Monday, March 28, 2011

Together, We Made a Difference in the Lives of Many: Thank You, Plainfield!

Dear Friends,

You would recall that my wife Amelia and I hosted the New Democrats annual holiday party and canned food drive for the purpose of helping to address the problem of hunger in our city. This annual event is held in celebration of the life and legacy of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am happy to report that we were able to collect over a ton of canned goods and other nonperishable food items. All items collected were recently turned over to the Starfish Food Pantry, right here in Plainfield.

As the issue of hunger is an ongoing one in our city as well as the nation at large, some of you expressed an interest in knowing how to contact the food banks and soup kitchens in the city so that you could donate year-round. Below is a list of several, for your information.

Amelia and I and the New Democrats would like to thank all of you who donated to such a worthy cause. Together, Plainfield, we made a difference in many people’s lives.

Thank You!



Click below for the link below for the food pantries located throughout the county:

New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition - Food Pantries - Union County


ADDITION: Thanks to Siddeeq El-Amin:


Site: 325 Grant Avenue, Plainfield.
Hours: Every Saturday from 1:00 to 2:00 PM
Contact Person: Faheemah S. El-Amin
Phone: 908-561-6797 or 908-447-3033 cell
Food Needs: non-perishable, non-pork products
Volunteers Welcomed.


Site: 600 Cleveland Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060
Phone: 908-756-1520
Hours: open last five days of every month (except Sundays): 11:30am-1pm
Contact: Mary Jo Buck
This site provides a soup kitchen.
Food Needs: any kind of food
Volunteer Needs: driver with car to pick up supplies, occasional help in food preparation and serving
Volunteer Requirements: age 15 and over
Special Needs: toiletries, laundry soaps, used clothing


Site: 905 Watchung Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060
Mail: P.O. Box 569, Plainfield, NJ 07060
Phone: 908-753-4001 x13 (Ellen McGovern, Executive Director)
Phone: 908-753-4001C x16 (Brenda Myrick)
Phone: 908-753-4001 x12 (Amy Van Pelt)
Phone: 908-753-4001 x20 (Susan Oldroyd-Laffler)
Hours: Office - Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
Contact: Brenda L. Myrick
This site provides a shelter at a network of congregations in Union County, transitional housing, rental assistance, child care, a camp, education, budget management, and advocacy.
Volunteer Needs: committee members - Call Amy Van Pelt for details.
Volunteer Requirements: Call Amy Van Pelt for details.
Special Needs: funding and other needs; Call Susan Oldroyd-Laffler for details.


Site: 518 Watchung Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060
Phone: 908-756-6060
Hours: Office – 9am-4pm
Shelter - 24/7
Contact: Teresa McCoy
This site provides an emergency shelter.
Food Needs: breakfast and dinner foods
Volunteer Needs: need for churches and other groups to prepare meals and serve to residents
Volunteer Requirements: Contact site.
Special Needs: Contact Teresa.


Site: 615 Watchung Avenue, Plainfield, NJ 07060
Phone: 908-756-2595
Hours: some holiday closings – Contact site.
Office – 9am-4pm
Food Pantry: Tues & Thurs: 9:30-11:30am & 1-2:30pm
Soup Kitchen: Mon-Fri: 12-12:45pm
Contact: Captain Henry Thibault, Donald Nichols
This site provides a food pantry, a soup kitchen, church services in English and Spanish, and referral to alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs.
Food Needs: non-perishables and perishables
Volunteer Needs: office assistance, servers, clean-up, packers
Volunteer Requirements: age 18 and older
Special Needs: storage space, monetary donations, restaurant supply equipment, microwave, paper goods


Site: 631 East Front St., Plainfield, NJ 07060
Mail: P.O. Box 2822, Plainfield, NJ 07062
Phone: 908-755-8888
Contact: Lynda Stanbach or Edna Shanok
Food Needs: non-perishables
Volunteer Needs: food packers, drivers
Volunteer Requirements: license for drivers
Special Needs: cash donations for perishables and transportation for food

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Collaboration with Results Will Be the Fruit of Our Collective Labor: A Way to Move Forward

A couple months ago, the Plainfield City Council adopted an ordinance creating a Board of Recreation Commissioners for the purpose of expanding recreational opportunities for our youth and senior citizens. On the tenth day after its final adoption, the ordinance creating the Commission was vetoed by the Mayor. This past Monday, an attempt to override her veto failed by a vote of 4 to 3; five votes were required.

Hence, those of us who supported the ordinance must now respect the outcome of Monday’s meeting and look for other ways to expand the City’s recreation programs. The beauty of our democracy is that the outcome of the vote is always respected, and people on both sides of the vote always find a way to move forward, in spite of their differences. Now is the time for us to do just that - move forward.

Given that the Commission was vetoed by the Mayor, and given the outcome of Monday’s meeting, it is important for us on the governing body to respond appropriately by providing the required level of funding necessary to ensure retention of the current full-time staff. The question is, how do we do that and remain in compliance with the applicable New Jersey state statute? The proposal that was advanced by the Mayor and her and Administration, in the form of resolutions R105, R106 and R107 was illegal under NJSA 40A:4-46 quoted below:

40A:4-46. Emergency appropriations
A local unit may make emergency appropriations, after the adoption of a budget, for a purpose which is not foreseen at the time of the adoption thereof, or for which adequate provision was not made therein. Such an appropriation shall be made to meet a pressing need for public expenditure to protect or promote the public health, safety, morals or welfare or to provide temporary housing or public assistance prior to the next succeeding fiscal year.

In light of the statute quoted above, I could not, in good conscience, knowingly support a funding request disguised as an emergency that was a clear violation of the law. It is for this reason that I could not and did not support any of the three resolutions referenced above.

However, I am willing to support a transfer resolution that would restore full funding to the Division of Recreation. Therefore, in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration, I will be suggesting to the Administration that it prepare a transfer resolution for adoption by the council in May, and I will encourage my colleagues to support such a transfer request. Everything will be done in compliance with the law, to provide for wholesome recreational opportunities for all in the City who need them. This is a pledge and a commitment.

As to the Purchasing Department, a different idea should be considered; that idea is called a Purchasing Shared Services Agreement. Although I know that purchasing is the responsibility of the CFO in all municipalities where a QPA has not been appointed by the governing body, I am still sensitive to the fact that the CFO is part time and may need more time to get his arms around the many challenging financial issues facing the City.

Therefore, I am proposing a shared service agreement between the City and the Board of Education that would buy the CFO some time, and allow for the Qualified Purchasing Agent from the BOE to be shared with the City. Shared services performed at a high level of efficiency and effectiveness, and with measurable benefits that flow to the bottom line must be pursued as part of the solution to the financial crisis we face in Plainfield. The 2% cap, the $4 million budget gap, and the need for property tax stabilization and relief are the sign posts by which we must be guided. It is to this end that I am proposing a Purchasing Shared Services Agreement for the mutual benefit of the City and the BOE.

I will be asking Council President McWilliams to place this on the agenda for discussion at our April meeting. Just like the CFO for a municipality is almost always the Treasurer of School Monies and is responsible for signing checks and reconciling the bank accounts for the BOE, for a stipend, there can be a similar arrangement with the QPA at the BOE to provide purchasing services to the City for an agreed upon amount that would result in major savings.

There should be no doubt, in anyone’s mind, about our commitment to doing what we believe to be in the City’s best interest, without fear or favor, and without malice. I, for one, will always strive to be guided by the dictates of my conscience; I will compromise when the situation warrants, and I will reverse course when a new direction is required.

Hence, I will support the restoration of funding, by way of a budget transfer in May, to the salary and wage line in the Recreation Division, and I will advocate for a Purchasing Shared Services Agreement with the BOE.

It is my hope, that in these very challenging times, reason will triumph over emotion, verbal hostility will give way to civil discourse, and that collaboration with results will be the fruit of our collective labor. We must all stop and take a deep breath, exhale the impurities affecting our thoughts, and breathe the fresh air of cooperation that is essential to our success.