BLOG: Master Plan Not Developed For The Good of Montclair

BY  |  Tuesday, Jul 08, 2014 10:30am  |  COMMENTS (40)

BLOG: Master Plan Not Developed For The Good of MontclairLinda Cranston is co-founder of the Save Upper Montclair Facebook group

I have been following deliberations for the new Montclair master plan since the the March 2013 version was made public and one thing is clear. This master plan has NOT been developed for the good of Montclair. Throughout meetings, concerns about the lack of financial and infrastructure analysis has been expressed and ignored by town leadership. Taxes revenue from current property owners and renters will pay the bills for new infrastructure required for the high rises and for town and school services needed by new residents. In return we will get more population density and congestion. There is not much time left to stop this plan. The planning board vote on approval could be in August or September.

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BLOG: Protecting the Right to Vote…Or Not to Vote in America

BY  |  Tuesday, Jun 24, 2014 5:00pm  |  COMMENTS (45)

vote sign flag neThe following blog is written by Christopher J. Durkin, the Essex County Clerk.

Should we as a nation mandate voting by our citizens in every election under penalty of law? 
My election day polling site was approximately 100 steps from the front door of my house. I turned 18 in 1986 and cast my first vote at Morrow Memorial Church in Maplewood where my mother served as an election day challenger. I signed the poll book and stepped behind the curtain of a hulking metal mechanical voting machine where I voted for candidates for Congress, County Surrogate, County Executive, two members for Township Council and six ballot questions that had a direct impact on policy and the taxpayer’s pocketbook.  
The five minutes it took to voice my opinion felt important. Currently 22 countries require its citizens to vote by law, although only 11 of these countries truly enforce prescribed penalties on non-voting offenders. Australia fines its citizens $20 if they do not vote. If the $20 fine is not paid then the court will increase the penalty to $170 and slap the offender with a criminal conviction. In Brazil, if you fail to cast a vote in an election, you are barred from obtaining a passport and must appear before an electoral court where you can make good by voting in the next two elections. If a citizen does not cast a ballot in Bolivia, the government can deny you a salary for three months. 

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Growth Busters: Hooked on Growth Screening at MPL

BY  |  Friday, Jun 13, 2014 4:30pm  |  COMMENTS (3)

Growth Busters: Hooked on GrowthThe Montclair Office of Environmental Affairs and Community Green present the next thought-provoking environmental movie from their Green Film Series on Thursday, June 19 at the Montclair Public Library.

Growth Busters: Hooked on Growth” is a documentary that explores society’s addiction to growth – economic growth, population growth, urban growth, and over-consumption – and presents a cure.

The documentary examines the cultural barriers preventing us from reacting rationally to the evidence that current levels of population and consumption are unsustainable. It asks why the population conversations are so difficult to have; why it’s more important to a society to have economic growth than clean air; and, why communities seek and subsidize growth even when it destroys our quality-of-life and increases taxes.

The documentary explores the most critical question of our time: How do we become a sustainable civilization?

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BLOG: Speaking Up Against Nishuane Water Treatment Facility

Monday, Jun 09, 2014 2:30pm  |  COMMENTS (1)

carey woodsThe following blog, according to Patti Grunther, was written by a group of concerned residents involved in The Carey’s Woods Conservancy.

Many of you will remember when the Nishuane Water Treatment Facility was originally proposed in January of 2013. The plan to destroy this beautiful, tranquil parkland in order to build a 2-1/2 story, 37 X 42 ft industrial building with 24/7 noise and air pollution was met with outrage by the local community, as well as residents from other parts of Montclair.

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More than 80 people came to the public hearings. Over 300 letters of concern and an online petition were sent to the Town Council and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Green Acres Division. The Town of Montclair, as the applicant for the Green Acres Diversion of parkland from Nishuane, is required by the NJDEP to address these letters and to answer the questions and concerns contained in them. Continue Reading

BLOG: Montclair Needs Historic Districts To Save Its Homes

Monday, May 19, 2014 9:07am  |  COMMENTS (50)

A reader writes to express his fears of Montclair’s histroric homes slowly disappearing:

It’s become an all too common site in Montclair. Take a left turn instead of a right. Drive down a street that maybe you haven’t been down in a while, and you notice, where a pretty Victorian once stood, you come across, well, something like this in its place.

It becomes scary for homeowners in their neighborhoods. My wife and I bought our house in a part of town where the homes were built largely from 1890 to 1910; most of them still resembling how they would have looked when they were first built. It’s a big part of why we bought here: charm. Yes, we pay extra for it, Montclair’s home prices, and taxes, are a lot more expensive than many surrounding communities, but its old homes and tree lined streets are a massive part of its draw. And it’s a major reason why New York City families have been moving here since the 1860s.

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BLOG: Montclair Master Plan — We Need To Speak Louder

BY  |  Thursday, May 15, 2014 4:00pm  |  COMMENTS (34)

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Linda Cranston is co-founder of the Save Upper Montclair Facebook group

An opportunity to publicly comment on the Revised Master Plan is Monday, May 19, 7 pm at the George Innes High School Annex on Park St. Speak louder Montclair. They did not hear you. Bring a sign stating what you want. Tell your elected councilman too.

Montclair Master plan (also called Unified Land Use and Circulation). Who are our elected officials and planning board listening to? It must not be the residents. We need to speak louder.

Last year the the planning board and town council heard public outcry against the master plan’s re-zoning for high rises up to 10 stories in Montclair business districts and in highly used parking lots. We are glad to see some decreases but want to see more.

They heard that residents did not want high rises, built higher than current heights. According the the revised plan’s color coded zoning areas:

Bloomfield Ave still has up to 7 stories and 10 at Lackawanna Plaza, now is mostly 2-4 stories.

Walnut St up to 3-5 stories; now is mostly 2-3 stories.

Watchung Plaza up to 2-3 stories but suggested 3-5; now is 1-2 stories.

Upper Montclair up to 3-5; now is mostly 1-2 stories.

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Blog on Nishuane Well Water Facility: Fight for Our Much-loved Green Space!

BY  |  Friday, Apr 25, 2014 12:00pm  |  COMMENTS (1)

Nishuane Well Water FacilityMany of you will remember when the water treatment facility was originally proposed last year. The plan to destroy this beautiful, tranquil parkland in order to build a 28 ft. high (2-1/2 story) 37 X 42 ft industrial building complete with 24/7 noise and air pollution was met with outrage by the local community, as well as residents from other parts of Montclair.

Despite short and inadequate notice, more than 80 people showed up for the meetings. Over 300 letters of concern and an online petition were sent to the Town Council and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)/Green Acres that must approve the plan. The town is required by the DEP/green acres to address these letters and to answer the questions and concerns contained in them.

Now, fifteen months later the water department seems ready to do that. They have quietly put the Nishuane Well presentation on the April 29 town council agenda. Once again, there has been virtually no public announcement. Questions have been asked, but not answered about what to expect at the meeting:

Just a few of the questions raised:

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Steve Crooks: Just Showing Up

BY  |  Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 12:07pm  |  COMMENTS (1)

Let me tell you about my son, Gordon. He may be what you would term a ‘special-needs’ kid in today’s vernacular, but if you only knew the extent to which I look to him as a role-model… Continue Reading

Chris Durkin: How 140 Votes Could Decide Who Our Next Governor Is

Friday, Feb 14, 2014 11:30am  |  COMMENTS (4)

In a span of 4 years – from January 2001 to November 2004 – New Jersey residents saw seven Governors occupy the top spot in the State House.

The revolving door began spinning in January 2001 with Governor Christine Todd Whitman resigning to take a position in President George W. Bush’s cabinet and continued to November 2004 when Senate President Richard Codey assumed the helm as Governor on November 15, 2004 after the resignation of Governor James McGreevey. In between, Donald DiFrancesco, John Bennett and Richard Codey (twice) dually served as Senate President and Acting Governor. Let’s also not forget that for 90 minutes in 2002 then-Attorney General John Farmer, Jr. was our Governor.

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The Governor of New Jersey is vested with awesome powers; the line item veto and the appointments of the Attorney General and State Superior Court Judges along with key appointments to many powerful Authorities that ooze public money.

DiFrancesco and Codey both served long periods as both Acting Governor and Senate President: DiFrancesco for 11 months and Codey for 15 months. During those times, one person posted bills and then signed them into law.

Now that’s real power.

In an effort to ensure that too much responsibility did not fall to one person again, in November 2005, voters passed a Constitutional amendment creating the position of Lieutenant Governor and making New Jersey the 45th state with such an office. The lieutenant governor must be from the same party as the governor and assumes the governorship in the event of a vacancy.

In most states, when a vacancy occurs in the governor’s office, the lieutenant governor ascends to the governor’s office for the remainder of the term. But, not here in New Jersey. Article V of the Constitution states, “if a lieutenant governor becomes governor, or in the event of simultaneous vacancies in the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, a governor and lieutenant governor shall be elected to fill the unexpired terms of both offices at the next general election, unless the assumption of the office of governor by the lieutenant governor, or the vacancies, as the case may be, occur within 60 days immediately preceding a general election(this year that date would be after September 5, 2014), in which case they shall be elected at the second succeeding general election.”

In the event, the governor and lieutenant governor vacate their respective offices, the senate president; in an act of déjà vu becomes the “acting governor.”

A vacancy in the office of governor between the dates of 55 days before a primary (in 2014, this would mean April 9th N.J.S.A. 19:23-12) and more than 60 days before the general election (in 2014, the date would be September 4th), except for the last year of the term would trigger a meeting of the Republican and Democratic State Committees to elect the nominees for each respective party; who would then face-off in the general election.

Every four years, members of the Republican and Democratic State Committees are elected to a four-year term at the primary election where candidates for governor are nominated. There are 42 members of the Republican State Committee; one man and one woman from each of the twenty-one counties. The Democratic State Committee, of which I am a member, consists of 98 full votes that are apportioned among the counties based on the total population of each county. The voting body is made up of members with whole votes and members with half votes.

New Jersey’s constitution also has its limits when it comes to winning the unexpired term, by stating that, “no person who has been elected governor for two successive terms, including an unexpired term, shall again be eligible for that office until the third Tuesday in January of the fourth year following the expiration of the second successive term.”

Therefore, in theory, it is possible for a governor to be elected to successive terms and only serve 6 years in office.

Our constitution should be further amended to allow for a governor to serve two consecutive full terms, even after serving an unexpired term. And, in the event the Governor and Lieutenant Governor both vacate their offices, the Senate President should relinquish his or her Senate Presidency to the Senate Majority Leader while “acting” as governor. After all, wasn’t that the intent of the constitutional amendment in the first place?

Christopher J. Durkin is the Essex County Clerk.

Blog: Three Big Lessons From The Big Game

Monday, Feb 03, 2014 3:30pm  |  COMMENTS (3)

I am a Jersey girl. I was born, raised, went to college, and settled in this bountiful Garden State. And I am proud we had the opportunity to host the Big Game this year. I have thought a lot about the arguments put forth regarding the NY versus NJ headlines. The anger leading up to February 2nd escalated to the point where social media posts were going viral…by people who didn’t even care about football. And I’m not sure if they understood that the NFL awarded the Super Bowl to the “New York/New Jersey region.” I admit, I wasn’t happy to see the Seinfeld piece touting NY. All promotions should have recognized the area as a whole. But in my mind, there are three big lessons to be learned from New Jersey’s Big Game experience.

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The coffee is fantastic. So is the food! It is around the corner from Nicolo's bakery, for those readers not familiar with the area.

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