MontClairVoyant: Reflections on Two Elections

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Dr. Renee Baskerville’s Superior Court challenge to last month’s super-close mayoral election apparently won’t be heard until after the new Township Council takes over July 1. Is there anything that can stop her opponent, Sean Spiller, from being seated until all is resolved?

Sincerely,
Closer Than Glenn Close

The mayoral chair could be removed from the Council Chambers podium, but a more creative solution would be to make the Municipal Building hard to find by shrinking it and then sewing it onto the Montclair-themed pillow sold at Jafajems.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Okayyyy. Anyway, isn’t it unfair that many voters mailed ballots in time that weren’t received in time, and that numerous ballots were discarded because of many more alleged signature mismatches than usual?

Sincerely,
Booing the Snafu-ing

Yup. On top of that, Councilman Spiller grossly outspent Councilwoman Baskerville on a local mayoral race — mailing so many campaign flyers that those flyers reconvened in Philadelphia and formed a redundant National Hockey League team.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Appropriate given that one of Spiller’s campaign ads showed him at a rink. Moving to the next election, what bothers you about New Jersey’s upcoming July 7 primary?

Sincerely,
Hotter Than July

Members of the Board of Chosen Freeholders (which includes Montclair representation) are running again after not trying to right a wrong. I’m talking about ICE, but not the sparkling beverage my daughter often drinks. “Put that bottle down or I’ll mention you in this column!”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
To quote an ’80s song by The Waitresses, “Can’t you get more specific”?

Sincerely,
New Wave, Not Gnu Wave

The Essex County executive made a morally wrong deal with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to lock up non-criminals in exchange for many millions of Trump-administration dollars, and most Freeholders haven’t opposed that despite much public dismay. Those Democrats may win an Oscar in the “Acting like Republicans” category.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
And those non-criminals are jailed at a time when prisoners sadly have a stronger risk of getting the coronavirus. In that same primary, will you vote by mail for Joe Biden for president?

Sincerely,
Oval Office Occupancy

Nope, Bernie Sanders. I know he can’t win the nomination, but he’s a perfect leader for this time. His fierce Medicare for All advocacy really resonates when millions have lost job-tied health insurance during the pandemic, he has a large following among the multicultural multitude of young people driving the current protests against racism and police violence, and Bernie himself was arrested at a civil-rights protest as a young man. Plus I like the cow on his state’s Vermont pillow.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Hmm…”Journey with Bernie” rather than “Ridin’ with Biden.” Getting back to the Township Council, many Montclair business owners felt the TC hadn’t helped them enough during the economically disastrous pandemic. What’s up with that?

Sincerely,
Rhea Taylor

The blood pressure of those Montclair business owners.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Yes, proprietors of restaurants and other trying-to-recover commercial establishments need more outdoor dining space, a continued easing of parking rules, etc. — as a number of those owners told the Council on June 9. What’s your takeaway from that online meeting?

Sincerely,
Al Fresco

My Montclair pillow doesn’t have wi-fi.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
A week later, a chastened Council responded by announcing some modest but welcome measures — including 15 minutes of free parking at meters (which helps when picking up takeout) and the waiving of sidewalk cafe permit fees. Sounds good?

Sincerely,
Better Late Than Clever

You’re being a bit nosy, but, yes, my car’s CD player sounds good.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
With restrictions on gatherings easing in Jersey, it was announced June 16 that there’ll be three in-person July 9 celebrations for Montclair High’s Class of 2020 at the Aubrey Lewis Sports Complex. Yay! How will students be divided at those outdoor events?

Sincerely,
It Was Segment to Be

Alphabetically. Students whose last names begin with a letter before A or after Z can attend a fourth celebration in an alternate universe.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Meanwhile, our town’s closed-since-March library began accepting returned materials on June 16, and plans to start curbside pickup this Monday, June 22. Your experience?

Sincerely,
No Elves on the Shelves

I’ve had some library books in my apartment for so long that one of the authors co-signed our lease renewal. Not sure how Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883) did that.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Can you text Turgenev and ask?

Sincerely,
Fathers and Sons

His initials are IT, so maybe he can also install wi-fi in my Montclair pillow. Then I can learn whether Dr. Baskerville wins her election challenge and, if not, immediately vent my frustration by punching the pillow.

 

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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29 COMMENTS

  1. Dave,

    Your reoccurring mention of pillows has me wondering about your subconscious.

    Anyway, yes, the various complaints phoned in were only interesting if you know some of the backstories. I know just a few…and mostly involving the BID hierachy.

    The Mayor was suggesting this, but showed considerable restraint in his public retort. The Watchung business owners didn’t seem to be on board. And I’m just counting my blessings that BMW (Bike Montclair, and oh yeah, Walk) didn’t call in and embarrass themselves.

    Anyway, the point I wanted to make was about the money being put into the Lorraine water well and Mr/s Culligan’s PFOA crusade using Tarryton 100’s technology. On the face of it, who doesn’t want to get rid of Teflon coated products?

    But, I keep coming back to $ and our Township’s desire to grow. The Lorraine well is a mediocre facility. It’s pumping capacity is currently 60% of optimal…and getting worse. It’s water hardness (& beating it hands out) compares to a Jackal’s Louisville Slugger. It should be mothballed like LaGuardia’s MD-80s.

    But, it isn’t. The 300K outlay doesn’t bother me. Yes, the disposal issue does, but that is a future generation impact. And yes, I’m surprised we didn’t apply to the NJ Water Bank for $. No, what bothers me is that we are developing public property and this marginal water capacity on paper to serve development. Clean Water Action (lives in Montclair) – anybody home?

    Anyway, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    Firmly behind firm capacity.

  2. Well, as Freud didn’t say, “Sometimes a pillow is just a pillow.” I’ve bought two geographical pillows as gifts from Jafajems over the years, so they were on my mind a bit. (Freud was not the mayor before Robert Jackson.)

    Interesting — I hadn’t thought of different Montclair business districts having different takes on what the town could do for them in terms of pandemic-time help.

    And thanks for your further thoughts on the Lorraine well. All the new development in Montclair is certainly affecting/will affect water supply and other infrastructure-related things.

  3. Yes it is, but I don’t well understand all the ins and outs.
    I read somewhere that if a town like Montclair has a negative firm capacity, we couldn’t add the large developments like 59 Church St.

    I guess every little well helps.

  4. If enough of Montclair High’s 2020 seniors go to “Wells-ley” College and bring back their knowledge…

    Seriously, Frank, one wonders how much strain there’ll be on water capacity once “the arts district” is done, the Lackawanna Plaza redo is done, MC Residences is done, the Grove/Walnut project is done, the apartment building on Park Street near Watchung Plaza is done, etc.

  5. At the risk of TMI, Montclair’s water concerns are 4-fold, listed from of least to most concerning: quality, capacity, pressure & infrastructure.

    Our 3 active wells are all along Toney’s Book (Second River). The 4th well, the reserve well is along the Nishuane Brook, another tributary of Second River.

    We have 5MM gal of storage capacity, but 50% needs to be replaced soon (a really expensive proposition) as it is an essential part of achieving the necessary water pressure.

    I will not criticize this Council for taking surpluses from our hefty utility rate increases to keep the property tax rate low. But, the deferred infrastructure bill will be coming due. The development of Lackawanna Plaza will probably be the tipping point.

  6. Thank you for that informative comment, Frank.

    When it comes to the future of Montclair’s infrastructure, it sounds like “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” Which, if one misinterprets the title of Bob Dylan’s song to be literal rather than figurative, would help fill some wells…

  7. Who to believe…. Mayor Jackson correctly says that its developers who pay for all new infrastructure connections so those who say too much help is being given to developers — including MontClairVoyant who keep alluding to these costs instead of the tax ratable profits from development — may be wrong.

    But here’s where it gets tricky. When is someone really going to do an economic analysis to determine — as Mr. Rubacky infers — that there are real costs when additional buildings and development get built themselves — it does require upgrades to water and other must do amenity infrastructures upgrades. I’m not talking about normal equipment upgrades or from issues to existing facilities..but new add ons — extra capacity issues directly linked to more development or more people now here?

    What economic/cost benefits dweebs — can do those calculations. So we know — it makes sense economically to allow this development or not? The town financial consultant? Is he really reliable? Remember when he reviewed the initial Lackawanna proposal to bring our entire government down there. Said it was the smartest thing fiscally we could do. Never panned out. Didn’t work economically was the long term word….

    How quickly things changed….

  8. Thank you for the comment, spotontarget. You make an excellent point about how trustworthy (or not) are the analyses of local development’s benefits vs. drawbacks.

    I’m not convinced developers are paying for all direct and indirect infrastructure costs created by the new projects. And, yes, some tax ratables from the development are coming in, but there are also more crowded schools (are developers paying for the costs of additional students?), some downgrades in quality of life (the skewing of Montclair’s population wealthier, more traffic, taller buildings blocking views, etc.). And now there’s the chance that the pandemic is having/will have a negative effect on businesses, what people can pay for rent, and so on — meaning we could be seeing some empty commercial space and apartments in the new buildings.

  9. It’s not tricky. We are essentially built-out which is not to be confused with capacity. It should be immaterial what infrastructure is in the ground or its condition. It is about future capacity. Future capacity begs the sustainability aspect for the random few who care. Then you 4-wall ALL the costs (expenses, capital, dest service, etc.) by source. So, for example, our all-in costs for the Lorraine well are stupid expensive. Fine, if you want to develop in that water pressure zone, then a development should be evaluated on that zone’s cost to the capacity analysis.

    The super density we are putting downtown just doesn’t recognize the true costs. I would have thought a few people might have figured it out when we had that massive flooding from a torrential rain spout that took out the MFF block. I guess not. Oh well. Might want to get some more flood insurance then.

    PS: Incoming Council – the Glen Ridge Fire Coverage contract. That was a horrible deal by the Fried administration (but 100% supported by the Jackson 2012 slate). Well, the contract renewal is coming due. Meanwhile, Glen Ridge can’t develop unless they find more water. Even if they wanted it, no town would merge with them. Maybe you can negotiate a better contract.

  10. “The super density we are putting downtown just doesn’t recognize the true costs” — the line of the week, Frank. Thank you.

  11. Glad you enjoyed it. Further food for thought is the “smallness” of the plans for Glenridge Avenue. A few people, notably Martin Schwartz, have felt the potential of a Church St/Glenridge Av corridor to be the pedestrian complement to the car-centric Bloomfield Ave.
    The Planning Board and Council changed the Master Plan and zoning in hopes it could be a Walnut Street-type space. Now, that vision is reduced to a block-long, 4′ widening of a sidewalk and a 324 space parking deck. That’s the corridor’s vision. Where is BikeMontclair? Hopefully, reimagining their purpose.

    I think it is becoming clear that dine-in restaurant business on major downtown arterials like Montclair’s Bloomfield Ave are not tenable and, often undesirable. Arterials are, and will be dominated by cars/trucks & buses. We can’t road diet the Avenue, nor should we. It is land use tomfoolery. We should be ‘reimagining’ key, secondary public right of ways and creating concentric rings, or spokes, around the car arterials. We won’t do that because we are committed to our vision, our Master Plan, and…we hate to admit we chose badly.

    The Mayor was so proud that to say this Council brought 800 new parking spaces to downtown by Fall of next year. He failed to mention the Council brought a 700 car parking demand increase with it. Just 100 spaces are “new” and not technically spoken for. Based on all the recent building applications and the higher use density, I figure about half will be spoken for. But the best part is we will have expanded Glenridge’s sidewalk 4′ so people can sit next to all these new cars going by. That’s the dining vision!

  12. I hear you, Frank. Glenridge Avenue already feels kind of claustrophobic; I just don’t see it having a Walnut Street feel in the future.

    And, yes, much of the getting-denser/more-overdeveloped downtown is not ideal for the kind of outdoor dining that restaurants need more of in a pandemic and post-pandemic world. Some nice nooks and crannies here and there (behind some restaurants, for instance), but not enough. Eating while cars, and additional cars, whiz by is not what I think of when I hear the words “bon appétit.”

  13. The downtown will never have a cozy vibe. It’s on a slope… it has the energy of a fast traffic moving ski slope. It needs comfortable outdoor level pockets, like Cuban Pete’s has created. South Park Street could have been a comfortable open plaza… a dining court…or a space for outdoor markets, concerts or cinema. Glenridge Avenue feels like climbing up and down a slope.

  14. It’s actually not any more claustrophobic than many other streets. It’s grade requires some different treatments than a South Park, for example. But, both are pedestrian/bike unfriendly.

    SPARK’s deficiency is irritating in that it was redesigned this way. But, look at Glenridge Av. streetscape. The Plan calls for everything to be in aligned along a straight-line. Every feature, trees/tree pits, laid brick buffers, etc. has a specific, repetitive location. It’s all one set, unimaginative design formula. Further, anyone with a small home knows basic tricks to make a space seem bigger and more interesting. Not us. We take a simple sidewalk and break it up into two strips of colors and different materials. Each defined segment is a rubber stamp of the previous segment. Very Leggo-like

    We are going to keep Glenridge a 1-way street. That’s good. We are going to shoehorn a new parking deck into 2 irregular lots. OK, we made lemonade from lemons. But, we also own the very wide, under utilized right of way in from of the deck. If we are keeping this street 1-way, maybe we could trespass a little on our own property to make a better design and uses? Nope.

    In total, it is an amazing space to update for the 21st century while retaining its historical character. Instead, we retain our car-centric design mindset.

    The parking deck is a few months away from groundbreaking. By law, it has to open by October 31, 2021. Nothing can be done. It’s a small vision.

  15. Thank you, frankgg. Great point about most of downtown not having a cozy vibe, and not designed to have a cozy vibe. I guess “energy” is indeed the operative word. But I think Valley & Bloom, The MC hotel, the coming “arts district,” the coming Lackawanna Plaza redo, etc., are tipping/will tip things from the operative word “energy” to the operative phrase “too urban for a suburb.”

  16. Frank, I realize Glenridge Avenue isn’t a super-dense street, but it does have a crowded feel. The intersection with Bloomfield Avenue, The Crosby with its valet-parking area narrowing the street, the bustling post office, the 1 Greenwood Avenue building with its various commercial establishments, ramp, and mini-parking deck… But, yes, the less car-centric the better for a street like that in the future. Doesn’t sound like that will be the case.

  17. Montclair’s Left Hand, I would like to introduce you to Montclair’s Right Hand:

    https://www.montclairnjusa.org/government/boards_and_commissions/planning_board/planning_board_to_consider_montclair_s_a_f_e_compl

    Page 30, Bike Montclair’s 2018 recommendation for this 1-way section of Glenridge Ave – their example of a street-type for the easiest bike lane implementation. The Township said ha! No way. We want to put in this really idiotic sidewalk extension.

    We do craziness and waste all this time and money because…we refuse to acknowledge our Master Plan’s Land Use & Circulation Element omits a worthwhile Circulation component. We didn’t deal with the vehicular traffic, we won’t deal with the bicyclists, and we are going to rewrite this Summer to adopt some orphaned clauses about pedestrians. We’ll put in some more upgraded traffic signals, numerous corner bump-outs, a few triple-wide crosswalks and a whole lot of Montclair-style street lamps. (Yes, there actually is a Montclair street lamp).

  18. Frank, thanks for the comment and the link to that download.

    Clearly, a comprehensive compromise would be to manufacture Montclair-style street lamps in the shape of bicycles…

    Joking aside, some planning in our town leaves much to be desired.

  19. Please don’t put joking aside! Reality, the alternative, sucks. Only humor and stupidity keeps me sane.

  20. Thank you, Frank! I know what you mean.

    Still, I’ll need to reorganize my jokes the evening of July 1. It’s an every-four-year thing… 🙂

  21. You’ll have to include some on the incoming Council’s record on historic preservation. It’s a little repetitive, but each Council likes to signal the development environment early with their position on a few high-profile, landmark applications. The tweaking of the historic former Chase Building at the corner of Bloomfield & N Fullerton is one.

    Yes, this the same 5-Corners (is it really only 5?) intersection that is Montclair’s highest profile public infrastructure project.

    Yes, it is a Key building in a historic district.

    Yes, it was was built at the same time as the Lackawanna Train Station.

    What is the application for? To apply a light bath using a thousand little LEDs. A light bath is not to be confused with architectural lighting. A light bath is when you just uniformly daylight a side of a building 24/7. In this case, 3 facades across two historic buildings.

    I think it is a shame Downtown Montclair’s lack of progress catching up to the bright lights, big city we try to emulate. But, in this case, we will have to accept 150+ holes in the limestone/and or granite face and partially cover the architectural detailing.

    Water infiltration is a bad thing for this building as the 2009 and 2010 engineering reports – submitted to the HPC back then – pointed out.

    Fortunately, all all this will be unrecognized by your average citizen who, as you recall, can not discern there remains a train station structure at Lackawanna Plaza.

    Anyway, a few jokes maybe on this subject please. The best joke though will be the owner’s plan to scrap, putty, & paint – and yes, paint – those massive, defining bronze windows. And then bath those painted bronze windows with LED lighting to show off what they did.

    If that is not a joke, I don’t know what is.

  22. Oh, and the plans call for replacing the historic glass. In for a penny, in for a pound.

    Maybe the Council could have their BID sponsor a historic sidewalk sale and and include this old glass.

  23. Yikes, Frank! That’s a lot of little lights. Thomas Edison can finally rest easy in neighboring West Orange…

  24. The new guard’s taste leans to the gaudy. I’m waiting for the BID to crisscross that part of Bloomfield Avenue with bistro lights 365 days/year.

  25. This is embarrassing for me and my apologies all around. This building is not a landmark building.

    Yes, it is part of the historic district and yes, technically it is called a contributing building. Contributing simply means it contributes visually to the district’s cohesiveness. This is a funny aside because a defining characteristic of the district is its eclectic mix.

    As such, my call-outs aren’t significant and that only leaves personal style preferences…which shouldn’t be regulated under the preservation ordinance.

    Sorry for wasting everyone’s time.