Monday, June 08, 2009

Dem Rapprochement in Question

A potential political lovefest went wrong Monday after newly-re-elected Chairman Jerry Green of the Regular Democratic Organization apparently altered terms of a negotiated deal on committee representation with the New Democrats.

Initially, members of the public who showed up at the YWCA for the Democrats' biennial reorganization found themselves barred by uniformed police from entering the meeting room until 7 p.m. while caucuses of the warring factions took place.

The New Democrats had backed Councilman Adrian Mapp for mayor in the June 2 primary, while the RDO backed incumbent Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who won with 47 percent of the vote in a field of six candidates. Mapp received 39 percent of the vote and his slate of committee candidates won 28 of the possible 68 committee seats.

The first proposed slate included New Democrat campaigner Rebecca Williams as second vice chair and Mapp as third vice chair, but Green then added a pledge that all would support 2nd & 3rd Ward Councilman Rashid Burney in a re-election bid next year. New Democrats said they would consider it later on, but objected to the condition being added to the vote Monday.

In the end, a slate with no New Democrats was adopted, kind of giving a hollow ring to Jerry Green's statement on his support of Burney: "This is my way of bringing everybody together."

Green spoke of the need to back Gov. Jon Corzine in the upcoming governor's race, while also acknowledging that Democratic voting was down statewide. In Plainfield, only one-third of eligible Democrats bothered to vote.

Mapp supporters had also made a bid for him to become chairman, but he received only 27 votes to Green's 41 and conceded the election.

While Mapp preached partnership, saying, "There needs to be one Democratic party in Plainfield," his supporters appeared to be stung and bitter over the outcome of the meeting, which was characterized by frequent outcries prompting calls for order by Sergeant-at-Arms Hugh Smith.

Regarding Burney, the current City Council president, his term and that of the First Ward incumbent William Reid, will be up next year.

The roster Monday ended up having all RDO members as officers.

In a side note, Green said results of the Fourth Ward City Council race are under scrutiny by attorneys over the status of provisional ballots, despite posting Monday of official results from County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi that show Bridget Rivers as the official winner by six votes over the mayor's Fourth Ward running mate, Vera Greaves. Objectors have until June 17 to demand a recount.

--Bernice Paglia


Blogger Rob said...

Wow.. I am impressed the New Democrats put up Mapp against Jerry. Congratulations to them !! Fighting for something you believe in and losing is far more admirable than rolling over and doing nothing and claiming you are the victim. Kind of like what Jerry & Sharon did regarding the hospital. Rolled over and played victim. This is why anyone who doesn't support or act like them has far more integrity as a politician. Here's to the New Democrats of Plainfield for standing up for what they believe in. Here's to Jerry and Sharon for...well..lets just leave it there.

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was disappointing to see Jerry adding that pledge bit about Councilman Burney when he got back into the room after discussing having some New Dems on the PDCC exec committee. The framing of the "condition" about offering support to Rashid came as a surprise when the assemblyman brought it up in front of everyone. That was not something that was agreed to, and I wanted to make sure that it was clear.

As lifelong members of the Democratic party, as people who care about our party and who have worked to elect individuals we believe in, the thought was that it would only be fair for the New Democrats to have some seats at the table. To disenfranchise us in favor of a future promise to an elected official just doesn't sit well, in terms of an open democratic process. By not allowing us a seat at the table, the assemblyman's call for unity rings hollow.

Speaking only for myself (as Adrian is capable of speaking on his own behalf here), I believe that I have exhibited leadership over the past several years--running several successful local campaigns as well as successful GOTV operations--Assemblyman Green seemed to agree. As in every year that I have been involved in local politics in Plainfield, I campaigned for the candidate I believed in, openly and publicly, and I received a goodly number of votes as committee candidate in my district this first time out as a committee candidate, even though voting was light, as many have mentioned. Jerry speaks of leadership a lot, and I think I have shown my leadership abilities.

Rashid, on the other hand, only received 27 votes from his own district, and he didn't campaign for the team he was running with, as far as I could see, i.e., Sharon Robinson-Briggs and the RDO. Exhibiting leadership does not mean staying out of the race and waiting to see who will emerge as the victor. It's about having the courage of your convictions. I openly supported the candidates I believed in, and I worked hard for them (not just me, but all the New Dems worked hard). I campaigned hard for several of the other current and past city council members (including Rashid), who I thought would be effective on the council. I have been disappointed in what I personally view as moral/ethical lapses on the part of some, but that doesn't stop me from continuing to try to be involved in the process. They are free to disagree with me, but I think it's only fair for everyone to know where he or she stands. As I mentioned, I campaigned hard for Rashid in the past, and he attested to that at yesterday's meeting. Next year is a different story, however, and Jerry Green knows that.

I don't see how, then, Jerry thought he could extract a promise of support for a future council candidate who didn't even get out and work for more votes for Mayor Robinson-Briggs, his mayoral choice, in his own district during this primary season. For those of us who are new members of the PDCC, it doesn't sit well to be told that we can only have a seat at the table if we adhere to a condition that is arbitrarily set by the chairman. The idea of having an elected committee is to have input into who runs for what seat--not to have it "handed" to soemone whom many of the new people on the committee don't know and might not be willing to support if a more effective choice is made available to them.

In the interest of openness and tranparency, any candidate who wants to run on the line for office should present him or herself to the committee and make a case for him or herself. The line isn't awarded until March of 2010, so why would anyone agree to support a particular individual without seeing who else might want to be considered? That is how I view it.


10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanted to add something to my last comment: according to the PDCC bylaws, the meeting was supposed to be run by the secretary, who then was supposed to turn it over to the chairman after he was elected. As far as I know, there was no motion and second made for Dottie Gutenkauf to run the meeting, unless she was made the secretary. I thought the secretary was Hervey. Robert's Rules were not followed correctly, and the meeting adjourned quickly with no mention of the treasurer's report, old or new business, and I don't know who took the notes, as the secretary didn't seem to be writing anything down. I look forward to receiving my copy of the minutes from this meeting, which will be shared with the rest of the Second Ward Committee members. I look forward to the 6 meetings per year, and adherence to the bylaws in the future.

In addition, the "thuggish" behavior of the two cops who Jerry hired for the meeting didn't speak well for openness and transparency, either. One of the cops threatened to take away the camera of one of the guests in the meeting, which is against the law. That duly elected committee members were turned away by police (and non-committee members at the front table) who could not offer a valid or cogent reason for turning them away except to parrot "we're caucusing" speaks volumes. Next time, I would hope that police who understand the law would be there to serve and protect all in attendance.


10:54 AM  
Anonymous Alan Goldstein said...

Are the officers of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee a subset of the committee?

Article I of the PDCC's constitution says the city committee is to be constitued by those elected to the county committee from Plainfield's election districts.

Jerry Green is not an elected committeeman. Can he then legally be its chairperson? Can the PDCC put at its helm someone who cannot by properly constitued as a member?

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joan Hervey isn't a member of the RDO. She lost her second bid for election to city committee to Mari Bonini. She was elected secratary, now where are those notes.

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something definitely wrong with the math. RDO only had 40 votes; NDP had 27, as Mr. Ruffin was not present. Every NDP voted for Mapp. The counting should have been done in a more orderly fashion. This is not rocket science. Maybe children should have done the counting.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A caucus is not an open meeting and it's perfectly reasonable to turn away people who aren't members of the caucus. It's too bad that some non-members like Rebecca tried to force their way into the caucus meeting, she should know better. When the announced time for the Democratic Committee meeting arrived everyone was let in. I observed a lot of childish behavior from some of the "new" Democrats on the committee and some of their friends, it was disruptive and discouraging but that may have been the plan since everybody knew they didn't have the votes anyway.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard the New Dems wanted a secret ballot and not an open ballot. Is that true?

1:58 PM  
Blogger Bernice said...

Yes, the New Democrats tried to propose a secret ballot, but there was already a proposal to vote by a show of hands. There was a lot of commotion over how to proceed.

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What was the name of the "caucus" and how would anyone know if they were a member? There were a lot of people in the room before 7 who weren't "members" of the "caucus" or the city committee. Also, already in the room were a few newly elected committee people who came in as New Democrats but who those people sitting at the front table didn't know. How is it that they were allowed in? Is it because they weren't recognizable as New Democrats?

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Dottie Gutenkauf said...

Most of the commotion wasn't necessary--a lot of people shouting instead of putting their hands up to be recognized. The vote to vote by show of hands was ultimately decided by a show of hands--that may sound a little peculiar but it was done in accordance with Robert's Rules and resulted in an accurate (and decisive) count.

Frankly, those who call for "openness" and "transparency" and at the same time want a secret ballot vote in a representative body are being inconsistent, to say the least. Openness and transparency are nice catchwords, but it's standing up to be counted when it counts that really matters.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Secret ballots may be against party rules per Article IV, Section 9 of the Union County Democratic Committee constitution.

5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the city committee members was out of town and not present at the meting, so how could there be a 41-27 accurate vote count??
The idea of secret ballots was actually brought up a few weeks ago by city committee candidates on GREEN'S side who were afraid to stand up and be counted for fear of reprisal from him. This is not uncommon. the fact that Green refused to go for it means that he wasn't sure whether the vote would favor him. Secret ballots are not inconsistent and are valid as all true unionists know. Think Walmart.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 5:18 pm, passage of the Party Democracy Act, now winding its way through the assembly (A1904)may force a change in how the county committees conduct their business.

5:57 PM  
Blogger Christian Estevez said...


Would you suggest that union elections be conducted by a show of hands in front of the boss? Do you support the American Free Choice Act that would allow a union to gain recognition once they get a majority of the workers to sign union authorization cards? We fight for this right for workers because we believe that workers deserve to have thier votes counted without having to be subjected to the intimidation of their employers. If we believe in these rights for workers, why wouldn't wewant the same for the members of the Plainfield Democratic Committee? If the supporters of Jerry Green were so confident that all of the committee members that ran on his slate would continue to support him, why didn't they trust them to show that support by voting for him via secret ballot? Were they afraid that if they were allowed to voted via secret ballot, some of them would defect? Having committee members vote by a show of hands on whether to have a vote by a show of hands is a joke. It has the same effect of opening up the process to intimidation. Anyone that was intimidated would have felt compelled to vote yes on the motion to vote by a show of hands. It is too bad that you lack confidence in the people you ran side by side with.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As was a Union member for over 10 years I never had to show my hand expect to collect my paycheck Thursdays after 1 PM.

But to compare Union practices to Plainfield politics can very well be a good comparison since both, Unions and Plainfield's politics, suffer of the same ills, bosses and a status quo that don't allow for change and best practices. Both also offer protection to those who do as they are told, no questions asked.

6:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks to Christian for calling Dottie out on the secret ballot issue by explaining what it would mean in a unionized boss/employee situation. Absolutely perfect.

Readers will notice Dottie had nothing to say in response because Christian was right. Dottie was being a party loyalist even it goes against the grain of her other politics. That's a great shame.

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somebody made a comment about the bylaws of Dem city committee. How was it that Dorothy Gutenkauf was running the meeting if she wasn't the secretary? What happened to Joan and why didn't Joan take notes?

9:12 AM  

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