Sunday, February 26, 2017

Stigma Free Zone Coming to Plainfield

Plainfield is becoming a stigma free zone in support of the many people and their families coping with a mental illness.  This is a public education campaign to teach our community about mental health and encourage people to go for help, to be not afraid of being stigmatized. Mental health treatment and supports actually work.  And they are available.

mental health education is happening across the country

There is a stigma free zone steering committee sponsored by Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services, a non profit mental health service organization where I work.  Committee members include the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, Ruach Ministries, United Church of Christ Congregational, the City  of Plainfield's recreation and health departments and Tap into Plainfield.  Mayor Adrian Mapp, Police Director Carl Riley and School Board President Emily Morgan have expressed their support.  There will be a resolution at the March City Council meeting declaring Plainfield a stigma free zone. This will be a community-wide campaign.

Psychiatric problems affect 1 in 5 people.  When you count the impact on their families, employers, teachers and friends, it becomes clear that everyone is touched by mental illness in one way or another.

Stigma often comes with mental illnesses.  That's because there are many myths that cause fear and shame about conditions like depression, phobias, bi-polar illness and schizophrenia .  The fear leads to discrimination.  The shame is the leading reason people do not seek help for their psychiatric problems.   The real shame is while treatments have been proven effective, untreated mental illnesses cause huge negative impacts in our community - on families, on businesses, on the many people struggling with these conditions.

A mentally health person is a better student, a more productive worker.  A mentally healthy young person will not turn to drugs or join a gang.  A mentally healthier community is what Plainfield can become when we know the facts about mental health,

Saturday, February 11, 2017

New Development Ordinances Come to City Council

Mayor Adrian Mapp and his administrative team have proposed  new tools for Plainfield's redevelopment arsenal.  The Council will vote on second reading on Monday night on the following:

1. a redevelopment plan for North Ave around the Netherwood Station.  This plan will set standards for what the city wants from developers.  The plan covers North Ave between Leland  and Berkman Avenues, mostly on the train tracks side of the street. This is where a long row of mostly vacant factory buildings has gradually deteriorated for decades.  This is part of the Netherwood transit village vision for mixed use residential living and commercial uses.

2. a proposal to make Plainfield's Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) an area in need of rehabilitation.

3. a proposal to update Plainfield's 5 year tax abatement ordinance to spur investment for improvements to the mostly vacant and dilapidated upper floors of buildings in our downtown that are now only used for first floor retail.  The UEZ also covers East 2nd Street and South Second Street, underutilized commercially zoned areas in our First and Fourth wards that need incentives for revitalization. 
     buildings in need of improvement near the downtown station

The second and third ordinances mentioned above are tied together in that tax abatements are generally allowable only in areas of New Jersey declared in need of rehabilitation or redevelopment.

An objection was made at the last Council meeting on the grounds that when we give tax breaks, the Plainfield is losing revenues and that has to be made up by increasing homeowners' property taxes.  Actually the opposite is true.  Under the 5 year tax abatement ordinance, the base property assessment is still taxed at the going rate.  It's only the improvements that are not taxed for the 5 year period and after that the taxes will go up based on the value of the new improvements.  A good deal for Plainfield, especially considering that many properties in the UEZ are deteriorated and have not been maintained or improved for many years.