MontClairVoyant: Anxious Contemplation of Vote Montclair’s Possible Board Domination

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Your reaction to Montclair’s first-ever Board of Education election won by Phaedra Dunn and Melanie Deysher on March 8?

Sincerely,

Tuesday Was a News Day

I preferred Yvonne Bouknight and Holly Shaw, who finished third and fourth. So I’m sad and gloomy — with those words having the same number of combined letters (9) as the number of BOE candidates (9).

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

What do you think of Vote Montclair’s role in the election?

Sincerely,

Elephant in the Room

VM commendably brought about the referendum that changed our often-problematic appointed BOE to an elected one. But then things went downhill despite there being no ski slopes on T.S. Ma’s steamed dumplings.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

The recent Winter Olympics warped your brain. Downhill in what way?

Sincerely,

Lord of the Five Rings

First, let me emphasize that Ms. Dunn and Ms. Deysher were excellent candidates — as were the seven other hopefuls. But…wait a minute, I didn’t even watch the Winter Olympics.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Answer the question!

Sincerely,

As in, Respond to the Query

VM’s endorsements created the perception — whether fair or unfair — that the endorsees might not be completely independent of VM. Maybe if the March 8 election had been held on July 4, 1776…

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Not sure there were optical vote scanners back then. Anyway, Vote Montclair also annoyingly spent a good deal of money backing its two favorites, right?

Sincerely,

Dollar Tree

Seemingly the case. I saw so many VM Facebook ads featuring Ms. Dunn and Ms. Deysher that Facebook’s multi-billionaire leader could finally afford a downtown apartment in Montclair. It’s a bit of a daily commute to California.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

You’re delusional. The irony of it all?

Sincerely,

Alanis Montclairissette

Sean Spiller became Montclair’s mayor in 2020 with the help of lots of campaign spending. VM didn’t like teacher union exec Spiller appointing BOE members (a power all our town’s mayors had), so VM helped get us an elected BOE. Then VM spent in a way that was kind of reminiscent of Spiller’s campaign. Makes a person cynical — which, if it had nine letters, would be spelled “cynniccal.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

I guess you’re saying that if VM, after getting us an elected BOE, had stopped there they would have deserved endless kudos. Instead, VM seems to have had more on its mind than just making the BOE selection process more democratic.

Sincerely,

Motive Operandi

That about sums it up. The appointed BOE certainly deserved to become history after it okayed suing our beloved and talented teachers in 2021, after the “enemies list” nonsense of years ago, after it and the Board of School Estimate partly neglected school infrastructure, etc. The only alternative was to try an elected board because a BOE comprised of fictional cartoon characters isn’t realistic.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

What is to be done?

Sincerely,

So That Later Is Greater

This was the first of several elections to transition the BOE from appointed. So if Vote Montclair endorses more candidates in the future, and if we don’t want the board to be VM-dominated, voters must be vigilant about choosing non-VM candidates. Or else “BOE” possibly “Becomes Oligopolistic Entity.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Also, in response to the approach VM took, might future non-VM candidates seek organizational backing because running as an independent sadly makes it harder to compete?

Sincerely,

Slates R Us

Yes — meaning an independent ethos would be lost almost from the start of an elected BOE because VM opened Pandora’s box. I wonder if VM considered endorsing Pandora herself…

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Turnout for the election was disappointingly small. To what do you attribute that?

Sincerely,

Give Me Just One Reason

The turnout not being delightfully large.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Will it help turnout if future BOE elections take place in November?

Sincerely,

Fall Back Position

Perhaps, especially if some voters are named Autumn.

 

 

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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28 COMMENTS

  1. Dave,

    We discussed this – the low voter turnout, the funded slates, the capital projects delay were all predicted. You also raised issues from our distant past. You forgot all the fun & years it required to detangle the school data server storage from the municipal data storage. That will be considered child’s play when we do the same for the debt.

    The schools district had $1.9MM of uncollected grant funding in 2020 that, if the district ever gets around to claiming, should pass back to the municipal coffers (as we fronted them the funding). This November the district has to float the big school bond issues with some hefty interest rates attached. While we can expect much bigger voter turnout, I wonder whether they will be deducted voters on why we need the money when they pull the levers.

    The voters will be doing this while the municipal debt service side of our wallet increased 23% since 2016. Yes, that number shocked me too as I assumed debt service would go down with lower debt. Maybe I need a presentation on how debt service works.

    The good news is many voters are relatively new (since 2016) to town and all they know is our spending and tax levels of recent years. In that sense, muni debt service is only going up 2.7% this year. See? All good.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Frank. It has been, and will continue to be, an interesting 2022 in Montclair…

  3. Frank, I really have to commend you for your interest and knowledge of the workings of this town. Unfortunately, except for the ones in power you are pretty much the only person who cares. Montclairians have much more important things to worry about. Why with climate change, leaf blowers, BLM, Covid masking, LGBTQ+, Asian hate, and now the Ukraine, the average person has all they can handle. Between putting signs on the lawn and social media posts who has time to worry about local things. It all about virtue signaling and school boards and ordinances don’t make the cut. As long as Montclair real estate is as liquid as T-Bills why would anyone really care? If you don’t like how things work you can be out of town in a month and make a profit doing it. If the greater fools from the city stop coming you will have plenty of company at town meetings. Till then, keep up the good fight!!

  4. Thank you, but are you conveying the added title of contrarian to my existing curmudgeon one? Only slightly more seriously, I always try to inform whilst I preach.

    Everyone is bandwidth challenged and our increasing shrinking world only adds to the challenge. I deal with it by simplifying things, focusing on fundamentals, prioritizing what we can control locally, and measuring progress. I am a longtime resident, a hobbyist of history. And a senior citizen. My duty/role within our suburban social compact is to share my acquired institutional knowledge, experience and free labor. It is the younger generations’ choice how to use any of this in shaping the Township going forward. In this respect, Montclair holds on to its suburban roots.

    Land use is one of the key bellwethers of the Town’s recent, significant transition. Our Master Plan, not a decade old, is already showing obsolescence. It’s major premise was to protect the R-1, Single Family zoning – and by extension it’s character. It is pretty clear we need to deconstruct this premise to grow The Brand and increase its equity while protecting our economic vitality. Maybe disconcerting to many, but clearly unavoidable and must be addressed openly. There is an application before the Planning Board Monday night that challenges the status quo in many ways and illuminates the issues with our land use precepts & values. This application is one more example of our pervasive ends justifies the means expedience. I don’t disagree with the end result in this case. I just find the means distasteful in the opaque manner in which it will likely be accomplished. And yes, this is well outside the average Montclarion’s bandwidth.

  5. Frank, Don’t worry, no one can threaten your hold on the title of town curmudgeon be you contrarian or not. Stick with you do best. I have been in town off and on, mostly on, since ’79. I would say in the late 80’s early 90’s the town changed from a place to live and stay into a commodity. The post 9/11 immigration sealed the town’s fate. It was no longer a lifelong commitment but a useful stopover until it wasn’t needed anymore. Meaning the last child graduated HS so it is time to sell. All the planning in the world be it intelligent or reckless will not stem the tide of what the town has become. For most, Montclair is an AirbnB until the kids are raised. Once the kids are gone the fact that the RE taxes while you lived here doubled hits home. Couple that with your house went up dramatically in price flashes the sell signal. Like I said as long as there are willing buyers the town is just a stopover for those too busy working to afford living here to worry about the town’s future. It is sad but it is what it is. The HS mascot should be a Real Estate agent.

  6. Thank you again.

    Lifelong commitment to suburbia? The kids have move out. And you want to stay here? The only enrichment options (dining, entertainment, the arts) lay on the other side of the Tunnel. We earned the B&T moniker for a reason. I forget, we did have Rascal’s & The Whole Theater Co.

    You clearly had a good streak of a dozen or so years here. Back before your time, husbands, wives, husbands and wives together left in droves once the kids, god bless their souls, moved on. The hardest decision was Sun? Culture? Nature? Cheaper? Back then nobody was letting the door hit them on the way out.

  7. Thank you very much for the comment, Clifford.

    I didn’t see Vote Montclair’s statement about the election results until after I submitted this week’s column. If I’m reading the statement correctly, VM spent $623.57 on Facebook ads. I guess ad-buy money goes a long way on FB, because VM ads appeared in my FB feed — and of course in others’ FB feeds — many, many times. And the VM statement said “there were also many hours of coordinating, outreach, tech-fiddling, and other work, all of it 100% unpaid.”

    Anyway, if I had seen the VM statement before submitting the column, I would have made the language in the column a little more precise in a couple of instances.

    That said, I’m guessing that even the relatively modest $623.57 was more “outside” money than any other two candidates combined were helped with. Plus there was the extent and benefit of the unpaid help.

  8. Hey Cliff, What did you do with the rest of money? Buy a yacht? House in the Hamptons? Just kidding.
    Ok Dave, you can apologize now….

  9. “And the VM statement said “there were also many hours of coordinating, outreach, tech-fiddling, and other work, all of it 100% unpaid.””

    Did VM have an attorney advising them on campaign contribution law? If it was me? I would curtail my public admissions until I did.

  10. “I am the treasurer of Vote Montclair, which spent a total of $600 on this election.” – Clifford Kulwin, Treasurer, VoteMontclair (VM)

    And how much will VM spend next time on it’s candidate for the next democratic principle? I have no problem with VM or LWV trading on their GOTV legitimacy. The money is secondary; although I do wonder how much VM would spend on a mayoral candidate. It is really up to the VM leadership how to run a PAC. I just giggle when you use attributes of the N.R.A. model in Blue Wave Country.

  11. Hi Flipside! Keep writing and maybe they’ll give you Astor’s column.

    Besides your pinpoint description of Montclair as a commodity, I also loved this:

    “Montclairians have much more important things to worry about. Why with climate change, leaf blowers, BLM, Covid masking, LGBTQ+, Asian hate, and now the Ukraine, the average person has all they can handle.”

    But thank goodness we have Montclair culture: MFEE will be doing a fundraiser soon to celebrate the arts and the host (I don’t think we’re allowed to add the -ess) will be Broadway’s own wonderful Laura Benanti who, get this, does a fab impersonation of Melania Trump on, get this, the Colbert Show. Talk about your local synergies. Could Montclair get any better than this? April 30 will be a beautiful day of pounding lawn signs into spring earth, frowning over the false consciousness of dissenters, counting the maskless at King’s, and then we can all relax and celebrate at a Fundraiser to benefit the public schools that set the bar so incredibly high in refusing to allow our kids to go back to school. I ask you, Flipside, is this paradise or what?

  12. Watchungski, You have to admit that although Montclair can be tiresome it is entertaining. Sort of like a real life Babylon Bee. For a progressive nirvana there sure are a lot of unhappy miserable people living here.

  13. Guys, guys, guys. I try to appreciate your humor, but…BAMM! The Ukraine.

    We don’t say The Italy, The Israel, The France, The Mexico or The China. Even Mother Russia is not called The Mother Russia.

  14. Frank, You are the best! The grouch appears right on cue! We do say “The” United States…at least we used to.

  15. The Levant, The Philippines, The United Arab Emirates, The Badlands, The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone. The Ukraine.
    And who you calling “Guys?”

  16. The (not to be confused with The ) national anthem of The Canada

    The Canada!
    Our home and native land!
    True patriot love in all thy sons command.

    With glowing hearts we see the rise,
    The True North strong and free!

    From far and wide,
    The Canada, we stand on guard for the.

    God keep our land glorious and free!
    The Canada, we stand on guard for The.

    The Canada, we stand on guard for The.

  17. I’ve seen some pretty dumb things posted in these threads, but nothing more so than a complaint about VM spending $600 in light of the NJEA budget and expenditures to their political ends. And when it’s pointed out how stupid it is, uh, change the subject to Ukraine…

  18. C’mon, Jon. You have to admit the O Canada anthem post was pretty witty. Wouldn’t the two cancel each other out and effectively nullifying my overall contribution to the discussion?

  19. Frank, “wit is educated insolence” Aristotle. The was a lot of writing for something that wasn’t even clever. The Canadian national anthem no longer uses “in all our son’s command.” It is now “in all of us command.” Set your calendar to 2022 buddy, that is a non-binary buddy, and get with the times. Do you try to get the neighbors kid to cut your lawn for a quarter?

  20. Huh? I am curmudgeon. Neighborhood kids? A favorite protagonist of mine was George Wilson’s character in Dennis The Menace. Your exasperation with me reminds me of his wife Martha frequent scold, “Oh, George!”

    Sorry, I only did a perfunctory Goggle, a quick cut & paste, and some minor word substitution. Less than an hour, tops. Next time I will do more exhaustive research. I plan on Goggling this they Aristotle you referenced.

    My foibles aside, I’ll guess some readers, based on our mindless exchange, will now have a reflexive reaction when they come across The Ukraine usage.

  21. My bad. You were writing about The Canadian national anthem. I posted The Canada national anthem. I can’t speak to whether The Canada is gender identification challenged. I have never visited the place.

  22. You should visit Canada sometime. Quite nice. The Yukon is a little remote though. Yes, they do say “the” Yukon. BTW, “Oh” in Canada equals “the” in THE United States. I see you as a cross between Mr Wilson and Clint Eastwood in Grand Torino. Pretty close eh hoser?

  23. Excellent comp! But, didn’t he turn into a softee at the end of the movie? I always wanted to witness their annual seal “harvesting” event. 😢😢

  24. I wouldn’t say Clint turned into a softee but I do hold out for you. Seal harvesting is a Newfie event. It is a cultural thing that they do to survive. At least that was once/is the reason. Not very palatable to American eyes. I imagine the Inuits would find St. Patrick’s Day at Tierny’s equally horrific.

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