Montclair’s election news is moving at a glacial pace, but we do have a few things to share:
* Last week, First Ward Councilor Bill Hurlock dropped off 104 signed petitions for the First Ward council seat. Hurlock needed 72 signatures to run again in the First Ward. He was told that the signatures had been verified, making him the first official candidate in the Montclair 2016 elections.
* Baristanet has learned that Selma Avdicevic, who had picked up packets for Mayor, 2nd Ward and At Large and was exploring a run for one of three seats, has decided not to run. “Due to medical reasons, I won’t be running in this election,” Avdicevic confirms.
* Rumor has it Martin Schwartz, Mayor Jackson’s appointed designee to the Montclair Planning Board, is being encouraged by residents concerned about development in Montclair to run for an At-Large council seat against incumbent Councilor Rich McMahon.
Councilor McMahon is the current Council’s appointed representative to the planning board. Sources say Schwartz has been encouraged to run to unseat McMahon because of McMahon’s support of what some believe were excessive heights and developments proposed under the original draft of the 2015 Master Plan.
“Martin has worked tirelessly to influence and turn around Planning Board and Council direction and decisions to represent resident viewpoints on development and historic preservation for the Master Plan and proposed development,” says Linda Cranston, head of Save Montclair, an advocacy group to preserve the character of Montclair. Cranston says the group is currently formalizing a town-wide coalition to ensure land use concerns remain an important part of the 2016 Montclair Council Campaign debates. She adds of Schwartz, “He knows how to get things done and works well with others to that end. He led the effort to modify the original hotel design which was completely out of character for our downtown.”
Ten years ago, Schwartz led the fight to designate the Marlboro Inn as a historic site, obtaining over 1000 letters and petitions which were ultimately ignored by Mayor Remsen and the town council.
Schwartz, who was very vocal last election, did not support any complete slate, but in an election blog analyzed some of the township’s key public policy concerns. He’s also been outspoken on many Montclair issues.
When asked about the rumors, Schwartz denied any plans to run at this time, but said that his work on the Planning Board has had an impact. “Many people now see the need for new construction and development here to remain in-character to Montclair’s existing, world class architecture,” says Schwartz, adding that he’s still working to reverse the Planning Board’s “give-away-the-store developer mindset” from the past.
Schwartz says he fully supports Mayor Jackson and Deputy Mayor Bob Russo and some of the other members of the current council who want to serve again.
When asked about McMahon, Schwartz said “Yes, Rich and I have some fundamental disagreements on the scope of development appropriate for Montclair. He has defended the building of eight-story construction at a number of public meetings and residents have pushed back accordingly.”
Will the preservation supporters who came out in droves to protest proposed building heights and at the Master Plan hearings now get behind Schwartz as a candidate? Schwartz would have to make a move — and soon.