MontClairVoyant: COVID and Cuomo and Coming Construction

Mountainside Medical Center began offering COVID vaccinations to Montclair teachers three days after a March 12 press conference announcing that would happen. Great news?

Go Tell It on the Mountainside

Yes! The greatest March 12 news since 538 AD, when “Vitiges, king of the Ostrogoths, ends his siege of Rome and retreats to Ravenna, leaving the city in the hands of the victorious Byzantine general, Belisarius.” Thanks, Wikipedia!

Nice to see cooperation among various local entities after the Montclair School District wrongly sued the Montclair Education Association for not wanting to start hybrid instruction until things were safer?

Ride the Peace Train

Yes again! Anger changed, clocks changed, the season is about to change. And with (socially distant) circle time possible when/if our elementary schools reopen April 12, remember that Phil Ochs sang about “the circle time parade of changes.”

Andrew Cuomo’s public reputation changed big time because of the New York governor’s nursing-home scandal and the multiple sexual-harassment allegations against him. Your reaction to Montclair councilor-at-large Peter Yacobellis calling for the resignation of Cuomo, for whom he used to work?

Big Fall in the Winter

Cuomo SHOULD resign; if not, that centrist Democrat should be impeached. Possible criminal charges, too. As for Yacobellis speaking out, I’ll discuss that in my next answer and hope Cuomo doesn’t do anything else vile in the meantime.


Trevor on Tremont

I’m glad the councilor spoke out; it took courage — though there was tardiness in his going public given that Yacobellis reportedly had some misgivings about Cuomo’s behavior during his 2011-14 stint in that administration. But better late than never to sever from the man at New York’s power lever, Trevor.

Those rhymes aren’t clever. What about Yacobellis’ performance as councilor since his election last year?

Opine Street

He works VERY hard, constantly keeps residents posted on news and crises, and seeks solutions. I haven’t seen anything like it from an elected Montclair official, other than former 4th Ward councilor Renee Baskerville, since I moved here in 1993 — when the aforementioned 6th-century Ostrogoth king Vitiges retired to the Florida condo where he remains in 2021.

The ever-busy Dr. Baskerville was praised by her 4th Ward successor David Cummings in his recent online meeting about Lackawanna Plaza’s future, and she is advising the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence’s important new campaign to increase COVID vaccine awareness among people of color. Impressive?

MFEE Helping Spree

It is! As for Vitiges, he’s in amazing shape for someone over 1,500 years old — though he reduced his golf outings from 18 to 17 holes.

Getting back to Lackawanna Plaza, you wrote last week that new owner David Placek’s vision for the historic property was much better than the previous developer’s plan. Care to repeat what you said?

DP and LP

I said Placek apparently wants to bring a good supermarket there, keep the site’s vintage elements, leave some open space, and build a certain amount of affordable housing. Will all that happen after we’ve been repeatedly disappointed by other developers? “Time will tell” — three words I purchased at Tired Phrases R Us.

Speaking of time, Montclair Mutual Aid recently marked its one-year anniversary — 12 months of helping to feed the hungry and doing many other supportive, compassionate things during COVID. What do you think of MMA?

Hymn to an Acronym

Mixed Martial Arts? Not a fan. But Montclair Mutual Aid is doing amazing work.

As I write this, we still haven’t heard when Montclair High and the three middle schools might reopen for hybrid instruction. Comment?

Sign of the Four

If any history teacher in Montclair decides to focus on the 6th century, Vitiges is willing to make a Zoom appearance from Delray Beach.



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,

    I have to love the 3 ft rule regardless of community spread. Remember when I said last Spring the CDC was a shell of its former self? Once again, the Oval Office is dictating what the science says. Or, in this case, the science can’t say 6′ is effective, therefore,…and this is truly the besets part of the new year,…we are going to use the same standard as the flu. The really great Democrats are now parroting Donald Trump on one of his worst days. And everyone e is falling into lockstep behind this.

    It is just like the common flu. Teachers, keep saying this to yourselves as you cross your workplace threshold.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Frank.

    The three-foot rule does sound too close, at least for the time being. But I think Democrats in general are responding to COVID more seriously and more scientifically than Republicans are, even if the Democratic response is imperfect.

    As for your reference to the safety of teachers, I think the April 12 reopening of Montclair’s elementary schools is a bit soon in terms of getting most teachers and school staffers vaccinated (including second shots and the subsequent period needed to achieve full immunity). Waiting until May would have made more sense to me.

  3. Dave, with respect, you’re not being fair to First Ward Councilor Bill Hurlock. Bill is in his third term in that position and works extremely hard for his ward and for the Township. He communicates regularly with his constituents through town hall meetings and otherwise, and he works through disagreements with his colleagues to solve problems. You’re absolutely right that former Councilor Renee Baskerville also worked extremely hard and communicated regularly with her constituents, but she’s not the only one who did so. And if you look just at what Bill has delivered for his ward, it’s impossible to dispute his effectiveness. I’m biased, of course: Bill is my friend and we ran together in 2008. None of that, however, makes me wrong.

  4. Thank you for the comment, Jeff. You’re right that other current and past Council members, including Bill Hurlock, work/have worked hard, but I think Peter Yacobellis and Dr. Renee Baskerville have went above and beyond. I say this as someone who lives in Mr. Hurlock’s ward (after having lived in the 2nd Ward before that).

  5. Do we know how many teachers and staff are vaccinated? Will we by April 12th? How many positives have we had in the buildings, how many quarantined? Other districts around the country have daily totals updated at least 5 times / week. Montclair.. nada. So Dave, there is no way we can know if April opening is safe or not for teachers, staff and students.

    As for 3′ between desks as per the CDC, that is in an ideal situation. Full ventilation improvements, which I’ve seen done with federal grant money, and masks worn every second while indoors, handwashing sinks that work and various other strict conditions. Montclair has all that and will abide by that? Don’t make me laugh. Maybe the district can sue again to make sure we can’t learn what is actually going on, scream HIPAA that always works.

    At this point it’s going to happen so let FAIL ( I love that name, so apropos) take either responsibility or credit depending how many cases or not we have. I only hope the rug is not pulled out from these young learners if cases in the school spike and it has to close again. That would be more devastating than most other scenarios. (notice the spelling is correct)

  6. Thank you for the comment, louielouie.

    The April 12 elementary school reopening date does seem early in terms of having most teachers and staff vaccinated and reaching “full” immunity. Unfortunately, that was the school district-MEA agreement or compromise or agreement under pressure or whatever one calls it. As I said earlier in this comments area, the month of May would have been a more logical reopening time. Heck, waiting until September would be less risky given that there would be many more vaccinations by then (I’m saying that as the parent of a Montclair middle-schooler who very much misses being in-classroom).

    And, yes, enough social-distancing, 100% mask-wearing, everyone washing their hands enough, and adequate ventilation are hardly guarantees.

    If schools had to close again after reopening, that would indeed be demoralizing for students and others.

  7. As I drive around Montclair, I see restaurants gradually filling (indoors). I hear the Governor increasing capacity for gatherings (indoors). I see the playing fields crowding with youth sports teams (outdoors, at least). I see no sign of daily cases decreasing from 4000-5000. I hear ominous reports of new variants coming out of NYC, where the once-esteemed Governor seems to understand that he has no political capital remaining in order to tell people what they don’t want to hear about community spread. It’s a sad commentary on our collective willingness to prioritize.
    Better to blame it on the evil MEA.

  8. Thank you for the comment, Montclair Public.

    Yes, COVID isn’t over yet. 🙁

    And it’s been dismaying to see the flak the MEA has received from some quarters given that it has been trying to protect the safety of its members and our students. MEA members are our beloved teachers and beloved school staffers; they don’t deserve to be vilified.

  9. Don’t feel bad for the MEA. It’s really teachers unions around the country being criticized for their wimpy, disingenuous dereliction of duty under the guise of protecting students and community. Teachers are worried first and foremost about their own safety and they just happen to have strong unions to protect them. They’re last responders, after store clerks, cashiers and other trades that lack a powerful union. Except for the dead and hospitalized, no class will lose more from COVID than kids deprived a year of in room instruction. And like I said, I don’t have kids I school. I’ve just seen the research on costs to kids of missing school and on marginal risk to teachers. Costs >> risk to teachers.

  10. Thank you for the comment, lacamina.

    Teachers still work very hard when they teach remotely. Perhaps harder than when they teach in person. I’ve seen it when passing my middle-schooler’s room, and in the many emails from teachers during the past year. So, not a “dereliction of duty.”

    There’s no certainty that schools have been safe; that’s why it makes sense to wait until most teachers and staff are vaccinated. Perhaps schools are safer than supermarkets and so on, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely safe. It’s a shame that cashiers and other front-line workers have been risking their health, but most of those kinds of jobs can’t be done remotely. I wish they’d at least get decent raises from supermarket chains, Amazon, and other companies with much-increased profits during the pandemic.

    Yes, remote learning is far from ideal for many students. But better than teachers and school staff risking their health, and students possibly transmitting COVID to their parents when they come home from school.

  11. Lacamina so well said! And no kids in school. Me either; just clear objective observation of this national crisis affecting kids.

  12. Dave no one says teachers don’t work hard doing remote instruction. That’s not the point! Its the fact that remote learning is not serving the kids. Teachers are first and foremost a service profession and have a duty to do what’s best for those they are supposed to be “serving”.
    Like Lacamina said: “Teachers are worried first and foremost about their own safety and they just happen to have strong unions to protect them. They’re last responders”. That is the negative perception that the teachers unions are creating for their members across this country and why the parents have become so vocal.
    The science has shown they have less risk in their in-person work environments than do other service workers and yet are unwilling to assume any risk at all, as others have been doing all along. That’s all. Tone deaf??
    Mitigation measures in place? Of course that’s needed to help protect (and again how many times does it need to be said here? — Others are doing it successfully around the country!)

  13. I was never great in math.

    The State of Florida was so just sayin’, “look at us”. Our death rate was only 151/100K and our economy is booming. Compelling. OK, that is about the same national death rate that got us to 500,000 victims. But, we’re making money and are kids are in school.

    Not fair? Let’s look at local numbers.. OK, let’s do Montclair. Anyone her actually know the numbers? Anyone want to guess at our numbers? Because, our daily case rate this month is above 30 per 100,000. Anyone want to guess what a good yardstick should be?

    Our rate, if on a national level, translates into 99,00 new American cases a day. That seems fine, right? It’s under a 100K! Yes, more than fine.

    When you hear the messaging that “The race between vaccinations and virus spread is a dead heat right now”, be concerned. Injections are always linear, virus spread is not. And you when you find it it has gone exponential? In hindsight.

  14. Thank you for the comment, sickntired.

    You said “remote learning is not serving the kids.” It IS serving the kids, albeit not as well as in-classroom learning for most students. Remote learning has been an unfortunate necessity.

    Some people have a negative perception of teacher unions; many others have a positive perception of those unions — in significant part because they have a positive perception of teachers. I’m guessing that many people currently criticizing the MEA also weren’t supporters of the MEA (and perhaps unions in general) pre-pandemic.

    “…the parents have become so vocal” — SOME parents. Many parents understand the safety reasons why schools haven’t reopened yet in Montclair.

    Finally, as I’ve said before, vaccinations of teachers and school staff are happening and are SO close to being widespread. Why rush to reopen just weeks before that happens?

  15. Excellent points, Frank. COVID is not over, and Florida has been a dumpster fire in terms of its COVID response — during the past year and now. I wouldn’t want New Jersey in general, or Montclair in particular, to emulate “The Sunshine State.”

  16. What do you think will be the Opt-In rate for batch-testing classrooms? Do you think FAIL parents will Opt-In testing their kids? (Frank, what a great question)
    If a classroom tests positive, do you put the kids back on the bus? If you tested them on Friday and get the results on Monday, and they have siblings in other classes, what do you do?
    Yes, the CDC guidelines for close contact. Yes, they updated these to remain as they were before we went to 3′ distancing. Oh, and a personal favorite was the CDC caution about cumulative exposures over a 24 hour period and if they add up to over 15 minutes. OK, ignore that one. But, what about contact tracing? Tom Hanks said there is no contact tracing in baseball!

    OK, I’ve added that to my to-do list.

  17. Dave, Florida has better numbers than NJ and didn’t close down. I have friends and family that live there and they are quite healthy physically and mentally. Florida has an older population and an unchecked stream of visitors looking for some normalcy even if temporary yet we wouldn’t want to be like them. Why? Whatever happened to the good old days when the government wasn’t to be trusted? Where were the lockdowns in ’58 and ’68?

  18. Good questions, Frank. Questions that might not have to be asked in as worried a way if we wait a little while longer for most teachers and staff to be vaccinated before schools reopen.

    Nice Tom Hanks/”A League of Their Own” reference!

  19. Thank you for the comment, flipside.

    There may have been times when Florida had better COVID numbers than New Jersey, but there have also been times when NJ had better numbers than Florida. Also, it’s worth remembering that NJ is more densely populated, and that the northeast part of the state is close to NYC — two factors that increase COVID cases. BTW, I also have many family members and friends in Florida.

    As for the stream of visitors, Florida certainly had second thoughts about the recent Spring Break crowds. (After making lots of money off those visitors’ airport fees, hotel fees, restaurant and bar spending, etc.)

  20. flipside,

    Florida is averaging 4K-5K new cases a day before ‘Spring Break’ peaked. Aside from New Jersey in 1st – with less than half the population – 2nd place with double the GDP is great.

    I am certain COIVD-19 will treat your Floridian friends & family with a level of respect commensurate to their GDP prowess. Regrettably, I understand New Hampshire has sued Florida for absconding with their Live Free or Die” motto. The producers of Live Free or Die Hard” are on deck with a trademark infringement suit. I hope your friends & family are not relying on ivermectin to protect them until they get vaccinated.

    Time is definitely on their side, yes it is.

  21. Florida is not NJ, thankfully. They have a very different climate where windows can be open, outside dining and socializing is comfortable and a governor that that manipulates (at best) numbers, by some reports, excluding anyone under the age of 15 which includes some 50,000 students who have contracted the virus. So I would not hold up Florida as the poster child for reopening anything until we can get actual, valid numbers. He has said they are 34th lowest on new cases but if you count all those under 18 they are actually 9th. I guess he’s running for higher office, or aspires to, so he needs to look good with “the base”. Fool me once I won’t get fooled again.

    Anyway, the experiment of Dr. Ponds and MBOE is about to take place and we’ll see where the chips fall. I’m hoping I’m wrong and everything will be fine. It looks like SOM will follow as well according to today’s NYT article.

  22. Let’s root against Florida! God forbid things work out for them while NJ has been miserable. I wonder what their numbers would have been like if people hadn’t been flocking there to have dinner and drink. My friends and family received their vaccinations well over a month ago. It was a little delayed because early on out of staters were flying in to get vaccinated. So maybe they have been a little reckless and should have banned all travel in and out.
    Businesses have been thriving, kids have been in classrooms, my uncle golfs pretty much everyday, and my brother’s house appreciated 50% in the last year. What a bunch of maroons!
    People wear masks but other than that Covid has been pretty much a non-event. Understanding the difference between correlation and causation goes a long way. Something Fauci and the left never mention…wonder why???

  23. flipside, some Floridians might be doing well but some aren’t. I think you’re idealizing the situation there in an anecdotal way.

    I know Florida well (my late mother lived there from 1992 to 2018 and I traveled there maybe 20 times during those years). I like the state in some ways, but it also has its issues — COVID and otherwise.

  24. I’m confused. Didn’t Tampa Bay host the Super Bowl? There was no COVID spike in the dozen or so counties around Kansas City, so their fans didn’t bring a lot of COVID. They had had less cases than Florida. And a small fraction of metro NY people were flying to Florida. I know that because we had to bail out the airlines with billions. And COVID was a non-event in Florida. So just how did 33,000 Floridians supposedly die from it? Maybe they didn’t die of it. Maybe they died of something else. OK, maybe medical malpractice? That could explain it. There are a lot of old people there. And Florida, IMO, doesn’t have a particularly highly regarded health care system. When was the last time you heard of someone flying to Florida for medical care. People fly to Cleveland. People fly to Minnesota. People fly to Baltimore. Some even fly to Boston. Nobody goes to NY anymore – it’s too crowded.

  25. Dave, How is NJ doing? Anecdotally and data wise pretty bad. So many people here seem miserable, many businesses have gone under and many more are struggling. Without a ridiculous amount of money printing the country would have turned into a powder keg. That money will be paid back in higher taxes for the rich and middle class and 10 dollar loaves of bread for the poor. We will turn the corner in time but some of the damage will take a generation to repair. This country was built on rugged individualism. It will be interesting to see how we do as a country of sheep.

  26. “How is NJ doing?” Could be better, flipside, but there would have been many more COVID cases if it weren’t for the lockdowns and much of the population wearing masks and social-distancing — something blue-state citizens have tended to do in higher numbers than red-state citizens have.

    As for high federal relief spending — it’s necessary. I’d rather federal money be spent on COVID-related relief than have the budget busted by tax cuts mostly for the rich a la Trump in 2017.

  27. Took the words out of my post Dave. It’s so typical of republicans to bemoan the deficit when they are not in power. Hair on fire.. higher taxes, our children will pay for this, we need to balance the budget now that we gave the billionaires hundreds of billions more with our unfunded 1.9T tax cut. Frankly, I’m tired of this nonsense and so is Biden and the democrats. We needed the money in the economy and now we have it. Plus over 130B for schools. Oh the deficit.. where is my fainting couch?

    A country of sheep following the lead of a misogynistic, vulgar, narcissistic individual. Sheep following a contingent of partisan politicians that can’t see that we need gun control and voting rights. Who are the sheep now, I seem to have forgotten? Yes, that part of the post I agree with, let’s see how we do as a country if we can’t get those sheep to break away from the pied pipers that are beholden to money and power. But Kamala doesn’t salute the honor guard.. oh heavens to Betsy. She’s not supposed to, she’s not in the chain of command. Oh but the deficit… we can’t have that. Baaaa

  28. Louie, So how much of the 1.9 is going to fight covid? Another 3 trillion on the way. BTW, why do you assume I’m a republican? Deficits are sometimes necessary but the amount of spending coming our way will be painful. Have you noticed the cost of a bag of groceries lately? That is the tip of the iceberg. Oh yea, 130b for schools…what is that going to do? I will give you hint. Very little but most likely absolutely nothing.
    As long as you are inflation proof no worries…screw the rest of the population.
    On another note, I am an Independent. What I would like to see is both parties be scrutinized. Unfortunately that is not the case. People still can’t get their heads around Cuomo being less than a savior.
    The world is full of unintended consequences, keep your head on swivel. Look both ways. The left isn’t beholden to money and power? Come on, man!!

  29. Thank you, louielouie! SO true; your strong and wry comment nailed it. Republicans are deficit hawks when the Democrats are in power and hugely increase the deficit when they (Republicans) are in power. Happened with Bush after Clinton, and with Trump after Obama. Obviously, the GOP has no problem with deficits if the rich get not-needed tax cuts. If deficits help the middle class or poor…horrors! 🙄

    And, yes, if the sheep metaphor is going to be used, what can we say about people who still enthusiastically follow Trump after he falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen, after he incited a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol building, after he lied more than 30,000 times as president, after he was credibly accused of sexual misconduct by more than 20 women, after all the Trump racism, after he never revealed his taxes, etc., etc. I realize some people hate liberals, but they really need a better standard-bearer than Trump.

  30. “People still can’t get their heads around Cuomo being less than a savior” — flipside, you might want to reread my column above this comments area. Cuomo’s no savior, and he needs to go. What he did with the nursing home scandal and sexual misconduct is contemptible. Many New York Democrats agree. How many Republicans publicly slammed Trump for his behavior? Many fewer.

  31. Dave, Your TDS is showing again. How come when anyone disagrees with you or any leftist agenda you assume they are a Trump follower? Trump has absolutely nothing to do with my opinions. Did he have some good policies? Yes! As much as people hate him on a personal level he did some good things while in office. His personal life was mess and his demeanor was unpresidential but at least his alleged transgressions were when he was a private citizen. Cue the cigar jokes. When you distance yourself from your feelings about our representatives from either party you find their actions are very different than their words…and their assumed ideology. MLK was right, there is only Green Power. Both sides of the aisle prove it.

  32. flipside, I plead guilty to TDS — not “Trump Derangement Syndrome” but “Trump: Democracy’s Saboteur.” 🙂

    And, again, I criticize Democrats, too, as I did with Cuomo in the above column.

  33. I’ll only agree it was a swamp that swept Trump into office and it was just as much a swamp after he left. People who think it is wore would be… myopic.

    I was hysterically laughing at the hearings today with the tech giants. The audacity of Congress to basically blame anyone for anything these days is better than Carlin’s 7 Words You Can’t Say On TV and Richard Pryor at his finest. I think the Big 3 should get a throttling by its customer base. There is no way in this world that Congress has any credentials to do it, even as our surrogates. I was simply amazed. Now I am going to watch CNN & MSNBC perpetuate the stupidity. FYI, I enjoy MSNBC.

  34. Frank, even swampier during the presidential time of Trump. His “drain the swamp” promise would’ve brought a blush to the faces of Orwell’s double-speaking rulers in “1984.”

  35. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck I think you can safely assume .. well you know the rest. If you parrot republican talking points you can call yourself anything you like but the truth is it’s probably a duck. To wit, deficit spending and the good things that Trump did while in office. Like what? Rollback of the EPA, tossing paper towels at Puerto Rico, open arctic drilling, inciting a riot, demeaning women in the press corps, denigrating Asians.. and those are only some of the “good” things he did in office. Do I hate him personally? How many have died due to his policies and Covid lies? There’s your answer.

    As for the money.. a lot is already going to schools for ventilation, building upgrades, Covid vaccinations but you need to apply for it. How much will Montclair get? Let’s ask the lawyers that the BOE hires to take the union to court. BTW, there is a huge spike in cases in NJ so this opening in April should be interesting. You can’t be blaming the cost of groceries on the Covid relief bill right? And another 3T in infrastructure is a drop in the bucket. Have you ever been on a high speed rail in Europe? We are so far behind in infrastructure spending that it’s embarrassing. Trump promised a 1T bill as well as the best health care in the world. Two weeks, next week, tomorrow. Two more great things he did. If we want to recoup some of the deficit then roll back the tax cut on billionaires. There’s your 1T right off the bat.

    If a true independent can look at these things and agree with them I say quack.

  36. Dave, A little late to the party with your Cuomo criticism. Nothing like kicking a corpse. How about turning a critical eye to the rest of the crew that tell you what you want to hear. See who they are really working for…hint, it is not the middle class and the small business owners.

  37. Excellent comment, louielouie! I can’t think of anything to add, except: I’m also hard-pressed to come up with anything positive Trump did. Maybe leaving the White House on January 20? 🙂

  38. Louie, Do you work for MSNBC? A fact can be a Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, or an Independent talking point. I know medium sized business owners who we able to expand their businesses 30 to 40% because of Trump’s renegotiating trade policies. The money didn’t just go into their pockets. They hired more well paid employees. The Middle East peace deal was a big thing, funding Black Colleges, there is a pretty long list of positives. Sure his presentation was harsh but it’s not like people were nice to him…NO excuse.
    As far as Covid…we still don’t know enough about it. The CDC and Fauci have changed their tune so many times no one can keep track. Trump shut down travel from China while Fauci, Pelosi, D’Blasio etc were saying there’s no problem. When you start pointing fingers be careful, there is plenty of blame to go around. A vaccine was developed in record time and a good Jersey boy was put in charge of its distribution. Smart move …
    Not everything either party does is all good or all bad. The problem is people take that view. Now if you want to criticize the left I will point out the good things they do….flipside, get it?

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