2006 In Review
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Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs became the first female African-American mayor of Plainfield Jan. 1. She survived a challenge to her qualifications when a judge in July opined that she did not have to live in the city for four consecutive years before election, but merely had to have a cumulative total of four years over time to meet the City Charter’s residency requirement.
Police Chief Edward Santiago, placed on leave by the mayor on Valentine’s Day, resumed his duties in March. The outcome of his court case against the city is not known.
Significant passings in 2006 included former firebrand Councilwoman Helen Miller, activist Phyllis Mason, watchdog Kay Cotignola, Zoning Officer Jocelyn Pringley and the City Council’s first Latino councilman and president, Ray Blanco.
Transit-oriented development took the stage in 2006, but only one proposal got as far as site plan approval. The Zoning Board of Adjustment rejected the “pioneer” project for condos on South Avenue. Among half a dozen proposals, only the senior center/condo
development for 400 East Front Street has received a green light so far.
In the Fits and Starts Departments, appointments to boards and commissions were spotty in 2006. Blanco as council president rejected last-minute nominees. Other nominations were not enough to make a quorum so that the board or commission could function.
The City Council broke a long tradition by changing the meeting schedule from Mondays only to Monday and Wednesdays. But dissatisfied with that plan, the council is pondering perhaps another new schedule.
The city recorded 10 homicides in 2006, compared to 17 in 2005. Law enforcement officials are mounting an “Operation Ceasefire” campaign to reduce gun violence.
Gang presence in the city was noted this year, with strategies to quell their influence. As reported in the national press, these gangs are violent and dangerous not only to rivals, but to innocent citizens who may be victimized at random.
In what some consider a step backwards for code enforcement, an ordinance to keep housing safe and not overcrowded was repealed. Real estate interests also fought increased inspections fees that city officials said were necessary to make operations self-supporting.
There were many more important stories in 2006, including the departure of Norton Bonaparte and Carlton McGee, immigrant protests, creation of a pedophile-free zone that encompasses the whole city, a plan to place 352 condos at East Third and Richmond and the recent naming of new cabinet members.
On to 2007! The annual reorganization is Jan. 8 and Plaintalker is polishing its crystal ball to look into school board elections, announcements in April of party nominees for City Council, Assembly and freeholders and the Democratic Party reorganization in June. What else - a supermarket in the West End? Stay tuned.