Letters to the editor: Oct. 22
MPOA doesn’t care for community
Despite an unprecedented, duplicitous and invasive email campaign conducted by a group of Montclair landlords to petition for reversal of the township’s historic rent-control ordinance adopted in April, the landlord group failed to gather enough signatures to win a special election.
For the past 20 days, township Clerk Angelese Bermudez Nieves scrutinized the petition signatures and found only 914 to be acceptable out of 1,528 submitted. A minimum of 1,020 signatures from legal voters of the Township of Montclair is necessary for a successful ballot petition. That number is equal to 15 percent of the ballots cast in Montclair in the 2019 general election.
The Montclair Property Owners Association (MPOA) conducted a disinformation campaign online and in print since last April, and even went so far as to get the courts to force the township to deliver residents’ personal email addresses and text numbers six weeks ago.
They sent out excessive blasts that were reported to the township as harassment by many residents. It is unconscionable that residents have had to be subject to their divisive campaign to stop a perfectly legal process.
The landlord effort in Montclair is being orchestrated by a public relations professional who represents real estate companies, and makes his living off efforts to prevent and erase rent control in towns across New Jersey.
Perhaps it is not surprising, given the MPOA campaign’s lack of Montclair roots, that the MPOA had more than 600 petition signatures rejected due to lack of authenticity.
We note that 200 signatures were rejected because the signers were not registered in New Jersey. Another 139 signers were not residents of Montclair. And the signatures of 168 more voters did not match the signatures on record in the state registration system.
Local residents are also fully aware of the deceptive wording used by teenagers representing MPOA when circulating petitions in downtown Montclair, and the same type of wording used in the blast of invasive emails. Montclair Township Councilman and former Mayor Bob Russo has called this the same as consumer fraud. Councilman Russo is a former NJ Consumers League president, and spent 16 years as director of the state’s Lemon Law.
Tenants Organization of Montclair (TOOM) and Montclair Citizens for Rent Control are disappointed with the unseemly efforts used in MPOA’s attack on our hard-won rent-control ordinance. It just shows their lack of concern and caring for our community.
While the MPOA has 10 days to “cure” their petition the group has shown their true nature. We look forward to the day when tenants and the homeowner community gain full rent-control implementation.
Tenants Organization of Montclair
Petition rejection is shabby business
This rejection of the rent-control petition is an attempt to frustrate the petitioners for political purposes during a time when the burden of signature collection is unthinkable and the processes around review are being made up as they go along.
The preponderance of our signatories were reached via email or text message with a link to our online petition. They then signed with their mouse, mostly, or a stylus or a fingertip. When people go to the grocery store and they sign a screen pad with their finger or the stylus, that signature bears scant resemblance to the signature they would use on a check.
The municipality knows that, and to apply a stickler standard to their signature or insignificant absences or portions of their addresses ignores that the intent of the voter was to sign the petition and the signature should therefore be honored.
The fact that we now have to disrupt 168 signatories because the clerk didn’t like their signature and an additional 55 people whose addresses were incomplete despite that they were all verified as registered voters in order to ask them to reverify their signature — or worse yet, mount another email and text message campaign to augment the signature count — is an intentional nuisance.
But this action, like others related to this rent-control ordinance, is going to backfire on the council politically: No person sincerely interested in good government and the specific policies at issue here is going to like the idea that petitioners were treated shabbily.
This is Montclair’s version of the hanging chad, and it is an embarrassing episode to be sure.
Montclair Property Owners Association
Supporting a local pharmacy
I had a wonderful experience with one of our local merchants, Grove Pharmacy, and I would like to encourage everyone to patronize these local businesses.
I came in to get my flu shot, and after checking, the pharmacist told me that, strangely, my insurance would not cover it. A few days later, the staff at Grove left a message advising me that they had solved the problem — a certain lot number was for some reason initially not covered by my insurance — but in any case I was welcome to come for my flu shot and they encouraged me to so.
I had already gotten my flu shot but felt grateful for Grove’s attention to my needs and well-being. About a week later, I arranged for home delivery of a medication, and when I received it (that afternoon!), wrapped around it was a handwritten note from the pharmacist reminding me that they had solved the paperwork problem and encouraging me if I hadn’t had the shot already, to come in for my flu shot.
In these unsettling times, the staff at Grove, who know their patients and their specific concerns, has stayed laser-focused on keeping everyone safe. They should be commended for their work, and we should all remember that our local businesses deserve support.
Lisa Westreich, LCSW