Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Blanco - Courier - Plainfield editorial amateurish

Published in the Courier News, Sunday, July 2, 2006

[Speaking Out]
Plainfield editorial was amateur reporting

The recent editorial titled "Development plan for city approved too hastily" (June 23) shows the Courier News' lack of comprehension of the issues involved in the agreement between the city of Plainfield and the Union County Improvement Authority .

The city of Plainfield has been doing business with the authority for many years. Among the capital projects completed in cooperation with the authority was the development of Park Madison, a tract of land that had sat dormant for more than 25 years. The $30 million development has been the only major development in this city in nearly 40 years.

All of Plainfield's experiences with the authority have been positive, and it has saved taxpayers money. The current agreement simply provides a framework for future development in the city. Last Wednesday night, I voted for the best interests of Plainfield. I voted to finally move forward with re-development in our city.

Your comment that this action was taken hastily implies that it was taken without council members having enough information. This action was taken with more discussion than most items before us. The purpose of the agenda-fixing meeting is to discuss the issues to be voted on at Wednesday's council meeting. That is the first time the public sees the agenda but not the first time for council members.

Members receive an information packet every Friday evening and can spend the next few days getting answers to questions. That's why the questioning sometimes seems superficial at Monday night agenda-fixing meetings. As council president, I was satisfied that every member of the council had sufficient information to move ahead with the vote.

Your lack of knowledge on this agreement is evident when you state the agreement "puts the authority in the driver's seat." That is far from the truth. The city of Plainfield can terminate the agreement for many reasons that are spelled out in the contract. The bottom line is that our city does not have the luxury of time when it comes to development.

Your statement that the council was "apparently powerless to do anything but vote 'yes' " is, frankly, demeaning to every council member. Perhaps you are suggesting that Plainfield council members do not have the capacity to comprehend a simple six-page agreement. Other municipalities in Union County have entered into agreements with the authority with only a two-page document and with far fewer safeguards for local control.

Or is the real reason for your objection the conspiracy you see between the council and Charlotte DeFilippo, the head of the Union County Improvement Authority as well as the county Democratic Party chairman? The chairman is both a skilled political strategist and an excellent business developer. She also is the same person who fought for the funding for the city's only major development in the past 40 years.

Perhaps what's most troubling about the reaction of the Courier News is that the editorial appeared to have been written without any firsthand knowledge of the facts. No reporter was at Monday night's meeting. Your editor did not call me to verify your information.

The editorial relies upon "news accounts of Wednesday's meeting in the Courier News and elsewhere." Which other news sources? If we have other newspaper or broadcast entities, I want to know. Perhaps then we can shift Plainfield's expenditure for public notices to said entities. Or perhaps you are referring to a certain politically motivated blog that thrives on half-truths. If taking any opinion or secondhand account as fact represents your new journalistic standard, the Courier News I remember has ceased to exist.

Your publication seems to thrive on pointing fingers, but you fail in doing your own job as the newspaper of record for our city. You are the first to blast the challenges we face with crime on your front page, but you do not devote the necessary resources to cover our city properly. The days when reporters such as Jack Gill and Bernice Paglia covered the City Council, the Planning Board and every major entity on a regular basis are gone.

I would respectfully suggest that next time you wish to pass judgment on Plainfield's City Council, you do your homework without listening to self-serving and misinformed sources. Better still, how about assigning a dedicated reporter to regularly cover the issues in Plainfield instead of a prom in Hunterdon County? Your editorial was a miss for the Courier News.

City councilman-at-large, Plainfield

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About Me

Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.