Monday, September 17, 2007

Early Fall Roundup

Those who are focusing on the school district lately were able to read the agenda for Tuesday’s business meeting online this weekend. The meeting is 7 p.m. in the Plainfield High School Library.

Municipal government followers were not so lucky. The City Council meets Monday at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Library and Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, but only old agendas for June and July are online and the new calendar is blank.

On the school side, Interim Superintendent Peter Carter has introduced a new tradition with his monthly letters to the community. It is refreshing to see a web site actually being used to communicate with the public.

Speaking of which, Councilman Rashid Burney has begun a personal blog that is deserving of a bookmark. Burney already had a fact-filled web site with reference material that is still mostly good, even though it has not been updated since March 2006. The blog for Saturday had an invitation to visit the home of former Gov. James E. McGreevey and Mark O’Donnell on Sunday for an event benefiting a German shepherd rescue group.

Maria’s blog describes a good effort by volunteers to clean up and beautify Stillman School. I was at the PMUA Environmental Fair all day Saturday representing the Shade Tree Commission. I sat with members of the League of Women Voters, who are making plans for the Candidates’ Forum Nov. 1 at the Plainfield Public Library. City Council candidates seeking four-year terms are incumbent Democrats Cory Storch representing the 2nd Ward and Linda Carter in the 1st & 4th Ward at large. Republican opponents are Sean T. Alfred for the 1st & 4th Ward seat and Deborah Dowe for the 2nd Ward seat.

Another upcoming meeting is the Planning Board at 8 p.m. Thursday in City Hall Library. One topic will be the proposed expansion of the North Avenue redevelopment project. Besides the original three blocks by the main train station, parts of the PNC Bank block and the south portion of the block bounded by East Front and East Second streets and Park and Watchung avenues may be added. There are lots of quirks to this plan already, including a redevelopment plan that was passed seven years ago. The agreement with Landmark Development Corp. has quite a bit of leeway for handing over phases of the project to other developers, although developer Frank Cretella must remain in charge.

The agreement also allows for an expansion and calls for a 500-space parking deck, though the exact location is not yet spelled out. Cretella said recently he is in the process of acquiring properties in the redevelopment area for the ambitious plan, which calls for 415 residential units and 130,000 square feet of retail space as well as an entertainment center.

Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs reported earlier this month that the senior center/condo project at 400 East Front Street was awaiting the arrival of storm sewer pipes. Minority developer Cecil H. Sanders, a city resident, is involved with the project. Plainfielders who have been around a while will remember Sanders as one of the early Park-Madison players in the 1980s. Oliver Brown is another minority entrepreneur who is also working on the Dornoch site.

After this week, the City Council only has five agenda sessions and four regular meetings in 2007. The last agenda session is for the January 2008 reorganization, which may bring forth an appointee to replace City Council President Rayland Van Blake, who is running for Union County freeholder. Van Blake is running with incumbent Democrats Daniel P. Sullivan of Elizabeth and Chairwoman Bette Jane Kowalski of Cranford and though a newcomer at the county level, will have the advantage of the party line.

Plainfielder Adrian O. Mapp, whose freeholder term expires Dec. 31, did not get the Regular Democratic Organization line this time. Mapp is running offline with Becky McHugh of Linden and George P. O’Grady of Elizabeth. Republican candidates are Patricia Quattrocchi of Linden, Wallace K. Shackell Jr. of Cranford and Robert Reilly of Winfield.

Mapp, who served seven years on the City Council before election to the freeholder board, drew party disfavor for maintaining his alliance with the late Mayor Albert T. McWilliams’ New Democrats after McWilliams was shunned by the Regular Democrats in 2005.

Van Blake and Mapp were running mates in the 2002 general election for City Council. Van Blake won a second four-year council term in 2006. If he wins a freeholder seat, an appointee will be named in January to serve until the November 2008 general election, when the balance of the unexpired term will be filled.

--Bernice Paglia


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