I was so puzzled about two Montclair things that I stepped into the water in my apartment building’s flooded basement last week. Dumb of me?


Wet It Be, Wet It Be

Not if you had a town pool pass.


The first thing I puzzled over was the local League of Women Voters hosting next month’s candidates forum as the Board of Education transitions from appointed to elected. Weird?


‘At Seventeen’ of February

Very weird, after that VOTERS group opposed VOTING for BOE members before its preference was overwhelmingly rejected in last November’s referendum. Next, cattle ranchers will host a forum on vegan food.


Then there was the part of Mayor Spiller’s “State of the Township” address in which he lamented fast-rising rents that the Township Council tried to partly deal with via April 2020’s now-stymied rent control measure. Puzzling because…


‘At Eighteen’ of January

…the mayor then lauded Montclair’s new “Wellmont Arts Center and Plaza” without mentioning the unconscionably high rents at that project’s Two South Willow “luxury” apartments. Even “The Wind in the Willow” is pricey.


Actually, that children’s book is “The Wind in the Willows” — plural.


Drew Breeze

For “arts district” tenants, the “s” is not for savings.


Just how expensive are some of the Two South Willow units?


Wealth of Notions

I checked the building’s website Monday, and saw two-bedroom/two-bathroom apartments priced at $3,650 to $4,110 a month! Even a measly studio apartment was $2,040. The rent for a one-bedroom utensil drawer: unknown.


Getting back to the BOE, the board hired a bond counsel in connection with the hoped-for future upgrades of our district’s mostly old school buildings. Comment?


Not Barry Bonds’ Counsel

Can’t hurt, I guess, as the BOE makes its aforementioned transition from appointed to elected — but I wish the BOE and Board of School Estimate had done a LOT more about infrastructure before last November’s aforementioned referendum, and also wish I hadn’t just used the word “aforementioned” twice.


Our schools definitely need repairs and better ventilation systems. Heck, with aging furnaces and open windows during this time of COVID, a number of classrooms are way too cold — meaning students and teachers need to wear something that rhymes with boats.


Ship of Schools

Oats? Moats? Goats?


No, they need to wear coats, you idiot! Bond referendum this November?


Autumnal Vote

I have no interest in voting for who’s the best James Bond actor.


Lastly, Asian-American students at Montclair High have asked the BOE to make Lunar New Year a district-wide holiday. Thoughts?


Event Horizon

Hundreds of students and other residents signed a petition for what sounds like a great idea. Infinitely greater than swimming laps in Montclair’s fourth municipal pool (my apartment basement).



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: Many a Topic During Weather Not Tropic”

  1. I don’t have numbers, but I suspect it would be less costly and faster execution of objectives if we just build expanded Bullock, Northeast, George Inness and build a new Hillside along side of existing Hillside (then tear it down). Bullock is just stupid execution. Such a 1960’s design. We should use a rooftop playground over new classroom space connected by a skybridge. Any financial analysis would tell you rooftop educational space is much better payback than the really dumb solar panel thing we have going now. Maybe the MEC could re-run their numbers on that.
    Anyway, close Edgemont, sell property for $5MM. Demolish Rand and fight over what the space should be used for.

    We would alleviate the Summer construction window constraint (faster) and work 365 days, we eliminate retrofitting a couple of white elephants, and reduced the number of buildings we have to maintain. And we would likely get more $ from the State if we thought bigger and newer. Instead, we are going to use up all our attention span and energy deciding is this BoE candidate significantly different from that BoE candidate.

    The lack of focus on our schools is quite humorous to me. But, it will be an elected version of More of The Same.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Frank.

    Not sure if you’re being totally serious or partly serious, but what you outline is of course not going to happen. And I really like the Edgemont building; would hate to see it sold. I do agree that Bullock is a rather ugly school building (that was very expensive to construct πŸ™ ).

    Lastly, solar panels are a good thing. πŸ™‚

  3. Full disclosure: I have no confidence in the existing BoE nor the 9 running candidates. I look at their backgrounds, look at them as a part-time/I have a whole other life role-players, and lastly – the state of public education before COVID piled on.

    I look at just the facts: a group of Councilors who spent 8 years bringing the total (muni & school) debt down from $225MM to $160MM. I see a 6-10 yr, school district alone, capital plan of $155MM – to fix the school buildings and add state of the art athletic facilities. I see a school district that can’t even get their annual audit out in a timely manner much less show they have a basic grasp of finances (basic as in at least better than the Montclair Public Library Trustees).
    In short, we are going to do what this generation is good at: emulating what their parents taught them. Imagination? Nope. Feee-thinkers? Nope. We will spend $155MM over 10 years to recreate the educational version of Disneyworld.

    Elected or appointed? Does not matter. A critical mass of talent is just not there on the BoE or in the District. The parts don’t even equal a whole. The question is what are Montclairions going to do about it besides donate to the MFEE.

  4. Frank, given that being a BOE member is an unpaid position, it’s hard for many board members to be full-time board members.

    That said, I think elected BOE members can be just as qualified, or more qualified, than appointed BOE members. Or just as “not so qualified.” πŸ™‚

    Yes, fixing up Montclair’s mostly old school buildings (including their ventilation systems) is going to be costly. But it has to be done.

  5. I wasn’t clear…again. I think it is a wash with the qualifications of elected vs appointed members. Elected members are more qualified in the sense they should better represent a spectrum of interests. Conversely, the skills they offer for the role are ‘soft’ (general) ones. Their role is to make the hard policy choices to allocate this $155MM and the many millions to follow.

    What scares me is how best to invest this taxpayer’s funding across 14 school buildings, not including the Pre-K expansion on the horizon. Only Bullock is relatively modern and we never went back and conducted a hindsight of what we got right and wrong with that investment.

    The district’s solar panel project will be obsolete in many key ways before we even undertake it. We never got an accounting of how Bullock’s solar farm panned out. Further, we never looked at ROI of solar panels canopies over the parking lots instead of over roof tops. Even the idea of panels vs solar roof tiles for instance was not considered. The school district is basically know for their tunnel vision.

    The Seymour Arts District was a $135MM build-out, not counting the Midtown Deck. There was a plethora of professionals involved in the visioning, planning, financing & execution of just two buildings. I am sure someone, somewhere along the line looked at ROI. An important anchor was the Master Plan and the Redevelopment Plan. The MPSD? We have a bare-bones Long Range Facilities Plan that is predicated on keeping and refurbishing our existing plants with a undersized project management team. Clearly, some of these buildings are not worth reinvesting to extend their service.

    Most parents have, on average, a 8-10 horizon. The time here before their children age out.

    In short, I don’t think we have a 15-20 year vision. Meanwhile, within 10 years we will have blown through $155MM in spending. And a chunk of that is targeted for athletic facilities and some nice-to-have projects.

    Lastly, we will then cycle through annual elections with shifting mandates each new member brings. It’s hard to have the warm & fuzzies about what the future might bring.

  6. Frank, you make good points in discussing how expensive, lengthy, and daunting the school-upgrade process will be, and in wondering if there’ll be enough experts and expertise involved in the process.

    Still, with all the so-called “experts” involved in (mostly) private development such as “the arts district,” Valley & Bloom, The Siena, etc., those projects had various conceptual and/or construction flaws. Meaning the “experts” involved weren’t so expert. And there was lots of emphasis on profit — more so than will be associated with public projects such as school improvements.

    Hoping the school upgrades will go well.

  7. Dave, Dave, Dave,

    How is it possible you left out the ongoing saga of the unfinished Not On Orange Road Magical Parking Deck? It is coming up on its 10-year anniversary of its transformation. The Midtown Deck required only a year. And may I point out for the umpteenth time that the California Teachers Retirement Fund is the majority owner of LCOR, the redeveloper…and an original selling point was solar panels would make it a net provider of electricity. Yes, the Township magnanimously relieved them from that deliverable. The Bullock School actually has solar panels. Yet, it is still a net user of electricity.

    We need 4-way stop signs for all these intersections.

  8. The “Not On Orange Road Magical Parking Deck”? Not remembering that in the Harry Potter books. Will reread. πŸ™‚

    Teacher retirement funds involved with a developer — ugh. Cringe concept.

    Solar panels may not be perfect or as effective as we’d like, but they’re still environmentally helpful and welcome.

    “We need 4-way stop signs for all these intersections” — clever line, Frank!

  9. No, not Potter. The parking deck is our Tree of Heaven in soon-to-be the 6th book sequel written by transplants from the old neighborhood, now among us. The circle parking ramp of life.

    I thank God every day that the telephone poles all around me host those monarch-sized solar panels. I am certain my block is one of the first to meet Montclair’s 2030 carbon reduction goal.

  10. Ha, Frank! πŸ™‚ If there’s ever a convention of wizards at The MC hotel (Gandalf, Dumbledore, the Oz guy…) they can leave their cars at the “Not On Orange Road Magical Parking Deck” you cited.

    And better to have solar panels on telephone poles than on pole vaulters’ poles… πŸ™‚

Comments are closed.