Before you discuss Montclair’s May 12 election, are you angry that the recently formed Montclair Property Owners Association got a Superior Court delay of the rent-regulation measure passed this month by the Township Council?

Landlords of the Wrings

Yes. The compromise measure allows reasonable rent increases, and among the MPOA members petitioning the court was a prominent local developer with a household fortune of many millions. I weep at his financial hardship.

Drop the onion! Meanwhile, paper ballots are being sent to residents in advance of Montclair’s mail-only election. Given that many of our town’s usual polling sites are school gyms, do I need a home gym to vote?

Stace Shinary-Byke

No, but you can replicate the polling-site experience by opening your bedroom curtains as if entering a voting booth, striding briskly, bouncing off the window, and filling out the mail ballot after you regain consciousness.

Sounds like a plan. Which candidates do you prefer?

Pick or Treat

Dr. Renee Baskerville for mayor and the rest of her slate for the other six Township Council spots. That slate is called “Your Voice, Montclair,” but I think you can still vote for its members if you have laryngitis.

Can you alphabetically list the Your Voice, Montclair team?

In the 26 Mix

Sure! Montclair, team, the, Voice, Your.

Um…doesn’t the slate alphabetically consist of Dr. Baskerville, James Cotter (At-Large), David Cummings (4th Ward), John Hearn (1st Ward), Maggie Joralemon (3rd Ward), Chrissy Thomas (2nd Ward), and Peter Yacobellis (At-Large)?

Seventh Sojourn

Are. Correct. You. (You are correct.)

Why do you favor Dr. Baskerville?

Reason to Believe

I first want to say that every member of both slates, as well as the independent candidate, have their strong points. And voters can mix-and-match their electoral choices — along with their clothes. I suggest a tutu and football helmet ensemble.

Again, why do you favor Dr. Baskerville?

Explanation Dissertation

The longtime 4th Ward rep is decisive, compassionate, works VERY hard, has shown up everywhere in town over the years, has a strong social-media presence, and…my response will continue below, because even answers need to social-distance these days.


Once You Get Started

Dr. Baskerville was the strongest Council voice for the aforementioned rent-regulation measure. She (like David Cummings) is also a former Board of Education member, which can help when making future BOE appointments. And it can’t hurt during a pandemic to be an MD — as in Medical Doctor, not Mayor/Developer.

Mayor Jackson, who has worked in real-estate development, presided over a time of upscale overbuilding in our town, and much of the current Council didn’t strongly oppose that. Jackson isn’t running again, but four incumbents ARE — on the “Montclair 2020 – Progress in Action” slate. In contrast, how many incumbents are on the Your Voice ticket?

Gentrification Acceleration

Just one: Dr. Baskerville. Look, Progress incumbents did some good things even as they mostly went along with upscale overdevelopment — which the Your Voice slate may or may not also do, but I’ll take my chances. (Ad break: “Take ‘My Chances’ hope pills. Available for curbside pickup.”)

How have you learned details about the candidates?

Rhea Sirch

I’ve kept track of their past actions, looked at their campaign messaging online, read their postal mailings, watched the great videos in which Montclair High students asked them questions, etc. But no Spock mind melds.

What about last night’s no-in-person-audience candidates’ forum?

William Televised Overture

That April 22 event was scheduled to take place after this column’s submission deadline. Besides, I was unconscious after striding into the imaginary voting booth between my bedroom curtains.

But don’t you have Venetian blinds, not curtains, on your windows?

What a Pane

I know zilch about Venice, Italy’s elections — other than the debate about the best way to paint permanent stripes on flowing water when creating canal crosswalks.


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.



12 replies on “MontClairVoyant: More Than One Selection for Montclair’s May Election”

  1. Dave,

    You seem enthused about rent control. Do you see any downsides to that kind of policy? Could it discourage landlords from maintaining apartments or not creating new ones? Have economists, who study how markets function, done any studies of the efficacy of rent control?


  2. Thank you very much for the comment, lacamina. I realize rent regulation isn’t perfect, and can have unintended consequences. Still, I think the benefits (no tenants gouged by some landlords, reasonable yearly rent increases that can be planned for, keeping Montclair affordable for at least some non-affluent people, etc.) outweigh the disadvantages. Some smaller landlords may struggle a bit with it, but the now-delayed Montclair measure doesn’t apply to buildings with less than four residential units. Larger landlords, for the most part, can afford the new scenario. And the optics of one of the petitioners against the measure being a wealthy developer with an even wealthier spouse…not good. Of course, the pandemic unfortunately makes things fraught for many tenants and some landlords, but that would be the case with or without rent regulation.

  3. Sounds like a winner! Why stop at rent; why Not set price controls on other essential: food,cars, health care, education? Countries like be Venezuela, Cuba, and former USSR set a lot of prices top down. How did they work out? I also wonder why Montclair residents (not to be confused with gang of four that pushed this thru) have consistently rejected rent control? What are they worried about that you are not? Are they also just greedy, wealth people blind to benefits of price controls? Does the wealth of opponents matter for evaluating strength of their arguments?

  4. Thank you for your follow-up comment, lacamina.

    Just because one thing (rent) is regulated doesn’t mean everything should or would be regulated — not that I wouldn’t welcome more predictable health-care costs via Medicare for All. 🙂 And, again, rents would still increase each year under the Township Council measure.

    If food is too pricey at Montclair’s or West Orange’s Whole Foods, a person can shop at ShopRite in Bloomfield. If one can’t afford a fancy BMW, a person can buy a Toyota Corolla. But if a Montclair resident is priced out of an apartment and there are few affordable ones elsewhere in town, they have to leave Montclair — and their children (if they have them) have to leave the school system. A lot more wrenching than settling for a less-expensive car.

    “Does the wealth of opponents matter for evaluating strength of their arguments?” — why in the world would a developer who, along with his spouse, has a multi-million-dollar net worth worry about a modest rent-regulation measure? Is it just a reflex that the very rich should always get their way?

    Yes, Montclair residents have rejected rent regulation via referendum in the past. But that was a number of years ago; the results could very well be different now, when Montclair is becoming much pricier and much more gentrified. Then again, there are now relatively fewer modest-income Montclair residents than in the past, so the increased percentage of more affluent residents might sadly vote to reject rent regulation again.

    I can’t see the comparison of Venezuela, Cuba, and the former USSR to Montclair. After all, there isn’t Upper Venezuela, Upper Cuba, and the former Upper USSR. 🙂

  5. What does a developer and his wife’s net worth have to do with anything? He and wife became wealthy because people voluntarily paid them for their services and products. I am quite confident they pay tons in RE taxes. The cost of educating a child in this town is close to 20K. Aren’t we fortunate that there are people that subsidize the education of other’s children with their tax dollars? Renters with children in this town get a great deal. BTW, I want to live in a mansion on Upper Mountain Ave. Can you make it happen? I think I deserve it.

  6. Thank you very much for the comment, flipside.

    “What does a developer and his wife’s net worth have to do with anything?” They have so much that the optics look bad for the developer to be part of a legal effort against reasonable/compromise rent regulation that would help modest-income people. If the Montclair Property Owners Association wants to have any public sympathy, the only MPOA members involved in the legal action should be those who might struggle economically because of the rent regulation. Instead, it’s all rather tone-deaf.

    I’m not begrudging the developer and his spouse their wealth. They should enjoy it (as no doubt they do) without expending energy on making life more difficult for renters in MPOA-member-owned buildings.

    “I want to live in a mansion on Upper Mountain Ave. Can you make it happen? I think I deserve it” — funny! 🙂 I wouldn’t want to live in an UMA mansion, even if I were rich. So many better uses for that kind of money. I’d give so much away to people who need it my accountant would…um…unfriend me on Facebook. 🙂

  7. I was being facetious about the mansion but not about a property owner’s right to protect his investment. Believe it or not they have mortgages, maintenance, taxes, etc. to pay. If market forces change they face risk that was not there when they purchased/developed the property.
    Real Estate investment isn’t always profitable. Do you know how to make a small fortune in real estate? Start with large one.

  8. Thank you for the follow-up comment, flipside. There are indeed expenses and risks connected with real-estate investment. And those were a clever last two lines by you.

    But, in general, I think “market forces” are mostly a myth. So much of the market is distorted in favor of the rich. In Montclair, for instance, some PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) deals for wealthy developers. In the U.S. in general, foreign tax havens for big corporations (such as the cruise lines). Bailouts for big financial institutions in 2008 (“welfare for the rich”; shouldn’t “market forces” have left them to go out of business?). Wealthy interests getting a disproportionate share of government relief money during the current pandemic. Special tax privileges for hedge-funders. Tax loopholes. Trump’s 2017 tax-cut legislation benefitting mostly the rich. Etc. Some “free market”…

    But when a measure (such as rent regulation) passes that can help less-affluent people, suddenly “market forces” must be respected to the letter.

  9. I will agree that there is plenty of crony capitalism, look no further than Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, the Clintons and the Obamas’s. (I would throw some Republicans in there too but I am sure you already have.) I agree there are too many tax loopholes for sure. As far as the 2008 financial bailout…that was a bailout of lax congressional oversight. Thank you Chris Dodd and Barney Frank. They caused the problem and then got credit for fixing it. Talk about a rigged system!! The BofA’s and JP Morgans took on all the bad loans that the government facilitated through fly by night mortgage companies and government agencies. Congress didn’t bail out the banks, they bailed themselves out. The banks took the rap and were paid a tidy profit for their trouble. All that being said, if everything was on the up and up we would all be exactly where we are now….maybe worse off.

  10. flipside, no question that corporate-friendly Democrats (such as the ones you named) deserve a big share of the blame for crony capitalism and making sure things are rigged in favor of the wealthy. But, in general, I feel Republicans are even worse in that respect. And big banks were and are far from innocent.

  11. The difference is with Republicans cronyism is expected and scrutinized, not so with the Democrats. You are big fan of standardized testing (not)….follow the money.
    As for the big banks. Innocent no, but the government involvement in the mortgage industry was the root cause of the problem. The big banks were called in to take over the Wamu’s, Countrywide’s, and Indy macs of the world…and what were Fanny and Freddie doing becoming government backed hedge funds? The big guys joined the party and drank plenty but they didn’t bring the keg and tap it. Congress did, led by Dodd and Frank.

  12. Well, flipside, I might be different from some liberals in that I expect cronyism from most Democrats, even as Republicans in general are worse. During the past few decades, I’ve had negative or at best mixed feelings about both Clintons, Gore, Kerry, Obama, Biden, Pelosi, Schumer, etc. As for the 2008 financial crisis — sure, the Democrats shared some of the blame. But who was president in 2008 and the seven years before? A Republican, of course — George W. Bush. And the GOP controlled the Senate and House for much of that period.

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