MontClairVoyant: Another ‘Clash’ as the Council Seeks…’Complete Control’?

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Most members of Montclair’s Senior Citizens Advisory Committee (SCAC) have resigned following interference from the Township Council. Reaction?

Sincerely,

No Way to Treat Volunteers

Sadly reminiscent of the TC’s recent interference with Montclair’s library system — a possible reason why the library director fled to California faster than the Joad family.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

In “The Grapes of Wrath”! Why did 10 of the 12 committee members — including the chair and vice chair — resign?

Sincerely,

And Then There Were Two

They felt the Council was trying to put limits on the committee’s advocacy, they were asked to reapply for their positions, etc. No TLC from the TC, which also stands for Too Controlling.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Will the Council make “Complete Control” their theme song?

Sincerely,

Know Your Rites

Maybe — even as each SCAC member asked themselves the title question from another Clash song: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Meanwhile, the Board of Education candidates’ forum is tonight, February 17. Why won’t SpongeBob SquarePants be there?

Sincerely,

Not-Round Trousers


Because you have to “be there or be square.” Can’t be both.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Actually, it’s more of a virtual event, and it will be a great opportunity to learn about the nine candidates vying for two elected seats on the March 8 ballot.

Sincerely,

Doting on Voting

I thought Liane Moriarty’s “Nine Perfect Strangers” novel was also about the BOE candidates, but several of those nine Montclair residents are probably at least somewhat acquainted with each other.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

One can learn even more about the BOE candidates via their answers to questions from the Montclair PTA Council. Where can those answers be found?

Sincerely,

Q&A Array

Shockingly, on the Montclair PTA Council website. BTW, Moriarity’s latest novel, “Apples Never Fall,” is about a very careful fruit vendor at the Montclair Farmers’ Market.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Is not. Will you be reading every word of the BOE candidates’ answers prior to voting on March 8?

Sincerely,

Rhea Search

I might skip an “and” or two, because the function of that conjunction is so clear that skipping it without compunction wouldn’t be a malfunction causing disjunction or dysfunction.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

It’s tiresome to see a writer trying too hard. Let’s move from nine to 2,000 — the approximate number of people at February 12’s Lunar New Year event at the Montclair Art Museum. Spectacular turnout?

Sincerely,

MAM I Am

Yes! So many cars converged on the museum that some attendees had to cross the ocean to park in China.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

They did not. What great 2021-formed group organized the event?

Sincerely,

In Charge of a Gathering Large

AAPI Montclair, the organization of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The group is not related to AARP — the American Association of Reese’s Pieces, whose membership plummets each Halloween.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

In other news, Park Street rooster painter Thomas Reitter sadly died this month. What do you think of his four-decade-old mural?

Sincerely,

Fair AND Fowl

Love it! One of my first Montclair memories was seeing the painting in 1992 when stepping off a DeCamp bus to meet a real-estate agent showing houses. Say, is AARP also the American Association of Rooster Paintings?

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

And, “thanks” to the Township Council, the Senior Citizens Advisory Committee could affiliate with the AARP that is the American Association of Resigned People.

Sincerely,

Gone But Not Forgotten

Careful, the TC might also try to assert control over acronyms.

 

 

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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26 COMMENTS

  1. Technically, the Council fired them…en mass..first.
    That explains how SCAC got 10 of 12 to agree to resign in a coordinated way & time.

    Personally, I would have fired them after the United Way Bldg fiasco.
    [I do wonder about whether they and the Library folks social distanced. Quite a coincidence neighboring properties had financial issues with the Council.]

    They are advisory to the Council…for which they get special access the rest of us don’t. They used that access to advocate their own agenda and an agenda not cleared by the Council. Well, well well – if it isn’t the consequences of their own actions coming returning home.

    Hey, I’ve been there and done that. We did that on the HPC. Then reined us in and, well…boring, lap dog stuff. Most muni advisory roles. Lower your expectations and commitment & you’ll be fine.

  2. “Personally, I would have fired them after the United Way Bldg fiasco.
    [I do wonder about whether they and the Library folks social distanced. Quite a coincidence neighboring properties had financial issues with the Council.]”

    Please explain who’s to blame here and why you characterize it this way.

  3. Thank you for the comment, Frank.

    From what I read, SCAC members were asked to reapply for their positions. That doesn’t seem exactly the same as being fired en masse because I assume a number of the 12 would have been “reappointed.”

    Re the United Way building, township officials decided it would be too expensive to lease that building for a senior center. So, the SCAC shouldn’t receive major blame for that.

    I believe committees should be allowed the latitude of having their own views and positions, rather than parrot the desires of the Township Council. Those on committees are usually more expert on their committees’ subject area than often-more-generalist councilpeople are.

  4. I don’t think I understand your question Jon.

    If the BoE was adjacent to either the UW or MPL I would have included them in the characterization. Montclairions have this idiosyncrasy of confusing moral certainty with fiscal competency.

    The unifying characteristic among all three is their inability to convey costs…or even clear cost expectations. It’s Montclair’s “math thing”. We don’t do it well. Even in this spreadsheet generation.

    As to “blame” over the SCAC? Anytime anything blows up, with little notice, we all missed the signs. I finally saw the handwriting with the UW bldg. The SCAC got all big & sassy. Even I know you can’t be an advisor to a Board of Directors and then step outside and advocate, with throwing the Board under the bus. I would have fired them there and then. But, I’m not the warm & fuzzy type.

    The Council, very pointedly, “just decided to go in another direction.” Same thing recently happened with that New York Football Giants Head Coach. And, I might add, seniors in this town have fared here about as well as the NY Giants have in East Rutherford. Switch coaches, switch quarterbacks. Draft some new talent. Rinse. Repeat.

    Seniors are expected to move on and out in Montclair. That is the social contract of suburbia. Senior qualities are just not in demand these days. Different era now.

  5. Frank, I agree that Montclair — or any town getting as expensive as Montclair — is a hard place for some senior citizens to stay in, even if they want to stay. A shame. 🙁

  6. I agree with Dave here and believe the Council had decided independent of them what they were going to do. The same thing happened over at Pine St for the Succeed2gether space. And then there’s the library. Sort of hard to figure what certain members of the council care about these days and what qualifies as the “Montclair Ideal”.

  7. Yes, Jon, the mayor and the majority of the rest of the current Township Council have been too meddlesome with the SCAC and the library and in some other instances. Not good.

  8. The ironic thing is this generation of seniors, including myself, is responsible for a spectacular upward spiral of Montclair’s debt. We Boomers had a quarter billion in debt in our sights, but they shut down the party. And we now seniors achieved this without maintaining our existing schools, roads, etc. Our focus was also new and more. (A far, distant time from Montclair in the Depression Era when “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.”) was a motto of the day.

    We could have kept the magnet schools and integration and made us more affordable. Nope, we wanted neighborhood schools, too. We could have not contributed so much to climate change. We could not have bread a generation of RE agents that prioritized curb appeal over maintaining our tree canopy.

    Jon,
    It’s every ward for themselves and the Ends Justifies The Means is the order of the day.
    There was a deliverables & a budget. Maybe it wasn’t a sincere effort or realistic. But, let’s be absolutely clear that there was a big fail on the deliverables and the costs. Yes, the extending the CBDG Player’s group quarters on Pine St was never a question. Our Council’s are getting quite good at cashless transactions. They are essentially invisible, unless one has special access to the offline horse trading. If one doesn’t respect the behind-closed-door rules, one’s access is cut-off. But, you & many know all this.

  9. Frank, blaming boomers for Montclair’s problems is way too generalized. Many boomers have made our town a better place, while some of Montclair’s boomer-generation leaders have been not so good. But there have been younger-than-boomer leaders who have also not been ideal; for instance, the current mayor. It’s not so much a generational thing as a some-people-are-better-leaders-than-others thing.

  10. Yes I can. Definitely. In the minority? Yes. Montclair is a ruled by voters. Now, even more so with an elected school board. Where does the buck stop? Depending on your position, 49% or 50% of us voted for this mayor knowing the man and his opponent full well. Well, if you had your head in the sand you obviously wouldn’t.

    You argue the Boomers’ argument we are not responsible for the negatives from our era. Montclair voters just mimic that national trend.

    We boomers started out so promisingly. We were going to make the world a better place. Overall, I think we still nailed it. I keep looking for anything we didn’t make better under our stewardship. Montclair’s debt is one of our few <disappointments….and technically it will be the role of those in their peak earning years to deal with, not us. Our remaining years to be spent as a drag on the local economy.

    If the current generation in power see a need in their future for a senior center, then add that and the new police station to the school’s $60mm.

  11. Frank, I still believe that generalizing about a generation — whether boomers, millennials, etc. — only goes so far. Heck, Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren are both early boomers with little in common other than both being born in the second half of the 1940s. I look at Montclair’s leaders and voters as individuals — with many wise people who are younger or older, and some not-so-wise people who are younger or older.

  12. Ok, we will not aggregate the successes and failures of individuals. We will proceed with individual accomplishment as the true measure of society.

    PS: Don’t get me started on the Senate. It was on par with Trump.

  13. I’m not saying that, Frank. 🙂 Societal success or failure is often the result of joint/aggregate action (or inaction). But I tend to group people in categories other than the generation they’re in — categories such as progressive or conservative, community-minded or more self-centered, materialistic or not, go-getters or more laid back, etc. One obvious example of generational-labeling inexactness would be Bernie Sanders and AOC — who are far apart in age but share similar political views.

  14. OK, fair. But, remember we are talking about accountability.
    There is the foremost measure of a peson – direct accountability for their choices.
    Another measure is a shared or joint accountability where a person chooses to join people/orgs they. E.g. the Council…or a member of a team

    We started out above with the SCAC – an organization that defines itself by age.*
    I hold them accountable by the age association they chose to advocate on and I’m on safe ground, at this time, interchanging Boomers with seniors.

    Jeez. Accountability is so complicated/diffused these days. It is easier to skip the whole accountability thing.

    * Yes, they do get loose-goosey counting the whippersnappers, not quite of age, when they want to puff up their ranks.

  15. Can’t argue with the importance of accountability, Frank. 🙂

    And, yes, the SCAC by its very nature has an age demographic that overlaps a lot with the boomer age demographic. (Though of course the committee’s oldest members could theoretically be from the born-before-1946 generation that predates boomers, and some younger boomers are not senior citizens yet. 🙂 )

  16. All noted with thanks. Phew! Thought for a moment I was accountable (yes, just my share) for our debt. At this point, between Ukraine invasion and the Montclair Public Library ongoing trench warfare, the SCAC is old, forgotten news.

    BTW, you gotta love the library folk taking the Council finance committee out into the middle of Bloomfield Ave and giving them a public scolding like they are little boys. Wow. Some real hutzpah.

  17. Ha! 🙂 (Your accountability reference.)

    Yes, the news cycle does move on and on and on. But the SCAC situation has not been forgotten. (You were probably using some hyperbole there?)

    I’m not getting your library/Council/Bloomfield Avenue mention. A metaphorical allusion to something that happened?

  18. Frank, I should clarify the last paragraph of my previous comment: Did something happen VERY RECENTLY between the Council and library? I know they tussled last year over the audit and such.

  19. YouTube – montclair town council meeting – february 23, 2022
    First speaker @ 4:40 mark. Second speaker @ 9:05.
    I missed most of the meeting, but fortunately caught these 7 minutes of comments.

    Of course, this is a follow-up to December’s mtg where Councilors Price-Abrams, Russo, Schlager & Yacobellis thought the citizenry – and themselves – deserved a chronological accounting…and wondered Why (the large W why) the Council’s finance committee members did not keep the other members informed, etc, etc. And then I had to step in with some choice, angry words about accountability and character…which was absent all around. And now it is back as I told Montclair Local it would be.

    Now the library folk have made a public plea for continued vigilance by townspeople. I know they probably were not including me, but they made it a general request. As we all know by now, I freely chose to associate myself with the Township and therefore, I share accountability! I will not let everyone down.

  20. And to be clear, we were promised by Councilors Price-Abrams, Russo, Schlager & Yacobellis a full chronology of events, including the events prior to the January, 2021 when an independent audit was authorized.

    Now if this Council is unable to provide this, they will have failed in ensuring the facts would come out. And if Councilors Price-Abrams, Russo, Schlager & Yacobellis don’t want to share the facts that lead to hiring an auditor, then they shouldn’t have attached the taxpayers mostly good names to their request. They should have just stamped their feet and such. Now, the library folks? Well, people can ask the members of the previous Council about them.

  21. It is interesting that the rising sentiment to change Montclair’s form of municipal government to a less representative one is being matched by this Council’s increasing disorganization 18 months into their term. Specifically, the loss of control over their own Council meetings. Blaming COVID only goes so far.

    For instance, they have an ongoing problem with off-agenda item votes, meeting package materials arriving at the last minute, a lack of preparation on the topics, and reordering agenda items on the fly – and if a this Council welcomed public engagement – illogically. E.g. public comment after the vote & vote on off-agenda item after executive sessions.

    One recent example beyond the ones we witnessed was R-22-020. I seriously doubt that there are 5 people in this town (aside from those serving the Council) who know this was passed unanimously. There was no notice, no acknowledgement in the Jan 18th mtg the Council voted on it. It just appeared in the municipal filing cabinet with a copy to Trenton. It doesn’t matter what it was about (well it might).

    I suggested the Council go back to fundamentals. The only one to reply said the Council meeting problems was because of the Township Manager. FYI, the Township Manager is one of 3 employees reporting directly to the Council. Apparently, he nows controls the Councilors meeting and agenda. Isn’t that special?

    Rather than fix that organizational problems, we are just going to have a referendum to switch to a different form of governance. And when that doesn’t work, we’ll switch to another. And another. Each time resetting the clock to deliver and blaming others the all along the way.

  22. Frank, the work of several current Council members and the township manager is indeed often…interesting.

    Perhaps our town’s Faulkner form of government should have been associated with William Faulkner rather than former Montclair mayor Bayard Faulkner. William had two more Pulitzer Prizes. 🙂

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