Who Would Be The Ideal Montclair Mayor? And Who’s Planning To Run in 2020

UPDATE: Response from Joe Kavesh about 2020 election.

Development, transit, education, inclusion — these were just some of the issues raised as challenges facing Montclair and ultimately the next mayor of Montclair at “Designing Our Next Mayor, an interactive discussion held as a part of Montclair Design Week (MDW) Saturday night. Participants, in a roundtable brainstorming session, were tasked with rethinking Montclair’s mayoral position and envisioning what qualities they would want for the next mayor of Montclair.

“The goal of the evening is to design the process that mobilizes us to be makers of our leaders,” said Petia Morozov, an architect and MDW’s founder.

Montclair Design Week will be hosting a follow-up to this event in one month; sign up here to find out when and where.

Much was made during the discussion about the low voter turnout in 2016. Of course, it’s important to acknowledge that turnout for that election was at an all-time low because 6 out of 7 candidates ran unopposed.

Back in December 2015, no one had really come out with a definitive announcement, there were only some “maybe” Montclair candidates. In 2016, members of the Montclair council took time to announce their decision to run again.

Campaign packets for the 2020 election will be available in January; municipal elections are held the second Tuesday in May, which is May 12, 2020.

Baristanet reached out to both incumbents and possible new candidates to see who is planning to run in 2020. Here’s what we heard:

INCUMBENTS:


Robert Jackson, Mayor:
“I’m definitely running again unless I decide not to.”

Bill Hurlock, First Ward Councilor: “I have been extremely fortunate that so many people have expressed an interest in my political plans. As many of you know, I have been considering running in 2020 for either Town Council, State Assembly or Congress. I am currently speaking with supporters and advisors as to which course I will take and I will soon let everyone know of my plans.”

Robin Schlager Second Ward Councilor: “I haven’t focused on 2020 yet-it’s a big decision and one that I haven’t made yet. There’s still more to do in 2019!”

Rich McMahon, Deputy Mayor/Councilor-At-Large: “Thanks for asking. Undecided at the moment.”

Sean Spiller, 3rd Ward Councilor: “Right now, I’m laser focused on delivering progressive solutions and responsible budgets for Third Ward residents and the town as a whole. Next year is a long way off.”

Bob Russo, Councilor-At-Large: “Have not made a decision yet, will do so before the end of the year. Have been Listening to the concerns of many residents throughout the town, who want to see continued good, progressive government, tax stability and sustainable environmental policies. Will respond to your question with more finality in a couple of months, after discussing with family & the many friends, neighbors & supporters who have been encouraging me to serve one more time.

In considering whether to run for and serve one final term on the Council, I would make my focus keeping Montclair affordable for both tenants & Seniors, who are finding it harder to remain in town due to higher rents & developments that they cannot afford. It may be time to wind down development and consider some form of rent stabilization.”

Dr. Renee Baskerville, 4th Ward Councilor: Baskerville told Baristanet she definitely plans to run again in the 4th Ward, but would consider running for mayor if Jackson decided not to run.

An Early Candidate

Carmel Loughman, member of the Montclair Planning Board, tells Baristanet she will definitely run for town council in 2020. Loughman who lives in the 4th Ward, will run for an At-Large Councilor Seat, unless for some reason, Baskerville does not run in the 4th Ward. Loughman, in addition to serving on the Planning Board, has experience in “all areas of risk analysis and insurance including risk management techniques, insurance procurement, captive management, and alternative risk funding” per her LinkedIn profile.

People to Watch

Selma Avdicevic, who ran last in 2012 as an independent candidate for the 2nd Ward seat, says she will not run, but adds “we need an engaged electorate and a change in leadership.”

Education and the role of the mayor in appointing members to the Board of Education may also play a factor in the 2020 election.

Montclair residents who considered throwing their hat into the ring in 2016 included Jon Bonesteel, moderator of the Montclair Watercooler, co-founder of HackNCraftNJ Makerspace, and one of the founders of Laptop Upcycle, as well as Joe Kavesh, who has served on the Montclair Civil Rights Commission and as a member of the Montclair Board of Education.

Kavesh did not respond to our inquiry, but Bonesteel did.

“That’s all the town needs, Jon Bonesteel as Mayor. No, I have no interest and even if I did my wife would not allow it,” Bonesteel says.

We asked Matt Frankel, who was active in Montclair Kids First (Bonesteel was also a vocal member), and worked for the Montclair School District as an assistant to former Schools Superintendent Penny MacCormack, if he would consider a run.

“I am so done with Montclair politics.”Frankel said. Frankel is currently involved with the Montclair Local. Frankel, along with a small group in town, have been working behind the scenes, putting together a Board of Trustees and an Advisory Board for the paper which is seeking nonprofit status.

Martin Schwartz, whose name came up in 2016 as a possible candidate, and who is a member of the Montclair Planning Board, says “I’m thinking about it…”

Schwartz who has long been vocal regarding town government says he has been involved in elections going back to 2004 when he was chief advisor to the Effective Government team that ran then and again in 2008. Schwartz says he was also campaign manager and advisor for 2nd ward Councilor Cary Africk, who won his seat.

“As someone very involved with a number of key policy issues, I’m giving serious thought again to possible direct Council service for 2020. In my opinion, the Jackson group has done a very good job in a number of areas, particularly fiscal responsibility given where we started in 2012,” says Schwartz. “But being able to have more direct input into redevelopment and land use concerns, transportation issues, transparency and accountability — even excellence in the schools using the bully pulpit to push for universal PreK to actually impact the racial achievement gap — could help bring even more positive change I believe.

“For example, I continue to have disappointments and disagreements with Townwide Councilor Rich McMahon — who has not provided the kind of leadership I’d hoped he would in a number of personnel and policy votes that I felt were warranted. So I’m thinking about it…is the answer,” says Schwartz

Baristanet is committed to keeping the online discussion active about what Montclair needs in its leaders. Leave a comment here to be part of the discussion.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. This is Carmel Loughman.

    My decision to run for Council was made after a “listening tour” that began last March. Over these past months, I have met with many people who are very active in our community to learn about their concerns, praises, gripes, insights and ideas about Montclair. I wanted to get out of my bubble and compare my thoughts on local government and town issues with those of my fellow citizens. I am inspired and encouraged by what I heard on this listening tour and convinced I could serve the town well as Councilor.

    Recently, I officially filed my candidate papers with the state and funded a campaign bank account. I intend to run a positive campaign and, if elected, I am ready to take on the challenges faced by the Council with energy and humility. I will bring to the Council table intelligence, business acumen, an analytic bent, policy wonkiness, a spirit of collaboration, a passionate advocacy for all Montclarians, and a respect for my fellow Council members. Campaigning is a little overwhelming at times but I won’t lose this election for lack of hard work and courage. Governing is even harder; thus, I have the utmost respect for those who serve in local public office.

    As a long-time resident who has lived in both the First and Fourth Wards, I have seen changes to our town that are both exciting and troubling. I would like to be part of the team that leads Montclair with both a sense of its history and creative ideas for its future. I am in the process of developing my website which will more fully describe my “platform” considering issues such as sustainable development, historic preservation, parking, affordable housing, local business support, quality of life concerns, maintaining diversity, and building community. My platform will be built on my fundamental beliefs which are: non-partisanship, government transparency, proactive planning, accountability only to the citizenry, and streamlined and efficient operations. I will work extremely hard toward implementing those ideals in a positive manner.

    There is a great focus today on national politics but I believe the decisions of local government have a powerful impact on our daily lives. It is distressing that so few vote in local elections, that citizens do not know the positions of their representations, and that candidates can even run unopposed. I want to change that. I want you to get to know me and to vote for me on May 12, 2020!

    Please contact me at Carmel4Council@gmail.com if you have any questions for me or wish to participate in my campaign. Thank You. Carmel Loughman

    Click to Edit –

  2. Carmel, it is exciting to hear that you are running. It is time for Montclair to have some new views and ideas represented on the Council. Governing this Town is a tremendous privilege and also a LOT of hard work. Having worked alongside you on the Planning Board I can speak first hand to your work ethic, thoughtfulness and love of Montclair. We would be fortunate to have you serve.

    Jason DeSalvo

  3. I think Martin Schwartz would make a good town councilor. He’s always policy and idea focused. Seems to know how to work with people to get things done. Like those Bloomfield Avenue traffic light improvements the Montclair Local said he pushed through with the County.

    He also doesn’t take crap from developers that keep running over us. Or BS from other town officials. People who don’t own up to what’s really going down.

    We need more smarts and shaking up here.

  4. I respectfully offer the following two thoughts:

    First, we should be focusing on candidates for all seven Council spots, not just the Mayor. In Montclair’s (rather screwy) form of government, the only special power the Mayor possesses is to make appointments (i.e., to the School Board). That’s obviously an important power and we need to know the philosophy a mayoral candidate will bring to it. Otherwise the Mayor is just one vote of seven. If four Councilors disagree with the Mayor on a matter requiring a Council vote, the Mayor loses. The Mayor, moreover, has no—zero—authority over Township employees, and is just one of seven votes needed to appoint the Township Manager, who does. The Council otherwise can only act as a body, by taking votes and hearing testimony.

    Second, although I agree with TheRealWorld’s comment that we need a smart council, I disagree with the idea of “shaking up.” We have tried Councils with strong public disagreements among the Councilors. The past eight years, we have tried a Council that works reasonably well together. In my view, that has been light years better. Remember, too, that Bill Hurlock wasn’t part of Mayor Jackson’s original 2012 slate, yet quickly became a key partner to the Mayor. What we need in 2020, I submit, are smart people who have the ability and the willingness to work with the other six Councilors, no matter whom the voters decide to put in those seats.

    We need to know what the candidates for all Council seats think about the most important issues. And we need to know how they would operate if their entire slate isn’t elected and they end up having to work in unexpected partnerships. There will be times that “I will fight” is the right answer, but more often than not “I will persuade” is what we should want to hear.

  5. Hi JeffJacobson. Long time no see. I think you missed Realworld’s point. And it is interesting to have people talk about you third person.

    Shaking things up does not necessarily mean an animus confrontation. I’ve been Mayor Jackson’s direct designee to the Planning Board for 4.5 years now. I sit on that body in his stead and can be replaced tomorrow. Before that, starting in 2012, I was the entire Council’s appointee to Planning Board and the Environmental Commission. Clearly, I know how to work with these elected councilors and have constant access to them. I try to “persuade” them constantly on points and apparently carry their respect in the process. I may even run with some, depending on how things shake out.

    Regardless, my goal here has always been to HELP them see some issues differently — especially in land use, where we really needed to process that one of our major economic selling points was our neighborhood character and architectural charm. That continuing to give this away to bad development and not focus on preservation — which allowed ugly builds like Valley and Bloom and the Sienna bulk downtown etc. etc. — would undermine one of a few key reasons why people want to come and move here and spend their money visiting.

    So whether it’s for more balanced development, the coming traffic light changes I initiated, or even core debate issues over education — I’m constantly working closely with our Councilors and other officials directly. But I also try to use the bully pulpit for the public when needed — to identify conflation points more openly. This way, we really frame, discuss and debate things honestly.

    Example: there remains a group of corporate type education reformers here, responsible for both the Penny McCormack testing fiasco which became a two year residents fight. After that, they were responsible for the most recent BOE debacle where uncertified and seemingly unqualified people were hired by former Superintendent Johnson-Laura Hertzog’s BOE cabal. This group also helped create a false climate here IMO that Montclair has a racist under every BOE rock.

    All this still needs to be fully explained and linked for residents, so that if some of their supporters run in 2020 now as a slate, which is expected, their well meaning but miss-guided positions get fully outed.

    For me, that kind of debate and transparency remains the best way for solutions and facts come out in a democracy. Even if some don’t like to work this way, or it makes some uncomfortable.

    So like the article says — “I”m thinking about it”. And if I do run, it would be either for Councilor at Large, or third ward? In either case, the issues to focus on, just as they did back in 2016, which one can see from the hot links in my section above — remain the same.

    https://baristanet.com/2019/09/montclair-planning-board-member-calls-foul-on-mc-residences-46-units/

  6. Martin, you’re absolutely right that “shaking things up does not necessarily mean an animus confrontation,” and I didn’t intend my post to be a comment on your possible candidacy or anyone else’s. I was making a different point about desiring (if it can be achieved) a full Council of people who are willing and able to work together. Both of those last two words, “work” and “together,” are extremely important. There will always be disagreements, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Ultimately, however, we need seven people—not just a Mayor—willing to put in the time to get things done, and willing to collaborate even when an issue doesn’t go their way.

    My intention was just to remind people that although it’s of course important to pick the right Mayor in 2020, it’s at least equally (if not more) important to fully vet candidates for the six other Council seats, too. With the sole exception of the Mayor’s appointment powers, on every other issue, the Mayor has the same 1/7 say as every other Councilor.

    In any event, it’s great to see the debate underway. To quote another great Montclair resident, “it’s getting late early around here.”

Comments are closed.