MontClairVoyant: Library and Council Are This Column’s Protagonists

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Our town’s library system basically returned to pre-pandemic hours starting Monday, June 20. Comment?

Sincerely,

New Jersey Woolf, Not Virginia Woolf

So THAT’S why Montclair’s libraries renamed “The Hours” book “The Pre-Pandemic Hours.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Total fiction!

Sincerely,

Jane Eyre

Yes, Michael Cunningham’s 1998 book is a novel.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

I think Ms. Eyre meant the name change to “The Pre-Pandemic Hours” is total fiction. Anyway, are you happy about the additional times the main and Bellevue branches are now open?

Sincerely,

James Baldwin Are Montclair Streets

Very. I know COVID isn’t over, but news like that makes a person feel it’s pre-over. So, Richard Powers’ 2018 novel “The Overstory” is now “The Pre-Overstory.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

I think it’s time we changed the subject. What’s this I hear about the Township Council not making its conference meetings available to watch remotely — in real time or afterward?

Sincerely,

Virtual Void

Not good. The Council does important business at conference meetings (as it does at “regular” meetings) and some people can’t attend in person to watch, possibly comment, and learn that the Council Chambers has the same initials as Corn Chips.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Um…okay. Why can’t some people attend?

Sincerely,

Absence Makes Sense

They’re working late or taking care of their kids or worried about COVID, etc. And if they ate corn chips while in the Council Chambers, the crunch would be annoying to others in the audience.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Which leads me to this: I heard The MC hotel’s liquor license may have been renewed at a recent Council conference meeting but don’t know for sure because there’s apparently no video to watch.

Sincerely,

Booze News

Ugh. The MC has been a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) deadbeat. Did it belatedly pay all or some of what it owes? Is there a not-publicly-announced plan to do so? Would the average taxpayer get away with “deadbeatness”? Is there a Payment in Lieu of Corn Chips program?

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

I don’t understand your corn chip obsession, although the tasty corn muffins sold at the Montclair Farmers’ Market are worth obsessing over.

Sincerely,

Walks Corn Dogs on a Leash

That market’s peaches, strawberries, and blueberries are also looking good these days. With DeCamp fares rising July 5, I hope the bus company will accept FILOT (Fruit in Lieu of Tickets).


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

I think it’s time we changed the subject again. Did you know that there will be a “Montclair Rent Control Webinar” this Monday evening, June 27, to discuss our town’s relatively new rent control law?

Sincerely,

E. Sential-Viewing

Yes, hosted by the Montclair NAACP’s housing committee and the New Jersey Tenants Organization. The NJTO was founded in 1969 — 53 years and 53 gazillion too-large rent hikes ago.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Meanwhile, the Township Council has reportedly made a number of appointments to the new rent control board and other housing-related entities. About time?

Sincerely,

Not About Newsweek

About time? Well, there’s Stephen Hawking’s book “A Brief History of Time” and The Chambers Brothers’ song “Time Has Come Today” and —

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Shush! It’s months past the time when the Midtown parking deck that replaced a Glenridge Avenue parking lot was supposed to open as part of the Seymour Street redevelopment. Why the delay? Supply-chain issues? Developer and municipal incompetence?

Sincerely,

Among Other Things

Amid poor communication from several Montclair officials — two of whom ignored the phone calls and emails of a store owner losing business because of the unopened deck, according to that owner. Perhaps one needs to send those officials notes written with quill pens on decorative writing paper.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

In closing, anything more to say about our library system’s expanded hours?

Sincerely,

COVID Schedule Shelved

Montclair residents thirsting for a six-pack will have more time to borrow Jane Austen’s six novels.

 

 

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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19 COMMENTS

  1. RE: The Midtown Parking Deck

    I must single out one Township official for praise…and he is a member of the Planning Board. Back in 2017, the PB was asked by the Council for feedback on the building plans. They were only given a schematic plan as the actual drawings were only 10% complete. I cite Mr Ianuale’s comment from the meeting minutes:

    Mr. Ianuale indicated that the narrow alley between the deck and Bloomfield Avenue is of insufficient width especially since it serves as the main pedestrian access to the Seymour Street Redevelopment, which the deck is intended to support. Mr. Ianuale requested that an engineer or code compliance expert provide an opinion that the alley access is safe and suitable for its intended use.

    Next, I’m confused by the BID parking issue with the delayed opening. Last October, the BID stated they were concerned we had excess deck capacity. They even did a survey and speculated that this would remain the case post-Covid. File under “c’mon, pick a lane people”.

    Let assume they admit their mistake and this deck is very much needed. OK, we all make mistakes. What has not been addressed is that our municipal coffers are now light $25,000+/month with the deck closed. Even accounting for the 75 discounted spaces for business owner and their employees. Not sure how this pricing arrangement is fair, but the BID managed to get it. So, we are light $100K so far and counting.

    Now we have to bond $200,000 for repairs. – above the supposed $1.2MM our contribution cap. Combined with the $1MM or so the MC Hotel is in arrears, I’d say again the devil is in the details.

    PS: the MC Hotel’s liquor license was approved in Tuesday’s televised Council mtg, not in their untelevised Conference mtg the week before. Of course, I forgive you because it was voted on as part what is called a Consent Agenda. Simply put, a Consent Agenda is when they batch a group of resolutions together under one vote. The typical viewer wouldn’t know what is in the batch unless they had a copy of the agenda handy.

  2. Thank you, Frank, for the comments and the link to the 2017 minutes. Mr. Ianuale was indeed commendably on the ball re the alley near the Midtown parking deck. As you note, it sounds like all kinds of money is being lost by the town and business owners because of the delay in the deck’s opening. 🙁 And thank you, also, for The MC hotel liquor license correction/clarification. Again, interesting how deadbeats can get away with little or no consequences if they’re big and influential enough. 🙁

  3. Further to the Council’s use of the Consent Agenda procedure:

    The Council is required to return to public session to hold a vote on any decisions made in Executive Session, which they did. However, they are not allowed to use the Consent Agenda procedure to batch their resolutions, which they did.

    Procedurally sloppy and opaque.

  4. Frank, my reaction to what you said about Council procedures in your 9:31 a.m. comment: Why am I not surprised? 🙁

  5. Some might want to be a tad concerned about any appointments to the Rent Control Board. Anyone (e.g. landlord’s attorney?) has 45 days from whenever the clerk posts the individual resolutions to appeal the propriety of the vote. Probably won’t be appealed, but…we are in Montclair.

  6. The failure of municipal government was glaringly on display at the last council meeting. Businesses lost their lively hood for God’s sake! This took 8 months for all these HIGHLY paid staff to figure out the solution? God knows how much longer it takes them to actually implement the solution. This Council and their administration is beyond dysfunctional. I honestly gave these guys a chance even though the elections are so fraught and unsure whether the Mayor really won or not, I honestly hoped for good things to come out of this council. Forget doing anything good, they can’t seem to even hold on to what was working properly before they came on board! I am simply disgusted! There are no repercussions to this abject failure. Is the council forgoing their salary because they are running these businesses out on to the streets? Is the Manager and his staff’s penalized. Forget penalizing, they are not even embarrassed to take pay raises when all these people they supposedly should serve are hurting badly for the incompetency and lack of caring by the town government. In the private world they would have been fired. Town Government is so removed from the average person’s world!!!

    Council actions are not broadcasted. Are approved through consent agenda. We don’t even know what they are approving. They don’t put out the entire resolution when they list on the conference meeting. In the public meeting they don’t read the resolutions. And they don’t post these approved resolutions on their website for months on end. Is it even legal? Who is the overseeing authority for the town government? Does anyone know? The town attorney, is he still interim? He is sitting there in these meetings looking lost.

  7. ”Who is the overseeing authority for the town government? Does anyone know?”

    Absolutely priceless.

  8. Thank you for the comment, Kimberly. I hear your anger and frustration. Yes, there’s a lot of incompetence, dysfunction, lack of transparency, and more on the Township Council (and among some town officials not on the Council). I do think one councilor is mostly excellent and a couple of others have their moments, but overall it’s not a pretty picture. 🙁

  9. Frank, you asked: “Who is the overseeing authority for the town government?”

    Montclair State mascot Rocky the Red Hawk? 🙂

  10. Dave,
    I am surprised you think I asked that question. Even rhetorically. It was a cut & past from post above.

    No, I am continually bemused by the registered voters in Montclair that pull levers without the most basic understanding of what the levers mean. These are the same people who will vote (for/against) the $190MM school referendum. They are already in the voting booth, so, hey, I’ll pull tis one, too.

    I wait for the day when we can have our votes cast by proxy. Maybe even be able to donate it for NGO’s to allocate. Or, the registered Democrats just sign over their voting rights to the County Democratic Party. Pretty edgy, huh?

  11. Oops, Kimberly asked that question. I should have reread her comment before posting. Sorry about that, Kimberly and Frank.

  12. What about the MIA Dir. of Senior Services the Council was asked about? Has she been paid for the 6+ months she’s been on leave leaving a staff of one to do all the work single-handedly?

  13. Jussi,

    I have questions whether she is a Township employee. I thought the Director was funded by Partners for Health Foundation and, during COVID, some Essex County grants. Is she a Township employee?

  14. Partners for Health fund the MILL programs but I thought the Director was a Township employee hired by The Council. The last director left, I believe, partly because she was not allowed to continue to work at home during Covid, even though she was doing a spectacular job from there. We saw the new Director once on a Zoom, then she disappeared from view.

  15. The Council can only hire 3 people – the Township Manager, Clerk, and Attorney.

    Only the Township Manager, or designee may request a managerial position. The Council has to approve, by ordinance, the creation of all managerial positions, their min/max salary, and any changes in subsequent years.

    This is why the Director title of this position caught my attention.

    Ask the new Senior Advisory Committee.

  16. Re: caveat to asking the SAC
    Unless the new Senior Advisory Committee members were appointed in this last Executive Session where there are no minutes, resolutions, no identities yet, blah, blah, blah.

    Technically, the SAC’s purpose is to advise the Council. Technically, its standing is only with the Council. Its job is not to advise residents. Even old residents. It will take input. But that’s it. No minutes, no OPMA, nada, nothing.
    In short, its role is not to help seniors directly.

    If so, this Director’s position situation is none of our business. Nothing to see here. Move along now.