Tune into Lackawanna hearing

A judge will hear oral arguments in the appeal of the approved Lackawanna Plaza plan by the group A Better Lackawanna on Thursday, Sept. 17. We invite the public -- particularly the 200 people who joined A Better Lackawanna -- to listen in. 

Details on the precise time and call-in number for the hearing are not yet available; we therefore encourage all interested members of the public to write info@abetterlackawanna.org so we can send call-in information once available. I’m confident that by participating, the public will better appreciate their vital role in holding their elected and appointed officials accountable at the local level. 

As a reminder, the core of the Better Lackawanna appeal is objecting to the arbitrary and capricious way the Montclair Planning Board approved the project. Among other grounds, we contend the planning board arbitrarily limited public comment, and most egregiously did not allow the public to question changes to the plan announced moments before the Planning Board voted on Feb. 11, 2019.

 At that meeting, the developer identified Lidl for the first time, saying they would take just 29,000 square feet of the planned 47,000-square-foot project. No mention was made of how the remaining 18,000 square feet would be used, or how that usage would impact traffic, parking and safety. The Planning Board had simultaneously granted a variance (shortage) of 400 cars, which would not be necessary with a smaller market. 

If you’ve ever had trouble parking in downtown Montclair or found traffic frustrating in the vicinity of Bloomfield Avenue, Grove Street and Glenridge Avenue, you may feel as we do that the loss of 400 parking spaces deserves further scrutiny. Other problems include the developer’s approved plan to seize a county easement on the east side of Grove Street and plans for left-hand turns in and out of the parking lot on Grove Street. 

Priscilla Eshelman


Defunding police debate

Congratulations again to Montclair Local and former Chief Tom Russo for publishing a letter last week that probably offends a lot of citizens of Montclair and environs.  I personally cannot understand why so many citizens continue to be offended by those of us who support our police and reject the foolish call to “defund” the police. 

Chief Russo was on the front lines of defending all the citizens of Montclair and neighboring towns for 50 years, so he speaks with an authority that most of us should at least listen to and respect. He simply points out that dismantling police departments across our nation is just plain stupid.

He also said that he does not have a degree from the University of Michigan, but he would challenge any politician in favor of defunding the police to a debate.    

I do have a degree from U. of M., courtesy of the G.I. Bill, and I would advise politicians to skip the debate and just use common sense. 


Reinstate Principal Putrino

The following was sent to Dr. Ponds and from  the President of the Renaissance PTA. 

Last week you removed Dr. Putrino from Renaissance Middle School because he presented what you called “a completely inappropriate and unacceptable video…which was inconsistent with our school’s strong values and ideals regarding diversity.” Ironically, the comedian who created the video – from his heart – in praise of teachers, took offense at your interpretation of his message and also at your actions.

When I watched the video, I felt a connection to someone who on the surface is very different from me but on the other hand feels exactly the same way about his children’s teachers as I do about Dr. Putrino and the Renaissance teachers. Dr. Putrino came to Renaissance two years ago and turned around an unpopular school. He knows every child by name and welcomes them to school each morning, setting the stage for an engaging day where the students feel embraced in the Renaissance community. He has been one of the district’s biggest proponents of the restorative justice program, even in the face of parent scrutiny. The students respect him, the teachers appreciate his leadership and he is an active parent in Montclair.

Going into my second year as the president of the Renaissance PTA, I can honestly say that I have never heard one student or parent complain about Dr. Putrino. In fact, I’ve heard from the students themselves, “we don’t like being called into his office but we do like him.” So far, Renaissance parents have heard nothing from Mr. Jennings. You have left us rudderless with only days to go before the start of the most difficult school year in a long time.

Montclair, and the entire country, are wounded by the deep cuts of racism. You are using Dr. Putrino as a scapegoat for our collective societal outrage. How can we fight the real fight when you make a knee-jerk reaction against one of the leaders in restorative justice? Rash decisions don’t foster discussion in a debate, they foster further rifts.

You yourself stated, “We need to have our students led by nurturing, caring, diversity-believing leaders and educational leaders in our district.” Yes, indeed. You have just described Dr. Putrino. I urge you to use Josh Pray’s video as a springboard for community introspection and discussion, and to reinstate Dr. Putrino to Renaissance.

Beth Calamia Scheckel