Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Drugs - Grow Houses - Elk Grove, CA

Published in the Newsday, Tuesday, September 26, 2006, 2:40 PM EDT

Cartels Use Surburban Homes to Grow Pot

Associated Press Writer

ELK GROVE, Calif. -- Leon Nunn stepped out his front door one recent afternoon only to be waved back by a squadron of drug agents using a battering ram on a neighbor's home. The half-million-dollar home in the quiet subdivision was found to be stuffed with high-grade marijuana plants, growing in soil-free trays under bright lights.

More than 40 similar busts have been reported over the past two months in neighborhoods in and around Sacramento, exposing what has become a new battleground in California's battle against marijuana cartels.

Pot growers with suspected ties to Asian organized crime in San Francisco have been buying suburban homes to the east because of the anonymity the neighborhoods offer, and because the houses are relatively affordable by California standards. The owners then close the blinds and convert the homes into marijuana hothouses.

"We had no idea. I was shocked," said Nunn, an associate minister at Elk Grove's Progressive Church of God in Christ. "We never saw them or heard from them. It was just a real quiet house on the block."

The Nunns have since installed security lights and cameras and said some of their neighbors are talking about moving away.

"Now we're just suspicious every time we see something around here," said the minister's wife, Patricia. "You pay this much money, you don't expect those things to happen."

Until now, West Coast law enforcement agencies have been more concerned about large-scale outdoor marijuana gardens, which often are planted in public forests or parks by Mexican drug cartels.

The Drug Enforcement Agency saw a 50 percent increase nationwide in indoor operations in 2005 from the year before, said Gordon Taylor, who heads the Drug Enforcement Administration region in central and Northern California.

Growing marijuana indoors has certain advantages: The operations cannot be spotted by an airplane or a hunter, and the plants can be grown year-round.

Police from Sacramento to Stockton, about 40 miles to the south, are bashing in doors at homes virtually every day as they develop new leads or are tipped by suddenly wary neighbors.

"I've been doing this almost 20 years, and I have never seen this many indoor grow operations in such a small area in such a short period of time," Taylor said. "Some people might characterize it as an epidemic."

The home on Elk Grove's Mainline Drive had 1,000-watt lights, as well as high-tech hydroponic growing systems.

Walls and ceilings were smashed to allow for complex ventilation and filtration systems that vented the telltale odor of pot through the attic. A web of extension cords and makeshift electric panels was used to illegally tap into the outside grid to avoid detection and save thousands of dollars in expenses.

Most of the targeted homes were bought for between $400,000 and $600,000. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to convert each of them to grow millions of dollars worth of marijuana.

"They're going into these cookie-cutter communities and making cookie-cutter marijuana factories," Taylor said. All of a sudden, the neighbors "have an organized crime marijuana factory right next to them. It's alarming."

Some neighbors said they were too frightened to be quoted. Others were able to laugh about it.

"I tell the neighbors, `You weren't even cutting me in on that fortune you had growing down the street,'" said John McAlister, who lives across from the Nunns in the 6-year-old subdivision. "They look at me like, `Don't even say that.' They were shocked, to say the least."

For all the sophistication of the operations, many neighbors said they were suspicious because the owners neglected to mow or water their lawns.

"We suspected it, when you spend $500,000 on a home and let it go to pot, so to speak," said Marilyn Smith, who lives across from another Elk Grove home that was converted to a marijuana factory. "Nobody was ever there and the blinds were all closed."

The phenomenon was seen earlier in British Columbia, Canada, where Vietnamese organized crime outfits gutted houses to grow potent "B.C. Bud" that can sell for $5,000 or more a pound in the United States. Growers headed south to avoid increased border enforcement after the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to investigators.

"It's definitely a concerted effort by Asian organized crime groups in Canada to move part of their operation down to the United States," said Rodney Benson, the DEA's agent in charge of Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Idaho.

The homes in California's Central Valley are linked to San Francisco's Chinatown and have "all the markings of Asian organized crime," said the DEA's Taylor.

Five San Francisco residents were charged with federal marijuana crimes last month in connection with some of the busts in Elk Grove. Police in Elk Grove and Stockton have arrested several other people in recent days.

Link to online story.
(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Drugs - Grow Houses - Port St. Lucie, FL

Published in the Sun-Sentinel, Thursday, September 21, 2006


Marijuana grow-house operation broken up in Port St. Lucie

By Derek Simmonsen
Port St. Lucie News

September 21, 2006

Port St. Lucie · It was the promise of the American dream -- home ownership on the cheap -- that brought them to Florida and one of America's fastest-growing cities.

The pitch went something like this: Relocate to Port St. Lucie, get free financing on a home in your name and have most of your expenses paid for two years. The catch? You have to agree to spend that time growing, harvesting and packaging marijuana for sale.

What initially started in May as a call to police about a man chasing someone with a machete on Southwest Glenwood Drive has unraveled a highly organized, multi-state marijuana ring that recruited potential candidates with the promise of one day owning the grow houses they ran. Now, the local investigation has branched off into a large-scale federal prosecution that has charged 35 owners and tenants with drug crimes.

"Today, we have effectively dismantled a well-organized and well-financed marijuana grow-house operation with tentacles that stretched from South Florida to New York," R. Alexander Acosta, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said Wednesday.

Of the 35 people charged through federal indictments and criminal complaints, 27 were in custody Wednesday, Acosta said. Four are being held in New Jersey and another was in Orlando waiting to be transferred to South Florida; authorities have information on the whereabouts of the eight who have not been arrested.

A business in New Jersey financed the operation, but Acosta would not name the company and declined to speak about how the drugs were transported and where they were distributed. He also declined to comment on whether the group had any mob ties.

He noted the arrests were a first step in an ongoing investigation. Most of those charged were homeowners or tenants and officials said there could be other charges coming later against individuals higher up in the organization who recruited them.

Under the agreement, owners had to harvest marijuana crops two to four times a year and would receive $1,000 for each plant they reaped, while the organizers kept the rest of the profit. After two years, they could decide to continue growing marijuana or could sell the house. The homeowners would get 50 percent of the profits from the home sale at that point, he said.

The homes produced between 30 and 300 plants in each harvest and some homes cultivated up to 1,200 plants in a year. Many of the homes were set up identically and paperwork in one house often led investigators to other grow houses within the ring.

The city has filed paperwork to seize 14 homes through forfeiture and Acosta said forfeiture proceedings would continue at the federal level. Most of the charges carry maximum sentences of between 20 and 40 years in prison and one of the charges, possession of 100 or more marijuana plants, carries a five-year mandatory prison sentence, according to prosecutors.

In addition to local detectives, members of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service are assisting in the investigation.

Since police raided the first home in early May, there have been 82 search warrants leading to 59 alleged grow houses, said Police Chief John Skinner. Investigators have seized 4,000 pounds of marijuana and roughly $167,000 in cash.

While Skinner said he felt police had made a dent in local operations and that grow house discoveries have peaked, he said there still could be more out there. The city's enormous growth may have been a factor in why Port St. Lucie was chosen as a home base.

"It's a new community," Skinner said. "It's an easy place to blend in ... any community can have grow houses. It's not just a Port St. Lucie problem."

Derek Simmonsen can be reached at derek.simmonsen@ scripps.com

Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Link to online story.
(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Beatles - Royal Mail - Complete Set

Here are images of the complete set of six Beatles stamps being released by the Royal Mail in January 2007. Click to enlarge.

How-to - Ledger - Organizing block parties

Published in the Star-Ledger, Sunday, September 24, 2006

Meet the neighbors
Block parties help busy people get together

Star-Ledger Staff

When Fabiola Campbell moved to Montclair three years ago, her neighborhood didn't have an annual block party. There'd been one years ago, she was told, but it had fallen by the wayside.

"Oh, no," she said, "we're doing it."

Today, her block's yearly bash has a theme, a budget ($1,500 this year), outside entertainment (ponies and "an inflatable jumpy thing"), a talent show by the children, a visit by one of the town's fire trucks, and so many other details that it requires a full nine months to plan.

"I call myself the CEO of the block," said Campbell, who with a friend ("my CFO") meets in January over a lunch of sushi to begin sketching out ideas for the next party. For their Labor Day bash, they collected $25 per adult and $10 per child over 2.

Big or small, block parties offer residents a chance to watch kids have fun, catch up on the latest gossip and rail about the new sewer tax. But they're also an opportunity to establish lasting ties with neighbors in an era when we often know one another only as well as a passing nod allows.

It's a situation that isn't lost on police departments, which see block parties as a way to create awareness and reduce or prevent crime.

"People don't know who their neighbors are anymore," said Detective Jim Gangi of the North Arlington Police. " Kids don't walk to school, they get driven; people keep to themselves more."

In August, his department helped sponsor six block parties on National Crime Prevention Night; the town's police chief attended each one, said Gangi, as did McGruff the Crime Dog.

"We look at it as a partnership between the police and the neighborhood," he said.

Block parties require their own partnership in the form of an organizing committee, or one or two people who bang out an announcement and stick it in every mailbox on the street (although e-mail announcements are becoming popular, too). Linda Smith of Pompton Plains organized her neighborhood's gathering.

"If you're looking for a block party with ponies or face painters, we don't have any of that," she said with a laugh. "We just set up tables and a tent, bring our food and our drink and meet in the center of the street at 5 p.m."

Her street's gathering -- one of five held in the community this year -- is called Octoberfest and is intentionally low key; for instance, they don't collect money from the residents.

"It's not organized at all," she said, but rather counts on the spontaneity of its participants, such as last year, when it got dark and someone brought out a fire pit, where they roasted marshmallows and made s'mores.

Although, Smith did learn a few lessons from last year's gathering, only the second party the block had held since she moved onto the street in 1998.

This year the party -- scheduled for Saturday -- will start at 5 instead of 3 p.m., a bow to families with children who play sports, and Smith has asked residents on one side of the street to bring a dessert and residents on the other side of the street to bring an appetizer as a way of making sure the entire spectrum of menu possibilities is covered. Everyone brings an entrée and beverages.

"I think it's just a great time talking to your neighbor you don't get a chance to talk to (during the week)," she said.

George McDermott asked $10 from each house for the block party he organized in North Arlington, and for a first-timer he was pleased with the outcome.

"It almost seemed like we'd been doing it for years. It's something we're definitely going to do again," he said. "I mean, you walk by and you see someone and you're cordial and say hello, but (at the block party) we got a chance to meet and say hello and get to have a conversation and get to know them better."

It's hard to imagine a block party in Christine Armstrong's old neighborhood. Talking to her neighbors is something she didn't get to do much when she lived in Monmouth County, where her home sat on 2 acres. But a few weeks after her son was born in the summer of 2003, she stopped to show the baby to a neighborhood couple on her driveway.

"I didn't even know you were pregnant," said the woman.

"I was taken aback," said Armstrong. "It's hard to know your neighbors when you're so disconnected from everyone."

When she and her husband decided to move closer to their Manhattan jobs and relatives, Armstrong knew what she was looking for.

In May, they moved to Montclair -- home of 100 block parties a year -- and just recently attended what was essentially their coming-out event. For a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, the street was closed to traffic so bicycles -- not cars -- ruled the road, residents loaded folding tables with homemade food and set up grills for the burgers and dogs -- the cost of which was covered by the neighborhood association's annual dues: $20 a family. And Armstrong? She and her husband spent the day introducing themselves, and being introduced, to the 20 families who live in the neighborhood.

As Armstrong spoke, her daughter, Olivia, 4, pulled at her mother's arm eager to get to the table set up for painting bird houses on a nearby driveway, and her son, Patrick 3, was in search of a juice box stashed in a cooler on the street.

"This was more like the neighborhood I grew up in," said Armstrong later. "I could yell to my best friend out my window" from her family's house on Chicago's South Side.

It's just that sort of experience that Campbell hopes her children grow up with, and at its core, is what she thinks a block party -- no matter what the size -- is really all about.

"It brings the block together," she said. "I feel if one of my kids needed anything they could go to anyone on the street and they'd be okay. It gives them a sense of community, which is something that's lost these days."

How to start a block party

Star-Ledger Staff

Throwing a block party can be as simple as putting tables out on a lawn or as involved as hiring entertainment. In either case, organizers say the key to a successful neighborhood bash is, well, organization. What follows is a list of things to consider as you plan your gathering.

1. Find a volunteer to organize the party.

This job generally entails the creation and distribution of a flier announcing the date of the party, as well as keeping tabs on what needs to be done. Some neighborhoods form committees to handle the details, more typically someone says, "Hey, let's have a block party!" and presto, they're in charge.

Chat with your neighbors about the best date, but keep in mind that summer weekends are packed with activities and vacations; post-Labor Day gatherings -- while also competing with sports and weekend get-aways -- often have better attendance.

2. Ask for help.

The first job of any good organizer is delegation. Include in your flier a request for volunteers, as well as a list of items the party will need, including tables, chairs, grills, arts supplies for kids, etc. Don't forget to put your phone number and/or e-mail address on the flier for RSVPs, and have rain date, as well.

3. How many green salads do you need?

At some block parties, people show up with whatever strikes their fancy, but seriously, how many green salads do you need? In your flier, try assigning desserts to homes on one side of the street and appetizers to homes on the other side (or do it based on odd/even house numbers). Everyone can bring an entrée or something to grill, as well as their beverage of choice.

4. Donation$.

Throwing a block party doesn't have to cost a penny if everyone brings their own food and drink. Organizers can create a list of the items the party is likely to need and ask residents to sign up for one or more (i.e. paper plates, plastic forks/knives/spoons, napkins, tablecloths, trash cans, garbage bags).

But some blocks ask every house to kick in $8 or $10 or more toward the party. Some fees are per person, others are per family. The money may be used to purchase paper products (which are put into a large box at the end of the party and saved for the following year) or some basic food items like hamburgers and hot dogs.

5. Close off the street.

Get a permit application from the municipal clerk's office or police department to block off the street to traffic. The request will typically be reviewed by the police department and then, barring any safety issues, it will issue the permit. The permit covers you for any complaints about noise and is good for 24 hours and a rain date.

While the closing allows the neighborhood some wide-open space in which to gather, it also allows children a chance to ride their bikes in the street (without getting yelled at). Of course, it also allows for basketball and volleyball games, Wiffle ball, chalking -- you name it -- but without fail, veteran organizers said the chance to ride bikes in the street is the key to imbuing the day with a kind of magic that has kids talking about the event all year.

6. Activities for the kids

Smaller children should not be forgotten in the mix, and here an art table works wonders. Put out some crayons, paper and paints and whatever is left in your art box at home and those whose legs aren't long enough to bike will be happy at play. If you have some seashells left over from the beach, you can paint those, too. Other ideas include frosting cupcakes, balloon catch, relay races, Simon Says or Red Light/Green Light.

Link to online story.
(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ethics - Ledger - OpEd: Adopt a statewide standard

Published in the Star-Ledger, Thursday, September 21, 2006

[Op Ed]
A statewide ethics standard
The Legislature must make sure stringent rules apply at every level of government


The screaming headlines of political corruption, using public office for private gain, and campaign mudslinging that plays the ethics card for political gain make plain yet again that ethics reform must remain the cornerstone of any hope for restoring the public trust.

There is a concrete, attainable agenda that the Legislature can and must pursue now if it is to demonstrate that it means business when it comes to ethics. As special ethics counsel to Gov. Richard Codey, charged with recommending ethics reforms for the executive branch, we made a series of sweeping recommendations and set forth stringent prohibitions that now, commendably, bind the executive branch. The Legislature should hold itself to the same strict standards. Here's what the Legislature needs to do.

Adopt a zero-tolerance policy on the acceptance of gifts.

The present ethics laws prohibit legislators from accepting gifts worth more than $250 in total value from a single source for any matter related to their official duties. Much has been writ ten of late about the need to enforce the re quirement that legislators restore in a timely manner any value in excess of the $250 per source limit. While this requirement must be heeded, much of the discussion misses the most essential point. Legislators should be banned from receiving any gifts, of any value, from lobbyists, government affairs agents or any other interested parties. A zero-tolerance policy is essential to dispel the appearance of impropriety.

Whether it's a bottle of inexpensive wine or Dom Perignon, lunch at a diner or orchestra seats to a Broadway show, gifts from those doing business or hoping to do business with the state are designed to curry favor. We recommended, and there is now in place, a flat ban on the acceptance of gifts for all officials and employees of the executive branch.

The Legislature should hold itself to the same standard. The $250-per-source cap that is now in place not only raises problems of valuation and interpretation but sends the wrong message. By contrast, a prohibition on any and all gifts given by outside parties and related in any way to the legislator's official duties establishes a clear, bright-line standard that is easy to apply and sends the right message: "We can't be bought. Don't even try."

Merge the Joint Legislative Commission on Ethical Standards into the newly empowered state Ethics Commission.

The Joint Legislative Commission, responsible for investigating ethics complaints against legislators, has been routinely described as ineffective, unable to forcefully address allegations against its own. New Jersey's system mirrors the federal system. In a season of scandals, congressional ethics panels remain on the sidelines.

So far this year, at least seven federal lawmak ers have been indicted, have pleaded guilty or are under investigation for improper conduct such as conspiracy, securities fraud and improper campaign donations, yet no major ethics investigations have taken place in Washington.

Merging New Jersey's Joint Legislative Commission with the newly created and boldly empowered state Ethics Commission, which is cur rently charged with investigating executive branch violations, will centralize and render consistent the application and strict enforcement of the state's ethics laws. Other states do this without any apparent diminution in legislative powers.

Ban dual office-holding

Dual office-holding promotes a consolidation of influence that alters the delicate balance of power in politics. It promotes careerism and cronyism and erodes the public's confidence in its leaders. Tom O'Neill, in his recent report put out by the New Jersey Policy Perspective and Demos, makes the point particularly well. New Jersey residents deserve the assurance that elected officials are free of conflicts of interests and that public office-holding is rooted in public service, not personal enrichment.

Ban pay-to-play at every level of government, including redevelopment

New Jersey must finish the task of pay-to-play reform, severing, as Harry Pozycki of the Citizens' Campaign has made plain, "the remaining links between corrupting political contributions and the awarding of government contracts." His studied wisdom should be heeded. Critical to the task is the Legislature's willingness to close loopholes in the laws and place counties, municipalities and developers within those strengthened laws.

Make the newly promulgated uniform ethics code binding on the Legislature and local governments.

The Uniform Ethics Code, promulgated by the state Ethics Commission, is a significant accomplishment. With its clear rules and stringent penalties for noncompliance, it is destined to become a model for national replication and already has garnered favorable attention from other states wrestling with the task of ethics reform. It binds the executive branch. It should bind the Legislature and be made binding on local government.

Instead, local government is bound by the Local Government Ethics Law, a largely toothless statute. It contains, for example, no clear ban on gifts, no explicit ban on nepotism, insufficient disclosure requirements for business interests, inadequate penalties for transgressions and no direct power to cause removal from office. A study just completed by Ingrid Reed of the Eagleton Institute reveals the lack of uniformity in ethical standards and expectations at the local and county levels, on school boards, in the Legislature and in the executive branch.

While a growing number of municipalities have taken up worthy initiatives aimed at ethics reform, there must be consistency in the applica tion, supervision and control of much tighter standards. The rules of the game must be made plain and the penalties strict.

Close the door to pension-padding

Pension-padding is the deplorable practice of promoting state officials shortly before retirement, thus allowing the officials to receive an undeserved public pension based on a higher salary for a position they never held. Not only should such manipulation of the pension system be banned, but New Jersey should enact new forfeiture provisions in the state's pension laws to keep public employees convicted of se rious wrongdoing from being rewarded. Pensions should be earned, given to public officials and employees who truly serve the public and respect the power they have been given to do good.

The public yearns for assurances that it can rely on the integrity of its elected officials, and there are reasons for great hope. But more remains to be done. Only by showing a united front against ethics violations can New Jersey make real the promise of lasting reform.

Paula A. Franzese is the Peter W. Rodino professor of law at Seton Hall Law School. Daniel J. O'Hern is a retired associate justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Link to online story.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Civic Reponsiblity Act - Table of Boards/Commissions

Below is a table supplied by Citizen Action, the group which worked with Councilman Ray Blanco to shape Plainfield's Civic Responsibility Ordinance.

Following the ordinance's adoption, Dan Damon compiled and John DiPane posted to the city's website the information expected in the ordinance. That information has since disappeared from the city's website. -- Dan Damon

of Plainfield - Boards & Commissions - Prepared by Citizen Action
Board/Commission[1]Appointed by# of MembersVacancies (as of 5/7/03)Length of Term
Police Officers
Mayor w/advice and consent of
Governing Body[2]
1401 year
Mayor w/advice and consent of
Governing Body
40?concurrent w/ Mayoral term
Study Commission

Budget Advisory Committee

& Heritage Commission
Only by Commisson recommendation
to Mayor
20121,2, or 3 years
Brook Flood Control Commission
Mayor w/advice and consent of
Governing Body
2 (council designees)05
Brook Task Force

Advisory Consortium
Mayor w/advice and consent of
Governing Body
7 total (1 City Council member)
Preservation Commission
Direct Mayoral appointment (does
not require governing body consent)
902 or 4 years
Authority Commissioners
1 Mayoral appointment; 5 Council
appointments; 1 appointment by State Commissioner
Relations Commission
Mayor w/advice and consent of
Governing Body
993 years
Day Committee

Fund Commission

Assistance Board

Emergency Management Council

Citizens Advisory Committee
Mayor w/advice and consent of
Governing Body
Municipal Self Insurance Joint Insurance Fund

Action Services Community Action Board

Area Regional Sewerage Authority (P.A.R.S.A)
Governing Body of each
participating Municipality
8 (from each municipality)
Cable Television Advisory Committee
Comprised of Mayor or designee,
1 city official (not councilmember), 3 governing body members; 2 BOE reps; 1
Public Library rep; 7 city residents by recommendation of the 7 members of
the governing body from thier respective constituencies
Environmental Commission
Mayor/Governing Body5 to 7 1,2, or 3 years
Municipal Utilities Authority (P.M.U.A)[3]
Mayor w/advice and consent of
Governing Body
Redevelopment Agency
Governing Body77

Library & Reading Room Board of Trustees
5 citizens appointed by Mayor74
Advisory Committee
Mayor w/advice and consent of
Governing Body
County Community Development Revenue Sharing Committee

Housing Corporation

Guidance Council

Board of Adjustment
Mayor w/advice and consent of
Governing Body



Italics means no information exists



what does w/ adivce/consent of governing body mean?




Thursday, September 21, 2006

Flood Zones - Map at 100 dpi - 2006


The map above is scanned at 100 dpi from the Spring 2006 mailer of the Plainfield Division of Public Works. Blue flood zones are only a general indication.

OFFICIAL flood maps may be viewed at City Hall or the Plainfield Public Library.

-- Dan Damon

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hale Insurance Brokerage - Cranford - Forging signature


Donald R. Readlinger, Cranford, NJ
Hale Insurance Brokerage, LLC, Cranford, NJ

Order to Show Cause #E06-71, April 24, 2006

Producers are charged with forging the signature of a municipal official on change of broker request letters with respect to the municipality’s employees’ health and dental benefits insurance; submitting the change of broker requests to the municipality’s insurer without the knowledge of or authority from the municipality; initially falsely denying committing the forgeries and submissions when Readlinger responded to an inquiry from a municipal official; misrepresenting to municipal officials that his firm had never committed similar types of actions, when in fact, similar types of conduct were admitted to in a prior consent order, Consent Order E04-88, entered on August 16, 2004, wherein Readlinger consented to the placement of his license on probationary status for 12 months and the payment of a $5,000 fine; and failing to timely notify the Department of a change of business address.

from NJ Dept. of Banking & Insurance, Enforcement Activity, "Final and Miscellaneous Orders, August 2006"

Jerry Green - Ledger - Letter: Words of prejudice

Published in the Star-Ledger, Sunday, September 17, 2006, Section One, page 49.

[Letter to Editor]
Lawmaker's words smack of prejudice

Having left behind his assault on state workers and their unions, Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Union) has moved on to impugn Hispanics.

At a public meeting on Aug. 1 at the Plainfield Senior Center, Green attacked a Hispanic group that had proposed that a Hispanic be chosen to replace deceased council President Ray Blanco on the Plainfield City Council.

Their proposal was distasteful to Green. Then, stating he never used the race card in his political career, he went on to attack Hispanics. He complained that undocumented workers constitute 50 percent of those using Muhlenberg Medical Center who lack health insurance, that 60 to 70 percent of Plainfield charter school students are Hispanic.

Personally, I was shocked at the prejudice expressed. I well remember the words of someone I do consider a leader of people, who state that we should judge people by their character not the color of their skins.

Voters in the 22nd District should consider whether or not Assemblyman Green is a leader who represents their interests and attitudes.

Patty Ganley Bender

This letter was published in the UNION FORUM in the Union County section of the paper, Section I, page 49. It was never put online.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Avoiding terrorist attacks - NYTimes - 10 Ways to avoid

Published in the New York Times, Sunday, September 10, 2006

Week In Review
10 Ways to Avoid the Next 9/11

If we are fortunate, we will open our newspapers this morning knowing that there have been no major terrorist attacks on American soil in nearly five years. Did we just get lucky?

The Op-Ed page asked 10 people with experience in security and counterterrorism to answer the following question: What is one major reason the United States has not suffered a major attack since 2001, and what is the one thing you would recommend the nation do in order to avoid attacks in the future?

Giving Muslims Hope

THE best news in our struggle against terrorism is that we have not been hit at home since the 9/11 attacks. Yet terrorists are patient. We remain a target and must expect another attack.

Our most important long-term recommendations involve foreign policy. First, preventing terrorists from gaining access to nuclear weapons, especially by stepping up efforts to secure loose nuclear materials abroad, must be our highest priority.

Second, the long-term challenge is for America to stop the radicalization of young Muslims from Jakarta to London by serving as a source of opportunity, not despair. Too many young Muslims are without jobs or hope, are angry with their governments, and don't like the war in Iraq or American foreign policy.

We should cultivate educational and cultural exchanges, and vigorous public diplomacy. We must offer moral leadership, treating all people -- including detainees -- with respect for the rule of law and human decency. And we must put forward an agenda of opportunity for the Islamic world. This includes support for pragmatic political reform, as well as education and economic empowerment.

-- THOMAS H. KEAN and LEE H. HAMILTON, the co-chairmen of the 9/11 commission and co-authors of ''Without Precedent.''

We Can't Kill an Ideology

THOUGH it may not be immediately apparent to the casual viewer, Al Qaeda is attacking when and where it chooses. It is an ideology-driven global insurgency on the march. It has not hit America because it has chosen not to. Whether it lacks on-the-ground capacity for a spectacular attack, is still in the planning stages or is busy elsewhere is under debate within our intelligence community. The point is that five years out, Al Qaeda is as dangerous as, if not more than, it was on 9/11.

Yes, our intelligence agencies have struck the terrorist group hard, detaining or killing many of its founding leaders. But these are not death blows -- because you cannot decapitate an ideology. Although the majority of Muslims reject the political vision of a Taliban-style Islamic caliphate, many agree with Al Qaeda that the Western-imposed political order is the source of their political and economic woes. Moreover, militant resistance to the current order is gaining acceptance and prestige, aptly demonstrated by the groundswell of popular support for Hamas and Hezbollah in the Muslim world.

During the last five years, our priority has been to beef up defenses and take the war to the terrorists. It's time to start discrediting Al Qaeda's ideology and offering Muslims nonviolent alternatives. The first step is to acknowledge that their grievances are legitimate and center on issues of dignity, economic disparity, border disputes and power alignment. The second is to acknowledge that our current approach is only helping Al Qaeda go mainstream.

-- MELISSA BOYLE MAHLE, a former C.I.A. operations officer and the author of ''Denial and Deception: An Insider's View of the C.I.A. from Iran-Contra to 9/11.''

How War Can Bring Peace

OFFENSIVE action abroad has protected the homeland. Our military presence in Afghanistan and our aggressive policies around the globe have seriously disrupted the enemy. Through a mix of military and paramilitary action, pre-emptive strikes, deterrent threats and surveillance we have captured many terrorist leaders, destroyed training camps and structures of communication and control, and uncovered valuable intelligence troves.

Some maintain that such offensive action feeds resentment and spawns more terrorism. But if aggression can create resentment, passivity and defensiveness can inspire contempt. Our weak responses to Qaeda attacks on the Khobar Towers, the African embassies and the destroyer Cole, and our withdrawal from Somalia, emboldened the enemy and allowed it to organize and train for the 9/11 attacks.

Going forward, we should more vigorously embrace technology as a tool for taking the fight to the Islamic terrorists. The same technological changes that help terrorists plot to deliver weapons of mass destruction, including low-cost information and communication over the Internet, also make it easier for the government to monitor and pre-empt terrorist plots. Libertarians overreact to the new technology, stoking fears of an Orwellian surveillance state. But properly designed programs can produce large gains in security in return for small losses of privacy and liberty.

-- JACK L. GOLDSMITH and ADRIAN VERMEULE, Harvard law professors and, respectively, an assistant attorney general from 2003 to 2004 and a co-author of the forthcoming ''Terror in the Balance.''

Less Political Correctness

THE reason we have not been attacked on American soil is that the war started by radical Muslims is not against the United States, but against everyone who does not conform to their beliefs and way of life. It is the first global war we have experienced since globalization became a factor in our life, and the terrorist battlefield has included Madrid, London, Bali, Moscow, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and India. The terrorists have had a very busy five years.

The struggle imposed on us is, by nature, a long-term struggle. Only an effective homeland security system will provide us with the necessary political power to prevail in those instances where the terrorists do find value in attacking within the United States. In that sense, we must be less politically correct, and begin a program that looks for risks where they are most likely to be found. For example, it is crucial to identify high-risk airline passengers through all criteria -- including appearance and behavior -- and spend more resources on them, rather than maintaining an across-the-board, politically correct low level of search.

-- RAFI RON, a security consultant and the former head of security at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

Keep American Muslims on Our Side

SINCE 9/11, terrorism has increased significantly around the globe, but the United States has been spared. Eurasia rather than America has been the main source and victim. Why?

Increased awareness and surveillance have made a strike as sophisticated as the 9/11 attacks far more difficult to achieve, especially without local support. Unlike their counterparts in Britain, for example, few of America's Muslims at least for now subscribe to the notion that Western governments or their proxies are deliberately hurting and humiliating Muslims and that the way to restore dignity is to join a jihad. Moreover, terrorist strategists like Ayman al-Zawahri have warned that while smaller strikes serve as training opportunities for their fighters, major strikes can backfire; attacking the wrong people at the wrong time would reduce the popularity of their movement.

The jihadists understand that they are fighting a war of ideas. According to ''The Management of Savagery,'' a Qaeda manual, the success of the movement will ultimately depend on the jihadists' ability to damage America's prestige throughout the globe, sow discord between America and its allies and expose the hollowness of American values. The manual prescribes a strategy of forcing America ''to abandon its war against Islam by proxy'' by provoking it into direct military confrontation with a Muslim country. When the United States attacked Iraq, it inadvertently ''expanded the jihadi current'' just as Osama bin Laden's strategists had hoped.

Every foreign-policy decision entails tradeoffs in regard to terrorism, especially with respect to the spread of the jihadist idea. Attacking the wrong people at the wrong time can backfire, just as Al Qaeda's strategists say. Let's not make that mistake again.

-- JESSICA STERN, a former National Security Council staff member and the author of ''Terror in the Name of God.''

What Really Scares Us

ANOTHER attempt on the scale of the 2001 attacks hasn't been necessary. The last one is still doing the trick, and the terrorists' resources are limited. The fear induced by terrorism mirrors the irrational psychology that makes state lotteries an utterly reliable form of stupidity tax. A huge statistical asymmetry serves as fulcrum for a spectral yet powerful lever: apprehension of the next jackpot. We're terrorized not by the actual explosion, which statistically we're almost never present for, but by our apprehension of the next one.

The terrorist tactic that matters most is the next one used, one we haven't seen yet. In order to know it, we must know the terrorists. Without a national security policy that concentrates on the vigorous and politically agnostic maximization of intelligence rather than, in the phrase of the security expert Bruce Schneier, ''security theater,'' that may well prove impossible.

-- WILLIAM GIBSON, novelist.

Walking the Terror Beat

THE most important counterterrorism activity since the fall of the Taliban has been the close cooperation of the C.I.A. with foreign intelligence services.

Powerful American technologies identify names, locations, phone numbers and computer addresses of suspicious people. Local intelligence services operate informant networks. The C.I.A. station chief works with intelligence officials to follow up and coordinate hundreds of leads generated by these joint collection efforts. The connections often cross national boundaries, and periodically they ''connect the dots,'' identify a key terrorist and have the local services execute a nighttime raid against a terrorist safe house.

Such coordinated efforts have led to the captures of key Qaeda operatives including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind; Hambali, the planner of the Bali bombings; and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who oversaw the attack on the Navy destroyer Cole. With midlevel leaders like these out of commission, terrorist operations have been left to less capable local operatives. As a result, the Qaeda movement has been limited to only two successful operations in the West in the past five years, in Madrid and London.

To prevent the next attack in the United States we need a similar coordinated intelligence effort at home. In New York City, the F.B.I. and Police Department share this responsibility. And although they do not always love each other, they find ways to work together. The Police Department brings grit, creativity and street smarts to the investigative programs. The F.B.I. connects local efforts with information from national and international intelligence databases. Other cities should emulate their example.

-- MICHAEL A. SHEEHAN, former deputy commissioner for counterterrorism for the New York City Police Department.

The President's Plan

AS a result of the horror of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush has transformed the way we fight terrorism and the tools we use. We successfully attack those very things our enemies need to operate and survive: leadership, communications, the ability to travel, weapons; foot soldiers and financing. The president has strengthened and transformed the intelligence community, integrated our military and intelligence assets, and broken down the barriers that kept domestic law enforcement and intelligence agencies from sharing information.

The United States has enhanced relationships with allies around the world, recognizing that this is truly a global war on terrorism. Working together, we have denied Al Qaeda the safe havens and resources it needs to plan and carry out attacks and made it more difficult for our enemies to travel. We use their communications against them and have cut off their money.

At home, the president has transformed the fight by creating the Department of Homeland Security and by ensuring that the F.B.I. had the necessary tools, like the Patriot Act, to get the job done. The airline bombing plot disrupted by our British allies this summer is only the most recent case of brutal terrorists continuing to plan mass murder. We must be right 100 percent of the time; the terrorists have to succeed only once. On Sept. 11, 2001, each of us became soldiers in this fight to protect freedom. We're in a war we didn't ask for, but it's a war we must wage and a war we will win.

-- FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, White House homeland security adviser.

Don't Forget Our Values

THE 9/11 attacks were a defining moment for the course of world politics and a strategic assault against the world's leading power at the beginning of the 21st century. But the question is, were the terrorists successful? The answer is mixed. In the aftermath of 9/11, the world was united with America. Even in Arab and Muslim countries, the sense of shock and feelings of solidarity with America far outweighed any sympathies with the terrorists.

Since then, international counterterrorism cooperation has disrupted the terrorists' activities. Yet even public awareness of the threat, counterterrorism cooperation, and more stringent anti-terrorism laws in democratic societies around the globe couldn't prevent the bombings in Madrid, London and Istanbul.

Immediately after 9/11, Al Qaeda seemed to be losing its battle with America and the West. Unfortunately, that changed when America invaded Iraq. The fight against the jihadists will not be decided simply on the battlefield; it will also be decided in the sphere of international legitimacy. We know that Islamic extremists celebrate death through martyrdom, and the killing of innocents. But what are we in the West fighting for?

We fight for our values: for our freedom, for democracy, for the rule of law, the equality of all human beings and for peace. In this context, Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and the situation in Iraq could hardly be called successes. Against the new totalitarian challenge of Islamic extremism, we have to defend our values; and this means sticking to the values of our democratic societies, even under fire.

-- JOSCHKA FISCHER, the foreign minister of Germany from 1998 to 2005 and a visiting professor at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School.

Qaeda Set the Bar High

So why haven't we been attacked in five years? Terrorists -- especially those directed by or affiliated with Al Qaeda -- are committed to carrying out spectacular attacks that maximize death, injury, economic damage and political symbolism. If their aim were merely to blow up the odd bus or to level a supermarket, doing so would be a very short order. But, the more spectacular the scale of a plot, the longer it takes to plan, the costlier it is to finance, the more operatives you need to carry it out, and the greater the chance that something will go awry.

For the future, we must take a hard look at how to improve the Department of Homeland Security, which has earned its reputation as the most dysfunctional agency in all of government. It has played little role in keeping us safe since 9/11.

One need look no further than the recently foiled London jetliner plot. The department had nothing to do with uncovering the plot; that was primarily the work of British counterterrorism agencies. If not for their efforts, it would very likely have succeeded. This is because we still lack defenses against liquid explosives, although the Transportation Security Administration, part of the department, has been aware of this particular vulnerability for years and claims that its principal focus nowadays is on detecting explosives.

If after spending some $20 billion on securing the nation's airways since 9/11 we are still vulnerable in the skies, one shudders to think how much more vulnerable our seaports, land borders, mass transit systems, chemical plants and ''soft targets'' like shopping malls and sports arenas are to terrorist attack.

The good news, then, is that we are unlikely to see many future attempts to strike our homeland. The bad news is that the few we will see are likely to be giant in scale, and the likelihood that the Department of Homeland Security will be able to stop them is small.

-- CLARK KENT ERVIN, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2004 and author of ''Open Target.''

Link to online story.
(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Zoning Officers - Bergen Record - Blunders bring calls for reform

Published in the Bergen Record, Sunday, September 17, 2006

Zoning law blunders bring calls for reform


When you walk into your town's building department with plans for that home addition, you may assume the person who decides what's allowed under local laws has experience, training or a state license.

But you'd be wrong.

Zoning officers -- the people authorized to declare your detached garage too tall or your swimming pool too close to property lines -- are not required to have any minimum qualifications and face no state oversight, unlike other building officials.

Yet, their decisions carry high stakes. If they fail to spot a zoning code violation on your project and it's discovered later, you -- the property owner -- will probably pay to correct the mistake, legal experts say.

With New Jersey in a renovation and building boom, some say state oversight of zoning officers is needed to stamp out incompetence and protect property owners and taxpayers from the types of costly mistakes made by a former Ridgefield zoning officer and construction official.

State building officials announced last week they would investigate Robert K. Rogers after The Record reported that his string of mistakes over the last two years forced Ridgefield property owners to pay tens of thousands of dollars in repairs and buried the borough in lawsuits. But if Rogers' mistakes were only zoning law oversights, he will face no sanctions because the state has no authority over zoning officers, state officials said. Rogers was the zoning officer, electrical subcode official and construction official in Ridgefield. He has said he made mistakes only while acting as a zoning officer.

Some find the relative autonomy of zoning officials puzzling in a state whose oversight is among the nation's most stringent when it comes to construction officials and inspectors -- those who monitor and inspect construction sites.

"It is beyond me why [a zoning officer] -- somebody who is so important in a community and has so much authority over what people can do with their property -- is not required to have any kind of licensure or certification," said Jackie Zelinka, program development administrator at Rutgers University's Center for Government Services. "We're certification-happy in New Jersey, whereas in this position you could just hire the next person who walked through the door."

The state Department of Community Affairs, the agency that oversees construction, investigates hundreds of construction officials each year, with disciplinary action ranging from a written reprimand to license revocation. The agency investigated 181 building officials in 2005 and has stripped 41 licenses so far in 2006, said William Connolly, director of the agency's Division of Codes and Standards. Licensed officials must renew their certification with additional training every three years and submit monthly reports to the state, and are subject to random site visits from state monitors, Connolly said.

But zoning officers, who work beside them, are beholden only to the elected local officials who hire them. And no agency investigates or tracks complaints against them. After Ridgefield officials discovered Rogers had erred, he quietly resigned last December and moved on to municipal jobs elsewhere.

A statewide group of zoning and planning officials plans to lobby legislators to require that zoning officers be certified and face more state scrutiny.

"Certification would provide a level of assurance, with all the development going on in New Jersey," said Adele Lewis, of the New Jersey Association of Planning and Zoning Administrators, a non-profit organization.

Building in New Jersey was at a record high in 2005. Construction spending has more than doubled since 1996, to $16 billion statewide, according to state records. As construction has increased, building officials have maintained the common practice of holding multiple part-time positions in several towns. Rogers, for example, worked part-time in four towns besides Ridgefield.

Zoning officers need to be well-versed in land-use laws and how they relate to state rules, Lewis said, "because if they make a mistake, it can be very costly."

Rutgers University offers a four-course certification program for zoning officials that costs about $1,000, but few communities require the certification, officials said. If legislators were to pass a law requiring the training, the cost would likely be covered by an increase in permit fees the homeowner must pay, Lewis said.

Stuart Meck, a former zoning officer and director of Rutgers' Center for Government Services, said, "It's not unusual for mistakes to be made in zoning review. It happens all the time."

Meck called New Jersey's oversight of construction officials "one of the best in the nation." But zoning officers have escaped the spotlight, he said, even as their jobs have become increasingly important and more difficult.

"I see more of a justification now for licensing zoning officers because in New Jersey you have incredibly complex laws and there is a body of knowledge one must know in reviewing plans. ... This is not something you learn in high school."

Once a property owner builds, there is little protection if a building code or zoning violation is found later. Courts traditionally side with communities in lawsuits where homeowners fight violations that were overlooked by a municipal official, said Elliot W. Urdang, a Tenafly land-use attorney.

"Homeowners are definitely at a legal disadvantage," he said, because courts view compliance with local laws a matter of public interest.

Staff Writer Matthew Van Dusen contributed to this article. E-mail: boburg@northjersey.com

* * *

Who they are

Construction officials grant construction permits after subcode officials issue permits for specific work, such as electrical and plumbing. They also ensure compliance with the state's construction codes and manage subcode officials. Hired by local governments, they are licensed and overseen by the state.

Subcode officials grant permits in particular work categories and ensure compliance with the state's construction codes. Hired by local governments, they are licensed and overseen by the state.

Zoning officers review plans for compliance with local land-use laws. Hired by local governments, they aren't licensed and don't have to meet minimum requirements.

Link to online story.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Link posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

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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.