Baristanet Montclair Municipal Election Guide: How To Vote By Mail, Meet The Candidates

Hey Montclair – we can do better.

As of Wednesday evening, only 4,947 ballots have been received for the Montclair Municipal Election, according to Essex County Clerk Christopher J. Durkin. Montclair’s election turnout in 2016 was an all-time low, but understandable given that all but one incumbent councilor ran unopposed. In 2012, 8,024 voters cast a ballot. In 2019, Montclair had 32,588 registered voters.

Unofficial results will be uploaded to at 8:30pm on Election night (May 12th).

Ballots can still be received by the Board of Elections up to May 14th as long as the ballot was postmarked on Election Day (May 12th) or earlier.

May 12th elections in Belleville, Irvington, Montclair, Newark, Nutley, and Orange will be an all Vote by Mail Elections.

Posted by Chris Durkin on Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Not sure who to vote for? Below you can see who are the candidates running for mayor, each ward and the at-large seats.

All the candidates participated in a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area. Baristanet readers then voted on the candidates that impressed them the most.

Read what the two mayoral candidates – Dr. Renee Baskerville and Councilor Sean Spiller – had to say about education issues and watch video from the Montclair NAACP Youth Mayoral Candidates Forum.

Montclair High School Democrats Youth & Politics series has videos with the two mayoral candidates as well as the candidates for each ward and councilor at large.

Click to hear to read about how the candidates answered issues raised by Bike&Walk Montclair.

You get to cast your vote for mayor, then choose a councilor for your ward and two councilors for the two at-large seats. You can mix and match across the ballot or vote one slate across one line.

Dr. Renee Baskerville

* Current Fourth ward councilor (since 2008)
* Pediatrician
* Stopped cell phone tower in South End; advocated for rent control ordinance.
* Past member of Montclair Board of Education

(Video Interview)

Sean Spiller

*Current Third Ward councilor (since 2012)
*High school science teacher and vice president of New Jersey Education Association
*Worked to pass mandatory sick leave.
*Fought to ban single use plastic bags.

(Video Interview)

John Hearn

*Entrepreneur and business consultant
*Founded The Junto, a community service organization

William Hurlock

*Current First Ward Councilor (since 2012)
*Attorney, former federal prosecutor
*Fought to prevent high density construction in First Ward & preserve Upper Montclair Train Station, Bellevue Library
*Served on Board of School Estimate & Finance Committees

(Video interviews)

Robin Schlager

*Current Second Ward Councilor (since 2012)
*Associate director of development for the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges.
*Served as director of Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence (MFEE) for 14 years
*Salvation Army board member

Christina Thomas

*Attorney with MBA and completing Masters in Public Policy
*Essex County Democratic Committee delegate for Montclair’s 2nd Ward.
*Trained foster parent; Edgemont PTA hospitality chair

(Video interviews)

Lori Price Abrams

* Served as director of community relations for the MetroWest Jewish Federation
*Vice president at MWWPR’s public affairs practice
*Founding officer of Emerge NJ
*Formerly a practicing attorney

Maggie Joralemon

*Former educator
*Co-founder, Undoing Racism Committee at Universal Unitarian Congregation
*Helped found Portland Place Neighborhood Association
*Yoga teacher at the YMCA

(Video interviews)

David Cummings

*Served on Montclair Board of Education
*Past Vice-Chairman of the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation (MNDC)
*Nominated to Montclair Civil Rights Commission
*Former editor, ESPN

(Video interview)

Carmel Loughman

*Self-described fiscal conservative running independent of a slate.
*MBA in Finance from NYU; trained in risk analysis
*Serves on Montclair Planning Board
*Swam across the Hudson River

James Cotter

*History teacher at Columbia High School
*Member of Cloverhill Place/Grove Terrace Neighborhood Association; fought for thoughtful development of Lackawanna Plaza
*Serves on Montclair July 4th Committee; member, Public Art Selection Committee.
*Past organizer of First Night Montclair

Peter Yacobellis

*Director, human resources and facilities for Amicus Therapeutics
*Former director, New York City office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
*Former chief of staff, marketing and human resources, American Express
*Co-chaired the Trevor Project Board’s Government Affairs Committee

Robert Russo

*Currently serving as At-Large Councilor
*Served as Mayor of Montclair from 2000-2004
*Former First Ward Councilor
*Professor teaching public administration, Montclair State Univerity

Roger Terry

*Served as Montclair Deputy Chief of Police
*Served as At-Large Councilor from 2008-2012
*Trained in emergency response management

(Video interviews – At Large Candidates)

Candidates Running As A Slate

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    Peter Yacobellis – your posted positions in support of Bike-Walk Montclair and Safe Streets need further consideration and review. IMO they are not really reflective of wider public transportation needs, and do not fully consider the costs needed to back them up. To change our streets so drastically should the Safe Streets roll out be fully implemented as proposed. Further, the resulting streetscape shift and loss of parking impact has never been economically evaluated — thus public reaction after presentation of real costs — once that fiscal information is clear — is just not known.

    Consequently, this issue has not really been stalled between the Planning Board (of which I’m a member) and the Council as Bike Walk asserts. It’s been opposed by those on the Board and Council thinking this through because the facts do not yet support full bike lane implementation everywhere in town. Only the pedestrian safety and public and shuttle transportation aspects of the Safe Streets proposals — which were recommended by the PB.

    Bike-Walk was asked to come back with more information to support hard bike lanes everywhere which they have not yet done. So in short, building bike lanes all around with hard dividers as you support — are really today only being lobbied by a limited, special interest group who can still bike all over town today without them. IMO they do not yet reflect the overall needs of the community.

    Here’s some reasons why they are off:

    That non-kid couples and singles want more dedicated bike lanes makes sense, but this doesn’t help suburban multi-kid families taking 3 kids to the grocery store, or to a soccer field. Thus, there is no real information take away on true population biking demand — (a BS poll of 150 people) on the real need for bike lanes everywhere, nor as I said cost consideration for this if implemented. Ask anyone and they will say “yes, more bike safety and bike lanes. Sounds good.” You write above you’ve “heard” the same from talking to people. Of course. But listening to groups or people who believe as we do, is not a good barometer to generate public policy. Without real cost-benefit evaluation.

    Second, the cities always quoted where biking use has been rolled out wider, Portland, Seattle, now Antwerp, Amsterdam etc. — have two different realities than Montclair. One, they are in either warmer moderate climates where biking can happen all year round, or two …they have much bigger populations and bigger public transportation systems behind them to support realistically reducing cars and shifting to bikes in concert. Because doing so means substantially changing the road sizes here and giving more space “equity” to bikes — as the Bike Walk proposal actually advocates.

    We have neither of these options. We are a town up on a mountain with snow and cold temperatures in the winter. You can’t easily ride at 15 degrees with a toddler. And we are not NYC where you can quickly hop on a train or bus every five minutes to go places. Who will pay for such added public transportation activity locally and is there really sufficient population demand? No, we are a moderate size suburban town where people need their cars to go to work 20 miles away, to transport families and to go shopping and pick up bags and carry them. Not everyone works in NYC and can take the train.

    So it’s best I think to support more electric, non polluting cars in the interim.

    Yes, some dedicated bike lane route expansion for safe north-south and major east west cross-overs. Where it makes sense like on Midland or Montclair Avenues…But not at the level of expansion everywhere as proposed by Bike Walk — and not blindly put into the master plan. Which does not have sufficient information behind it to substantiate — despite the exercise and environmental benefits agreed.

    If put into the master plan as is, the township administration will just start implementing blindly from advocates pushing — without knowing macro costs. Not good. Nor does the plan consider any aesthetic detriments to the township in the process — if our streets looked like more like 9th avenue in NYC which is what’s being proposed. That’s a whole other story and is counter-intuitive to preservation and the charm of our neighborhoods…one reason why many people buy and move here or set up shop.

    For the reasons above…reconsideration is recommended should you be elected.

  2. No problem. We can have both our cake and eat it.

    What most people don’t realize is there are many streets that have ‘hidden’ public right of way (RoW) land. It is ‘hidden’ in that the boundary is not marked and typically, people think of the RoW as bounded by the sidewalks on each side of the roadway. There is actually public lands that extend 6-10′ beyond the sidewalk. Usually on one one side only, but it doesn’t mater. Property owners treat this land as theirs and plant, improve it as they wish. It is not theirs – it is the public’s.

    North Mountain Avenue is a great example of this. That whole bottle neck by Anderson Park, where we allow parking on both sides? The West side has 8′ more public land beyond the sidewalk. We could easily get a 2-way bike lane in such a space. Do the same with with South Mountain Avenue and that covers most of the important North/South travel.

    So Bike/(NoWalk) Montclair and the new Council should take this opportunity to take existing, unimproved public land and use it for these bike lanes. The houses along South & North Mountain have been using this 8′ of frontage for their own personal walls, piers, hedges, etc.

    We should take this space back! Let’s do it.

  3. Very amusing Frank. An excellent idea but really best for those buying stock in the litigation law firm hired by the Township to take back its land, or those law firms now defending the homeowners being impacted.

    Please let me know when to purchase.

  4. Thank you. Bike/(No Walk) Montclair is really too easy a target. They don’t do their homework. Maybe because they don’t believe adults have to wear bike helmets. Their stance on helmets is like telling kids to wear their car seat belts but it is up to each adult whether to wear their seat belt. Seriously, this is Bike/(NoWalk) Montclair.

    Well, last I checked, the Montclair 2020 slate of incumbents had their full-employment for attorneys program well under way: School conflict of interest lawsuit. Redevelopment/conflict of interest lawsuit. Rent control ordinance lawsuit. I’ll skip the tax appeal legal settlements. School conflict of interest redux coming next Spring!

  5. I failed to mention that my thoughts affect the most affluent streets and their property owners in Montclair. And yes, these property owners on Upper Mountain, North Mountain, South Mountain, Midland, Park, etc can most afford to hire the expensive litigators. They are a formidable subset of residents. Of course, land use experts will tell us that as we continue to urbanize (ya know, “where the city meets the suburbs”) all cities have reclaimed their lands they were lax in fighting off squatters. It is the 1st law of land use…ownership carries the day…especially in cities. We should win 95% of the cases if we were any good. Beat a few, and the rest will run away.

  6. Have I missed something, Frank. What is the redevelopment/conflict of interest you speak of?

  7. No. The present litigation of Lackawanna Plaza. Yes, I used redevelopment. Do you want to know why?

  8. The last conflict of interest fiasco I know of was 2008-12 — involving former Mayor Jerry Fried and former 3rd Ward Councilor Nick Lewis. Both directly ignored their roles as then senior leaders of the Unitarian Church right next door to the former Hahnes parking lot on Church Street. This lot was slated to be developed as part of a Church Street redevelopment plan then to help our local economy.

    However, Fried did not recuse himself at the Planning Board then and both he and Lewis did not recuse themselves at Council votes after which approved a then change of “use” for that site. This then allowed approval of an assisted living facility in the lot, which was originally never authorized under the Plan. Instead, a more intensive and economically helpful downtown development “use” was mandated, i.e. a hotel, or mixed use residential-retail build.

    Interestingly, the one clear cut constant in land use law is when public officials voting have a personal interest, or personal connection to an application. Which both Fried and Lewis had at the time. And everyone involved knew about their leadership ties to the Church right next door. Yet, their newly appointed township attorney Ira Karasick did not warn them not to vote. Karasick reportedly supported the assisted living project. Nor did they, nor Karasick bother to tell then Planning Board attorney Art Neiss of their conflict of interest.

    Both Neiss and Karasick are still here and Neiss says had he known at the time, he would have advised both Fried and Lewis not to vote on the project. He was fairly new to town then.

    The results however: were over a $150 thousand in legal bills and say 8 years of hundreds of thousands in tax ratable revenues lost. This was after property owner Dick Grabowky successfully sued the township on residents behalf to overturn Fried’s bonehead votes. Putting an assisted living facility smack in the middle of our downtown. Which would not return the same kinds of economic benefits seemingly called for under the redevelopment Plan. Grabowsky won on a conflict of interest ruling. (a residential building is now coming there)

    Oh, and Fried and Lewis’s votes also allowed developers Steve Plofker and Brian Stolar then to sell that lot for another million more than they had previously been asking for reportedly. That’s once they convinced the then Fried Planning Board and Council to approve an 86 spot public parking give-away a few months before. Which helped them now bring in an unapproved assisted living buyer but did not help the surrounding businesses as called for under the Plan.

    All this was the kind of stupidity and lack of development expertise at the time from our town government. The prior Remsen administration had actually even allowed those two developers to obtain redevelopment rights to the Hahnes lot, but without any time-line to build something and deliver. So they could just sit and ultimately act as middleman to sell or flip their position if needed. And we even paid hundreds of thousands to a law firm at the time to draft that redevelopment agreement.

    Consequently, I find it humorous that former Mayor Fried and some supporters today continue to politically attack poor development under this current Council. After he and his appointed township planner are directly responsible for the most offensive structures to date, or poor decisions which actually changed the face of Montclair.

    Valley and Bloom and the similarly over-bulked and oversized hotel are directly on Fried’s shoulders. As well as a number of other builds in the Glen-Ridge-North Willow area coming which were approved as 6 stories and are out of character for that area.

    Their Master Plan also pushed for would have allowed 7-10 buildings everywhere for a misguided transit hub building policy and ruin the village feeling here — but was stopped under this current Council.

    Some important lessons above for candidates and/or those next taking office, who would do well not to follow any more of the former Mayor’s follies.

  9. Martin,

    Are you aware of the Council passing an unanimous resolution several years back that voiced their belief that the next public schools superintendent should have superintendent experience?

    And that such a resolution was not just citizens expressing their personal beliefs, but as a governing body that actually sent their resolution to the BoE?

    I looked for such a resolution.
    (I found a case where our Mayor said as much, speaking as a private citizen, during a Mayoral interview in Township Hall Conference room.)
    But, I didn’t find such a Council resolution. Why? Because it doesn’t exist. Why doesn’t it exist? Because the Council knows (and the candidates running for office today know) they could not formally intrude into school business, by law.

    Now our current Council decided the separation laws didn’t apply to them on Lackawanna Plaza. I’m guessing because the Council had designated Lackawanna a redevelopment area…and, therefore they had the right to butt in. Well, as we all know, the owner decided to forego the redevelopment route and, instead, pursue a standard, garden-variety development application that cut-out the Council…by law.

    Now the Council introduces this hastily written, last minute agenda item resolution on Lackawanna. They probably could have gotten away with it if 1) Councilor Schlager had recused herself and 2) they had not required it be sent to the Planning Board. They didn’t do either.

    No, they sent their resolution – which is analogous to this Council sending a resolution to the BoE on what they should do – to the Planning Board. They wanted to make crystal clear their perceived authority over the matter. I saw it. All those Planning Board appointments by the Council. Yup, it was clear to me. Further, Councilor Schlager sat in review of the application for another 9 months.

    So, this is the conflict you don’t remember? Wow.

  10. I agree with you on optics here Frank, of course. However, on the law someone more versed in statute has to weigh in.

    First off, the Planning Board’s role at the time was to review the then revised developer submitted redevelopment site plan. But any any amendments to that Plan then were still the Council’s prerogative as the Redevelopment Authority.

    Second, the first draft of that “hurry up and pass an approval” Council resolution then (from community pressure to get a supermarket) did wrongly have a direct instruction to approve the developer’s then submitted site plan – likely over-stepping it’s authority. However, I believe 1st ward rep and attorney Bill Hurlock caught this and made an 11th hour word edit before passage — losing the direct instruction for the Board to pass the site plan before the Planning Board — and instead softening it to just hurry up and “move it”.

    Nonetheless, as I said – point taken for optics. Regardless, I believe the legal relationship of the Council to the Planning Board is still different than the separation of the Council or Mayor to the BOE — where their only input operationally is to approve a BOE budget through the Board of School Estimate. And even then, the State Education Commissioner can over-rule the Council majority on the BOSE if I’m not mistaken, should they refuse to pass a budget it with their 3-2 majority — should the Board and school Superintendent appeal.

    But back to the Council to Planning Board relationship. Two Councilors sit on the Planning Board by statute — one voted on by the entire Council and the Mayor, or his personal appointed stead. In this case, me serving on behalf of Mayor Jackson. Everyone else there is a Council appointee with staggered terms. Many times in the past, if a Councilor or Mayor was voting on something both at the Planning Board level AND then after at the Council — they abstained first at the PB.

    However, interestingly here our legal eagles forgot to advise Councilor Schlager that the “resolution” saying get to it, hurry up and pass the existing Lackawanna Plan — was so close to a directive to the Board passing the site plan review — that this could cause problems down the road and she should have abstained from voting at the Council level. That misstep was on the township attorney who should have known better. Councilor Schlager in not an attorney.

    Regardless, in this case the Planning Board didn’even t listen to the Council at all. In fact, the Board came back with 19 reasons detailing why the Board would not pass the site plan as is then, telling the Council to “forget-about-it” — a good checks and balance display of independence. Which I believe Councilor Schlager also voted to support if I’m not mistaken. Can’t swear on that one. But ultimately it seems, this PB push back caused the developer and Council to get out of the the redevelopment route and just go for a standard zoning approval.

    And although I submitted the not approve motion on the final site plan — which others on the Board then approved by majority — I will say that at the end of the day — the Board’s refusal to approve the earlier plan drafts did result in a much better result — be it still what I felt was insufficient for the public good.

  11. Martin,

    Both the release of 19 reasons why and 19th Nervous Breakdown predated the Mar 2018-Feb 2019 Planning Board hearings on Lackawanna Plaza. Hence, immaterial to the litigation issues.

    But, now that you brought it up…

    The whole, entire 9 member PB voted unanimously on the 19 Reasons Not To Love The Council’s Redevelopment Plan draft (there was no Site Plan) in May/June 2017. A key PB pushback was preserving the train station. We all know how that turned out.

  12. Frank – it seems your procedural memory on this is better than mine without paperwork in front of me (too many viewed applications and filings). However, I believe the 19 PB reasons in opposition then was also tied into a proposed bulk volume visual draft which not only reflected Redevelopment Plan parameters what the developer could build, but there was at least some visual massing showing then — if not a proposed site visualization at the time — even if not formally filed.

    Regardless, the Planning Board said “no” to that and yes, a key pushback was because the Redevelopment Plan then did not preserve the train station. As it could have AND still provided a supermarket. This was one of the key reasons why I did not support that final site plan application — as I lamented publicly during the final vote.

  13. And if one believes in karma, is against over-development, is under 40 years old, and in good health… then there are some bright spots. 37 Orange Rd, MAM, & 65 Church St to name three.
    (I readily admit I don’t understand the United Way Bldg renovation)

Comments are closed.