MontClairVoyant: Is Hybrid Worth It? We Retort, You Applied

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Our town’s middle schools are scheduled to reopen in hybrid mode this Monday, May 10. What do you think of having the three rotation groups rather than the originally planned two?

Sincerely,
Jerry Thrice

It shows that many students want the in-classroom experience after many months of remote learning. The question is whether the experience will be worth it at Buzz Lightyear, Glenfield of Dreams, and Reformation.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Um…has remote learning gone on so long that you forgot the exact names of Buzz Aldrin, Glenfield, and Renaissance? That aside, what do you mean about whether it will be worth it?

Sincerely,
Susan Thrice

Tons of COVID protocols, and students in each rotation group will have only a small number of partial days in school before the academic year ends next month. I wonder if that’s “Good Enough”…to cite a song by Sarah McLachlan, who’s Canadian and thus geographically closest to Buzz.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
What are the designated colors for the three rotation groups?

Sincerely,
Tim Thrice

Blue, green, and orange. The full-body dye is gonna be expensive.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Hopefully things will be closer to normal when the 2021-22 school year starts in September. Vaccines are of course helping a LOT, and Essex County’s COVID-shot site in West Orange’s former Kmart building is a model of efficiency and friendliness. Agree?

Sincerely,
Attention Kmart Hoppers

Agree. I’m among the many Montclair residents who’ve been “Moderna’d” there — and, given the colors of the aforementioned rotation groups, I hope to visit the towns of East Blue and North Green in addition to West Orange.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Speaking of the county, Essex plans to end its lucrative contract with ICE to imprison undocumented immigrants. Thoughts?

Sincerely,
Blood Money Isn’t Funny

Better late than never after Montclair residents and others protested that harsh jail for a LONG time. They put Joseph DiVincenzo “Under Pressure,” even as the county executive never charted with a cover of that Queen/David Bowie song.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
But current Essex prisoners would likely be relocated elsewhere rather than released, plus Essex reportedly now plans to jail some Union County inmates — meaning incarceration money would still be made. Comment?

Sincerely,
From Worse to Bad

Ugh. And here I thought musical chairs was a relatively benign game.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Meanwhile, the Township Council at its May 4 meeting said Montclair’s library system might get $100,000 more in municipal funding, perhaps contingent on reopening the Bellevue Avenue branch a bit. Reaction?

Sincerely,
The Hours

Still not enough money, but welcome. And it’s interesting to see the suggested paring of some planned police funding; heck, spending more on social services can help reduce crime. Crime also gets lower when committed by height-challenged hobbits.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Will the final budget be voted on at the Council’s May 18 meeting?

Sincerely,
Well, Hello Dollars

Possibly. That’ll be the 84th birthday of baseball great Brooks Robinson, whose first name was inspired by Toney’s Brook being in hybrid rotation with Toney’s Brook and Toney’s Brook. Or maybe not.

 

 

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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24 COMMENTS

  1. Dave,

    I agree 100% the Township could be more transparent in the level of budget detail and not providing any context to the numbers. A narrative on each revenue & cost center (trends, key drivers, forward looking insights) would be a logical addition.

    That said, I was embarrassed by the overwhelming critical commentary. I’m not a believer in fair & balanced when you only get 3 minutes to speak. I’m also more critical than most. However, how long does it take to throw out a compliment to the municipal staff that worked so hard to contain the increase to 2%? They don’t set policy, but they have to figure out a way to make Council policy translate into only a 2% increase. And, the Council was prudent enough over the last 10 years to set aside quite the $17MM rainy day fund that we tapped into…so, us, the taxpayers and merchants didn’t take a hit all at once. And we had some money saved to give out for food insecurity, etc.

    Yes, it is a thankless job, but, c’mon. Do a little better people!

    Lastly, the Montclair Public Library folks and the Montclair Beyond Policing deserve a big chunk of my criticism. The former for mismanaging their operation and the latter for not doing their homework with the available budget information and any substantial background research on historical data. Did the MPL publish their proposals like the Township had to? No. Did they play fair with he taxpayers? No. For MBP, it was most telling in their lack of a pro forma proposal of of the line items they would increase and how much. Am I suppose to get behind a just a concept? Did they, for example, look at the homeless funding? No. It is not clear they looked, or reached out to those who would be the beneficiaries of that additional funding. (Actually, one caller did a lot of homework)

    All very disappointing.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Frank. Yes, being an official in Montclair can be a thankless job with all the criticism they get (including from me πŸ™‚ ). But sometimes the criticism is deserved, as you note about how there could’ve been more budget detail — or more-accessible budget detail. And while it might not always happen at meetings, some officials often get praised by residents. Former councilor Renee Baskerville and current councilor Peter Yacobellis are two examples; they received/receive many kudos on social media (and I’ve praised both multiples times in my column).

    That 2% state cap is indeed hellish when putting together budgets each year. And the rainy-day fund you mentioned was indeed smart planning.

    You said the Montclair Public Library has been “mismanaging their operation”; I disagree. I don’t know a lot about how Montclair Beyond Policing has been operating, but I share the view that there are some things the police do that could be done by others — mental-health experts, for instance.

  3. Dave,

    I was speaking about our Township employees. When was the last time is a good question. The elected officials chose this life knowing Montclair.

    I know the training police patrol offices receive and a little about ongoing. What level of mental health responders are you talking about? Is there a city to model? Are they the same cost or generally lower or higher? Are they township employees or private contractors? Who carries the liability insurance? What is the process for bad actors?

    Just tell me something. Or don’t. But, to solicit my support because someone I don’t know, shows me nothing but words, and distracts by saying the existing notion is wrong. You do know when mental health drops the ball? They blame the victim too.

  4. “I was speaking about our Township employees” — yes you were, Frank. Sorry I got that wrong in my reply. Time for me to take Reading Comprehension 101…

    Offhand, I don’t know the answers to the questions you asked in your second paragraph, though I’m sure there’s plenty of information that could be googled. Basically, if mental-health professionals in any town or city responded to calls concerning people in psychological distress, those professionals are likely to handle the situation more skillfully and compassionately than the police — and deescalate things better than the police in any town or city. (Without violence.) And, yes, some mental-health professionals are far from perfect; I’ve unfortunately had plenty of awareness of that over the years via a close family member with mental illness.

  5. I Googled. Thanks. MBP wants to abolish police & prisons.

    “β€” and deescalate things better than the police in any town or city. (Without violence.)” That is quite a declaration. The Newark PD might take offense, but let’s go with stereotypes instead of statistics. It is just more fodder for my case to close the MPL’s Bellevue Branch.

    Sorry to hear. Mental health in the U.S is like a Gee’s Bend quilt.

  6. MBP clearly did not put in a modicum of effort to understand their Township’s budget. And Generation Y doesn’t get their gold star for congealing a grassroots movement around yelling transparency. That said, and in a spirit of helping, the Fire Department’s top-line budget numbers, Year over Year (Y/Y for the Gen Ys)are red flags. Big, illuminated like a cemetery sign, red flags. This is what I call padding.

    The good news is this frees up $200-300K if we want. Again, please, do not give it the Montclair Public Library. You think the Fire Dept has line item issues, they pale in comparison to the MPL. I say give it to the kids! I’m not sure what that means except it tugs at every mother’s heartstrings.

  7. Thank you for the replies, Frank. Of course my comment was a generalization — some police are compassionate and deescalate situations. But there have been too many documented cases — some caught on video — of police treating psychologically distressed people roughly and even fatally. (I’m talking about various places in the U.S., not in Montclair specifically.) As for the Montclair Public Library, I respectfully disagree with you; I hope they get more money.

  8. As a generalization, I am not against more funding for the MPL’s Main Branch and what the Board called their online, or virtual branch investment. However, the library has too many instances of fiduciary indiscretions and the Bellevue Branch is probably the biggest I know. If I had a choice of funding the Main Branch opening weekends (and some evenings) to reach a far greater number of patrons vs half-day branch openings, for far less patrons, it is a no-brainer.

    My position still stands that the future potential of the Bellevue Branch, even with the lame 2K SF addition, is a dark one. Maybe move the Glenfield planetarium there! Of course, I jest.

  9. Hmm…moving that Glenfield attraction to the Bellevue library branch would create the first Carnegie Planetarium. πŸ™‚

  10. I’ll guess even with their pick of stars to guide them, the MPL Board of Trustees will still lose their way.

  11. Dave, yes, I am critical of the MPL leadership. Full disclosure – I am not a member of the MPL Foundation, noor the Friends Of…, or have a library card.

    I think certain entities in service of the taxpayers should be highly transparent. The MPL Board states in their Strategic Plan’s list of Goals (#4) the critical importance of the budget. OK, great sounding words.

    Do you think they post it to their website? Have you ever seen one of their budgets? I am willing to go out on a limb and say most news organizations, taxpayers, and contributors haven’t. Hard to have an informed conversation, or informing others when your information is second or third hand.

    I have. Hence, my comments.

  12. Frank, of course the more budget detail made public the better by any entity, but I’ve seen no indication that the library is using funds unwisely. It’s pretty obvious what services the library provides, and those services are good and important.

    For whatever it’s worth, I’ve had a library card since shortly after moving to Montclair in 1993, and have visited/used the library countless times since then.

  13. I have literally never been inside the Bellevue branch, for whatever odd reason. πŸ™‚ Just the main branch. But I’ve passed the Bellevue branch hundreds of times, and admire the building. There are various reasons why that branch should still exist, and one of them is that it’s an architectural gem.

  14. Dave,

    I’m thinking that transparency is totally misunderstood by Progressives. I’m a wanna-be Progressive, yet I do have a strong grasp of transparency. While the WAPO is over the top with its tag line about Democracy and fear of the dark, they, like me, have learned from Wategate, Vietnam, the Pentagon Papers are bright and shining examples of no clear indications. It was an easier time for The Establishment in Montclair to accept, and protect the status quo. No reason.

  15. Sorry Dave, I missed your 3:15pm comment.

    Yes, I very much appreciate the branch’s architecture and how much has survived. However, the front plaza is just a crying shame; reflects zero imagination and plain lazy stewardship.

    I want to keep the building. Unaltered interior, too. Maybe even do a little restoration. I would take it further than most have a stomach for and use it as a template for expanding historic preservation code to cover interiors of any building the Township directly or indirectly funds. Yes, I’m dreaming…and one reason I am so critical of Historic Preservation in this town. Even our talk is really second-rate. Most have – at best – a polite conversational capacity.

    I was listening to an online forum with Thompson Mayes, counsel for the Nat’l Trust for Hist. Pres. He unintentionally had me LMAO when he describe how historic places where ‘backgrounds in our lives’. He meant to show emotional connections in defending Why Old Places Matter (his book). Regrettably, it came off as ‘old places as scenery’. Maybe the book makes a better case. Anyway, for too long the Bellevue Branch has solely been about scenery. His other point was true – the community must engage with old places. And not just a random bunch of patrons using it as a 3rd Place. If it is not important now or going forward (not nice to have; important) then there is no reason to preserve. Unless it is just scenery.

  16. You’re absolutely right, Frank, about the Bellevue branch’s front plaza leaving a lot to be desired even as the building itself is excellent.

    As for the branch being mostly about scenery, it’s true that things could function quite nicely with the main branch being the only public library in town, but the Bellevue branch has its appeal and uses (when it’s open). Many 07043 residents can walk to the branch, it can be used by students from nearby Buzz, it’s nice to have the option of a relatively small/older library, etc.

  17. Dave,
    My first & second choices have been to keep it as a library attached to new school space or a library attached to a new senior center. Right now it is a disservice to the 1st & 2nd Wards as a nowhere destination. Everyone knows it, but it is good village background scenery. I think more people have been to the 3rd Floor of Township Hall than have been inside the Bellevue Branch. It was closed for 12 months and, except for 3 dozen regulars, U. Montclair has not skipped a beat.

  18. My 3rd choice is to wrap a white picket fence around it & plant a border of geraniums just to please the 043 property owners.

  19. I hear you, Frank, but when the Bellevue branch reopens I think it will get a decent number of visitors. Heck, there could even be this plea: “Please use this branch to increase the chances it will remain open.” I would finally visit it myself, despite my habit of only using the main branch.

    Re your second comment, “A Border of Geraniums” would make a nice title for a novel. πŸ˜‰

  20. Maybe I’ll donate Maye’s book, Why Old Places Matter to the branch…using the sidewalk Drop Box (not the cloud version).

  21. Dave,

    Your 5:20pm suggestion lacks the ‘community good’ incentives that are necessary these days, e.g. an ice cream or a beer.

  22. LOL, Frank! πŸ˜‚ As long as recipients don’t have to return the ice cream or beer into the library dropbox slot after a month…

Comments are closed.