Friday, May 27, 2011

My Accomplishments as a Councilman

I love Plainfield and I am proud to have been of service as a team player to unlock the incredible potential that exists in our city. My opponent, Tony Rucker is campaigning on his main position: "Cory Storch hasn't done anything. It's my turn". Tony, if you hadn't stopped following the City Council after you lost the election 4 years ago, you would know better. Do your homework!

Below are some of the recent accomplishments that I have achieved. Much more needs to be done.

Public Safety: advocate for surveillance cameras and supporting use of Urban Enterprise Zone funding to make it happen. I am a long time advocate for enforcement of our speeding laws. I was an advocate for the creation of our Curfew Ordinance (needs the leadership of the Mayor to enforce it).

Recreation: advocate for creation of a Recreation Commission. Although the Mayor vetoed this Council ordinance, I will fight to bring it back and get it approved. Only with a commission can residents be assured that Plainfield recreation programs will be held accountable to do what needs to be done for our children and seniors.

Easing the Tax Burden: as a member of the Finance Committee for each year on Council save one, responsible for budget reductions saving residents millions in property taxes. I was co-author and primary sponsor of FY 2012 budget planning resolution calling for 5 year budgeting, earlier budget adoption and a more collaborative process. I am long time advocate for competitive bidding for engineering, legal and insurance services (opposed by Mayor).

Banking Ordinance - As member of the Finance and Administration Committee I assisted with the creation of, and the adoption of an ordinance that directs the Administration to issue an RFP for banking services. Such an RFP will ensure the City receives the greatest return on the money it invests in financial institutions. This also prevents the Administration from making arbitrary investment decisions with our tax payers’ money.

Bid Threshold Ordinance: As a member of the Finance and Administration Committee I assisted with the creation of, and the adoption of an ordinance that lowered the bid threshold from $39,000 to $17,500 so as to promote greater competition amongst vendors while preventing the Administration from awarding non professional service contracts above this $17,500 pay to play limit without approval from the Council.

Road Program: as a member of Council Finance Committee, created the original road paving program in 2004, leading to first city-wide paving program in 30 years. I was a leading advocate for purchase of road maintenance equipment - milling/paving machine, hot patch and crack sealing equipment.

Roads: I supported bond ordinances that led to the reconstruction of numerous roads including Kensington Ave, Thornton Ave, Stilford Ave, Oak Lane, Evergreen Avenue, Watchung Avenue, Carnegie Ave, Central Street, Cedarbrook Road, Brook Lane, to name just a few.

South Ave Road Reconstruction – I advocated for and supported the funding for the reconstruction of South Avenue from Terrill Road to Woodland Avenue, a project that will get under way this year.

CFO Resolution: I supported a resolution that was sent to the NJ Division of Local Government Services encouraging the DLGS to appoint a CFO. This caused the State to intervene thus forcing the Mayor to appoint a CFO after nearly three years.

Dudley House: I supported the transfer of Dudley House to a non-profit organization at a significant cost savings to tax payers. Instead of being a cost to the City, Dudley House is now a generator of revenue for the City. Services are operated by a qualified non-profit service provider with an excellent reputation.

Advocate against hate and bias crimes: I was author and primary sponsor of the resolution against hate crimes and ugly free speech.

Environmental Advocacy: I was the first LEED advocate in Plainfield, got LEED commitment into downtown redevelopment agreement. This makes Plainfield a leader in making our downtown a healthier place to live and shop.

Environmental Advocacy: I was a primary sponsor and long term supporter of Shade Tree Commission and as a Council advocate, provided tree planting funding.

Library Advocacy: I protected our library from budget cuts that would reduce hours of operation and reduce access of citizens to educational and career resources they need to succeed.

Flood Control: I was a leading advocate for the North Ave flood control and road improvement project.

Economic Development:
• primary sponsor of transit village vision study, finally giving residents a say in how we want Plainfield to develop. Now we have a blueprint with which to attract and guide developers.
• leading advocate and co-sponsor of Rutgers Economic Development study, currently under way. This will be Plainfield’s road map for job creation for our residents.
• leading advocate and sponsor of resolutions creating downtown streetscape
• primary sponsor of abandoned properties ordinance

Checks and Balances:
• In the 5+ years that Mayor Robinson Briggs has served, I have blocked bad ideas and proposals that were not in the city’s interests. Unfortunately there are too many of these to list. To name a few: the firing of the best city administrator Plainfield has had in many years, the proposed Monarch tax abatement and the city’s proposed purchase of the YWCA building.
• Much more can be done but the Mayor needs to be pushed hard to deliver good services to Plainfield residents. A strong City Council is needed more than ever.

Vote for the Democratic team in Column C: Dee Dameron and I for Council and City Committee candidates as well. It's time to take back Plainfield.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What to do at the Muhlenberg Campus

The Muhlenberg campus is an opportunity waiting to happen. Many unmet health and social needs of Plainfield residents can be addressed by concentrating resources at the Muhlenberg campus. The use of the campus must be defined so the interests of the community are first and foremost and the campus is not merely an opportunity for a few developers.

Here are just some services that could be provided to residents at Muhlenberg:

* Veterans outpatient services and support groups (freeing up more Monarch space for seniors).

* Relocation of social services from downtown retail/office locations to the campus.

* Specialized nursing home beds for people suffering from dementia/Alzheimers.

* Expansion of Neighborhood Health Services (aka Plainfield Health Center) services.

* New partnerships for career preparation in health related professions with Plainfield Public Schools, Union County College, Kean U, UMDNJ.

* The city could rent space or get free rent for the health department (freeing up space in city offices).

* A priority would be to maximize the number of specialized inpatient beds. Mental health inpatient beds were lost and are still needed. A birthing center staffed by nurse/midwifes and backed up by doctors is a definite need.

Solaris spends several million dollars annually for property maintenance. There is pressure to do something and that something must be driven by community interests, not outside interests.

There are two challenges in recreating Muhlenberg. The first is financial. There has to be enough operating dollars flowing through to support the services provided. We should think about this the way a developer plans a shopping mall: a few anchor tenants and then more smaller rentals to fill out the space. Not all the eggs in one basket. So if one service provider goes away, the campus is still viable. This is especially important in the healthcare industry as it faces major changes due to advances in medical research and technology as well as affordability challenges.

The second challenge is political. I recently asked a Solaris administrator what they are doing about Muhlenberg and what they need from the city to move forward. The answer was not money or zoing changes. It was "the city needs to define what it wants at the Muhlenberg campus so interested parties don't have to fear resistance and attack when they advance their plans."

Plainfield continues to grieve a beloved institution that was an economic engine and saved lives at the same time. It's time to look forward to create a new campus that can improve the health and wellness of residents, create jobs and provide health related career opportunities for young people.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Why I am Running for Re-election

My wife Lois and I have spent the last 32 years making Plainfield our home in many ways. We moved here in 1979, bought a fixer upper on Osborne Ave, raised two children there, got involved as Cook School parents and made lots of friends through the youth soccer club, the symphony and many other civic endeavors . We've done what many people have done in Plainfield: we've fallen in love with this town.

I've served Plainfield in elected and appointed capacities for many years. If you are inclined to throw out incumbents, you may not vote for me. If, however, you appreciate someone who has never and will never give up the fight for a better Plainfield, I want your support on election day.

Here is why I fight for Plainfield: there has been an ongoing struggle between positive change and status quo in Plainfield. Forces for change were led by the late Al McWilliams. His second term as Mayor, when he had the support of New Democrats on the City Council, was a time when Plainfield's true potential was unleashed. I was one of those New Democrats who helped Plainfield begin to turn around. Our road paving program began. Abandoned homes were renovated. Our Front Street streetscape was installed and downtown development took place after 30 years of inaction. The North Avenue flood control project was completed and much more.

Unfortunately, Assemblyman Jerry Green regained power and, as chairman of the Democratic City Committee, helped elect Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. They have been impediments to the fulfillment of Plainfield’s true potential for the last 6 years. June 7 is your opportunity to say you want to put Plainfield back on track.

Many friends have asked me why I want the frustration that comes with public service in Plainfield. I believe in Plainfield and have always felt our missing ingredient is leadership. This election is about leadership. I am running for the 2nd Ward City Council seat and my running mate is Dee Dameron, running for the 1st Ward-4th Ward seat. Our team includes a slate of Democratic City Committee running mates. We are for progress. We are for change. Help us strengthen the City Council and the local Democratic Party on June 7. We need your help to fight for Plainfield's future.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

At the Opening of the City Sponsored Youth Baseball League

I stopped by the field on Rock Avenue Saturday for opening day festivities. Ballplayers of various ages were in uniform, gathered around their respective coaches and managers, waiting for the parade to begin. Joy was in the air. City politics could do nothing do to spoil the good time, I hoped.

I was thinking about the years my son Matt and I spent in the Plainfield Youth Soccer Club. Its about the game but also much more. It is about teaching kids about sportsmanship, team work and skill building. Its enjoying the weather and communing with neighbors: community building.

A question has been raised in the rancorous debate between City Council, Mayor, citizens and recreation division employees. The question is: "where have you been? We haven't seen you around" It is meant to imply that only some people care about the children. There is a political agenda behind it.

At opening day, I was approached by an adult who was prominent in the city baseball league who put this in what I hoped was a more positive way: "it's good to see you here today". I still wasn't sure how to take that. What was he implying, that I haven't showed up until today? So I recounted my 10 years as youth soccer coach. The teams I coached were representative of the diversity of Plainfield and I was glad the players got to interact and know each other as people. But I wasn't sure if I was being put on the defensive so I defended myself.

It will be difficult to get past the negativity caused by the rumor, spread through the public schools, that the City Council was shutting down the recreations summer programs. But we can and we must. The focus must be on taking steps to increase participation in the Plainfield Recreation Division programs. That is what the City Council set out to do when the recreation debate began. It veered off course because some peoples job security felt threatened. But since all parties do care about the children, it behooves us to improve and expand recreation opportunities for Plainfields children