MontClairVoyant: Has Montclair BOE Become ‘The Board of the Zings’?

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Anne Mernin resigned from the Board of Education after an anonymous email campaign questioned the tax-paying nature of her Montclair residency and whether the town should be funding her child’s out-of-district placement. Thoughts…

Sincerely,

Mean Acres

The campaign? Vicious. The accuser(s)? Gutlessly hid behind anonymity. The length of the email I saw? Almost “War and Peace”-like. The number of Leo Tolstoy’s children? More than a dozen. The number who attended Montclair schools? Zero.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Even though one lived ’til 1979! Anyway, Ms. Mernin and her family have the right to reside with her mother, there’s nothing wrong with Montclair funding her child’s education, and she’s done admirable work for the BOE, Toni’s Kitchen, etc. Agree?

Sincerely,
Extolling the Exemplary

Yes! Meanwhile, I’m thinking of novels with Anne or variations of Anne in their titles, such as Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” and Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables.” The latter was set in Green Chop’s on Watchung Plaza, you know.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Gee, you’re a fount of useless info today. Was the campaign against Ms. Mernin partly retribution for David Herron’s allegation that Franklin Turner may not have been a Montclair resident during some of his (former) time on the BOE?

Sincerely,
The Board of the Zings

No idea. I do know that when Mr. Herron filed a complaint about that, he had the courage to NOT do so anonymously. And while “anonymous” sort of rhymes with “hippopotamus,” hippos weren’t guilty of the anti-Mernin email(s). They prefer to text.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Your columns criticize some actions of local people and entities. So, do you have the right to complain about the email campaign being critical?

Sincerely,
Asking for a Fiend

Among the ways I’ll respond to that: My name is attached to everything I write, and I have never brought people’s children into my criticism. But I HAVE brought hippos into my column. Once. Today. In the previous Q&A. Not young hippos, though.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
A large new medical-office building across from Mountainside hospital has opened for humans, not hippos. A good thing overall, I guess, but what’s with a January 9 ribbon-cutting photo picturing ONLY nine white men?

Sincerely,
Pale Ail

Plenty of diversity: Two wore reddish ties.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
But I was pleased to see that the Montclair NAACP Youth Council is hosting a trip this Saturday, January 18, to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Would you call that a “capital idea”?

Sincerely,
Freedom Ride

Go there (to the museum). Don’t “go there” (your dumb wordplay).

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
There’ll be a much shorter distance traveled when the excellent Montclair Bikery moves across Valley Road to the former Nauna’s space. Reaction?

Sincerely,
‘Spokes’ Person

From veal piccata to wheel piccata.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Also close to Valley Road is Studio Playhouse, where “It’s Only a Play” runs through January 25. Your take on the acting when you saw this past Sunday’s performance?

Sincerely,
Some of the World’s a Stage

All seven cast members hit it out of the park, making this my second straight column to use a baseball batting metaphor. Which reminds me of TV’s “Bat Masterson” theme song: “Back when the West was very young/there lived a man named Masterson/he wore a cane and derby hat/when he went ‘splat,’ on Appleton.” Well, I changed the last line.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Hmm…falling on Appleton Place — which is near Valley Road, too. Montclair, like most towns, has its share of Rush fans. One member of that great Canadian band was Neil Peart, who unfortunately died January 7 at age 67. Was he the best drummer in rock history?

Sincerely,
The Pass(ing)

I think so — as well as a superb lyricist, gifted author, and voracious reader who would’ve fit right in with Montclair’s many smart people. But, no, the Rush song “2112” was not about the number of words in that LONG anonymous email.

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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28 COMMENTS

  1. I took a speed-reading course and read “War and Peace” in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.
    (An old Woody Allen joke.)

  2. Pale Ail, there would have been ten, but one was waiting on line at the Wellmont to buy tickets for an upcoming Almost Dead show.

  3. Ha ha ha, silverleaf! 🙂 Ten minutes for the war part, ten minutes for the peace part…

    Interestingly, Tolstoy was also great at writing relatively short works — with my favorite novellas of his “The Kreutzer Sonata,” “The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” and “Hadji Murat.”

  4. Re your hilarious second comment, silverleaf, I guess The Grateful Dead and its tribute bands indeed had/have many white males in their fan bases. Same can be said for Rush, which I mentioned at the end of my column. But, oddly, I belatedly became very interested in Rush about five years ago after a biracial woman who often commented under my literature blog kept insisting I listen to the band on YouTube. I did, got hooked, and have been backtracking through Rush’s decades of music ever since.

    Luckily, Montclair is a much more interesting suburb than the one(s) Rush sings about in its fabulous song “Subdivisions.”

  5. “Ten minutes for the war part, ten minutes for the peace part”
    I’m not liking that ratio, Dave. Did Pompeo run it past Congress first?

  6. Ha, silverleaf! 🙂 Yes, not a good ratio, and the Trump administration doesn’t really “do” the ask-Congress-for-permission thing.

    Actually, Pompeo might prefer “nineteen minutes for the war part, one minute for the ‘should I declare the sale of my soul on my income tax’ part.” The Montclair area has some good CPAs…

  7. As far as I can tell no one forced Ms. Mernin to resign. If she and her child don’t (in reality) live in Montclair; 1) she shouldn’t serve on the Board of Ed (no matter how amirable her work for the Board or anywhere else) and 2) Montclair taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay to educate her children, in district or out. And if the allegations are true, I thank the anonymous person who brought them to light. Many of us don’t care about the politics- it’s a matter of right and wrong.

  8. Thank you for the comment, seriously! Anne Mernin and her family do live in Montclair, with Ms. Mernin’s mother. And, yes, she didn’t HAVE to resign, but it was tough for her to have her child brought into this. Lastly, I still think the person(s) behind the email campaign should have had the guts and decency to use their name(s).

  9. Dave,
    I have a diametrically different conclusion than Seriously. However, your last sentence deserves a Fair & Balanced check. Citing a lack of guts & decency remaining anonymous?

    What about Dear Abby? 🙂

  10. Ha! 🙂 Thank you, Frank! Ah, the alias/pen name approach…

    It’s pretty well known in the media biz who “Dear Abby” (Abigail Van Buren) is. That column was written by the late Pauline Phillips and now by her daughter Jeanne Phillips (both friends of mine from meeting them via a previous job). Plus their photos usually ran/run with the column, and the anonymous advice-seekers who write “Dear Abby” are either discussing their own problems or, if complaining about other people, are not using anyone’s real full name.

    It was also widely known that Mark Twain was Samuel Clemens. The pen name of Pierre Delecto (aka Mitt Romney) was more of a mystery…until it wasn’t. Perhaps the person(s) behind the anti-Mernin email campaign will be unmasked as well. Or at least lose the 2012 presidential election. 🙂

  11. I am referring to the Montclair Board of Education.

    You do realize Trump will be re-elected. Yes, people will threaten to move to Canada & Europe…and then they realize the tax implications and what it means to be part of the human race…so, never mind.

  12. Well, the two men on the BOE were both appointed fairly recently, but they’re still entitled to have their share of the say on the nasty anti-Mernin campaign or anything else. 🙂 And who knows if the man who has appointed BOE members in recent years will still be mayor after the 2020 municipal election.

    Not sure if Trump will be reelected or not, but perhaps HE could move to Canada or Europe. Not that either of those places would want him…

  13. Mr. Astor I really like what you wrote and I know you were just trying to be funny. So I hesitated to say something. But just so you know, something you said sort of offended me as a woman of color: “what’s with a January 9 ribbon-cutting photo picturing ONLY nine white men?”
    Didn’t MLK teach us: “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Is there something wrong with the shades of skin or genders of the people in the picture? Or did you like have some information about people who contributed to the building but were deliberately left out of the picture because of how they looked? Or did you want them to add some “token people” to the photo? I thought we got past those kinds of thoughts in Montclair. I did.
    Anyway I know you didn’t mean to offend even if I got offended. So I’m just saying so you know. The people in the picture look like good people to me. I appreciate that they helped to build this large new medical-office building across from Mountainside Hospital, the place that took really good care of my Auntie before she died.

  14. Thank you for the comment, Melissa! I appreciate your thoughts on this.

    Absolutely no offense intended toward women or people of color. Quite the opposite. In this day and age, and in Montclair (although part of Mountainside is in Glen Ridge), one would hope for/expect more diversity in virtually any photo with that many people. Heck, the medical profession is full of women and people of color — doctors, nurses, administrators, etc.

    I love that MLK quote you cited. Unfortunately, what he wanted to see is still often not the case nearly 57 years later. 🙁

  15. Mr. Astor, thanks so much for answering. I think I get where you’re coming from, though I’m not sure if you get what I mean. But that is ok. We both have our own experiences. Like my mother used to say to me: It is just something they said. It is not who they are.
    Keep on being funny. It is really nice. And yup we all need to work on what MLK taught us.
    PS I have a lot of photos with just black ladies in them, even some with more than nine of them in one picture. It’s just that those were the people who did the work or made the contributions. I hope you don’t think I’m a bad person too.

  16. You’re welcome, Melissa! Sorry I didn’t quite get what you were saying.

    Yes, we all have our own experiences. Mine is obviously the experiences of a white male, but my two children are both female, and one is a person of color. Maybe one of several reasons why it’s jarring for me to see photos of all white males in the year 2020. Perhaps most of the people involved in that new building ARE white men. Perhaps the upper echelon of Mountainside also consists mostly of white men. And developers (at least a couple of whom were in the photo) are certainly mostly white men around these parts. Not great.

    I don’t think you’re a bad person at all!

    Thanks again for commenting — and for the kind words about my column writing!

  17. Mr. Astor, you seem to read a lot of stuff and know many things normal people don’t, like who the real Tom Sawyer is or who the real Dear Abby is. So I can learn a lot from some of the things you say.
    I cannot imagine myself ever writing or saying: “I am a woman of color, but . . . . ” What would that say about how I understood myself? Or how I understood others? How I looked at my spouse or my children? How I looked at the world?
    I was thinking about what you just wrote to me and how you said it. Made me think about something from when I was really small. My father was driving me to Sunday school and we had an accident on the corner of Elm and Elmwood. The man in the other car was really upset. He started saying things about my father’s color, using really bad words. There was a young police officer who tried to calm that man down saying those words were wrong because they were . . . . Then that man said, “How can you call me that? I’m married to a . . . . ” My father looked at that man so hard, so wounded. Then he turned to the officer and said: “Sir, I was wrong about the accident. But I am not wrong about who I am. Give me the ticket and I’ll be on my way.”
    When we got to the church, my father looked over at me: “Melly,” he said, “don’t you worry about the dent in the car. I can fix that. Worry about the dent in your soul those words did.” As I was walking up the steps, my father called to me and said: “You pray for that man today.”
    Mr. Astor, I am looking forward to your next column and all the funny things you will try to say.

  18. Thank you, Melissa, for your eloquent and interesting follow-up comment — including that painful and instructive memory. I totally realize that people are…people. The most important difference between people is whether a person is a good person or a bad person — not their color, gender, sexual preference, etc. It’s not ideal for me (or anyone else) to categorize people as “of color” or white, or female or male, or gay or straight. Unfortunately, that ends up being a big part of many a person’s perceptions — whether those perceptions come from racists, misogynists, or homophobes, or from tolerant people trying to counter biases and stereotypes.

  19. Mr. Astor, you make a good point about how offense can be painful and how we learn. Thank you for that.
    I think I lean a bit more towards what Seriously said above than perhaps towards you: My experience did not teach me that “a person is a good person or a bad person.” Rather, as Seriously said, it is more a matter of right and wrong, sometimes people do good things and sometimes they do less good things.
    Ghandi was not always a good father to his son. MLK was not always a good husband to his wife. Nelson Mandela was also not always a good husband and his early use of violence, which he later renounced, was not right in my view. These people were good and bad. Still these are all my hero’s. The New York Times concluded of Mother Theresa that she was “less interested in helping the poor than in using them as an indefatigable source of wretchedness on which to fuel the expansion of her fundamentalist Roman Catholic beliefs.” When people use their office or good works to advance themselves, I guess I think less of them.
    My parents praised me when I was good. They punished me when I was bad. It is good to praise people when they do good things. When they do bad things we should hold them to account. I suppose we are all sometimes good and sometimes bad, sometimes right and sometimes wrong, sometimes worthy of praise and sometimes need to be held to account.
    I like the photograph you might not. I like my photographs too. I like the people in them. I like you. Thank you for this nice conversation over coffee on a cloudy Saturday morning.

  20. Melissa, very true that everyone does good things and bad things, and more specifically a good person can do bad things and a bad person can do good things. So I guess a good way to judge a person is indeed by one action at a time. And by whether a significant majority (not all) of a person’s actions/behavior are good over a lifetime (as was the case with MLK, Nelson Mandela, etc.) or a significant majority (not all) of a person’s actions/behavior are bad over a lifetime (Trump and Mitch McConnell are two who immediately come to mind). Because while almost everyone does good things and bad things, the ratio can be a LOT different in different people. 🙂

    Thank you for the conversation, too!

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