With horrific recent gun massacres spurring a local “Gathering for Remembrance and Action” tomorrow, June 3, are Councilor-at-Large Bob Russo’s comments at a recent Township Council meeting relevant?


Rhea Marks

They are. He spoke of young men influenced by Trump and by other white-supremacist Republicans who (these are my words) helped change America’s climate to one where more hateful acts occur. Yes, the GOP believes in climate change!


Not all mass shootings in the U.S. are fueled by racism, but some certainly are. Have Montclair’s local GOP leaders said anything publicly against “Great Replacement Theory” nonsense and other dangerous racist claptrap voiced by many prominent national Republicans?


A Far-From-Great Theory

Not that I’m aware of. Local GOP leaders also haven’t criticized NRA-bought national Republicans for blocking measures that might reduce mass shootings, so I guess they’re all in with gun “rights.” It’s a shame when anyone is all in when the weather’s so nice outside.


Do Montclair’s Democratic leaders criticize those prominent national Democrats — some also corporate-bought — who are timid about fighting for real change in various areas?


Donkeys and Elephants

A fair point. Then again, national Dems haven’t been extreme enough to support fiction equivalent to Trump’s “Stop the Steal” — which is so corrosive to democracy even as it thankfully never stopped Montclair High softball players from stealing bases.


Do you have more specifics about the June 3 “Gathering for Remembrance and Action“?


Dee Tailz

It’s scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. on the lawn of The Episcopal Church of St. James. That’s at Valley and Bellevue, which would be a good name for a rock band but they’d still need a bass player.


At another recent meeting — of the Board of Education — parents, students, and others criticized the layoffs of many teachers and paras, including teachers of the arts. Comment?


Sad Moon Rising

The arts are immensely important in making education better and fun, and the staff reduction is ironic in a town known for the arts. Montclair even has an “arts district” that — oops — doesn’t have very much of an arts component.


Hmm…symbolic. Well, while it will come with some pain because of the layoffs, there are the May 31-June 30 “Toast to the Teachers” events. Thoughts?


Magnificent Month

Teachers, paras, and other school staff totally deserve the “Toast” accolades at parent-hosted parties that raise money for the MFEE to give out in grants. That’s the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence, not the Montclair Fund for Elephant’s Elbows.


As if anyone thought it was. How much has the admirable MFEE raised?


Fundamental Funds

More than $13 million since 1991 — the year after the “Home Alone” movie that was not about any host of a well-attended “Toast” event.


What is “paras” short for?


A. Breviation

It’s short for “paraprofessionals” and also short for “paragon” in a way because each “para” is a paragon of teaching and many are now sadly “gon”…um…gone.


You mentioned MFEE grants. What do today’s far-right national Republicans, who do NOT resemble their party’s early leaders like Abraham Lincoln, think of the word “grants”?


From Honest (Abe) to Dishonest

They might dislike it because it reminds them of Ulysses Grant and how he fought the slave-holding South. The MFEE would never honor traitorous Confederate general Robert E. Lee by giving out “lees.”



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.



17 replies on “MontClairVoyant: Local Action or Inaction Is Not an Abstraction”

  1. Dave, I like your title “Local Action or Inaction is Not An Abstraction”
    I see and feel the uproar the recent gun violence in Texas caused. Action must start at EVERY level. It is the culture that allows these horrific events to happen. Society’s numbness to injustices around us is what the real problem is. There got to be some actions our local council can take! How about stricter controls around gun permits in our town. I understand our police department sells hand gun permits for mere $2. I tell you what: Does anyone thinks we need gun wielding police officers to hold the flags at construction sites? Can’t it be done by public works guys? The savings can be put towards hiring mental health professionals to work in the community monitoring and engaging the youth. There got to be something we should be able to do at our local level!!!

  2. Glad you liked the headline, AKnightly, and thank you for the heartfelt comment!

    I don’t see guns as a major problem in Montclair — fortunately, most people in our town don’t have a weapons obsession like too many people in other, more conservative places in the U.S. — but any improvements here are of course welcome. For instance, I agree that there are various situations in Montclair (as in other towns) where armed police officers aren’t needed, and it would be welcome to have savings on law-enforcement costs instead used for things like mental-health expenditures.

  3. I am continually amazed by the lack of historical awareness in these times.

    “Can’t it be done by public works guys?

    It was done by the “public works guys”… until the baby boomers, then the Gen-Xers made the construction workers the objects in a vehicular wac-o-mole game.

    We require police because they have policing powers. In Florida & Arizona, the public works guys may have policing powers. I avoid these places.

    The guns are just an accessory. But, the reference was a nice literary touch.

  4. Hmmmm, what kind of ‘policing powers’ we need to block the roads? Orange cones and sedans won’t suffice? How about parking enforcement officers doing those jobs. They appear to have some ‘powers’! I imagine they make about one-forth of what the police officers make.
    Okay, maybe for major roads like Bloomfield ave and some others we need police officers. But do we really need the officers with high hourly wages guarding Christopher Street and St Luke’s place and the likes! On my afternoon walks I have seen more than one officer guarding the cul de sacs in upper montclair!

    “Historical awareness”. Double hmmm. Do our current elected leaders and for that matter the community leaders, including the black community leaders know how history was made in our unique town that we all take pride? Because all I hear is mum about the glaring racial injustices in our current town government. Btw, Frank you seem to be more knowledgeable than any of us that chime into Dave’s blog about the legal and financial matters of town government. How did the town hire a Cedar Grove law firm to investigate racial bias in fire exams! Don’t the council have to publicly approve the hiring? Why not hire a Montclair law firm? We don’t have good enough lawyers in our diverse town to take on this case?

    Maybe that is why they don’t want to broadcast the town meetings? Transparency can shine too bright a light that blinds us?

  5. Google Jersey barriers.

    I am more knowledgeable. Oh, sorry, you want modesty over competence. You want to hand out jobs because of where you live and who you know versus skills and performance.

    You should try harder.

  6. It costs $27 in total, non-recurring, to get a legal handgun in NJ to keep in your house, recorded by the MPD. The Montclair Council charges $50/year to have a consumer home alarm, to protect the same house, recorded by the MPD.

    Both costs are an apples to apples comparison – the gun costs are before you fire one bullet and the home alarm is before your first false alarm.

    And if you want to talk about mental health services, ask the PTAC about the 2022-23 mental health staffing in the school district. Oh right. They forgot to follow the budget process this year. They were busy. OK, next year then…if they have the bandwidth…which they clearly haven’t in the past.

  7. Thank you, Frank!
    I am re-emphasizing what I said about you before. You are the most knowledgeable of town affairs!
    I wish that article mentioned how this company or the police department decides how many officers to be stationed at what street. There must be some logic to it. I am taking back my comments. I was only frustrated to see our national defense and public safety budgets ballooning year by year!

    On the other topic:
    Setting aside the sarcasm and schooling (I admit, I should have spent more time on google learning about the local governance protocols) aside, I am finding it hard to follow your statement and logic because what actually transpired seems to be contradictory to what you are saying. “Give jobs based on where you live rather than skills and knowledge”: the investigation contract was given to a firm based on its location (same as the fire chief’s residency). Don’t the skills and knowledge be determined based on evaluations? How is this firm evaluated? Based on who they know?
    Personally I am finding it harder and harder these days to Bragg about the diversity of our town to my coworkers and clients!

  8. The Montclair public safety budgets deserved more attention by the residents. I just wanted to hear the why’s. Why certain line items, significantly, went up and others went down. We didn’t get that. Yes, this Council that is actually moving away more and more on transparency. But, most residents don’t care. Most can’t cite a single muni budget number. And most can’t do the same for school budgets. The best we can hope for is people pulling levers. Not informed. Just pulling levers.

    The Fire Dept exams, to me, were fatally flawed and the results should be thrown out. Was it racism? I don’t know. But, people aren’t even looking at whether it was a result of other institutionalized flaws. They don’t have the capacity to consider it. Everyone has their agenda. Their interests. I keep a scorecard to keep track.

    As to the residency thing, that gets very complicated in a Pandora’s box way. Montclair elected officials have travelled that road. Once usually does it. “Residency” advocates (they invariably have a bigger agenda) have gone down this road every so often. Again, typically once.

    In this regard, you can brag with gusto we retain our diversity.

  9. And implicit in your argument to restrict to only local talent is that our corruption here crosses over into neighboring towns. Towns of lesser repute. Plus, they probably are jealous of us and don’t like us. It is the typically Montclair elitist argument.

    We have an institutionalized problem in one of our biggest departments – maybe spanning centuries – and businesses with a Montclair address should be able to be objectively tell us where we went wrong. And if we use another town, they are, by association, incapable – maybe corrupt. Yes, this is my Montclair!!! This is the Montclair I grew up in.

    Our civic hubris knows no bounds.

  10. Interesting discussion. Some people around town are raising questions about the how and why the Cedar Grove law firm O’Toole Scrivo was selected to conduct investigation of racial discrimination at the Montclair Fire Department. Apparently – and curiously – the hiring was NOT done by resolution.

    1) O’Toole Scrivo is headed by Kevin O’Toole. Is this the same Kevin O’Toole who is former mayor of Cedar Grove and a life member of Cedar Grove Fire Department?
    2) Is this the same Kevin O’Toole who served as a State legislator and was on the commission with Thomas Giblin?
    3) Is this the Thomas Giblin who is related to Edward Giblin, former Montclair Police Officer?
    4) Is Patricia Herrmann both the wife of Fire Chief John Herrmann AND the daughter of Edward Giblin?
    5) Is it customary/proper for a government agency to have an allegation of workplace discrimination investigated by a law firm whose partner-founder is (a) related to the alleged perpetrator of said discrimination, and (b) lives in the same small town as the alleged perpetrator.

    Dave, I remember you raised similar issues with BOE stuff in the past. Do you think there’s a “cultural cross-pollination” between BOE and town hall?

  11. Just an quick Township COVID update since our Council stopped remote access to their meetings starting with their May 3rd Conference meeting.

    679 cases and 2 deaths reported via Essex County.

    561 cases reported by the Montclair Public Schools.

  12. Thank you, Pat. Very interesting and informative comment. I’m almost always skeptical of investigations, whether in Montclair or elsewhere. They often involve conflicts of interest; and are often conducted more for show, spin, PR, distraction, etc., than to transparently get to the root of a problem, fix the problem, and punish wrongdoing. Many people in power (again, in Montclair or elsewhere) are members of what might be called “the club,” and they protect each other. That can indeed include both municipal officials and school-district officials — who in many cases move in the same circles.

  13. Frank, I have VERY mixed feelings about the democratic machine in Essex County. I certainly don’t love it, in a fickle or not fickle way. 🙂

  14. I hear you. It giveth and it taketh. It, like many entrenched authorities, struggles with change as it operates without a public mission statement

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