VOLUNTEER!

NPCCR is a nonpartisan civic organization of volunteers, and there are lots of ways to get involved.

The easiest way to start is to read the blog and share and discuss the information with your friends and neighbors.

Next step is to attend a Town Meeting to discuss local issues with other concerned citizens in an open, public, nonpartisan, information-sharing format. All meetings at 7 p.m. at Vermeule Community Center.

  • Dec. 4, 2008 
  • Jan. 8, 2009 
  • Feb. 5, 2009 
  • Mar. 5, 2009 
  • April 16, 2009 
  • May 7, 2000 
  • June 4, 2009

A list of reports from prior Town Meetings is here.

At the Town Meetings, you can learn more about current local issues, meet other people who share your particular concerns, and develop relationships and strategies for addressing those concerns.

Since Grassroots Groundswell is “an online journal of North Plainfield issues written by and for North Plainfielders, we always need more readers writing more commentary on local issues, and we always need citizen journalists, photographers and cartoonists to step up and gather more information on the many local areas of interest to local residents.

The pay stinks (there is none).

But the pay-off, in a more informed, more engaged, more active community, is HUGE!!!

You don’t need to be a great writer, photographer or artist, or have a particular agenda in mind.

Just go to meetings occasionally, find out a little at a time about things that already interest you, and jot a few notes from time to time to share what you learn with blog readers.

Citizen-journalists are needed for the following scheduled Borough Council and School Board meetings for the rest of 2008, listed below. Sign up for one (1) date, attend the meeting, take some notes, write a couple paragraphs to let blog readers know what you learned.

That’s it.

No big whoop.

Borough Council – All meetings start at 7:30 p.m. at Vermeule Community Center. Most are held on Mondays

  • November 24 –
  • December 8 –
  • December 22 –

School Board meetings – All meetings happen on Wednesdays, and start at 7:30 p.m. at the School Board building, 33 Mountain Ave.

  • November 19 –
  • December 3 –
  • December 17 –

Or take photographs of community events, or things that you notice (“good” or “bad”) as you go about your business around town.

Or draw cartoons to express your views of local issues.

Send your contributions to communityrights at gmail.com for posting.

If you want to get MORE involved, here are some of the beats you might want to take on as your special area of responsibility, with some starter ideas for stories.

  • Education (twice monthly School Board meetings, profiles of local educators, background research on local education issues…)
  • Economic Development (monthly Economic Development Committee meetings, interviews/profiles of business-owners around the Borough, restaurant reviews…)
  • Planning and Zoning (twice monthly (each) Planning Board and Zoning Board meetings, background research on Central NJ planning and zoning issues and trends, especially citizen engagement…)
  • Recreation (monthly Rec Commission meetings, interviews/profiles of coaches and kids; coverage of local sports events and issues…)
  • Police and Fire – Check the police and fire dispatch logs once a week or so, follow-up with police and fire employees to gather more information on crimes and fires of interest to residents (break-ins, fires in overcrowded homes with illegal apartments, etc.)
  • Pick-Your-Own – Any local subject of interest to you, because odds are, readers are interested in it too.

INVESTIGATION AND DOCUMENT RECOVERY

Below is a list of public documents available under the Open Public Records Act and relevant to ongoing public discussion of important local issues, but not yet obtained or posted in the Document Library.

To request the documents, download the request form here – OPRA Request Form – fill it out, and then take it to either to Borough Clerk Gloria Pflueger at Borough Hall (263 Somerset Street), or the Board of Education building at 33 Mountain Avenue.

There is a fee for copying costs, but if you get a receipt, NPCCR has an OPRA Fund and can reimburse you for your expenses as long as you make a copy of the materials available to the blog for posting and free public access.

For more information, write to NPCCR Treasurer Gary Lewis at underyourroof at yahoo.com.

This list (current as of May 30, 2008) will be revised from time to time. Old items will be removed as people request, obtain and forward documents for posting. New items will be added as we figure out what other public documents we need to provide proper citizen oversight to local governance.

  • “All Borough check registers for 2007, from all financial institutions, covering all Borough financial transactions including salaries and wages, construction payments, loan payments, etc., except the PNC Check Register already provided to Katherine Watt in May 2008.”
  • “Written authorization to obtain all Borough bank statements for all Borough accounts from all financial institutions at which the Borough holds accounts.”
  • “Copy of North Plainfield Expense Policy used by municipal auditors to audit Borough financial records.”
  • “Copies of all public bid materials publicized for bidders, and all bid materials received from bidders, for Borough Hall renovation project, including the Division 1 section of the specification that the bidders used as a basis to submit their bid.”
  • “Copies of all Supplementary Contract Documents for Borough Hall Project, including Project Manual.”
  • “Copies of all Borough Hall renovation change orders, design revisions and/or owner delays that would have extended the original 378 calendar day agreement, showing the changes authorized, who authorized them, and the calendar day extension.”
  • “Copies of Dauti Construction Co. Inc.’s first billing requisition and the last requisition that was submitted and approved, showing billing on the project and who approved each payment.”
  • “Copies of all correspondence between the Owner (Borough of North Plainfield) and the Contractor (Dauti Construction Co. Inc. ) between March 24, 2006 and May 30, 2008.”
  • “Public complaint files (complaints written by residents) for James Rodino, DPW Director, during his entire period of employment with the Borough.”
  • “Copy of Eric Bernstein’s current contract with the Borough for professional legal services.”
  • “Copies of all invoices received from Eric M. Bernstein & Associates, showing specific line items (hours billed, cases worked on, etc.) for all legal fees incurred by the Borough from January 2007 – May 2008).”
  • “Monthly written reports submitted by Law Dept (Bernstein) to Borough Council – January 2007 through May 2008, in accordance with Borough ordinance requiring same.”

School Board

  • “All reports related to illegal students attending NP public schools, submitted by Stu Lester and other inspectors. All documents used as cover letters for submission of illegal student reports to the Zoning Officer for enforcement.”
  • “All reports that would show the maximum student capacity of the North Plainfield School District.”

INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM CAMPAIGNS

CHARTER CHANGE – This initiative is on the back burner for the time being, but will be revived in 2009. Petitioners would be gathering signatures on an initiative measure (for the Nov. 2009 ballot) to switch the Borough from partisan elections of local officials to nonpartisan elections of local officials.

MUNICIPAL OPEN SPACE TAX – Thanks to the Borough Council’s unanimous vote August 11, 2008, this non-binding referendum question will go on the ballot Nov. 4, 2008. If approved by a majority, the Council will have constituent support for implementing a $20 per $200,000 assessed value tax that would be dedicated to open space acquisition and maintenance, and would make the Borough eligible for grants and low-interest conservation loans.

SHADE TREE COMMISSION – Ordinance to establish a Shade Tree Commission empowered to protect the shade tree canopy of the Borough from destruction. Recently returned to the Borough Council’s agenda for the September 8 Council meeting, covering only public trees. If adopted, it will lay the foundation for potential protection of private trees later on via amendments.

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