Letters to the editor, Oct. 25
For the Silent Minority
On a recent Saturday afternoon on one of Montclair’s tidy side streets, two men in red T-shirts and caps strode up the sidewalk, stopping in front of an immaculate red brick colonial. Pausing to consult their phones, they advanced up the walk and rang the bell twice. A full minute later the door opened a crack, and a wary pair of eyes stared out.
“We’re canvassing,” the visitors announced without fanfare. “For the Republican candidates for Congress.”
With an audible sigh of relief the resident opened the door wider and smiled, even while glancing around nervously to scout for curious neighbors. “I didn’t know there were any other Republicans in the town,” he said with a half chuckle, not sure himself whether he was joking.
There are close to 3,000 registered Republicans in Montclair. They are the ultimate silent minority. The scene described above is a typical interaction between conservative campaigners and voters in this cobalt blue town. When given the opportunity to engage with fellow Republicans these hidden citizens unleash a torrent of ideas and anxieties. Long-suppressed opinions bubble to the surface, mostly about the unprecedented economic progress the nation has seen over the last two years, the jobs growth, the muscular and effective foreign policy, the prospect of an end to stifling regulation under the direction of a new and energized supreme court. And they worry about the fate of these hard-won gains if Congress flips to the Democrats on Nov. 6.
But in Montclair, they feel powerless, suffocated. In a place where Mikie Sherrill signs seem to come as part of the packages offered by upscale landscapers, many decide it’s pointless to vote.
More disturbingly, and very often, they are afraid to be themselves. “I’m sorry, I can’t,” is an oft-repeated phrase from a voter asked to display a lawn sign for Jay Webber, Sherrill’s GOP opponent. “I have a business in town, and I know it would be hurt.” “My kids attend public school here, and I know they would be mocked for it.” “I don’t want my neighbors to know.”
Put aside for a moment what that says about a town which consistently congratulates itself on its “inclusiveness” and “diversity.” We in the conservative community deal with this hypocrisy on an ongoing basis, and will do so as long as we must.
This election is not about our grievances as an often-mocked and despised minority in Montclair.
It’s about the potential for dynamic change, for new and expanded freedoms, for our town, our state, our nation and our world.
This message must be heard all Montclair voters have a voice, and a choice, that matters. According to several polls the race for NJ-11 is so close that it could be decided by a handful of votes. The race for Senate shows a similar razor thin margin.
So to all of the silent 3,000: don’t succumb to the inevitability of “Montclair Mikie.” Show the world outside that we have our own thoughts, our own dreams. Vote.
JOHN VAN WAGNER
The writer is president of the Montclair Republican Club.
Be sure to vote Nov. 6
The League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area Education Fund encourages everyone to vote in New Jersey’s statewide election on Tuesday, Nov 6. We will be electing a US Senator and each district’s U.S. representative, as well as deciding a ballot question pertaining to the funding of grants to schools, school districts, county vocational school districts and county colleges.
This election will affect many of the policy issues facing New Jersey residents, including education, housing, health care, taxes, natural resources, and transportation for years to come. Make sure your voice is heard.
You may vote on Election Day, Nov. 6, from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. or by mail-in ballot to the County Board of Elections before the close of polls on Election Day. A voter may apply for a mail-in ballot by mail, but it must be received in the County Election office by Oct. 30.
Voters that have questions about the candidates, ballot questions, their polling place, how to request a mail-in ballot, or any other election related question should visit VOTE411.org for all the information they need this election year.
Voting is the most important thing you can do to shape the future of our democracy.
See you at the polls.
The writer is the Voter Registration Chair for the League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area Education Fund.
Why Webber is wrong on SALT deductions
During last week’s NJTV debate, I was surprised to hear Jay Webber claim that President Donald Trump’s tax plan is a good deal for NJ. This is not true, which is why the Republican NJ delegation including Reps Rodney Frelinghuysen and Leonard Lance voted against it. The cap on SALT amounts to a double taxation on the people of New Jersey who already send more and get less back from the federal government than any other state in the nation.
I’m voting for Mikie Sherrill because she has taken a clear position to stand up to Trump’s attempts to punish high tax, blue states like NJ and work to eliminate the SALT cap.
I’m also impressed by her record of military and public service; she’s shown she would be the type of ethical, bi-partisan leader we need in DC. I would trust her to put people ahead of party.
Congressional election has tremendous implications
The coming congressional election on Nov. 6 has tremendous implications. I strongly believe we need to change the direction of our federal government for the sake of our country and all of humankind.
Mikie Shirrell has been endorsed by about 20 organizations including the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. These are three issues that I support and I strongly support Mikie Shirrell.
Jim Price’s letter in a recent issue states eloquently why we want to defeat her opponent.
I fear that our country is headed in a very dangerous direction. Please, please vote for Mikie Shirrell on Nov. 6 to nudge it in a healthy direction.
On prescription drug prices and Bob Hugin
The Republican Senate candidate Bob Hugin recently stated that payment systems for healthcare, “including for prescription drugs, need to be based on value.”
As chief operating officer and then CEO of the pharmaceutical company Celgene, Mr. Hugin took the price of Celgene’s major product, Revlimid, which treats multiple myeloma blood cancers, from about $6,000 for a month’s supply in 2006 to over $16,000 per month by 2017, raising the rate more than a dozen times.
Hugin’s campaign strategist Chris Russell defends the price hikes: “Treating and curing cancer isn’t cheap. It’s impossible to put a price on someone’s life.” But the success of Revlimid was largely not the product of Celgene’s R&D. Rather, Celgene bought up the rights to a very old drug (thalidomide) and repurposed it to treat cancer – then kept jacking up the price simply because it could.
Although some patients get discounts to purchase Revlimid, others have been forced into bankruptcy by the cost. Moreover, the high list prices on drugs such as Revlimid force Medicare and Medicaid, funded by our tax money, to also pay the bill, and all of our health insurance premiums rise when the prescription prices increase.
Celgene was cited this year by the FDA as a major offender for using “gaming” tactics to delay the development of affordable generic alternatives. While the company has been responding to the FDA censure, it has also been lobbying Congress to block passage of the bipartisan CREATES Act (Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples), which would ensure that the drug companies holding patent monopolies can’t withhold samples of these products to generic competitors, as Celgene has done.
Sen. Robert Menendez, Mr. Hugin’s opponent, is one of thirty co-sponsors of the CREATES Act. Senator Menendez has also supported allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug manufacturers to obtain lower prices for seniors, as the Veterans Administration already does.
BOE must be more transparent on safety
After the recent infrastructure damage and asbestos discovery at Montclair High School, we have been provided a fairly regular stream of updates via email by temporary Principal Terry Trigg-Scales, and by Superintendent Kendra Johnson at a Board of Education meeting and a MHS fall event.
The initial updates included practical information regarding safety and how to navigate around the affected building and the two meetings provided a forum to communicate how the district will repair the damage to the main building and remove the asbestos.
During these meetings we learned about “seat requirements” and “180-day minimums,” and of course we learned that the District will have to use over $1 million in emergency funds to cover the costs of temporary trailers.
We heard about split schedules and “A hours” and “B hours.” We heard about the need to start in May to ensure that the next school year can begin without incident. We heard about the number of contractors involved and the difficulty of coordination, and we heard that these were very difficult decisions.
You know what we did not hear? Not one word about how this will impact our children. The proposed solution offered by Johnson creates a four-hour school day for almost six weeks, a close to 50 percent reduction in instruction time for that period. Assuming a 10 week Marking Period, the amount of actual instruction time will be reduced by a staggering 30 percent.
This point was conveniently ignored until a parent brought it up during the fall event, then brushed aside with no explanation. How will this affect course syllabus? Will our children be adequately prepared for the subsequent school year? What about transportation to and from school for those who ride a bus and potential traffic hazards when a large chuck of students’ school day ends and another group’s school day begins? The questions go on and on.
From this parent’s perspective the remedies offered have addressed compliance and safety issues, but quite frankly I expect those issues to be addressed according to state regulations. The more challenging solutions should center around maintaining a standard of academic excellence, and on that issue there is silence. It seems that the proposed solutions have been created by administrators rather than educators, and our children deserve better.
It has now been over a month since the stairs were damaged at MHS. Our community needs answers and we have not been provided any date when we can expect a full and complete resolution plan. Until that happens, the BOE must stop claiming they are being transparent.
Preserve neighborhoods, don’t overdevelop
My husband and I have lived in Montclair for over 10 years now. We live in the Fourth Ward. We are happy where we are. We can walk almost anyplace and while many communities like to talk a good game about diversity, parts of Montclair had been delivering on it, especially in the area surrounding where we live.
I think that development is out of control. Thank goodness we can walk, because we certainly cannot drive or park without fighting crowds and construction. It feels like much of this development is not benefitting our section of Montclair, but hindering it (if you live there). It’s a sign that the town is out of control when there’s a story about putting studio apartments on top of the Domino’s Pizza on Glenridge Avenue, really why is that necessary? Will we not be happy until every corner has some sort of multi or single family housing that few can afford? Do we want to be a town where we cannot park or drive without timing it out? Do we want to be the town that prices people out today and in the future?
I read the Oct. 18 article on Pine Street (“Pine Street renewal?”, page 1) and it was sad and clearly marks the path we seem to be going down, if we do not change our course.
Let’s preserve the character of that neighborhood and allow the people who live there to continue to live there. Let’s stand up and admit that enough is enough. Let’s build a grocery store that people can afford to shop in and then let’s call it a day.
‘Chicken and Foxes’ at Pine St. 73 See Gallery
This Friday, Oct. 27, I have the privilege to publicly present my new parable, "Chickens and Foxes." This is the very first time in public. It will be at my welcoming home away from home, the 73 See Gallery at 73 Pine St.. I'll be reading short bits at 4,5,6 and 7 p.m. The 4 o'clock reading will be especially for children, but the content is for all.
I'm thrilled that the current exhibit is still up. Nick Levitin's black and white photo recording of a year's worth of "life on the block" should certainly dispel any sense of Pine Street's demise. "Homage to Pine Street - The Art of Neighborhood" is worth the visit in itself and is extender for just another week. You can see it anytime between noon and six, Wednesday through Sunday until Nov. 3 when it will come down to make room for another amazing exhibition. You never know what wonders you might see. I suggest you make it a habit to visit often.
Friday will also give you the chance to meet the gallery founder and owner, Mary Z Scotti. She is one of three Montclair Design Week's "Agent of Change - Agent of Curiosity" award winners.
I've also been honored this Design Week, as one of Montclair's "catalysts." "Catalysts" bring different - sometimes odd things together, and I'll also have copies of my now classic best selling book "Hope for the Flowers" to sign.
Bring the kids, I'll be there early and as late as needed.
Continuing the tradition of May in Montclair
Seasons change, but the tulips continue to bloom. Now in its 41st year, May in Montclair volunteers are getting ready to receive thousands of tulip and daffodil bulbs. They’re coming early, by end of October, and will be sorted and delivered to hundreds of volunteers to plant around Montclair.
The bulbs are distributed free of cost to schools, park conservancies, houses of worship, and in the business districts with new generations of volunteers continuing our township tradition.
Volunteers are even more important this year than ever before. After 40 years, the bulbs will be funded solely by tulip donations. While you can still list your May events free of charge at mayinmontclair.org, the Calendar of Events book will not be published. (The trees thank the committee in advance for saving all of that paper.)
Springtime events all around town continue to be showcased in the MIM website Calendar of Events. Opening day ceremonies will take place in Watchung Plaza on May 1. The school children’s musical performance will continue as a beautiful community celebration to kick off May in Montclair.
We hope you will continue to support this all volunteer, town-wide beautification project. May the planting begin.
The author is writing on behalf of the May in Montclair Committee.
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