I am a liberal person, both socially and fiscally. To be socially liberal to me means the government, generally, shouldn’t interfere in individuals' social lives and choices.

On the other hand, to be a fiscal liberal means, to me, the collective good must take precedence over the individual good. It means the government has to do the big things the private sector either can't or won't do, like maintain public infrastructure, provide high-quality public services such as education and healthcare, and maintain social safety nets that allow the less fortunate among us to avoid having to make impossible choices in order to lead decent lives.

But there are limits to being a fiscal liberal, and with the indefinite suspension of recycling collection, in addition to the continued closure of our schools, I believe I, and many others, have reached our limit. Whenever someone asks me about the taxes we pay here in Montclair, they always laugh or make a pained face when I tell them our rates. I have always defended those rates on account of the high-quality public benefits we receive in return. 

What I'm saying shouldn't be interpreted as anti-public sector workforce. Far from it. And I am absolutely in favor of paid sick leave. That is a liberal idea. In fact, I think this country would have fared significantly better during the pandemic had we had a federal paid sick leave mandate in place. Instead, sick people continued to drag themselves into work because they couldn’t miss paychecks. But I am weary of this indefinite suspension of recycling services due to COVID-19 because of its indefiniteness. Why not just quarantine everyone, with full pay, for two weeks and then resume services?

The time has come for some kind of tax holiday here in Montclair. I am calling on our elected officials to provide the taxpayers of this town with some much needed relief in light of the reduction in services those taxes fund. And if we can't get a tax holiday, let's at least get creative. For example, with regard to recycling pickup, why not move refuse collection to once per week and continue picking up recycling in some capacity? It’s ridiculous that refuse is collected twice per week to begin with.   

The tax holiday I’m proposing would be paid for by the money being saved while services are suspended and school buildings are closed, not by laying anyone off. Funds typically earmarked for truck gasoline, heating and electricity for our schools, and a whole host of other costs currently not on the books because of the pandemic should be given back to the townspeople. 

I never thought I’d get to this place, but apparently I've finally arrived. Something must be done. I still love Montclair, but it's time for some relief.

Editor's note: This letter has been updated with an expanded version, at the request of the writer.

Adam Buchanan


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