MONTCLAIR, NJ – “At a very high level, there is a problem in Montclair.” — Councilor at large Peter Yacobellis

Yacobellis said the above quote in response to questions from Montclair residents regarding their dissatisfaction with Montclair’s government.

Residents, who packed Montclair Art Museum’s Leir Hall for Yacobellis’ third Town Hall (and the first in-person), were fired up and came with lots of concerns about how the town was being run.

“Over and over, the citizens of this town are dealing with the repercussions of someone who is not forward thinking and does not engage with residents,” said resident Eileen Birmingham with regard to Montclair’s town manager. She also raised concerns about “the continual diminishment of woman’s voices in the government.”

Birmingham’s remarks were met with loud applause, as was those by resident David Greenbaum who asked if Montclair could require any township manager to live in Montclair.

“He is my employee and I can’t discuss my employee’s performance in a public town hall,” Yacobellis said, but he acknowledged an overall leadership crisis in the town.

“The jury is still out on if it’s the people in some of these roles, elected included, or the structure that needs to change,” said Yacoebllis. “I’m not talking about the rank and file. We have amazing talent on our teams.”

Before the Q&A portion of the Town Hall, Yacobellis covered a lot of ground with a
wide-ranging presentation detailing everything from a primer on Montclair’s type of government (councilors make $10,000 a year) to infrastructure projects around town including the recent water crisis, Bloomfield Ave. traffic signals, Township pools, parks, cannabis licenses and the Midtown Deck.

Not backing down from his opposition to the fire contract with Glen Ridge, Yacobellis shared a slide showing what Montclair could have gained in revenue over the next 15-year period had the Council considered financial modeling that the Township CFO had prepared.

“What this agreement locks us into is a scenario, that when you consider all the true costs of operating a full time Fire Department, based on the proportion of services received and what we’re charging Glen Ridge – each time we respond to a call in Glen Ridge – they’re paying about $247 per call, while Montclair taxpayers pay $9,400 per call. The point of a shared services agreement is to pool services and costs so that everyone saves money. That clearly isn’t happening here,” said Yacobellis

In his presentation Yacobellis also took a stand on a host of issues including:

  • Support to make Church Street a pedestrian plaza, factoring in legitimate business concerns into the design
  • Revisiting overnight parking in Montclair to permit it in more residentially dense areas of town
  • Changing the playbook when it comes to safer streets with tougher enforcement of existing laws on reckless driving and being intentional with our dollars and designs to put more traffic calming measure in place
  • Shifting more budget dollars towards human services, improving communication with and funding a needs assessment for seniors
  • Pursing composting programs, a 10-year phase-in for electric municipal vehicles such as trash trucks, fire trucks and police vehicles; with a mandate that the town can only purchase hybrid or electric vehicles from 2025
  • Instituting a town-wide system of subtly stripped bike lanes for bikes and scooters
  • With a 12-18 month phase in; instituting a complete ban (including the town’s own use) on the use of gas powered leaf blowers

Yacobellis raised concerns about child hunger in Montclair and with the presence of the Superintendent of schools and multiple school board members, Yacobellis thanked the school board for making lunch free for all students and eliminating the stigma for kids whose families couldn’t afford it. He also lauded the efforts of Anne Mernin with the programs Toni’s Kitchen is running, Jose German for his leadership with Free Little Food Pantries, the team at the Human Needs Food Pantry and Aminah Toler and Montclair Mutual Aid.

“With all of these efforts and with some coordination and investment from all levels of government, we can do this,” said Yacobellis of alleviating child hunger. “Montclair is one of the starkest examples of wealth inequality in America. But, we’re also a progressive community with big hearts. And I believe we can do this by working together.”

After the Town Hall, Yacobellis had this to say in a statement.

“I think it’s important for folks to know the reality here. I want to work my butt off to help people, to fix these problems and so do many of my colleagues. But the current system forces us to spend our time making money outside of these roles and crowds out people who are qualified to serve but not be able to afford it. I think Montclair needs a fairly compensated Mayor and Council.”

YouTube video

12 replies on “Hundreds of Montclair Residents Raised Concerns at Councilor Yacobellis Town Hall (VIDEO)”

  1. Interesting quote, “I think Montclair needs a fairly compensated Mayor and Council.”
    Be careful what you wish for Pete. That would mean the current group would OWE the taxpayers quite a bit of money for the job they have been doing so far. Pony up!

  2. I’m working through watching the video. As much as avoids any responsibility for the fire contract process (a deal-breaker for me), he is a great communicator, has presence and the only Council member having these quality public meetings. Make the rest look like sluggos.

    Kudos to him for this meeting – the preparation, the inclusiveness, the advance notice, posting a video (yeah, a quibble, how about those Conference Meetings….). But, overall a big plus.

  3. OK, I finished watching the Peter Yacobellis’ video. And there is a disturbing pattern developing when you recall similar occasions, including his last Winter’s “My Friendly Look At User Friendly Budgets”. He over-represents his understanding of municipal budgeting, accounting and is generally not fluent in the language and has relationship issues with numbers. Perfect qualifications to represent Montclair.

    The Y/Y Revenue YTD slide was one, but my favorite was the Fire Dept Contract comparison slide. That was a farmer”s market of rotting produce.

    I concede common sense slides into common dense when Montclairions have a food fight with the food wrapped in ad-hoc. back-of-the( paper thin) napkin, marginal cost calculations. (Former Mayor Jackson’s version was the best for just pure kicks and giggles, but once someone posts the Fire Chief’s version, he might get displaced.)

    I’m not proficient at municipal finances, but jeez, this is just math stuff. So very, very sad.

  4. And I do want to see the Fire Department analysis report.

    But, to the residents and the Council in attendance at that out-of-control meeting, I knew the MFD report was irreversibly flawed when I saw the Chiefs and dozens of rank & file making a statement. I have no idea what all in attendance were thinking. The MFD was saying that money is theirs. That show of force was a show of a money grab. And you all accepted a clearly tainted report they created. Everyone was falling all over themselves to be apologetic. Very entertaining.

    Wow, how our community ethical standards now only apply to people that don’t share our viewpoints. And we have dispensed with any guardrails. This is a race to the bottom for the community.

  5. Frank, I love you like a brother but at times you are a tad long winded. It took you 3 posts to come to the conclusion that , “actions speak louder than words.”
    Keep up the good work keeping tabs on the workings of the town. You can a bit cryptic at times but you are tenacious and informed. I can’t say I always agree with you but I admire the effort.

  6. I actually work on improving brevity when my ego is napping.

    In the case of both audiences, they wanted to be entertained and, for the speakers, wanted to advance their personal interests. It was not a coincidence that the similar evening hours of the respective meetings produced similarly increasingly degraded intellectual processing capacity of all.

    Or, even shorter, this town stinks at math and they even left their common sense at the door.

  7. flipside, I deprived my ego of coffee this morning. So, here it goes.

    Answers To The Yacobellis Fire Contract Detail Slide 3 Questions
    Italicized answers I provide for clarity & accuracy.

    § What are Glen Ridge residents paying to use Montclair’s $17M fire services for the next 10-15 years?

    Answer: You covered this on the previous slide.

    § What do they receive?

    Answer: Fire suppression services and minor ancillary services

    § What will they contribute to under the new contract?

    Answer: The Montclair General Fund

    I think the big red circle around one set of figures was his primary point. I’m ignoring the math folly.
    Maybe I’m color blind, but the colored circle didn’t get my attention. What got my attention was the figures he was using last Wed to cry foul were the same figures he knew in giving his support in July 26 Executive Session. Now David Cummings’ critique is substantiated by Peter’s own presentation.

    I know this because Councilor Yacobellis 1. schooled us last Winter in how to read the User Friendly Budget; 2. He got the 2022 detailed budget (& supporting docs we didn’t); 3. He got the Fire Chief’s report (which we didn’t).

    OMG flipside, the lack of coffee didn’t work!

  8. It’s all well and good, but a townhall about lack of transparency in government, need for better communication, and dissatisfaction with the fire contract, ended up highlighting a councilmember’s own personal wish list of things that can cost us extra. None of them is particularly objectionable (traffic calming measures, more funding towards human services, etc.) although typically opaque, but in toto proves yet again that a townhall meant to improve a specific problem does none of that but presents new opportunities for spending. Has the council member ever heard of Restraint?

  9. I wasn’t clear. Why should I care about the money, so now I don’t. Chalk it up to fools and their money….

    That Peter and the other members of the Council can peddle this slop does.

  10. And to MyrmidonMoose point, Peter wants to wrangle up those lost or easily impressionable constituents, before they may reach some actual clarity, and put new, shiny balls up in the air for them to ooh and aah at. As I said before, to be entertained or for their own personal gain.

    And Peter and Lori are the best we have of the new vanguard! Pilot to Co-Pilot, we’re going down.

  11. Peter addressed ADA access issues in general AND the whole Midtown Parking Deck fiasco…and specifically the role of the semi-autonomous Building Dept’s citing the critical ADA access violation. Yet, the developer of the former Hampton House built a new sidewalk elevation & fence design which doesn’t seem to be ADA compliant. Just wondering in light of the Township’s struggles with representing the civil rights of people with disabilities.

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