Letters to the editor: Sept. 24
Deception over rent control
This week I received deceptive communications via text message to my private phone, as well as an email, regarding rent control in Montclair, that gave the impression that this was a petition favoring rent control, rather than what it actually was — an effort by property owners to remove a rent control ordinance passed by the Township Council.
Had I not been informed by Montclair Local articles on this matter, I would have thought this was part of a sincere effort to implement rent control. Even more sinister is the fact that a judge ruled that this private group was entitled to obtain the phone numbers and emails of residents for its own private interest. In this era of floods of spam and junk mail, of disinformation online, it is shocking, to say the least, that a judge would compel the township to provide our personal contact Information.
Fun times at the pool
A huge thank-you to all who worked hard to open Montclair pools this summer: the Recreational and Cultural Affairs Department led by Michele Cammarata, the lifeguards, medical assistants, crossing guards, etc.
The safety protocols worked well, and swimming outside provided our family and many others in the town with many hours of pure joy. In this challenging summer, it was so wonderful to do a “normal” activity like swimming outdoors. And an added bonus was to chat at a safe distance with neighbors and friends!
Helping neighbors in need
I have launched an online fundraiser for the Human Needs Food Pantry, calling on the public to help make sure local children and families have access to food and proper nutrition during these uncertain economic times.
The link to make donations can be found on my Facebook page, or residents may also donate directly at www.humanneedsfoodpantry.org/donate.
According to Feeding America, one in nine New Jersey children lived with food insecurity or hunger prior to the pandemic. The Human Needs Food Pantry, located in Montclair, has experienced a dramatic increase in the demand for its services in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, registering 850 new households since the onset of the pandemic. The HNFP is currently seeing clients from all parts of the state and different counties. Due to the health risks associated with the pandemic, the pantry has been unable to accept donations of food and clothing and is in urgent need of cash donations so that it can directly purchase the groceries and supplies its clients need.
This year, 2020, has undoubtedly been a trying year for all of us, but much more so for families who struggle to make ends meet. Across New Jersey, food banks and soup kitchens are dealing with significant increases in the numbers of people and families they are serving. I want to encourage residents who can afford to do so to join me in making monetary donations to the Human Needs Food Pantry.
How was the video offensive?
For all the discussion concerning the replacement of Principal Putrino, one matter is never disclosed or discussed: What was so “completely inappropriate and unacceptable” with the video? How did it offend Montclair’s “strong values and ideals regarding diversity”? The question is even more important given the denial that it represented any such thing by the comedian who made it.
Surely the actual content and how it was offensive (if it was) are important to the controversy but are never actually stated or discussed, at least not in the public media. That should be a question reported upon in newspapers such as this one (which otherwise does a very good job). So the average citizen has no way to judge if the replacement was justified or vilification by label. I, for one, would like to know.
Allen S. Joslyn
Chipmunk piece a delight
I’d like to thank David Wasmuth and Montclair Local for the column “It’s the Roaring ’20s, for chipmunks.”
The piece was delightful, well-written and informative. I and many others have been wondering, what the heck is going on with all the chipmunks?
There is so much happening in our own backyards, and so many of us, forced to stay close to home, are paying attention perhaps for the first time: crows congregating on our chimneys, foxes trotting down our driveways, deer leaping into our tiny, fenced-in backyards, hawks perching on our railings!
I hope you will continue publishing these columns about the world of nature right under our noses. And maybe in a future piece, Mr. Wasmuth or Mr. Sorkin can write about those big, fat groundhogs we are now seeing everywhere.
Our hair’s on fire
I recently spoke with a climate change adviser to various governments who said that we have maybe 10 years; he spoke of the horrors of our imploding Earth through repeated weather crises as “nearly inevitable.”
In this time of isolation, with the loss of employment, irregular access to food and health care, discrimination of minorities leading to racial unrest — it has left us collectively traumatized. Our current crisis of the pandemic forces us to bury the other crisis of climate change until it feels more urgent. But the West Coast fires won’t let us forget. And in some ways healing from the pandemic has some of its “roots” in climate change because of our country's polluted food system. Everything is connected.
I recall a podcast interview with Alec Baldwin interviewing two climate scientists who were asked what if they had one thing they would do if they had the power of the American president. Their voices seemed to crack, speaking of their children’s future as they said that they would choose to enact the Green New Deal (The New York Times explains many aspects of the Green New Deal). From their scientific perspective only radical action could minimize destruction of the planet. They thought that this proposal might not even be radical enough... but that’s what they would do.
Our country’s cycle of poor health is unsustainable and it contributes to global warming with dangerous factory farming methods. Farmers and ranchers can change their methods to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases with support and cooperation. It’s pretty basic: Food can be our medicine. Sustainably raised unpolluted food grown in our country plus equality of distribution of healthy food equals a healthier, happier population. Other countries are doing this.
We are the living earth. Of course there are other problems to encounter, but in essence the pandemic has shown us what happens when people are not healthy to begin with. Our air, our water and our food systems are who we are as Americans, and this is becoming more evident in these trying times.
What can we do to make it better: For me this means calling the politicians that represent me. I called Cory Booker’s office and stated my support of healthy food. I read about how farmers can grow food that is more healthy and sustainable; in the food that I grow, I never use glyphosate (many countries are banning its use) or any types of dangerous herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers, and I encourage others to consider what is being used on their property; I support local and organic whenever possible; I try my best to follow the list of “Ten Personal Solutions to Global Warming,” suggested by the Union of Concerned Scientists (just Google it).
We must agree collectively that all life on Earth is precious, especially the future of our children. We owe them a fighting chance. In our own ways we can speak and take action in our communities and government. If we know that climate change is the number one priority for survival, we must support radical change.
When will we act like “our hair’s on fire” ... when it actually is happening?
Seek understanding, reject scare tactics
I was disappointed when I read the recent letters to the editor by Cathy Marrin and Thomas J. Russo. Yes, many of us feel shocked and scared these days. However, as Russo himself wrote, our goal shouldn’t be to increase tensions and to divide the nation. So, why did they both turn to scare tactics to make their points?
Do we as a town believe we’re surrounded by “hoodlums, thugs, rapists, terrorists and just plain savage crazy people,” as Russo wrote? Do we as a town believe that, if we divert funding from the police to social services, we’re at risk of “necklaces [being] snatched from people’s necks, and some robbers cut[ting] off their victim’s finger if a valuable ring could not be removed swiftly enough,” as Marrin wrote? Do we as a town believe our options are either rejecting all demands of protesters or “the laws of the jungle and survival of the fittest,” as Russo wrote?
I’d agree with Olivia Brinton’s comment in another letter that “fear is blinding.”
Calling the Black Lives Matter movement crazy or stupid won’t make it go away. Offending a lot of citizens of this town shouldn’t be reason for congratulations, as Daniel Martin expressed in another letter to the editor, and also definitely won’t make the public pressure for change go away.
The current anti-racist movement and the calls for reforming, defunding, dismantling or abolishing the police didn’t originate from “Washington politicians,” as Russo wrote. They come from real, deep pain felt by many thousands of people across this country. Just in Montclair this summer, hundreds of people marched in protests and thousands of people attended online events on racism and policing. (For those who missed it, I recommend watching the recording of the online town hall on policing from July 17, especially the presentation by the Pressman Social Action Interns on use of force by the Montclair Police Department.)
Why is it that your neighbors are demanding change? What would happen if, instead of rejecting all protesters’ demands as insane, we tried to understand the reasons behind the protests and the causes of people’s pain? What actions can we take as a town to address systemic racism, excessive use of force by police, and the critical underfunding of social services?
I commend Marrin for encouraging Montclairians to engage with, and make complaints to, the Police Department. I also appreciate Russo offering suggestions on how to reform the hiring process for police officers, based on his decades of service. Those are good first steps. However, much more must be done to address the causes of the current social movement. Let us invest our time and energy in working together to make our town more equitable and just, instead of scaring each other out of making any necessary changes.
Commit to ending inequality first
In response to (former Police Chief) Russo’s letter to the editor (Sept. 3), I was alarmed reading a letter with such fear-mongering language, not uncommon these days, unfortunately, thanks to our president. Sentences such as “murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assaults, arson and looting would become the norm” reflects this language.
Regarding your last paragraph in your first letter: “The public has the power to make law enforcement accountable for their actions.” No, we DO NOT have that power. Not until we get rid of qualified immunity or give subpoena power to civilian review boards in charge of investigating police misconduct, which is being fiercely rejected by police unions around the country and here at home in Newark.
What we need to talk about is disparity in all areas of our lives, about poverty and about social, racial and economic injustice. If we want to succeed in ending crime, we need to commit to ending inequality.
No, I do not want to use common sense as another LTE suggests, I want to use statistics and scientific studies to develop effective solutions to our social problems.
Lastly, we as a community have the right to choose how our tax money is invested and decide to rethink, reimagine and reshape public safety to fit our actual needs and wishes. I want to remind all that racial and educational disparities in the school system and criminal justice system are immense. If we are committed to racial, economic and social justice, we have the task of moving away from punitiveness and entering a new era, where solidarity and community investment takes the lead.
Maria Eva Dorigo