MontClairVoyant: Montclair Election Mailer Barrage Loomed Large

Early election returns showed Sean Spiller leading Dr. Renee Baskerville for mayor, and three other incumbents on Spiller’s slate winning Township Council seats. Final results tomorrow, May 15?

Tally & Doom

I think so. All mail ballots had to be postmarked by May 12 but are being counted until today, May 14 — meaning May 13 was Election Limbo Fest, a holiday marked by exchanging gifts and dipping Spiller campaign fliers in honey mustard sauce.

Glad you found a good use for that over-the-top barrage of mailers. Was it fair that Councilman Spiller and his slate had a huge monetary advantage over Councilwoman Baskerville and her slate?

Expending of Expenditures

Not fair, and VERY annoying. Sadly, “money talks” — which explains the conversation in my wallet between George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. Turns out George has seen Hamilton but not “Hamilton.” Go figure.

One reason why the incumbent-heavy results were disappointing?

Victor V. Victor

The current Council did some good things but supported (or weakly opposed) rampant overbuilding and gentrification that’s hurting Montclair’s economic and racial diversity. Rich developers are now doing an election “happy dance” — which looks quite foolish on TikTok.

Thoughts about the decisive, compassionate, very-much-outspent Dr. Baskerville, who you endorsed?

The Winner in Many Hearts

She’s been SO responsive to residents over the years, and has appeared almost everywhere in Montclair: 4th Ward, 3rd Ward, 2nd Ward, 1st Ward, 0th Ward, -1st Ward, -2nd Ward… Yes, even alternate universes appreciated her attention.

It certainly didn’t help Dr. Baskerville that she couldn’t meet many residents face-to-face during the campaign. But unofficial results indicate wins for two of her slate members: Peter Yacobellis (at-large) and David Cummings (unopposed for 4th Ward).

Pandemic Alchemic

Some consolation, even as rich developers have sum consolation.

What about the new schools superintendent announced on May 6?

Moonachie to Montclair

Dr. Jonathan Ponds seems impressive, but time will tell. I’m glad he got a five-year contract, because our school district needs superintendent stability. There’ve been so many in that post during the past eight tumultuous years that my phone calculator displayed a white flag icon.

Does the length of the contract Dr. Ponds received from the Board of Education have a Starship Enterprise vibe?

Dream Me Up

“His five-year-mission: to explore strange new boards. To bleep out new strife and new polarization. To boldly go where everyone has gone before.” (Of course, “where” being the BOE’s George Inness Annex meeting site.)

You mentioned earlier that Dr. Baskerville has appeared all over town. A bit reminiscent of how local couple Steven Seighman and Laura Carney are running every Montclair street to raise money for the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary?

Anna Mulz

Yes, and a wonderful effort it is! My cat, who I walk outside on a leash, wants to take a photo of that couple running down our block as soon as he figures out how to use the iPhone 9Lives.

Meanwhile, a number of Montclair residents this month joined other runners nationwide to honor Ahmaud Arbery, the African-American man chased by white racists and fatally shot for no reason while jogging in Georgia. Comment?

Sol A. Darity

The amount of racism in the U.S. is appalling and infuriating. I will of course refrain from attempting any humor here, but if you’re looking for a joke, watch any Trump press conference.


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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  1. Dave,

    A well-known developer who was against the rent control ordinance – due to the State of Emergency circumstances – has submitted an interesting application to the Zoning Board.

    It is for 3A North Willow, but includes the former Elevation Burger building, 7 N Willow’s parking lot. (FYI 7 N Willow was until recently the home of Mtc Ctr’s BID offices) and most importantly…a public, interior lot, pedestrian alleyway that connects North Willow to Lackawanna Plaza.

    Seems the developer went ahead and already made some changes since 363-367 Bloomfield was reviewed/approved in 2009. 3 guesses what they changed. Yes, more parking, less pubic access.

    At this point, I have to give a shout out to Bike/(No Walk) Montclair and their season ticket boxes on the sidelines watching others advancing the pedestrian experience here in town. I got to get me one of this bumper stickers just for the humor.

    Anyway, this is yet another 3rd Ward development so it is hard to care about the other stuff going on here. Let’s hope the Planning Dept pulls all the relevant reviews/approvals and shares it with the Zoning Board members.

    My favorite anecdote is when this developer decided to replace a historic exterior brick wall back in 2008 without permission. Called it a misunderstanding. I’m sure the Zoning Board hasn’t forgotten their recent experience w/ this developer on unapproved changes to his hotel/office property on Claremont.

    Anyway, the funny part is this developer now wants to paint a “ghost sign” on the new veneer brick wall for some false historicism! Ghost signs replicate aged wall signs, often painted on common brick. Also, they are not permitted signs in Montclair and need a variance approved.

    Why preserve our history when we can just put in new imitations of what was never there?
    And this new Council, who will make all the land use board appointments, is not shaping up as being a HP friendly bunch.

  2. Thank you, Frank!

    Re your first paragraph, I think a number of people who got the rent-regulation ordinance delayed used “the Township Council shouldn’t have voted during the pandemic” as a convenient excuse when they would’ve opposed the ordinance at any time.

    The developer I’m pretty sure you’re talking about contributed to the mayoral campaign of Sean Spiller. 🙁 Must have sensed who would be more friendly to his business…

    To address the gist of your serious/at-times-droll comment, the developer in question has an “interesting” past and present when it comes to building in this town. And, yes, faux historicism such as a “ghost sign” is no surprise. There’s often money to be made by getting rid of real historicism, while the conscience is allegedly salved with the false stuff. Most residents see through that kind of doesn’t-improve-the-town swap.

  3. Para. 1: Yes. Although, the Council’s actions were really slimey.
    Para. 2: Your confidence in your choice is well placed.
    Para. 3: More my amusement over the circumstances of the historic aspects and the approvals vs actual. I am now further amused by your faith in residents caring. Do you think Bike/(No Walk) Montclair cares?

    But, I am serious about the encroachment into the public right of way. This involves our Council to literally give away taxpayer’s assets. Just give it away! And then you have this guy Peter getting elected who supports the Complete Streets program where we have to make choices how to divvy up existing public right of ways. But, let’s give some space away.

    This Council, or the new one starting July 1, will authorize the right of way easement to take away a much touted, public pedestrian amenity. Grabowski wanted to do it for the Hampton House. Stolar did it for the Orange Road Magical Parking Deck. And now the Magical 7 North Willow Parking Lot! Step right up boys and submit your requests.

  4. Thank you for the follow-up comment, Frank. Well, whatever developers want developers get (pretty much). And given the (unofficial) election results that include four incumbents winning, there are obviously a good number of voters satisfied with the whatever-developers-want-developers-get status quo — a status quo that will probably remain status quo-y.

  5. This certain developer donated a couple thousand to Spiller’s campaign. He’ll get help in the future. That amount pales in comparison to the donations from the NJEA, but you conveniently seem to forget that part of the big money here – it’s about $30K. Sorta hard to rail at the charter school money people when there are no charters or plans for them here and the money you complain about came primarily from the source you support. Hypocrisy much?

  6. Thank you for the comment, Jon.

    That developer’s donation to Sean Spiller is also troubling to me, because I dislike overbuilding, upscale fixation, and gentrification.

    The teacher-union money is more complicated for me. I’m a big admirer of public-school teachers and a supporter of teacher unions. What bothers me the most is the AMOUNT teacher unions donated to Spiller — giving him a big funding edge over Dr. Baskerville, who is also a strong supporter of public education and who, as you know, I endorsed for mayor.

    That said, I’ll be discussing the teacher-union funding in part of my May 21 column, which I wrote some of earlier today. Late on that, I know, but it’s not like I wanted Spiller to win. I not only endorsed Dr. Baskerville, but praised her in several columns.

  7. I’m still trying to figure out how Montclair Local made 2,500 Montclair registered voters disappear in 60 days. M-L reported Thursday the registered voter count was down to 30,100 from March 9th when they reported 32,600. No explanation. FWIW, I said back in March the 2,500 didn’t exist. Guess I was right.

  8. Well, aside from the audit of the pretty hefty downward revision to the 4th Ward vote count and the 3rd Ward vote count bordering on something put out from the Trump administration, I think we’re good.

  9. Funnily said, lacamina. 🙂 As long as the Council Chambers doesn’t get moved to Clary Anderson Arena…

  10. Well, a very good thing the Council tmrw nite is passing a $1.5MM improvement bond for the skating rink.

  11. I have never seen a socially distanced hockey game. I’m not clear if the NHL cancelled their 2020 season. I’m not clear how public sessions will maintain social distance on & off the ice. And the 2nd wave of COVID 19 is due Dec 1. I’m sure we’ll figure it out by then, so it makes sense to go ahead with the improvements. Recreation like this is a high priority in suburbia.

  12. Yes, Frank, hard to have a socially distanced hockey game. And Clary Anderson’s public skating sessions can definitely get crowded. I guess whatever work might be done at the arena would be for a time (post-vaccine?) when social distancing would hopefully not be as much of an issue.

  13. I know the rink can use some work. It is also a peripheral public asset. It is a use in an indoor, climate controlled facility and its peak season parallels the flu season.

    Is Montclair really that flush to use our debt program for this rather than, maybe wait a few months, see how the bigger financial needs picture shakes out.

    Is this how we want to use $1.5MM now?

  14. I hear you, Frank. The pandemic has made/will make things very uncertain financially, and there are higher priorities than improving Clary Anderson. (I say this even though my younger daughter loved going to that arena before the pandemic happened.)

  15. Dave,
    I was a hockey defenseman way back in another century and the attacking forwards had no problem socially distancing themselves around me (when I played) and scoring at will. Resuming hockey is still doable even with good players. 1) Legalize (sticks) slashing to replace body checking 2) holding infractions became game misconducts requiring the player go to Mountainside Hospital, 3) eliminate the goalies and 4) convert the eye shields to full facial shields.

  16. Hockey for pandemic times!

    It would also help social distancing if they enlarged the rink to the size of the Sahara Desert. (Admittedly not the best place to keep ice frozen.)

    Great that you played the sport!

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