When it comes to Montclair’s upcoming May municipal election, all eyes have been on Montclair’s Mayor Jackson, to see whether he plans to run again for mayor. At last night’s Montclair Township Council, the first regular meeting of 2016, Jackson took one step closer to becoming an official candidate by making an announcement at the end of the meeting.
To Run or Not to Run?
“For quite a bit now, I’ve been kind of feeling like Hamlet. I can’t make a simple decision about whether or not to pursue a second term here or not. And I’m still somewhat wrestling with that. But I do plan on picking up a packet at the end of this week or early next, and I have really enjoyed working with this council. There are some really talented, dedicated public servants up here, and I hope they would all consider doing it again. I think this group has made some great progress with our finances and getting infrastructure in place, parks, and how we deliver a lot of our services, snow removal, street maintenance and so forth, so I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. That certainly makes me consider very favorably pursuing a second term and having the opportunity to ask the voters to perhaps give me a second term.”
Jackson added that he would certainly hope that his fellow council members would consider running again to keep “the momentum going.”
Deputy Mayor Robert Russo responded with a more definitive announcement. Having considered a run for governor of New Jersey in 2017, he said it was important to have continuity and stability in Montclair’s municipal government in light of the high turnover on the council in the past, and he declared that he was willing to stand for re-election to the council one more time after talking things over with his wife. Deputy Mayor Russo also said he was glad that Mayor Jackson was considering a run for a second consecutive term and added that he hoped to be able to continue working with him.
First Ward Councilor Bill Hurlock thanked the mayor. “We didn’t necessarily all run together, but it’s been a privilege and honor to serve together.” Hurlock, who will be meeting with First Ward residents on Wednesday, February 3, and planning the 4th annual First Ward Clean Up Day, added he was also considering a run and planning to pick up a packet very soon.
Other members of the council expressed similar gratitude for having had the chance to serve and pride in the council’s accomplishments, and no one ruled out another run for the council in the May elections.
Fourth Ward Councilor Renee Baskerville said she was pleased with Mayor Jackson’s announcement and said of the council “we came together as a team. We don’t have to always agree, but we are always respectful and after the vote is cast, we move on.” Baskerville who said she plans to serve again but didn’t specify in what capacity, has already picked up packets for three seats — according to Municipal Clerk Linda Wanat they were for Mayor, At-Large Councilor and 4th Ward Councilor. Wanat also tells Baristanet that Joe Kavesh, chair of Montclair’s Civil Rights Commission, picked up campaign packets for the positions of councilor-at-large and 2nd ward councilor.
Parking Woes and Parking Meters
The council began the evening by receiving Police Chief David Sabagh, Tina Iordamlis of the Montclair Parking Utility, and Sgt. Stephanie Egnezzo of the Police Traffic Bureau regarding the ongoing problem of motorists parking in other people’s permit spaces. Chief Sabagh said that they had started implementing a plan to deal with the matter during the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, and the police had started to address the problem with plans to have further meetings with Township Manager Tim Stafford involving event parking. Two residents of the area around the Wellmont Theater also addressed the council about the Sunday services the New York-based Hillsong Church has held at the Wellmont. They explained that church followers have been parking in front of fire hydrants and on curbs, and partially in front of driveways, in addition to permit spaces reserved for local residents. A petition has been circulated to get the township to act.
Resident Kimberly Santiago said she hoped residents could work with the Wellmont to resolve the situation. She added that a police officer, responding to the illegal parking around the Wellmont, was surprised at just how bad it was.
In regards to all the broken meters around town adding to parking issues, Iordamlis informed the council that the new meters should be installed by the end of January.
On the issue of church parking, the council passed on final reading an ordinance limiting parking on the south side of Tuxedo Road from Grove Street to Tremont Place and parking on both sides of Tremont Place from Tuxedo Road to Ardsley Road to four hours between 8 A.M. and 6 P.M., Monday through Friday. Pastor Paul Leggett of the Grace Presbyterian Church, which is adjacent to that block, has said he needs four spaces, but Township Attorney Ira Karasick said that these were not included in the ordinance. He said he has been trying to accommodate Pastor Leggett, but he noted that there are no designated street spaces for any church or private business. Karasick said the council would have to look at it separately but said that the current ordinance could be passed for now and amended later. Dr. Baskerville said she he hoped that the pastor could be accommodated. The ordinance passed, 5-0, with First Ward Councilor William Hurlock recusing himself because his wife is a Grace Presbyterian employee. Other second-reading ordinances passed included a food-truck safety measure, an alcoholic-beverage license for the MC Hotel, and the much-discussed invasive lighting ordinance, which passed 4-0 with Dr. Baskerville and Deputy Mayor Russo abstaining.
The council passed 17 resolutions, most of which were in a consent agenda, but Dr. Baskerville had questions about two affordable-housing resolutions, one of which would renew a professional services agreement with Piazza & Associates, Inc. to serve as an administrative agent of Montclair’s affordable units, and another renewing the execution of a contract with HomeCORP to provide housing counseling services. Dr. Baskerville noted that Planning Director Janice Talley said that HomeCORP did not have a certification for administrative agency services and that those services would be separated and placed under Piazza’s domain. Dr. Baskerville preferred to keep all affordable-housing services together, and she asked if such a certification for HomeCORP or was required by the state. Township Attorney Karasick couldn’t answer the question, but he explain that Piazza’s role would be to certify incomes for prospective affordable-housing applicants. He said he needed to research the matter for a definitive answer.
“I would feel much more comfortable if we can pull this, then, until we get some more information about this, “Dr, Baskerville said, “because if there is no requirement for certification, or no additional things that HomeCORP would need in order to do that, than I would like to try to introduce something so that we can consolidate and give HomeCORP . . .both of the contracts.” She said that she had tried to get the information herself.
Karasick did say that HomeCORP did do both administrative and consulting work, but Piazza had gotten a contract for consulting for a fraction of the cost of administration under HomeCORP. Dr. Baskerville suggested that the township could stop and look and see if the contracts could be consolidated, and when Manager Stafford said that current services from Piazza and HomeCORP could continue uninterrupted in the meantime, Mayor Jackson agreed to pull both resolutions for the time being.
Every other resolution passed unanimously except one allowing the ordinance regulating parking on Tuxedo Road and Tremont Place to take effect immediately, which passed 5-0; Councilor Hurlock recused himself from that as well, again because of his wife’s employment at Grace Presbyterian.