The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

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

Column D
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


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Economic Development: More Info on the Teacher's Village

Dear Friends, 

I just wanted to provide you with this additional link to an article from the New York Times on the "Teacher's Village" development that I discussed in my previous blog post.


My next post will focus on the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, in which I will offer some of the ideas I have been working on and discussing with folks as I am out canvassing. Look for it tomorrow!

And again, Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers in Plainfield!

All best,

Rebecca

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Vision for Economic and Residential Development: Part One


Dear Friends,
Today, I wanted to talk about some of my ideas for economic development in Plainfield, both residential and commercial. That term, "economic development," gets tossed around quite a bit—it’s become a cliché to hear candidates use it as part of their campaign rhetoric. I am aware of that, but I want to move beyond rhetoric and into the realm of the possible. 
I will provide you with my ideas on how Plainfield can benefit from my vision of how a pro-active council member can work to aggressively court businesses to relocate here, as well as to build the kind of quality residential development that will serve as a “magnet” to attract new residents.
I attended the recent visioning charette that Councilman Cory Storch began proposing back in April of 2009 and that the other councilors and the administration have since signed onto.  It was wonderful to see what we, as a Plainfield community, are envisioning for our collective future. While it is a good first move, I have a vision, too—and some of it can be realized NOW, in the present.
Commercial Development
First of all, development must include attracting new businesses. Part of stabilizing our property taxes is dependent on actively recruiting new businesses--retail, professional, commercial, and light-industrial--in order to broaden our tax base. According to the statistics, in the 1960s, non-residential taxpayers in Plainfield accounted for about one third of the tax receipts—in this decade, that share has fallen to about 17%. There is no way that residents can see any kind of tax stabilization without real improvement on this score.
There has been no strong effort to bring in businesses to see what we have to offer, which is disheartening, because we have several advantages over other municipalities. We have many available properties here in Plainfield, especially in the Fourth Ward, and along our Rte. 28 industrial corridor there and in the other parts of town. In addition, we can thank the late Al McWilliams for making sure that the North Avenue corridor was rebuilt fiber-optic ready, as we are already ahead of scores of other municipalities in this regard.
Equally important, however, is the fact that our city is uniquely situated next to Route 22 and I-78.  For instance, if you have ever been to Newark (where I teach at Essex County College), you know what it’s like for trucks and other vehicles to make deliveries and pickups in the heart of the downtown of the city, with its congested and narrow streets. Simply getting to the turnpike or the interstate can take as much as 30-40 minutes. 
These businesses wouldn’t have that kind of problem if they were to move to Plainfield. We are in a truly advantageous position, but we must actively court these businesses. Therefore, I propose that the administration do a complete inventory of what is available, in terms of properties, so that the Economic Development team can work on creating a really aggressive marketing plan to bring these businesses here.
There is no reason that the city council cannot work aggressively, hand in hand with the administration, to go after businesses that will relocate and stay. And I am not talking about just retail businesses, I am talking about businesses that can occupy some of our industrial corridor along North Avenue in the Second and Third Wards, as well as the Rte 28 areas in the Fourth Ward, where we have a number of vacant and underutilized properties available for the right businesses to come in. We can incentivize these and make them attractive, given the easy access to the highways.
Under the McWilliams administration, there was a marketing plan that focused on home-related businesses, like New Jersey Hardwoods on West Front Street, like Appliance-Arama on Second Street, like the upscale rugs and carpeting stores that buyers from all over the surrounding areas go to. That marketing plan was abandoned, and my opponent has sat on the council for nearly six years and has done nothing to bring new businesses here, or to petition the administration to create a strong marketing plan. 
I will work with the administration’s economic development team and the council to get these businesses to come here; I will go down to the League of Municipalities on my own dime and meet with business owners and get them to come here. This kind of active role is what will bring good, well-paying, and long-lasting jobs to Plainfield and that will ease the property tax burden and improve ratables. That is what we need.
In economic hard times like we are experiencing now (officially, the unemployment rate in Plainfield is 15.1%, but likely exceeds that greatly), the City Council must look for ways to develop or expand sources of revenues other than property taxes. Whether it is reassessing things such as parking meter charges, updating fees for services and licenses, or finding new sources of revenue such as licensing fees for cell towers and communications relay installations, property owners have a right to expect their representatives to work tirelessly for tax stabilization.
When I ran the successful citywide council campaign of my friend, the late Ray Blanco, we spoke often of the need for true activists on the council to make Plainfield a destination spot for light industry. Ray (who was a great marketer!) and I talked about how to market our city and how to make it easier for businesses to want to come here. Ray himself talked about the improvements in Rahway, where his production company and gallery were located—the business climate made it an attractive place to be. Ray was much like me—he couldn’t sit back and watch the city he loved remain stagnant while all the other towns around us were on the move. Al McWilliams was the same way. So, we have got to get commercial development to come and stay, and that would be a main focus for me as a council member.
Residential Development and the “Teacher’s Village”
Another idea I have is to really focus on the kind of residential development that will be long-lasting and sustainable. For a while now, I have been following the development that is occurring in Newark and other parts of Essex County, and I have been talking to officials there about it.  
Right now, Newark has a developer who is working on creating a “Teacher’s Village” in the University Heights area, where I teach at Essex County College. Also nearby are Rutgers and NJIT. This village envisions teachers and other middle-class professionals moving into the area where they work, with the amenities to keep them there. This project is underway and is scheduled for completion in 2012—just two years from now. This is the kind of aggressive, well-thought out and targeted residential development that I feel will help Plainfield. Several articles on this have appeared in the newspaper of late—I have provided the link to the most recent one of Tuesday, May 4, here: Newark Developer's $120M 'Teacher's Village' Education Complex Approved.
 This is exactly the type of residential profile that Plainfield needs—marketing to educators and other professional people—and the Transit-Oriented Development that we have been talking about for a few years now would be perfect for this type of residential profile. The Trans Hudson Express Tunnel will finally bring us that "one-seat ride" on the Raritan Valley Line—we have to be ready for it, and I will work with all parties, whether here in Plainfield and Union County, but also through my contacts and relationships in Newark and Essex County, to make sure that we, as Plainfielders, can move into the invincible future together.
In my next post, I will write about other parts of my vision for the future of Plainfield, which I have been discussing with residents as I canvass the neighborhoods in the Second and Third Wards. I will outline my specific proposals for making Plainfield a destination city for the arts—we can make it happen!
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



Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Conduct Unbecoming: My Response to Personal Attacks


Rebecca with Democratic Committeewoman (2-7) Dorothy Henry, Campaign Chair on Senior Issues
Given the number of phone calls and emails that I have received since yesterday from residents and supporters regarding Rashid Burney’s baseless, unwarranted, and unprovoked attacks on me and my character, I feel I must respond. My focus afterward, however, will be on my campaign and bringing ethical leadership to that council seat.
Many who called found his smears, in addition to being disingenuous, disheartening, defensive, and dishonest. I agree: they are nothing but “smoke and mirrors” to deflect criticism of his own ineffectiveness over the past four years over such serious issues as the Monarch project, the $287,000 Senior Center debacle, the Muhlenberg hospital closing, his inability to do anything about our taxes, and so on.
Rather than pushing constructive proposals of his own (perhaps there are none?), he would rather run around spreading untruths about me, the underdog. For an incumbent to attack a newcomer who has no party support shows serious weakness and lack of character. 
I told Mr. Burney after the committee meeting, where he was given the party line without a democratic vote by the duly-elected local Democrats, that I would run a clean campaign: I would dissect and discuss the shortcomings of his record as a councilman, which was fair, but I would not engage in personal attacks, and I have not. I said the same thing to former Councilman Don, and he has respected that mutual agreement. My position is clear if one reads my blog posts. I said nothing about Rashid's character—just his record. Voters will make inferences on the quality of character of each candidate as we move forward.
Instead of attacking me—the grassroots underdog—Rashid should focus on defending his own record. In addition, he has another opponent, a former councilman who is also running a vigorous campaign and who has a record that should be scrutinized closely. But, instead, Rashid is running all over town, contacting the same “New Democrats” he criticizes behind our backs to try to enlist their support for his campaign. He is also trying to question the support I am receiving from Councilman Cory Storch with a whisper campaign. I am not doing that—I am out walking the neighborhoods of this city’s Second and Third Wards, working hard to show that I will bring a new voice and vision to the council table.
In terms of the party line, I asked the assemblyman, who is currently the municipal chairman, to endorse me—there is no secret about that. Everyone knows that I did so, as I made sure that everyone, including committee people, my neighbors, and all my supporters, understood that I thought I deserved the chairman’s support. I told our chairman that if he wanted to have a good councilperson, one who has shown the ability to work hard and actively put the rubber to the road to advance Plainfield, and who actually can bring constructive proposals to the city, I was the better candidate and that I would like his endorsement. The municipal chair’s endorsement can be helpful in convincing some of the 68 duly-elected committee people that their vote should go to a particular candidate. I would have been foolish not to ask the chairman for his support—all candidates do so.
Councilman Adrian Mapp advocated on my behalf as well—there was no “carrot” to earn “cooperation” from either one of us. Rashid simply made that up. 

I am a part of the elected Democratic leadership of the local party as Second Ward Leader for the Plainfield Democratic City Committee. The New Democrat club members are Democrats, many have been committee members for several years, and we work with the party on a regular basis.
I reminded the chairman of last year’s mayoral election, when Rashid was running for the city committee on the Assemblyman’s and Mayor Robinson-Briggs’s ticket, and yet did not come out of his home to campaign on their behalf—Rashid didn’t even put the mayor’s or the assemblyman’s signs up! I reminded the assemblyman that, unlike Rashid Burney, I actively support the candidates I am running with, and I stand with them. I asked the assemblyman to consider that when endorsing. I ran for a committee seat so that I could have a voice in Democratic politics here in Plainfield and at the county level. I am not the kind to hide in my mansion, as Rashid did throughout the entire primary campaign season.
As an off-the-line underdog, I fought for my committee seat, beating my opponent by a more than 3 to 1 margin, and I did it by walking and talking to every Democrat in my district. Assemblyman Green stuck to his promise to Rashid, saying that Rashid was his candidate. I respected that, and the assemblyman will attest to the fact that I accepted that his endorsement would go to Rashid. The assemblyman and I parted genially, and he complimented me once again on my unmatched work ethic on behalf of my beliefs.
Now, I would have liked to have had some support from the assemblyman because he has some influence over the committee, and his support would have been helpful in my earning some additional committee votes at the committee meeting where the line was to have been voted on. I openly asked for support from the voting members at the committee meeting when the chairman gave me the opportunity to speak on my own behalf, so there is no secret about that, either. However, I thought that after each candidate spoke, there would be a vote.
But there was no vote.  And that is what Rashid Burney did not address in his post attacking me. He was given the line without a vote or even a recommendation by the duly-elected 68-member Democratic committee. As elected committee people, part of our responsibility is to help select the candidates to run on the line. The questions that came forth immediately afterward, through email, phone calls, and at gatherings were, "Why was there even a committee meeting if Rashid was automatically getting the line?" "Why were you allowed to even speak, if nothing you said would even be taken into consideration?" "What exactly, is the committee elected to do?" Many of those in attendance were shocked by the fact that there was not even a vote, and felt that they were disenfranchised.
Many Plainfield residents, including the elected committee Democrats who couldn’t make it to the meeting, contacted me and emailed me afterward to ask how the voting went, and I had to tell them that there was no vote. That is past now, and I am going to focus on running the best campaign to bring REAL CHANGE to Plainfield.
So, there you have it. I hope that Rashid will stop with the petty negative attacks on me, and will end the negativity, defensiveness, and especially the smears, because they truly are unseemly.
I am campaigning for this council seat with the active support and endorsement of two RDO Democrats, Second Ward Councilman Cory Storch and Third Ward Councilman Adrian Mapp, and I will focus on what is important in this election--the PEOPLE OF PLAINFIELD.
For myself, I am committed to running my grassroots campaign to win the confidence and support of ALL the residents of the Second and Third Wards. I will offer my proposals for a stronger and effective city council, and will work to bring positive change to our city.
All best,
Rebecca
Endorsed by 
Councilors Cory Storch (Ward 2) and Adrian Mapp (Ward 3)

Rebecca Williams, City Council Candidate
New Democrats for Plainfield

 Column D
Dedicated-Determined-Decisive
DEMOCRAT!
Vote Tuesday, June 8



Saturday, May 1, 2010

Proud to be a Democrat in Plainfield!


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


As your Democratic candidate for the Second and Third Ward At-large, I am honored to be endorsed  as the candidate of choice of Second Ward Councilman Cory Storch and Third Ward Councilman Adrian Mapp to serve with them on the Plainfield city council. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am a duly-elected member of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee (PDCC), having won my committee seat by a more than 3 to 1 margin over my opponent. After that, I was unanimously elected by my fellow Ward 2 committee colleagues to serve as Ward 2 Democratic Leader. As Ward 2 Democratic Leader, I am also a member of the Executive Committee of the PDCC.

I have been working with my fellow Democrats here in Plainfield for a number of years and, as a Democratic Party Ward Leader, I continue to canvass all the neighborhoods in Plainfield on a regular basis to make sure that I am on top of the issues that most concern you.

Cory, Adrian, and I will be walking in your neighborhoods every day over the coming weeks, along with our other volunteers. I am proud of my record as a life-long Democratic activist, and also as a member of the New Democrats for Plainfield grassroots political club. I look forward to your support in electing me as your representative for the 2nd and 3rd Ward At-large city council!

All best, Rebecca

Thank you, Adrian and Cory--part of the team for the future of Plainfield!

Rebecca Williams, City Council Candidate
New Democrats for Plainfield


Column D
Dedicated-Determined-Decisive
DEMOCRAT
Vote Tuesday, June 8