The needler in the haystack.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Council looks to re-petition Legislature for city charter changes

Council is set to repetition the Legislature
to enact the proposed changes to the city charter.


In November 2012, Plainfield voters elected five members to a Charter Study Commission: Rick Smiley, John Stewart, Mary Burgwinkle, Marie Davis and Jeanette Criscione.

They worked like beacer for the next several months, studying our charter line-by-line, interviewing professionals from towns with possible forms Plainfield could adopt and holding all its meetings in public, with plenty of opportunity for citizen input. The Commission kept a blog of its activities, which is still online here. Complete minutes of the Commission's meetings are available on the city's website here, and the final version of the Commission's report is here.

By August 2013, the Commission had complete its work and recommended some changes to Plainfield's special charter (see my blog post here). The report was subsequently slightly amended (in December) and an ordinance petitioning the Legislature to make the proposed changes was passed.

The ball then was in the Legislature's court. There has been little word from the Legislature in all the time since, but the Mapp administration opined on Monday evening that it would likely be taken up -- provided the Council petitioned the Legislature once again to do so.

Corporation Counsel David Minchello made clear that the Council had no authority to reopen the study matter or make any changes to the Charter Study Commission's report. Councilor Storch expressed a concern that members of the Council -- most of whom were not on the governing body when the report was adopted -- should be brought up to speed before the April meetings, where the ordinance would face its second reading and adoption.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Mayor gets probation after admitting affair with her bodyguard

Justice has been served, at least partly.

Now, here's an interesting story.

After admitting to an extra-marital affair with her bodyguard, authorities began looking into matters concerning the 54-year-old mayor and her paramour, a police officer.

When all was said and done, the mayor faced a felony theft charge, to which she pleaded guilty.

Her boyfriend racked up $33,000 in expenses for "official" trips taken with the mayor, in addition to $50,000 in overtime pay during the time they were having the affair.

As part of the plea deal, the mayor received a sentence of three years probation and must reimburse the city $11,000.

Meanwhile, the police officer boyfriend retired with an annual pension of $74,000, though it is possible the retirement board can dock or eliminate his pension if there is a determination of malfeasance on his part.

Oh yes, ... the city? Nashville, Tennessee.

Read more here.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Shostakovich brings light from the darkness at PSO Saturday

Like Mahler, Bernstein and Gershwin,
Shostakovich was a chain smoker.

If Americans think they are living through a dark time now, it would pay to reflect on the life and work of Dmitri Shostakovich, the featured composer for Saturday's Plainfield Symphony program.

Though today revered as the foremost composer of the Soviet Union, Shostakovich was perpetually in hot water with the dictator Josef Stalin. Only in the Soviet Union, the penalty for crossing the boss was to be taken out and shot, not a punitive Tweet.

Originally projected as a gigantic work with chorus and soloists to celebrate the victory of Soviet forces over the Nazis, when finally premiered in November 1945, the Symphony No. 9 turned out to be a much lighter work -- even referencing Mozart.

Though initially well enough received (one critic, contrasting the work with earlier, "heavier" symphonies, allowed as how it was OK for the composer to "take a vacation"), it was subsequently banned when Shostakovich was denounced by the regime for a second time in 1948.

The Violin Concerto was composed for violinist David Oistrakh during the same period. It contains references to Beethoven's "fate" motif from the 5th Symphony as well as the "DSCH motif" which Shostakovich uses as a self-reference. After the second denunciation of Shostakovich prevented the work's public premiere, it too was shelved.

The Violin Concerto was finally premiered in 1955, long after the tyrant Stalin's death. In the softening of the cultural climate following the death of Stalin, the 9th Symphony was also once again performed in public.

These two works by the longsuffering composer remind us how important it is to take the long view of history, and to never give up hope for a better world and a better time.

The Plainfield Symphony program begins at 7:00 PM sharp this Saturday, March 10, at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church is at East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue. Parking in the church lot on First Place, on the street, or in the Swain Galleries lot. The building is a handicap accessible facility.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

LimeBike steals the show at Council

LimeBike's Maggie Gendron demonstrates
the company's bike at Monday's Council meeting.

City Council meetings are dominated by talk and rarely have show-and-tell moments, but Monday's agenda-setting session was that rare exception.

When the Council got to the proposed Memorandum of Understanding between the city and LimeBike to establish their bike-sharing service in the city of Plainfield, company representative Maggie Gendron and Economic Development employee Jeanette Aparicio wheeled one of the lime green bicycles down the aisle to the front and made a brief presentation.

The agreement is for a year, and LimeBike will initially supply between 200 and 250 bikes for use citywide (the number could grow if demand increases).

Customer will use a smartphone app to locate, unlock and pay for a trip with the bike. The cost is $1 for each 30 minutes or portion thereof.

The genius of the system is that it is totally driven by GPS.

Unlike Citi Bike which operates in New York and Jersey City and with which many are familiar, LimeBike does not use docking stations.

This means the bike does not need to be returned to a docking station at the end of a trip. The user simply parks the bike and manually locks the rear wheel. Another user can find the nearest bike by its GPS location which is relayed through the smartphone app.

LimeBike will have a small staff responsible for keeping the Plainfield fleet in tip-top shape. These workers will also retrieve bikes that are left in out-of-the-way locations to ensure their constant availability.

For more on LimeBike, see their website here.

Councilor Diane Toliver was not impressed, and said she had concerns about safety since the city does not have dedicated bike lanes.

Resident Timothy Priano also had reservations about the sturdiness of the bike and considered that the tires were too insubstantial for the potholes that riders will encounter.

Notwithstanding Toliver's objection, the resolution will be on next Monday's agenda and is expected to pass handily.

City Council's business meeting will be on Monday, March 12 at 8:00 PM in the Council Chambers/Courthouse at East 4th Street and Watchung Avenue. Parking available on the street and in the lot across from Police Headquarters.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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