Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Tax Abatement Issue Resurfaces

Regular City Council attendees arrived Monday (Sept. 8, 2009) to see a crowd of seniors in the City Hall rotunda. Some seniors weren’t sure why they were there, but thought it had to do with a proposed tax abatement for a condo complex that also includes a new senior center.

There was nothing on the agenda regarding the tax abatement. In July, an ordinance to allow negotiations on the tax abatement passed on first reading, but quickly drew an outcry from residents. Officials were seeking a deal that would permit condo purchasers at The Monarch to pay only 40 percent of city taxes for five years. Longtime homeowners asked why they should not get the same consideration.

The Monarch is a 63-condo project that includes a senior center and veterans' center on the ground floor. Seniors now meet in leased space about a block away. Recently, the mayor and the administration urged support of a tax abatement to prevent the condos from becoming rentals.

In an unprecedented move, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs came out of her office Tuesday into the rotunda to urge the seniors to support the tax abatement, suggesting that without it, the project might fail. The City Council was still in executive session.

But even on Tuesday, a senior brought up the issue of longtime homeowners needing a tax break before the city helps a developer.

Once inside the meeting at City Hall Library, seniors had to endure more than three hours of presentations, discussions and council business before being allowed to speak. Only three seniors spoke, mainly reminding the legislators that the seniors’ efforts over the decades paved the way for their election to the governing body.

Robert Nelson reminded the council of city civil rights pioneers such as the late Marshall Brown and Emily Washington. Washington herself said Tuesday, "Do what you can for us."

But City-wide at-large Councilwoman Annie McWilliams pointed out that the council had no knowledge of the new effort to push the tax abatement until Tuesday. To learn that private citizens had the information earlier, she said, “For me, that’s a problem.”

Senior Marion Trabelsi, speaking of the promised move from leased space at 305 East Front Street to the new center at 400 East Front Street, said seniors “feel lately that we are going to be put in the street.’’

Robinson-Briggs took the floor during the council meeting to urge the governing body to support the tax abatement. Councilman William Reid, the mayor's campaign treasurer, reminded the council that the ordinance only opens the way for negotiations. As midnight approached, the council closed the public portion of the meeting to go back into executive session for more discussion of the tax abatement, even though Reid said he thought the discussion had been completed.

Meanwhile, seniors filed outside to board a city-owned van for the ride home, some grumbling they had been taken advantage of.

The condo/senior center project has missed three completion deadlines so far, but the mayor hosted a large celebration at the new center on a one-day occupancy permit May 20, before winning the June primary. In the Nov. 4 general election, she is opposed by Republican James Pivnichny and independent Deborah Dowe. The senior center is the focus of her "Promises made, promises kept" campaign slogan.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernice, you wrote that a crowd of seniors was at the council meeting but that they weren't sure why they were there. Why would they just show up without a reason? How did they get there? This is confusing--it also sounds as if there are some seniors who are perhaps being "used" for a political agenda not of their own making, especially if they are brought/bused in for reasons unknown to them. Could you clarify this?

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

UNCONSCIONABLE! This mayor is using the seniors, and using our city-owned van for her own political purposes. Where is Senior Center Director Sharron Brown in all this? How could she endanger her job by allowing this blatant political use of city resources to serve a mayoral agenda? WE, the taxpayers, are PAYING for the driver of the city-owned van! This is outrageous. I also find it troubling that the mayor is supplying inside information to seniors about the tax abatement--clueing them in on the fact that she is going to bring up the abatement without informing the council. Legally, she is treading on very dangerous ground here. She appears to have no sense of ethical responsibility and she is leading city employees to break the law as well in terms of the city's senior center director allowing the van to be used for politics.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Bernice said...

To 10:38 a.m.:
I was surprised to see the turnout and asked somebody what it was all about. After hearing it was about the tax abatement, I shared the agenda I had picked up earlier and noted there was no such item on it.
This resulted in some confusion on their part. Then the mayor stepped out to rally the seniors into sticking up for the tax abatement if they wanted to have a new center, but one women challenged the mayor, saying longtime homeowners deserved a break. The seniors were also somewhat taken aback when I mentioned they could only speak at the very end of the meeting (which turned out to be past 11 p.m.). Obviously, they were not totally clear on why they were there, but were primed by fear to bolster the mayor's wish to give the developer a break.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Maria Pellum, Plainfield Resident said...

How insulting to the seniors! I hope they see through Robinson-Briggs and stop letting her use the seniors for her own personal agendas. Talk about hidden agendas!

I am not a senior, but I would hate to be one, or to have a loved senior one, taken advantage this way.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the seniors see how they have been duped and do the right thing by voting for Pivnichny in November.

If not, they get what they have been getting from the mayor - NOTHING but dinners.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've made this comment before to an earlier post (maybe on PT). I have no doubt that there was a deal made between Glen Fishman and Jerry Green/Robinson-Briggs: finish enough of the building to get the Senior Center a temporary C of O by primary day, and we'll push for a tax rebate to help you sell the condos.

It will be fascinating to see what will happen if the council denies or delays the rebate and how the administration will spin it between now and November.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that the seniors didn't know that they could only speak at the end of the meeting, and that the city-owned senior center bus wasn't going to take them home until after the meeting (meaning after 11 p.m.) makes it seem as if the poor seniors were being held "hostage" in a way, stranded at city hall until they said what the mayor wanted them to say. It reminds me of her political agenda events at Washington School, where she and the senior center director again bus in seniors with the promise of a dinner, but then they don't serve them the dinner until AFTER the mayor uses them for her political purposes. Meanwhile, those who realize that they are just propaganda tools are stranded with no way to get home, since they were bused in. How could people who claim to "love our seniors" abuse and mistreat them in this way? Those who are on fixed incomes are being taken advantage of. What did the senior center director have to say about all this? And what of all the seniors who own homes who could certainly use a tax abatement? People on fixed incomes have the worst time paying higher property taxes, as their income is not likely to increase, so any residential tax abatement to newcomers will have a disproportionately worse effect on the senior citizen population! This abatement would raise the taxes on the rest of Plainfield's taxpayers, and thus would raise the average taxes on senior citizens even MORE!! Doesn't the mayor realize that?? In addition, the fact that she could only muster a small amount of people suggests that MORE seniors are AGAINST the tax abatement than would support it. There are thousands of homeowning seniors and families in town. Those who utilize the senior center on a regular basis only represent a small percentage of those who live in town. We don't know how the vast majority of seniors feel about this abatement. The mayor has no sense of decency or shame. I'm glad the city council saw through her silly games.

She and her developer friends and her assemblyman mentor, Mr. Housing and Local Government will have a lot to answer for when the public learns more about this developer and his projects and his political contributions. Cui bono??

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey ..... let me know about the next free meal !!!

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 2:37pm - Would you believe the answers given anyway? I think not. Do not vote for them in November. It is the only way for your voice to really be heard.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fellow Seniors, when will some of you stop being duped by Plainfield's Mayor and others. You were given information earlier in the day on Tuesday that probably should not have been shared with you, bordered on deception and was designed to frighten you into acting, imprudently. Surely enough some of you like lemmings allowed yourselves to be bused to Tuesday's Council Meeting and touted the "party line". What was even more sad,was that some of you didn't understand why you were even at the meeting! Maybe Center employees have to sell their souls in order to keep their jobs but you don't. We are retired and most of us worked for decades in many different capacities so that we would be able to live out our golden years as comfortably as possible. Who gave you "tax abatements' to help you pay your ever increasing property taxes in Plainfield? We worked hard and paid the taxes ourselves. I know that you are anxious to get away from the current Center and into a place that is more accommodating and really shows how a community is supposed to look after and show respect to its elderly but let us become more questioning, less gullible so that when you do move into a new Center you will take your dignity with you.Please go back to thinking for yourselves, analyzing what you are told and asking if the ideas being presented to you are really in your best interest.
Margaret A. Lewis

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With or without the tax abatement, the project is in trouble. With the abatement, the tax payers effectively become a partner with
the developer. If he can not sell these condos without the abatement so be it. I can assure you, the developer will finish the project and proceed to sell at the $250,000+/- price and rent the remaing condos until better times. It is that or foreclosure; not likely, if it has not happened by now. The sneiors, me being one, have been duped by the Green/Briggs team. They have expolited and manipulated us for years. Feeding us at every chance will not persuade me to vote again for this duo who is out of step with the more thoughtful brothers and sisters.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Dr. Lewis. A society should be measured by how it cares for its elders (and its children). Well, the mayor has shown that she is beneath contempt for her exploitation of Plainfield's seniors. That the Senior center director and other high-level city employees may have sold their souls in order to keep their jobs shows the level of political corruption that exists in the city. Those who speak the truth are fired with not a peep from the weak and possibly corrupt union leadership, while those who serve the mayor's and the assemblyman's will live morally bankrupt lives. How can they be regarded with any measure of respect from the community they live in? They will be looked upon as "jokes" to their friends and neighbors. I have heard many senior level city employees say "I gotta do what I gotta do" as they collect hefty paychecks for keeping this dysfunction going until they retire and move away.

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is it that information that is not on the public city council agenda is nonetheless leaked to certain seniors so that they could make sure that the seniors would be in attendance at the council meeting to discuss those items? Don't mayor and the city administrator have a legal responsibility to make sure the city council is aware of the latest news regarding the developer? It would seem, based upon Mayor Robinson-Briggs's behavior last night, that she is in cahoots with the city administrator and the finance person to leak information to certain senior citizens without letting the city council know. The city council should demand the information on the status of ALL of Fishman's enterprises, as a simple Google search seems to be turning up scary news about this developer's track record.

7:27 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

Wow...The Cheshire Cat...Mayor Jerry's Puppet -- SHARON, certainly outdid herself this time. This is a classic example of someone who is SOOOOOOO desperate they are willing to do anything, including piss off the very people she has been using to further her own agenda, to pull one over on everyone else. Congrats Chershire Cat, hopefully the seniors in Plainfield will do their job and help boot you cartoonish caricature of and administration to the curb. And mind you, the worst part is, EVERYONE has to know, Jerry told her to do this. Even she isn't that cunning and stupid rolled into one body.

6:06 AM  

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