MontClairVoyant: The Usual Rants After a Not-So-Usual Trip

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DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

I heard you were in France from March 24 to April 7. How did you keep up with Montclair news for your March 29 and April 5 columns? Internet?

Sincerely,
Andrew Lloyd Web

No, smoke signals, carrier pigeons, Hogwarts owls, and Pony Express. Amazing ocean swimmers, those horsies.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
How could you afford a wonderful trip like that on a freelance writer’s pay?

Sincerely,

Paradise Cost

Well, my wife and I hadn’t splurged for a Europe visit since 2007, when the tallest building in Montclair’s now-overdeveloped downtown was a dollhouse sold at a yard sale.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
What was it like as a 6’2″ person flying coach for hours and hours with the seat in front of you pushed all the way back? Given that legroom is now so small, shouldn’t airlines install seats that can’t be moved?

Sincerely,

Displeased Knees

On the 2020 Census form, I’ll proudly add to Montclair’s vaunted diversity by declaring myself a Crushed-American.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Did you attend the first of three Board of School Estimate budget hearings on April 9?

Sincerely,
Georgette Inness

No, I was so jet-lagged that 7:30 p.m. still seemed like 1:30 a.m. to me, which would have pushed the BoSE meeting to April 10 and reminded me that Nestorius became Patriarch of Constantinople on that same date in 428 AD.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
April 10 was also the 1912 date on which the ill-fated Titanic set sail from England, with steerage seats that couldn’t be pushed back. Any thoughts on the BoSE meeting and the soon-to-be-final 2018-19 school budget?

Sincerely,
Leonardo DiBudgetcapio

I hope crucial educator jobs are spared as much as possible, that local turf fields spewing unhealthy rubber bits are made safer, and that the small “o” in “BoSE” becomes a big-boy “O.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
April is PARCCs month in Montclair, too. Will 2018 be the last year those crummy, time-wasting, endless-prep-necessitating, developmentally-inappropriate, Pearson-profiting tests are given in New Jersey?

Sincerely,
Al Batross

Gov. Murphy wants to end the PARCCs, which I opt my daughter out of each year. If those tests are still around in 2019, I fear there’ll be plague and locusts. Plus table grapes replacing regulation-sized balls in Montclair rec soccer.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Are you looking forward to April 21’s “Showdown” talent contest hosted by the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence, which raises money for our public schools?

Sincerely,
Brad Ford and Renna Sance

Yes! The event idea is great, the MFEE is great, our public schools are great, Donald Trump and Mike Pence are…um…next question.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Six days earlier, on April 15, Glenfield Middle School will be the site of a 150th-anniversary reenactment of Montclair’s first council meeting. Were mobile devices allowed at that 1868 gathering?

Sincerely,
Ann Cestry

Nope, horse-and-buggies couldn’t fit through the door. But the proceedings were taped for broadcast with the hope that TV would eventually be invented.

Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Baristanet.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. This column was submitted before a new schools superintendent was named. I’ll write about that in next week’s column.

  2. Thought you might like to know that the literal translation of a central tenet of the Hippocratic Oath is “to abstain from doing harm”. The physician’s oath was to be sworn to 4 Greek Gods, one of which was Panacea – the Goddess of Universal Remedy.

  3. Frank, I’m not sure whether you’re making a Montclair reference (I’m slow today 🙂 ), but that’s interesting information! Whatever Greek history I knew from high school has mostly left my brain.

    To refresh my memory of history lessons past, I wish there were Greek God playing cards complete with stats on the back — MPY (miracles per year), TTP (thunderbolt-throwing percentage), that sort of thing.

  4. Dave,

    Jet lag?
    It was in reference to our BoE.

    Based on the reporting to date, this is my read:

    “Majority” of BoE internally designates Dr Johnson the front runner before the Q&A mtg. Maybe a minority doesn’t concur or disagree with designating any candidate the front runner.

    BoE conveys this to other candidates 2 days after the Q&A. Interested as to whether there was a vote here.

    These other have existing jobs to protect and decide to drop out.

    Bnet reports their withdrawal 3 weeks later. They make plausible & neutral excuses (without recriminations), but they raise many questions about the BoE and their process.

    BoE issues a clarifying statement which seems to offend Ms Robinson, so she leaves meeting.

    Search has been going on for years. Contract negotiations concluded. Time to set a date to ratify.

    3 of the 7 members indicate they are not available for the range of offered dates. Rather than delay further, President calls meeting with 4 members…who vote unanimously for Dr Johnson. The other 3 members didn’t vote on the most important initiative the BoE has as they were unavailable. I’m guessing they didn’t want to vote.

    If they had decided or could vote, I’m also guessing it may have been a 4-3 vote….with ‘guess who’ as the tiebreaker. So, I think the 3 absentee members took the “high ground” of not undermining Dr Johnson while making it clear this was a flawed process. Again, just my read.

    Abstain from doing harm. Panacea.

  5. Frank — while we don’t know for sure (and may never know for sure) exactly what happened internally with the superintendent decision — you offered a VERY plausible scenario. Among other things, I can believe that the three BOE members absent from last night’s meeting might have been trying to take the high road by essentially abstaining.

    And, yes, still feeling a bit of jet lag, but much less than a few days ago. 🙂

    Thanks!

  6. My favorite quote:

    Board President Herzog reminded the residents that she was a lawyer and, that as a lawyer, “one of the things I’m actually good at is following the rules.”

    Goldberg, Kasun (and the executive search firm) are not lawyers, but I would think they were aware of certain case law, e.g. Gonzalez.

  7. Frank, that quote is actually hilarious in a way. A number of lawyers (I’m NOT including Ms. Hertzog) don’t even come close to following “the rules.” Trump’s corrupt attorney Michael Cohen is a prime example.

    Speaking of the superintendent search firm, what a waste of Montclair taxpayer money to hire it. The firm came up with three New Jersey-based finalists, including the Montclair assistant superintendent who got the job. The BOE might have had similar results putting a few flyers on supermarket bulletin boards. 🙂

  8. The three did not want to vote because they didn’t want to annoy the Mayor. Eve especially wants to be reappointed. They would rather support the political status quo than do their jobs as Board members. Do remember that one of these three was Board President for nearly two years and did nothing on the superintendent search.

  9. Thank you for commenting, missedthetarget!

    Many us are guessing why the three BOE members weren’t there Wednesday night. Your explanation is possible, but there may have been different reasons. Did the three have other things scheduled (given that the meeting was called on short notice)? Were the three offered alternate meeting dates? Did the three want to vote “no” but thought it was more diplomatic to essentially abstain by not attending? Did they want to protest the chaotic nature of the superintendent search process? Other reasons? I have no idea.

    I don’t think the previous BOE president did nothing on the superintendent search, and other BOE members and the superintendent search firm share some of the blame for taking three years to hire someone. But it IS ridiculous that it took so long.

    If Eve Robinson wants to be reappointed, it’s interesting that she has recently/publicly expressed some dissatisfaction about how things are going on the BOE.

  10. Frank, the way Montclair’s decision-makers sometimes do things inspires cynicism. 🙁 And among the things that get me cynical is the town using our tax money to hire search firms and consultants when things could be done in-house as well or almost as well.

    (I seem to have overused the word “things” in the above paragraph. 🙂 )

  11. I would GLADLY donate my time and work PRO BONO to provide “in house” consultation for land use, history documents and information but instead Montclair pays individuals with tax payer’s money instead. I’ve always wondered why and I think that it would be interesting to see how much money has been spent on the consultants. The work paid for up to now seems unproductive and inconclusive.

    I know nothing about the Montclair Board of Ed whatsoever, but I think its so cool that The Montclair High School Site, The MKA Upper School Campus, our Olmsted Parks and Central Park in NYC are intentionally designed as George Inness paintings…. the Montclair BOE should be teaching this! https://baristanet.com/2017/04/darden-sisters-cosmopolitan-montclair-history/

  12. You raised a GREAT point, frankgg! Not only could Montclair do more things in-house rather than hire expensive consultants, but the town could also use more of the volunteer expertise of people such as yourself.

    Like you, I wonder why Montclair decision-makers often turn to paid consultants. Are in-house managers and employees very overworked? Is it that taxpayer money CAN be used for consultants, so it IS used? Do Montclair decision-makers and consultants move in the same social circles? Who knows? But using consultants is often a waste of money, as was the hiring of that superintendent search firm.

    Thanks for the link. That’s an excellent, interesting article you wrote almost exactly a year ago!

  13. OPPS!!!! Wrong link!!!! LOL
    Here it is…..
    https://baristanet.com/2014/12/blog-why-central-park-is-montclair/ How Montclair High School, The George Inness School, unlocks the fundamental concept of Fredrick Law Olmsted vision for the newly developing America…. To treat the center of each community, city or town like a landscape painting that documents and preserves its raw state and natural landscape…. (like Central Park being a George Inness, American landscape painting preserved at the center of the new, developing city. This concept is also the design of Montclair highschool’s amphitheater brookside setting. Olmsted envisioned that all cities from Boston to Washington DC would develop into one continuous city and it would be important to document and preserve each center’s natural raw landscape with a “central park” and each city’s central parks would be connected with “green” parkways. (brilliant and the concept started with Montclair)

  14. Not a problem, Frank. 🙂

    Your comment and that article are fascinating! I had no idea about the connection between some of Montclair’s look and the Hudson River School of painting (such as the work of 19th-century town resident George Inness). Makes it a double shame that much of the new downtown overdevelopment partly mars that look from a century or so ago.

  15. Every student in Montclair should know the significance of George Inness’s perception of the beauty of the “new” wild, American landscape and the important “place” that Montclair has in history. (and rejoice!)
    George Inness and his group of Hudson River Valley school painters immortalized these rare new instances of natural beauty with their landscape paintings that fostered our appreciation for this new landscape. (Just think how scary it could’ve been for all of the lumber yeomen and their families to go off to live in the forests)…. Innesses’ “Idea” was like a shining light the darkness of the wilderness…. he was saying something like “go forth to pioneer, but with appreciation and due respect of this natural paradise”
    Innesses perceptions was the fuel for the visionaries of the time like Olmsted and Vaux. They began to see places like Montclair with its strong structural identity as a natural condition that was already “architecture”. Olmsted thought that a new type of planning was required to preserve the beauty of the existing. He raised the question “will it be beautiful” before each new project. (The Innessess must have been very glamorous and lots of fun…. they had lots and lots of visitors for fox hunts and other sports at their estate “Roswell” (now the site of Mountainside Hospital) The Innesses were also among the founders of our athletic fields and countryclubs.)
    Olmsed’s vision gave birth to the “City Beautiful” movement that served as the guidelines for developing new American cities. Olmsted went blind but put a strong team together of his sons and trusted followers like planner John Nolen from Harvard, who was later engaged by the Montclair Municipal Arts Committee to create a plan to preserve “nature” in Montclair’s future development for its “enlightened public” (the “symbol” of the MHS amphitheater built over the brook immortalizes this gesture)
    John Nolen’s plan for Montclair became the basis for American Land Use Legislation and the reason why we have building and planning departments in American municipalities today…. its to remind us every time when we are before a new prospect for construction and development (& redevelopment) – that we must first ask ourselves…. “Will it be Beautiful?”

  16. Thanks for your interesting and heartfelt comment, Frank! VERY eloquently said.

    Not much I can add except to say I often wondered where in town George Inness lived, and now I know after reading what you wrote!

    And, in reference to your comment’s conclusion, beauty seems to usually be down the list when most current developers do what they do in Montclair. Profit is number one on that list — as one can see from the oversized nature of some projects, the mediocre look of various buildings, construction not as high quality as it could be, etc. 🙁

  17. Ah, the good old days of fox hunts and country clubs. All sounds so inclusive! Perhaps when I ring my bell FrankGG or Dave could fetch me a spot of tea before they go groom the horses. Now, back to the real world…..

  18. Funny, flipside! But given that I’m a freelance writer with a modest income and had to sell my house and move to an apartment to afford to stay in Montclair, I don’t exactly feel like a one-percenter. 🙂

  19. On rereading your comment, flipside, I see that you’re joking about being the rich person while Frank and I would be your servants. Give me a fruitcake each year for Christmas and I’m in! 🙂

  20. “April 10 was also the 1912 date on which the ill-fated Titanic set sail from England, with steerage seats that couldn’t be pushed back.” –

    The architect of Montclair’s Lackawanna Station, William Hull Botsford, died in the Titanic tragedy, April 15, 1912.

  21. Wow, Frank — I hadn’t remembered that sad Montclair connection to the Titanic tragedy! You are an expert on Montclair history!

    (BTW, I’m not related to the wealthy John Jacob Astor IV who died on the Titanic. My paternal grandfather changed his name, or the name was changed for him, when he came through Ellis Island.)

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