Montclair Local’s ‘Letters To The Editor’ section is an open forum for readers to discuss town matters, articles published in Montclair Local, or other letters to the editor. Views expressed and published in this section are solely those of the writers, and do not represent those of Montclair Local.

Letters on any subject can be e-mailed to letters@montclairlocal.news, or mailed and addressed to “Letters To The Editor,” 309 Orange Road, Montclair NJ, 07042. All submissions must include name, address, and phone number for verification. Letters must be received by 5 p.m. Monday to be published in Thursday’s paper. Only the letter-writer’s name and town of residence will be published.

Letters may be edited by Montclair Local for style and length. While our goal is to publish all letters we receive, Montclair Local reserves the right to not publish letters for any reason.


A challenge to letter writers

Since there is no fact-checking on an opinion page, I feel compelled to contradict false and baseless statements made in some past letters by other writers.

SaveMontclair has nearly 500 members from all over town who wish to be informed of development projects that may impact neighborhoods or the town negatively and how they might work to improve the ultimate outcomes.

ABetterLackawanna’s legal complaint included over 200 original plaintiffs, and the effort was led by Fourth and Third Ward residents and Fourth Ward property owners.

Renters and homeowners alike have diverse backgrounds.  Architecting a successful rent control for Montclair requires a concern for its impact on not only renters but town finances, property owners as well as the taxpayers.

The writer is the founder of Save Montclair.


No safe return to schools

Absent a widely available COVID-19 vaccine, distributed for free by schools to families who cannot afford it, or at least a significant change to current the public health crisis, there is no such thing as a safe return to schools. Period. Full stop.

Montclair Public Schools (or any district) offering any in-person schooling in September, including in the hybrid model announced by Dr. Ponds, constitutes the reckless endangerment of students and staff, whose health and safety we are told is of the utmost importance.

No amount of scheduling fixes (half the students one day, half the next) or sanitization of facilities can make me, as an education worker, feel safe enough to enter the building with hundreds of students and staff in September. This is a disaster waiting to happen.

About 70 percent of families, in response to a district survey, want to return to some form of in-person schooling. I understand the sentiment. I want nothing more than to be back in the classroom with students, which remote learning, though it can be done well, is no substitute for.

Well, I do want one thing more than that — my life. The demand we return to in-person schooling is shortsighted and even selfish.

Education workers’ lives — and those of our students — are not to be put at risk for “a return to normal” or especially for the child care necessary for “restarting the economy.”  If our society has made it so that “the economy” requires we risk death in a return to school and work or financial, home and food insecurities by staying home, that is an indictment on our systems that should move you to change them, not to ask me to risk my life and that of my family.

All this of course does not even delve into how in-person schooling can — and likely will — exacerbate existing inequities in education and in society at large.

I am still patient and hopeful. I am optimistic education decision-makers will wake up and start school remotely in September. One good sign is the organizing being done by education workers across the country to demand our lives and students’ lives matter. Many are coming together for a day of resistance on Aug. 3. To learn more, go to https://www.demandsafeschools.org/.

I urge you to contact Montclair Board of Education members and Dr. Ponds to demand we start school the only safe way — remotely. As @woketeachers said, we can make up lost learning; we can’t make up lost lives.

The writer is a history teacher at Montclair High School.


Montclair’s diverse government?

I read with great interest outgoing eight-year town council member Rich McMahon’s Letter to the Editor recently, lauding the many Montclair Township staffers he has worked with, whom he considers consummate professionals and well-regarded colleagues.  It is heartwarming to read his tribute.

I do have to say that I was struck by the gender divide.  If my math serves me well, Mr. McMahon gave a shout-out to 24 male staffers and three female staffers.  Now, this may just be because Mr. McMahon relates more easily to his male colleagues and feels the deepest connection to them.  Or it may be that there just aren’t very many female township employees in positions of responsibility.   Twenty-four to three  is pretty stark.

I know Montclair considers itself a progressive town and I have loved living here these past 29 years, and I certainly never gave a thought to the gender makeup of our town government.  But Mr. McMahon’s letter laid it out pretty clearly.

As an aside,  I worked for many years with Lt. Stephanie Egnezzo when I was the chair of the pedestrian safety committee, and I do concur with Mr. McMahon’s kind words about her.  A professional in every sense!

Maybe it is time for Montclair to look a little more closely at its hiring practices.



What’s in a name, cont.

I have a reputation among family, friends and former colleagues as a contrarian.  And I also have a great appreciation for the way our language retains archaic terms, tying us to our history.  For example, I love that Louisiana calls its counties parishes, and that the tiny state to our northeast is officially named the great “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” to name just two examples.

So therefore let me make a lonely and I expect futile defense of keeping the name freeholder for our county legislators.

As NJ Monthly magazine reminds us in its current edition, New Jersey’s original 1776 constitution, adopted when the name freeholder was originally chosen, did not exclude property-owning women and people of color from the right to vote.  It wasn’t until 1807 that these rights were limited by N.J.’s all-male state Assembly.  That this wrong was not righted for 70 years for people of color and for 113 years for women is a stain on our state’s history.  But instead of focusing on that, we can and should celebrate the progress that we have made, that for the last 100 years, all residents of New Jersey, regardless of nation of origin, skin color, sex or religion, have been full citizens of the state and are entitled to call ourselves freeholders.

However, the winds of change blow strong, and the pressure to change the name freeholders is probably inexorable.  So when Gov. Murphy signs the inevitable bill to officially call our county legislators commissioners or some other bland generic title, I will pour myself a shot of single malt Scotch and raise my glass to toast the loss of one more thing that makes N.J. unique.  I only pray that the ban on self-service gas stations doesn’t meet a similar fate.



A sign of dictatorship

In an article in The Washington Post last week called “‘It was like being preyed upon’: Portland protesters say federal officers in unmarked vans are detaining them,” Conner O’Shea explained in detail how he ran for his life and got to hide from unidentified federal agents who were chasing and arresting protesters in the streets of Portland.

While hiding he called his friends to pick him up, they did, he lay down on the floor of the car until they drove across the river away from the crowd. He called his friend who was in the march with him, but his friend did not call him back until two hours later, explaining to him that he had been taken by these heavily armed federal agents, his beanie was pulled down (like a blindfold) and he was  thrown into the car, they put the radio up and he was taken to what he later learned was a federal court. He was released without explanation of why he had been arrested in the first place.

This happened thousands of times during dictatorships around the world, where dissidents were not only kidnapped but tortured and killed.

I hope by now Americans understand that American democracy is as fragile as any other around the world. This is the most important election in human history. If you are not registered to vote do it right now.



Saving the town money

My husband, Fred Chichester, and I, Montclair residents for 45 years, believe the township should search for ways to save money, and we have suggestions as to how. This is needed to keep the township population diverse, and also to make it easier for landlords to keep rents reasonable.

First, we think a small group should examine all the current ordinances and see which can be eliminated.

Also, we think we should examine the possibility of more shared services with nearby towns. Having our own attorney, code enforcement staff and court seem like excessive expenses, especially the latter.

We should have a less expensive insurance policy. Currently we pay more than $1.1 million a year so that our staff need never worry about making mistakes. Surely a less expensive policy could cover unreasonable charges and the township could and should pay the injured for minor errors by the township staff.

Stop curb replacement. Some of the previous ones could use repair, but most were fine. We collected a petition of 21 of the 22 families living on our block asking that our old curbs be preserved, and they were replaced! It was a BIG nuisance for those of us living here, along with a large, unnecessary township expense.

Examine which “No parking any time” signs are merited, and replace many of them with more reasonable restrictions. Enforcement would then be much easier.

Fewer township employees should be allowed to take a township vehicle home. We’ve heard of one that took him a long, long distance out of Montclair every day.

Maintain the township vehicles more carefully, and buy new ones less often.

A bus circulating in the downtown area could save shoppers lots of time and mitigate the need for more parking decks. Parking decks are expensive.