Montclair 2020 Election: Carmel Loughman on Ballot, Running for Councilor-at-Large

Another candidate has entered the Montclair 2020 election race and she’s officially on the ballot.

Carmel Loughman announced Tuesday that she has received official word from the Town Clerk that she will be on the ballot running for Councilor-at-Large in the May 12, 2020 Montclair municipal election.

Loughman, a 32-year Montclair resident and Montclair Planning Board member for four years, describes herself as “an underdog, long-shot candidate hoping for grassroots support, encouraged by the grit and determination of other women new to public life like Mikie Sherrill, who challenged the establishment and won elective office in 2018.”

Loughman says she is particularly interested in efficiency, transparency and accountability of local government.

“Councilors must be effective stewards of taxpayers’ money, balancing benefits to the entire community as they address a myriad of town issues and make difficult decisions,” she adds.

Loughman says she is fortunate that she is in a point in her life where she can commit fully to public service.

“My first challenge was getting enough signatures (420!) to get on the ballot. With that accomplished, I will now be pounding the pavement and knocking on doors to introduce myself and ask for Montclair’s vote,” says Loughman.

Loughman joins other candidates who have announced plans to run; Dr. Renee Baskerville and Sean Spiller are both running for mayor.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Congratulations on getting to the fun part! I’m sure Spiller & Baskerville are days away from joining you (unless Mayor Jackson throws a curve).

    I have to say my votes are looking good. I only have one At-Large choice, so that vote is a lock. Two Mayoral choices, so 50/50 I pick the winner. That’s a .750 batting average…or a BOGO 50! Pretty good.

    There is one, new scenario I didn’t see coming. It hasn’t been given a name from what I know, so I’ll call it the Bloomberg Variation for now. It skips the ballot listing and goes 100% write-in using social media and face-to-face. Pretty radical.

    I don’t think it can work at all. Older people like me like a structured process we know and we’re not social media savvy (don’t even know the slang for this). The 20 & 30 somethings are, but they really don’t vote and certainly not for local elections. Further, we could end up with a bevy of such candidates for each opening with less time to vet their differences. The 40-55’ers don’t have the time…and are already failing at their resolutions to go on screen time diets.

    But, I give credit where credit is due. Have at it. The novelty alone will add some more zip.

  2. Carmel, it is good to see that you are willing to continue your service to Montclair, now in the Town Council. You have a remarkable record in both your professional life and public service. I was impressed with your campaign website: you see the issues and you address the issues with some depth. Thank you, not just for entering the campaign but also for so well preparing your campaign.

    I hope people will look at the recommendations on your LinkedIn that you received from colleagues going back years. They speak volumes about the kind of professional you are, your ability to see the larger picture, to focus, and to work in a team. Most importantly, you were respected in your work as you have been on the Planning Board because you were willing to take difficult and direct decisions.

    Some points I would like you to address:
    Being on a Town Council means teamwork, working together, working cooperatively. The council members must support one another. But they also must correct one another when personal interests are put ahead of the public’s interest. We do not want a town council like we have had in the past where it seems to be ridden with public squabbles. We also do not want a town council like the present one where conflict of interest and wrongdoing is ignored or swept under the carpet?
    How would you address the misuse of public office and corruption?

    I also live in the South End. And I feel proud of it. My family has been in town longer than I can remember, literally. But many family members and friends have had to leave Montclair because they can no long afford the “gentrification” of our neighborhood. The developers have had an enormous impact on the less well off in Montclair. Yes, as you state on your website, they have put millions in the town coffers, but this has been at the expense of those who cannot afford the enormous increases in housing costs. Bernie Sanders addressed this question last night at a national level. In my view, however, this is largely a local issue requiring local solutions.
    How would you address this here in Montclair’s own backyard?

    I appreciate the statement on your website about “Seniors Aging-in-Place.” You write: “Town leaders should consider ways to facilitate seniors aging-in-place . . . .” However, this town council seems to have conceded to the developers the need for affordable housing. A serious breach of their responsibility. You state: “Seniors have advocated for a relaxation in zoning regulations that would allow homeowners above a certain age to easily convert a part of their home to an accessory dwelling unit with limited restrictions. Such a unit could be used for family, a caregiver or just rented out to offset property taxes.”
    How do you reconcile this with the current state-wide NJ Senior Freeze Program that reimburses eligible senior citizens and disabled persons 53% on their property tax? This seems to be an excellent program. But it does not allow for senior’s then to collect rent or income on their property.
    How would you, working within the NJ Senior Freeze Program, create a more affordable Montclair for our seniors?
    Would you crack down in Montclair when seniors or their families misuse senior benefits, ignoring zoning regulations and avoiding paying taxes?

    Finally, many people feel that our Board of Education has been dysfunctional for years. They have had seven School Superintendents in as many years. It appears too that the relationships between the BoE members has not been better than their relationship with the MEA, the teachers, parents or the public. There have been at least two BoE members enrolling their children in the school district without paying taxes, and one then having their child sent outside the district at enormous expense to the taxpayers.
    Do you have a vision on how the town council can work within the current political structure to achieve a functional and honest BoE?

    Pleased you are in the race. Hoping you will be fighting the good fight.

  3. This is Carmel responding to Michael Joseph:

    Thank you so much for your compliments and kind words. I believe strongly in public services so I hope I do get a chance to serve as Councilor, fighting the good fight. I know I will work hard to justify the trust Montclarians put in me.

    With respect to my website, I tried to be thorough, informative, and a little playful, though not everyone will agree with my POV on the issues. My team at Insomnia Graphix in Montclair did a terrific job putting my site together.

    For the record, I don’t live in the South End; I do live in the Fourth Ward these past 15 years. I don’t mean to mislead anyone; we took a lot of pictures all over town; the picture in front of the “South End” sign just happened to be the one everyone agreed was most flattering and captured a happy moment. I had just come out of Moso restaurant after a lively conversation with the proprietor and had a lot of good feedback and food for thought.

    I know I am stepping into a minefield as I comment on your questions in a forum that doesn’t really allow for extensive discourse. What your questions do illustrate is the variety and complexity of the issues the Council faces. I believe in research and data to help formulate policy. Fundamentally, the town has many competing interests for limited resources and differing viewpoints on priorities. A wise Council must understand the entirety of the issues, the benefits/detriments to the town as a whole, the long-term implications of her actions, and then set objective priorities and implement a plan to get things done.

    I will always only have the public’s interest at heart as I have no personal ambitions beyond serving Montclair as its Councilor. This is a tough enough job. I will treat my colleagues with respect and work with them in an open and honest fashion as I have done as a Planning Board member.

    Working at the local government level is valuable training for people who later seek higher positions. Some of the current Council members who have served Montclair from 8, 12 or over 20 years have openly expressed their interest in higher office, and are likely well-prepared to assume such positions. I wish them well. However, I would call out Councilors who let personal ambition override the obligation they owe Montclair to serve its citizens while holding elected office. This might be something I suspect Montclarians will think about when they consider whom they want in office.

    My campaign is about looking forward not criticizing the missteps of the past.

    I think that most people who serve on town boards/commissions should be commended for their service. They put in a lot of personal time, effort, and thought to what they do. From my attendance at Council meetings, one has to be fairly thick skinned to endure some of what is said and even personal attacks. I have always worked well with others when I have served on teams. I am pretty humble, I am willing to do the hard work to help me arrive at my position, try to effectively persuade others of point of view, but not hold any grudges if my colleagues don’t see eye to eye with me. I just want to get the job done.

    Gentrification is a tricky thing. If you own a home, like many old-time Montclarians in the South End do, you are likely to be quite happy with the escalation in the value of your home (but not the increase in your property taxes). If you are a renter and your rent is escalating; it is a problem. I disagree with you, and think gentrification is not really just a local issue, it is a regional issue. We are a bedroom community of NYC; NYC rents/home costs are astronomical for a variety of reasons. People leave NYC for relatively less expensive housing costs and see sophisticated Montclair as a good alternative with a reasonable commute. This drives up our housing costs. Intuitively, more available housing (more development!) should serve to level rents. Basic economic supply and demand. But how much development is too much? I could ramble on and on about this complicated question….but my rambles will lead me to my fundamental belief that local government should look at any and all potential equitable solutions it can influence that will help to maintain the economic, racial, and cultural diversity of our town.

    The Senior Freeze program is very helpful for those eligible folks above 65 in that it freezes property taxes at the level taxed when an applicant first enter the program, typically at age 65. However, seniors in town have been asking that the town permit their homes to have less restrictive rules around accessory dwelling units. This would be a zoning change.

    I want the best education for Montclair children and value our teachers immensely. Legally the Board of Ed runs the school system. The mayor appoints the Board of Ed representatives. The rest of the Council has no role in these appointments nor, by law, control over the actions of the BOE. The mayor and two Councilors sit on the Board of School Estimates. I would be happy to be on the BOSE, if elected.

    I think I am worn out now after watching the Democratic debate and writing this….but happy to continue this dialogue another day.

  4. Carmel, thank you for this well considered response. What I admire most is that you are willing to risk disagreement in order to find meaningful agreement.

    From the candidates that have already announced, it seems that if elected you would be entering a next town council largely composed of incumbents, all of whom see themselves as career politicians who have often appeared to put their personal ambitions ahead of their service to the community.

    I find that you have the right background, the right motivation, and the right demeanor to take on such a chore. Risk Management is one of the most interesting and challenging disciplines to have emerged. It is complex and takes an exceptionally sharp mind that is also outcome oriented. Having worked in the bees’ nest of the Schering-Plough / Merck merger, you must be about prepared for Montclair politics as anyone can be.

    Because you took the time to respond, and because there is far more agreement than disagreement, just some thoughts as an appreciation:

    The increase in dollar value a longtime homeowner experiences because of gentrification is of little if any real value to a senior. If you bought a home in Montclair 60 years ago for 15,000 dollars and it is now worth 700,000 dollars, there is no real added value for the senior citizen. The increase is throughout the neighborhood, throughout the area. On top of that, rental prices have skyrocketed and so too property taxes. Add to that the astronomical increases for maintaining a home: updating the electricity, converting from oil to gas, putting on a new roof, painting your front porch, or just getting your sidewalk shoveled.

    Rezoning and permitting seniors to remodel and create an income space on their property might appear good, but the downsides are long. It would disqualify those seniors from the NJ Senior Freeze Program. In addition, managing tenants, be they family or otherwise, is not always simple and not every senior’s dream retirement plan. Further, once a residence has been rezoned for a senior to create an income space, it would be difficult to transition that property back to the original zoning when the senior does eventually leave the home.

    It might be more reasonable for Montclair to create a subsidy program for seniors who qualify for the NJ Senior Freeze Program. For those who legitimately qualify (and do not exploit it), they could then qualify for subsidies to support the maintenance of their homes. The township could contribute 20, 40, 80 percent or so to home repairs and maintenance. I think this is more feasible and would go further in ensuring that Montclair remained attractive for seniors. It would also help seniors to maintain their homes. This is something they want to do, just as much as their neighbors want to see happen.

    Perhaps one more point on this: When you speak of the value of “economic, racial, and cultural diversity to our town,” perhaps age diversity should also be a priority. It is wonderful to have a neighborhood full of young families with lots of children playing in the street. But those neighborhoods lack something essential when the parents and children are not exposed to the ageing.

    I agree with you that as a member of the town council there is little to nothing you can do about a dysfunctional Board of Education. When the mayor makes a disaster of the BoE by appointing and re-appointing friends, even ones not qualified to serve, then all anyone in town can do is sit back and watch the fiasco unfold. It is a reality show with an unsavory reality.

    I have been quite hesitant about having an elected school board, but it seems Montclair has no choice now. At least this way all the residents of the town can own the responsibility for those who serve, whether or not they voted. And there should be a requirement that all serving BoE members must step down immediately after they stop paying taxes in this town, that they then pay the non-resident fees for enrolling their children in the district, and that they do not receive any special benefits for their children that are not shared by all the children in our school district.

    Well this is turning into more of a discussion for Michael and Zina’s Mosa over a beautiful Blackened King Salmon and a nice bottle of a deep red Bordeaux. Tonight we can try to recover from the violence of last night’s debate with two town halls and hopefully some real policy discussion. You have shown the way.

  5. Michael Joseph.

    I’ve gone back and forth on an elected vs appointed school board – primarily because I’m not convinced it will provide a better board.

    What I didn’t realize with an elected school board is the school district can’t borrow using the Township’s AAA credit rating. A new, separate credit rating would be established. I believe the rating would be much lower and further increase our school costs as we have $60MM worth of capital improvements that will have to be funded at some point. Further, as we already have a AAA rating, there is no gain to be realized above our current AAA rating.

    Today, Montclair’s debtor service cost comprises 21% of our operating budget – with slightly more than half for school bonds and notes.

    It is just something to address in any discussion of going this route.

  6. When I heard about the accessory dwelling unit (ADU) ordinance being discussed for seniors I assumed it was about allowing ADUs in the whole R1 to give seniors more options to stay in town. I think it would be helpful for everyone to have A) More affordable housing options in town and B) Help homeowners offset their high property taxes. Only allowing seniors to build them seems like an odd choice that doesn’t really help anyone. When they (or their kids) sell the house, there would be a large cost to removing the units. Also, I assume most seniors can’t afford the expense of building one out. It would take a very long time to recoup that investment. Just allow ADUs in the whole R1 and be done with it. You’d be able to create a couple hundred market-rate affordable units without doing much of anything. Tons of houses have a detached garage with a loft that isn’t being used. Pre-fab ADU companies are popping up all over the place. Denver did something similar with good results though the red tape has been a big complaint.

  7. First, ADU’s were considered as a remedy for ‘seniors again in place’ objective. I suspect there is significantly less support for converting R-1 homes to what would effectively be a R-2 multi-family use as you propose. If we are doing it for the latter, we can simply increase the densities of our existing multi-family zones like a recent, 2019, Walnut Street application.

    Second, I have been against ADU’s for a host of reasons and the case for how they would implemented in Montclair provided many of the reasons. I do agree the build out costs are definitely a major short-term hurdle for fixed-income seniors. Converting detached-garage space legally or structurally expanding a house’s footprint is costly.

    Third, implicit in the prior ‘seniors’ ADU argument was 1) the senior doesn’t have to move, and 2) they have at least 25% living space, upwards of a majority of their space that they do not need and could convert.

    How do we help seniors of limited, fixed means?

    Small but manful dollar-stretching measures could include charging sewer, water, electrical utilities at a set, predictable, heavily subsidized flat rate. The Township could work (subsidize) with its vendors and licensees to offer the similar, flat-rate services.

    Over 40% of the residents are renters. I’m assuming a fair number of seniors are in this group. If the Township does implement rent controls, it should be extended to all rental units, including multi-families.

    But, getting back to the idea of taking underutilized, owner-occupied homes and allowing conversions to multi-family, I am open to reconsidering and offer this typical, maybe representative Montclair home as an example – https://www.prominentproperties.com/property/783-valley-road-montclair-nj-07043/

    It’s a 2,000 sf home with an attached garage. It could be a conversion that does not change the house’s current footprint and accessory parking space. It could be minimally adjusted for a separate, unobtrusive separate entrance and a small concession parked cars would now be expected in the driveway 24/7. I would keep the rental unit space min/max, and, as above, it would have to be subject to rent controls that runs with the property.

    Not saying this is the solution, but it is a place to start and learn.

  8. Truth be told and shame the devil. If we are going to have the senior subsidy conversation, we seniors aging in place are the ones who originally spent the borrowed money like the bill wouldn’t come due, or we would be long gone. Now that the bill has come due – and there is some cash floating around – we want to be subsidized.

    And seniors were one of the groups that snatched subsidized housing for homeless veterans so we could have an arts center…and some do-rae-me benefit to stay in the houses they are used to.

    Yes, the seniors who had a quiet, sleepy bedroom community in hand and wanted more. And more. And more. They just stayed the course and now they are playing their strongest cards remaining. Let’s go into this with our eyes wide open.

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