and its attendant wiring problems), I had to go in at night or on weekends (receiving no compensation, by the way) to reboot the entire system if it went down. Rashid knows this, too. 
Rashid himself, the so-called champion of transparency, has blogged about how difficult his purported struggle has been to get the meetings on the air—two years is what he said it took—why, then, would he make up lies about how long it took me to try to get it done? I only worked at the station for about 20 months as the only employee—with absolutely no equipment, and doing every aspect of the job alone—and the majority of that length was part-time. In addition, I met with the directors of other member stations of the Jersey Access Group (JAG) to get input, and I represented our city at conferences related to public access—Rashid knows this as well.
I spoke to Ray and Norton and Priscilla about the next phase of operations, i.e., getting the meetings broadcast on a regular basis. I told Ray that I was in the process of dealing with the significant audio challenges presented by the city hall library’s terrible acoustics—he said that he wanted to be kept in the loop about my progress there. Ray also wanted to proceed very slowly with the idea of airing the council meetings—he told me that, as council president, he wanted to talk to the other councilors about the best way to proceed. I responded that while I was figuring out the technical aspects, I would be happy to discuss everything with the council. At the same time, I had asked Ray and other community people to assist me in gathering names for a cable advisory board, per the ordinance creating the station.
I created a website, a station subscriber email list that had nearly 200 subscribers in a very short time, and a number of other initiatives that fell by the wayside when Sharon Robinson-Briggs fired me as soon as she got into office. I have advocated for the meetings to be broadcast ever since. Rashid knows this.
So, when he writes that the task was “undone” by me when I was fired, Rashid ignores a number of email exchanges that he and I had regarding my efforts to get the city council meetings broadcast both while I was at the station as well as after I was fired. In those emails, Rashid applauded my attempts to get the council meetings broadcast, and I thanked him for his efforts after 2 years to try to get the meetings broadcast. He said he knew how hard I worked to get them on the air, and he appreciated my efforts. Many of the comments I made to Rashid are also posted on his council blog for all to see—just go back to the archives from 2008 and see for yourself. You are also welcome to contact me to receive copies of those emails.
That is why I am so shocked and disheartened by Rashid’s decision to lie and attack me for my efforts to serve in the public interest by posting these smears and outright lies. The email exchanges he and I had with each other were all in the public interest (or so I thought!), so to see Rashid misrepresent, mischaracterize, and outright lie about my efforts to lobby him and the other councilors on behalf of transparency shows that he is now using the playbook of his mentor to try to win this election.
I have already sent to my subscriber list the exchanges between Rashid and me going back a few years—for those of you who are mutual friends of both of us, and who were on the fence about your support, I thank you for considering these Rashid’s smears as a reason to now support me for council. Rashid’s dishonest, unethical behavior throughout this entire campaign speaks volumes about his weakness, cowardice, and lack of character.
No matter what happens with this election, Rashid will have to live with the fact that he has lied, smeared, manipulated, attacked, and demonstrated his lack of character during this campaign. To have an individual such as this representing us for another four years would be simply unacceptable.   
Plainfield needs REAL CHANGE, INDEPENDENCE, and HONESTY on the city council at this critical time, which is why Cory Storch and Adrian Mapp have endorsed me. In addition, I am thankful for the number of emails and calls of support that I have been receiving from friends and other voters and Plainfield residents who are angry and see through Rashid’s desperate lies.

I hope that voters consider the honesty and character of the representative whom they will elect as their Democratic candidate for the 2nd & 3rd Ward At-Large council seat when they go to the polls on Tuesday, June 8th, because it is a question of character, independence, ethics, and honesty. Councilors Cory Storch and Adrian Mapp understand this clearly, and this is why they have endorsed me to serve with them.
All best,
Rebecca

Endorsed by Councilors 
Cory Storch (Ward 2) and Adrian Mapp (Ward 3)

Rebecca Williams, City Council Candidate
New Democrats for Plainfield

Dedicated-Determined-Decisive
 
DEMOCRAT

Column D
Vote Tuesday, June 8



Thursday, May 27, 2010

Relay for Life: Remembering Our Loved Ones


As you all know, this past Saturday and Sunday I participated in Plainfield's 4th Annual Relay for Life, a project of the American Cancer Society, walking for three loved ones, whom I still miss deeply and dearly: my dad, Richard WIlliams, and my friends Al McWilliams and Jo-Ann Sloane. This video remembrance is in honor of those who have passed, as well as to survivors. Thanks to friends of the New Democrats for creating this beautiful memory. 

 

Cancer never sleeps.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Partnering with Plainfield: Video Premiere!


Today, I am premiering the first video of our campaign, produced by some Plainfield friends of New Democrats who are supporting my grassroots campaign for the 2nd and 3rd Ward At-large seat on the Plainfield City Council. You will most likely recognize many of your neighbors and friends who are committed to making Plainfield great! 

Feel free to upload and share with all your neighbors, voters, and friends!



Endorsed by Councilors 
Cory Storch (Ward 2) and Adrian Mapp (Ward 3)

Rebecca Williams, City Council Candidate
New Democrats for Plainfield

Dedicated-Determined-Decisive
 
DEMOCRAT

Column D
Vote Tuesday, June 8

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Code Enforcement & “Safe Homes” for All

(raw sewage being pumped into street by Connolly workers, 2009)


Code Enforcement—Split Shifts Can Be Effective

As I have been out canvassing the neighborhoods in the 2nd and 3rd Wards, residents have expressed great dismay at the lack of responsiveness of the incumbent to their issues, especially code enforcement, which many feel unfairly (and oddly) targets homeowners who keep up their properties while ignoring 18-inch high grass, broken windows, peeling paint, litter, and unattractive facades on other homes in their neighborhoods. In addition, the amount of illegal, unpermitted work being done on homes compromises safety as well as reduces revenues to the city.

One of the problems, as I have stated several times, has to do with how the Code Enforcement Officers are deployed. Code enforcement is not a Monday – Friday, 9-5 job. Most illegal and unpermitted work takes place after hours and on weekends, as many of you who have called and emailed me can attest.

I have proposed that the administration look to restore the split shifts so that there is a deployment of officers around on the weekend to catch the illegal work being done. We have codes on the books, but if individuals feel that they won’t be enforced, they will continue to perform illegal work with impunity.

In addition to the city not receiving the revenue from the permits, though, this is mainly an issue of safety. I know that I would not feel safe if my neighbors were to use unlicensed contractors to perform, for example, electrical upgrades to their properties. How about an addition on a house that looks structurally unsound? There is a reason that we have standards in place—they are for the safety and well-being of all—but if there is no one on patrol when this illegal work is being done, we are all compromised.

Safe Homes Initiative--for Our Safety

Last spring, when the Connolly Properties apartment scandal erupted, Councilman Mapp wrote a blog post on an ordinance that came before the governing body when he was council president in 2004. The ordinance is MC 2004-32, REGISTRATION AND INSPECTION OF RESIDENTIAL RENTAL PROPERTIES, Chapter 6, Article 7 of the City’s Building Code (Rev. 7/05). Late Mayor Al McWilliams called the ordinance the “Safe Homes Initiative,” and I remember clearly how this came about.

There had been a fire in Plainfield, I believe on East Sixth Street, and a couple of families were displaced. As the details emerged, it turned out that there had been an illegal basement apartment, faulty wiring, and other substandard conditions at the location. Al visited the location, and I remember him being a bit shaken by what he saw. Although there were no fatalities, he said that, given the conditions, it would only be a matter of time before a fatal conflagration occurred. He immediately set to work to develop a plan to ensure residents' safety--that is how the Safe Homes Initiative became a reality.

Adrian, as Council President, got the legislation passed through the council in his final year. It was a good ordinance, and one that put the safety of Plainfield residents before any other considerations. However, at the request of newly-installed Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, this ordinance was repealed by the 2006 City Council, which included Councilman Burney and Councilman Davis. No logical rationale was offered—Councilman Burney said that the ordinance was not working, and his colleague Councilman Davis made no public comment that I am aware of.

How was it that an ordinance that had barely had a chance to work was so quickly repealed as not working? I remember asking Ray Blanco (who was council president) why he and the others so blindly agreed to the rescission, and Ray smiled and said cryptically, "Politics. You'll see." I remember shaking my head after Ray said this, but since he passed away barely two months later, I never had the opportunity to lobby him for its reintroduction and passage.

Well, we have an opportunity now to get this ordinance back on the books for the betterment of Plainfield. I will do what is right, not what is politically expedient. Given the devastating consequences of the Connolly debacle, for which the tenants are still paying, wherein that landlord was given carte blanche by the administration and those councilors to turn his apartment buildings into slum properties, we can now see how the Safe Homes Initiative might have prevented the conditions—raw sewage being poured into the streets, cracked ceilings and roof leaks, no heat—from becoming so awful while the administration and council slept.

We have a moral responsibility to protect all of the people who live in Plainfield, and this ordinance, which is an important one, is critical to the continued safety of all of Plainfield’s residents. If I am elected to the city council, I will work with Councilman Mapp to encourage the other councilors to revisit this critical legislation and get it reinstated. Below, I have posted the most cogent portions of this ordinance, courtesy of Councilman Adrian Mapp, who had the entire ordinance posted on his blog and website—I have also included the link to the entire ordinance, again courtesy of Councilman Mapp:

“The purpose of the initiative was clearly stated:

‘...to ensure that residential rental units as that term is defined in this Article are identified, properly registered with the pertinent unit and building information, inspected, maintained and repaired, with legal occupancy and without overcrowding, in accordance with applicable State and local building, property and health codes, and in conformance with New Jersey statutes and law so as to protect the property as well as the health, safety and welfare of City residents. To this end, the Article shall be liberally construed to assure the provision of decent and safe units of dwelling spaces.’

The section on “Inspections,” Sec. 6:7-8, deals with the steps the City was required to take to ensure habitability and safety. These steps included ANNUAL inspection of all rental units, IN ADDITION to any other inspections required under State law or City ordinances.

The ordinance also called for severe penalties for violation of the law. Sec. 6:7-17 of the ordinance outlines the penalties for violations:

a) Any person who violates the registration requirements of this Article shall be subject to a fine of nor more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) for each offense, recoverable by summary proceeding as set forth in N.J.S.A. 46:8-35.

b) Any person who violates any other provision of this Article shall, upon conviction in the Municipal Court of the City of Plainfield or such other court having a jurisdiction, be liable to a fine not to exceed Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ninety (90) days, or by a period of community service not exceeding ninety (90) days or a combination thereof each day that a violation occurs shall be deemed a separate and distinct violation subject to the penalty provisions of this Article.

c) Any person who is convicted of violating this Article within one (1) year of the date of a previous violation of the same Article and who was fined for the previous violations, shall be sentenced by a Court to an additional fine as a repeat offender. The additional fine imposed by the Court upon a person for a repeated offense shall not be less than the maximum or exceed the maximum fine fixed for a violation of the Article, but shall be calculated separately from the fine imposed for the violation of the Article.

The Safe Homes Initiative is posted on Adrian’s website: Adrian Mapp, 3rd Ward Councilman, City of Plainfield

Click on the Plainfield Municipal Code link on the left navigation bar to read the ordinance in its entirety.

All best,

Rebecca

Endorsed by Councilors 
Cory Storch (Ward 2) and Adrian Mapp (Ward 3)

Rebecca Williams, City Council Candidate
New Democrats for Plainfield

Dedicated-Determined-Decisive
 
DEMOCRAT

Column D
Vote Tuesday, June 8



Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Letter from Dorothy Henry, Today's Guest Blogger


Mrs. Dorothy Henry, retired principal of Woodland Elementary School, also serves as 2-7 Committeewoman of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee. As an active, healthy senior with a daily walking regimen, she won her committee race as an "off the line" New Democrat for Plainfield candidate.  

Dear Plainfield Neighbor,

I have been an active member of the Plainfield community for over 60 years, as an educator and as a longtime community activist. Today, I am proud to endorse Democrat Rebecca Williams for the 2nd and 3rd Ward At-large seat on the Plainfield City Council.

I have known Rebecca for many years, and many of you do, too. As a college professor, she taught American Literature and African American culture, politics, and literary thought at the Plainfield Senior Citizens Center, a vibrant, exciting course that was the most popular one among all the Union County College L.I.F.E. programs at the time.

I also served with Rebecca for several years on the Plainfield Adult School Advisory Board and on the Plainfield Cultural and Heritage Commission--her volunteer service was outstanding. 

Through her many volunteer activities, Rebecca has shown that she is dedicated to Plainfield--in addition, her commitment to improving the quality of your life as a senior citizen speaks for itself. This is why I am serving as one of her Campaign Chairs this year, along with Mr. Donald Van Blake and Dr. Inez P. Durham. 

I feel that Rebecca best represents the hope and promise of her generation--she is highly educated, personable, and passionate about our city. Her work in getting young people to vote, her teaching, and her volunteer service to Plainfield have made her a wonderful role model for our children and granchildren. Her intellect, independence, and analytical mind are greatly needed on the Plainfield City Council during this critical time.

But more than that, I want you to know that I support Rebecca because her vision includes ways to serve and assist the seniors here in Plainfield. Here's a question for you: Are you better off today than you were 4 years ago?

We, as seniors, are hurting. Rebecca is dedicated to making sure that every senior who qualifies is aware of the programs available to help freeze property tax rates for senior citizens, even as she works to stabilize our taxes.

We, as seniors, are concerned about our rising PMUA rates. Rebecca is determined to gain support for her PMUA proposal for once a week pickups to reduce your PMUA service bill and to make the PMUA Commission a voluntary one.

We, as seniors, now live active and healthy lives--we walk, play golf and tennis, and spend time with our energetic grandchildren. Rebecca's plan to upgrade Cedar Brook Park for more recreational use by seniors will promote active and healthy senior lifestyles.


Rebecca is decisive in her ability to make a reality of a proposal she has developed with Donald Van Blake to build a Civic Sports and Educational Complex here in Plainfield using President Obama's federal stimulus dollars at no cost to us.


Rebecca is certainly dedicated, determined, and decisive--she fulfills the promise of the civil rights generation that came before her--the "dream" of Dr. King, and now the "hope" also represented by Barack Obama's election to the highest office in the land. 


Rebecca is the best hope we have right now for Plainfield. I hope you will join me and the rest of our community in voting for her on Tuesday, June 8th to be elected as our New Democratic councilwoman.
Yours truly,

Mrs. Dorothy Henry     

Rebecca! Endorsed by Councilors 
Cory Storch (Ward 2) and Adrian Mapp (Ward 3)

Rebecca Williams, City Council Candidate
New Democrats for Plainfield

Dedicated-Determined-Decisive
 
DEMOCRAT

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Vote Tuesday, June 8

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Thoughts on the PMUA


Certainly, the PMUA has had a number of issues in recent years that have contributed to our rising taxes. We are all familiar with the overspending on trips that seemed only tangentially related (at best!) to PMUA business and operations, such as the infamous NFBPA junket of 2009. I applaud the citizen group led by Philip Charles and others which led the PMUA to revise some of the more egregious charges we were paying and to demand more accountability, openness, and transparency from the authority in terms of how it conducts business. That is true grassroots activism, and it shows the power of the people.
There is much more to be done, however—because we are still paying rates that are much higher than those of surrounding communities. We are paying too much! In my opinion, the role of a utility authority (much like the role of municipal government) is to deliver services on a professional and cost-efficient basis, keeping in mind that they work for the citizens who pay their salaries.
I have some proposals that I think should be studied to see whether they might provide some relief to the taxpayers.


1) MY VISION calls for a Volunteer PMUA Commission—NO stipends, NO medical benefits!
My proposal is for the PMUA Commissioners to serve on a volunteer basis, with NO compensation—meaning $0 stipend and NO medical benefits! When I served on the Plainfield Cultural and Heritage Commission, my fellow commissioners and I received no compensation at all—and that is how it should be. The number of hours that my colleagues and I worked producing events to promote Plainfield’s cultural life far outnumbered the hours that PMUA Commissioners serve—I simply can’t imagine receiving compensation for serving as a Commissioner. Active, community-oriented volunteers often do a better job, as they are not tempted by personal enrichment. Making the commissioners serve as non-compensated volunteers would be one way of ensuring that these seats are not given to anyone except those who truly want to serve the city and work toward saving us all money. 

Further, any projected travel expenses of a commissioner should be reviewed and approved prior to the trip being taken. When I go to academic conferences, I must provide a rationale for reimbursement of travel and registration expenses to my superiors. A questionnaire should be standard operating procedure for any expenses by PMUA Commissioners—for example: What is the purpose of the trip? What specific expertise are you there to provide/or to receive? How is this trip directly related to the mission of the PMUA? I think that this method of direct accountability would go a long way toward cutting some of the frivolous junkets that authorities seem to be so fond of.


2) MY VISION is to allow citizens to immediately opt for once a week sanitation pickup.
I have thought about this for a number of years. My huge black waste disposal can barely gets filled up once a week, except when I am spring cleaning, or doing a bit of extra entertaining. The same goes for most of my neighbors. As I have been out canvassing across the rest of the city, I have been querying residents about whether they would opt for a single weekly pickup if it were offered. Most said they would welcome the option as a way to reduce their bill.
I propose that we study the sticker method that has been adopted by a number of municipalities across the state and nation. For example, we could use a purple sticker to designate those households that have opted for twice a week pickup, and an orange sticker for once a week pickup. The trucks would see these stickers as they head down the street and would probably be able to get through their respective runs more quickly. This would really ease the burden on our overtaxed residents, including especially small families, those who live alone, and our senior citizens, many of whom don’t need to put out garbage more than once per week.
By adopting a plan like this, the PMUA could also more aggressively encourage stronger recycling and composting efforts by the residents of Plainfield. I think that this would be a model way of being able to streamline and provide good service in a way that truly considers the needs of our overtaxed residents. That would enable the PMUA to expend more efforts on the cleanup of downtown and the maintenance of the larger areas which are within its purview. It would also enable them to market and provide services to other municipalities without having to increase the workforce.

3) My VISION is to examine whether it would be beneficial to reabsorb the PMUA back into the city.
In his run for mayor last year, Third Ward Councilor Adrian Mapp proposed that reabsorbing the PMUA could result in cost savings of up to $2 million annually. Adrian and I have discussed this issue a number of times over the past year, and I give full credit to him for all the effort he has put into analyzing this idea. His proposal to bring the PMUA back under the umbrella of the city would enable us to write off a portion of the sanitation services on our federal taxes. This issue, which affects every single resident—homeowners and renters alike—it is far too important to remain silent on. And front-line workers would be protected while some of the wasteful upper management could be eliminated.
 A recent article in the Star-Ledger (dated April 13, 2010) detailed how East Brunswick, by eliminating its sewer authority, has projected a $500,000 cost savings in the first year alone. In looking at Councilman Mapp’s calculations, it is certainly within the realm of possibility to see Plainfield saving the $2 million. This should be studied. Here is the link to the article, which I encourage you to read:

4) MY VISION is to see the PMUA shrink in size at the administrative level.
We must cut administrative waste. As you know from reading the paper, it is easy for many of these utility authorities (such as the notorious Passaic Valley Sewerage Authority) to become “patronage pits” for favored political friends and campaign contributors. It would be better for Plainfield as a community to have stricter council oversight of the PMUA before the governor steps in, as he did upstate. In addition, lawyers, engineers, and other entities benefit from contracts that are doled out in ways other than through true competitive bidding, and we all pay, as part of the so-called “corruption tax” that we pay here in New Jersey--estimates are that the New Jerseyans pay approximately 15% more for everything because of pay-to-play!

5) MY VISION is to see the PMUA aggressively market its services to other municipalities.
The PMUA exists for now, and while we consider its future, we must also consider the here and now--the authority could be more aggressive in marketing its services to other municipalities. Rather than sending all the upper-level executives and paid commissioners on junkets at high taxpayer cost, as has been standard operating procedure in the past, money would be better spent inviting an independent marketing consultant with specific expertise in marketing this kind of authority to work towards marketing the PMUA’s waste disposal, recycling, etc. I specifically mean a consultant with a proven track record whose contract would specify exactly what he or she would be accountable for, with goals, timelines, action plans, etc.--ineffectiveness would mean non-renewal of the contract. 

Additional Thoughts--Citizens Committee
So, those are a few of the proposals that I have been thinking about with regard to the PMUA. I think we must begin thinking aggressively and seriously about doing something. The rates we pay CAN BE STABILIZED with serious cost-cutting and no loss of service. As a member of the Council, I would look to appoint a citizens committee to help us work toward a solution. I would encourage some of the individuals who have done so much over the past year or more on behalf of the residents to be a part of that committee—and it would be an active committee, NOT one for “show.” These grassroots activists have demonstrated their commitment to making our PMUA more responsive to residents’ needs—they deserve a seat at the table.
Finally, it is clear that we need sanitation services in the city, and the PMUA workforce that picks up on my block does a great job—they are friendly and courteous—they are our neighbors, too. I think that there are ways to ensure that we get the best for the prices we pay, and I hope that some of these proposals will help promote more dialogue.
I will close with the words of the PMUA from its website—this should be at the forefront of any and all discussions about this entity:
PMUA Mission Statement:
"To safeguard our public health...
Enrich our environmental quality of life...
Regulate, promote and encourage responsible actions for a cleaner, litter free city...
Invest in improving our infrastructure...
By providing and managing environmentally friendly, comprehensive, and cost-effective collection, transport, recycling, treatment and disposal services for municipal solid waste materials and sanitary sewers."

All best,
Rebecca 
Endorsed by Councilors 
Cory Storch (Ward 2) and Adrian Mapp (Ward 3)

Rebecca Williams, City Council Candidate
New Democrats for Plainfield

Dedicated-Determined-Decisive
 
DEMOCRAT

Column D
Vote Tuesday, June 8