Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Work Continues

I want to first congratulate Rev. Tracey on her primary victory last night. She was very gracious in her comments, and she will now be the At-large Democratic candidate for Plainfield, a seat that serves all four wards of our city.

I also want to congratulate Adrian on his re-election as the Third Ward Democratic Council candidate. As the finance expert on the council and as an experienced legislator, he remains invaluable. Adrian rose above the vicious attacks by his opponent, and the people responded by returning him to office to continue to deliver the quality services they have come to expect from him.

I also want to thank my campaign team of Rebecca, Carmencita, Paul, Rick, Cory, and all the other volunteers who pulled together for this race. Rebecca, you are the hardest-working Democrat in Plainfield, and your political know-how remains invaluable. I am so glad you are on the city council--your progressive, ethical, and compassionate voice is needed. For Paul and Carmencita, I cannot thank you enough for the long hours you put in. Rick and Cory--my brothers--thanks for all that you did.
As for me, I remain committed to the betterment of our city as a teacher, as an athletic coach, and as a role model and mentor to my students and to all the young people in our city. I am a grassroots person, so I will continue my public and active role, and I hope you will join me as we work through the challenges facing Plainfield.



Sunday, June 3, 2012

Courier-News Ambushes Me with Unfounded Allegation by PMUA Commissioner Tracey Brown

I was shocked and disappointed to read the Courier's online story today concerning the Democratic primary race in which both I and PMUA Commissioner Rev. Tracey Brown are candidates (You can read the story here).

Reporter Mark Spivey writes that "Rev. Brown claims that Taylor and her campaign attacked the reputation of [Brown's] church."

Neither I nor my campaign has ever made a personal attack on Tracey Brown nor have I or my campaign made any negative reference to her church. In fact, I have friends and students who belong to her church, and I have previously said, I respect the work her church does in the community.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: This campaign is about how voters can make a decision on a candidate. And I believe that has to be based on answering the voters' questions about a candidate's public service.

I am disappointed in two ways with Spivey's reporting. First, he never relayed Rev. Brown's allegation to me when I was interviewed, and failed to give me a chance to answer it.  Secondly, he let Rev. Brown get away with smearing me evidently without challenging her to prove her allegation either by showing him campaign material in support of her claim or vouching that she had actually heard such remarks. These are serious professional lapses for a journalist, and the calls, emails, and Facebook messages I have already received from my supporters about this story show all clearly show that they feel the Courier has done a sloppy, biased, and non-fact-checked story.

This is hardly the standard of objective reporting we have a right to expect from a newspaper and I certainly hope the Courier News apologizes, even though such an apology would no doubt come after the election is over.

My entire career in public service, whether in my ten years on the Board of Ed, my service as a Plainfield Housing Authority commissioner or my volunteer activities with organizations like the League of Women Voters, has been to conduct myself in an ethical and above-board fashion and to hold myself accountable to those who have given me leadership responsibilities.

I certainly hope the voters will see this smear for what it is, an untruth, and will support me in Tuesday's Democratic primary election by voting for Veronica Taylor on Row 7B.

Yours truly,


Courier News:  "Plainfield race heats up amid talk of candidate's PMUA history"

Monday, May 28, 2012

Support the Sacrifices Made By Our Vets

This morning, I attended the Memorial Day observance that honored Plainfield's war veterans. After the laying of the wreath and listening to the honors bestowed on those who served in our place, we stood silently as Robert Dixon offered a prayer.

As former Director of Housing Services for the Plainfield Area YMCA, my work also focused on supportive housing for our veterans, who make up a hugely disproportionate percentage of those in need of help. 

Please thank our veterans for all that they have done to ensure our freedoms!


Yours Truly,


Friday, May 18, 2012

The Plainfield Library Needs Our Support!

I have been attending the city council’s budget hearings, and one thing that really alarms me is Mayor Robinson-Briggs's proposal for the 2012 budget, which would cut the funding for the Plainfield Public Library by nearly half. First, as we learned at the budget hearing, the library was not even notified that the budget hearings were taking place, and a budget recommendation was given to the city council by the mayor and her administration without any input from the library. Second, to cut the library funding while at the same time increasing the budget in other areas would be disastrous, with more employee layoffs and a drastic cut in the library’s operating hours.

With tens of thousands of library card holders, the Library serves more Plainfield residents than any other agency in the city. From preschool children to our senior citizens, from job seekers to those needing to learn how to read, from those without computer or Internet access to those neighborhood groups who use the library’s community rooms for meeting space, the Plainfield Public Library serves the entire Plainfield community.

As a teacher here in Plainfield, as a parent with two children in the school system, as a taxpayer, and as a frequent library user (I have been using the Plainfield library since I was a child getting my first library card), I am wondering why the mayor has decided to cut the most important public resource in our city—it’s not right.

We need to save our library, and there are ways you can help right away.

First, come out to the library Saturday afternoon (May 19) between 4:00 and 7:00 PM for the 2012 Wine Discovery wine-tasting event. The proceeds ($60/ticket) will be used by the all-volunteer Friends of the Plainfield Public Library to support programs for our children, young people, adults, and senior citizens. You can become a Friend of the Library, where your annual dues, will help support all the programs. Annual dues are less than the cost of a pizza—for students and senior citizens, just $10 a year! For individuals, it’s $25, and for couples, it’s $45. 

Also, become a Library Champion and speak up on behalf of the Library, such as during the City's budget process, which is occurring right now. The city council will be scheduling more hearings for budget amendments, at which time you can come before the microphone during public comment to make your voice heard. The city council is elected to serve us, and we cannot allow them to go along with the mayor’s proposal.

For more information about the attack on the library’s funding, and how you can let your elected officials know how you feel, click on the link: Support the Library!

Yours truly,


Friday, May 11, 2012

Another Community Cleanup Opportunity

Rebecca reminded me to post this reminder of tomorrow's Plainfield Library exterior grounds cleanup, which begins at 9:00 a.m. Her original post is below.

Yours truly,


Saturday, May 12, 2012, 9:00 am 
Volunteers Meet on Library Steps
Gloves, rakes, bags, and water will be provided
Bob, Adrian, Rebecca, Paul, and Michael--from Fall 2011.
Hi, everyone,
It's that time again! We, as residents of Plainfield, have an obligation to help keep our city clean. The library belongs to all of us, and despite the opposition to the library as demonstrated by the mayor's desire to cut library funding by upwards of 40% of the current budget, we must keep this most important cultural and civic resource looking spic and span.
We need to trim hedges, remove branches, and pick up litter and other debris in preparation for the Friends of the Plainfield Public Library fundraising event, which will be held on Saturday, May 19th in the Reading Rainforest Children's Room. If you have hedge trimmers, please bring them! Below are some photos from past clean-ups--you will probably see some of your friends and neighbors--join us on Saturday, May 12 at 9:00 am!
See you there!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lending a Hand: Community Cleanups

About two weeks ago, I joined some of our Plainfield neighbors in a community cleanup of Leland Park. Volunteers removed brush, branches, and other debris in anticipation of a wonderful spring and summer. Our children, among other residents, use the park for a number of healthy activities. As a former teacher at Cook Elementary School, which adjoins the park, I am all too familiar with how much debris accumulates there. It's up to us to lend a hand and keep our city's parks clean--Public Works can't do it all by themselves. Also, the annual spring cleanup of the Plainfield Public Library's grounds will take place on Saturday, May 12, beginning at 9:00 am. Rebecca has posted it on her city council blog here. We hope you will join us--community service benefits us all, so we must do what we can for our children, parents, neighbors, and everyone else in Plainfield. Here are a few photos from the Leland Park cleanup, which was put together by the Netherwood Neighbors and Friends of Sleepy Hollow--look at what we can do if we all work together!

Yours truly,


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Remembering Pepsi Charles

“If you've had enough of political leaders from all parties using children as political props and pawns and talking about family values while not supporting what families need to raise healthy, safe, moral, and educated children, come stand with us.” --Marian Wright Edelman, of the Children’s Defense Fund

Back in 1996, as a young person serving on the Plainfield School Board, I headed a committee called “Stand For Children.” We sent three busloads of Plainfielders, including our young people, to the Children's Defense Fund’s “Stand for Children Day” March on Washington. This was the largest gathering ever in D.C. to focus solely on advocating for children. Hundreds of grassroots organizations were in attendance—all of us who cared about kids were there. 

At the time, my dear friend Pepsi Charles was the administrator for the Healthy Adolescent grant in partnership with the Plainfield Health Center (now known as the Neighborhood Health Services Corporation). Some of you may also remember that Pepsi hosted a long-running program on WBAI radio! 
The student interns (all college students) trained like the freedom bus riders of the 1960s, and were filled with passion and commitment. It was an amazing day, and we returned with fresh energy to continue tackling the issues of most concern to our young people.

Upon our return, Pepsi stated that she wanted to bring Freedom Schools and the “Beat the Odds” scholarship program to Plainfield. These programs would be awarded as gifts, to students who had overcome insurmountable odds in order to graduate. The students were not all “A” students, of course, but they were OUR kids, who, despite having to serve as caregivers to parents or grandparents or brothers and sisters, having to hold down a job while also finding time to study, trying as hard as possible to avoid the lure of the streets, were able to graduate.

Pepsi brought the health center and adolescent grant idea to me, and to Anna Belin-Pyles (our current interim superintendent), Denise Shipman and Danice Stone, all School-Based Youth Services staff.  We made a commitment, traveling to the Children’s Defense Fund’s Haley Farm in Tennessee to brainstorm strategies for student success with other policymakers and community builders. Pepsi brought the “Freedom School” and “Beat the Odds” programs to Plainfield. She also founded “Plainfield Cooks,” a fundraiser to pay for scholarships for “Beat the Odds.” The first “Plainfield Cooks” event was held in 1999.

This year, Alma Cruz, another of Pepsi’s dear friends and a tireless community activist in her own right, has organized this year’s “Plainfield Cooks” on the 10th anniversary of Pepsi's death. The event will take place this Saturday, May 5th, from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, at Plainfield High School, as part of the Health Fair and Family Fitness Event, sponsored by the Greater Union County Chapter of Jack and Jill of America in conjunction with Links /PHS Health Fair, with free screenings, fitness activities, and a blood drive by NJ Blood Services.  

As a teacher and member of Plainfield High School’s Wellness Committee, I hope you will encourage your family and friends to come out to this event, to honor Pepsi’s memory, and to donate blood and take advantage of all the free screenings and fitness activities.

The freedom school still exists as the Summer Enrichment Program, now run by Zelda Spence, of School Based Youth Services. That program, as part of Pepsi’s legacy, teaches our students how to be “servant leaders”…that’s what Pepsi taught us to be. This is a fitting tribute to Pepsi.

Yours truly,


Monday, April 23, 2012

Budget Hearings and Public Safety: Fire Division

Fire Chief Tidwell
I attended the recent Public Safety budget hearing—the police, fire, and signal divisions, which take up the greatest amount of your tax dollars every year. The Fire Division under Chief Frank Tidwell did themselves proudly. They always show up polished and well-prepared and are able to answer the questions from council members easily and in detail. This year, the chief pitched a proposal for the East End firehouse near the Netherwood Train Station to be replaced by a new structure. The old station has serious structural issues, including a failing floor that is unable to support heavier modern firefighting equipment.

Firehouse #4
Under the fire division's proposal, the present building would be demolished and a new facility would be constructed using the bonding authority of the Union County Improvement Authority on a larger piece of land. The capital project would improve firefighting capability in the East End and would be reflected in better ratings by the insurance companies. This proposal would obviously benefit the community, but there are other issues that we need to examine as well regarding public safety, such as how the fire division can be a resource to help meet Plainfield residents' emergency medical needs.

There is also the question of how the mayor intends to pay the additional costs in deferred pensions that are due after she accepted a deferral plan a few years ago. 

Next up (on Wednesday): Budget hearings are scheduled for Recreation, Inspections, the Mayor's Office, and City Administrator's Office. I will keep you posted.

Yours truly,

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Explaining Plainfield's Budget Process

As I have been out walking and knocking on doors all across the city, some residents (including some of my students at the high school!) have asked me to explain how the budget process is supposed to work with the switch from a fiscal year to a calendar year.

Here is a brief explanation: Every year, the city council meets for budget hearings and departments come before them to present and defend their expense proposals for the coming year. What is different is that with Plainfield switching to a calendar year budget, this is the first time in many years for the city council to be presented the administration's budget proposal in the spring. The introduced budget is drawn up by the administration, projecting its wants and needs for the twelve months that began in January. However, the final decision on how much the total budget will be and how it is allocated between the different departments is, by law, the council's decision. I hope that explains it!

Yours truly,

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ready to run, ready to win!

Welcome to my campaign! I am a lifelong Democrat, and I am running to represent you as your City-wide council representative. Community, commitment, collaboration, and consensus—those four ingredients, I feel, are necessary to successfully serve the residents of Plainfield. For my entire adult life, I have worked for the betterment of the Plainfield community—as an elected leader as well as by serving as a volunteer.

I have a proven record of leadership as a citywide public servant in Plainfield. While in my twenties, I ran for and won a seat on the Plainfield Board of Education, where I served for ten years as an elected member. As a member of the board, I attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Urban Superintendents Program Internship Seminar, where I was honored to serve as a panelist on "Urban Education and Parent Leadership." 

Also during my board tenure, I successfully campaigned for community passage of a $33 million bond to build Washington Community School and worked with the local unions to fairly negotiate differences and completely avoid strikes. I also led the successful struggle to get the tennis courts named after Plainfield’s legendary Donald Van Blake, our most ardent advocate of youth tennis.

I worked for fifteen years as the Director of Housing Services for the Plainfield Area YMCA, working directly with our residents as well as other supportive housing organizations and neighborhood stakeholders to help meet the housing needs of all those in our community. I also served as a Commissioner of the Plainfield Housing Authority. I was recognized for 20 years of service as a volunteer with Plainfield’s Habitat for Humanity. I am a longtime member of the League of Women Voters of Plainfield, where I served a term as chapter president. 
I have been politically active all my life, supporting the efforts of a number of successful local officials, including the late Al McWilliams, for past council members Rayland Van Blake, Ray Blanco, Linda Carter, and for current council representatives Cory Storch (with whom I served on the school board), Annie McWilliams, Adrian Mapp, and Rebecca Williams. All of these public servants can tell you that service takes commitment! 

I think the best public servants are those who can demonstrate that they are working for the people of this city, not against them. I am running because I know that I can work effectively to improve our city. By working at the grassroots level with other Plainfield activists, by putting in the hard work that we owe to the residents, we can make Plainfield a better place. I look forward to earning your vote!

Yours truly,