The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Plainfield Mass Communication System (PMCS)

I would urge all residents to sign up for the Plainfield Mass Communication System (PMCS), which will provide alerts to happenings in our city. Registration is easy--click here



This system differs from Nixle (which you should also sign up for) in that it provides detailed information specifically about Plainfield, such as announcements and meetings (such as tomorrow's town hall meeting--see below), in addition to emergencies.



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Got Ethics? Part Deux

 

 
Check out the video posted on David Rutherford's Plainfield View blog--click on link to watch Video: Council Discusses block 247, lots 7 and 9 to Housing Authority) about the ordinance to convey city property to the Housing Authority of Plainfield (HAP). This ordinance is in direct contradiction to the city's economic development plans, our transit-oriented development, as well as the Master Plan. If it goes through, it will enrich a few of the usual suspects--whose ethical conflicts don't seem to matter to some of the councilors. Councilman Reid referenced some “alleged” conversation he had had with HAP Director Randall Wood yesterday about the “conveyance” of these properties which was apparently enough for Reid, Rivers, Greaves, and Taylor to pass the ordinance on 1st reading–even though what Reid alleges Wood told him directly contradicted the letter’s contents (in which Mr. Wood clearly asks the council to withdraw the ordinance, because Wood said it was premature). I think that Mr. Wood has some explaining to do to the housing authority commissioners about his private conversations with elected officials about official business. 
 
The only OFFICIAL communication we received was the letter on HAP stationery–it was also sent to all the HAP commissioners. Startlingly, Reid, Greaves, and Taylor actually had the nerve to say that they had not received the letter sent by Mr. Wood–completely untrue. I produced the email we were ALL sent on Friday, July 11, early in the afternoon–to each councilor’s email–and which was re-sent AGAIN a little while later with a correction of a typo. I also responded to the letter, very briefly–in a “reply all.” I don’t know what to say about my colleagues who clearly do not bother to read official documents, or who say they never receive them, when they clearly did receive them. This failure of basic professional responsibility is due to either neglect or willful obtuseness. 
 
I find the continued efforts to convey this property to Cecil Sanders at the expense of the economic progress of our city unconscionable. That Gloria Taylor continues to try and frame the discussion into a straw man argument about Plainfielders versus non-Plainfielders, as well as her coded racial rhetoric, is deliberately misleading. The ethical conflicts that Mr. Goldstein has referred to are clear--the conflicts of those on the city council as well as those of Mr. Sanders.  The law is CLEAR.
 
David Rutherford also posted another video--this one of the unprofessional behavior of Councilman Reid--click on the link for Embarrassing (video). There is not too much more to say, but this: Councilman Reid’s behavior speaks for itself. He was unprofessional to the point of the council president having to call a recess. When Robert’s Rules of Order was mentioned, he got even angrier.The sad irony is that this embarrassing performance came just moments after Reid spoke about how the council should behave professionally--this was in comments about our new corporation counsel. That he should then put on such a shameful display marks a pretty sad exit for him. 

Rebecca


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A "Discussion" Becomes An "Ordinance!"

I am extremely disappointed in the HAP Director for once again presenting a proposed ordinance to convey very important city-owned parcels in our business district to HAP for 86 units of so-called "luxury" housing (which he said would have some "retail" aspect--he couldn't provide any details on that) when there are better parcels of land for it. This scheme clashes with the economic development agenda for the future of downtown in this city, as well as our Master Plan. If it is the desire of the Housing Authority of Plainfield to develop this project, I would like to hear from the commissioners on it. 

Just seven months ago, developer Cecil Sanders (one of three PMUA commissioners--the others were Malcolm Dunn and Alex Toliver--who voted to give $1.2 million of taxpayer money to executives who resigned, causing furloughs and layoffs) brought his lawyer to the council meeting in a discussion of the ordinance then--Bernice wrote up the exchange on her PlainTalker II blog. Our Corporation Counsel, David Minchello, said the ordinance was not legal:

The final item on the special meeting agenda was conveyance of city-owned land to the Housing Authority, but Corporation Counsel David Minchello deemed the ordinance "not legal" and in need of further review. He said city redevelopment counsel Robert Renaud concurred.

First, he said, the ordinance read "like an attempt to enter into a redevelopment agreement," but it referred to an area not designated for redevelopment. Secondly, terms, such as a price for the turnover, were lacking.

Wendy Monahan, an attorney for developer Cecil Sanders, said the property was being conveyed to the Housing Authority.

"In my legal opinion, there is nothing illegal about this ordinance," she said.

But the council sided with Minchello and voted to table the ordinance.


What has changed? This time, Director Wood decided not to even bother to show the administration the proposed ordinance, or to discuss it with them. Click here for the rest of the post. 

Back then (the final months of 2013), the group consisted of Matrix Real Estate Group, the Plainfield Housing Authority and the Plainfield Community Development Corporation). Here's another passage from one of Bernice's posts on the scheme from October:

"Presenting themselves as West Second Street Association LLC with the tentative name "Cove Apartments," the team said the $23.6 million project will be financed by a combination of low-income housing credits, NJ HOME, NJHMFA and other sources. Once completed, the mortgage will be $6.5 million, Martin said. He predicted the project would have "tremendous economic impact" on the downtown area."
 

Click here for the rest of that post.
 
When I asked Mr. Wood how many commercial projects HAP had done, he admitted that they had never done such a project, but that his "developer" (whomever that is) was a good one. There are other parcels of land that could be used for residential development--why do Mr. Wood and his cohorts want this parcel? Why not develop residential housing in residential areas? Who else has a hand in this? That is the question.  Let me be clear before my words are deliberately mischaracterized by the obstructionists: I believe that these specific parcels of land should be used for COMMERCIAL development--we must bring commercial development to our city to ease the burden on our residents, to create real, sustainable jobs (as opposed to limited short-term construction-type jobs) for our workforce. We need business development in this city--our business district does not need additional residential housing when there are plenty of other parcels for it.

The disrespect shown to the administration by not first sitting with the mayor and/or the economic development director to discuss it is only outweighed by Director Wood bringing the "ordinance" before the council for swift placement on the agenda. Why wouldn't he have called the mayor or the economic development director to discuss this? What was the rush? His rudeness and defensiveness toward Councilman Storch (some viewed both men as rude) for even raising the question about this unusual behavior clearly illustrated the "putting the cart before the horse" aspect of these machinations. Mr. Wood said he didn't want to put the "horse before the cart" (his malapropism of the old saying), and yet he did just that by not talking to the administration first.  

Corporation Counsel HAD NOT EVEN SEEN the "ordinance"--that is unconscionable. I don't buy this "I couldn't schedule a meeting" crap. In the 21st century, we have email and TELEPHONES (which were invented in the 19th century). Why would a "discussion" item automatically morph into an ordinance--which he miraculously produced? I will be looking very closely at the ethics of all the parties involved.


Rebecca


Click on the link for the Code of Ethics: http://www.lpcnj.org/OGTF/LGEL.pdf


N.J.S.A. 40A:9-22.5
Code of ethics for local government officers or employees under jurisdiction of local finance board





Monday, July 7, 2014

Plainfield Summer Cedar Brook Concerts In the Works

As a member of the council's Recreation Committee (Councilwoman Rivers is the other), I was gratified to see such a nice turnout for the weekend's festivities--the parade as well as the annual fireworks display. Some residents asked me about the concert for this year, and I let them know that the Plainfield Concert in Cedar Brook Park will take place on Saturday, September 13. This change has been discussed and I am glad that we can make everyone aware of the new date. A few individuals expressed disappointment that everything was not held on Saturday, July 5, but I reminded them that the city council failed to approve the contract for the vendor, BKS-1 Productions, a Plainfield-based company, at the May council meeting. 

Although the contract was below the bid threshold, the administration brought it before the council for a vote to ensure transparency (just as with the videography contract). In any case, of the 3 required quotes, the vendor that was selected is a Plainfield-based company (as opposed to who "anonymous" and the mayor wanted)and it was absolutely not an "extremely high bid"--again, it was not a "bid"--it was a quote. For items below the bid threshold, the administration is required to get three quotes (not bids), which they did. The members of the council's Recreation Committee were made aware of those three quotes. The administration  chose the company it thought would be best. 

Here's the rub: The May resolution was PASSED UNANIMOUSLY by the council, but then RESCINDED after a previous vendor and the former mayor came and complained that he (the previous vendor) wasn't chosen. Unbelievably, the council then brought the resolution BACK to the table, and then--unbelievably--voted AGAINST it, having enough votes to have it fail. Thus, May ended without a resolution, which meant that the next time a resolution could potentially come before us for passage was June 16--barely 3 weeks before the July 5th date. 

The concert will now take place on Saturday, September 13, and I look forward to it. I am glad that there will be adequate time for planning as well. Also, you will be happy to know that there is a concert being sponsored by the Union County Freeholders in August--also to be held in Cedar Brook Park. That means we will have TWO wonderful concerts this summer! 

All best,

Rebecca


Sunday, July 6, 2014

July Fun in Plainfield


The crowd enjoying the fireworks at Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield--2014

On Saturday, I attended several wonderful events as part of the Independence Day weekend celebration. First, I stopped by city hall to drop my car off before heading over the 91st Annual Central Jersey Independence Day Parade. Under tents erected in the city hall parking lot, I greeted Mayor Mapp, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, other elected officials, some of the other parade participants, and city staff. I also greeted Grand Marshal James E. West, Sr., the famous scientist and inventor. As I noted elsewhere, in my previous career in the media industry, I worked as a sound recordist. I also taught Narrative and Location Recording in NYU's Graduate Film School for several years, and always noted the importance of Dr. West's innovation of the electret microphone--and this was well before I moved to Plainfield. It was great to see a scientist and academic being honored in Plainfield for his contributions to the modern world. Dr. West is truly a role model for our young people.
 
A nice breakfast was donated by Arista Care, after which we headed over to the parade--kicking off at Johnston Avenue and Front Street. The parade started on time and without a hitch. Recreation Superintendent Roni Taylor and her team of Laurel, Darren, Keisha, and a bunch of other marshals--in addition to the Department of Public Works, the Public Safety Division, and the Media Division--all did an outstanding job of  keeping things moving and making sure that everyone was taken care of--teamwork at its best.

Councilman Cory Storch walking with PACHA
Councilman Cory Storch and I walked the parade route (as we do every year), but this year I also had the pleasure of marching with the Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs (I serve as council liaison to this body), and to help publicize its important mission. This year's parade was well-attended, as opposed to last year's--and I predict that next year's parade will be even better, with more time to partner and prepare. The weather was absolutely perfect! The downside of walking in the parade is that one doesn't really get a chance to see the other floats and performers--the bands, drill teams, the horses, etc. I look forward to watching everything on PCTV--to see what I missed. After the parade, we headed back to city hall, where refreshments were served to all the young people from the bands and drill teams--including Plainfield, Camden, Hillside, etc. The Camden High School Marching Band also performed a routine in the parking lot--wonderful show. David Rutherford has some great parade photos at his Plainfield View bog--click here. 

After leaving city hall, I headed over to Hub Stine Field to watch some of the Annual Plainfield Tsunami Invitational Track Meet. While there, I joined Mayor Adrian Mapp and First Lady Amelia Mapp in cheering on all the young people--there were hundreds of future track stars--who came out to participate. Coach Kevin Turner and his crew have done great work with the youngsters! 

Awesome fireworks display at Cedar Brook Park
Finally, I headed over to Cedar Brook Park to watch the fireworks--my favorite part of the weekend. I always enjoy fireworks--the evening was cool and clear, for a change--not humid! A huge number of Plainfielders turned out to see the fireworks and enjoy ice cream, funnel cake, and sausages. The fireworks display was great--I could hear the squeals of delight from the children--and the finale was awesome. All in all, it was a great day in Plainfield. 

Best,

Rebecca

*P.S. Some people have asked me about the summer concert--the concert has been rescheduled to take place in September--this will ensure that there is adequate planning time for the city and the concert organizers! Also, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has scheduled a concert in Cedar Brook Park for August--the date is forthcoming.



Thursday, July 3, 2014

SUMMER POOL OPENINGS--SIGN UP TO LEARN TO SWIM!

The Plainfield Division of Recreation has provided the following information regarding the pools, which opened after required inspections were completed. 

The pools are open on Monday - Saturday from 12:00 - 7:00 pm and on Sunday from 12:00 - 5:00 pm.
 
Hannah Atkins Park Pools 
(West Third Street and Plainfield Avenue)
Kiddie and Main Pools Open

 Seidler Field Pools 
(Garfield Avenue and North Avenue)
Kiddie and Main Pools Open 

  Rushmore Park Pools* 
 (West Third Street and Rushmore Avenue)
Kiddie Pool Open 


*The Rushmore Park Main Pool is scheduled to open by Tuesday, July 15th, pending completion of liner removal and concrete resurfacing. 

Free "Learn to Swim" Lessons*

The Division of Recreation is also offering free swimming lessons at the Seidler Field Pool for the week of July 28th - August 8th (from Mon-Thurs both weeks). Those interested must go down to the Division of Recreation office, located at 510 Watchung Avenue (the Annex Building) to complete an application form. The Rushmore slots will be made available as soon as the pool is re-opened. The Hannah Atkins Park slots (from July 7th - July 18th) are all filled.
  
*As of this writing (Thursday, July 3 at 11:20 am), Superintendent Veronica Taylor confirmed that there are about 3 openings still available at Seidler Field for sign-up. 

Recreation Division Contact information: (908) 753-3097