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.”




Bob said...

I have been asking the same questions as Councilman Mapp indicates here. Where is the plan and the coordination between the state, county, and city in fighting this violence and dealing with gangs. This meeting seems to me to be more about mayoral publicity and less about the city. This was a true missed opportunity.

Anonymous said...

And, Councilman Mapp, you only hit the tip of the iceberg. The only reason I can see for this meeting was a self grandizing moment for the mayor. She was on the radio and she was heard by many.

There may be a bright side. Some of the people listening do not know how terrible she is a our mayor and may want her to work for their city. Wouldn't it be great if this event resulted in a job offer for the mayor and we can be rid of her? Look on the bright side.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Sharpton has a history of racial overtones, race baiting, etc. I don't think he helps the City's image at all.

Anonymous said...

The Mayor of East Orange was the only person on the panel who provided concrete suggestions to reducing gang and gun violence, while the others seemed more interested in whipping the crowd into a an old timey church foot stomping and hand raising frenzy. He noted that all of the technology was nice, but it was (for the most part) donated, and did not replace more cost effective initiatives such as Cease Fire, which was not addressed. On the State Police web site, Plainfield is listed as a Cease Fire City, but that is as far as it goes. There are no web sites, as is in Chicago, which lists wanted persons, crime statistics, tips for citizens, or how you can help fight crime directions. Apparently their are no police officers assigned to the initiative, no Cease Fire black and orange wearing team members working within the effected communities to guide the citizens in eliminating street thugs from their communities or in assisting families in recovering after a shooting. No army of ex offenders giving advice from experience to would be shooters. No Cease Fire led, church and masjid organized community awareness events. Nothing. A simple cheap alternative to a Million dollar shot recognition program that lets the police know that someone is shooting. I don't believe that anyone has showed up shot at a hospital without the police having knowledge that shots had been fired in a community. What happened to the old school knock on doors and speaking to concerned citizens approach. So it's simple. Video Cameras in the crime prone areas; Cease Fire; get the community policing unit in the community; empower citizens through education, awareness and allowing two-way reporting and tips via the Internet; and Community initiatives and programs to get people moving forward and not standing idle within their homes waiting for someone else to act.

Yep I Said It! said...

To August 3 @ 10:15AM . . .

. . . as much as I (and many others) would love to be free of this woman who was re-elected to be Plainfield's mayor . . . I would hope a careful reference check and a quick GOOGLE would make anyone realize she has been an embarrassment to Plainfield.

Councilman Mapp . . . well said.

Yep I Said It! said...

Forgive me Councilman Mapp for somewhat commenting on a different event yet the same problem with Plainfield's ineffective . . . (ummm better said) . . . destructive mayor.

At the National Night Out event, I noticed she again did not make mention of the council persons present. It was Councilwoman Carter who took the microphone at the end of Sharon's babbling and thanked those council persons present.

Plainfield listen up . . . RECALL!!!

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with both the Councilor and the comments left. I am an outsider, weighing a potential move to Plainfield. The beauty and potential of your city is completely overwhelmed by not only the issues faced, but by the handling of them in an antagonistic political manner. It would be easier to buy a home if I felt the city were united behind leaders acting like a team - that would be a city on the rise I could support! But the administration's juvenile, unprofessional actions simply make it appear to be a misguided, ineffective group dedicated to perpetuating the quagmire.