MontClairVoyant: Asking and Answering Softball Questions

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

You often “play hardball” in your column, so why not talk softball for once?

Sincerely,

Change-up

Okay, my 9th-grade daughter is on Montclair High’s softball team (she pitches for the junior-varsity squad) so there are some things I can say. For instance, the softball is big and yellow but still smaller than the sun.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Very informative. Anyway, how is the team doing this season?

Sincerely,

Win-Lose Situation

Actually, it’s three teams in a way, and all are doing great! As of this column’s deadline, varsity was 6-1, JV was 4-1, and the 9th-grade squad was 2-0. The players obviously have talent that’s been burnished this spring and during years of playing travel softball, rec softball, and 1950s stickball with Willie Mays.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

I hate to break this to you, but the current teen players weren’t alive in the 1950s. And isn’t the 9th-grade squad called the “freshman” team?

Sincerely,

Mounties Moniker

Yes, but that seems weird when talking about female players. The word “frosh” is okay; it’s snappy and even TeamSnappy (to reference the TeamSnap sports app used in Montclair and elsewhere).

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Where are Montclair High’s home softball games played?

Sincerely,

Sites to Behold

Usually at Fortunato Field for the varsity team and often at Kaveny Field for JV. You’ll learn more in August Wilson’s play “Fences.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

But I want to learn more here. What’s Fortunato Field like?

Sincerely,

Paint a Word Picture

Nice artificial turf. Part of The Aubrey Lewis Sports Complex on Essex Avenue near Chestnut. Fun when the train goes by during games. Has the same initials as Felix Frankfurter, the late Supreme Court justice who invented the ballpark hot dog.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Did not. What’s Kaveny Field like?

Sincerely,

KF See

Real grass and dirt. At the very busy intersection of Grove and Walnut streets. The Deron School is beyond the right-field fence. Used to be Montclair’s Grove Street School before the town sold it decades ago for too little money and a couple of Grove Pharmacy scratch-off coupons.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Those coupons are partly yellow like a softball! Where do Montclair players get their bats, mitts, cleats, helmets and other equipment?

Sincerely,

Gear Vital, Not Gore Vidal

Often at Dick’s, whose Paramus outlet is better than its Wayne one. Murph’s, the independent sporting-goods store in Montclair, has been much missed since closing in 2016 — the same year the United Kingdom approved the Brexit measure to leave Fortunato Field.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

The UK voted to leave the European Union, you idiot. I know that Montclair High athletes get bused to away games, but do you have a chauffeur license to drive your daughter to things like weekend team practices and softball lessons?

Sincerely,

Steering Without Jeering

No, and a Montclair High player doesn’t need a chauffeur license to drive a softball…over the fence.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

What about recent Montclair news, including the rent-control vote at April 19’s Township Council meeting? Surely you should discuss that today.

Sincerely,

Dr. Livingstone, I Presume

I’m postponing that discussion until next week’s column, just like Montclair High’s April 19 varsity and JV softball games in Livingston were postponed due to bad weather and field conditions. Dr. Livingstone, don’t presume.

 

 

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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20 COMMENTS

  1. OK, I follow the theme of softball questions about the school district. Here are mine to Councilor Schlager:

    How many Central Office staffers does it take to post an Annual Audit & Corrective Action Report to the Audit section of the district web site? The report was received months ago. It was distributed to BoE members over 6 weeks ago and formally accepted by the BoE 3 weeks ago. Mind you, the only thing required is to post a digital copy to a web page. Or are we still going with the, “you can OPRA it if you want” tact.

    Do we need better quality elected BoE members to achieve small tasks like this?

    Do your concerns spike when our district can’t manage updating their web site with an arguably important & objective financial report?

    Do you worry we have way too many excuses lately for everything – like the lack of a 2022-23 school budget proposal? A budget year that starts in 2 months?

    Do you worry about giving the gang that can’t get out of its own way a 5-year, write your own checks capability of $190MM…when we don’t have pot dispensaries open… is just too much to bear for taxpayers?

  2. As a resident who pulls the whole down-ticket lever for Dems every election, then walks away assuming I’ve done my duty, I acknowledge my culpability for the incompetence of our local institutions. What does it take to get something done around here? A better question is, why bother?

    Three years ago the MPS homepage had as its banner headline the District’s policy on Bullying. This was the very first declaration made on the MPS Homepage, above the fold, bright bold fonts. That’s right, a school district that advertised: 1)Bullying will not be tolerated, and, by implication, 2) the Montclair Public Schools have a serious problem with bullying, and 3) the local schools are mired in the kind of incompetence that would lead to such a public declaration. Friends who were thinking of moving here actually saw it before I did and told me. They ended up in Maplewood. And I, an ardent defender of this town, was mortified.

    Many people in town I told this to agreed it was a terrible look, and all were shocked when they checked it out themselves, but they all did what I did: Nothing. And now I know why.

    Over the ensuing eighteen months on numerous occasions I called MPS, the Township offices, a teacher friend at the High School, wrote letters to the appropriate officials (at least I thought they were appropriate but a total lack of response suggests they were just your garden variety public bureaucrats). I complained about it on Baristanet even.

    If a shrug is worth a thousand words, I figured I wouldn’t waste any more of my own. That Bullying message, even during Covid, stayed up, for nearly two years. So yes, Frank, it is stunning and disheartening to see that these people in our institutions are actually managing hundreds of millions of dollars on things that matter, that have consequence.

    I would love to ask our neighbors, who so stridently defend the school district and town government: Would you have these people manage your retirement account? And if the answer is Yes, then please post your reasoning and the approximate value of your retirement funds to this Comments section. It should be a most instructive exercise.

  3. What still irks me is who made the Capital Needs presentation to the BoE…and the public. It was made by the BoE’s members on the BoE’s Finance Committee. It irked me because the only BoE member with financial qualifications was not sitting in judgement, but selling the presentation to his less educated peers. The second BoE member of the BoE Finance Committee, particularly her lack of financial insights, scares me. Seriously. Not that I have found her lacking over time, but that she may be the 2nd most financially skilled member of our BoE (after the one who presented). I’m waiting for VoteMontclair to take it and spin it into a referendum that could have been written by The Founding Fathers.

    I freely admit my hands-on experience is limited to the analog business world. Presentations to Boards of Directors were almost exclusively made by the Operating hierarchy…because the C-level executives were responsible for the results.

  4. Thank you for the comment, Simplex.

    One problem — not only in Montclair but elsewhere — is that school district and municipal officials are in too many cases less competent than “rank and file” employees. Specifically in our school district, we have many excellent teachers, paras, etc., who would make most parents and students happy they live in Montclair. But some Central Office leaders, some Board of Education members…? Not so excellent.

  5. One last question: do any of these officials read Baristanet? Do they care about these commentaries? It would appear they don’t, or maybe they do read but don’t realize we are talking about them.

    Dave, per your comment, could it be the Dunning-Kruger effect? This is the troubling phenomenon of people failing to recognize their own incompetence; they tend to believe they are performing competently when they are not, and when confronted with this shortcoming are usually in disbelief and denial. Some studies suggest it is endemic to positions of employment that become guaranteed, such as tenured teachers, mid-level government bureaucrats, corporate HR types, even elected officials whose positions are rarely if ever contested outside of their safe political culture (hmm, can anyone say big blue cities?).

    In a town where residents have constructed and maintain a mythology about the superiority of their schools, for instance, the Dunning-Kruger effect is a marvelous thing to behold. The people who plastered the MPS website with Bullying Policies are probably a good example, as well as the other officials who tolerated it, and residents who, lacking curiosity, thought it was probably the right thing to do since — by its mere presence on the website — it must be okay. “But I saw it online” is another D-K golden oldie; again, folks lacking simple tools for discernment. They are not bad people, they just should not be in charge.

    Wouldn’t it be something to ask the school board, or our elected officials, if they’ve ever heard of Dunning-Kruger? And then ask if they think they can manage my retirement fund.

  6. Simplex, I hadn’t been familiar with the term “Dunning-Kruger effect,” but I can see that it applies to some officials in Montclair (and elsewhere). Of course there have also been competent officials in Montclair — on the Township Council, on the Board of Education, serving as school principals, etc. As for teachers, the ones my two daughters have had over many years in Montclair have almost all ranged from very good to fantastic.

  7. Frank, financial expertise is indeed something many people don’t have. (I’m not that great in that area myself.) It’s welcome when Montclair officials have that expertise, but there are certainly other kinds of expertise that are welcome as well — including expertise in educational matters. It also helps to be a people person, have empathy, etc. Number-crunching ability alone is good but not good enough.

  8. Dave,

    I’ve heard about this empathy thing and it is good to have some.

    My point was two-fold. First, hopefully our BoE members have complementary skills and diverse experiences to fulfill their policy and oversight role. But, you lose the foregoing, important attribute if you extract people/skills to do the selling and “the buyers”, the fact finders, the deciders only have their educational skills to fall back on.

    It is not about numbers at all. It is about process. That is also a concept that coincidently provides a path for incorporating empathy.

    My second point is that the presentation by Mr Schnerzer suggests the Central Office doesn’t have the wherewithal to do this on their own. There are more red flags popping up on the MPSD capital mgmt than Ukrainian flags currently in town. I’m serious. The primary stakeholder need to put their self-interests aside for once and take a hard, objective look. If do rep due diligence and find nothing, no harm/no foul. It is not realistic to expect this to happen. Hence, why I said just approve the whole $300MM. The primary stakeholders have a foundational belief that everybody will do the right thing, so why the caution against funding what is needed? Because of the property tax increases? OK, so they are saying we need to take $110MM of the $300MM the schools need and put it off to some distant period beyond 2029. Which means these improvements will not be complete until 2032. Quite a well thought out case they are making.

  9. Maybe when they do public their audit somebody will see the proposal is to sink $14.5MM of improvements into Renaissance @ Rand…which would be more than 50% of its book value.
    Brilliant in its audacity.

  10. Dave, variation of Dunning–Kruger effect . . . “I’m like really smart. You know, a very stable genius!”

  11. Frank, I definitely agree about BOE members (and members of any governing body) ideally having “complementary skills and diverse experiences.”

    As for the $190 million rather than $300 million in proposed bonding to improve school buildings, etc., I think the first number obviously has a better chance of being approved by voters than the second number, even if $190 million might not be quite enough. There’s almost always a realism element (as in, will it pass?) in things like this.

    Funny line about red flags vs. Ukrainian flags. 😂

  12. Thank you, silverleaf! Ha! 🙂 Trump is an EXCELLENT example of the Dunning–Kruger effect. (For those who remember that old sitcom about a talking horse, Mister Ed was also a “stable genius.” 🙂 )

  13. Thanks for the comment, Silverleaf. Just to be clear, I am agnostic as to whether Dunning-Kruger effects people on the left more than the right, or the opposite. That is a political observation. Dunning-Kruger tried not to tread in such murky waters.

    But you’re right, Trump would make a terrific candidate for discussion. So would Chuck Schumer. But politicians generally make bad candidates for the D-K analysis, since most have by necessity the ability to listen to the judgements of others to get elected, and re-elected. They might be dishonest and corrupt, but they usually have a more cunning nature, rather than doltishly struggling through life unawares.

  14. Dave – Touché, I remember the show.

    Simplex – “So, supposedly we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light. Supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs.”

    There is nothing “political” about that. That we can at least agree on. It is an ignorant and uniformed statement spoken by a man who pretends to know more about the subject of Covid than he really does. “A cognitive bias whereby people with limited knowledge or competence in a given intellectual or social domain greatly overestimate their own knowledge or competence in that domain relative to objective criteria or to the performance of their peers or of people in general.”

    Yeah, I’d say he wins the D-K Award hands down!

  15. Silverleaf, we do agree, but I worry that every conversation somehow leads to Trump. Not just you, I don’t mean to suggest that’s who you are, but so many people. Yes, yes, he’s a threat to the republic and should be injected with bleach and his boyhood home should be burned down and the lot covered with salt with a Wall built all around it and all the rest, but it takes a lot of energy to keep turning everything into a random act of Trump hatred. My mother-in-law actually blamed bruised bananas on him the other day. I brought up Dunning-Kruger simply as a starting point for why organizations seem to be either incompetent or indifferent. I just don’t know how many more times Trump can be used to explain everything in this world. I do know this: a psychiatrist friend of mine worries the day might come when Trump will fade away and his patients will be cured and my friend will have to go back to living within a budget. Trump’s made it too easy for mental health workers, journalists, angry neighbors blathering over the fence and my mother-in-law to explain the human condition. I don’t have any confusion about the human condition. I live in Montclair.

  16. Yup, EVERYTHING is Trumps fault. Except…the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the economy shrinking (reported this morning), energy costs rising, runaway inflation (we ain’t seen nothing yet), the growing N Korea and Chinese threat, who knows what the Middle East is up to, the border crisis, and bruised bananas. Though bruised bananas is open to debate.
    Just wait until you see the infrastructure cost overages. Montclair, please lock in school repair prices because material and labor costs are still headed up and up and up. (Ask Boeing how the deal they made with Trump for Air Force One is working out for them. Been a good deal for the taxpayers!)
    All good because the Bad Orange Man is gone. Breaking news! He is long gone yet somehow he remains the boogieman. Reality….ha, that is for suckers!

  17. flipside,

    The November 2022 referendum only locks in the taxpayer’s extending a de facto line of credit for $190MM of spending, not costs. The plan is to go out to bond in January of 2023, 2025, & 2027 at the prevailing rates. After each bond issue, we then go out to bid. The school district is notorious for undervaluing projects leading to rejected bids and rebids…and cutting out the amount of scheduled projects executed. The district also overstates what the costs they are able to recoup from State SDA grants. The $110MM of projects not included in this referendum will have to wait until 2029 and 2031. By 2033 we will start replacing the 10 year lifespans of things like technology and the $1MM synthetic playing fields like Watchung and Fortunato fields.
    On the other hand, Renaissance @ Rand will still have their $6MM gym.

  18. Simplex – “Turning everything into a random act of Trump hatred” you say? Well, not everything; and certainly not random either. Just the sacking of our Capital and the attempted overthrow of our democracy. How about we start with those two? Or perhaps you think they are not important enough. Or maybe that he has no culpability at all.

  19. I love how these unapologetic MAGA people somehow turn justified anger and outrage into “our” neurosis by diminishing the damage and comparing it to bruised fruit.

    It is exactly those suckers that don’t cherish and protect democracy; but rather foolish and ignorantly take it for granted! And BTW, he not long gone. He is sitting in South Florida where certain members of the GOP continue to routinely visit to bow down and kiss his ring. THAT is the reality!

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