Fourth Ward supermarket would have helped now

During these hard pandemic times that we fear will last a while, a supermarket would have made a difference in Montclair.  What makes my heart break and feeling helpless is that the Fourth Ward and others with no forms of transportation will have to struggle and find ways to get to a supermarket to buy basic needs. This is insane and wrong for people to do this, not to mention senior citizens who are homebound and alone have no way to get food or stock up on their medications or god forbid need to see a doctor right away. The landlord should have thought this compassionately and put in any well-known supermarket in place. Well, whatever the situation anyone is in or has to sacrifice, just know that you are not alone and everyone would feel better having a supermarket, but that is not the medicine to cure it right now.

Cherie E. Hayes


Proposing a coronavirus recovery task force

We, like many communities, have seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. The Montclair Department of Health is reporting that we currently have 50 cases, with 10 people who did not survive the illness. All of those who did not survive had underlying health conditions. To the families of those who have lost their lives, we offer our deepest sympathies.

While difficult, we must continue to abide by physical distancing and hand-washing recommendations. Our collective actions as a community can help save lives. That means for those who can:

  • Staying at home.
  • Maintaining at least a six-foot distance from others if you need to run out for essential errands, such as shopping for groceries or picking up items at the pharmacy.
  • Washing hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.
  • We are going to continue to monitor the situation and do everything we can to limit the spread of the virus.

While our focus now is protecting public health, we are also looking ahead to recovery. That’s why I’m proposing that we create a coronavirus recovery task force. The task force will be composed of residents, experts, members of our business community, and nonprofit organizations. Its job will be to help Montclair's residents, businesses and community institutions come out of this challenging time even stronger than before.

Work with the Montclair BID, landowners, and business owners to find creative ways to keep businesses thriving in all areas of town.

Work to provide mental health resources for our residents.

Find ways to strengthen our nonprofits that are doing invaluable work to help our community.

Provide a centralized resource center that will pull together information from government at the local, state, and federal levels on available programs.

This is just a start. We’re going to keep working around the clock to confront this challenge and protect the Montclair ideal.

Sean Spiller

The author is a candidate for mayor in the May 12 election and currently serves as Third Ward township councilman.


How our team is helping

I thought my campaign would be two-pronged: (1) a tremendous high-touch campaign and (2) a high-tech campaign to augment the high-touch campaign, for residents who are wired and remain e-connected. In the two years leading to my campaign for Montclair’s mayor, I was able to squirrel away modest resources to assist with my reelection bid. As reports of the coronavirus began coming to the fore, as I was completing my slate for a mayoral bid, Your Voice Montclair, with neighboring states limiting the size of gatherings, we decided to “flip the script.” We shifted from the high-touch campaign approach to electronic resident surveys, Zoom town hall meetings, and targeted group discussions; Renee’s Reports, and E-friend-and-fund-raisers, among other things.

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit Montclair in earnest and residents young, not so young, and seasoned began getting the virus, began succumbing to the virus — including two of my classmates and others who have no physical signs of having the virus began fighting against the ancillary plagues of the virus — the loss of employment and benefits; the loss of contracts and income; the loss of security, the ability to pay mortgages, rent, electricity, food, and college tuition; and the loss of major milestone celebrations, I recalibrated. With just the limited funds I was able to save from my position as an hourly physician-consultant to the East Orange school system, and with that source of income now lost, I made a decision not to put the dollars I have into my campaign, but rather to use them to help Montclairions in meeting their basic human needs. Blessed with a medical degree and more than three decades of providing medical, health, and healing services to children, young people, and families, and as a healing agent in the township, I made a personal decision that I must accelerate the things that I have done all of my adult life. I am accelerating my interventions to respond to the urgent needs of many in the township for medical services, and otherwise to donate my time, energy, and financial resources, assisting to ensure that every resident in Montclair is well, nourished and knows that he or she is not alone.

In the above regards,  I will simply continue doing what I always do, in the hope that “in the same way, [I will] let [my] light shine before others, so that they may see [my] good works” (Matthew 5:16). It was an easy decision to stop putting our limited resources into our campaign, and to channel them instead to those among us who are currently in a perilous state.

While meeting the immediate human needs of Montclairions, I am putting in place the best team to assist in addressing the recession forecast as a result of the pandemic. As business activity continues to plummet and layoffs surge, my slate and I are anticipating and beginning to assemble a task force to think through what this will likely mean for Montclair and how best to address it and cushion the adverse economic blow to residents.  We are working to get a clear sense of what will be the likely impact on our township as we head toward the worst economic quarter since 1947, with a projected 30% unemployment for the second quarter because of COVID-19 related shutdowns and layoffs, according to Bloomberg reports. We need to anticipate the possibility of the need for budget reductions and how we might prioritize human needs, investment in human capital, public safety. We need to also prioritize how to ensure equitable management of our resources and policies as we make adjustments.  We need to anticipate the human toll these anticipated events will have on our safety net infrastructure, as it is currently being taxed like no time in recent years, and how we must prepare now to make budget and programmatic adjustments to lead the township through these and related long-term challenges. As a leadership team in the township, Your Voice Montclair is working on these likely eventualities today and will ensure that as we are, we are working in an engaging and transparent manner. Our government will work with The People to lay a predicate for a strong and compassionate Montclair.

Renée Baskerville

The author is a candidate for mayor in the May 12 election and currently serves as Fourth Ward township councilwoman.


Candidate misunderstands his role

Peter Yacobellis’ March 28 letter to Montclair Local announcing his candidacy for an at-large seat on the township council only raises doubt as to whether he fully understands the nature of this position. The entire focus of his letter is on the peril that the COVID-19 poses on the United States. Wrapping himself around the heroic Sandy mantle of New York Governor Cuomo, he seems to offer himself as the person who will lead the nation against “a government we do not trust.”  Later in the letter, Mr. Yacobellis comes out directly and points a finger at whom he has in mind, “…the frightening and confounding lack of leadership we are seeing from the White House.”

Shame! And at a time when everyone must be working together. Mr. Yacobellis should be reminded that the township council election is nonpartisan. He should also be reminded that all the heroics he will be involved in are: keeping the township’s budget under control; seeing that the school’s equity plans are implemented; keeping the streets clean and in repair; collecting the garbage; and keeping the local developers from making Montclair into New York West.

In sum, maybe Mr. Yacobellis is overqualified to be a member of the township council.

Alfred Berutti


A poem: “Montclair, I Will Let You Know”

The following is dedicated to Toni’s Kitchen’s Band of Angels

I’ve come to let you know to calm your soul
Forget lock down or coronavirus,
Still believe
We know the Statue of Liberty is crying on a fire escape
Lonely there are no longer lines to grasp her beauty
Of our humbled hearts yearning to be free
Of this madness
Thinking fish will never swim again or
Beans and berries have stopped growing
Because we are on the waterfall of world sadness,
There is no parade to rain on
So I will let you know
The four winds and the seven seas still blow and flow
Chet Baker still roams through roses even though we no longer do
The black bird has unpacked all his cares and whoas and
will forever sing low
Toni’s Kitchen never sleeps, nor sighs nor moans
As heartaches race to save us all.
Sarah Vaughn still croons to our aching soul and will return
“Once in awhile”  — as Shirley Bassey and we agree
“This is my life”
We love at a distance while babies are still born
We still feel safe if we are lucky enough to wear our masks
The mystery of the moon guides the saxophone’s solo in our soul
Inside we fight for our lives whether rich or poor as the surprise of loss,
We are cast out and harassed if we don’t stay six feet apart
As Toni’s Angels seek and strive to surprise Us with gourmet surprises
I will let you know
Because Toni’s Kitchen’s band of warriors did not forget Us
She came to feed US and to love Us
Wrapped Us in the best part of yesterday
To remind Us of all the things we have forgotten
That gave Us the beauty we never knew we had
Because we’ve been worrying about tomorrow
Tomorrow never comes when We are stuck in the sadness
Hope is waiting in all its humble glory
To deliver what We thought We never had
Toni gave us back Ourselves with food We used to cook but no longer do
The real beautiful Us We have hidden
Its time is now
Why? She did not forget Us
Because I have let you know.

Grange Lady Haig Rutan