Cary Africk: Advice for the New Council

The newly-elected Montclair Town Council was sworn in July 1.

In our lives, many of us want the same things from our relationships, be they with our employer, our children’s teachers, our friends or our neighbors.

We want to be understood, and to be appreciated for who we are. We want to be listened to, and we want to be treated fairly.

We want to have the opportunity to succeed on our own, as well as make a positive contribution to the success of our town, our schools, and our neighbors.

My guidance to the new council consists of four pieces of advice:

1. There are many good people working for our town. They work in finance, and administration. And they fix our roads and collect our trash and clean our parks. They fix our sewers and make the water flow. You get the idea. Make sure these people are treated fairly. Give them the recognition they deserve. Give them goals to reach for with increasing responsibility, and pay them when they successfully do so.

2. Montclair can be better. And it’s not only a matter of more staff and more money. It’s leadership and organization. And it’s being able to effective utilize not only the “internal” staff, but also the legions of highly qualified volunteers that live in Montclair. People with “world class” skills in Municipal finance, consulting, and organization. People who have accomplished much in their professional life, and can now give to the community.

Use them.

In the last four years, here’s some volunteer accomplishments I am familiar with:

  • Comprehensively analyzed the Municipal debt and were responsible for a new, fiscally responsible approach to restructure and refinance that debt.
  • Discovered shortfalls of over half a million dollars in PILOT payments
  • Formed BOE committees to formulate solid plans and programs to save money while delivering better results.
  • Laid out plans to reformulate, at no cost to the township, the delivery of increased recreation services.
  • Identified additional Grant Applications.
  • Renewed the Comcast contract which increased revenue to the Township more than $500,000 yearly, while providing both up front and ongoing capital for equipment

There is so much more.

The Council has not, and cannot do things like this by itself. The staff doesn’t have sufficient resource, either. Use volunteers and work with them willingly.

3. Montclair has not adequately called upon our Representatives at the State and Federal level. They have offered to help.

4. We have cut too deeply into the Town organization. We have lost key people in planning, and finance. Economic development suffered a major blow with the departure of the MEDC, and then Tom Lonergan from the BID. The Municipal Court and Clerk’s office are understaffed raising questions of liability. Our “Arts” community stopped getting the minimal funding we had been giving them when we disbanded the Arts Council. Key organizations and positions have to be restored.

I am hopeful that this incoming Council will rise to the challenges ahead.

A new Montclair council was sworn in yesterday. Former Montclair councilor Cary Africk prepared these remarks for the reorganization session but didn’t have a chance to read them. He shared them with us and other news organizations.

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