Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Perhaps she could be right. When was the last time we had an earthquake that we felt or had a hurricane make landfall in New Jersey? Anyhow, Perry has not issued a rebuttal so he must concur.
Who in his right mind would conceive that an "Irene" would cause such havoc in Vermont.? Yes these are extraordinary times and us poor pragmatists have not come up with a better scenario. Is it possible that either (Bachman or Perry) could be elected? That would not be a natural disaster, it would be a human catastrophe.
The areas still sans electricity by the third night post Irene is still tremendous. If we can believe the figures on the 11PM news PSE&G has done an admirable and better job by far than the other regional power companies. The power loss was not limited to residential zones, but included major commercial areas including local malls. The cost to merchants such as Stop and Shop must run into multiple millions. On Tuesday there was not a refrigerated or frozen item or any other perishable on the shelves, and only emergency lighting was available.
Our local damage probably was not as great as that caused by Gloria in 1985. I believe that was the storm that washed out the edge of Somerset Street in Watchung and if my memory is correct; included a death by flooding in Plainfield at Richmond and South Ave.
Some of the other major hurricanes that have hit in the past 5 decades were:
1955 Hurricanes Connie and Diane, on Aug.12-13 and Aug. 18-19, respectively, dumped heavy rain on the northern half of New Jersey. Record flooding occurred along the Delaware River, with Diane ravaging northwestern sections.
1960 Hurricane Donna on Sept. 12 swept the Jersey shore with hurricane-force gusts and
churned up damaging surf. Gales throughout the state, with several inches of rain. Donna's 80-
mile-wide elliptical eye brushed the shore, providing a brief interlude and glimpse of the sun
before high winds returned.
1971 Tropical Storm Doria produced one of the state's memorable floods on Aug. 27-28.
Princeton collected 10.15 inches of rain. Severe flooding occurred in the Raritan River valley
and elsewhere in central and northern New Jersey. A tornado tracked intermittently about 25
miles from Cape May to Woodbine.
1985 Hurricane Gloria provided a scare on Sept. 27. Winds gusted to near hurricane force
in isolated shore locations and heavy rain was commonplace, but Gloria proved considerably
less destructive than expected.
1999 Hurricane Floyd on Sept. 16 dumped more than 8 inches of rain in 12 of New Jersey's
21 counties. Devastating flooding occurred along the Raritan and other rivers in central and
northern sections of the state.
2004 Hurricanes Ivan (Sept. 17) and Jeanne (Sept. 28) brought heavy rain and significant
flooding, especially to the Delaware River Valley. The Delaware River reached its highest level
since August 1955.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
On Monday afternoon I had made an abortive trip to the Stop & Shop but because the traffic lights were not working on Route 22 ; all crossover from one side to the other including road intersections were blocked off. I was not going to go to the Scotch Plains overpass from the eastbound to the westbound lanes. Instead I decided to go down Watchung Avenue through town and up Watchung Avenue to Leland.
Traffic lights were working From Mountain Ave., North Plainfield to Fifth Street in Plainfield. However, when I reached the 7th Street-Crescent Ave.-Watchung intersection the light was dark.. It appeared that the only way I could proceed South up Watchung Avenue was to play chicken.
Let us now discard everything bad that has been said about Plainfield drivers. In this time of crisis at a most dangerous intersection of five roads [E. 7th St. in 2 Directions, Crescent Ave I in two directions and Watchung Avenue: going north] drivers were alternating their transit of that intersection. Yes, there is good in the hearts of Plainfield motorists.
During the night that tree on the Scotch plains side of Cushing road which was leaning apparently gave up the ghost and fell across the street. However, since it caught in the upper branches of the three trunk. wild cherry tree of indetermine age on the Plainfield side the street was not blocked..
When the Scotch Plains Public Works arrived to remove that hazard the foreman told me that they could cut the tree but there could be a danger of it bucking back. Instead he planed to slide the tree down between two of the trunks of the tree on which the top was resting.. The front end loader used its bucket to give the villain a few whacks oat the base to break it. Lo and behold the tree slipped gently down and rested in the V of the cherry tree where it was quickly and efficiently cut up and all debris removal.
Not so nice is the fact that wire running parallel to Knollwood Court inside a hedge had com down. PSEG had been notified that there was no electricity on that blog but the wire as remain unmarked. I
As far as can be determined Plainfield's Emergency Plan [?] has worked very well. Notably and finally good use of the city's website has taken place with updated announcements. However, the absence of a person to direct traffic at dangerous intersections or around road obstructions stands out. Once again we should wonder what the role of a auxiliary police force could have been under the circumstances. If such a provision in the city's emergency plan for the use of open" civilian volunteers close" in situations such as this present in the emergency plan.
Council President Annie McWillians has posted some valuable info on her blog; use "Clips" to open it.
Monday, August 29, 2011
I hope you all survived Irene with minimal problems; no home damages and no medical problems.
I was very lucky. Except for "small crap" that littered my yard and roof my major damage was two screens on the porch that blew out of their frames. My front yard for most of the storm was a small lake but once the rain stopped the water gradually absorbed into the ground.
At about 11 AM I suddenly saw a bright orange flash out side my window followed by a big bang. A transformer had blown. . We did not loose electricity but all but all the rest of the houses on both sides of the street of the block are still dark this am.
A neighbor who had too many cars for available garages lost one to a tree. I have not yet venture out to check the rest of the damage it my neighborhood.
AS to the rest of my family on the East Coast: My daughter in Watchung had no electricity for about 20 hours. My grandson in Richmond Virginia which was exceptionally hard hit after 36 hours was still sans lights. Otherwise fortune shined upon us.
Our hearts go out to all those who have suffered physical and/or mental damage from Irene. It should be our duty to help them as well as we can.
Friday, August 26, 2011
The city site now contains information regarding emergency issues. Most of the posting is a copy of information to be be a guide in the plan prepared and posted under Mark S. Colicchio, M.S. the Health Officer's letter head. The info posted and reproduced here is vital. Amonmg what is missing is information on what hospital to go to if the Rescue Squad is not available; what roads might be by history flooded.
Plainfield Command Center – Office of Emergency Management- 908-753-3112
Plainfield Senior Citizens Center (Primary Evacuation Welcome Center) - 908-753-3506
Office of Emergency Management- Storm Update Line (outgoing information only) -908-226-2544
Plainfield Senior Citizens Center located at 400 East Front Street
Emerson Elementary School located at 305 Emerson Avenue
Washington Elementary School located at 427 Darrow Avenue
From the Mayor's Press release:
For general questions or to request assistance, please contact the Office of Emergency Management at the Plainfield Command Center 908-753-3112, or Director of Public Affairs and Safety Martin Hellwig 908-753-3360.
8AM From Councilman Mapp's blog "The voluminous emergency plan document is up to date as it relates to Police and Fire; the portion dealing with shelters is awaiting approval from the State Police." .
This is the first true official indication that there is at least a partial plan in place. Does it at present deal with health care issues? The Police and Fire portions should have response to catastrophes.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
It could be helpful if Plainfield's disaster plan was posted on the city site so that reception centers could be located. Also are there any flood areas that may need rescue operations? Have things changed since Floyd?
Councilor Williams has posted some information on her blog site.
Regarding my OPRA blog; I did receive a call from the Corporation Counsel's Office explaining the reason for the denial. I am waiting to receive that in writing and then will make up my mind if I should make further attempts to receive the study mentioned at the Council meeting. I will keep you informed.
The reader may wonder why on Tuesday I reprinted segments of the OPRA law. The answer of course is that I have had personal experience resulting in a confusing and disturbing interpretation from Plainfield’s Corporation Counsel
During the July Agenda Setting session the "city engineer” presented a report on the survey conditions of all of the city streets. A copy of that report was given to every Councilman. In her presentation she mentioned that they had "walked every street in Plainfield".
It may be noted that she is also an employee of Remington and Vernick the engineer firm that receives all of the city contracts. This firm was a commissioned to do the study.
Since I have frequently spoken and written about the status and maintenance of Plainfield streets I was interested in reading that report. My curiosity was directed at comparing the present engineering findings with those of the 2005 recommendations.
Therefore, for the first and only time in my life, I filled out an OPRA request To my amazement a week later I received a letter from the Corporation Counsel stating that he could not honor my request because the so-called report was only a “draft”.
I questioned why a factual report on the condition of the roads could be subject to revisions or clarifications. That is the purpose of a “draft”; to b e able to correct errors before the final document is printed. I also maintained that since this document was discussed at an open public meeting it became a matter of public record. I grant that it was partially summarized rather than given in detail but copies were given to the Council members.
Therefore it is not excluded by any of the provisions of the OPRA act. I so communicated my opinion to Mr. Williamson who said he would review the matter and get back to me. Several weeks have passed and I still do not have access to that report.
The reluctance to release a report makes me wonder what it contains that somebody wishes to keep secret. Besides the factual conditions of the roads are presented but could there also be an estimated cost for each resurfacing/reconstruction including engineering fees are included.
If so it may determine the order in which the roads are selected. Of course the actual cost will be different by the time the construction is done. Since those contracts are not offered by open bidding but awarded to the engineering firm that has prepared the report. I can think of no other possible information that could be contained that might fall into the OPRA restrictions.
It is possible that I shall still receive an unedited copy of the report without having to resort to either of the options open in the OPRA act.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Suddenly there is a plethora of subjects to tweak a blogger’s interest. In addition to the usual mundane machinations of our local civic leaders; nature itself is contributing with an earthquake and an approaching hurricane. The latter might well impact upon a rare major sports event in our neighborhood.
Perhaps all this will impact on the prolonged hiatus into which previous effusive bloggers have retreated. I am going to focus today and tomorrow not on the exotic but local and perhaps controversial subjects.
Tuesday morning’s Courier’s headline read "Parents upset by Principals switches". Mark Spivey reports about the action of the Board of Education which took place almost several weeks ago and was reported by at least two other bloggers. I too wrote a commentary on the board's action.
Apparently the last paragraph** of my blog was offensive to at least one individual since I received two one line hate commentaries from whom I consider to be the same anonymous individual. But that is actually immaterial.
I have no problem with any individual acting in accordance to his/her religious beliefs. However, the First Amendment of our Constitution prohibits the impact of religious doctrine upon civil affairs.
Our public servants are elected by the voters and are responsible to them. They may be guided, and should be by religious morality as long as it is not discriminatory to individuals of another religion.
However the above is just a digression. I am concerned about BOE President Hernandez remarks as quoted in that article.
She is perfectly correct in stating that there are some matters that you cannot comment on because they relate to personnel and are confidential.
However, the Board President is utterly wrong in stating that the Superintendent of Schools, no matter who that person may be, can present major changes at the last minute as walk on items to the agenda.
Once again we have a Board of Education which seems to have forgotten that the System Administrator is a public employee and they have the sole judiciary responsibility to enforce that role.
At its business meeting it is proper for the BOE to routinely approve minor operational decisions including those regarding personnel that are non controversial. However, the BOE must have the opportunity to review and question major changes. When resolutions of significant importance such as the reassignment of principals are presented at the last moment and especially when, as it has been reported that, these changes were decided weeks ago, the BOE members are being denied their fiduciary rights.
The parents and the other public speakers at the meeting were justified in their outrage about the manner in which these changes were presented for action. Despite our high hopes when WE elected the members of "SLAM", once again we seem to have a Board that has abdicated its responsibility.
Is it possible that the fault lies in the “structure process” that creates the Board, and not in the individuals? One remedy could be in combining the BOE elections with either the Primary or General elections.
** : Once again Board of Education has to be reminded that we the taxpayers are the employers of every individual in the school system and they the BOE are only our fiduciary representatives in charge of overseeing its operation. The BOE collectively as well as individually is answerable to us, not someone’s g*d.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I do have children living the epicenter vicinity. My daughter who works in Virginia just outside of Washington called to reassure me that she was safe.
My other daughter whose home is in Roanoke was on 81/78 on the way here. They were at a gas station filling their tank and would have felt nothing but a man who was putting gas in his truck began to complain about the pump and hose shaking.
The granddaughter living near Columbus Ohio had twittered her mother before any announcement of the quake that they had felt what was thought to be an earthquake, but was only mild shaking.
My grandson and family who live outside of Richmond are vacation this week on the beach in South Carolina. They have another potential natural disaster, Irene, to be immediately concerned about.
We are fortunate in New Jersey in that we are usually free from natural disaster. Let us hope that Irene does not hit us other than at best peripherally.
The earthquake, the second to hit central Virginia in the last year, brought droves of people out of their homes and businesses in Manassas.
The nearest large city to the epicenter was Richmond, approximately 35 miles away.
In Northern Virginia, residents reported some broken glass and no cell phone service in the aftermath. There were no immediate reports of injuries in the Washington area. The shock was felt as far away New York City and North Carolina.
The last earthquake in Virginia occurred at 5 a.m. on July 17, 2010. It measured 3.6 on the Richter scale. Responses were also received from as far away as Connecticut and South Carolina.
Earthquakes in Virginia are few and far between. In 2003, a 4.5-magnitude quake centered 28 miles west of Richmond could be felt all throughout Prince William County. Six years earlier on Sept. 29, 1997, a 2.5 magnitude quake occurred in Manassas. That came just months after another 2.5 centered near Culpeper.
According to the USGS, the strongest earthquake on record that originated in Virginia occurred May 31, 1897. The epicenter of the 5.8 quake was in Giles County, where on May 3, an earlier tremor at Pulaski, Radford, and Roanoke had caused damage. The shock on the latter date was felt from Georgia to Pennsylvania and from the Atlantic Coast westward to Indiana and Kentucky, an area covering about 725,000 square kilometers.
Maria in her efforts to obtain pertinent information from the BOE has become the Queen of OPRA. She understands the law; a fact that most of us have no knowledge and are often put off by misapplication by public bodies.
I deem it important that all who wish to be better acquainted with actions of our Legislatures, Councils, Boards or Authorities have some idea what the law does and what restrictions exist. Thus I have reprinted some of the essential details which I may expand upon in the near future.
I have also included the law regarding recourse in case an agency refuses to deliver the records. This is a long document but worth reading. (Note some Bold Face is for emphasis).
Open Public Records Act
The Legislature finds and declares it to be the public policy of this State that:
All records shall be accessible • government records shall be readily accessible for inspection, copying, or examination by the citizens of this State, with certain exceptions, for the protection of the public interest, and any limitations on the right of access accorded by P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) as amended and supplemented, shall be construed in favor of the public's right of access;
What are government records?
In plain language, a government record is a physical record that has a government purpose and that is held by a public agency. (Full legal definitions of these terms can be found at the end of this page.)
Under OPRA, the “physical record” includes any paper, written or printed book, document, drawing, map, plan, photograph, microfilm, data-processed or image-processed document, and information stored or maintained electronically or by sound recording.
Public agencies include: All departments and agencies of state government, including state colleges and universities; All counties, municipalities, school districts, fire districts, county and municipal boards, commissions, agencies, and independent authorities; and The state's legislature and its agencies, except that most constituent correspondence and special materials prepared for individual legislators are not covered. OPRA does not cover the state's judicial branch and municipal courts, which have their own rules.
A record held by a public agency has a “government purpose” when it has been “made, maintained, kept on file, or received in the course of official business.”
"Government record" or "record" means any paper, written or printed book, document, drawing, map, plan, photograph, microfilm, data-processed or image-processed document, information stored or maintained electronically or by sound-recording or in a similar device, or any copy thereof, that has been made, maintained or kept on file in the course of his or its official business by any officer, commission, agency, or authority of the state or of any political subdivision thereof, including subordinate boards thereof, or that has been received in the course of his or its official business by any such officer, commission, agency, or authority of the state or of any political subdivision thereof, including subordinate boards thereof. The terms shall not include inter-agency or intra-agency advisory, consultative, or deliberative material.
All records public unless meets a permitted exemption • all government records shall be subject to public access unless exempt from such access by: P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) as amended and supplemented; any other statute; resolution of either or both houses of the Legislature; regulation promulgated under the authority of any statute or Executive Order of the Governor; Executive Order of the Governor; Rules of Court; any federal law, federal regulation, or federal order ;
A public agency has a responsibility and an obligation to safeguard from public access a citizen's personal information with which it has been entrusted when disclosure thereof would violate the citizen's reasonable expectation of privacy; and nothing contained in P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.), as amended and supplemented, shall be construed as affecting in any way the common law right of access to any record, including but not limited to criminal investigatory records of a law enforcement agency.
"Custodian of a government record" or "custodian" means in the case of a municipality, the municipal clerk and in the case of any other public agency, the officer officially designated by formal action of that agency's director or governing body, as the case may be.
"Government record" or "record" means any paper, written or printed book, document, drawing, map, plan, photograph, microfilm, data processed or image processed document, information stored or maintained electronically or by sound-recording or in a similar device, or any copy thereof, that has been made, maintained or kept on file in the course of his or its official business by any officer, commission, agency or authority of the State or of any political subdivision thereof, including subordinate boards thereof, or that has been received in the course of his or its official business by any such officer, commission, agency, or authority of the State or of any political subdivision thereof, including subordinate boards thereof. The terms shall not include inter-agency or intra-agency advisory, consultative, or deliberative material.
Records that are exempt A government record shall not include the following information which is deemed to be confidential for the purposes of P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) as amended and supplemented:
Legislative records • information received by a member of the Legislature from a constituent or information held by a member of the Legislature concerning a constituent, including but not limited to information in written form or contained in any e-mail or computer data base, or in any telephone record whatsoever, unless it is information the constituent is required by law to transmit;
any memorandum, correspondence, notes, report or other communication prepared by, or for, the specific use of a member of the Legislature in the course of the member's official duties, except that this provision shall not apply to an otherwise publicly-accessible report which is required by law to be submitted to the Legislature or its members;
Medical examiner records • any copy, reproduction or facsimile of any photograph, negative or print, including instant photographs and videotapes of the body, or any portion of the body, of a deceased person, taken by or for the medical examiner at the scene of death or in the course of a post mortem examination or autopsy made by or caused to be made by the medical examiner except:
when used in a criminal action or proceeding in this State which relates to the death of that person,
for the use as a court of this State permits, by order after good cause has been shown and after written notification of the request for the court order has been served at least five days before the order is made upon the county prosecutor for the county in which the post mortem examination or autopsy occurred,
for use in the field of forensic pathology or for use in medical or scientific education or research, or for use by any law enforcement agency in this State or any other state or federal law enforcement agency;
Criminal investigatory records;
Victims records • victims' records, except that a victim of a crime shall have access to the victim's own records;
Trade secrets and proprietary information • trade secrets and proprietary commercial or financial information obtained from any source. For the purposes of this paragraph, trade secrets shall include data processing software obtained by a public body under a licensing agreement which prohibits its disclosure;
Attorney client privilege • any record within the attorney-client privilege. This paragraph shall not be construed as exempting from access attorney or consultant bills or invoices except that such bills or invoices may be redacted to remove any information protected by the attorney-client privilege;
Computer security • administrative or technical information regarding computer hardware, software and networks which, if disclosed, would jeopardize computer security;
Building security • emergency or security information or procedures for any buildings or facility which, if disclosed, would jeopardize security of the building or facility or persons therein;
Security measures and techniques • security measures and surveillance techniques which, if disclosed, would create a risk to the safety of persons, property, electronic data or software;
Advantage to bidders • information which, if disclosed, would give an advantage to competitors or bidders;
Public employee related • information generated by or on behalf of public employers or public employees in connection with any sexual harassment complaint filed with a public employer or with any grievance filed by or against an individual or in connection with collective negotiations, including documents and statements of strategy or negotiating position
Risk management information which is a communication between a public agency and its insurance carrier, administrative service organization or risk management office;
Court orders • information which is to be kept confidential pursuant to court order; and
Honorable discharge certificates • any copy of form DD-214, or that form, issued by the United States Government, or any other certificate of honorable discharge, or copy thereof, from active service or the reserves of a branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, or from service in the organized Militia of the State, that has been filed by an individual with a public agency, except that a veteran or the veteran's spouse or surviving spouse shall have access to the veteran's own records; and
Personal identifying information that portion of any document which discloses the social security number, credit card number, unlisted telephone number or driver license number of any person; except for: use by any government agency, including any court or law enforcement agency, in carrying out its functions, or any private person or entity acting on behalf thereof, or any private person or entity seeking to enforce payment of court-ordered child support; except with respect to the disclosure of driver information by the Division of Motor Vehicles as permitted by section 2 of P.L.1997, c.188 (C.39:2-3.4); and
except that a social security number contained in a record required by law to be made, maintained or kept on file by a public agency shall be disclosed when access to the document or disclosure of that information is not otherwise prohibited by State or federal law, regulation or order or by State statute, resolution of either or both houses of the Legislature, Executive Order of the Governor, rule of court or regulation promulgated under the authority of any statute or executive order of the Governor.
Higher education exceptions •A government record shall not include, with regard to any public institution of higher education, the following information which is deemed to be privileged and confidential:
Pedagogical, scholarly and/or academic research records and/or the specific details of any research project conducted under the auspices of a public higher education institution in New Jersey, including, but not limited to research, development information, testing procedures, or information regarding test participants, related to the development or testing of any pharmaceutical or pharmaceutical delivery system, except that a custodian may not deny inspection of a government record or part thereof that gives the name, title, expenditures, source and amounts of funding and date when the final project summary of any research will be available;
test questions, scoring keys and other examination data pertaining to the administration of an examination for employment or academic examination;
records of pursuit of charitable contributions or records containing the identity of a donor of a gift if the donor requires non-disclosure of the donor's identity as a condition of making the gift provided that the donor has not received any benefits of or from the institution of higher education in connection with such gift other than a request for memorialization or dedication valuable or rare collections of books and/or documents obtained by gift, grant, bequest or devise conditioned upon limited public access;
information contained on individual admission applications; and information concerning student records or grievance or disciplinary proceedings against a student to the extent disclosure would reveal the identity of the student.
- institute a proceeding to challenge the custodian's decision by filing an action in Superior Court which shall be heard in the vicinage where it is filed by a Superior Court Judge who has been designated to hear such cases because of that judge's knowledge and expertise in matters relating to access to government records; or
- in lieu of filing an action in Superior Court, file a complaint with the Government Records Council established pursuant to section 8 of P.L.2001, c.404 (C.47:1A-7).
Monday, August 22, 2011
We're now beginning last two weeks of traditional summer. The fact that the calendar notes four more weeks before the official beginning of autumn has no relationship with our life cycles. Traditionally schools open right after Labor Day, although in some sections of the country they are already in session.
The August start may have originated in the farm areas where it was important to have all hand available for the harvest. There would be a school hiatus at that time.
In the ancient times after Labor Day I would board a B&O train at the Plainfield station to go to Charlottesville Virginia for the beginning of the University Trimester. For the past generation college starts in mid August. Economics may be the reason why that is the custom nowadays. Football season now begins on the first weekend of September and the stadiums must be filled. Money does talk.
For this week is reportedly to be ideal. The rains have passed us and the humidity will be acceptable. By the end of the week we will know where or if Irene will strike the Atlantic Coast.
Locally. The Plainfield Country Club will be the site of a major golf tournament. In reverting to the Club’s old restricted policy, the tournament planners seem to have ignored the proletariat Plainfield population by leaving that community out of its plans.
In planning for the crowds in the traffic that will impact upon the area and the needed parking areas the tournament planners, the club leadership, and the political leadership of Edison apparently acted as if Plainfield, the city, was nonexistent.
Remarkably, despite the great influx of cars driven by spectators at the tournament; the close by parking areas on the Muhlenberg campus was never considered by the tournament planning group. More distant parking including the closed Oak Hill County golf course, the Menlo Park and Woodbridge Malls parking areas are the designated sites for the shuttle buses.
At a recent Council meeting Public Safety director, Hellwig inferred that he had not been contacted regarding any traffic problems in the city. He did say that he and his staff had had discussions among themselves. but did not present any definitive plan.
When asked is about any problems with emergency access to JFK; he remarked that the ER that Muhlenberg would be available. One wonders if he understands the capabilities and resources of an outpatient clinic and a hospital.
While on the subject of emergency response, has the area disaster plan ever been updated? If so, have the policies eve r been made available to the public in the media or on the internet? If not why not?
Perhaps the Council will look in to that.
12 NOON: I noted driving down Park Ave from South Plainfield that the parking lot on the corner Park and Randolph is a designated Barklay Lot and I would presume that the one mext to the hospital will also be used. Ther had bee n o info printed about theses lots. JFK will make money.