Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Monday Special Council Meeting

The resolution of most interest to me was the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) nominations.  Both of Mayor Mapps' nominees were approved by the Council.  I was skeptical of ever seeing Mapps' appointees achieving a majority of seats on the PMUA Commission but to my surprise, not only were Michelle Lyons and Henry Robinson approved, they are replacing Malcolm Dunn and Cecil Sanders.

The goal is not to see new faces but to see new faces make positive changes and help Plainfield ratepayers to have confidence and trust in the PMUA.  And reduce the rates!!

Rate reduction will not be easy but is necessary.  Plainfield's solid waste and sewer rates are well above what people are paying in other towns.  Seniors on fixed incomes feel the burden most.  The cost of running a business in Plainfield is higher because of the PMUA rates.  This is a disincentive to economic development and local job creation.

There are vested interests who do not want changes at the PMUA.  These interests are powerful and will not give up the benefits they get from the PMUA without a fight. Non competitive contract procurement  and job patronage are at stake. "No-one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it" (G Orwell).

But with three Mapp appointees on the five member commission, we can hope for progress.  A good start would be for commissioners to set commission meeting times in the evening so more working people have the opportunity to attend. I would also like to see them end the practice of charging ratepayers for their pre-commission meeting dinners.  This wont have an appreciable impact on rates but will signal that commissioners are serious about serving their customers.

Time will tell whether Mayor Mapp's  strenuous and persistent efforts will make a difference.

Raritan Valley Rail Coalition report

A well attended coalition meeting demonstrated the commitment of members who braved the early Monday snowfall to meet at Westfield's Council Chambers. 

Assemblyman John Wisniewski was the main speaker.  He explained the importance of increasing the gasoline tax to fund the transportation trust fund.  I found his argument convincing.  New Jersey has depleted the fund and has been funding projects by borrowing money.  At this point we are facing the prospect of using the limited new money coming in to pay only debt service.  The Trust Fund is the source for bridge and road repairs and for rail projects.  The Raritan Valley Line has projects pending that need funding:
  • increased one seat ride service to and from NYC
  • the Hunter Fly-over
  • Triple tracking east of Cranford
The latter two projects are needed to prevent bottlenecking delays on the Raritan Valley Line between Cranford and Jersey City.

The Assemblyman pointed out that the Pulaski Skyway repairs now underway took money from the Hudson River tunnel project, which was cancelled by Governor Christie.  The Skyway would have been funded by the Transportation Trust Fund if it were solvent. 

Ultimately a new Hudson River tunnel is necessary but that is many years away.  A lot of transportation improvements can be done in the meantime to unleash the economic, recreational and real estate potentials of communities like Plainfield. Support the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition!! 

For more information and how you can help:
Raritan Valley Rail Coalition

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Martin Luther King Breakfast in Plainfield

On Monday I joined hundreds of people at Plainfield High School to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King.  I estimated three hundred and fifty people were present. Hosted by Frontiers International's Plainfield chapter, this event is one of the highlights of the year in Plainfield.  And the breakfast lived up to its well deserved reputation.  The highlights:

  • Upon entering the high school auditorium, attendees were able to view riveting film footage of the March to Montgomery.
  • six outstanding young people, all graduating high school seniors, were given college scholarships.  Getting up before the audience, each student thanked those who supported their academic success, demonstrating that you can get a good education in the Plainfield Public Schools.
  • a performance by the Plainfield High School jazz band, which elicited gasps and cries of pleasure and surprise from the audience when the female vocalist began to sing.  Very sophisticated style for such a young person.  Made me think of Sara Vaughn.
  • the Plainfield High School dancers were outstanding and brought down the house.
  • Mayor Adrian Mapp gave opening remarks and welcomed guest speaker Mayor Ras Baraka.   Superintendent Anna Belin-Pyles also welcomed the community to the high school.
  • Ras Baraka gave an impassioned speech on the need to build on Dr Kings life works and reminded the audience that Dr King's work was evolving from a civil rights advocacy to a more global approach encompassing world peace and economic prosperity.
If you have never been at an MLK breakfast in Plainfield, I strongly recommend you go next year. And during the year, take positive actions in accordance with Dr. Kings teachings.