Sunday, September 30, 2007

Carter Responds to NJQSAC on Oct. 18

Interim Schools Superintendent Peter Carter’s October letter to the community includes an invitation to attend a forum 7 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Emerson “swing” school, 1700 West Front St. at Rock Avenue.

He plans to give his response to the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum monitoring report, among other topics.

Carter had hardly set foot in Plainfield at the end of the last school year when he found out that the district had done poorly in four of the five performance areas studied by the state monitoring team earlier in 2007. With perhaps an appropriately apocalyptic tone, he dubbed his new group of administrative allies the “post-6/11” team. Once Carter was hired at an unusual Friday night emergency meeting, he recommended Michael Donow the same night to serve as interim business administrator. The board agreed and soon after accepted Carter’s recommendation to hire Walter Rusak as interim assistant superintendent, forming the team.

Since then, there have been numerous personnel changes as uncertified administrators were dismissed and other staff reassigned. Having paid more attention to municipal government than to the school district in recent years, I couldn’t attempt to give a scorecard. For that matter, some key positions are still not filled.

So since Carter took over on June 11, the administrative landscape has radically changed. The players that were in charge when the monitors made their dire findings are mostly gone. How the district ended up meeting only 61 percent of the indicators for operations management, 38 percent for personnel, 8 percent for instruction and program, 11 percent for governance and 32 percent for fiscal management may be the subject of future forensic studies, but for now the post-6/11 team is hustling to fix as much as can be fixed in the short term.

The school board obviously has to assess why members accepted so many apparently faulty recommendations from the past administration, and must address the 8 percent score for governance.

State Department of Education Commissioner Lucille Davy announced the report on Aug. 20, just as an inauspicious report came out questioning her department’s ability to manage the monitoring follow-up activities. The DOE has had to make a lot of changes even as it is probing the state’s most troubled school districts.

All around, it is not a pretty picture for public education. But Carter so far appears to have built up good will and projected a “can-do” outlook here in Plainfield. His letters to the community have been frank about what is expected from all stakeholders in the public schools if the NJQSAC findings are to be overcome.

Carter said recently that about one-third of the deficiencies have already been addressed. One directive straight from Deputy Commissioner of Education Willa Spicer was a change in leadership at Hubbard Middle School, which has not met federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards in seven years.

In about four months, the DOE will take the measure of Plainfield’s progress and has the power under the NJQSAC legislation to intercede further if it is not deemed sufficient.

All of the above makes Oct. 18 an important date for parents, students, school staff and taxpayers. Click here to read Carter’s entire letter.

--Bernice Paglia

Friday, September 28, 2007


Start saving your pennies now for an amaryllis bulb.

Sure, it’s still hot and we think fall will never come, let alone winter.

But in that dank season, you will be sorry if you have not assured yourself the pleasure of seeing what looks like an overgrown onion turn into a magnificent floral display, enough to gladden anyone’s heart.

Amaryllis plants come in lots of colors and both single and double blooms. Pick any of them and you will not be disappointed.

My “Dancing Queen” of last winter amazed me with multiple and repeated blooms and it was spring before I knew it.

You can get pricey (but very reliable) ones by mail order at White Flower Farm or cheap ones at Drug Fair and other mass outlets. Either way, you are in for a treat when winter winds are howling and you have a spectacular sight on your windowsill. The Smith & Hawken store in Westfield also usually has a selection.

Go for it! Your winter will be a lot happier for having an amaryllis in your apartment or house.

--Bernice Paglia

PR Money Goes for What?

Hope against hope, I clicked on the official city web site tonight expecting some solid information about next week’s City Council schedule.

Silly me. There was no such thing.

Nor was there any update from the boiled-lobster photos of a couple of department heads in T-shirts or tank tops.

Channel 74 TV schedule? “The page cannot be found.”

It is now more than a year and a half into the “new” administration and communication is still lacking.

On the other hand, some of us are eagerly awaiting the next letter from Interim Schools Superintendent Peter Carter. His letters over the past few months show us that communication is both necessary and possible.

The city’s investment in communications does not seem to have paid off so far. Maybe in the Fiscal Year 2008 budget process there will be some reckoning of costs versus results.

The school district also has a large investment, but Peter Carter on his own has apparently been able to engage people without the intervention of public relations staff.

Maybe it is time to set the record straight on what all the public relations money goes for. If it is for brochures and flyers and photos versus press releases and the like, can somebody say so?

There are lots of ways to communicate and lots of targets. If the goal is to educate the internal school community, that is one thing. If the story is for the public, paid staff needs to tap into the lines of communication with the community at large.

The two major recipients of taxpayer money need to find better ways to educate stakeholders on what exactly is at stake.

--Bernice Paglia

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Revive Human Relations Commission

The recent spate of racially-tinged incidents in and around the city made me wonder whatever happened to the Human Relations Commission.

Empowered to have nine members, the commission had none when Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, former president of the NAACP, took office on Jan. 1, 2006. According to 2006 posts on Plaintalker, the mayor proposed the names of Oliver C. Hubbard, Judawn L. Musa and the Rev. Carolyn Eklund to serve on the commission. Joan Hervey was another possible nominee.

But to the best of our knowledge, no one was actually seated and the commission is still inactive. I have never seen a meeting notice or any other proof that the commission is functioning.

So now we have multiple examples of bias and misunderstanding, with no official local body to address the situation.

Years ago, the Human Relations Commission held hearings on alleged police brutality and heard much testimony. If nothing else, the hearings helped to clear the air by giving people a way to vent their feelings.

It is always shocking to find that a veneer of good will toward others is just that, nothing more than a veneer. Underneath, the ugliness persists.

Politicians may publicly deplore these incidents, but where do the average folks go with their hurt and dismay?

If there were a Human Relations Commission in place, that would be a start.

--Bernice Paglia

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Search is On

School board members agreed Tuesday on a fast-paced superintendent search process aimed at having a finalist approved on Feb. 19.

The district hired Peter Carter as interim superintendent in June after former Schools Superintendent Paula Howard abruptly quit. Carter agreed to serve until the end of the 2007-08 school year. But the district must now seek a new permanent superintendent.

Marvin Edwards, a senior associate at Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates of Glenview, Il. led the board through steps that begin with agreeing on a desired leadership profile. That profile will be the basis of the search. The firm will present the board with five finalists from the pool of applicants and then the board will choose three semi-finalists before selecting the new superintendent. Edwards and Board President Pat Barksdale both stressed the importance of confidentiality throughout the last stages of the process.

Edwards and the board agreed on a calendar that started at once with slotting board members into one-hour sessions on October 11 and 12. Over the next few days, various groups will be invited to fill the nine other slots to take part in developing the leadership profile. There will also be a community forum at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11 at Plainfield High School for public input.

The firm will take all the comments and develop the profile within a couple of weeks. It will report back to the board at a meeting 7 p.m. on Oct. 29. It was not decided whether the meeting will be open or closed.

The search will take six to eight weeks, after which the firm will yield five candidates. On Jan. 8, 2008, the board will have a 5:30 p.m. seminar on interviewing and will learn who the five candidates are.

Edwards said the interviews should take place within the following week.

“This is where the sacrifice comes,” he said.

Board members will have to commit to interviewing the five candidates over two days, to yield three semi-finalists. The board agreed to meet three candidates on Jan. 16, each for an hour and 15 minutes, and two more on Jan. 17. Edwards said he will facilitate the board’s process of selecting three semi-finalists after the interviews that night.

Each of the three will have a full evening with the board, possibly with dinner, on Jan. 23, 24 and 25 in a closely guarded process to ensure confidentiality. After the last interview, Edwards will again facilitate a board session on the final selection.

Barksdale questioned the timetable in light of possible inclement weather, but Edwards said, “We do this every winter and we just do it.”

Edwards said the interviews should be close together in order to keep the impressions of finalists fresh in the board members’ minds.

The process includes a site visit to the finalist’s home district, something that might be complicated by changing rules for out-of-state travel from Abbott districts. Barksdale asked Interim School Board Secretary/Business Administrator Michael Donow to look into the issue.

The firm will do a reference check on the finalist, but the district will have to do a criminal history check.

Whoever emerges as the new superintendent will find a long to-do list in terms of improving student performance and other functions. A state Department of Education monitoring team reviewed five performance areas in early 2007 and came up with a report that found the district lacking in four out of the five.

The board promised public notice through all means, including the district web site, print media and blogs to get the word out about the search process so that the community can take part.

--Bernice Paglia

Redevelopment Needs Status Check

The conditional designation of AST Development Corp. of Lavallette as developer for the Marino’s tract has expired, Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson confirmed last week.

That probably means the conditional designation of Capodagli Property Company as developer of the East Third/Richmond tract has also expired.

The former Marino’s car dealership was supposed to become the site for a new supermarket, but there has been little public mention of what is going on there. The East Third/Richmond proposal was supposed to start with the former Cozzoli machinery parcel and expand to five buildings with 352 condos and 700 ground floor parking spaces. Again, no news.

Meanwhile, the only proposal that has reached the stage of a formal redevelopment agreement seems to have a few mushy spots.

The Landmark Developers proposal for the North Avenue Historic District includes a new entertainment plaza and 415 residential units, while retaining the ornate facades of the district’s 1880s buildings. But now the city wants to add parts of two other nearby blocks, proposing to replace a parking lot vital to merchants with a 500-car parking deck.

The agreement says Landmark can spin off parts to other developers and can seek “payment in lieu of taxes” plans, even though the city has adopted a policy of not giving out any more PILOTs, since receipts from such agreements at other downtown developments were less than expected. The situation is complex, even before anything concrete has taken place.

It was a year ago in August that the city turned over redevelopment functions to the Union County Improvement Authority, with the provision that costs for preliminary items such as “in need” studies and redevelopment plans would be paid by the developers, not by the city. If projects are stalled or faltering, who picks up the tab? Let’s hope there is some pay-as-you-go clause to recoup costs from conditionally-designated developers before the city gets stuck owing the UCIA.

A public accounting of where things stand on all of the redevelopment sites is now in order.

--Bernice Paglia

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hispanic Heritage Festival

Next Sunday, the 7th Annual Hispanic Heritage Festival will be held downtown.

The Latin American Coalition won City Council permission Wednesday to close West Front Street between Park and Madison avenues from10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sept. 30. The rain date is Oct. 7.

Plainfield is a city of many communities that tend not to mingle as much as they could. Over the past couple of years, I have been fortunate enough to learn more about the lives of Latinos in Plainfield at festivals, celebrations and even shopping at Twin City. Many people say the thing they like best about Plainfield is its diversity, but when it comes to cross-cultural sharing, the opportunities are not always taken.

Sunday might be a good time for non-Hispanics to see what is going on at the festival. A bonus would be a walk around the Park-Madison building to see all the new businesses that have located there.

For families who want to know more about the people who now constitute the nation’s largest minority, here is a reading list for both children and adults. Hispanic Heritage Month began Sept. 15. Read a book, get a slice of Tres Leches cake at Arturo Marroquin’s bakery on Park Avenue, admire your new Latino neighbor’s garden, sample the offerings at the new Alan’s Mexican restaurant or any of several dozen other Latino restaurants in the city. Diversity really is one of Plainfield’s greatest assets.
--Bernice Paglia

Sunday, September 23, 2007

BOE Meeting Tuesday

According to a small legal notice, the Board of Education will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25 in the conference room at Plainfield High School. The topic is a discussion of board leadership goals and formal action may be taken.

So far, the meeting is not noted on the district's web site nor is an agenda posted.

In light of the NJQSAC report, it might be an interesting meeting. The report covered five aspects of district functioning: Instruction and program, fiscal management, operations, governance and personnel. Under "Governance," the district met only 11 percent of the state's indicators, when 80 percent is considered good and anything lower than 50 percent requires help from the state.

The 102-page district review section on governance had many blanks as well as a finding that the board did not operate "in accordance with standard board practices. "

Monitors found that policies, procedures and bylaws needed to be updated. Board minutes were not available in a timely way. The board did not use standard "instruments" to perform self-evaluations.

Some excerpts:

"Suggestion to district:
It is recommended that all stakeholders have equitable representation on school/community committees and that minutes, including action plans, derived by consensus be kept and approved by all participants. It is further recommended that these minutes be posted for all stakeholders to review providing openness and opportunities for building trust and effective operation of the school district."

"Notes from Interviews:
Staff and community members have expressed their perceptions that board members support the central administration exclusively and disregard other staff members concerns to the detriment of the education of the students. They report that decision making is top down and that their names may be included on committees without their input. If they do not agree with this group they are subjected to ridicule and retaliation.
All groups (including some board members) expressed the concern that communication is one way and that their concerns are not addressed. In the limited circumstances when their concerns are recognized there is limited follow through. "

"Suggestion to district:
The board needs to seek less polarizing methods in encouraging school/community communication. The CSA and school board should exercise leadership and facilitate open collaborative methods with all stakeholders thereby modeling their mission statement, i.e., no excuses etc."

"Notes from viewing the documents: Although the school board has a process for obtaining and disseminating information and decisions within the district, with parents, and with the community, it is not effective in reaching most segments of the community. This was made evident in the large turnout of a cross section of the school community at the QSAC Forum in contrast to the poor attendance at board meetings and 'forums.' ”

"Notes from Interviews:
Board members and central administration expressed defeat in their belief that many staff members and parents just want to complain. Parents do not come out to board meetings. Staff members are angry over the recent contentious contract process. “They against us” comments permeate throughout much of the dialogue.
In contrast, a large cross section of the school community attended the QSAC public forum meeting. Students, parents, community and staff members expressed a variety of opinions and interest, as well as, urgency in working to address the needs of the district including safety concerns and higher academic expectations for all students."

In looking at past Plaintalker posts on NJQSAC, I see that I reported on it at different times for the Courier News, so not all my writing on the topic is on the blog. Either way, it is a very big story for the Plainfield district and it is just starting to unfold. Maria Pellum and I are both trying to sift through the huge report and bring out key points. I believe Maria said the print-out ran to 275 pages. The full report is online, but how many people have the time or inclination to delve through it?

Interim Superintendent Peter Carter has promised a public discussion of the report and has already been addressing some of the deficiencies. The board will also have to show an effort in good faith to improve governance. The state Department of Education will be checking back in six months to see how Plainfield is doing.

--Bernice Paglia

Tepper's Empty Box

Residents who have done battle with contractors will be interested in the city’s tale of engaging a firm to fit out the city-owned basement portion of the Tepper’s building in August. The company spent $399,842.07 of a $459,000 bid award within a month.

Tasks completed included painting at $10,439.70, electrical work at $58,650, plumbing at $74,800, carpentry at $59,800 and floor masonry preparation at $23,000.

The full list is available at the City Clerk’s office.

Major undone tasks include HVAC work at $84,084.99, with 59 percent completed.

This project was bid out because the city was about to lose a major grant dating back to when the city proposed to put a senior center in the Tepper’s basement many years ago. The grant was apparently specific to the building and not to the senior center issue, which has since been solved by the city’s deal to permit 63 condos downtown with a senior center on the ground floor.

The contractor was George Lattimore’s firm, Solid Rock Construction.

The city still has no intended use for the space.

Possibilities including new City Council chambers and downtown surveillance camera headquarters have never won approval. City Administrator Marc Dashield called the space a “pretty much a vanilla box” pending an assigned use.

--Bernice Paglia

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Say What?

What is it about folks named George that leads to flights of fancy with the English language?

While sitting through nearly four hours of the Sept. 20 Planning Board meeting, I was struck by certain phrases that came out in testimony on the North Avenue Extension redevelopment study.

In describing businesses in the study area, our George called one “a hair cuttery type of place.”

To back up a finding that not much improvement was going on, George cited a “fewness of building permits.”

And to emphasize the faulty arrangement of the PNC Bank parking lot, George said it could lead to “vehicular to vehicular conflict.”

Is that anything like a car crash?

It would be much more amusing if our George wasn’t the author of a redevelopment study that may come under judicial scrutiny at some point.

To see how another George communicates, click here.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Paper or Pixels?

I may be writing Plainfield stories for the Courier News in the next couple of weeks. There are two in the paper today. I wrote a long article about the Planning Board meeting last night, but managed to hit the wrong button or not hit the right one at 2 a.m. and it flew away into cyberspace. So I will be redoing that one, most likely for the Courier.

Yesterday was a very long day for me. Usually I can work better in the early a.m., but I was busy all day and then the hearing ran until nearly midnight at the Planning Board. I was listening to Bob Fass on WBAI and had the whole article put together when disaster struck. Luckily for me there was no deadline in effect at that hour.

Oh well, either as Pressgrrl or Bloglady I will be getting the news for you. The Courier News is online at or is available on newsstands for non-subscribers.

By the way, I read in the Courier that shredded newspaper is a good source of carbon for the compost pile. Maybe I will add some to my end-of-season piles of spent flowers in the compost bin.

--Bernice Paglia

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Interim Schools Superintendent Peter Carter has posted a new letter, this one to parents and guardians of students at Hubbard Middle School.

Click here to read the entire letter.

Anyone interested in the school district will have to check the district web site often to keep up. I was waiting for Carter's next letter to the community, but the Hubbard matter obviously deserves explanation and understanding in the interim.

When NJQSAC first came on the horizon, I was assigned to write a brief article about the community forum held by the state monitoring team. Nobody, not even my editor nor a veteran teacher, could tell me what NJQSAC meant. So for a very small article, I spent most of a day looking up information on the Department of Education web site and reading the legislation itself.

It dawned on me that this was a very weighty matter indeed. Depending on results and responses to the findings, state authorities could add board members, remove administrators, place state administrators in the district or even take over the whole operation.

If the school district's bargaining units have not been briefed on NJQSAC by their leaders or legal advisors, now is the time. Everybody - parents, teachers, administrators and the community at large - must understand the implications of NJQSAC, especially given the district's very low scores in the monitoring that took place earlier this year.

In the spectrum of school performance under the No Child Left Behind Act, Hubbard was glaringly bad. Consider that the state has more than 600 school districts and maybe five or 10 times more schools. Hubbard was one of just 38 schools in New Jersey that never met any of the goals. The system has remedial plans for schools that fail to meet Adequate Yearly Progress goals for three years, but Hubbard is in Year 7 of not meeting goals. The No Child Left Behind Act doesn't even have any provision for such a case.

All the AYP scores are posted online and there is some good news in Plainfield. But there has to be more. For Hubbard, there must be much, much more and the path to achieving it may involve drastic measures.

--Bernice Paglia

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No Fliers, Please

Here's a picture of my staff.

The toy singing birds are assigned to amuse me while I write. The tin giant ladybug sometimes holds a fragrant candle to stimulate my subconsciousness.

As you might guess, none of them can type.

Nor, for that matter, can I, except for the old hunt-and-peck method.

Alas, us bloggers are starting to get many more fliers and press releases than we can deal with. I will state flatly that my blog is geared toward city news gathered at meetings that the rest of you find too boring to attend. I also like to splash a lot of flowers pictures around to vaunt my green thumb.

If I were still in the newsroom, I would be at the mercy of any editor who thrust a gaudy flier at me and said, "Here, write this up." I would then take the bits of information and create sentences.

But since I am the boss of me as a blogger, I do not want to transform fliers into brief articles. I repeat, in LOLcat: DO NOT WANT!

Get it?

Dan and Dottie list events, but others of us do not. You may keep sending fliers and press releases willy-nilly to Plaintalker, but don't expect me or my staff to toil over them.

Sometimes an editor drops me one of the same fliers or press releases by e-mail and then I have the option of making sentences out of them for print publication. That is a different proposition. It is called "freelancing" and involves getting paid for my talents. I can still do it at home in my jammies, but it is paid work.

So there you have it. Plaintalker doesn't do fliers or press releases. My staff and I aspire to offer original writing that you won't get anywhere else (unless Dan puts a link to it on his blog).

Bloggers. Mysterious creatures we are, no two alike. Those seeking publicity for their causes are directed to the content posters among us or to the legacy media that open their maws daily for your offerings.

My staff and I thank you for your cooperation.

--Bernice Paglia

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gary Returns to Help District

One of the Plainfield school district’s most revered members will be coming out of retirement to help out in its time of major transitions.

A walk-on resolution approved Tuesday will bring William E. Gary back to service from Sept. 24 to Nov. 30 for three to four days per week at $450 per day as Interim Director of Special Services.

Besides his professional career as past director of Special Services, Gary’s decades of avocational work with the New Horizons College Club are detailed on the group’s web site. I wrote several of the Courier News articles that are posted there and came to know the affection and respect the community had for Bill Gary.

Most of the articles are in Adobe Reader format and you can use the magnifying glass tool on the bar to enlarge the text. In a nutshell, Gary helped hundreds of students achieve college placement and professional success. I recently did a freelance article for the Courier News on the New Horizons College Club, which is carrying on his mission with those who benefited from Gary’s early work now in charge as board members.

The school district under the direction of Interim Schools Superintendent Peter Carter’s “post-6/11” team is dealing with numerous negative findings of a state monitoring team that visited early in 2007. After former Schools Superintendent Paula Howard abruptly quit in early June, Carter was hired and was left to deal with the fall-out of the report. Monitors found irregularities in personnel assignments, policy lapses, compliance with state regulations and many more issues.

I got to the meeting late, having forgotten it started at 7 p.m. and not 8 p.m. According to Dottie G., or as some style her, Dottie K., Carter said about 30 percent of the negative findings have already been addressed.

The district can review and dispute any of the findings, but it seems Carter has chosen the course of addressing and fixing as many as possible. The district will face a follow-up review in six months.

The very positive atmosphere that Carter initially projected was challenged Tuesday when Shirley Johnson-Tucker, representing the supervisors and administrators of the district, took issue with the board’s acceptance of the resignation of Hubbard School Principal Doris Williams. The resignation, effective December 2008, was accepted as of Sept. 18 with her reassignment to “mentoring and observation and evaluation of the district’s new elementary and secondary teachers,” among other matters.

While Johnson-Tucker claimed her group’s association members were being moved around without regard to notification rules, Carter said the move was due to a direct order of state Deputy Commissioner of Education Willa Spicer and staff.

According to state records, Hubbard has not met No Child Left Behind standards for
seven years.

In weeks to come, the district will address the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) report point by point. It may be more than the average citizen can bear, but Plaintalker will do its best to report on the outcome.

--Bernice Paglia

Monday, September 17, 2007

FY 2008 Budget News

Facing a projected tax increase of 8.7 percent, the city is asking for $2.9 million in extraordinary state aid.

The application cites a litany of woes, ranging from a botched tax lien sale to “escalating crime” and the second-highest number of homicides in Union County. The uncertain housing market, smaller revenues from “payment in lieu of taxes” agreements and inherited management problems were among other issues blamed for the increase.

The City Council did not discuss the state aid application at Monday’s meeting, but did see a slide show on the administration’s proposed budget. City Administrator Marc Dashield said this year’s budget was affected by factors that he called “a perfect storm” of rising fixed costs and the need to reduce expenses to keep the tax levy below a 4 percent cap.

Pensions, police and fire salaries and insurance added up to a $4.4 million increase that clashed with the 4 percent cap, he said.

The City Council is expected to introduce the budget Wednesday, after which the governing body can hold its own deliberations and make changes before budget adoption. Council members will receive the detailed budget books this week and have also agreed to meet from 7 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 2, 9, 16 and 23 in City Hall Library for budget talks.

The state aid application is due in Trenton by Sept. 28 and results should be known by November, Dashield said.

A request for extraordinary state aid does not mean a municipality will receive the amount sought. The city asked for $2.9 million in the 2006 fiscal year and got $500,000. Dashield said the average over the past several years was $600,000, although the figures for 2004 through 2007 in the report come out to an average aid amount of $737,500.

For those who haven’t followed budgets before, the city operates on a fiscal year that begins July 1 and runs to June 30. For the first three months, the city can use a quarter of the prior year’s budget to run things. If no budget is struck by then, the city can appropriate amounts monthly equal to one-twelfth of the past year’s budget until the new budget is passed. Sometimes this process goes on until many months into the fiscal year, and then the savings are less because salaries and expenses have already been paid out.

Dashield said Monday he is looking for adoption by November.

Regarding the tax sale fiasco, the report describes it thusly:

“The City of Plainfield had the unfortunate circumstance with the FY2007Tax sale that is a one time occurrence. There was no permanent Tax Collector appointed until May 2007 and the Acting Tax Collector had scheduled and geared up for the Tax Sale to take place the first week of June 2007 which the new Tax Collector started preparing for when the first legal notice appeared in the local newspaper with errors requiring the legal notice to be published in its entirety and prepare for the Tax sale to take place on June 21, 2007. Two (2) things occurred negatively that effected the City’s financial position. First do to software problems the delinquent notices for the May 1st could not go out since the tax sale had not taken place and did not occur until July, 2007 and secondly by having the tax sale on June 21, 2007 the lien holder were not in a position to pay the subsequent taxes since the tax sale certificates did not go out until July 2007. These two (2) problems created a tax collection rate that went from 95.66% down to 93.32% affecting both surplus and requiring a substantial increase in the Reserve for Uncollected Taxes in the FY 2008 budget creating an extraordinary tax problem.”

The city plans to hold a tax lien sale in November to make sure that the taxes are collected as in past years and to see that delinquent notices go out every quarter, the report said.

Redevelopment is still a key element in the city’s strategy to improve its fiscal situation and abandoned properties are being targeted for demolition and private redevelopment to produce new ratables.

The aid request also mentions ways the city has “leveraged” administrative expenses, such as by shared services agreements, seeking grants and partnering with the Union County Improvement Authority to reduce administrative and professional costs associated with redevelopment.

The City Council’s regular meeting will be 8 p.m. Wednesday in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

--Bernice Paglia

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

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Una Noche Mexicana con Sabor Andino

I am writing this Saturday evening after discovering an e-mail that I overlooked until just now.

Tomorrow evening (Sunday, Sept. 16) Plainfielders and the public at large can enjoy an event at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church to benefit young preople who are raising funds to attend World Youth Day 2008 with Pope Benedict XVI in Australia. Look here to see what I wrote about the pilgrimage earlier.

If you want to know more about Mexican and Andean food and music, "Una Noche Mexicano con Sabor Andino" is a great way to spend Sunday evening. Call Christian Estevez at (908) 643-9116 to get tickets at $20 per person. The event is 6 p.m. at the church, 516 W. Sixth St.
A Mexican Evening with Andean Flavor will feature authentic food prepared by the families and friends of the young people who are going on the pilgrimage and local musicians will perform live Mexican and Andean music.

--Bernice Paglia

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Time for Cuttings

To a gardener, fall is time to think of spring.

Both Maria and I have been collecting seeds for next year and it will soon be time to start taking cuttings for over-wintering.

The double pink impatiens is a plant I have nursed through the seasons for about a decade now. The original plant came from Municipal Parking Lot 6, where it was discarded by workers. I saved it and since have produced hundreds of new plants with the help of Mother Nature.

Last winter, the plants were doing well on my enclosed porch, but an invasion of white flies nearly did them in as the weather warmed up. I was sure my run of luck with this plant was over.

But the sickly survivors soon recovered after being set outside. It took a while for them to start blooming, but once they did, they became the stars of a small garden by the front entrance of our building. Non-gardeners mistake the lush blooms for roses. Here they are combined with white sweet alyssum and black mondo grass (a relative of turf lily) to set off their bright pink color.

If you haven't tried taking cuttings of impatiens, coleus or other easily-rooted annuals, give it a try. Make three-inch cuttings and strip off lower leaves. Set the cuttings in moist vermiculite or just plain water and wait for roots to develop. Once there is good root growth, pot the cuttings in Miracle-Gro or other potting soil. You can start with just a few, then take cuttings from those plants as they develop. With care and some luck, you can take your indoor crop through the winter and early spring. After the last frost, take them outside to a sheltered spot to get used to the outdoors.

Once you see new growth, put them where you want them (impatiens like some shade) and enjoy the results of your efforts all summer!

--Bernice Paglia

Fingerprinting for Volunteers?

Corporate volunteers in the schools are, in effect, strangers. Should they be fingerprinted and checked as is required of others who have contact with children?

That was the gist of a concern raised at Tuesday’s work-and-study session by school board member Lisa Logan-Leach Tuesday. She said a previous Human Resources director in the district said outside volunteers should be fingerprinted.

Interim Schools Superintendent Peter Carter said “without casting aspersions” on the former director, there were some areas where fingerprints were required, but it was not clear exactly where. Carter said the district will be contacting the state Department of Education’s Criminal History Review Unit to see whether corporate volunteers “who will be under the eyes of certificated, fingerprinted employees” would have to be fingerprinted.

If so, the process would take time and the district might not be able to enjoy their services, he said.

The board will vote next Tuesday on a resolution to accept the offer of Merrill, Lynch to provide volunteers for the “Investing Pays Off Program.” It is described as the company’s “flagship program to help young people in under-served communities become financially literate, business savvy and economically competitive.” The business meeting is 7 p.m. Sept. 18 in the Plainfield High School Library, 950 park Ave.

Carter said the program is for the 4th and 5th grades, with high school students helping to present it.

As described on the Jump Start Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy web site, lessons for young people include understanding how to balance a checkbook and other basic survival skills of “earning, spending, saving and investing.”

--Bernice Paglia

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Science Center Visit, Principal Search

Parents will soon learn of an opportunity to visit Liberty Science Center in October with their children for a night set aside just for Plainfield.

Ten school buses will transport parents and children for the free evening visit on Oct. 17 to provide a “bonding experience with science” that will “open new visions of what science holds.” Fliers will soon be sent out with details.

At Tuesday’s work and study session of the Board of Education, Interim Schools Superintendent Peter Carter spoke of the exciting new offerings at the revamped science center, but also expressed some misgivings about the bus contract award for the trip. Carter said the plans were made “pre-6/11,” his code for the period before he took over in June after the resignation of former Superintendent Paula Howard.

Carter said he would have pulled the bus contract, “if not for the children.”

“I’m very concerned about the bid process here,” he said. “I’m nervous here.”

The concern was just one of many since the “post-6/11” team of Carter, Interim School Business Administrator/Board Secretary Michael Donow and Interim Assistant Schools Superintendent Walter Rusak took office in June. Since then, Rusak has also been named Interim principal at Plainfield High School. Soon after Carter arrived, the district received a harsh state monitoring report based on team visits in early 2007. Carter and his team have corrected some of the faults, such as uncertified personnel in top jobs, and are working on others.

Carter explained Tuesday that a search for a new high school principal is underway. He said 25 people have expressed interest in the job. The applications were put in alphabetical order for a seven-member team to review, using a rating sheet. From that, perhaps 10 to 12 candidates will emerge for further review by a “blue-ribbon” group consisting of community members, administrators and others to produce a pool of five that will be winnowed in chats with Carter and school board members to two or three finalists.

More thought will then go into selecting a principal for what Carter called the “flagship” of the district, its high school where he said 1,600 young people will be educated.

In a report on the opening of school, Carter said the first day on Sept. 6 brought 4,500 children. By Sept. 7, the number was 5,424 and on Sept. 10, the number was 5,785.

According to past records, the district had 6,637 students enrolled in June 2007 and 7,121 in June 2006. In May 2005, the number was 7,466.

There was no discussion of the changes Tuesday or ramifications for the district.

The school board’s business meeting will be 7 p.m. Sept. 18 in the Plainfield High School Library, 950 Park Ave. Visit the district web site for more details.

Monday, September 10, 2007

BOE: Be There

Bored with lackluster City Council meetings?

Forget Watchung Avenue and hike over to Park Avenue to check out the school board action.

Unlike the city side, the current school board agenda is now posted for your reading pleasure.

Learn about all the groups that want to help Plainfield with school supplies – BJ’s Wholesale Club, the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, the Hewlett Packard Corporation – and the Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield’s donation of a student dictionary to every third-grader in the district.

Read about staff development measures, something made more important by the recent state monitoring report.

Did you know that Merrill, Lynch will offer volunteers to improve students’ “financial literacy” to become economically competitive?

There will be social work assistance at no cost to the district and a grant of more than half a million dollars for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program to enrich the experience of both students and parents in the education process.

Sometimes, like those live jazz improvisations I remember from the 1950s, the remarks of top district officials reveal news that otherwise goes unreported. So be there when Board President Patricia Barksdale and Interim Superintendent Peter Carter have their say.

The meeting is 8 p.m. in the Plainfield High School Conference Room, 950 Park Ave., Plainfield.

--Bernice Paglia

Keep Storm Water Clean

While walking to the Senior Center last week, I noticed small drifts of white powder on the streets and sidewalks. The stuff piled up as I got closer to the center. I thought maybe a box of soap powder had burst outside the Supremo supermarket. But when I left the center by the front door, I realized the little pellets were coming from the material being used to create a new façade on the building. It made me wonder whether any rules are in place for this type of construction and what effect this debris will have on storm water, now that the state Department of Environmental Protection wants all municipalities to reduce the amount of “suspended solids” in the runoff into sewers.

The city will have to install new “trash racks” on storm drain inlets, which may lessen the problem not only of litter contaminating the water, but the odd practice of many people who neatly push coffee cups and food wrappers down the storm drain in a misguided attempt at disposal.

I seldom see those small crack vials any more, but there are lots of small plastic envelopes on the ground that can wash down the drain, along with the plastic wrappers of the small cigars that seem to go with the envelopes.

And now that the rules are changing, I am noticing all the rubber bands that letter carriers discard on their routes. Maybe they could be kept and re-used or held until they can be put in the trash.

Water treatment to remove contaminants is costly. New rules are establishing penalties for not disposing of pet waste properly ($100 per violation), putting motor oil or anything else down the storm drain ($500 per violation), feeding wildlife including birds on public property ($100 per violation), making illicit connections to the storm water system or putting loose leaves in the gutter less than 10 feet from a storm drain (both $500 per violation).

People have painted fish images on the drains as a reminder that sea life is affected by polluted storm water. Awareness is the key to honoring these new rules. The DEP has lots of information on how people can aid the effort. Look here for some ideas.

--Bernice Paglia

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Art in the Park

Colorful displays and great weather combined Saturday at the 44th Annual Outdoor Festival of Art in Library Park. Browsers checked out the goods and hopefully made some purchases.

The lavender fountain lent a cooling touch to the 90-degree day.

Now let's get plans going for 2008!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Redevelopment Scorecard Needed

Before Tuesday’s agenda session, there was a closed City Council session at which these redevelopment topics were discussed: Marino’s, North Avenue, Richmond and Third, Madison Avenue and West Second Street, Arlington Avenue, Netherwood, Senior Center, Teppers II projects, as well as PBA Contract Negotiations and Kings Temple.

Under the Open Public Meetings Act, contracts and pending litigation are subjects that may be discussed in executive session, with the idea that once each matter is resolved, it will then be disclosed in a public meeting.

Tuesday’s public session lasted only about 20 minutes, most of which I missed. The meeting adjourned before other stragglers arrived.

The executive session list was much more interesting than the agenda for the public session, and reminded me that I have lost track of the timetables for some of the projects listed. It seems to me that the multiple extensions of some of the developers’ conditional designations must have expired by now, but I’m not sure. A consultant came before the council in August to explain that he attends weekly meetings on redevelopment projects, something that also made me think I have to sit down and get a grip on all these timelines.

The Senior Center project has passed the point of groundbreaking and there is a redevelopment agreement for the North Avenue project, albeit one that will most likely have to be modified, as other lots may be added. A redevelopment plan was just approved for the Madison and West Second Street project, suggesting construction of 12 luxury condos as the best use for the vacant lot. Consultant Mark Munley said in August he is helping the developer for the Marino’s tract find financing.

A developer for the Tepper’s II lots has made public presentations of his proposal for condos on West Front Street. The council recently approved the withdrawal of the Arlington Avenue developer. A study of the Netherwood area has been ordered, but its scope may be reined in due to recent eminent domain court rulings.

The project that has me drawing a big blank is the one for East Third and Richmond. It was proposed as a phased project for 352 condos in five buildings, starting on the former Cozzoli site. I can’t pinpoint the last extension given to the developer.

My big red accordion file on redevelopment has now spawned six separate files, with more to come, as the paperwork on each project increases. Early on, it was much easier to do a round-up of redevelopment. Now that there are 20 or so proposals to watch, it’s difficult. Maybe it’s time for a public accounting of where things stand.

--Bernice Paglia

Friday, September 07, 2007

Be Part of the Film Crowd

Make your film debut next week when a Plainfielder shoots scenes in front of City Hall.

Jake Cashill won City Council permission last month to film scenes for “The Broken Bond,” about a woman obsessed with her dentist. One of the scenes calls for lots of extras and will be shot starting early on Sept. 15 outside City Hall. Men, women and children are needed and must be dressed in dark shorts or jeans with dark, solid-colored shirts with no patterns or logos. The idea is to provide a “sea of people” as background for the lead actress, who will be dressed in bright colors to stand out in the crowd.

“It’s supposed to be a ‘Who’s that girl?’ moment,” Cashill said.

There is no pay for extras, but food will be provided and of course the thrill of being part of the creative process of making a film.

Anyone interested should e-mail producer Billy Mulligan at as soon as possible. The day starts at 6 a.m. and most people can leave at 11 a.m. (just in time for the PMUA Environmental Fair in Library Park). Some people may stay on until 3 p.m.

The company has already shot scenes in North Plainfield and will be shooting in Scotch Plains and South Plainfield. In recent weeks, two other films have had scenes shot in the Queen City. Now’s your chance – are you ready for your close-up?

--Bernice Paglia

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Time Out

The idyllic weather this week has cleared my mind of all important thoughts. I will lecture myself harshly and resume reporting on matters of import in the Queen City as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, I had a chance to see things through the eyes of a young person yesterday on a nature walk along the Cedar Brook. We found a spiny beechnut, a black walnut in its green, spongy outer casing, a small frog swimming in the brook and lots of weeds and wildflowers.

The pond in Cedar Brook Park was a shocking sight - not a green thing on its banks. But the mud had attracted several sandpipers who were busy probing for food in it.

Unfortunately, we saw a lot of trash in the brook and on its banks. Besides the usual bottles and bags of all sorts, we saw cast-off clothing, shoes and just about anything else a person could toss away.

It was still a nice walk and I was pleased to answer any and all questions about what we were seeing. The big, unanswerable question is why people would mar a natural wonderland by using it as a dump.

--Bernice Paglia

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Peter Carter's Letter

After reading Interim Superintendent Peter Carter’s September letter to students, I printed two copies and did as he suggested, hailing down two neighbor children off their bikes and reading a portion to them.

“I have a very special message for those pupils in grades four and five,” Carter wrote.

Both boys are entering fifth grade.

“These are very important grades and you are very important people. The work gets a little more difficult and more is asked of you than before.

“I know that you can do the work and be very successful. I know that because of how good you are with your X-Boxes and other electronic and technical devices which you use so well,” I read aloud.

At this, one boy’s eyes lit up and he smiled at the other. It was obvious he felt personally recognized as well as praised.

I finished reading, although each could have read it for himself. I was glad to have shared the moment, for I, too, have hopes for these boys that are not kin, but whom I have gotten to know through their many visits to our yard. Both have grown socially, emotionally and academically through their experiences in the Plainfield school district.

The boys stuffed the letters into their pockets and got back on their bikes. I hope they read them at home with their parents as well.

Carter’s avuncular tone is reassuring, but it is his insight into the minds of young people that clinches the deal, if there is a pact to be made for the 2007-08 school year. Read the letter here and judge for yourself.

--Bernice Paglia

Monday, September 03, 2007

Fire on Block 832

Only a couple of weeks after this fire on Block 832, we had another one tonight.
The picture above shows the recent destruction at a Connolly Properties site on Block 832 where a fenced-in area holds household cast-offs until they can be removed.
Tonight a neighbor in my building saw a man setting fire to newspapers behind another Connolly building and then spreading the fire to the rear of 131 Crescent Avenue.
City firefighters quickly extinguished the fire tonight, but my neighbors are wondering why it happened.
In the past, the city has had serial arsonists who target a block or neighborhood, and now we are wondering whether we are such a target.
Anybody with information should let city officials know. The Fire Division may be reached at (908) 753-3484.

Work To Be Done

Having provided some neighbor children with sidewalk chalk to create welcome-back-to-school messages, I was somewhat shocked to see this result:

It tells me there is work to be done in convincing even young children to abandon violence in favor of positive attitudes toward school and their fellow students. I was not able to determine who created this image or why. A couple of the kids expressed revulsion themselves at this image and swore they didn't do it.
I do not watch television or go the the movies much, but after this image appeared on our front stoop, I watched a Netflix preview that was rife with car explosions in previews for at least four films. The Netflix subscription was a gift from my daughter and son-in-law, who are trying to make me film-literate in the modern world.
My tastes run toward the fey and fantastic more so than the violent and destructive films, and I have enjoyed quite a few. But it seems the way of the world nowadays tends toward the violent, so maybe these children are more accustomed to shootings and explosions than what I would wish for my grandchildren, if I had any.
My hope lies with the several children who disavowed this image versus whichever child created it. And I hope that child will be taught or will discover a different way of relating to others rather than violent confrontation.

--Bernice Paglia

Labor Day Wake-Up

One of life’s little mysteries on Block 832 lately is why PMUA trucks come down our driveway in increasing frequency.

Our 6-family building once had a driveway separated from the one next door by railroad ties. After Fred Tedesco sold the large apartment building next door to David Connolly a few years ago, the railroad ties were removed. Now there is one shared driveway.

PMUA trucks used to pull up the driveway three times a week to service both buildings, but lately trucks are coming along every day, sometimes three times a day. My call to the PMUA did not yield any reason why this is happening and when I asked a supervisor outside, he told the workers I was a “problem child” for asking.

These trucks are huge, noisy and smelly. Sometimes they can’t maneuver around the corner of the big building without a lot of braking and pulling back and forth. This is due in part to people deciding to park in the driveway instead of by their garages.

Even though we see notices that there will be no collection on holidays, the trucks show up anyway. One drove up at 1 a.m. today and another at 2:30 a.m.

Maybe there is a good reason for this increased traffic. Maybe one truck is coming for trash and one for recyclables instead of putting everything on the same truck, which used to make us wonder why we bothered to separate recyclables. Maybe Connolly Properties has shifted to daily pickups.

But in a time of alarm over global warming, the constant visits of these lumbering behemoths are worrying. People are looking at smaller cars or mass transit to get around. Could there be a more nimble way of performing trash and recycling collection in the future?

Anyway, now that PMUA has gotten me up so early, let me be the first to wish everyone a pleasant Labor Day!

--Bernice Paglia

World Youth Day 2008 and Plainfield

I had hoped to finish this story with additional interviews for the Courier News, but time is running out and I decided to put it up on the blog. St. Mary’s Church is a focal point in the lives of thousands of new Latino residents in Plainfield as well as longtime parishioners, but is not often in the public eye. I was intrigued by what I learned about World Youth Day and the pilgrimage.

In July 2008, a group of young people from St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church expects to join Pope Benedict XVI and their peers from all over the world in Sydney, Australia for World Youth Day.

The annual event began in 1984, as a reflection of the special interest of Pope John Paul II had in youth. Since then, gatherings of pilgrims have reached as high as 10 million participants in locations around the world. Click here for a history of the meetings.

To earn the pricey airfare and travel costs, the local group has held car washes and sells dinners after Mass. In addition, parents prepared food for a special Flamenco Night that was held recently.

Father Jorge Ortiz explained the significance of the pilgrimage in a recent interview.

“Our faith is telling us we are all children of God,” he said.

Through baptism, he said, the faithful achieve new life.

But youth are especially important in spreading the Gospel by telling their own life stories, he said.

“Young people are very clever. They are looking for the truth, they are looking for the meaning of life,” he said.

Regardless of anyone’s religious views, the thought of hundreds of thousands of young people coming together in faith is a compelling image.

Another aspect of the movement is a call to vocations, or service to the church.

“There is a need to reconstruct the church,” Father Jorge said, adding there is a need for “a new kind of clergy” that is not looking for money or status, but “to be a servant.”

Father Jorge said the movement to reconstruct the church began with Kiko Arguello.

Arguello, along with Carmen Hernandez and Father Mario Pezzi, began the Neocatechumenal Way in 1964, according to a Wikipedia article that details the movement. See it here.

Father Jorge said at each World Youth Day, Arguello leads a call for vocations, which has resulted in almost 2,000 young people answering the call to a religious life. He said half are doing missionary work in various locations including Estonia, Finland, Puerto Rico and Marseilles, France. The others are serving in parishes in the United States and other places.

Young men and women are enrolled at 57 seminaries around the world as a result of Arguello’s call to take up a religious life, he said.

The work, such as that at St. Mary’s, is supported by the community at large and special benefactors, such as one person who donated a house to the church.

“The owner is the diocese. Nothing belongs to us,” Father Jorge said.

There are five seminarians and two nuns from the parish, he said, whose families are also backing their studies.

The church expects to send from 60 to 100 young people to World Youth Day 2008. A priest will accompany each class. For 10 days before the Pope arrives, the students will spread out and preach the Gospel in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. Arrangements for the trip are now being finalized. Anyone who would like to donate toward the pilgrimage may send checks to St. Mary's R.C. Church, 516 W. Sixth St., Plainfield NJ 07060 with a notation for World Youth Day 2008.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Busy Week Ahead, So Enjoy the Weekend

The City Council resumes its regular schedule this month, starting with an agenda session Tuesday due to the Monday holiday. The agenda session is 7:30 p.m. in City Hal Library, 515 Watchung Ave. The regular meeting will be 8 p.m. Thursday in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

The city’s web site is being revised to include council agendas, among other things. But if the agenda isn’t posted Tuesday, copies will be available at the City Clerk’s office in City Hall.

Despite a lot of discussion early on, the council was not able to agree on a new calendar for 2007 and by default stuck with the 2006 one they said they didn’t like. The council formerly met for decades on Mondays only, except when federal holidays pushed the meeting to Tuesday. Last year, the council came up with a schedule where the agenda sessions falls on the first and third Mondays of each month, with the regular meetings on Wednesdays of the same week.

This week’s regular meeting clashes with the Planning Board, which meets at 8 p.m. Thursday in City Hall Library. (It would have been the same under the old schedule.)
Municipal government mavens will have to pick one or the other.

There is also a Board of Adjustment meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday in City Hall Library. And on Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m., the mayor will speak at the Senior Center. According to the center newsletter, Assemblyman Jerry Green will also talk about property tax credit guidelines for all tenants and homeowners, not just for seniors. The center is at 305 East Front Street.

Also next week, the first day of school is Thursday and the 44th Annual Plainfield Outdoor Festival of Art will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in Library Park. The city needs volunteers to help out at the art festival and six neighborhood get-togethers at playgrounds that day. Call (908) 753-3097 if you can spare some time.

So have a great weekend and be ready for a busy week starting Tuesday!

--Bernice Paglia