The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mass Incarceration - One Historical Perspective

Actor Raymond Spencer, at Ford's Theater (Wash., D.C.) premiere of "Slavery by Another Name." Listening attentively to Raymond as he speaks about the film is Attorney General Eric Holder, at right in bottom photo. 

In thinking about the Tuesday, February 24 event, Decarcerating Plainfield and NJ Youth, which is scheduled to take place at 6:00 pm at the Plainfield Public Library (click here), I thought would be helpful to provide another important link which provides crucial background information. Below is the documentary film, Slavery By Another Name, directed by Sam Pollard. By a strange quirk of fate, one of my former students, actor Raymond Spencer (pictured) is one of the actors in the film. 

As one with a deep interest in history, I would be remiss if I did not also include this broader perspective on penal institutions in America, with a focus on how the old plantation system was reconfigured after the end of the Civil War into the modern penal system. In effect, laws were passed to create an unstoppable supply of bodies to continue forced labor--basically, slavery--by another name. This is connected to the modern-day mass incarceration movement and should be required watching by all.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Support Driving Privilege Cards for Undocumented NJ Residents

" an effort to foster relationships with the vast Latino community of 
Plainfield and to provide information to all Plainfield residents, the 
 Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs has reviewed and
 recommended passage of both resolutions by the City Council...." 


Members of the Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs (special thanks to Flor Gonzalez, Carlos Ponton, and Chris Estevez) worked diligently in drafting Resolution 1769 in support of Senate and Assembly bills proposing the issuance of driving privilege cards to undocumented NJ residents. I hope that everyone will come out to tomorrow's Monday, February 9 City Council meeting in support of the resolution, which I have introduced for passage by the Plainfield City Council. Click here to read the Plainfield resolution in its entirety.

S1696 is sponsored by Sens. Joseph Vitale and Teresa Ruiz and A2135 is sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano and former Assemblyman (now Union County Sheriff) Joseph Cryan. This link explains the bill in great detail, offering an analysis and critique of each section:

Also on the council agenda is  MC 2015-07 (An Ordinance Amending Chapter 8, “Health”, of the Municipal Code of the City of Plainfield, and Creating Article 5, Entitled “Sick Leave for Private Employees”, to Promote the Overall Health and Safety of the Residents and Workers of Plainfield by Reducing the Spread of Communicable Disease and Contagion by Requiring a Policy of Paid Sick Leave for Workers in Plainfield), which I asked to be included on the agenda and which I blogged about previously

Click on the link to read my post--you will also find links to more background information on this ordinance. I hope the weather cooperates so that we can have a good and productive meeting.



Friday, February 6, 2015

Decarceration Panel Discussion on Tuesday, February 24 at Plainfield Library

I am posting the press release for the Tuesday, February 24 event, Decarcerating Plainfield and NJ Youth, scheduled to take place at 6:00 pm at the Plainfield Public Library, located at 800 Park Avenue.  

Click on the link to the website The New Jim Crow, based upon civil rights attorney and Ohio State University professor Michelle Alexander's powerful expose of the mass incarceration movement in our country.  Plainfield School Board member and local blogger/activist David Rutherford has written a great deal about the decarceration movement on his blog, Plainfield View--click here and bookmark the link.

For Immediate Release:

Contact: David Rutherford (201) 637-3575
"Decarcerating Plainfield and NJ Youth" will be the theme of a panel discussion at the Plainfield Free Public Library on Tuesday February 24, 6pm in the Louise Davis meeting room.
Several local and statewide organizations are joining forces and inviting the public to participate.
Plainfield Keep Youth and Streets Safe (KYSS) which was formed to call for an end to street violence in Plainfield, the statewide Decarcerate the Garden State, Plainfield Peoples Organization for Progress and the Plainfield View blog site edited by David Rutherford who is also a newly elected school board member are joining ranks to bring this discussion to town.
According to a Facebook event announcement, they have joined forces to co-sponsor a panel discussion on the impact of mass incarceration on the city of Plainfield and on the youth of New Jersey.  They plan to also discuss "the need for a unified movement to bring about the end of the destructive system of mass incarceration and the need for youth to be at the forefront of that effort."
This event is absolutely free and open to the public.

Sabrina Lyttleton, a co founder of the Plainfield KYSS organization along with Steven Hatcher, a representative of the Peoples Organization for progress, and Bob Witanek of Decarcerate the Garden State, as well as other possible speakers, will be addressing the audience and explaining their involvement and educating those in attendance of "the heart breaking and astonishing injustices that are the reality today." Ms. Lyttleton states that explaining why and how Plainfield citizens, especially the youth should and can get involved is a priority of the evening.
The organizers also hope to use the event to launch a survey of the youth of Plainfield and beyond about the attitudes, fears, and understanding of the mass incarceration issue.
KYSS founders sound off:
This fight is personal,” says Sabrina.“I’m raising a son in a society that is designed for him to fail. What kind of mother would I be if I didn't fight for his rights? It’s every mother’s responsibility to protect their child the best they can. My involvement in this struggle is me protecting my child."

Nia Ali, who previously spoke at the Tour de Decarcerate, says, “Learning all that I’m learning now….I feel like so much has been kept from me. ….it’s my responsibility to share with the generations after me so they aren’t kept in the dark.”

Amanda Garcia passionately explains, “The Decarceration of NJ is of great importance and has essential relevancy to Humanity. As humans who still exist in society, we should be aware of the negative attributes that have been created before us to deter us from prospering yet to be prosecuted and expressing the magnitude of inequality amongst the uneducated minorities.”

KYSS has a facebook group at:
Decarcerate the Garden State has an active blog site at and a website at and a group on Facebook

Plainfield view blogs regularly on Plainfield issues at:
For more information,s please call David Rutherford, (201) 637-3575 or e-mail Sabrina Lyttleton at

More information on the event is at the Facebook event page

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ethics and Illegalities: Protecting the People We Were Elected to Serve

At last November’s 2014 League of Municipalities Convention, one of the sessions I attended was titled “Recent Decisions in Local Government Ethics Complaints,” with an expert panel that included Thomas H. Neff, Director, Division of Local Government Services, State Department of Community Affairs; Patricia McNamara, Executive Secretary, Local Finance Board, State Department of Community Affairs; and Susan Jacobucci (former Director of the DLGS), Township Manager, Galloway. Here is the description of the session: “Public office and employment are a public trust that applies to all local government officials. The Local Government Ethics Law provides a method of assuring that standards of ethical conduct shall be clear, consistent, uniform in their application, and enforceable on a statewide basis. Are you aware of the decisions on recent ethics complaints? Are you receiving the correct advice regarding Ethics? This expert panel will answer these questions and more.”

It was an expert panel indeed, with a great deal of food for thought. Many people in attendance were, like me, municipal elected officials and city workers who were deeply concerned about their cities. When specific examples of possible corruption were given by the audience in the form of questions, MANY of them were answered with "that is not allowed under state law." It caused me to reflect on the 8 years of the previous administration--I was on the city council for the final 3 years--and on the mismanagement, fraud, and corruption that I (and others) tried to uncover (in some instances, successfully), and to seriously consider how the governing body should proceed over the next year—and into the future--regarding ethical and conscientious behavior.

In January, the council spent a great deal of time listening to disgruntled former seasonal employees as they went through an orchestrated tirade about the dissolution of a city baseball league that was begun under the previous administration and run through a recreation division where I uncovered fraud and corruption in 2012. I found these two PowerPoint slides (they were from a previous presentation by Jacobucci--"organization" is misspelled) that speak specifically to the illegality of giving city funds to a charity. It cannot be done. Period.

I am in favor of a forensic audit for the city, as the previous administration was clearly mired in ethical problems. My colleagues refused to allocate funds for the audit, which suggests that they are concerned about what a forensic audit might find. The former mayor also got up at the last meeting to say that she had given money to some feeding program charity--$8,000, she said—and she encouraged the city council to do so this year—but to give $10,000. 

I was inundated with emails from constituents asking whether I had approved money to be given to a charity. Of course not, I said—the city council did not approve of any city funds to be used for such a purpose. We could never do that! For one thing, it’s illegal. See below from the NJ State Constitution, which my colleagues swore under oath to uphold:

2.  No county, city, borough, town, township or village shall hereafter give any money or property, or loan its money or credit, to or in aid of any individual, association or corporation, or become security for, or be directly or indirectly the owner of, any stock or bonds of any association or corporation.

     3.  No donation of land or appropriation of money shall be made by the State or any county or municipal corporation to or for the use of any society, association or corporation whatever.

This clearly shows that if former Mayor Robinson-Briggs gave $8,000 to a charity, she broke the law once again. This is why we need a forensic audit—who knows what happened to your money? The council is charged with oversight of the administration’s workings, and yet all we heard were weak excuses for not conducting an audit. Instead, we waste time with self-seeking individuals coming before the council to get money allocated for a baseball league that no longer exists. Their time would be better spent forming a non-profit league—as the other leagues (baseball, soccer, cricket, etc.) have done. It is an offense to waste the people’s time in this way. In the interest of honest, ethical leadership, the residents of this city must demand that their representatives do the right thing—let’s  have a forensic audit performed so that we can ensure that the taxpayers’ money was not being used illegally under the previous administration. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Why Plainfield, New Jersey Needs Earned Sick Days--Revised

Below are links to the Working Families Alliance and the Working Families United for New Jersey site, respectively, which provide more information on the earned sick days ordinance (MC 2015-07) that is on the Plainfield City Council's agenda for discussion this evening. Thus far, Jersey City, Newark, Paterson, Passaic, East Orange, Irvington, and a couple of others have passed ordinances to protect workers by providing earned sick days.

I believe that earned sick days are good for the state, as well as good  for our city.