Two slates in Montclair’s upcoming municipal elections announced changes and kick-offs this week. In a surprise move, Real Progress Montclair, headed by mayoral candidate Karen Turner, announced that Chris Swenson has joined the ticket.

Back in January, Swenson was rumored to be running on a ticket that included Turner, Joseph Kavesh, and mayoral candidate Robert Jackson. Turner and Swenson then broke away from the Jackson slate; later, Turner formed her own slate without Swenson, which included LeeAnn Carlson, Peter Zorich and Jeff Ogden. Yesterday, Turner announced that Chris Swenson was replacing Ogden as candidate for 3rd Ward councilor.

Reached by phone in Texas, where he is attending to a family situation, Swenson said that he contemplated running independently but decided to become part of the Real Progress team.  “This is the greatest chance for the greatest change for Montclair,” he said.

He noted that Turner’s past experience with the Operating Budget Advisory Committee and Concerned Citizens of Montclair gives her the credibility to work with the town’s finances.  Also, he said that the Real Progress slate is independent, noting, “We’re not tied to past coalitions.”

Turner said, “I don’t just want a seat at the table; I’m asking what I can do for this town.”

In an press release issued yesterday,  Turner said, “Central to our campaign is the commitment to instill common sense and practical and clear fiscal responsibility to Township operations while delivering services in more innovative and cost-effective ways. It is Real Progress Montclair’s position that the solutions to Montclair’s problems do not rest solely with budget cutting or reduction of services. Real, progressive solutions lie within new, smarter, more effective ways of governing. Real Progress Montclair believes that by doing things differently, Montclair can provide the same, even better, levels of services, but at a lower cost.”

Turner also said, “I have invested substantial time in researching and analyzing Montclair’s finances and operations through my work with OBAC and CCM. I strongly believe we have assembled the best group to lead this town for the next four years. Real Progress Montclair has specific plans and is uniquely prepared for this moment in Montclair, with perspective, expertise and a non-political motivation to implement progressive and transparent changes.”

Meanwhile, the Montclair 2012 slate — headed by Robert Jackson — officially launched its campaign, announcing a new website ( and a Campaign Kickoff event.

From the press release:

Many challenges lay ahead of Montclair. Our schools struggle to do more with less, our first responders are stretched thin and the crushing burden of property taxes threatens to extinguish the ideal that is Montclair. The scale of the challenges we face demand solutions of an equally grand scale. On Tuesday, we launched our campaign, we believe, bringing forward smart, practical solutions to these problems.

The website lays out the slate’s plans for reducing debt, economic development, shared services and schools. The campaign will host a Kickoff event on Friday from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at 480 Bloomfield Ave. Montclair 2012 is comprised of Jackson, who is running for Mayor, Richard McMahon III, Bob Russo, Richard Murnick, Robin Schlager and Sean Spiller.

Photo of man shaking cocktail courtesy of Farmers & Fishers in Flickr.


Liz George is the publisher of Montclair Local.

62 replies on “Slates Get Shaken and Stirred”

  1. So the two choice thus far are a slate with Bob Russo and a slate which want’s to build a trolley system in Montclair?


  2. Okay, Real Progress. It’s great that there’s already a working knowledge of finances as a result of your work with OBAC and CCM. Now, PLEASE translate that into a handful, just a handful, of concrete items. You know, basics. We need to accomplish goal x – and this is the plan we will implement to make that happen. This step, by this date, this next step, by this date, and this is who will spearhead that effort. Rhetoric is nice. I think we need some solid evidence from someone that we are going to see people REALLY affect some kind of change regarding the town’s financial mess. I think that whatever happens in the next four years, our town will remain diverse and we’ll continue to have an artistic community and decent schools. So let’s not talk about how to maintain what we already have, let’s talk about how to get our financial house in order so we can move beyond this.

  3. ROC, trolley? What did I miss? Should i weep now, or just put a for sale sign in front of my house?

  4. And this just in from Patch!

    “At Tuesday night’s township council meeting, a contract for $901,581 was awarded to D&S Land Development for the improvement project. D&S submitted the lowest of six bids received by the township.

    The council also agreed to purchase $45,200 in decorative street lighting for the project from Turtle and Hughes Inc.”

    Of course they won’t cut back on anything. It was discussed, but what’s the point. Now let’s go ahead and make sure the BOE puts some artificial turf on that field because we really need to spend another $1mm before we’re booted out!

  5. The Turner Trolley

    “We would also like to investigate the creation of a transportation means to better link consumers to Montclair’s various business centers. One thought is to replicate in-town transportation systems offered in other towns around the U.S. using privately run old style trolleys. One could start at the north end of Montclair at Montclair State University and make stops along all the major business centers and parking lots. Another trolley could run east and west along Montclair’s Bloomfield Avenue, looping in all the major parking locations.”

  6. I’d like to know what the various slates would do about this:


    (thanks Randel McMurphy on Patch)
    Annual Municipal Government Payroll Burden per Resident.
    (for 2007, latest figures available for all the towns)

    Millburn $790
    Livingston $799
    Maplewood $743
    Bloomfield $889
    Verona $538
    West Orange $574
    Montclair $2,650!

    Now THAT is fiscal mismanagement.

  7. That’s an outrage. As for the trolley, at least they are saying privately held, but somehow I’m guessing we’ll wind up picking up the tab for that one.

  8. Trolleys are short sighted.

    I firmly believe the first slate to propose a ski lift to get pedestrians from one end of Montclair to the other will win the hearts of Montclair voters. If it is a success the town can always change from lift chairs to gondolas.

  9. ROC. None. But Montclair is special. It can happen here. I’m walking away now and going back to work before I become severely depressed.

  10. “At Tuesday night’s township council meeting, a contract for $901,581”

    Plus $200k in design fees, not included. Plus the $45,200 for the lighting, plus the installation (not included). Should be $1.2 million if there are no major overruns. With the difficulties they’re sure to “discover” it will be $1.5 million.

    $750K. Period.

  11. Randel, the mindset, at least of the current council, is how to continue to spend up to the 2% cap. We haven’t spent enough, how can we spend more?

  12. “Montclair $2,650!”

    Hold the phone. Montclair’s figures include teachers and the other towns our size (for some strange reason) don’t. The site isn’t comparing apples to apples. Sorry I should not have taken the site at face value.

  13. The real sad thing about the South Park Street Project is that they’ll just have to tear it up again to lay the trolley tracks.

  14. But at least we’ll have a trolley! The turf will have to be torn up and replaced within a year because it’ll be done incorrectly, but somehow the town will pay for the re-do instead of the contractors.

  15. Do they really mean a “light rail” trolley system that requires tracks or is it really a transportation system similar to Cape May or Alexandria, Va. that uses small buses that look like trolleys? I think it’s the latter (which I still don’t think should be implemented).

  16. “How many privately constructed Trolleys have you seen in the last 100 years?”

    I believe the trolley in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was privately constructed. Though if memory serves me right, some of the cost overruns were paid for by grants from the Sears-Roebuck Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

  17. “Clang, clang, clang” went the trolley
    “No!, no! , no!” went the cry
    “Go, go, go” went our coffers
    From the moment I heard, I said “Buy!”

    “Chug, chug, chug” went the motor
    “Drip, drip, drip” went receipts
    “Zip, zip, zip” were our coffers
    Don’t worry folks, about the empty seats!

  18. I love The Beatles, and I love the artwork on their albums (in fact, I’ve based our last few Holiday Cards on their album covers – including this one).

    I’m not sure, however, that “Let it be” is the idea that one should be projecting, however subconsciously, if one is advocating a new direction in local government…

  19. Trolley? I like the idea of integrating the students at Montclair Students to our down town area. It has to be privately held though! No more money for niceties. Maybe MSU could run a program out of its business school and set up internships. They could hire outsourced garbage truck drivers. Does this make any money though?

  20. Additional public transportation isn’t a bad idea. It’d be nice, for instance, to have a trolley linking the South End to downtown shopping areas, to the train stations, and to MSU. Maybe a small regional bus or trolley system could be one of the “shared services” people talk so much about? Something linking West Orange, Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield residential areas to shopping districts and train stations could have a lot of benefits.

  21. Thanks– I had no idea! But it only goes down to Llewellyn. That leaves out quite a bit of the South End. Also, it only runs on the weekdays in a very limited commuter-driven run to the train station in the mornings and from the train station at night. I wonder if expanding the service would bring new ridership. Getting on the jitney could be cheaper than parking, and if the service was more regular, more people might use it for more things.

  22. @jerseygurl: Looking over my post, I’m afraid you might think my thanks were sarcastic– they weren’t. I really had no idea, and was grateful for the tip. I just looked up the jitney on the town website to get all that info.

  23. We have bus links, it’s called NJ transit. A jitney or trolley are yet another “wouldn’t it be nice to…” absurdity.

    the danger, as we have seen many times, is when a slate or local government says something like “privately funded” and yet sees some role for themselves. The only role that local government can have is funding in such a scheme. Watch your wallets folks.

    It’s like when Cary says the million-dollar plus South Park Street Project will “pay for itself”.

  24. Who would ride this trolley. The dude with the grey pony tail going from Starbuck’s to Whole Foods? I’m not averse to some sort of jitney, but MSU should pick up a big part of the tab if it serves the college. Also, it would presumably run down Valley Road or Park St., yes? no? Is someone going to walk down from Highland or up from Grove to take it. Doubtful. We could let the town school bus drivers take the wheel, that way the trip would be much shorter considering how deftly they avoid the speed limits in my area.

  25. A trolley would enthrall potential homebuyers by making them think that they are in Vienna.

  26. It should start at mission street go west on bloomfield, north on park, west on bellevue, then south on valley back to bloomfield heading east to complete the loop…

  27. It could make a tour of all the town’s funding boondoggles. It could stop at the un-insured train station, pass by the $20,000 windmills at the water tanks, swing by Africk Alley (otherwise know as South Park), glide past the Derron School, slip past the $30 million dollar Bullock School, the occasionally functional solar street lights at Rand School, The MPA decks, and end at the million dollar dry-feet-marching band field.

  28. would not be commuter friendly ROC, but if thats the case we should add potential future boondoggles like the wildwood properties.

    i think the bloomfield park bellevue valley loop would work though..what would a ticket cost? I say $1.00.

  29. I work in downtown New Brunswick and there are two systems which operate that fully integrate Rutgers students, businesses and residents. The RU bus system is available to the public and travels throughout the city. Restaurants in the downtown are part of the campus meal plan so it draws students into the local restaurants.

    There is a also a trolley (no tracks required) that is used to transport riders to the further outskirts of town. As the town has been gentrified many of the non-profits and county government offices moved to the outskirts. To accommodate the needs of residents, the trolley was developed to assist residents in getting to appointments with various agencies.

    Montclair is slightly larger (6.16 miles to NB’s 5.23 miles), and has less residents (approx. 17,000 fewer). Income may tilt to Montclair – NB’s median income per capita is $44,543. couldn’t find Montclair’s.

    The major different between Montclair and New Brunswick is the role that one developer (DevCo) plays and the relationship between the university, DevCo and J&J (whose worldwide headquarters are here). UMDNJ also has a strong foothold, as does Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

    My point in all this? i don’t think we have to look out of state for models that might be successful. And, I believe we need to partner more solidly with MSU as well as other larger employers – hospitals, non-profits, etc.

  30. I like your thinking, kob62! A fully integrated, user-friendly jitney would benefit the town in a lot of ways– it would just have to be well-designed and dependable.

  31. “i think the bloomfield park bellevue valley loop would work though..what would a ticket cost? I say $1.00.”

    Are you running for office? You seem qualified!

  32. The only problem with the loop whowantwhat proposes is that it leaves out the South End entirely. Maybe there should be two loops? A northern and southern loop? $1.00 sounds great to me!

  33. @RoC: the 11:44 was good, but the 5:38 was even better…and I had no idea about the uninsured train station and the windmills. I’ll take 2 tickets please if you’ll be the tour guide.

  34. I thought of a South End loop as well, but not sure if there will be enough ridership. I just ran some numbers and the average price of a ticket for both north and south loops would increase from $1.00 to $89.99.

  35. Geez Roc, you sure are cranky these days. What do you support? The boondoggle tour is quite a laugh. It just might make a lot of money.

    I hear these trolleys have bike racks on the back. Fried might like them.

    kob62, I like your thinking and approach. $1.50 for adults and $1.00 for kids under 10. Senior discount? I’m not sure. Maybe the senior bus gets suspended they ride for free. If they are lifers, we all know they’ve paid their share in taxes.

  36. Did anyone else see in The Montclair Times that Mister Mayor is Kathryn Weller-Demming’s campaign manager? Should be fun. I wonder what his campaign advice will look like?

    “Make sure you call any voter who disagrees with you angry, and then spend weeks hyperventilating to anyone who listens that you didn’t really say it.”

    “Calling Chinese kids better than Montclair kids in math and science is a really smart strategy to win over Chinese AND Montclair residents!”

    “That package on your porch that says it’s from It’s probably a bomb. Better call the feds.”

  37. That’s an interesting bit of information, Nick. Do they really believe she has a shot at becoming a council member for another term? At what point do they realize their “vision” does not intersect with the current reality?

  38. If I’m not mistaken, The Rutgers bus system in New Brunswick is meant to be restricted to students, who are supposed to swipe their “RU cards” in order to ride.

    Yes, however, townies hop on as the mood hits them. And proceed to stare down students who object. The bus drivers supposedly just ignore this (discretion being the better part of valor, after all). If this report is true, then RU’s bus system is not the image of harmony someone above paints it as.

    As for a trolley system of any sort, surely it must have occurred even to its proponents that maintenance, storage faciiities and salaries for both maintenance personnel and drivers would cost an awful lot. The last thing, in other words, that a financially hard-pressed town really needs to be considering in this economy. by contrast, even lots more bike racks would be a heck of a lot cheaper.

    Typically for the posters on this site, too, a few people posit a $1 fare for said “trolley” system without any real idea what such a system would actually have to charge passengers to even approach breaking even.

  39. Alas, ‘gurl, reality is only tangential to the matter. It’s about who gets the votes. If The People want her, it’s her we’ll get.

  40. Do they really believe she has a shot at becoming a council member for another term?

    I don’t think she has anything else to do, honestly. Of all the council members, she seems, aside from Fried, the most ticked off that people don’t love her. She has a chip on her shoulder about the way the council is viewed, and wants her image to improve.

  41. Image? Someone who breast feeds and knits at council meetings and behaves as though she’s in a small informal group of people holding hands and singing “kumbaya” because we live in utopia and our grandchildren will hate us for not spending more money on senior centers? Using 205 as a baby sitting service? At the very least, the minimum, I expect my elected officials to behave respectfully by putting their entire attention and focus on the issues. I’ll be the first to admit this has been an incredibly difficult time to lead and many mistakes had been made prior to this council’s walking in the door. It’s not easy, they don’t get paid to do it and I appreciate the time, effort and dedication it takes to do this. BUT, give the position the respect it deserves, or step down.

  42. Has KWD ever had a real job, owned a home, or paid taxes in Montclair? I would like to know. What degree of cognitive dissonance does one need to suffer from to seek validation at the ballot box after such an epically disastrous, farcical performance during her current term in office? Make it stop. Please, just let them go away.

  43. Cathar, the goal is not to breakeven, it is simply to have a trolley, come on now, get your head right. We will make up any shortfalls by increasing real estate taxes each year, you really need to get with the program man. Anyway, I will begin drafting a proposal.

  44. “Cathar, the goal is not to breakeven,”

    Couldn’t agree more WWW. If the goal was to break even, the budget wouldn’t have an increase every year regardless of drops (or increases) in town revenue.

  45. Walk through Church Street or the Upper Montclair business district and ask adult residents about specific items on the town or BOE budget or KWD’s antics during TC meetings and most will not have a clue. The absence of informed voters allows KWD and people like her to be voted into office. Baristaville doesn’t represent a fair evaluation of the majority of the Montclair population.

  46. “Did anyone else see in The Montclair Times that Mister Mayor is Kathryn Weller-Demming’s campaign manager? Should be fun. I wonder what his campaign advice will look like?”

    If I was KWD’s campaign manager, the first bit of advice I’d give her is to stop saying the word “um” so much. Makes her um sound like um she’s not so um smart. Um.

  47. Judging from personal experience Howard is correct. Residents of Montclair are busy people, and the vast majority go with the flow. Taxes go up, you pay them. Crime isn’t an issue. You’ve got some minor irritations, but so does everyone. Then something triggers an epiphany. You look back over time and realize that we truly are unique, and not in a good way. The economic crisis hammered everyone, but it hit us especially hard because our fiscal foundation was a house of cards, our voters prioritize progressive social issues, and our elected officials were amateurish in the extreme. I basically had no clue as to what the local candidates platforms were, or where they stood on issues, or basically anything about them. They were all a faceless collection of platitudes and lawn signs. Each candidate should be required to lay out their platform in some well publicized and universally accessible location, so that you can at least know where they stand, theoretically.

  48. Does anyone know, seriously? Has KWD ever had a real job, owned a home, or paid property taxes in Montclair?

  49. I was unable to find Kathryn Weller-Demming’s curriculum vitae on Linkedin, but I did Google the Unity Montclair slate website from 2008. It says she is a “stained glass artist whose windows can be found in houses around town.” Her education background is as follows: “she went through the Montclair schools, graduated Montclair High School, headed to Hampshire College, then returned to her roots.” Her bio doesn’t list any “jobs” per se, but it does say “Kathryn has volunteered with PAWS, Paterson Habitat for Humanity, the Community Food Bank of Hillside, and as a CASA advocate. She currently serves as the Voter Registration Coordinator for HeadCount, a non-profit dedicated to registering and informing voters as part of the live music scene.”

  50. So she didn’t finish college and has never held a job. Of course, she has been a volunteer in an animal shelter and for a children’s advocacy group, but has not on any of the township committees. I’m not sure any of this matters. What speaks volumes more about her abilities is her record as a current, and hopefully soon to be past, council member.

  51. I wonder if Jerry Fried as her campaign manager will help or actually hurt Kathryn Weller-Demming? I know a lot of people out there who were disappointed Jerry wasn’t running again, specifically because they wanted so badly to vote him out of office. I guess perhaps the next best thing now would be to vote KWD out of office?

  52. Hampshire College. I would have guessed there or Bennington. Sometimes you just know…
    From “The Urban Dictionary”:
    Hampshire College

    An experimental liberal arts college near Amherst, MA. Beloved and/or derided for having no grades, unorthodox classes, and a student body of hippies,eccentrics, and the occasional knife fetishist.

    Being interested in hackysack, organic farming, and dreads, Josh was a perfect fit for Hampshire College.

    So there we have it.

  53. 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)

  54. Another problem that the next government (and the Township Manager) must address are 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.

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