Letters to the Editor, May 21
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Wear a face mask, it’s your duty
Following the story of a Glen Ridge police officer who died of COVID-19, becoming the first line-of-duty death in that town in 125 years, I was hoping that maybe Montclair Local could help run a more aggressive awareness campaign, along with the mayor’s office, for protection against COVID-19.
I say this because when I walk in my neighborhood with a mask on to get some exercise from self-quarantine, I notice so many in the neighborhood not wearing masks. This laissez-faire practice is especially evident in bicyclists and runners, and it’s disconcerting.
This disease is highly contagious and deadly, and it cannot be seen by the naked eye.
In addition, I see children doing the same with their parents, when walking and riding bikes outside. As we are discovering, children are not immune, and now a COVID-19 infectious disease is attacking children, ravaging their bodies’ organs and immune systems, causing death.
Whatever the paper and city can do would be appreciated. The only way right now to prevent this disease from continuing to spread is by taking such precautions as wearing a mask outside and practicing physical distancing.
Just because you can’t see COVID-19 and/or it hasn’t affected you or your family doesn’t mean it won’t, and “we” have — not “I” have — an obligation to protect one another.
Reopenings for the elite?
I am very concerned that the limited state openings are elitist. Golf courses can open and now even have foursomes, and tennis clubs can open, yet public tennis courts are still closed. This makes no sense and seems an affront to those who cannot afford or do not want to belong to a country club or tennis club. Beaches are opening but you can’t sit or picnic on the beach, even with social distancing. But you can go on a chartered fishing boat if you practice social distancing. Shopping is fine at big corporate retailers such as Target, Walmart and Costco, but local independent retailers can’t open. I guess the small businesses aren’t savvy enough to institute safety protocols.
I think the majority of the public can be as sensible at practicing social distancing in independent local retailers, and at public tennis courts and beaches, as those on chartered boats or those going to golf courses, tennis clubs and large box stores.
I urge common sense to prevail as we safely re-open our state and our economy.
More notice needed for tax deferment
Real estate taxes in Montclair are onerous, as we all know, more so in a time of economic hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A quarterly payment of nearly $5,000 for a person in retirement is difficult at best, but I dutifully slid my check into the slot at town hall before the 10-day grace period expired. The check was cashed and debited from my account without delay.
The prominent sign over the slot makes no reference to a deferment until June 1, nor does the township website under the rubric Finance and Taxes as of today, May 11.
It required a telephone call to the taxation department to learn that in fact a deferment of payment of quarterly taxes until June 1 had been voted on by the council and apparently posted on the town website on Thursday, May 7. Although not noted under Finance and Taxes, I was told it was under a COVID-19 heading!
I paid my taxes on time, as I’m sure did many others.
We who unknowingly paid on time have shouldered this economic burden unequally and unfairly with those benefiting from a deferment issued after the fact and not adequately communicated to the taxpayers in a timely fashion.
DR. DONALD R. WHITAKER
Mayor should explain how leaf blowers are safe
In your May 14 article stating that the town urges residents to stop using leaf blowers, Mayor Robert Jackson noted that he spoke to health officials and got totally reassured that leaf blowers do not create any health risks!
I am respectfully asking the mayor to provide our residents with the health officials’ names and the scientific studies stating that using the noise-making commercial gas-powered leaf blowers that propel dust, benzene, pollen, bacteria, viruses, pesticides, and fungicides into the air are totally safe for people.
I also would like to know how he came to the conclusion that if landscapers need to rake there would be a large job loss in the landscaping industry. On the contrary, more people might be needed to rake.
Would be nice to have a mayor with a focus on people’s well-being that leaves private interests at the door.
AURORA DE JULIIS CARLUCCIO
Threat to health and bane of existence
I had to laugh when reading the May 14 story “Town urges residents to stop using leaf blowers.”
This has been the bane of my existence since moving to Montclair 19 years ago, and I know that many other residents feel the same way.
And for Mayor Jackson to say that health officials have told him there are no adverse effects from leaf blowers, that is total nonsense. So when is making pollen, herbicides, pesticides, industrial pollutants, dust, dried animal feces, and industrial debris airborne not a threat to health, Mr. Mayor? Yeah, right!
Consider the source when it comes to meat
I admire and respect Profeta Farm’s efforts to provide fresh and local food to residents of Montclair and the surrounding areas in a time when grocery store shopping has become dangerous, but I want to acknowledge that this type of service is not an option for everyone. It is so important that farms, institutions, and corporations take steps such as the ones Profeta is taking in order to protect us and supply us during this pandemic as food insecurity increases.
Because Stop & Shop has taken measures to maintain food supply, it remains a good option for those who cannot afford delivery services like Profeta. Stop & Shop’s products feed many families, but it is time we acknowledge that the company, through its contract with Cargill, continues to contribute to horrifying amounts of deforestation. Cargill, one of the small number of powerful agribusiness companies that control the food industry, makes Stop & Shop complicit in the destruction of our planet, as well as implicating its customers — without their awareness — in this destructive supply chain.
The consumer’s implication occurs at purchase of meat that Cargill provides to Stop & Shop. This meat arrives in the grocery store at the cost of acres of trees, contaminated drinking water, and countless displaced persons. Stop & Shop has power to set higher standards for meat sustainability. We, as consumers, have the power to hold Stop & Shop accountable for the food they provide to us. In situations in which meat from Stop & Shop is the only option available, I want to feel good about buying it.
In these turbulent times, we come to reflect on the damage we and some of the corporations that provide us food have done to the Earth. While this pandemic will pass, climate change will still be upon us. I urge you to urge Stop & Shop to take responsibility for its contribution to climate change by asking the CEO, Gordon Reid, to stop selling meat from Cargill until it takes concrete steps to end deforestation and pollution. Everyone deserves to know and feel good about where their food is coming from.
My letter to Peter Yacobellis
Hey there. We haven’t met, but I wanted to reach out to tell you how unbelievably happy I am for your win! It’s a win on such a big scale and on so many levels, and I’m just so happy for you.
Personally, I have two little kids who know so many wonderful things. They know that black men are presidents. They know that women run for president. They know that gay people legally get married. They know that Muslim women serve in Congress. They know that people of different races get married. They know that people of different religions get married. And because of you, they know that gay people are elected to office.
When my parents were married in the 1960s, there were two bomb threats to the synagogue where they were to get married because my mom is black and my dad is white. My mom was an Orthodox Jew, as was my dad, but her skin color made it, to some, worth both being killed.
I have other stories (as do many) of people I love being ostracized and abused because they’re gay or because of their religious views or because of their race.
Yet last summer, my husband and I (he’s white and I’m half-black and half-white) were married by an openly gay female cantor. My husband was raised Christian, and I’m a Jew. We had Jews, Christians, atheists, Hindus and more … white, black, Indian, Colombian, Korean, and more ...
And to my children, every single aspect of this was a given. It could all be taken for granted. When just one generation ago, absolutely none of this would have been okay. And my husband and I didn’t think once, as my parents were forced to, that our getting married could end in wedding day murders; murder of us and murder of anyone there who was so daring as to support us. One generation and so much has changed. I absolutely marvel at the world my parents knew and the world my children know.
I love that while my children knew I voted for you, they didn’t blink an eye about the picture of you with your partner. Because in their world, love is love and gay is as descriptive as brown hair or blue eyes. And in their world, a man who is gay runs for office and wins, and the fact that he’s gay plays absolutely no role. It matters as much as which person running had blonde or brown hair. I love this for my kids. I jumped up and down when I saw that you won. It means so much, but to me a huge piece is that so many more kids will grow up seeing the world with so much less judgment and hate that was so widely accepted not so long ago. I know we’re far from all the way. There’s still too much hatred. But damn, we’ve come a long way. Thank you for adding to the wonderful view of my children’s world.
I hope you are well and savoring your victory.
Russo: Thanks for your confidence in me
I want to thank so many Montclair voters from all wards in town for giving me such strong support for another term, so I may continue serving during this difficult time. Congratulations to all the newcomers and all my incumbent colleagues who hopefully will work together to advance Montclair in a progressive direction!
As a former Montclair mayor myself, I want to congratulate Sean Spiller, my fellow educator, on his hard-fought victory and wish him luck in the years ahead!
I also want to thank Mayor Robert Jackson, Deputy Mayor Rich McMahon and Councilwoman Dr. Renée Baskerville for their many years of great service to our town!
The author is an at-large township councilman, and will begin his third term in that office July 1.
Yacobellis: Thank you, Montclair
I have so much respect for the voters of Montclair who did not let the enormous challenges we are facing right now get in the way of them making sure their voices were heard. The voters delivered a very clear and decisive mandate on what they want for this community and expect from their government, and I am excited to get down to the hard work ahead with the mayor-elect and my colleagues on the council. I’m also excited to be kicking off a listening tour this week to meet with community and faith leaders, municipal department heads, members of our various commissions and boards, former and current elected officials and Montclairions to gain an even deeper understanding of the concerns and priorities of this community.
The Montclair Council should immediately form a COVID-19 recovery task force and begin formulating a plan for Montclair to address what I expect will be significant financial challenges due to the economic fallout from the crisis. I hope the Board of Education will do the same in light of signals coming from Trenton that school funding may be cut. In addition to supporting these efforts, my priorities will be expanding and improving services for seniors, enhancing Montclair’s transportation infrastructure, and addressing the poor condition of schools and other municipal buildings. I also look forward to introducing an LGBTQ equality ordinance that will address gaps that I see in our laws and services to support and protect some of our most vulnerable citizens.
This victory was made possible by the hard work of my dear neighbors and friends from every ward, across Montclair, the support of small business owners and community leaders, a great campaign team, and, most importantly, nearly 5,500 Montclair voters who have entrusted me with their hope for positive change. It also would not have been possible without the steadfast support of my fiance, Benjamin, and the support of friends and family from all over America. I want to thank all of them profusely.
I also want to thank my running mates — James Cotter, John Hearn, Christina Thomas, Maggie Joralemon, and David Cummings on the Your Voice, Montclair slate and notably mayoral candidate Renée Baskerville. I look forward to serving with Mr. Cummings as a fellow Fourth Wardian.
Montclair is so fortunate to attract so many talented and qualified people to run for office, and I was honored to be part of the Vote Your Voice, Montclair team, who I hope will each continue to serve in some way. Renee Baskerville has devoted her life to serving Montclair in every capacity, and Montclair would not be the unique, desirable, and diverse community it is without her decades of dedication and contributions. Montclair owes a great debt to Renee Baskerville, as do I, and I will be eternally grateful for her support.
I’m excited to be your next councilor-at-large — a role I define as being everyone’s councilman. Until I am sworn in on July 1, voters can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The author will be one of Montclair’s two at-large councilors beginning July 1.