The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Post-Hurricane Advisories Continuing

Dear residents,

I am hopeful that power will be returned to all areas of Plainfield within the next few days. I have met with some residents and surveyed some neighborhoods over the past few days to report on conditions (while, at the same time, trying to stay out of the way of DPW and the utility authorities!) and to take notes for the city's post-hurricane discussion. My neighborhood lost power on Sunday but, thankfully, it has been restored. Also, as Council President McWilliams has noted on her blog, the Plainfield Public Library is open and has power and Internet service. See her post here:  Plainfield Public Library Open!

A few days ago, I posted information on what the state of emergency could mean for Plainfield, in terms of getting funds from the state for "extraordinary storm-related expenses" that our city has incurred due to the storm. 
In the meantime, I want to make sure that as many people as possible are aware of the continuing alerts regarding power and water. Here are the alerts we were sent (courtesy the Clerk's Office):


New Jersey American Water Issues Boil Water Advisory in Parts of Essex & Union Counties
New Jersey American Water today issued a boil water advisory for customers in the following communities: West Orange, Short Hills, Millburn, Maplewood, Irvington, Springfield, Summit.
Due to flooding related to the impact of Hurricane Irene, our Canoe Brook Water Treatment Plant in Millburn has been inundated.
For updated information, customers can visit Jersey American Water’s website at , under the Alerts Notifications section.
Please note that this is a standard procedure whenever a treatment failure occurs which may compromise the quality of your drinking water.  New Jersey American Water will provide information as to when the advisory is lifted. 
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection requires us to issue the following advisory:
The Department of Environmental Protection has determined that a potential or actual threat to the quality of water being provided to you currently exists. Therefore until further notice, bring tap water to a rolling boil for one minute and allow to cool before using for consumption; drinking, ice cubes, washing vegetables and fruit, and for brushing teeth. Please continue to boil your water until you are notified that the water quality is acceptable.
New Jersey American Water also recommends the following steps:
  • Throw away uncooked food or beverages or ice cubes if made with tap water during the day of the advisory;
  • Keep boiled water in the refrigerator for drinking;
  • Rinse hand-washed dishes for a minute in diluted bleach (one tablespoon of household bleach per gallon of tap water) or clean your dishes in a dishwasher using the hot wash cycle and dry cycle. 
  • Do not swallow water while you are showering or bathing;
  • Provide pets with boiled water after cooling;
  • Do not use home filtering devices in place of boiling or using bottled water; most home water filters will not provide adequate protection from microorganisms;
  • Use only boiled water to treat minor injuries.
Please be advised that the company is doing all it can to make sure water is of the highest quality. New Jersey American Water Company will notify customers as soon as the advisory is lifted. If customers have any questions they may call 1-800-652-6987.


  • Emergencies
Downed power lines, gas leaks and other urgent, safety related requests.

Available 24 hours / 7days. 800-436-PSEG (7734)
  • Power Outages
To report an outage or check on the status of restoration.

Available 24 hours / 7days.  

800-436-PSEG (7734)  -or- 800-350-PSEG (7734)

  • Streetlight Outages 
  • Report a broken streetlight online or by phone. 800-436-PSEG (7734)

All best,


Thursday, August 25, 2011

UPDATE: Hurricane Irene: State of Emergency in New Jersey

Nasa photo of Hurricane Irene, August 24, 2011 at 2:15 pm
UPDATE, 8/26/11 3:00 PM): I was told that the designated city shelters are Washington Community School (427 Darrow Ave), Emerson Community School (305 Emerson Ave), and the Plainfield Senior Citizens Center (400 E. Front St). More information about the storm is supposed to be on the city's website.

Dear residents,

As you probably already know, Governor Christie has declared a state of emergency for New Jersey. Please stayed tuned to your local news channel for alerts--check the city's web site as well for information on emergency management planning--where to go, what to do, etc., in the event of a disaster. It is devoutly to be wished that we are spared the worst of the storm, but preparation is important.

Bill Dressel, Executive Director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, sent information about the declaration to elected officials all across the state. Here are the pertinent parts of the email--since we are prone to extensive flooding here in Plainfield, I have put some information in bold red.

In addition, ED Dressel notes:

"According to the most recent tracking, the storm could make landfall over the State, specifically Cape May and Atlantic counties, on Saturday. Further, storm surges could lead to extensive flooding in parts of the State. The State's climatologist indicates that Irene could be the most catastrophic storm to hit the State on record. The Governor's action allows for the possible deployment of the National Guard.  The Governor is urging for a voluntary evacuation of coastal areas and indicated he was considering a mandatory evacuation for parts of the Jersey Shore. The State Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness is urging residents to stock up on supplies now, such as bottled water and canned goods and keep first-aid kits, batteries and flashlights on hand.   

Information on hurricane preparation is available at  
More information is available at    
Those of you who use twitter can also follow the New Jersey State Police at:   
The League will also provide updates on its twitter feed at 

Mayors across the state were also invited to participate in a conference call with Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. According to Dressel, "The purpose of this call will be to provide an update on the latest track of Hurricane Irene as well as DHS and FEMA's current posture and preparations going forward." I look forward to hearing from the mayor about this conference call.

In addition, Bill Dressel notes that municipalities that are severely affected by the hurricane can be helped:   

"Finally, be aware that the Governor's Declaration of a State of Emergency provides a cap exception for any extraordinary costs associated with the weather. We have reached out to the Division of Local Government Services for additional guidance on this, and other, consequences of the storm and the Governor's declaration. We will share any additional information that we receive with you. In the meantime, you might want to carefully account for any extraordinary storm-related expenses that you incur, including storm preparation, response and recovery, while the State of Emergency remains in effect."

This means that Plainfield could, potentially, receive aid in the case of extraordinary expenses incurred.

I hope this is helpful--please stock up, stay informed, and stay safe.

All best,


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Earthquakes and Emergency Management Coordination in Plainfield

August 23, 2011 earthquake
The earthquake that many of us in Plainfield felt on Tuesday shortly before 2:00 pm served as a reminder that no one is immune from natural disasters (or terrorist attacks, for that matter). 

As a member of the city council's Public Safety Committee (chaired by Councilwoman Bridget Rivers), I will be asking the administration to share the emergency management plan for our city. When I worked as the Station Director for PCTV several years ago, the last project I worked on was coordinating the emergency response via the public access channel. I was terminated by the mayor before this project was completed, so the assumption I have is that someone else completed it. 

It is important for residents to know what to do in the event of an emergency, so I will post the administration's guidelines for public safety when they are sent to me. Ideally, they will also be posted on the city's web site. Where do residents turn for news?
How does Muhlenberg RMC figure into it? Are there automated robocalls or is reverse 911 set up to deal with calls? Where are the emergency shelters located? 

I will update when I receive the plan, and I will share it with everyone.

All best,


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Restore Muhlenberg RMC: "Ain't Gonna Mourn"

On Saturday, August 13, several dozen Plainfield-area residents attended the 3rd Annual Commemoration of the closing of Muhlenberg RMC, organized by the People's Organization for Progress/Restore Muhlenberg Coalition. Below is a remembrance that I think captures the flavor of the event. We need to restore our hospital, but we also need the help of more folks from the surrounding towns, and we need to put pressure on our elected officials at the state and county level. We are all affected--remember, Muhlenberg is a REGIONAL facility. Thanks to IVPM for producing this video, "Ain't Gonna Mourn" (written and sung by Bennet Zurofsky, accompanied by Diane Beeny).

All best,


Monday, August 15, 2011

Honoring Donald Van Blake on His 90th Birthday

 At tonight's city council meeting, I will be reading a resolution honoring Donald Van Blake on the occasion of his 90th birthday and for his contributions to the world of tennis, but also for his contributions to civic life in Plainfield. Many Plainfielders who went through the school system know Donald as their former shop teacher at Hubbard Middle School, but many also know him as one of Plainfield's living legends. 
I had met Donald very briefly during the formation of the New Democrats for Plainfield grassroots political club about ten years ago, but got to know him better when I curated an oral history/photo exhibit called "At the March: Plainfield Remembers," while serving as the Educational Program Coordinator for the Historical Society of Plainfield. As I interviewed Donald, I learned a great deal about what Plainfield was like for young African Americans growing up in the 1920s and 30s, and about those who consistently advocated for change. Several years after that exhibit, Donald contacted me with an idea he had for a civic, sports, and educational complex to be built here in Plainfield. We discussed this idea at great length, and he is committed to seeing it become a reality. I feel like my life in Plainfield has become infinitely richer through knowing Donald, and I hope you will join with me in wishing him a happy 90th birthday!


Introduced by Councilwoman Rebecca L. Williams:

WHEREAS, Donald Van Blake, lifelong resident of the City of Plainfield, born in Muhlenberg Hospital on August 9, 1921, continues to educate Plainfield children and adults about the importance of tennis; and  

WHEREAS, Donald Van Blake was present and served an active participant in some of  the most important social justice and civil rights activities of the 20th century, among them advocating for an end to segregation in Plainfield and organizing Plainfield buses for the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; and

WHEREAS, Donald Van Blake remains actively involved in the civic and political life of Plainfield, now serving his fifth term as a member of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee; and

WHEREAS; Donald Van Blake, a distinguished member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., is known throughout the world of tennis as Plainfield’s “Ambassador of Tennis,” and is equally known for his slogan, “Tennis, Tennis, Tennis…Tennis everyone”; and

WHEREAS, in 1983, Donald Van Blake, with the help of the United States Tennis Association, founded the Plainfield Tennis Council which organized community tennis programs throughout the City of Plainfield; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that on this day, the Governing Body of the City of Plainfield extends its sincere congratulations to Donald Van Blake on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Governing Body offers its continued appreciation to Donald Van Blake as he continues to educate, instruct, and inform Plainfield citizens about tennis specifically, sports in general, and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Governing Body does hereby inscribe upon its permanent records evidence of an unforgettably great citizen.

This 15th Day of August 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

ShotSpotter: Up for a Vote at the Monday, August 15 Council Meeting

Dear residents,

As you know, I am a member of the city council's Public Safety Committee--we are in regular contact with Director Hellwig so that we are aware of what the administration is doing to keep us all safe.

Below is additional information on ShotSpotter, Inc. The contract is up for a vote at the August 15 business meeting. Below are links to the documents I received.

The first one is the proposal:

The second one is the contract:
ShotSpotter Service and License Agreement

The third one is an efficacy study:

The efficacy study (done by a company called CSG Analysis) is not an independent, longitudinal study, since it was sent to us by ShotSpotter, Inc.

In addition, the city council received some testimonials from agencies and/or police departments that use or have used the ShotSpotter system. All were very favorable, but some had additional recommendations for maximum effectiveness--some having to do with preferences of buying rather than leasing (and vice versa) and with officer training. 

The FBI has successfully used the system in several large cities with high murder rates/shots fired calls--Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New Orleans were mentioned as cities that had crime reductions after ShotSpotter was deployed. The system is currently being used in Buffalo and Miami. 

I hope this information provides more context about this law enforcement tool. If you have questions, please feel free to email me. Again, the city council meeting will take place at 8:00 pm on Monday, August 15 at the municipal courthouse.

All best,


Friday, August 5, 2011

City Hall Rotunda: Gigantic Desk Blocking War Memorial Plaque Should Be REMOVED

Names of war dead blocked by desk and other items.
 At last month's city council agenda session, I made a request to the administration to please have the huge, ugly "greeting" desk in the rotunda removed. I believe I called it a "godawful eyesore," which it is. I have posted photos below of the city hall rotunda. I have received numerous complaints about the desk and all the debris surrounding it. The desk blocks the huge bronze plaque that memorializes Plainfield veterans. Veterans have been among those who have expressed anger at the disrespect shown to their sacrifice. Nothing should EVER block a memorial.
Junk on floor, photos and Lucite directly nailed into plaster walls

The huge desk also looks as if it creates a fire hazard, as it juts out so far as to endanger safe egress in the event of an emergency (there is a table just opposite it, which is also filled with flyers). Outdated flyers and posters, Lucite stands nailed into the walls, a gigantic tacky banner hanging above the lintel, some sooty cloth flowers inexplicably resting on a small round table, and boxes of garbage all conspire to make our city hall look dingy, even seedy. This is not the image of professionalism that should greet visitors to our city. 

Another view
The administration, apparently, insists on keeping the desk there for "greeters" to direct patrons to the various offices. I don't think this is necessary--an updated board with names and office numbers would do just as well. I don't know who does the training for the individuals who sit at the desk, but I would hope that they are professionally dressed and present a demeanor that welcomes visitors--what I have seen (on occasion) in the past are somewhat disinterested individuals dressed in T-shirts and jeans who have been far more engaged with their cell phones (not even bothering to look up when visitors enter) and who have been clueless about how to direct residents. 

Faded, sooty cloth flowers with dingy tablecloth (?)
One thing that could happen is to have the desk removed and respect restored to the war memorial plaque. If the administration insists on there being a desk, perhaps a smaller lectern-style greeting post with a stool would make more sense. And certainly, we don't need to see two greeters sitting around, taking up space.

All best,


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Police Consolidation: Seconding Councilman Mapp's Shared Service Proposal for Countywide Police

About two weeks ago, my colleague from the Third Ward, Councilman Adrian Mapp, put forth (on his blog) a shared services proposal for Union County law enforcement and the municipalities within its borders. The proposal was sent to Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow, and I anxiously await his response to Councilman Mapp. 

Read Adrian's post here: Police Consolidation: A Shared Service Whose Time Has Arrived

I am writing here to second Adrian's proposal, and also to highlight an article in the Wednesday, August 3, 2011 Star-Ledger about the city of Camden signing on with their county as well as the state to do just what Adrian is championing for our own county. The article also notes that Morris County and Somerset County, respectively, are considering shared services as well. Click on the link the Star-Ledger article: Countywide police force proposal gains ground as Camden signs on

We have had nine murders this year alone, 
and many of our residents do not feel safe.  

Public safety is the number one issue that must be addressed in our city. Given the limited amount of money municipalities like Plainfield have to spend on police, it is imperative for us to be able to utilize the county's resources to help us fight crime more effectively. 

We all know that shared services are the way to save money in our state, and public safety takes up the largest chunk of tax dollars in municipalities. I am very supportive of a proposal that will make us safer and that will also save us money. 

All best,