Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Enhancements to Our Traffic Safety: Portable Speed Humps

A few months ago, I met with Plainfield Department of Public Works Director David G. Brown, II, to discuss concerns raised by some of my constituents in a number of areas, one of which had to do with the installation of speed humps as traffic calming devices. During that conversation, I suggested the utilization of portable speed humps across the city. The Director agreed that portable speed humps were a very good idea and said that he was considering them, with advice from the City’s engineer. Below is the text of an email from Director Brown in response to what we know is a city-wide problem:

“Councilman Mapp:
Please be advised that a joint meeting between the Department of Public Works & Urban Development (DPW&UD) and the Police Department was held today and the following recommendations are being made to deter speeding on various streets:

1. Our research has found the use of temporary speed humps has been somewhat effective in other municipalities, and 4 (one per ward) complete sets should be purchased by the City to deploy at the recommendation of the Police Department. The Police Department has recommended the use of this traffic calming device on Field Avenue as soon as funds (approximately $6,000 - $10,000) can be identified and the devices purchased and received. [The plan is to rotate the 4 complete sets around the City per Ward or if necessary to utilize them all in a concentrated area if recommended by the Police Department.] Please be advised that temporary and/or permanent speed humps will only be utilized on secondary roadways, which is consistent with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration;
2. The deployment of portable speed limit radar signs will be placed at various locations beginning Monday, August 30, 2010 to immediately begin to address speeding concerns and enforcement on the streets identified by residents and recommended by the Police Department. These radar signs will allow us to collect data where they are deployed so that we may analyze that data and other traffic calming and enforcement techniques can be utilized;
3. The City Engineer and the Police Department’s Traffic Officers next week are going to assess various intersections on the streets identified by residents that speeding is occurring and decide if a four way stop sign can be utilized as a traffic calming measure.; and
4. Policy going forward in the City’s Road Improvement Program will be to have the City Engineer analyze on secondary roads in conjunction with the Police Department’s Traffic Officers if permanent speed humps should be utilized and be a part of that specific street design plan.
I hope this is to your satisfaction and I am available via email or by cell phone if you have any questions or concerns about the Administration’s strategy regarding speeding complaints and traffic calming measures.
David G. Brown II
Director of Public Works and Urban Development”

Although the steps outlined above by Director Brown will not satisfy every single one of the specific complaints I received from constituents, these traffic calming measures are welcome ways of improving traffic safety on our roadways. I wish to thank Director Brown, Director Hellwig, and the Plainfield Police Division for being responsive to citizens’ complaints.



Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Colleague, the Honorable Cory Storch, 2nd Ward Councilman

This blog post is in support of my council colleague from the 2nd Ward, the Honorable Cory Storch, a shining example of good governance. I first served on the Council with Cory back in 2004 before going on to become a Union County Freeholder. Since returning to the council over a year ago, I continue to work very closely with him on a number of good government initiatives that we believe will roll away the shades of darkness from City Hall in order to let the penetrating rays of the sun shine through. Cory takes his job as a councilman very seriously, and he always tries to find common ground, where he and his colleagues can stand in unity as the governing body of the City.

Councilor Storch has represented the people of the 2nd Ward with a level of commitment and dedication that is expected of every elected official; additionally, he is thoughtful, methodical, and very rational in his approach to the many issues that the council must deal with on a daily basis. Councilor Storch, beyond any doubt, serves his constituents and all of Plainfield with distinction. He is a voice of reason, an advocate for transparency, and a catalyst for change.

Councilor Storch happens to be the Executive Director of Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services, an agency that serves the needs of people with mental disabilities. Just a couple years ago, Cory was recognized by his professional colleagues as well as the larger mental healthcare community as Director of the Year, an indication of the high esteem in which he is held and the degree to which he excels in his profession.

Councilor Storch brings the same level of commitment that he is known for in the healthcare profession to his duties and responsibilities as a councilman for the 2nd Ward. He doesn’t represent any particular class of people, any one ethnic group, or any special interest; he represents the diversity that is Plainfield—its beautiful mosaic, melting pot, salad bowl—all terms to describe the wonderful diversity that we here in the city gladly embrace.

The criticism of Councilor Storch and his well-respected organization have been subject to over the past couple months is not deserved, in fact, it is misplaced, unwarranted, and untrue.

I know better than most the pain that is caused by the deliberate acts of misrepresentation by people who are hell-bent on tearing down or destroying what one has spent years building up. This is one of the reasons I feel compelled to speak out in support of Councilor Storch. The late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “What self-centered men have torn down, other centered men must build up.”

As the leader of the New Democrats, the progressive arm of the Plainfield Democratic Party, I have an obligation to speak out against the poison that has been put out about my well-respected council colleague. Councilor Storch is a good Democrat, a good family man, a good person and dedicated councilman and public servant.

I stand with councilor Storch 100%, and I look forward to continuing working with him to move Plainfield forward.



Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why "Dis" the Council? Thoughts from a Town Hall Meeting, Part 2

The need for partnerships amongst Plainfield’s elected officials is probably greater today than at any other time in the City’s history, for many reasons. The City is experiencing crises on many levels; its financial house is in disarray, parents are frustrated due to the lack of cooperation from the leadership of the Recreation Division, people are unemployed in record numbers (and many are underemployed), and our residents are living in fear. These times call for cooperation and collaboration between the branches of government. The call to action Town Hall meeting was an opportunity for the Mayor and Council to be leading the charge, together, to fight the forces of crime and violence that have taken over segments of our community. However, the “you stay in your lane, I stay in mine” philosophy expressed by the Mayor at the recent council retreat spilled over into other areas and into the Town Hall meeting.

One is left to wonder why the Council was not given a role at Sunday’s Town Hall meeting, in spite of council members being asked, several days prior to the meeting, to confirm their attendance. Council President McWilliams was on the panel and was not even extended the courtesy to speak or to represent her colleagues’ position to the community. It was at roughly 8:55 pm that she finally jumped into the conversation and stated that she was waiting since 5:00 pm to welcome the audience in her capacity as Council President. Just imagine the feeling of waiting for four hours not to be recognized by the Mayor. Even worse than that is the fact that Councilor Rivers, who was also a panelist (and who represents the ward where most of the acts of violence have occurred) was not even allowed one second of input into the conversation. I was present from about 5:55 pm and observed the presence of three other colleagues, including Linder Carter, and at no time did the Mayor see it fit to recognize any of the members of the governing body. I inquired from Chris Payne if there were any seats available for council members and he told me “no, BLS is handling the seating”. He then offered to place two chairs for my wife and me under a WBLS banner where our view of the panelists would have been obstructed. We opted to stay in the back where I had pulled up two chairs and where we had full view of the stage.

My complaint is not about special treatment, it is simply about respect and protocol. What was also disturbing is that Freeholder Nancy Ward was made to sit on stage from the very beginning of the program until about 8:45 pm before she was given the opportunity to speak, and after speaking for about three minutes, she was cut off rather abruptly in the middle of a sentence.

Mind you, a few weeks ago I suggested to the Council President a meeting with the City Administrator and the Police Director to get an update on the violence and to offer our assistance; we invited Councilor Rivers to join us at the meeting. At that meeting we echoed our concerns about the fact that CCTV in the UEZ zone downtown would not provide the city with enough coverage and would not reach into the areas where the violence was occurring and we offered the immediate assistance of the Council. How did we do that? We told the Administration to create a re-appropriation ordinance for $1millon to go out and acquire gunshot recognition technology that can be deployed throughout the city and that would not be subject to UEZ restrictions. We then made that recommendation from the Finance and Administration committee to our colleagues. As a result of that directive, the Administration brought in a firm, a week or so ago, to do a demonstration of gunshot recognition technology and yet it did not have the courtesy to invite the Council to the demonstration; we read about it in the media. This was the same firm that had a representative on Sunday’s panel.

It is for all of the above reasons that I question why the mayor felt a need to disrespect the Council, given that our only way out of this mess is through a partnership amongst the co-equal branches of government, and partnerships with the communities we serve. Petty politics have no place in a crisis of this magnitude.



Monday, August 2, 2010

Thoughts from the Town Hall Meeting: A Missed Opportunity

The City of Plainfield has been in the news quite a bit during the past few months and the news reports have not been good. In fact, the image of Plainfield has taken a direct hit as a result of things that have happened in our school district as well as from the escalation in the acts of violence. These situations have created a very negative perception of our City in the minds of residents and outsiders alike, at a time when we can least afford it. The City is experiencing an unemployment rate of over 15%, a tax burden that is too much for homeowners to bear in an extremely harsh economy, and an inability to attract potential investors.

Hence, it is against this backdrop that I pose the following questions: What was the goal of Sunday’s Town Hall meeting that was broadcast live to the New Jersey tri-state area? How has the broadcast affected the City’s image and reputation? How will it affect its ability to attract potential home buyers and commercial real estate developers? What was the cost of this event to Plainfield taxpayers?

Many of the people who spoke did a fine job of stating the problems that are plaguing our community, reciting the statistics that highlight the disparate treatment minority communities experience under a criminal justice system that is flawed in many ways. Others offered up solutions that, for the most part, involved mentorship through fraternities, sororities, and faith-based institutions. The benefits of gunshot recognition technology were touted, with its ability to pinpoint gun activity within a couple feet of the actual activity. The Reverend Al Sharpton challenged men to start being daddies to their children and asked them to stop dropping babies as if they were having a “bowel movement.” The discussion, at times, took on some racial overtones that are not needed in any community and certainly not in Plainfield, a City that boasts of its diversity.

If the purpose of the town hall meeting was to create partnerships with community organizations and law enforcement to fight crime in our City, why was Union County’s chief law enforcement officer, Prosecutor Ted Romankow, not invited or not present? Why was Plainfield’s Police/Public Safety Director, Martin Hellwig, not allowed to participate and deliver an informed plan of action to allay the fears of residents and potential investors? The absence of law enforcement leadership was glaring to many of us in the audience.

The impact of the Town Hall meeting, aired live on WBLS and its sister station WLIB was like a shot fired into the City, one that was heard across the tri-state area—well within ear shot of potential investors who might have been given cause to pause. This in itself was an act of violence committed against our City by our Mayor. The negative profiling of Plainfield by any elected official is worthy of condemnation. Those members of Plainfield’s realtor community who expressed concerns about the Mayor casting the City in such a negative light did so with justification. Although the harm done to the City from Sunday’s broadcast cannot be measured, it is reasonable to conclude that irreparable damage was done.

I have long been of the view that the City needs to dedicate resources to an aggressive marketing campaign aimed at promoting its housing stock, its business community and business opportunities, and highlighting its educated work force and its diversity. The Town Hall meeting was an opportunity to begin a public relations campaign with a focus on changing negative perceptions and recasting the City’s image. Sunday’s Town Hall meeting was a missed opportunity; it was a costly mayoral blunder.

In Part 2 of my thoughts from the Town Hall meeting, I will explore why I feel the Council was “dissed.”