Parents, coaches and about 60 young baseball players crowded City Hall Library Monday, seeking resolution to a six-month clash that intensified recently
Speakers said the Queen City Baseball League had lights turned off and were locked out of a field house on grounds shared with another league operated by the city's Recreation Division. The league's banner disappeared and players could not hold opening day ceremonies in other examples of what one speaker called "purposeful sabotage." In one instance, the lights went out just as a pitch was thrown, raising safety concerns.
Youngsters dropped their home-made protest signs to applaud their supporters, but as the comments became more acrimonous, adults began cautioning each other not to argue in front of the kids.
Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs apologized for a game being canceled Thursday and said, "I don't believe anybody did anything malicious to hurt the kids. The city of Plainfield would never
do anything to hurt the children."
Robinson-Briggs pledged that the banner would be replaced and said the city supports both leagues. She said she had met with league directors to "discuss ways the city could be supportive" of the volunteer Queen City league, but after proposing joint fundraisers, she "never heard another word."
"If the adults don't see eye to eye, I'll work with the kids," she said.
Responding to an issue about bases being locked up, Robinson-Briggs piled a table high with new bases and equipment bags, saying, "This is a sincere olive branch."
But someone yelled from the crowd that the bases were the wrong kind.
City Council President Annie McWilliams asked City Administrator Bibi Taylor to respond to the issues and Taylor said the new lights on timers and the changed locks were being reviewed by Public Works & Urban Development Director David Brown II. As Taylor mentioned scheduling and access concerns, the league's executive director, Karen Glencamp-Daniel, asked, "Why so much secrecy?"
McWilliams asked the council members to consider what role they could take, noting the governing body started "with one list" last fall.
"We now have a laundry list of other items," she said.
Although Taylor is trying to resolve the issues in a timely manner, McWilliams said, "She shouldn't be doing this."
As city administrator, Taylor is in charge of the day-to-day workings of municipal government. She is also the acting director of Administration, Finance, Health & Social Services and oversees the city's othe two departments, Public Affairs & Safety and Public Works & Urban Development.
With Glencamp-Daniel seated at the council table to respond to Taylor, an advocate of the Recreation Division's league, Roland Crawford Muhammad, attempted to sit at the table as well.
"You're not helping the situation," McWilliams said, advising him to step back or she would have him removed by police.
By now, the council was an hour ad a half into the meeting and had not yet begun its own agenda.
Robinson-Briggs said she wanted both leagues' representatives at the table, to which Councilman Adrian Mapp replied, "The games that are being played here are not the game of baseball."
Mapp said the administration had not taken responsibility for what had transpired so far with the league, but Robinson-Briggs retorted, "It sure does," and added "You should give me respect - I am your mayor."
"I don't think you should argue in front of the kids," Councilwoman Bridget Rivers said, but Mapp said he was not arguing.
"Let me be the one to moderate the meeting," McWilliams said, but Mapp insisted the mayor had to take responsibility for the situation.
"The buck stops with the mayor," he said, noting there have been good faith efforts to resolve the issues.
Mapp called for a "directive to the Recreation Division" for "unfettered access" to the ballfield.
"Queen City did not come here for handouts, they came here for a solution," Mapp said.
The mayor said she was not going to debate the subject with the council and added, "The election is over, councilman."
Robinson-Briggs defeated Mapp in the June 2009 primary and won re-election in November.
As the discussion continued, the council agreed that someone neutral should be named in the short term to be in charge of the lights and the locks, but the longterm solution would have to come about through amendments to an ordinance governing use of the ballfield. The mayor said the topic will be part of her Wednesday cabinet meeting and assured the council there would be a point person identified by Thursday.
Most of the crowd left after two hours of talk on the league issues, but after midnight Glencamp Daniel revived some issues during citizen comments, concluding by saying, "Some people seem to have a blanket of immunity."
The mayor responded by citing a conversation with Glencamp-Daniel in which she asked her to tone down her remarks.
"If we are to work together, there can't be any fingerpointing," she said.
Dwayne Wilkins of the newly-formed Recreation Advisory Committee said all members were "happy to serve," especially in light of Monday's discussion.
Wilkins said the committee was empowered to work with the Recreation Division "so issues don't bubble up."