The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Facilitator Training for Plainfield Youth: 2:00 - 4:00 PM Today at Plainfield City Hall

TODAY, Tuesday, December 29, from 2:00 - 4:00 pm, Certification Training for young people who want to serve as Facilitators at the Plainfield Youth Summit will take place at Plainfield City Hall, 515 Watchung Avenue. Food will also be served to those in attendance.The city is providing Facilitation Training to our Plainfield youth to empower them with the essential skills and techniques needed to navigate and properly moderate conversations for the Youth Summit, which will take place on Saturday, January 16. Upon completion of the training, each young person will be provided with a Certificate. A prize will be given to the youth who brings the most the guests.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

UPDATE: Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration Today at duCret School of Art!

UPDATE: Come to the 15th Annual Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration, sponsored by the City of Plainfield, today, Saturday, December 19, beginning at 1:00 PM at duCret School of Art! African Storytelling, Traditional Candle Ceremony, Spoken Word, Cultural Dance Performances, and Refreshments! Shop at the African Marketplace! Doors open at 12 noon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dottie G. (1933-2015)

Dorothy (Dottie G.) Gutenkauf, April 2015
I first met Dottie a couple of years after I moved to Plainfield and got involved in a school board campaign on behalf of a mutual friend. After that campaign, I found myself on the opposing side of Dottie during a local and ongoing battle regarding Plainfield Democratic politics, even though we shared leftist sentiments on a number of non-local issues. In the intervening years, there were still areas of agreement, especially those revolving around LGBT issues and the fight to save Muhlenberg RMC. 

When I ran for city council as an independent Democrat for the first time 5 years ago, I was again on the opposite side, as Dottie supported my opponent. After I won, however, Dottie supported my efforts as a newly-minted elected official. During Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, I stopped by her house to check on her and Joe. She invited me in and we had a long chat about politics, Plainfield, Muhlenberg, and also about Joe, whose health was rapidly declining. 

Since that time, Dottie and I worked together on some local issues. When I ran for re-election last year, Dottie broke with the local powers-that-be and supported me. For that, I thank her. I also thank her for being committed to the fight for Muhlenberg, and for her strong support for the future of Plainfield.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Youth Summit Listening Session - Thursday, December 10 at Plainfield Library

On Thursday, December 10 (tomorrow!) beginning at 6:00 pm, the City of Plainfield will host another "Listening Session" for the Youth Summit on Education and Employment at the Plainfield Public Library. If the young people you know have not attended one of these listening sessions, I strongly urge you to bring them--and to come yourself--to be a part of the planning for this event, scheduled for early in the New Year. Many folks repeat the old platitude, "the youth are our future," but then don't bring them to events such as these.

The GrassROOTS Community Foundation, a public health and social action organization, will be facilitating the discussion and the summit.  It is imperative that young people be a part of the planning in order for this summit on education and employment to be successful for THEM. I hope that you will attend!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Moving the Plainfield School Board Elections Will Cost $115,000.00

I just got the figures from the clerk's office regarding the Plainfield BOE's desire to move the annual school board election from November back to April. When I heard about this, I contacted the clerk's office to get accurate information. Clearly, the costs did not come up in the discussion of this item, because several people evinced confusion about the cost. Yesterday, in conversation with some folks on Facebook, I had said that the number was upwards of $100,000.00. Well, folks, it is even higher than anyone imagined.

The projection is roughly $115,000.00. 

I was asked what the money was for. Well, it's to pay for the designing, printing and mailing of sample ballots and other materials to all of Plainfield's nearly 23,000 registered voters, to pay for the personnel, election workers for all 13 polling places for our 34 election districts, to pay overtime to DPW, police, clerk's office staff, the voting machines, and so on. I have pasted  below the email I received from the city clerk confirming this cost. The county clerk now has to add the county costs into her budget--which the taxpayers of Plainfield will have to pay for.

FACT: Plainfield is, indeed, the ONLY district in Union County that has voted to move the election.

FACT: Further, the costs for an April election must be COMPLETELY reimbursed by the Plainfield Public School District. That $115,000.00 could go to a lot of other stuff for our kids. Again, there has been no rationale given for changing the BOE election date back to April, other than the perceived idea that somehow "politics" would not be a part of it. Look back at the BOE elections over the past 12-13 years (well before the election was moved to November just 4 years ago), and you will see that political factions are always among those who participate--sometimes their teams win, and sometimes their teams lose. But to add $115,000.00 to Plainfield taxpayer woes just to have a special election is imprudent and morally unacceptable, given the realities facing our children and our community. Read Clerk AJ's email, below:

Councilwoman Williams,
Per your request, I have reached out to the respective entities to come up with a projection of cost for the April 2016 School Board Election.
Union County Clerk  - Responsible for the mailing of sample ballots, advertisement, and printing of ballots. (estimated cost $40,000)
Union County Board of Elections – Provide poll workers for each district, pick up and delivery of voting machines. (estimated cost $46,000)
Plainfield City Clerk’s – Required by State Statute to be open from the opening of polls to the closing of polls and act as first point of contact in municipality for election related issues.  Also required to hold evening voter registration hours prior to election. (estimated cost $6,000)
Police & Public Works – Overtime Cost (estimated $2,000.00)
Plainfield BOE Buildings & Grounds - Overtime Cost (estimated $2,000.00)
Keeping in mind that these are just estimated projected figures based off previous elections, I think it is safe to say that this election should in no event exceed $115,000.00.
Also be advised that I have been informed that the Board of Education is 100% responsible for reimbursing each entity listed above.
Abubakar Jalloh, R.M.C.
Municipal Clerk
FINAL NOTE: Remember that when Gov. Christie created a special October election for the Senate back in 2013, it cost taxpayers in the state over $10 MILLION.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Upcoming Holiday Activities in Plainfield--Mark Your Calendars!

The City of Plainfield has a number of holiday activities scheduled for the month of December. First, on December 4th, from 6:00 - 8:00 pm, folks can visit the Holiday Lights Celebration at City Hall (515 Watchung Avenue), with caroling, hot chocolate, giveaways, a visit from Santa, and family photos in the Snow Globe. 

On Saturday, December 12, at 10:00 am, the city will be holding a Holiday Craft Fair at the duCret School of Art, with crafts and other goodies and gift items for sale.           

Then, there is Plainfield's 15th Annual Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration,* scheduled for Saturday, December 19th, starting at 1:00 pm. 

NOTE: Vendors interested in participating in the craft fair and/or the pre-Kwanzaa event should contact the Plainfield Division of Parks and Recreation at (908) 753-3097 or at for an application--a one-day peddler's permit for $25.00 is available from the City Clerk's Office, payable to the City of Plainfield. 

*The location for the pre-Kwanzaa event is being changed, so I will post that as soon as the new location is confirmed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Victory for Plainfield!

I want to thank the voters of Plainfield for their support of Barry Goode and Cory Storch, Democrats for City Council. I also want to thank you for supporting Emily Morgan, who won a seat on the Board of Education. I look forward to working with Barry on the council to move Plainfield forward. With Cory's reelection, we have retained an experienced and seasoned councilor who brings a wealth of institutional knowledge to his role. Emily's win clearly demonstrated that she connected with voters, and I look forward to seeing her serve with honesty, ethics, and dedication on the Board of Education. Below are the unofficial results from Union County Clerk's office.


Monday, November 2, 2015


Tomorrow (Tuesday) is Election Day. I am asking you to support Cory Storch and Barry Goode, the Democrats in COLUMN B. I have served with Cory Storch (2nd Ward) on the council and he continues to put Plainfield first. Barry Goode (1st and 4th Ward) has shown, through 20 years of community work, that he will be a strong and dedicated public servant. I am also asking you to support Emily Morgan in COLUMN 3 for the Plainfield Board of Education. Emily is a committed and knowledgeable voice who is beholden only to the children and other residents of Plainfield. She brings a fresh perspective to the issues facing our school district, and she will serve with honor and distinction. We need strong voices on the city council and on the school board who will serve only the people of our great city. When you vote tomorrow, please support these three candidates.  Polls are open from 6:00 am - 8:00 pm.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Halloween Weekend Public Safety Message!

The Division of Public Affairs and Safety has the following message to ensure the safety of all our residents, and especially our children, as they enjoy trick-or-treating on Halloween weekend!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

October Events in Plainfield - Enjoy the Season!

Plainfield has a host of great activities and events going on this month. The Official City of Plainfield Facebook Page provides all residents with the latest information about the happenings in our city. Please click on the link to visit the City of Plainfield, NJ - The Queen City so that you can be tuned in to what's going on. Here are just some of the upcoming events!

The Plainfield Division of Parks and Recreation has two events this year: Trunk or Treat (Friday, October 30, 6:00 - 8:00 PM) and the Doggy Howl (Saturday, October 31, 12:00 - 1:00 PM). Both events take place in the parking lot behind city hall. 

In addition, the Plainfield Public Library's Halloween Party for children will be held in the Children's library on Friday, October 30, starting at 3:30 PM.
Other events include the Queen City Annual 5K Walk/Run (October 17), Union County's annual Four Centuries in a Weekend FREE tour (October 17-18) through all of the county's historic sites, including Plainfield's Drake House Museum. Click on the link for a listing of all the sites: Four Centuries.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Open Mic Spoken Word Poetry Event for Plainfield Youth!

Calling all our young Plainfield poets! 

On Saturday, September 26, from 3:00 - 7:00 pm in Cedar Brook Park, the Plainfield Division of Parks and Recreation will be sponsoring an amazing afternoon of Open Mic Spoken Work Poetry, Performance, and Art. The event will take place in the picnic area by the bathrooms and fountain in Cedar Brook Park.

The phenomenal Team Pyramid (part of Evolve NJ), featuring Sean Battle, Kween Moore, and Dr. Queen Assata, will be leading workshops on writing, performance, and art from 3:00-4:00 pm for Plainfield teens and young adults, with an emphasis on creativity and originality. All supplies (notebooks, markers, art paper, etc.) will be provided for attendees. 

The workshop will be followed by Open Mic Spoken Word performances from 4:00 – 7:00 pm. All are invited to participate. The event is free and open to the public. A DJ will provide a musical backdrop and free refreshments will be served. Come and enjoy a relaxing afternoon in Cedar Brook Park. 

Make your voices heard!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Homophobia On Full Display in Plainfield: The Toliver File

This deserves a longer post--that will be coming soon. Click to read the Courier-News story about what happened at last night's council meeting: Plainfield Ex-Official's Comments About Lesbian Councilwoman Denounced.

I am the only openly gay person on the city council. As a gay woman of color, I have had to put up with a lot of crap--all LGBT women of color do. Snide and bullying remarks, offensive mailers and fliers--even from classic "closet cases"--are meant to be hurtful, intimidating, and worse. Suffice it to say that Alex Toliver's hateful homophobic (and transphobic) comments about me speak to the kind of person he is. His comments saying I should be beheaded are on the record (click on the link for Inciting Violence for One's Political/Religious Views: A Plainfield Case), as are the homophobic comments he made last night. 

I am grown and able to handle myself, but when I think about his comments being heard by LGBT youth in Plainfield--many of whom are still struggling to come out, some of whom become suicidal because of the hurtful and hateful comments that illustrate a desire to destroy their sense of themselves and which make them feel as if they are not deserving of love--that's when I become angry beyond words. The suicide rates among LGBT youth--especially those of color--are very high--what are they to make of a so-called "elder" who speaks hate? As I noted last night, it's one thing to disagree on policy or on votes, but this was a hateful, personal attack--and all because I called him out on his comments about beheading me. What came before were just private comments to my Facebook page that I certainly characterized as flirtatious. The ignorance and hatred on display last night should not be tolerated.  

Homophobia and hate (should) have no place in American life, but Toliver and his ilk prove time and time again that their hatred, fear, and ignorance can still be willingly abetted when leadership fails to immediately and vociferously shut it down. Instead, what I saw was (in my view) a rather tepid tapping of the gavel from someone who surely ought to know better. This is from the Courier-News story:

“For someone to come here and talk about my manner of dress and allude to my sexual orientation is just unconscionable. I can’t believe that was being allowed here without being gaveled down.”
Later in the meeting, Rivers said she had hit her gavel when he made his remarks. “I don’t promote anyone disrespecting council members,” Rivers said. “I immediately hit the gavel so that he could stop. It was wrong and it shouldn’t have been said.” But a video recording of Toliver’s remarks shows that Rivers allowed Toliver to continue, ignoring a point of order by Williams, and letting Toliver continue for almost two minutes more.

The deflection to a broad comment about how elected officials should be able to absorb negative comments was, to say the least, displeasing. I have no expectations anymore--but the weak response to the devaluing of my basic humanity, as well as that of every LGBT person was stunning. Homophobia, racism, sexism, and classism are all a part of the same strain--allowing one is allowing all the others.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Language, Lies, and Histrionics: A Case Study

Just so that Plainfielders are aware of the histrionics and attempted dissembling on the part of Councilwoman Taylor regarding the Earned Sick Leave Ordinance, this item was sent to Council President Rivers and the Clerk's Office on August 26 to be put on the agenda. A letter, written by me, was attached, along with the Rutgers Study. The Council President accepted it. When I double-checked the packet on Saturday (as well as online), I saw that it was not there. I contacted the clerk and the council president about it, and the clerk said it was inadvertently omitted--just a clerical error. It was then added to the electronic agenda, and copies were given to the council at last night's meeting. This was explained fully (the council president tried to pull up the original correspondence to show the time/date stamp)*--yet, Councilwoman Taylor was having none of it. 

When this agenda item came up, histrionic Councilwoman Taylor then turned on the councilwomen (Greaves and Brown) who co-sponsored the legislation, accusing them of "jumping to the other side!" and other foolishness. She then went into a long tirade against me, using such foul, nasty, and divisive language that many in the audience appeared stunned. She insulted Working Families for Plainfield (a group of long-time and home-grown Plainfield residents) as outsiders, and she even managed to insult the mayor because he expressed support for the ordinance. 

Taylor's vindictiveness nastiness is not going unnoticed--the venom which she constantly spews is basically getting all over her. Watch the video of the meeting when it comes on--sadly, this is just part of what makes her such an embarrassment to our city. Her so-called support for "the least of these" does not extend to our lowest wage workers earning a single earned sick hour. For shame.


*I have the original correspondence with the time/date stamp, the council president's acknowledgement to put it on the agenda, and the rest of the correspondence regarding this item.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Labor Walk With 32BJ SEIU: The Union Makes Us Strong!

"Labor can never be respected where the laborer is despised." 
--Frederick Douglass, from "Self-Made Men," 1872

Yesterday, I joined Mayor Adrian O. Mapp and the First Lady for the Labor Walk through Plainfield with 32BJ SEIU union members. In New Jersey, 32BJ represents over 10,000
service workers: school maintenance workers, food service workers, office cleaners, and security officers. As we walked, we chanted and spoke of the importance of collective bargaining, keeping unions strong, supporting Earned Sick Days (ESD), the "Fight for $15" living wage, and the right for workers to organize. We received encouraging signs of support form local Plainfielders as we marched along W. 7th Street, Park Avenue, along Front Street, and down Watchung Avenue (ending at the steps of City Hall). As a member of NJEA, I proudly support my comrades! La lucha continúa!

Friday, August 21, 2015

"An Immigrant's Story" Nominated for Emmy Award: Sofia Medina's Essex County College Journey

Sofia with Dr. Jeff Lee
As you know, I occasionally write posts on my students and my college. Well, here's another one! I am proud to note that the short film An Immigrant's Story, which features former Essex County College student Sofia Medina (Class of 2014), has been nominated for an Emmy Award. Sofia, a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar, who is now at Johns Hopkins University as a pre-med student, credits her faculty research mentor, ECC biology professor Dr. Jeff Lee, a Plainfield resident, as one of the major contributors to her academic success. As undocumented immigrants from Ecuador, Sofia and her family struggled for upwards of 14 years to gain permanent residency in the United States (which they now have). It is worth noting that the ENTIRE Medina family has attended Essex County College--two of Sofia's brothers, Pedro and Sebastian, were my students. You can watch the film below. Also, click on the link below the video for an article on the Medina family's journey from Ecuador to the U.S.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Community BBQ Donations...Toiletries and Feminine Products

This Saturday, Mayor Mapp and First Lady Amelia Mapp will be hosting their Eighth Annual Community Barbecue at their home on West Eighth Street. Every year, Plainfielders are asked to bring donations of non-perishable food to the event, to be given to those in need. This year, in addition to food, the Mapps are asking that toiletries and other necessary items also be donated. According to an article I read earlier this year, feminine products such as pads and sanitary napkins are very much in demand, as they are expensive and usually not listed as "toiletries," per se. I would urge folks to also contribute these items for distribution at our local shelters. I have cut and pasted the article by Madeleine Davies below--or, you may just click on the link. Please be a generous donor! I will see you on Saturday!

All best,


Of the all the extreme challenges faced by homeless people, the lack of access to menstruation products is one that, for many homeless women, is among the worst and most humiliating.

In many cases, homeless shelters will have both limited resources in regards to pads and tampons, as well as strict bathroom restrictions that make it increasingly hard, if not impossible, for women to keep clean while having their periods. Not only that, but, as The Huffington Post's Eleanor Goldberg puts it, "the fact that menstruation is a taboo topic to begin with means that people who are able help often aren't even aware that such a vast need exists."

It was that realization that motivated Joanie Balderstone and Rebecca McIntire to start Distributing Dignity, an organization devoted to "distributing pads, bras and tampons to women in need."

Feminine hygiene products are often overlooked during natural disaster drives (as a friend who volunteered during the Hurricane Sandy aftermath once told me, "All these poor women want is some goddamn tampons") and even in donations to women's shelters. 

From (via HuffPo):

Jeey Moncayo is a caseworker for Camden County Women's Center, where more than a thousand women in 2013 found safety from abusive relationships. She said most women escape their abusers in a hurry, arriving with just the clothes they're wearing. For others, their abusers, in fits of rage, have burned or thrown bleach on their clothes.
Mothers spend any money they have on their kids first. "The women's needs come last," she said.
In June, the center received 150 bras from Distributing Dignity. The women especially liked the option of feminine pads marked narrow, slim, and tween. "It sounds silly," said Moncayo, "but the choice is empowering."

Something to consider next time you donate. Another thing to consider: the government subsidizing tampons and pads. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015 the Million People's March on Saturday in Newark

“Unless one lives and loves in the trenches, it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.” –Audre Lorde

Sandra to death.
David Rutherford has done a community service by posting a listing of 25 reasons for us to show up (and I say, SHOW OUT) at Saturday's Million People's March Against Police Brutality, Racial Injustice, and Economic Inequality. Click here for his post. The recent death in police custody of Sandra Bland (and countless other women of color) provides Reason #26 for us to protest and create an action plan to end the acts of violence perpetrated against people of color by systemic racism in the (in)justice system.  Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know that this particular case has got me raging--we all need to show our rage.

#SayHerName #blacklivesmatter

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Community Outdoor Movie Night in Hannah Atkins Park!

The Plainfield Division of Parks and Recreation is hosting its summer movie night at Hannah Atkins Park this evening (Thursday, July 16). Tonight's film is The Lego Movie, which will begin at 8:30 pm. Bring a chair, snacks, and enjoy it with the kids! Below is the entire summer schedule of films at a variety of locations. Below is the entire summer schedule of films at a variety of locations. Some are for kids, pre-teens, and adults--clip the entire schedule--all movies begin at 8:30 pm on Thursday evenings through August!