Since none of the bloggers were able to attend the Mayor's Town Hall Meeting I have in the interest of public information taken the liberty to post this letter which I received from an attendee.
Dear Doctor Yood:
As the expression goes, YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP.
Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs called a forum for residents of the Third and Fourth Wards for tonight (Thursday, 30 August) at 6 p.m. Because I was out of town last Thursday when the mayor held the comparable meeting for the Third and Fourth Wards, I went over to Washington Community School at the appointed time.
This morning on Plainfield Today, Dan Damon had said, “See you there.” He wasn't. Bernice wasn't. You weren't. Maria Pellum wasn't. Nor any of the periodic bloggers, Jackie, Nat, Renata, the Councilors (where did that term originate, anyway?), DaShon, Ronnie, on and on.
So pen and paper in hand, I took notes, initially to grab the info about upcoming events that should interest people who receive the FOSH email newsletters – the art show, the PMUA Environmental Fair, the Historic Plainfield Run, and, yes, good news, the extension of brush and yard waste drop-off at the City Yard on South Avenue, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. To 2:30 p.m., through 7 September..
Now, here's why I want your readers to stay tuned as I natter on. YOU CANNOT MAKE THIS STUFF UP. Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briss, who has announced she will seek her third term as our HEAD OF GOVERNMENT, told us we were lucky that in 2010 “If they (the bad guys) could shoot better, we would have bodies all over the City of Plainfield.” (This reporter asked Martuin Hellwig to confirm this statement. His answer, “You're not going to use that?”)
Resident Roland Johnson pointed out that in 2010 there were shots fired every day and two people shot each week. Asked to confirm this, Hellwig said, “There was a lot of shooting.:
Oh, did I mention that Washington School was locked tight at the start time, and the custodian who answered the door expressed surprise there was a meeting taking place. Peter Briggs had knocked on the door; Dottie G and I were there at 6 p.m. Dottie speculated that I had grown up elsewhere, since I don't function on “Plainfield Time.” Well, Dottie is right that I don't operate on Plainfield time, but wrong on the other statement: I did grow up in Plainfield, as did my Mon and Grandmother.
Others showed up through the evening. By my count, there were 13 individuals in the audience at one time or another.
The Mayor arrived not too long after the starting time, and announced she would wait a few minutes for the crowd to swell (my word, not hers.) She started at 6:15, and promised we would finish at 7:15. (The conclusion came about 8.) The Mayor read through the material I gather from the blogs she delivered a week ago: streets paved, Planning Board passed a capitol budget, Fourth of July Celebration (on 7 July) came in about $400 under budget, the Administration wants to provide a concession stand at Milt Campbell Field (has grants for some of the costs, but there will be City money needed), (no mention of concession stand at Rock Avenue ball fields – my interjection.) Community garden in boxes on Lee Place. Mapping of Brownfields. New data on homes in the flood zones. Drop in Part One crimes.
Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig listed the seven categories of Part One crimes, the most serious, and said they are down 116 from the same date last year, or 8-9 percent. “Last year there were 10 homicides” at this point on the calendar, this year there have been three. Hellwig said the City is installing “several new sensors” to the SpotShotter system, he will take part in a webinar on new software for SpotShotter (my question – increased cost?) Hellwig said CCTV (closed circuit television) is coming to the Downtown; that 10 police recruits have graduated from the Police Academy and will finish their training by the end of the year, another six are entering the Academy.
The Mayor said Jim Spear, president of Netherwood Heights Neighbors, had asked at the previous forum about “traffic-calming devices” in conjunction with the South Avenue reconstruction project; he received a call from Eric Jackson, city head of all that stuff. (Not there last night; represented by Cynthia Smith for the Engineering Department.) (Other administrators on hand: City Administrator Eric Berry, and City Solicitor David Minchello – whose firm is in Union. Smith spoke briefly. No word from Berry or Minchello – got to wonder how much Minchello bills per hour to sit mute at Washington School. He does smile, though.)
The Mayor said another question at the previous forum concerned the PMUA study committee: the Administration has done its part; waiting on the Council. (Where was Annie or Adrian or Rebecca or Corey, or, for that matter, Bill or Bridget or Vera?)
Mayor Briggs touted the clean-up of City Hall, and urged everyone to visit.
The Mayor asked the administrators present to comment. Responding to my announcement about the FOSH Celebration of Animals on 30 September at Leland Avenue Park, Director Hellwig said he was glad to know there would be spiritual leaders blessing the animals as he has a demonically-possessed bird.
OK. Time for public comment. Made me wish I had brought a stopwatch: my rough guess, without one, is that the Mayor spoke 80 percent of the evening.
Dottie G poimted out that the meeting about the closing of Muhlenberg Hospital – the Mayor had announced this vaguely – is at City Hall Library on 13 September at 6:30 p.m. Dottie urged everyone to attend..
Roland Johnson asked what the City's Economic Development staff is doing to replace the 1100 jobs lost with the hospital's closing. He then asked if City contracts require hiring Plsinfield residents. After some verbal tap-dancing, the answer wss “no.”
Having drunk Martin Hellwig's Kool-Aid on the decrease in crime, one woman asked why the City “doesn't get the word out” about this vast improvement. The questioner said she doesn't read the papers, doesn't look on the Internet (hyper-local blogs, like yours), but does look at the local cable TV channel. Hellwig said this was his responsibly – he needed to communicate better. (Hullo Director, you were quoted on the front page of The Courier today asking to the public for help in solving a particularly nasty sexual assault, “out in the open on Madison Avenue” (his words.) John Stewart, president of the VanWyck Brooks Historic District, asked why the public, or, at least, the neighbors, hadn't been approached for assistance earlier.. (John also spoke about the positive publicity generated by the VanWyck Brooks Historic District through “This Old House” magazine and TLC on cable.
When a City resident and local Realtor named Robin Bright (spelling uncertain – I'm not paid for this) asked about outsiders' perception of crime in Plainfield, the Mayor talked about the Queen City's “couple of museums,” (news to me – what in addition to Drake House, Mayor? ) ,“the lawns, the mansions, two train stations.”
It was when the issues were crime and gang violence that the Mayor ventured into the thicket of the August, 2010, three-hou4 radio broadcast, - she called it “a wonderful forum” - for which, she said, the City Council had “slammed her.” She noted that the bulk of the cost came from a “donation” (intended for the Fourth of July Parade) .That's when Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs told us we were lucky the bad guys couldn't shoot straight, or, when you woke up and looked out the window, you would have found a dead body in the lawn
Reporter's. Note: For That I Should Pay almost $10,000 in property taxes? No body on the lawn when I go out to pick up The Courier, The Ledger and The Times?
The Mayor returned several times to the success of the radio forum, ably assisted by Martin Hellwig, who seemed to confuse the time line between the August, 2010, Al Sharpton Show and the Great North Plainfield IHOP “gang truce” meeting.
Nonetheless, in the year of the GREAT RADIO BROADCAST, the were 10 homicides. Then two years later, Plainfield has experienced the three. Inn my opinion, three is too many (Check out Director Hellwig's pride that Plainfield has suffered fewer homicides than Chicago. Plainfield has a census population of fewer than 50,000; Chicago has almost 3 million residents and 45 million visitors. Plainfield is six square miles; Chicago is 227.63 square miles. Maybe Plainfield needs Elliott Ness, rather than Martin Hellwig. And where is it Director Hellwig lives, where his City Car spends the night? It aint Plainfield. Too much crime, Director?)
There was some unhappiness about the “loiterers” on Front Street (i.e. Latinos). The Mayor, to her credit, said they were “day laborers,” guys looking for work. Someone asked whether “loiterer regulations” could solve the problem. Stewart asked if the people cruising to pick up cheap help might be prosecuted.
To her credit, Her Honor spoke up about the need for people to find work, and the City's efforts to provide an alternative location for these transactions, And she refused to blame any ethnic groups, although this reporter saw no “little brown ATMs” in the audience,
There was more, Old Doc, but I have exercised my opinion., and will stop. Yup, OZ.
Pat Turner Kavanaugh
Thanks Pat; this blogger believes that an informed public is the best bastion of Democracy.