Montclair 2012, a slate led by former Montclair mayor Robert Jackson, who seeks the office again, held its kick off party tonight in a tight Dick Grabowsky storefront filled with green and white balloons.

All the candidates spoke briefly.

Sean Spiller confers with slate mate Rich Murnick

“Right now we’re at a crossroads,” Jackson told the crowd. “Because the economic pressure that’s real in some cases is forcing us to perhaps do some things that make our town not what we want it to be, not what he came here for, and not why we stayed here. So our team believes our real strength is Montclair. And we have to make sure that we don’t lose the values.”

The Montclair 2012 slate includes Rich Murnick, Robin Schlager, Richard McMahon, Bob Russo and Sean Spiller.

Among the people in the room tonight were mayor Jerry Fried, councilors Nick Lewis and Renee Baskerville, developer Dick Grabowsky and Mark Alexander, who ran President Obama’s presidential campaign in NJ in 2008. Some noted that their presence didn’t constitute an endorsement. “I’m just here for the party,” said Lewis. But he added, “I like Sean Spiller a lot. He’s very refreshing.”

The crowd ribbed the loquacious Bob Russo, who said he was running for council for just one last term. “I’m 64, I don’t know if you know that,” he said, to which several people responded, “You look it.”

Pausing for the laughter, Russo touted his slate’s diversity and experience.

“It’s very good to have some new people and we do have new people, but it’s very good to have experienced people,” said Russo, who was mayor from 2000-2004. “I used to run the lemon law for New Jersey, and people would buy a new car and they would think the new car was great. Sometimes the new car was a lemon. I’m cautioning you not to let people convince you we need another change…It’s good to have new people. But we also need to have some experienced people who can hit the ground running.”

46 replies on “Jackson’s Montclair 2012 Slate Kicks Off Its Campaign”

  1. I guess this means every other thread will be about the Montclair election season…..This is my very interested face….>(:o{)

  2. Zzzzzzz. Same old, same old. Friend of Fried = not good. Waste more money on going to China. I’m sorry, but how have either of these mayors have truly helped our town?

    Karen Turner for mayor. Let’s really make a change for the better!!! I’ll take that trolley any day!

  3. Look out! “Values, not what we came here for, make our town not what we want it to be…”
    I smell intergenerational centers, the push for affordable housing in Upper Montclair and maybe even some new schools! Hang on to your wallets.

    Mtcmom is right – I’d rather have trolleys than a tightly night group with a personal “vision” that embraces a set of values. Isn’t there anyone who wants to move forward and be a visionary rather than wanting to keep things the way they are? I get very worried when politicians run on a value based platform. On either side of the aisle.

  4. Don’t forget… The Civics & Government Institute at Montclair High School will be hosting a mayoral debate on Thursday April 26th at 6:30pm in the LGI where the 3 candidates will discuss the issue of Education in Montclair. We hope to see you all in attendance.

  5. “the 3 candidates will discuss the issue of Education in Montclair. ”

    But they have almost no power or control over “Education in Montclair” . They might as well debate the Papacy.

  6. If Nick Lewis is for Sean Spiller, then I will be working very hard to make sure Mr. Spiller does not win. I’ve lived in the 3rd ward for over fifteen years and every council rep we have had has been terrible… Don Zief, Jerry Frier, Nick Lewis… all do-nothings whose only role is to rubber stamp whatever crackpot idea the current mayor has to offer.I cannot think of one thing any of these people have done in office that benefits our ward.

  7. mistercranetown…I don’t know anything about Nick Lewis, but you couldn’t be more wrong about Sean Spiller. I know him to be an incredibly intelligent, dedicated, articulate, hard working and sincere person. The 3rd Ward would be VERY well served by Sean. Please judge the man on his own merits not by the other folks is in the room.

  8. Out with the old, in with the older… what a sad group of has beens. I continue to be amazed at the depth of their egos. PLEASE if you have previously held office, you stank. If you are on the TC now, you stink. PLEASE GO AWAY!!!

  9. PS. That quote by Russo about the “lemon law” is he serious? This slate is a real nightmare… where was Robin Schlager?? She must be petrified that people are going to start asking her some very detailed questions about her ex-slate. That Remsen crew has done the most damage that this town has ever seen, she’s another one with a ego totally out of check. Susswein is an OK guy, not sure why he is running. He seems too out of touch in my eyes and far to attached to the pre-k for my liking and his whole team are Remsen supporters. I agree with you gurl… Karen Turner is my vote for Mayor, and I LOVE the trolley idea.

  10. msmoger – you are painting in very broad brushstrokes that provide no real information for me to make a judgement on Mr. Spiller. However, I strongly feel that you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps, and having him in the same room with Jerry Fried, Nick Lewis, Renee Baskerville, Robin Schlager and Dick Grabowsky makes him a very poor judge of character in my book.

    So if you wish to change my mind, please give me some specifics as to what will make Sean Spiller different from anyone else that has done such a poor job of representing the 3rd ward. I’ll get you started… is he for or against the Parking Authority? what are his opinions on the Park Street development? How about code enforcement? I’ve been trying for ten years to get them to enforce the codes against a medical practice behind me that uses a residential property for commercial purposes..they won’t even return my calls. So what will Sean Spiller do about that?

  11. I strongly feel that you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps, and having him in the same room with Jerry Fried, Nick Lewis, Renee Baskerville, Robin Schlager and Dick Grabowsky makes him a very poor judge of character in my book.

    What a silly comment. First of all, Jerry Fried is a total boob, but it’s not like he committed genocide. What is Spiller supposed to do, order the current mayor out of the room? Tell Grabowsky, “We will not allow you to appear at a party in your own building!” This is going to be one long campaign.

  12. nickcharles – shoot the messenger much?

    Spiller, and the others on his slate, are communicating (albeit indirectly), that they stand with failed poilticos and failed policies. So why don’t you stop with *your* silly posts and tell me why I should vote for anyone listed above? Again, don’t pick on me.. tell me why anyone on Montclair 2012 deserves my vote? (And I have never missed voting in a local election.)

  13. I get it Nick, but let’s get real here, the Jackson slate is not going to do anything to change the lack of change that came with this town council, which is precisely why I bet this Council will support them. Renee knows this council leaves a black mark on her, so she is running alone, same with Weller-Demming, they want to dis-associate themselves. Murnick,is totally out of touch and really hasn’t done anything of substance. He was the TC liason for OBAC and fails to list that in his bio., The TC reinstituted OBAC, sat the current members and once they blasted this Council, OBAC was put out to pasture, they did the same with the CFC. I would never support Susswein simply because he was and is a Remsen supporter. I do think you are attached to who you associate with.

  14. I have no comment on Spiller yet, because I don’t know him. But I do know that whether you vote in every municipal election or none, it’s just dumb to say, “Spiller was in a room with Jerry Fried once, so I can’t vote for him.” Now, if Nick Lewis or Jerry Fried came out and said, “Vote for Spiller,” that, I suppose, would be a legitimate reason not to vote for him. But his proximity to the current mayor and third ward councilman at a party last night? Not so much.

    It’s funny, there are a lot of, “NO ONE’S TALKING ABOUT REAL ISSUES” in comments about the election, and yet you seem to be discounting a candidate because Nick Lewis thinks he’s a nice guy. It’s very revealing.

  15. nickcharles – I’m sure they are all fine decent people, but that doesn’t make them qualified for office. My issue with Lewis is that he hasn’t been effective and that he also has some curious ideas about government. Remember when this council was discussing Fried’s idea of using eminent domain to acquire property for a new police station? The Lewis response was that if you are against eminent domain, then you are against government. What I am against is bad government, which seems to be a curse upon this town. Again nick, don’t focus on me…tell me why these people do or do not deserve my vote.

  16. Agree Nick but I don’t believe that is what mistercrantowns message was. I read it as if Lewis & Fried publicly come out and support Spiller, then that is a deal breaker for him and I agree with that. I didn’t read that if they were seen in the same room, taking in the grocery store or chatting in a parking lot, that meant support.

  17. Nick Lewis says anyone that doesn’t agree with him is anti-government. CCM, OBAC, Cary Africk recently for not supporting the roundabout in Watchung Plaza. He is a fool,he never has much to say at the TC meeting. He spends half his time bitting and picking at his fingernails and then spitting them out, he is gross. We should try and find all the quotes that Nick Lewis called people, groups etc in town “anti-government”

  18. dazed, I’m going by mister’s statement here:

    However, I strongly feel that you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps, and having him in the same room with Jerry Fried, Nick Lewis, Renee Baskerville, Robin Schlager and Dick Grabowsky makes him a very poor judge of character in my book.

    Seems very clear to me: you’re in a room with the mayor, you’re a bad person. Just a ridiculous statement, and, trust me, I am no fan of Jerry Fried.

    Again nick, don’t focus on me…tell me why these people do or do not deserve my vote.

    I have no interest in persuading anyone to vote for anyone, and I’ll focus on your statement all I want, thank you.

  19. Mr Russo could have set a higher bar for “hit the ground running”. Using the July swearing in as the start date is what the last Council did. Why not start now?

    Probably the most effective tool at a councilor’s disposal is the bully pulpit. Where better to see this in a prospective councilor than on the campaign soapbox. He and every other candidate should be using their 60 day candidacy period to speak directly, frequently, and specifically on how would they reshape the 2012-13 proposed budget.

    Or, if ‘what makes Montclair Montclair’ is the subject, then talk in terms of the 2011 Master Plan rewrite. (Let’s just skip the fact that $1.5MM only got us to a draft.)

    It seems to me a lot of voters forget the almost identical circumstances of the 2008 election and the budget processes. The candidates didn’t want to talk about the serious choices and certainly not a close examination of the township finances. Instead, they talked about transparency, listening, exploring and cooperation. You know the expression, first time, shame on them…

  20. If Montclair voters elect Bob Russo, the most shameless self-promoter in a state full of them, they deserve what they get.

  21. So what exactly has this slate to offer ? Looks to me as if their only experience is how to increase debt.

  22. Remember nickcharles when Russo was mayor and he drove around town with Mayor1 on his license plate?? He is a total self promotor. If he wins (god forbid) what would he have on his new plate? Councilor at Large is too many letters, how about… Mtc TC? I am not sure sure whether to laugh or cry.

  23. Yes, Frank… I think Russo did call the other candidates lemons. Well I call him a “rotten egg”

  24. Bob Russo has attempted higher office, and received barely any support. Please, Montclair voters, put a nail in the coffin of his political career, okay?

  25. I recall Mr. Russo lamenting the rising prices of homes in town during his term. I’ve been scratching my head ever since. Let’s take a poll, shall we? How many homeowners prefer rising prices to the market deterioration that we are seeing now? As a bonus question, how do housing price declines, that Mr. Russo apparently views as positive since they make the town more affordable to newcomers (screw the existing residents), help maintain property tax revenues that we need to sustain our bloated infrastructure? Answer: they don’t. Bonus question #2: why would anyone consider voting for this guy?

  26. I’m Jeff Jacobson, one of the candidates running against Sean Spiller for the Third Ward spot. Mistercranetown, you can be assured that I’m no one’s rubber stamp. My family and I have been in Montclair for just over five years — long enough to learn what’s terrific about the place and what needs fixing, but not long enough to be part of anyone’s political alliances. If something’s right for Montclair and its taxpayers, I’ll support it; if it’s not, I won’t. You’ll see that one of the things our “For Montclair” slate has committed to is realizing at least $1 million in savings by introducing competition into municipal services, starting with sanitation. In the forthcoming debates with Mr. Spiller, who is the head of a public employee union, I’ll be very interested to hear his position on that issue.

  27. Belated welcome to Mtc. I vote elsewhere, but, good luck.
    PS: If you bought here in 2007, then that is all the justification you need to run for councilor.

  28. Jeff – for your slate to committ to realizing 1 million dollars in savings with shared services if an awfully lofty dream. In order to share services, other towns need to committ and be on board. The surrounding towns do not have the financial problems that Montclair has. Which towns are knocking down our doors for Montclair to take over thier services?? Is your slate looking for other towns to take over our services?? Jackson made a similar promise, he said something to the effect of, his team is very friendly with the other towns and because of that, shared services will be easier to achieve. It’s all a bunch of nonesense.

  29. Identify who was involved in pushing through the historically bad projects and keep them away from the decision making process….(If they are running for office…….Don’t VOTE FOR THEM…. if they work for the township in planning or zoning …..FIRE THEM!!!!)….. It is totally irresponsible on the part of the community to empower these individuals and allow them to move forward with taking HUGH and COSTLY mistakes.

    Marlborough Inn Demolition/Christopher Court…

    …the Siena…8 South Mountain….The Washington Street Y demolition/New School ….

    …South Park and Re Development… (the redevelopment plan is the next failure waiting to happen)

    (for comic relief, we could post the “artist’s renderings” of these projects above at the time that they were pushed through and approved, together with photos of what resulted in reality)

  30. The Mayor in Montclair serves as the primus inter pares within the Town Council and also has the serious responsibility of appointing the Board of Education. Please join The Civics & Government Institute at Montclair High School on Thursday April 26th where we will be hosting a debate at 6:30pm in the LGI. The candidates will discuss their positions on the future of Education in Montclair. Thank you.

  31. Jeff,
    You might be a nice guy, haven’t met you, but you’ve joined one of the old alliances that got the town in trouble: Susswein-Michelson-Remsen, and their behind the scenes folks who seem to be the same ones for the past 2-3 elections. So that’s the only way we really know you at this point. Have you served on any committees in town, been involved with any local groups, like BlueWave or Save our Schools, PTA, or any others? Five years doesn’t seem like a lot of time to have lived in town and then to want to govern it-though that shouldn’t disqualify anyone.

  32. Re bigblue042’s post above, BlueWaveNJ is a “local group?” Only in a sense, since I’m sure its true aspirations are statewide and even national. But the institutional mindset of BlueWaveNJ might also be fairly characterized at the sort of attitudes which helped get Montclair into its current financial hole in the first place.

    So I’d actually hold it against any candidate whose resume mentioned that he/she belonged to this would-be “progressive” pressure group (which I always picture as peopled with people who resemble the Lorax, albeit with much less personal and political effectiveness).

  33. Big blue,
    You seem to want your blue wave cake and eat it, too.
    Stay away from the Old Guard, but New Guard is not qualified?
    A certain old guard slate that kicked off this thread said the same thing – the new guard could be a bunch of lemons.
    I am surprised that Cathar missed the connection between Jeff’s occupational expertise and Russo’s lemon law expertise.
    Tolleys, lemons…what could be next? A cable deal?

  34. Marcia Marley founder of Blue Wave was at the Jackson event, the Montclair Times mentions it and has a picture of her there. It is no secret that the Jackson crew = Blue Wave and the Susswein crew = Remsen. Another reason I support Karen Turner, she is not affiliated with either of these groups. Both of these groups have basically destroyed the financial footing of this Town.

  35. Cathar,
    I agree with you totally about BlueWave. I probably mischaracterized it as local group, though It would be informative if Mr. Jacobson were a member. I’m just trying to get a better idea of what he’s done in town. If he’s worked with Montclair groups or committees it might tell us what’s important for him and there might be others who can say he was really good helping on a certain issue, etc. I took it as a negative that BlueWave leaders are so involved with the Jackson slate.

  36. Another problem that the next government (and the Township Manager) must address is the appointed commission and committee members who are making decisions about projects that they are involved with and billing time for. This is an unethical conflict of interest.

  37. Couple of quick responses:

    What For Montclair is committed to isn’t shared services (though we’re going to pursue that vigorously, too, where we can, and we do see some opportunities) but outsourcing. That means, among other things, getting bids from private haulers to handle our trash and recycling pickups. Judging from other towns’ experiences, that one change can get us a long way to our million dollar commitment. We also have a few other town services in mind that could benefit from private bids. In each case, we’ll give our town workers the best shot to compete, but where we see a chance to save money responsibly, we’ll take it. Harvey and the others on the For Montclair slate are equally committed to this. The town has left this money on the table for far too long, for reasons I can’t fathom. Change will require a new team.

    Where do I stand on South Park Street? I think the project is too expensive, but the ship has sailed. The council has approved it. It’ll be up to the next council to prevent further cost overruns. On the parking authority, we need major reforms. I don’t want to bring those services in-house — the town has enough on its plate — but we need much better management there.

    In terms of what I’ve done, I invite you to check out my bio at Among other things, I spent five years working on police, trash and traffic issues in a tough budget environment in Philadlephia. I’ll be honest, I have two very young daughters (6 and 3) and my “spare” time in Montclair mostly has been spent being a dad. It’s clear the town needs competent people to step up and serve, however — ones that have relevant experience (as you’ll see I do) and aren’t beholden to anyone — so I’ve volunteered to run. It looks like the voters of the Third Ward will have an interesting choice this election, and I’d be most honored to win the vote.

  38. Jeff,
    I just don’t believe what slates, or even candidates, say they will do anymore. The platforms are irrelevant. For every election in memory they’ve all said almost the same thing and none have really followed through. So I’m down to looking at what the candidates have done in town at least as one indication of what they might do on the counsel. Maybe it’s a plus that you haven’t been involved in anything in Montclair, but it doesn’t give me a lot of comfort. I don’t think Jackson’s third ward candidate has been involved in town either, at least I didn’t see anything listed. If you didn’t have time to get involved with town issues before this election because you are a dad, how are you going to suddenly have all this time to work on the counsel?

  39. BigBlue,
    Thanks for your response. If you’re a Third Ward resident, I’d be happy to speak to you about all these issues at your convenience. Just send me an email at jsjacobson-at-debevoise-dot-com and we’ll set something up. (Same goes for any other Third Ward resident who might be reading this.)

    I can tell you that I’ve spent a lot of time with my “For Montclair” slate-mates — Harvey Susswein, Tim Barr, Bill Hurlock and Walter Springer — and can assure you that we all very much mean what we’ve been saying. Give For Montclair a majority on the Council, and we’ll bring the change we’re promising in our platform. There are no pie-in-the-sky promises there, just real, pratical solutions.

    I look forward to debating all these issues with Mr. Spiller and Mr. Swenson as the campaign proceeds and, as I said, I’d be glad to talk to all my neighbors about them.



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