Opinion: The Candidates’ Numbers Just Don’t Add Up

BY  |  Monday, Aug 21, 2017 12:30pm  |  COMMENTS (8)

With President Trump’s controversies consuming most media attention, there has been very little discussion of the gubernatorial race, says Montclair’s Jeff Jacobson. “I’ve been thinking a lot about that race—and, in particular, about the candidates’ fiscal plans, which simply don’t add up. I saw these issues up close while I was in the Attorney General’s office, and I would love to start a local conversation about them.” The following is Jacobson’s opinion piece on three top fiscal problems — property taxes, school funding, and the pension crisis — and why he believes both Ambassador Murphy’s and Lt. Gov. Guadagno’s announced plans to address them fall short of the problems’ magnitude.

New Jersey’s three most critical fiscal problems—high property taxes, a controversial and troubled school funding formula, and the unfunded pension liability crisis—are closely related, and the next Governor’s attempts to solve them could have an outsized impact on Montclair.

Because many Montclair residents will be involved in the gubernatorial campaign, let me try here to provide a short, nonpartisan explanation of these problems so that you know what to listen for when the candidates discuss their proposed solutions.

Property Taxes: Nearly everyone in New Jersey agrees that our property taxes have long been too high. The institution of a state income tax in 1975 was supposed to be the permanent fix, with the constitutional amendment authorizing the income tax dedicating all revenues to property tax relief. Article VIII, Section 1 of the Constitution says that “[n]o tax shall be levied on personal incomes…unless the entire net receipts therefrom shall be…placed in a perpetual fund designated the Property Tax Relief Fund…exclusively for the purpose of reducing or offsetting property taxes.” The Constitution, however, does not say whose property taxes these income tax funds should “reduce or offset.” Continue Reading

Blog: Sanctuary on the Local Level

BY  |  Tuesday, Feb 28, 2017 12:30pm  |  COMMENTS (1)

Sanctuary The following blog post is submitted by Dorothy Rogers, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Religion at Montclair State University.

In recent weeks local municipalities have proposed statements of support for immigrants and minorities in an effort to counteract new xenophobic policies at the federal level. While hundreds of cities across the nation have made “sanctuary” declarations, both Maplewood and Montclair have passed “welcoming community” resolutions instead. Reports are that Bloomfield plans to do the same.

Is this a distinction without a difference? Not really. When we look at the tradition of “sanctuary” historically, it’s clear that there certainly is a difference. In the fullest sense of the term, “sanctuary” involves more than simply expressing noble ideals. It signals political resistance.

I’ve written about the history of sanctuary elsewhere but will reiterate here that there is a long religious tradition supporting the practice, which dates back to ancient Hebrew criminal codes. Sanctuary was given new life in the 1980s by activists opposed to U.S. foreign policy in Latin America who helped undocumented asylum seekers cross the border with Mexico then travel north to Canada. The network was discovered, and Sanctuary leaders were charged with violating federal immigration law.
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Blog: Stephen Colbert and The Syrians

BY  |  Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (2)


We attended a fundraiser for the Montclair Film Festival a few weeks ago where Stephen Colbert and Jon Oliver spoke about the state of our country after the election. Many people are afraid for their futures, of not being treated fairly or with kindness and humanity. Mr. Colbert, acknowledging that we cannot control for everything to come, said a few words that I can’t seem to forget.

“Get to know your neighbors.”

We took heed and invited a family of Syrian refugees to our house for Thanksgiving through a local program. We were able to host this family who has been through hell and back; they’ve lost their home, their city destroyed, they’ve had to resettle in a new country amidst a political climate that is increasingly unwelcoming to them.

We wanted our invite to be meaningful. We wanted them to know that there are people who care, people who want to get to know them, people who would be honored to have the opportunity to host them in the most intimate of spaces, their home.

We also wanted to nurture them. To make them feel comfortable, relaxed, cozy on a cold day. And because I am a lover of cooking, I wanted them to be nurtured through the food that I prepared for them. I wanted them to not just receive nourishment without having to worry about the cost of the food, the time it would take to make it or the clean up afterward, but I wanted them to be well fed, to enjoy every bite and to learn about us through the dishes that we chose and planned for them to enjoy.

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Blog: Save Montclair’s Historic Social Fabric

BY  |  Friday, Oct 07, 2016 12:15pm

Baristanet-BlogsThe community’s unique social fabric of people and economic diversity is what mostly defines Montclair’s “sense of place” and this identity is the most important legacy to preserve to “Save Montclair.”

To quote Aldo Rossi, “One can say that the city itself is the collective memory of its people … The city is the locus of the collective memory.”

Montclair’s significance to American history, aside from its valuable architectural development, is that it is a place remembered for diversity and freedom when there wasn’t freedom elsewhere. There were diverse landowners in neighborhoods like Frog Hollow and nearby Crane’s Gap, documented since before the American Revolution. This remarkable history is just part of the social fabric, there is even more. There are those who gifted fortunes to insure education and good quality of life for all. This rare and diverse social fabric is emblematic to Montclair’s longtime community, its identity and its memory.

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Essay: When the Cheering Stops

BY  |  Thursday, May 19, 2016 1:15pm  |  COMMENTS (5)


It has been 18 years since I missed an opening day, which totals 10 years of little league, four years of high school and four more years playing Division 1 softball at Seton Hall University. Now there is a deafening quiet in my life as all the cheering has stopped.

I was one of a very few Dad’s whose daughter played a DIVISION 1 sport. It is a very exclusive club. Sara was a born a natural. She was gifted with an athleticism that was obvious when I first noticed the way she positioned her body while digging sand from a hole at the beach. She had perfect angles and possessed a precise rhythm, driven by her effortless determination. She had an inherent strength and natural fluidity both in sync with time and motion. Her field perception was as effortless and precise as a prima ballerina, always with a smile.
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Letter to the Editor: Let’s Get Back to Work

BY  |  Wednesday, May 18, 2016 8:52am  |  COMMENTS (28)

letter to the editorThe following is a Letter to the Editor sent by Shelly Lombard, a former Montclair BOE member:

At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, everyone agreed it’s time to focus on children again; including the people who’ve dominated Board meetings with unsubstantiated accusations like the one about the union president’s computer being searched. So where do we go from here?

First, the mayor should let the three new Board members take their seats. State law doesn’t provide a way to “un-appoint” someone. They were great choices when he selected them a month ago and they still are. They didn’t violate any OPRA or OPMA laws because they haven’t been sworn in yet. It seems the only thing they did “wrong” was wanting someone other than Jessica DeKoninck as president.

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Blog: On Sean Spiller — Follow the Money

BY  |  Monday, May 09, 2016 2:00pm  |  COMMENTS (29)

Baristanet-BlogsA few days ago on the Montclair Watercooler there was a discussion of the political race for the 3rd Ward Council seat in Montclair between Sean Spiller (the incumbent) and resident Maureen Edelson. I initiated that thread based upon other comments I had read about mailed campaign literature (ads) by Mr. Spiller. At one point in the discussion, a member of the group inquired, “Where does the money come from for all these ads.”

Since I have recused myself of any discussion of education issues on the Montclair Watercooler, I could only answer that query with a comment that the information is available, and someone should report back on it. Here is that “reporting.”

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Blog: Montclair Motorists: Shame on You – Big Increase in Pedestrians Hit in the 1st Quarter of 2016

BY  |  Thursday, May 05, 2016 1:00pm  |  COMMENTS (2)

Baristanet-BlogsThe following post is by Alex Kent, a coordinator at Drive with Care in Montclair and a community liaison for Montclair Health and Wellness Partnership:

In the first quarter of 2016 the number of incidents where a car hit and injured a pedestrian in Montclair almost doubled from a year earlier, to 18 pedestrian crashes this year versus 10 last year. February was the worst month, with 9 crashes. Also disturbing is the fact that two of the victims were children who were hit near their schools, a 9 year old by Hillside School, and an 11 year old by Bradford School. Both incidents were the drivers’ fault, not the childs’. Drivers were responsible for 15 of the crashes, with 3 being attributed to the pedestrian.

Once again Bloomfield Avenue was the most dangerous street with 3 crashes, followed by Valley Road with 2, and the Mountainside Hospital parking deck with 2.

The Pedestrian Safety Committee is working to encourage drivers to be more aware: put down the phone, don’t speed, and if you are in an area with crosswalks, be pro-active about looking for pedestrians trying to cross.

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Op-Ed: Lessons on Sustainability from New Jersey’s Bike Summit

BY  |  Saturday, Apr 02, 2016 2:30pm

BG HeadshotThe following Op-Ed was submitted by Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill:

As part of my ongoing efforts to promote cycling and walking opportunities in Essex County, I recently attended New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition’s 7th Annual Summit in Princeton on February 27th. Cycling and pedestrians advocates from all across the Northeast were there, bright and early, to share their thoughts on how our state can learn from other states and cities how to create safer and more efficient bike paths and a more cyclist friendly culture. Continue Reading

Love Story on Valentine’s Day" href="https://baristanet.com/2016/02/232945/" rel="bookmark">Flic Spa Shares A Love Story on Valentine’s Day

BY  |  Sunday, Feb 14, 2016 9:00am

flicEvery couple has their own way of communicating. Flic Spa owners Lerrick Santos and Oliver Dimaya have been together for 24 years. Lerrick, on the Flic blog, shares how his definition of love has evolved.

Valentine’s Day is this Sunday, which led me to thinking about love. Romance is definitely in the air, since both branches of Flic Spa have been sold out for Valentine’s Day weekend, for months now. I’m proud to say our spas have been venues for countless anniversary celebrations, date nights and even some marriage proposals. We are honored to be a part of our clients’ love story.

Speaking of which, the movie Love Story was two years old when our family moved to America. The theme song, written by Francis Lai, a French man with an Asian sounding name, was a huge hit with great staying power. My father brought home the Easy Piano version of the sheet music, so he could enjoy the lilting melody played live at home.

That is, until he heard my version, which sounded no different from the padfooted interpretation by our cat Precious, strolling along the piano keys My mother came to the rescue, since she was our family’s genuine musical talent, nurtured by two years of childhood piano lessons and authenticated by first place wins at a string of singing contests during her teen years. Her rich, alto voice garnered cash prizes and inexplicably, a solid teak bookcase and a ukulele.

“A bookcase and a ukulele,” I said, incredulous. “For first place. At a singing contest?”

“I guess it is strange,” said my mother. “Hoy! It’s an honor. Now play.“

She was out of my sight, but I knew she was wincing throughout my performance. Next came the coaching: “You’re not playing it with any feeling!” or “You’re just plowing through it!” and “You play like an animal. With hooves!” I knew she was right. To my defense, the sheet music was littered with black, angry notes, clearly written by a madman with a grudge against child pianists. Playing Love Story felt like walking against the wind, along the edge of a cliff.

The sheet music’s cover, in stark contrast with the dangerous music within, featured a languid portrait of the movie’s lead actors, a strapping Ryan O’Neal and a doe-like Ali McGraw. On the bottom was the movie’s romantic tagline: “Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.”

“What does it mean?” I asked my mother, pivoting the topic away from my piano playing. Plus the irony was stunning — I must have said ‘sorry’ a hundred times under my breath, after playing every wrong note.

“When you’re in love, you don’t say sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

“For bad things. When you get older you’ll understand. Now, do your homework.”

“And why can’t we watch it? Bonnie Kessler’s parents let her.”

“That’s why Bonnie is failing in school – don’t tell her that. Now, do your homework, or I’ll give you something to be sorry about.”

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

“Ay, naku!”

Spoiler alert. If you haven’t seen Love Story, the plot goes like this: Boy meets girl; Girl Dies; Boy Cries; You Cry. I wondered if the writer of that sentence wrote it in a fit of inspiration, or if it took many discarded versions: Continue Reading

Featured Comment

Sad. Let's hope that this is not its "Last Tango." One of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in town. Valentino, Garbo, Keaton must have played there.

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