Letters to the Editor, June 18
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A glimpse of what is possible
The murder of Mr. George Perry Floyd by the knee to the neck by Officer Chauvin was the inner spirit breaking point for me.
I could not for the life of me cry or scream because I see this too many times, and now I can’t do this anymore. To hear George begging for his life and calling out, “Mama, I can’t breathe” is something I will never, ever forget.
And to have Officer Chauvin put his knee on George’s neck while he and the rest of the officers standing next to him and not do anything for 8 minutes and 46 seconds is absolutely and completely heartbreaking.
How can any man, whether you wear blue uniform or white uniform, do that to a human being? Would he do that to another man that looks like him? Would he want someone to do that to him? How can someone live with himself and serve and protect the law?
This horror that was filmed on video is the same as Eric Garner when he said that he could not breathe. The countless names of people lost to these senseless murders is too long and extremely, extremely painful.
I won’t forget Breonna Taylor who was also murdered for just sleeping in her own darn home with her boyfriend. Why?
Everyone stated strongly to defund the police, but how? I say change the police system with money out of the police system and into the community with resources for youth education, activities, and summer jobs. Adults and senior citizens also can have education, and social workers can work and give tips to manage their mental and physical health. And the police can protect and control our lives and not take our lives.
There is a lot that can be done, but my example is just a glimpse to see what is possible to do. I want to give all my sincere and deep condolences to the families and friends who lost their beloveds to murder by the police system.
In the mindfulness of a global pandemic we should do everything possible to focus on these agendas and not affect our health. I want change so badly that I can breathe for George and so many beloved souls.
After this writing I will cry because I put people first before me.
CHERIE E. HAYES
Keep Schwartz on the Planning Board
As the founder of SaveMontclair, a coalition of nearly 500 members who are supporters of better planning and preservation, I wanted to reach out during this transition period to express the importance of maintaining Mr. Martin Schwartz on the Planning Board. The loss of his extensive knowledge and commitment would be a great disservice to residents of Montclair.
As current council members know, Mr. Schwartz has served as an essential member as the mayor’s representative on this board since the master plan reviews. When Mayor Jackson decided to step down from the Planning Board to focus on other issues, he asked Mr. Schwartz to act as the mayor’s representative.
Mr. Schwartz has worked tirelessly during these years, consistently demonstrating a clear and detailed understanding of the complexities of development for the town and neighborhoods. On many occasions he is the lone voice willing to state what needs to be done for project improvements or to respect zoning by eliminating excessive variances not in the public good.
Thank you for your time and attention.
The author is founder of SaveMontclair, www.savemontclair.org. She is joined by the following people, who have signed their names to her letter: Cary Africk, former Third Ward councilman; Jinni Rock Bailey, former warden, St. Luke’s Church; Serges Demefack, coordinator of the Frog Hollow Museum and Cultural Center; Jason DeSalvo, former vice chairman of the Planning Board; Lori Gladstone, founder/owner of the Secret Montclair Facebook group; Frank Gerard Godlewski, architectural historian; Dick Grabowsky, commercial property owner; David Greenbaum, member of the Historic Preservation Commission; Caroline Levy, member of the Historic Preservation Commission; Elaine Molinaro, former chairwoman and member of the Montclair Arts Advisory Board; Imke Oster, former chairperson and current commissioner of the Montclair Environmental Commission; Adriana O’Toole, member of the board of trustees of Aging in Montclair; Andrew Pincus, founder of the Study Hall Gang; Scott Pollack, former president of the Watchung Plaza Business Association; Christa S. Rapoport, Esq., chairwoman of the Civil Rights Commission; Cathy Shandler, Third Ward community leader; Aminah Toler, Fourth Ward community leader; David Toler, member of the Civil Rights Commission; Ilmar Vanderer, member of the Montclair Public Library board of trustees; and Carole Willis, member of the Montclair Planning Board.
Leaf blowers not a ‘first-world’ problem
So you think the use of gas-powered leaf blowers is just a “first-world” problem? Rather than looking at the noise and the particulate pollution as an “inconvenience” that Montclairites must endure to bear the pride of a perfectly manicured lawn, let’s look at the issue from the perspective of the workers who often put in 40-, 50-, and 60-hour work weeks.
In this very painful moment in the racial history of America let’s name this for what it really is: Homeowners who engage the services of landscapers are overwhelmingly white; the workers are overwhelmingly brown-skinned people from the global Spanish-speaking south. To get that “perfect” lawn we disregard the health and well-being of those doing the work, exposing them to particulate pollution, deafening noise, and vibration that poses health risks that only recently are being carefully studied. This is low-wage, high-risk work without job security, benefits, or other protections of civilized society. Even after COVID-19 subsides this remains a long-term issue of moral consequence.
I beg any homeowner who hires a landscaper using gas-powered leaf blowers to ask if they could operate one of these beastly machines on their own back for 10 minutes. No, I am not suggesting that workers lose their livelihood. I am suggesting that they keep their jobs and use rakes. Raking might be slightly slower but is ethical, healthful, and environmentally sustainable. Were an enterprising entrepreneur to start a local landscaping company using the newer generation of battery-operated lawn equipment, they would undoubtedly have a thriving business. In the meantime, I’m grateful to quietly rake my own lawn with a clear conscience.
Do your part, mail in your ballot
By now, most registered Democrats and Republicans of Montclair should have received their mail-in ballots for the upcoming N.J. primary election of July 7. To make sure your vote is counted, the League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area encourages all Montclair voters to fill in and mail their ballots as quickly as possible to allow enough time for the completed ballot to arrive at the Bureau of Elections in Newark.
Make sure you fill out the ballot and the accompanying envelopes correctly, and sign your name as it appears on the outer envelope, because this is the name on your registration documents. Ballots can be rejected for incorrect signatures, with no recourse for the voter to “cure” their ballot. Presently, there is no provision to update your signature that might have changed over the years due to age or infirmity. To change this will require new legislation.
At least one polling place per municipality should be available to voters who must vote in person.
There is a good chance the November presidential election will also be an all-mail-in election.
Let’s all do our part by making sure our ballots will be counted correctly. Remember, democracy is not a spectator sport.
ELIZABETH SARON MILNER
The author is president of the League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area.
County standing up to ICE long overdue
The Essex County freeholders passed a resolution at their June 10 meeting asking that ICE release the detainees at the Essex County Correctional Facility. It’s a step in the right direction but long overdue. The resolution is non-binding, which means that the powers-that-be will be free to ignore it if they choose.
In addition to being non-binding, the resolution has some unnecessary qualifiers. According to the resolution, the detainees should be released for only as long as we’re in pandemic mode. They should be released only if they are non-violent. The detainees, however, are in “civil detention”; that means they are not charged with any crime. If they were, they would be charged and awaiting trial in criminal detention. They are in jail simply because Trump has made being an immigrant a jailable offense.
The resolution will prove meaningless if the freeholders don’t publicly put pressure on both ICE and county Executive Joe DiVincenzo to comply with the resolution. Comply, as in release them to their families and communities, not transfer them to some other jurisdiction that complains less. And when the pandemic ends, leave them free. They don’t need to be in detention, civil or otherwise.
Since ICE routinely ignores the instructions of federal judges, ignoring a non-binding resolution will be no problem for them without sustained public pressure. The goal is the permanent release of the detainees and the end of the contract that our all-Democratic county government has signed in its collaboration with Trump and ICE.
Wear your bike helmet
Seven years ago my mother had a serious bike accident. She hit a pothole and took a spill. There were no cars involved. It just wasn’t her day. She was very lucky. Although she broke her wrist and needed surgery to repair a tendon in her arm, she did not break her back, nor did she have a concussion. She was wearing a helmet — and wearing it correctly. It’s wonderful seeing so many residents biking right now — but please consider supporting a local business and buy a helmet. It may save your life.
Thankful for Montclair, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis
When I went to get my coffee at the local convenience store this morning, I saw my friend Patrick from Africa in the parking lot, and there was Rosario, from Jamaica, on her way to the farmers market. As I poured my French vanilla coffee, there was a friendly hello from my friend Michael from Poland. As I genially paid the lovely Apu, from India, I could not help but be amazed, and thankful, to my hometown of Montclair, New Jersey, 07042.
In the ’40s and ’50s, when I attended Grove Street School, Aubrey Lewis, a black child, was the president of the student council; when I attended George Inness Junior High, Aubrey Lewis was the president of the student council; and when I attended Montclair High School, again Aubrey Lewis was the president.
In 1954, while in high school, there was word that someone by the name of “Daddy Grace,” a black man, was married to a white woman. Before that I never knew color. It wasn’t the color of their skin that was so amazing, it was they were so patriotic they had painted their flagpole red, white and blue, as well as painting signs of the zodiac on the overhang of the roof on their mansion on South Mountain Avenue; we wanted to troop to see this amazing sight... not the color of their skin.
On Aug. 26, 1959, trumpeter Miles Davis, while appearing in Manhattan at Birdland, was arrested and covered with blood after fighting with patrolman Gerald Kilduff, who had ordered him to move from a crowded sidewalk; that same year Miles Davis was voted the number one trumpeter in the Playboy Jazz Poll.
In 1960, I married Al Haig in San Francisco, Calif., the chosen pianist of the innovators and titans of Bebop: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, the only white man to cross over into the “black experience.” Many friends thought I had married a black man.
One hot August night (almost to the date of Miles’s arrest) Al and I stopped by to see him at the Black Hawk Hotel; Al told Miles we had been kicked out of the Sheraton Palace, where he was appearing, due to conventioneers. Without hesitation, he smiled, at two white people, as he reached deep into his three-piece, pinstriped suit pocket and handed us the key to his band room.
In 1961, while visiting my aunt in Memphis, Tenn., I saw a sign on the back of the bus in front of us, written in big bold letters, “Come to Montclair, New Jersey, The Colored Man's Paradise”; a bit farther down the highway, as we were approaching Arkansas, I saw two white ceramic water fountains… at least six feet apart, on a grassy knoll, with signs that said: White and Colored. In my naivete I was proud of my town but wondered “Why were there two water fountains?”
Were it not for Dizzy Gillespie, who anointed and introduced me as “Lady Haig” one night at Birdland, I would not proudly wear that moniker as I am not royalty, just a proud fourth-generation Montclairian.
Now that I am 82 years old, witnessing Black Lives Matter, I thank Montclair, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis who always believed that all lives matter — even 60 years ago.
GRANGE LADY HAIG RUTAN